Achieving kitsch nobility without an ounce of Googie architecture or neon, Foxy's holds out across the street from the abominable Americana.
The building is a hulking A-frame of deep brown wood; an inverted peaked ceiling creates the effect of having dropped a ship's keel onto a ski lodge. Twin brass-hood fireplaces gleam from each end, like we're in an Anglo-Saxon longhouse and Grendel's mom is bringing over cookies. The ample covered patio is ideal for large groups.
Brutal iron chandeliers and orange lamps in iron wall sconces further the ambiance, although '80s-era blonde wood furniture sort of knocks it ajar. A brawny white bagel toaster sits at each booth, along with a bowl of about twenty-five tubs of Half & Half.
Foxy's has been one of those not-so-hidden Glendale treasures since three years before I was born*, and since Chef Alfredo started in 1979, they've been doing the sandwiches/burgers/wraps/melts/croissants/breakfasts/salads/faux-Mexican thing with a great deal of flair. It's comfort food, done somehow better than the majority, its demeanor like a diner, the menu vast like a deli.
The soups strike me as spectacularly homemade. The Cream of Mushroom soup? Sweet Lord. I think it's the best CoM soup I can remember, lush and thick with a long finish. The mushrooms seem fresh and hand-cut, not canned. And there's a "Spaghetti and Meatballs" soup? Okay, I'll bite. It's not dissimilar to a cup of albondigas, except with noodles, and the meatballs are looser and more pasta-style. I notice how very tomato-rich it is without being salty.
The crab cakes are light on batter and smooth as a crooner, needing no dipping sauce. The simple Chicken Sandwich could use a little mustard and barely fits on the round whole wheat bun, but otherwise its thick strips of slightly charred chicken meld grandly with the Swiss cheese, with avocado for padding. The Chili & Avocado Melt is a concoction of meat chili, refried beans, tomatoes, diced onions, and more of those fresh mushrooms piled on a flour tortilla, in a bowl with tortilla chips dotted about like crispy monoliths. It's like chilaquiles, but, um, not. It's sort of a "chili and veggies on the run from the law" dish.
For sides, Foxy's has homemade potato chips, resplendently crunchy and airy and which seem "healthy" in a tasty but nonaddictive sense. The fries are airy and crisp too. Neither is heavy on the sodium.
Let's see... Barbacoa? For breakfast or lunch? Indeed. A murky, spicy tangle of shredded beef seasoned heavily with an acidic, saucy tang, it would do quite well on a sandwich. It's surrounded by fairly good rice and plump refried beans with a web of melted cheese.
Ah, a Cappuccino milkshake. It has a deep chocolate presence, and hides actual coffee beans to happily crunch until your heart starts beating like a pair of timbales.
What else... Carne asada Mondays for $5.95? Hells yeah.
Foxy's opens early, stays open until 11 most days, 10 on Sunday and I think midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, but that's not what their website says. However, the website starts playing Dean Martin's "Volare" when it loads, so I forgive them.
* That's two years after Tom & Jerry first aired, and two years before Monty Python.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Mexican, Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, Diner, American, Coffee/Tea/Desserts, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs )
"Custom Built Burgers." It's kind of like what Fuddrucker's and Flakey Jake's tried to do a couple of decades ago, but The Counter is not as shame-worthy. You agonize over a checklist of preferences, fill in the squares, and they whisk it away. Hey, I feel like a 2/3 pound burger with gruyère, pepperoncinis and sun-dried tomatoes on an English muffin; can I have that? Yes, Victoria, you can.
The Santa Monica location is closest to us, and you can practically follow your nose to it; the scent of meat-on-metal is intoxicating. Right away I get the beef burger (100% vegetarian-raised Angus, they tell me) on a honey wheat bun, with a roasted garlic aioli sauce. It blushes a perfect pink under a melted sheet of sharp provolone and a moist batch of honey-cured bacon. Under that is Bermuda red onion. At the bottom of this stack the poor lettuce greens are crushed like the downtrodden proletariat.
Bianca chooses the non-carnivorous route: a soft loaf of a veggie patty, with horseradish cheddar, roasted chilies, grilled onions and sautéed mushrooms that somehow all stay together in a spicy, self-contained explosion.
