A leisurely southerly west coast span of time
4354 Melrose Ave. (just east of the 101)
Phone: 323-666-6075 | map
It's fairly difficult to find Chilean cuisine even in this hypermulticultural mecca, so I'm pleasantly surprised to find this place within a couple miles of me, something I've driven by hundreds of times.
This restaurant and deli have been sitting quietly at the corner of Heliotrope and Melrose before anyone started trying to make the area hip.
The interior is homelike and often nearly deserted. Some lazy watching of the current football match may be in progress. The music can be soft-voiced Spanish crooners, but can also be, um... Go Country 105. Despite the photos and artifacts of Chile, one is (sometimes wincingly) inundated with Toby Keith, Alan Jackson and Big & Rich.
Ponder this as you dive into the thick roll they bring you, with either a pat of butter or a spoon of pebre, a mean little green sauce similar to Argentinian chimichurri, cilantro-heavy with a nice nasal onion sting.
Chile hugs Argentina on its right hip, so it's no surprise that some culinary similarities exist. If Rincon Chileno's ability with meat pies is representative of Chile, then Argentina has serious competition. I try a spinach empanada; the shell is ultra-crispy, glowing yellow and brown, layered rather than flaky. Once past the villainous heat level, there is spinach, chopped fine and melding beautifully with long strings of white cheese. It is superb, easily the best spinach empanada I've ever tasted.
The Churrasco de Pollo is a powerpacked little sandwich. Strips of chicken are grilled perfectly, browned and stiffened outside, tender inside, cooled by fresh tomato and avocado crushed almost into guacamole. This comes on french bread, amasado (a dense, scored roll not entirely unlike ciabatta), or hallulla (pronounced ayu-ya, hard-baked and pitted like a biscuit).
The sandwich comes with super-crispy french fries, with which you can't insult me. They benefit both from ketchup (the waitstaff sees I am a gringo and places a bottle on the table) and occasional dips into the pebre.
Move past the lunchtime sandwiches to see Rincon Chileno's kitchen shine. The Filete de Pescado a la Meunniere is a baked fillet of whitefish swimming in a mild lemon garlic sauce, achingly tender. You can get it fried for the nicely rendered crunch, but this gentle slab of fish rings of perfection.
It has a small tin of warmed garlic dipping sauce that has more citrusy bite, but it is almost unneeded because of the succulence of the fish. A steaming mound of white rice helps to soak up the flavorful juices, and three small slices of astoundingly red tomatoes sit aside, dusted with parsley. I still apply pebre here and there.
There is peril. If you aren't careful--note the consumption of bread, empanada, french fries and sandwich here--the resulting carb coma will have you in its starchy manacles and unable to function for the remainder of the day except for yawns and hand waves and weak little whines. Your slide into sleepiness is exacerbated by the fact that it may take a while for them to deliver the bill.
Rincon Chileno is open 10 to 10 daily. Plenty of street parking with meters that blink and say FAIL is nearby. There's also a Rincon Chileno on Hawthorne in Lawndale, but I'm unsure of its relation.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Deli, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, Seafood, Mid-City/Koreatown, Chilean )
You have to hunt for it, nestled among hilly avenues where the 101 and the 110 meet. Dip under the awning; a darkened counter, slowly turning ceiling fans, and the hum of refrigeration units greet you.
It's not like my family, but it is familial, and these men are serious about what they do. Sandwiches are rapidly assembled and rung up; your drinks are (pointing to the left) over there, dispensed or bottled. There may be a brief sense of "am I doing this right? Where am I supposed to stand? Is it supposed to be this dark?" before you get into the rhythm of it.
So. You know how some places quaintly offer "meat lovers" items? This Eastside specialty chases them down, takes their lunch money, and leaves them with a painful wedgie.
Vegetarians look away! Carnage ahead!
... Okay. Proceeding.
This predatorial paradise is the D.A. Special. Layers of roast beef. Pastrami. And one Italian sausage. And a meatball. Each of these is high quality content and makes a superb sandwich on its own, but combined they become certifiable and knuckle-crackingly dangerous.
All that "is he gonna live, Doctor?" red stuff you see is a sauce of cooked peppers and flattened tomatoes that binds everything together and adds sweetness. Strong, soulful sheets of melted mozzarella lie underneath, maxing out my alliteration allowance for the day. The roast beef is dark and supple, the pastrami pink and fatty, both moist and covering the pale, snappy link of Italian sausage like a winter blanket.
