Category Archives: Northridge

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

The 10 Best Burger Joints in Los Angeles

Cassell's Hamburgers
If there’s one food that we excel at in Los Angeles, it’s hamburgers. There are no shortage of excellent eateries in this city at which to celebrate the holy marriage of grilled meat patty and bun, preferably with a thick slice of melted cheese, a whole mess of sautéed onions and a couple strips of bacon in between. It has been a life-long mission of mine to identify the very best of these local burger establishments. Here are my top ten favorites:

"The Burger" from Golden State with Harris Ranch Beef, Fiscalini Farms Cheddar,  Applewood Smoked Bacon, Arugula and Ketchup

“The Burger” from Golden State with Harris Ranch Beef, Fiscalini Farms Cheddar, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Arugula and Ketchup

10. The Golden State (426 N. Fairfax, Los Angeles) This little gem lies in the middle of all the hip hop shops and Jewish bakeries on Fairfax. All ingredients in their awesome burgers and other menu items are locally sourced from California including high-end Harris Ranch beef and award-winning Fiscalini cheddar.

Piku "Fig" Burger from Pono Burger with Housemade Drunken Caramelized Fig Jam, Organic Beef Patty, Fermier Brie Cheese, Niman Ranch Bacon and Crushed Hazelnuts

Piku “Fig” Burger from Pono Burger with Housemade Drunken Caramelized Fig Jam, Organic Beef Patty, Fermier Brie Cheese, Niman Ranch Bacon and Crushed Hazelnuts

9. Pono Burger (829 Broadway, Santa Monica) The funky looking metal structure that houses this joint (it looks like a mini airplane hanger) will draw you in. The Hawaiian-style burgers, sweet potato fries and salted caramel shakes will keep you coming back.

Chef Katsu's Original California Roll Hamburger with Snow Crab Salad, Avocado, Sushi Ginger, Boston Lettuce, Tomato, Nori, and Wasabi-Shoyu-Mayonnaise

Chef Katsu’s Original California Roll Hamburger with Snow Crab Salad, Avocado, Sushi Ginger, Boston Lettuce, Tomato, Nori, and Wasabi-Shoyu-Mayonnaise

8. 26 Beach Restaurant (3100 W. Washington Blvd in Venice) There are several places that have an extensive menu of over-the-top themed burgers such as a Peanut Butter & Jelly Burger. 26 Beach is the best of that lot. They are especially known for their “Sushi Burgers” including a California Roll Burger, and Spicy Tuna Burger and a Mori Eel Burger.

Cheese Burger from Pie 'n Burger with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing, Pickles and Lettuce

Cheese Burger from Pie ‘n Burger with Homemade Thousand Island Dressing, Pickles and Lettuce

7. Pie ‘n Burger (913 E. California Blvd, Pasadena) This old school diner with a long winding counter is a mandatory stop for me when I go to the Rose Bowl or am otherwise in Pasadena. As you can glean from the restaurant’s name, you’re missing out if you don’t order both a hamburger and a slice of one of their amazing pies.

Griddled Cheese Burger from Ledlow with American and Cheddar Cheeses, Red Onion, Dill Pickle, Dijon and Garlic Aioli

Griddled Cheeseburger from Ledlow with American and Cheddar Cheeses, Red Onion, Dill Pickle, Dijon and Garlic Aioli

6. Ledlow (400 S. Main St in Downtown) The newest restaurant of local superstar chef Josef Centeno (Baco Mercat, Bar Ama, Orsa & Winston), Ledlow is more than just a burger joint. However, their Griddled Cheeseburger seems to be the speciality of the house and has quickly drawn much-deserved acclaim from LA foodies.

Double Double from In-N-Out Burger

Double Double from In-N-Out Burger

5. In-N-Out (all over Los Angeles) Yes, it’s a fast food chain, but don’t hold that against it. At $3.60, the Double Double is the best deal in town and is better than most of the pricey burgers at nice restaurants. I like to add toppings from their secret menu, including chilies, grilled onions and pickles.

Hickory Burger from The Apple Pan

Hickory Burger from The Apple Pan

4. The Apple Pan (10801 W. Pico Blvd in Westwood) This 68-year-old diner is an LA landmark. All seating is at a U-shaped counter, where you’re served by uber-efficient grumpy old men. It’s super fun, especially late at night, and their Hickory Burgers are awesome.

Cheeseburger from Belcampo with Dry Aged Grass Fed Beef with Cheddar and Caramelized Onions

Cheeseburger from Belcampo with Dry Aged Grass Fed Beef with Cheddar and Caramelized Onions

3. Belcampo Meat Co (317 S Broadway in Downtown; also 1026 Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica) It’s perhaps more of a gourmet butcher shop than a burger joint, but the cheeseburgers sold at this stall in Grand Central Market are phenomenal. They’re made with a special Wagyu-Angus meat blend and are served on fresh sesame seed buns. Belcampo just opened a fancier restaurant in Santa Monica where you can also get a burger, but I’m partial to the ones served downtown.