The beef, turkey, chicken or veggie burgers are each available as 1/3, 2/3 or a whole damn sixteen ounces avoirdupois, but honestly, you don't need a pound of burger. With the bun and the toppings it's an absurd derby hat of a meal that will challenge your mandibular elasticity as it is.
There are other goodies to crowd your tiny table. We get the "Fifty-Fifty": fries and sweet fries, steaming thin and crisp, with a horseradish mayo dipping sauce that careens around the roof of the mouth. There's chili on the menu, and when I see "chili" on a menu I try it; the turkey chili comes in a skullcap-sized bowl, the very picture of a healthy chopped-meat-and-bean chili, topped with cranberries (I know, but it works) and scallions. It thins and separates after a while, and is not ideal for cascading down the sides of an already-perilous burger.
To drink! Voss water, Mr. Pibb, beer and wine, et al, but hey. Shakes. Banana, peanut butter, coffee, chocolate, et al, and we learned with great merriment that you can combine these things. Naturally I get a coffee peanut butter shake, which is bliss. Bianca one-ups me with a chocolate/coffee/caramel.
The Counter is also in Corona, Irvine, Palo Alto, San Jose, Walnut Creek, and even a few other states. So it's a chain, but its heart is in the right place.
My nighttime photos didn't turn out, so I'll just have to go again...
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Healthy/Organic, American, Santa Monica/Culver City, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs, Southwest/Beach Cities )
Memories of childhood, with lettuce
10801 Pico Blvd. (east of Westwood)
Phone: 310-475-3585 | map
As if Apple Pan wasn't already busy enough--it consistently appears in "(Insert Number Here) Best Burger Joints in America" books, has been mentioned gushingly by Huell Howser (who always does everything gushingly), and keeps popping up on blogs and websites--I am finally writing about it. Simply, it's one of those spots to check off your "I have been in Southern California and did this" list. This is the hands-down favorite eatery of my friend Ron F., and that's more important to me than a Frommers mention or a gaggle of quotation marks in a Zagat guide*. I hadn't been here in about a decade, so needed to make up that lack.
It's a homely wooden gathering house, with tartan patterns on the walls and an honest smell of grillwork. Come in, press against the wall and wait. When seats open up, take them**. Do not concern yourself that your party of eight is being split up. Order from one of the busy, paper-hatted people behind the counter, and do it quickly before they move on to someone else, continuing the lordly procession of freshly grilled, paper-wrapped Americana. The Apple Pan appeared in 1947, and has been doing this for longer than you've been eating it. They make a couple of things, and those couple of things are what you should get.
Burger. Check. The Steakburger is a satisfying fistful, bulky with lettuce and draped in the autumn colors of melted Tillamook cheese. The meat itself keeps its ground-beef texture without the grey-hued toughness so common to thinner burgers. You can make it a Hickory Burger, which adds slightly oversweet barbecue sauce and an extra factor of napkin usage.
Fries, please. Tonged fresh and glistening from the wire basket and onto a cardboard plate. Completely awesome as is, but the man behind the counter will, without asking, produce another plate, flip the Heinz bottle, and expertly deliver a quarter-cup of ketchup faster than you could have.
Apple pie, at least once because it's the name of the damn place. It's runny and wafery but not overly flaky, with a bit of magma heat unique to apple pies. It's good enough to make you ignore the hungry people waiting for your seat, but I hear the chocolate cream pie is devastating, and I would include chocolate cream pie in my last meal. See "Steve" note below.
For those not participating in the orgiastic beef-on-bun festival (I'm looking at you, Bianca), there is a good swiss-on-rye and an egg salad sandwich, the latter made eggy and honest with brown eggs.
To drink, just go with sodas. A can of Dr. Pepper, poured in a cone-shaped paper cup held upright in a refrigerated steel holder, is one of the joys of Los Angeles.
Apple Pan is open until midnight, which is nice. On Fridays and Saturdays you can come in until one in the morning, which is nicer. There's a tiny parking lot in back, and some fairly threatening "you don't live here, so don't park" street signage.
They will add up your bill by hand, with pencil, and ring it up on an old ka-ching machine. It will probably be more expensive than you expected. Think of it as a diner and not a fast-food joint and you might feel better about the prices... In n' Out fans may complain about it, though.
