“My Favorite Places in Los Angeles” (part one)
July 23, 2003
A lot of folks have a lot of opinions (holy cow, I sound like ‘ol Dubya…) about what’s good, what’s great and what’s down-right the BEST. I’m not perfect but my personal faves around town are what i think are, as good as it gets. Mind you, i haven’t been everywhere and others may have different picks but, for my money, the places below are spot on. Sometimes it’s the food, sometimes it’s the drinks. Sometimes even the atmosphere. But at the end of the day, with so many choices in this big old smog dome, you have to narrow things down a bit. The Diary has made such an attempt.
SPANISH FOOD. Who makes the best? Well, that’s a very big question. I mean, you have ‘tex mex’, ‘salvadoran style’, ‘baja style’….the list goes on and on. All the people i know, when it comes to restaurants it’s down to 2 places: GILBERT’S EL INDO, which is on the west side, and EL COYOTE, which is in Hollywood (aka, the EAST SIDE) Now, although i think Gilbert’s food is infinitely better than El Coyote’s, El Coyote has the atmosphere of a true hang out and pick up bar. Great drinks and a lively atmosphere. But NOT SO FAST. Ever been to Gilbert’s on a friday or saturday night? The place is packed, margaritas spilling all over the place (not too mention cleavage) and the aroma of the west side’s best mexican food in the air. For an added adventure, stay till closing (1am) and try out some of the Fernando’s ‘suicide shots.’ And when ordering dinner, i highly recommend the SUPER MULE Burrito. Also, celebrities come here to ‘chill out’ and when you come you’ll see why.
WINNER: Gilbert’s El Indio Restaurant 2526 Pico Boulevard Santa Monica, CA 90405 310-450-8057
Honorable Mention: ‘Texis’ on 2207 N. San Fernando Road, which is El Salvadoran and EXCELLENT and that Taco truck that sits on 4th and Rose (Venice) everyday except Thursday (or as my friend, Bob Carlos calls it, “The UNHOLY day.” *********************************************
HOT DOGS: Ok, this is where the gloves come off. I know people who ARGUE over this for hours on end. As far as hot dogs go, there are really only two places worth your hard earned dosh; PINK’S and TAIL OF THE PUP. Both have been around forever (Pink’s, since 1936, and Tail since 1944), both have been frequented by the biggest stars imaginable (Ice Cube loves Tail of the pup but Dr. Dre is down with Pink’s-see, even the rap community is divided over this!) and both serve up one helleva dog. I live a 10 minute bike ride from Tail and a 15 minute bike ride from Pink’s so i tend to sway more towards Tail. But to be perfectly honest, i think, on any given day, one can beat the other. The big question is, do you want to stand in line for 30 minutes (typical, at Pink’s) or do you want to walk up and get your Dog on? (typical at Tail.) So there you have it. But, for the record i am gonna go with Pink’s-for NOW. But i think you know how i feel…
WINNER: PINK’S 709 N. La Brea BL. LA CA 90038
Honorable mention: Tail of the Pup, located on the corner of Beverly and San Vicente (across from the Hard Rock Cafe), where west hollywood meets bev hills. ***********************************************
BBQ: Actually, this one is easy for me but the problem with BBQ is that different people like different types of BBQ. How many types are there, you ask? Well, first off, Texas BBQ is different from Kansas City BBQ which if different from Chicago BBQ which is different from Memphis BBQ. They all have their own unique styles and this is what makes BBQ as much interesting as it is delicious. What the best places all have in common is that they SMOKE their meat. Usually with a combination of pine (for the heat) and hickory (for the flavor.) The three places i like the most are BENNY’S (in marina del rey on lincoln blvd, right before the marina freeway), THE PIG (across the street from Pink’s, just south of La Brea and Melrose) and (drum roll please….) WOODY’S, which is on Slauson ave., 2 blocks north of Crenshaw blvd. The differences of these three places are HUGE.
let’s take THE PIG for instance. This is memphis-style bbq with that cracklin’ oak flavor from the wood they use. The meat is smoked and falls off the bones. My only issue is that it’s a bit expensive (5 bones, 2 sides=$14) and sometimes the servings are a bit small, so i sometimes get the feeling they’re holding back. But the sauce is very good and the flavor itself is enough to bring you back again and again.
Then there’s BENNY’S. This small, cozy place is owned and run by Benny, a nice woman from the south who brought her family style all the way to California in the late 70’s. Benny’s BBQ is amazing and each time i’ve been there i see executives in 3-peice suits chowing down like nobody’s business. The ribs are dripping wet and splatter occasionally. Benny has this figured out and comes by (after you sit down) to tie a ‘bib’ around your neck, to catch any of the sauce that drips away. When no one is looking i always take a finger and ‘sop up’ any stray splatters. You can get a full rib dinner (or a split dinner) for anywhere from $5 to $8, including a pop to wash it all down. Especially with her AMAZING collard greens, Benny would be my choice, trust me, if it weren’t for…
WOODY’S. Woody, and his cousin (who has his own amazing BBQ place near Woody-which, unfortunately, I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting PLUS it’s closed on sundays), Philip, are considering the premiere BBQ guys in LA. Maybe even this side of the rockies. First thing you notice about Woody’s is that there ain’t no place to sit down. Yep. IT’S ALL TAKE AWAY. Second thing you notice (besides the incredible smell of bbq) is the huge brick bbq pit with the smokey flavor invading the air. Woody’s bbq is tender, tasty, succulent, mildly spicy and with a sauce that is 100% original and kinda liquidity, which i prefer, instead of that thick stuff. This si a SAUCE and you can taste the tender love and care from bite number one.
Whether it’s rib tips (my personal fave), beef ribs or pork spare ribs, Woody’s brings it and THEN SOME. The ‘pulled pork sandwich’ is to absolutely die for. If Benny’s and The Pig are ‘7’ on a scale from 1 to 10, then Woody’s is a ’12’. Not only is it THAT good, nothing, nowhere even comes close. The closest second, in my mind, would have to be CLARKE’S OUTPOST, which is about 60 miles north of Dallas (off the 35 highway.) There’s none of the kind talk or great atmosphere like that of Benny’s and The Pig. At Woody’s, the employees don’t joke around with you, don’t want to be your friend and they sure as heck don’t even want to know your name except to get you the correct order. All the care about is selling you the best bbq on the planet. Treat me any way you want, just make sure to put some extra sauce on my rib tips.
WINNER: (who else?) Woody’s Bar-B-Que 3446 W Slauson Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90043 323 294-9443
Honorable mention: (besides Benny’s & The Pig) “4 J’s BBQ” (on Lincoln 2 blocks south of Rose, in Venice)