Category Archives: Encino

Bread Winners 2016

Bread Winners
Amazing signature bread served warm to your table soon after you are seated and order.  Is there any greater welcome gift that a restaurant can bestow upon a hungry patron?  Great bread is often the reason for choosing a restaurant (or if you’re watching your carb intake, a reason to avoid a restaurant where you simply can’t control yourself).  Here’s my new list of the top 10 winners in the category of best signature bread in LA:

Garlic Cheese Bread from The Smoke House

Garlic Cheese Bread from The Smokehouse

1. Garlic Cheese Bread at The Smokehouse (442 W. Lakeside Drive, Burbank).  This is hands down the best garlic bread you will ever eat.  It’s salty, cheesy, garlicky awesomeness.  Enjoy it with dinner and martinis at The Smokehouse, the iconic dimly-lit, red boothed throw-back which has sat for the past 70 years across the street from the Warner Bros. lot.

Pizza Bread from Zane's

Foccacia Bread from Zane’s

2.  Foccacia Bread at Zane’s (1150 Hermosa Avenue, Hermosa Beach). A well kept secret of South Bay food lovers, Zane’s is my favorite restaurant in Hermosa Beach. Their herb-crusted focaccia is hot-out-of-the-oven, complimentary, and incredibly delicious. It’s served with a trio of dipping sauces: olive tapenade, hummus, and roasted red peppers.

Biscuits from John O'Groats

Biscuits from John O’Groats

3. Biscuits at John O’Groats in West LA (10516 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles). Hot, buttery, mouth-wateringly good biscuits are a key component of a hearty Southern-style breakfast. John O’Groats makes the best biscuits in town. You could spread on some additional butter and some sugary jam, but they’re also amazing when just eaten plain.

Grilled Pita at The Great Greek

Grilled Pita at The Great Greek

4.  Grilled Pita Bread at The Great Greek (13362 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks).  This is not the free (and good) bread they give you when you arrive at The Great Greek.  You have to actually order the amazing grilled pita bread here and it would be a Greek tragedy to not do so.  The pita is exclusively flown in from Chicago. Eat it with fresh whipped Hummus, tangy Tzatziki, or my favorite — Tarama, Greek caviar dip.

The Popovers at Neiman Marcus

Pop over to Neiman Marcus for a popover

5.  Popovers at Neiman Marcus (9700 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills in their Mariposa restaurant; also 6550 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Canoga Park in their NM Cafe).  Who doesn’t like popovers?  The ones at Neiman’s are consistently perfect. Light, cripsy and flaky on the outside, soft and buttery on the inside.  Served with strawberry butter!

Za'atar Bread from Urban Garden

Za’atar Bread from Urban Garden

6. Za’atar Bread at Urban Garden (7563 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles). This tiny Lebanese restaurant near The Grove is a hidden gem that serves some of the best shawarma in the city. But my favorite thing here is the flat bread which is baked to order on iron domes and topped with olive oil and za’atar spice.

Cracker Bread at Angelini Osteria

Cracker Bread at Angelini Osteria

7. Cracker Bread at Angelini Osteria (7313 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles). I frequent this place, partly because of their famous Lasagne Verde and partly because of their cracker bread sprinkled with olive oil and rosemary. These divine crispy rectangles sit atop a complimentary bread basket, and I always have to ask for more.

Sourdough and Cheese Rolls at The Water Grill

Sourdough and Asiago Cheese Rolls at The Water Grill

8. Sourdough and Asiago Cheese Rolls at The Water Grill (544 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles and 1401 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica). These rolls are served warm and come in two varieties: one which is plain sourdough and one stuffed with a bit of melted asiago cheese. Both are crave-worthy and the perfect start to a yummy seafood feast.

Laffa Bread from Izhak Hagadol

Laffa Bread from Izhak Hagadol

9. Laffa Bread at Itzik Hagadol (17201 Ventura Blvd, Encino). The giant, puffy laffas at this popular Israeli restaurant are served piping hot and topped with a blend of Middle Eastern herbs, sesame seeds and spices. They’re best enjoyed by tearing off one little piece at a time and using it to pick up bits of babaganoush, red cabbage salad, or one of the other 18 dips and appetizer salads served here.