Can it actually be picked up and eaten? Not yet. Eventually. Go at it with a fork for a while. In any case, the soft, toasty Italian bread will become worn and sodden and unable to perform its duties as a meat delivery device. Once you get through half, the strata of meat looks like an intense cross-section of something out of a textbook, and you will probably give up and wrap it to go.
A little more recognizable is the Combination Cold Cuts sandwich. A nice three-quarter-inch layer of ham, turkey, salami and mortadella is stacked with mozzarella, tomato and shredded lettuce. The soft Italian roll is not so overpowered here. A very light basting of mayo and mustard can be savored.
Their potato salad is very slightly sour, and I'm not wild about it, but the macaroni salad is well-mixed, and properly cool and creamy.
Eastside is open until four during the week and two on Saturday. On Sundays they take a break. Street parking can be found easily.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Italian, East Side/Downtown, Deli, American, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs )
The old-fashioned scent of sliced meat and jus permeates the corner of Alameda and Ord Street, where the blue baseball-style logo beckons. Phillipe's is the oldest continually operating restaurant in Los Angeles and claims (along with Cole's on Main and 6th) to have originated the concept of the sauce-dipped sandwich. I won't argue with anyone, and you can read up on the details.
The photo you see here is a rare lull. Normally this long deli counter is anywhere from two to ten people deep, but moving reasonably. There are ten capable carvers behind the counter, slicing, scooping, adding and smiling. Long communal tables line the warehouse-like interior, and wood shavings are scattered on the floor.
There is no "Order Here" sign to focus your attention. Just get behind someone, and decide your sliced and breaded pleasure (it might be recommended to get to know the menu). Your food will be placed on paper plates, on an ancient tray that's been chewed on by dinosaurs. Despite the offering of wines and beers I just get lemonade.
Having your sandwich Double Dipped means that both halves of the bread, lightly toasted and crusty, will have tan marks creeping up their interior. Quick and painless, not a prolonged soak, the Double Dipped is what I always get.
The whole affair is less treacherous to your fingertips and clothing than expected, but demands your full attention. The sandwiches are not overly large, resting like ragged trilobytes on the paper plate. I usually get two.
The beef is well-sliced, not too fatty, and benefits from the extra juiciness imparted by the dunking. It tastes honest, hitting the bottom of the stomach in the right place, and it is hard not to wolf it down. The beef is the classic, but there is also turkey, ham, pork and lamb. The pork is as soft as the juice-kissed bread, almost too gentle. Blue cheese adds a gummy pungency that is not unwelcome, but I prefer the structural support and classicism of Swiss.
The house mustard used to be served deli-style in little pots with spoons, but is now in squeeze bottles, which I'm sure is healthier for the Los Angeles citizenry but less friendly. Carefully add drops of this to your sandwich; it is very tasty, but will race up your nose and start ringing bells if you're unsubtle with it. Buy some and take it home.
There are parking lots all around this venerable icon. Philippe's is open until ten daily.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), East Side/Downtown, Deli, American, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs )
On dusty Parthenia south of the ever-inflating Mall, this family affair has stood, thinking seriously about sandwiches, since I was two years old. Stained glass like jigsaw puzzle pieces stretches across the front.
The interior combines deli, with its long, sausage-hung counter disappearing into the distance, with coffee shop, made of wood and brick and frames with self-promoting reviews in them.
The booths are that chlorophyll gum color you might remember from those machines. Flowers sit on the table; Sirius Radio's '60s on 6 plays. The waitstaff will remember the last thing you order, and make you feel like a valued human being.
The first thing I try here is this magnetic draw, highly recommended by Brent's fans. The Black Pastrami Reuben looks civilized enough; the meat is lean and gloriously soft, not piled to the ceiling like a parched Jerry's pastrami but still taller than you can easily bite. You still need to choose your angle of attack, lest your sandwich begin its disassembly before your eyes.
The sauerkraut is mild and adds mostly texture; I usually pull off a few strands to reduce the amount my jaw must unhinge in order to encompass a single, thought-provoking bite. Melted swiss calms down the opinionated rye bread. It's all balanced.
I prefer multiplicities of meat between breads; I rarely get just a turkey or ham sandwich. So when I discover that the #30 (ground chicken burger) can become a #32 (the aforementioned chicken burger with some of that black pastrami draped over it like a romance heroine swooning on a couch), I point and say yes. Those people at Brent's just give and give and give.
The result is generous, and one needs to dig down a bit to get to the burger and marshall it into something one can pick up and devour. The chicken has that dry front-of-the-mouth heat, made peppery and briny by the cool strips of pastrami.