The Hatch Burger from Umami Burger with Roasted Hatch Chilies, House Cali Cheese and Roasted Garlic Aioli

The Hatch Burger from Umami Burger with Roasted Hatch Chilies, House Cali Cheese and Roasted Garlic Aioli

2. Umami Burger (multiple locations) In a short period of time, this revolutionary burger restaurant has expanded into a ubiquitous chain throughout Los Angeles and has been widely emulated. Their burgers are made from specially seasoned meat blends and their Portuguese-style buns are sweetened with milk and honey. It’s a toss up for me as to which of their burgers is the best: the decedent truffle burger or the spicy hatch burger made with four types of green chilies.

Cheese Burger from Cassell's Hamburgers with House Ground Prime Beef Patty and Cheddar Cheese on a Parker House Bun.

Cheeseburger from Cassell’s Hamburgers with House Ground Prime Beef Patty and Cheddar Cheese on a Parker House Bun.

1. Cassell’s Hamburgers (3600 W 6th St in Koreatown) This is my new favorite burger joint in LA. First established in 1948, this restaurant recently reopened in a cool retro space in the historic Hotel Normandie. Now under new ownership, their burgers have some similarities to the ones which made Cassell’s an LA institution, but are significantly improved. They are now the perfect combination of gourmet excellence and classic style.

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Filed under Burbank, Canoga Park, Downtown, Fairfax, Glendale, Hermosa Beach, Hollywood, Inglewood, Koreatown, Los Feliz, Marina del Rey, Mid-City, North Hollywood, Northridge, Panorama City, Pasadena, Porter Ranch, Redondo Beach, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Toluca Lake, Tujunga, Van Nuys, Venice, West LA, Westlake Village, Westwood, Woodland Hills

Jewish Soul Food — A Guide for Goyim

Delicatessen
Oy Gevalt! We’ve heard a lot lately about how Jewish delicatessens are a dying breed in New York. But here in LA, delis are holding their ground, and perhaps even thriving. Yes, iconic deli Junior’s in Westwood closed at the beginning of the year, but it was immediately replaced by Lenny’s Deli, which doesn’t seem that different.

While adventurous Angelenos love checking out restaurants that serve exotic cuisines they are not familiar with like Bolivian, Laotian and Napalese, many don’t realize that beyond the sandwiches and bowls of matzo ball soup, Jewish delis offer delectable Eastern European specialties unfamiliar to a lot of foodies, especially non-Jews. Below are some of my favorites.

As for the best places to consume these dishes, there are many divergent views in the LA Jewish community, which reminds me of the saying “With two Jews, you get three opinions.” Brent’s (in Northridge and Westlake Village) is my favorite Jewish deli in the city and has the best food overall. I also love Canter’s on Fairfax, especially because of its excellent bakery, its cool retro look and the fact that it’s open 24 hours for late night noshing and kibitzing. Langer’s (Downtown) ranks next on my list because of its amazing pastrami. My other favorites are Billy’s Deli (in Glendale and Torrance), Nate ‘n Al (in Beverly Hills) and Greenblatt’s (in West Hollywood). UPDATE: Billy’s Deli is closed. What a shonda (shame)!

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup from Brent’s Deli


1. Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup Every fresser and his brother orders Matzo Ball Soup at a deli, but I prefer this hearty soup instead. The best versions contain succulent pieces of braised short rib called “flanken.”

Kasha Varnishkes

Kasha Varnishkes from Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant


2. Kasha Varnishkes Like two inseparable Jewish friends from the old country, this dish is a classic combination of Kasha, a cereal usually made of buckwheat, and buttery bowtie pasta.

Cheese Blintzes

Cheese Blintzes from Brent’s Deli


3. Blintzes These are thin crepes wrapped around a filling, which is usually sweetened ricotta or farmer’s cheese, but can also be potato, blueberry or cherry. They’re topped with powdered sugar and served with sour cream and jam.

Bubbe made a kishka

Bubbe made a Kishka! But this one is from Brent’s Deli.


4. Kishka aka Stuffed Derma This was made with cow intestines back in the day, but now it has a sausage casing and is stuffed with a filling of flour, carrots, onions, celery and paprika. It tastes like stuffing and is usually served with gravy.

What am I?  Chopped Liver?

What am I? Chopped Liver? Yes, from Canter’s Deli.


5. Chopped Liver Schmear some on a slice of freshly baked rye bread and place a piece of raw onion on top and you’re in business. I also like to eat my chopped liver with hot and sweet mustard.

Fried Kreplach with Gravy from Brent's Deli

Fried Kreplach with Gravy from Brent’s Deli


6. Fried Kreplach A kreplach is a dense doughy dumpling filled with ground meat. It’s often served in a bowl of chicken soup instead of a matzo ball. Kreplachs are amazing fried up and topped with sauteed onions.

Beef Knish from Billy's Deli & Cafe

Beef Knish from Billy’s Deli & Cafe


7. Knish This is essentially a little baked hand pie made with a thin layer of dough surrounding a filling of either mashed potatoes, ground meat, kasha, sauerkraut, mashed sweet potatoes or cheese.