Rye Bread from Brent's Deli

Rye Bread from Brent’s Deli

10. Rye Bread at Brent’s Deli (19565 Parthenia St, Northridge and 2799 Townsgate Road, Westlake Village). You can tell a good Jewish delicatessen by the quality of the rye bread and pickles they give you when you arrive. Brent’s fresh baked rye has a soft, chewy and caraway seed-filled inside, as well as a crisp, crackly crust on the outside. The rye tells us that Brent’s is the best deli in LA and its bakers are mavens (experts) in bread-making.

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Filed under Beverly Hills, Burbank, Canoga Park, Downtown, Encino, Hermosa Beach, Mid-City, Northridge, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Westlake Village

Cheesesteak Challenge

Although I grew up in California, I was born in Philadelphia. Other things that originated in Philadelphia include the Declaration of Independence, the Post Office, the Stock Exchange and Hall & Oates. But Philadelphia’s greatest contribution may just be the cheesesteak. Seasoned and thinly sliced beef, cheese (Provolone, American or Whiz), onions and occasionally peppers or mushrooms, all grilled to perfection and served on a warm soft roll… Who doesn’t like a good cheesesteak?

While the best are found in Philly, there are some very tasty cheesesteaks here in LA and I’ve been on a mission for the past couple months to find the best ones this city has to offer. Although I evaluated bread, meat and cheese, there was another essential element that was key to making the grade here. Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love and any great cheesesteak establishment must make you feel at home and provide super friendly and warm service; it’s the Philadelphia way. Of the twenty or so cheesesteak eateries that I visited on my quest, here are my top five favorites:

Figueroa Philly Cheese Steak

1. Figueroa Philly Cheese Steak (3844 S. Figueroa in Downtown) This newcomer has the best service and awesome cheesesteaks. The Amoroso rolls and marinated rib eye are imported from Philadelphia. Their one non-traditional, California-esque twist is that one of your cheese options is nacho jalapeno. I loved it!

The Shack in Santa Monica

2. The Shack (2518 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica) Only the Santa Monica location, which is owned by a Philadelphian, of this venerable LA burger joint serves cheesesteaks. The meat is perfectly seasoned and served on Amoroso rolls. They are really, really good.

Philly West Bar & Grill

3. Philly West Bar & Grill (1870 Westwood Blvd in Westwood) These are Allentown-style cheesesteaks and are made with a bit of marinara sauce. The bread is incredibly delicious. Instead of Amoroso rolls shipped frozen from Philadelphia, they use fresh baked French rolls from a local bakery. A great place to watch Phillies or Eagles games.

Philly's Best

4. Philly’s Best (17200 Ventura Blvd. in Encino, 1421 W. Olive St. in Burbank and other locations) This successful chain knows what they’re doing. They use Amoroso rolls from Philly and are one of the few places that offer Cheese Whiz. They also have Philadelphia-style Hoagies, Wise potato chips and Tastykakes.

Soda Pop's

5. Soda Pop’s (349 N. La Cienega in Mid-City) The owner is from Boston and refers to his cheesesteaks as “Steak Bombs,” but don’t hold that against him. These are really good cheesesteaks served with housemade potato chips. Plus 100 different specialty sodas like Blueberry Birch Beer and Pumpkin Pie Soda.

Molecular Gastronomy Cheesesteak at The Bazaar

Special Mention: Philly Cheesesteak at The Bazaar (465 La Cienega, Mid-City) It wouldn’t be fair to compare this molecular gastronomy version with the others, but it should be noted that this specialty of Jose Andres is insanely good. Crispy air-filled bread filled with aged Cheddar sauce and topped with Kobe beef.

I love Tastykakes!

Tastykakes! Several cheesesteak places sell Tastykakes, delicious snack cakes which are incredibly popular in Philadelphia. Philly’s Best has the largest variety. My favorites are Butterscotch Krimpets, Peanut Butter Kandy Kakes and Koffee Kake Cupcakes.

I will be discussing cheesesteaks on KABC Talk Radio 790 this Sunday night at 8:00 on Dining with Dills. If you enjoy Consuming LA, please subscribe, like me on Facebook and/or follow me on twitter at the top right of this page. And please forward to your friends!

Philly's Best on Urbanspoon
Philly West Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon
Figueroa Philly Cheese Steak on Urbanspoon
Philly's Best on Urbanspoon
Philly's Best on Urbanspoon


Filed under Burbank, Downtown, Encino, Mid-City, Santa Monica, Westwood