I've been on a kind of tuna/chicken salad kick lately--maybe I'm compensating for my longtime avoidance of celery and relish--so I gave the Whitefish Salad Sandwich a whirl.
The result is a great white cliff of salad that is insanely light and creamy without being cloying. Half a sandwich will do nicely--too much and its well-beaten lightness gets too airy to have fun with. I should have asked for the egg bread to be toasted a little for greater structural integrity. Always make sure your bread is sturdy, kids.
This is a not-terribly-guilty pleasure for me, especially since the chili itself is dwarfed by the accompanying bowls of shredded cheese and chopped onions (Too much cheese? Too much onion? Not computing). The chili is a burly beef-and-bean style, with a real "our camp chef is a big guy named Cookie who whipped this up for us after a long day of driving forty head of cattle" personality.
For sides, the fries are big solid crispy steak versions or the curly type; either is good enough. The baked beans are steamy hot and fresh, honest and slightly saucy. The cup of standard coleslaw hangs around the plate, trying not to be eclipsed.
Brent's is open until nine, at which time you might consider swaying next door to the Stovepiper Lounge (which has existed for two years longer) for drinks. There is a Brent's in Westlake Village, which is barely in Los Angeles County, so I'll barely mention it.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Deli, Diner, American, The Valley, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs )
Mario's has a lot packed into a small area. The next time I'm making pasta or sandwiches for dinner, I plan to come by here and grab some needed things: wines, pastas, sauces, olive oils, a full deli counter, and drinks (they even have Boylan's Birch Beer). Otherwise, with a daunting menu and a perpetual line of sandwich enthusiasts, this is a lunch spot par excellence and a tempting destination since it's about two blocks from where I work.
The sandwiches are brawny and inexpensive. The bread is soft, dense, and on some sandwiches cut so that there is a "middle slice" running through the sandwich; it will be difficult to extract if you're trying to reduce your jaw-stretching quotient.
The S.O.B. is sopressata (I'm still debating the official spelling on this stuff, and exactly how many pairs of letters are needed), oven-roasted chicken, onion, shredded lettuce, sharply fresh tomatoes, and mustard/mayo. The standard meatball sandwich is firm with very basic--and therefore delicious--marinara; it's a beast that takes some fine-motor skills to consume, with heavy napkin usage. So is the nap-inducing chicken parmesan sandwich.
So far my most likely addiction is the sausage sandwich, with the same marinara, because Mario's makes their own sausage on the premises. It's slightly spicy, has the right amount of snap, and doesn't want to stay within the bread. A dem fine sausage, a dem fine sausage.
You probably won't be getting more than one sandwich for variety's sake, so peruse their collection of pasta salads and sides. The macaroni salad is al dente and creamy, and the red-skin potato salad has a sharp hint of mustard that I dig.
There's a decent parking lot in back, but it's going to be full anyway.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Italian, Deli, Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs )
You'll walk by a window showing busy people making sausage, pressing dough, chopping vegetables, and other kitcheny pursuits before you even walk in the door, so your appetite is already clamoring for attention. Porta Via is a local favorite, with every needful thing for a lunch, a catered party, or, if you're like we are, evenings spent watching movies on the grass in a cemetery.
The deli counter is a big L-shaped presence along two walls; the rest of the space is populated by shelves of foodstuffs and condiments for them. Wander around with eyes searching the menus until you figure out your life, then order one of their sandwiches or salads.
The house-made turkey meatball with provolone, for instance. You'll be compelled to flip it upside-down in order to eat it without imperiling your shirt, but the meatballs are toothsome and the marinara tasty. The Toscano-grilled chicken panini, with provolone, baby greens, pesto and balsamic vinaigrette, is thin (well, duh, it's a panini) but packed with intensity. The Autostrada is mortadella, prosciutto, soppresatta, coppa, provolone, and pepperoncini, all those "this is a pile of cured meat and cheese and that's all you need to know" words that make an Italian sandwich godlike.
The counter has a number of nifty pasta salads to accompany your sandwich, but being concerned with quality over quantity, they won't pile that much onto your plate.
The parking lot is large but shared by everyone in this corporate lot, including the popular Los Tacos spot next door. Across the parking lot is an expensive but brutally awesome antique shop. Go there if you like iron candle holders and torch sconces, and heavy rustic furniture.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Italian, Deli, Bakery/Patisserie, American, Coffee/Tea/Desserts, Pasadena/San Gabriel/Alhambra )