Stuffed Cabbage from Canter's Deli

Stuffed Cabbage from Canter’s Deli


8. Stuffed Cabbage aka Holishkes It can be described as meatloaf which has been wrapped in cabbage and cooked in a sweet and sour sauce. What’s not to like?

Black & White Cookie

Black & White Cookie from Brent’s Deli


9. Black & White Cookie Really more cake than cookie, this saucer-shaped treat has chocolate icing on one half and vanilla icing on the other half. Jerry Seinfeld referred to these cookies as “two races of flavor living side by side in harmony.”

Poppyseed Hamataschen from Brent's Deli

Poppyseed Hamataschen from Brent’s Deli


10. Hamantaschen My favorite Jewish bakery dessert is named after the triangular hat of a real life villain named Haman who tried to exterminate the Jews in ancient Persia. We celebrate his defeat by “eating his hat.” These cookies have fillings such as apricot, prune, cherry, chocolate or my favorite — poppyseed.

Halvah

Halvah

11. Halvah This dense and flakey confection made with sesame seeds is an acquired taste. You can usually find them at the deli cashier’s counter next to chocolate covered raspberry jelly candies.

Dr. Brown's Soda

Dr. Brown’s Soda


12. Dr. Brown’s Soda This is the drink of choice at a Jewish deli. The flavors are Black Cherry, Cream or Cel-Ray, an old school celery seed soda that was originally developed as a tonic to promote good health. L’Chayim!

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Brent's Deli on Urbanspoon
Canter's Deli on Urbanspoon
Brent's Deli on Urbanspoon
Langer's Deli on Urbanspoon
Greenblatt's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Beverly Hills, Glendale, Mid-City, Northridge, Torrance, West Hollywood, Westwood

Burger Battle!

In case you haven’t heard, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, a hugely successful national chain which started in Washington DC, has come to conquer LA. In the world of fast food hamburgers and fries, Five Guys occupies the same space in the market that In-N-Out Burger has locally dominated for many decades; super-fresh, never frozen ingredients, fries made from potatoes cut in the restaurant and fried in trans fat-free oil, and burgers which are all cooked to order. As we all know, In-N-Out is a Southern California institution. It’s the object of many late-night cravings, the home of an awesome “secret menu” and hidden biblical verse references, as well as the place most frequently visited by LA vegetarians when they’re ready to start eating meat again for the first time. Is Five Guys better than In-N-Out? No, it’s not. But it is better than most other fast food burger restaurants.

The burgers at Five Guys, like In-N-Out, are really good. Five Guys even has several more choices for toppings than In-N-Out, including bacon, jalapenos and sauteed mushrooms. Five Guys also gives you free peanuts to munch on while you’re waiting for your food to be cooked. While I like both burgers a lot, I slightly prefer the burger at In-N-Out mainly because In-N-Out has much better buns. I love the fries at In-N-Out, but Five Guys also has great fries, and you can order Five Guys’ fries with cajun seasoning generously sprinkled on top! Unfortunately, I found the service at Five Guys to be less than stellar. They are not staffed with the uber-efficient yet exceedingly friendly, clean-cut kids that one always encounters when going to In-N-Out. The last time I was at Five Guys, after waiting about 20 minutes after ordering, I was given our burgers and unapologetically informed that they ran out of fries and we would have to wait another 20 minutes while they prepared a new batch. This would never happen at In-N-Out! Also, Five Guys in notably more expensive. So while Five Guys is definitely worth trying, I think In-N-Out has nothing to worry about.

Five Guys currently has locations in Culver City (at the Westfield Culver City Mall), Valencia, Carson (at the Southbay Pavillion) and Thousand Oaks; more locations are opening soon including Northridge, Mid-City and Downtown. In-N-Out is all over Southern California. UPDATE 12/10/11: Five Guys now also has locations open in Cerritos, El Segundo, Northridge, Whittier and Downtown. UPDATE 5/25/13: Five Guys now has additional locations in Long Beach, West Covina, Lakewood, Westwood, West Hollywood and Studio City.

Five Guys Burger


Five Guys Fries


Lots of bragging on the walls at Five Guys


In-N-Out: Still the Champion

Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon
Five Guys Burgers and Fries (Carson, Avalon Blvd) on Urbanspoon
Five Guys Burgers and Fries (Cerritos Promenade) on Urbanspoon
Five Guys Burgers and Fries (USC W27th) on Urbanspoon
Five Guys Burgers and Fries (Valencia Town Center) on Urbanspoon
Five Guys Burgers and Fries (El Segundo) on Urbanspoon
Five Guys Burgers and Fries (Whittier) on Urbanspoon
In-N-Out Burger on Urbanspoon
In-N-Out Burger on Urbanspoon
In-N-Out Burger on Urbanspoon
In-N-Out Burger on Urbanspoon
In-N-Out Burger on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Carson, Cerritos, Culver City, Downtown, El Segundo, Lakewood, Long Beach, Mid-City, Northridge, Studio City, Thousand Oaks, Valencia, West Covina, West Hollywood, Westwood