* My friend Steve (and, coincidentally, Ron's brother) would choose Apple Pan as his last meal. This is assuming, of course, he was in the mood for a burger on that uneasy event. If he ever is on Death Row but really wants, say, Swedish meatballs, I'm afraid Apple Pan is out of luck.
** People dicker over the seating etiquette. Is it really first come, first serve? Does the line of people split, so that I must hover around the left or right side of the 26-or-so-seat counter? Go with the first assumption; put mean looks on your face if you have to.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), West Side/West Hollywood, Diner, American, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs, Late Night/24 Hours )
Bringing back the local punk vibe
4339 1/2 W. Sunset Blvd. (@ Fountain, in Silverlake)
Phone: 323-668-1190 | map
Offering a grungy youthful urban demeanor that Hard Times has been struggling to maintain, Garage Pizza quietly opened in the horribly packed corner of Sunset and Fountain. The interior is generally motor-themed, but basically plastered with every tin sign and bumper sticker it could get its hands on, loyal to no city yet loyal to all. Only the slight priciness of the pizzas make this an L.A. joint.
They deliver, but that's not my desire from them*. I plan to do my eating here, soaking in the smell of the stack of Bakers Pride ovens and the sound of surf rock, punk and post-punk battering the walls.
There are pizzas by the slice and the expected array of toppings, but otherwise all pizzas are 18", thin and honest with a handful of fresh basil strips strewn on top. There is a satisfying crispness, although the wedges themselves tend to sag under their own gravity.
There are about fourteen themed choices. The Garlic Margarita is simple enough, red and white with tomato wheels and just enough garlic to flare the nostrils. The Annihilator is more game-night-worthy, with three meats, onion/pepper/shroom, and feta. The Inferno is on my list to try, with hot Italian sausage, jalapeños, pepperoncini, red onion, garlic and crushed red pepper. There's also a veggie Tree Hugger.
They're open some nights until three in the morning, perfect for stumbling in from Tiki Ti or across the street from Akbar. The parking is obnoxious in this lot, shared by a two-story strip mall with at least six eateries, a Thai massage place, a liquor store, a laundromat, and a handful of homeless people hanging out at Tang's Donuts.
* Besides, the delivery boxes seem rather thin, compromising the heat potential of the delivered pie. This combined with the woes of parking make it unlikely that you'll merely "go pick it up."
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Italian, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, American, Pizza )
Normally I get real suspicious of the word contemporary. When I hear "contemporary" bandied about I think trendy blonde-wood-and-chrome Scandinavian furniture, placid beige walls, and paint-spatter paintings pretending to have meaning.
However, combined with the words "soul," "food" and "joint" it creates a syncopation, a rhythm of scent and taste.
The building is an old Craftsman style home, kept homelike with mismatched furniture and dark hardwood floors. Some old-school soul and R&B plead from the speakers. The drinks arrive in mason jars, but you may find the homemade lemonade eye-crossingly sweet; ask for Americana root beer, sweet tea, or a bottle of Jamaica's Finest Ginger Beer.
Larkin Mackey has done his studying, stayed humbly aware of the roots of soul food, and somehow pulled it off. Larkin's is not like walking into a sultry, steam-shrouded hole in the wall somewhere in Georgia, nor is it a sellout offering "soul food with a California twist" or anything offensive like that. The food is offbeat, but fantastic. Your grandmother from New Orleans may grumble, though.
The Good 'Ole Fried Chicken is an odd bird; it seems to have been baked a bit first, due to the darkened skin underneath the crumbly, brown sugar tang of the fry batter, or perhaps it is oven-fried. The chicken retains a finger-glistening moisture, however, and is darned good. The hot links in the Hot Link Po'Boy are properly snappy and juicy, with a spicy growl.
The red beans and rice are different as well, the beans firm, the rice soaked with more than bean juice; there is a Latin flair somewhere inside. The Spicy Sautéed Greens are not the greens you expect, being collard greens mixed with tomatoes, red pepper, garlic and cayenne, so you won't get your yellowish-green Juice of the Gods at the bottom that all kids should drink to stay well. They are, however, quite flavorful--and benefit well from generous shakes from the bottle of Trappey's Louisiana Hot Sauce at attention nearby.
Hello, what's this? A deep-fried grilled cheese? Mercy sakes alive.
Larkin's is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but otherwise is now, thankfully, open for lunch. There is a single parking spot in front, four in back, but otherwise the quiet streets of Eagle Rock should suffice.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, American, Soul/Southern, Cajun/Creole )
Pardon the wordy review, but following is a three-hour tour of grandeur.
We make an impulsive, unresearched U-turn on Melrose while dinner-hunting, which can be hazardous, and give the Mini to the valet. We are whisked past the elegantly darkened bar area, seated and given menus. We blink a few times while swallowing our "I wasn't entirely ready for this" fears, then give in to the Chef's Tasting Menu*. This entire first paragraph happens within two minutes.
We are immediately taken care of by the tall, whip-thin and efficient Jackson, who starts us on our journey of immense quality. New flatware and plates are exchanged with every course; new half-glasses are filled with a courteous explanation of each. Between many of the courses are diminutive joys: tiny roundels of cheese-topped biscuit, squares of spongy focaccia with herbed butter.
Each of the five courses will be paired with a wine; let's get to it. The Albacore Tartare is almost a paté, so delicate that the muddled oranges on top melts into the tuna. The decorative lotus root has been sliced thin into chips. Bianca has ordered a vegetarian tasting menu, so relishes a Blood Orange Salad with Beets, of amazing texture and complexity.
Wine: 2000 Von Buhl Sekt Brut, from Germany. This is very good, not headachy and nose-tickling like so many sweeter sparkling rieslings.
Already we are mightily impressed.
Squid and I are not bosom buddies, but the Calamari "A la Plancha" with slices of grapefruit, a chorizo piquillo marmalade, and brushes of truffle oil, is so brilliantly assembled, mixed so luxuriantly and so skillfully that I savor warmth and coolness in the same bite.
Wine: A Santa Barbara chardonnay we didn't care much for, but then chardonnays are bitchy things. See headachy comment above.
I am also not a huge fan of cooked salmon, since it so easily descends into "peach-tinted pencil eraser" flavor, but the Crispy Skin Salmon is easily one of the top salmon dishes I've ever had, pale and demure, the skin crunchy and charred. The potato gnocchi and garlic puree are perfect minions for this anadromous monarch.
Wine: a 2007 Bodegas Ateca "Atteca", a garnacha from Calatayud, Spain, which rules. Its legs are thin but it's got a lot of personality; we're nuts for Spanish varietals anyway.
By this time we're happily tweaked on wine.
The New York Strip is stunning. Just a forkful of wild mushroom dipped in the steak's juices is a mouth-shutting experience. Fingerling potatoes and anchovy butter complete this medium-rare masterpiece, and the tiny halves of grapes, while a surprising inclusion, fit well. Bianca has an Onion Risotto, almost a rice porridge in consistency, with simple yet breathtakingly tasty onion rings atop. To accomodate these two disparate flavors, Jackson proves his worth by offering us a choice between the paired wine (a California cab) and a Becker Pinot Noir, from Germany; we choose the latter. After the meal we will ask Jackson if we could see the label again so we can remember it; he simply pulls out a bottle with nearly a third left and gives it to us in a Foundry bag.
Dessert. Sugared Doughnuts, cushy ellipsoids of goodness, like beignets but with crystalized sugar instead of powdered. The pineapple and saffron marmalade was expertly made but not our mood; it would go superbly with a breakfast toast. The chocolate hazelnut dipping sauce, however, is (____)**; the combination of doughnut and sauce must be like when gods have weddings. We forego the Bonny Doon dessert wine since we're comfortable, but also think that this magical dessert would be orgasmic with a 10-year-old port.
The pairings were overall a success; the only thing we'd say is that the wines, being generally young, aren't so much overpowered by the excellent food as simply outclassed and overawed by the charisma and umami of each thought-provoking course. This says something about the food, not the wine. Mr. Greenspan is an unsung genius, at least until someone writes a song about him.
Is this pricey? Yeah. A Chef's Tasting Menu with wine pairings and a generous tip comes just shy of three hundred. But it's worth every damned cent, and we are put in a good place by all this. They also have individual plates and wines for those wishing to dip their feet.
* The chef being Eric Greenspan, you see.
** Please insert your closest exclamation to "OMGWTFLOLZ" here.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), West Side/West Hollywood, American )