Over the last few months, I’ve been excitedly reading about how Filipino food is becoming the next great America cuisine, how Filipino food will win the hearts and minds of the world (spoken by the man himself, Anthony Bourdain), how the time for Filipino cuisine is now, and the place is Los Angeles.
So if you ask me what to eat in LA, I will say: Filipino food. Of course, you should make the most out of your trip and eat other cuisines as well (and this blog post will chronicle just how much we were able to eat in four days). But seriously, eat some Filipino food.
Here are my recommendations on What to Eat in L.A.:
Eat ube ice cream at Wanderlust Creamery.
Start with the beautiful ube malted crunch ice cream from Wanderlust Creamery, on an ube cone. Ube is purple yam, sweet and with the most vibrant purple color, ubiquitous at any Filipino family gathering. Since my childhood, any dessert with ube was an automatic favorite (my family actually makes fun of my obsession with it). Ube ice cream is on top of that list. This one from Wanderlust is ultra creamy, like white chocolate with a mild nuttiness, with crunchy pockets of malted milk balls. It’s one of the best ice creams I’ve had in years.
Eat a Filipino meal with white rice at Park’s Finest.
There are many great Filipino restaurants in LA (my friends swear by Rice Bar and LASA) and all of them claim that Park’s Finest is the one that will jolt me back to the Philippines. So that’s where we went.
We got the Mt. Mayon hot link medley (spicy smoked sausage and sweet longganisa), Ann’s cornbread bibingka (bibingka is a traditional coconut rice cake that’s common during the holidays), beef shortrib (smoked and seasoned beef rib), and the Mt. Taal chicken (smoked roasted chicken), with a side of sauteed carrots and a big bowl of soft, fluffy white rice. There were only three of us but we ate every morsel on that table. Everything was delectable, and I really did feel like I was back in Manila (down to the Pinoy music and spoon and fork for every patron). I couldn’t get enough of the beef rib and would go back again just for that!
Eat a breakfast sandwich at Eggslut.
This breakfast sandwich isn’t technically Filipino food, but it’s by Filipino chef Alvin Cailan, egg wunderchef and unapologetic Spam-lover. I’ve heard about the famous breakfast sandwiches at Eggslut, and Matt and I braved the comically long lines at Grand Central Market to try it. I got the Fairfax – soft scrambled eggs and chives, cheddar cheese, and sriracha mayo in a warm brioche bun. It typically comes with caramelized onions, too, but I asked for mine without onions. I also opted for extra bacon.
This was, hands down, the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever had. The eggs were the the most perfect consistency – soft and creamy – and was perfectly encased in the buttery brioche. The sriracha mayo added the right amount of spice. It was messy to eat, but was incredibly delicious and so worth the mess and the long lines.
Eat something at Grand Central Market.
Grand Central Market was our most frequented destination during our trip. It’s a food hall / farmer’s market, with multiple restaurants and storefronts. My top recommendations are: tacos from Roast To Go (I got lengua and Matt got carnitas, both were delicious), almond milk and macadamia lattes from G&B coffee, and Blum’s Coffee Crunch Cake from Valerie Bakery. And let’s not forget Eggslut! We also wanted to try the burgers at Belcampo but we did not have enough time nor stomach space.
Eat karaage at Little Tokyo.
Little Tokyo in Downtown LA is a slice of Japan in America. It’s a National Historic Landmark District, and only one of the three official Japantowns in the nation. There’s plenty of authentic shops, restaurants, and a shopping plaza.
Matt and I saw a line of people holding meat on sticks, and we lined up alongside them, even if we didn’t exactly know what they were eating. This is pretty much what we did n Tokyo and Osaka earlier this year, too. When we got closer, we saw that the little eatery selling food right outside the shop’s window was Mitsuru Cafe. They were fresh red bean cakes, shrimp balls, croquettes, pork shumai, and karaage (Japanese fried chicken). We each got a couple of sticks and we liked it very much – it’s hard to go wrong with fried chicken. I’d love to go back again next time and explore more!
Drink Beer at Angel City Brewery.
While I’m not a huge beer drinker, Matt is an afficionado. Angel City Brewery was highly recommended by several friends, and we also liked the fact that it was in the Arts District. Matt really liked the IPA. I was more into appreciating yet another pair of colorful wings – they are all over LA, the city of angels indeed.
Drink Wine and Eat Lobster Rolls at L&E Oyster Bar.
After a long day of meetings, we went to L&E Oyster Bar for happy hour. I had a cold glass of rose (so perfect during hot summer days), and we shared the shrimp po boy and lobster roll. The shrimp was crispy and meaty, the sandwich dressed nicely with pickled peppers and pickled onions. But the lobster roll was the better and more savory pick. It’s certainly not a New England lobster roll (best lobster rolls for me are still from Eventide in Portland, Maine) but it was interesting. It came in a hot buttered bun, and the lobster was tossed with caramelized onions, old bay seasoning, and green onion. As I am a sucker for homemade potato chips, I also housed the sour cream and onion chips that came on the side.
Eat brunch at Redbird.
When I told my friends that we will be in LA for a few days, they immediately made weekend brunch reservations at Redbird, which is one of the city’s hottest brunch spots. Redbird is beautiful, it’s a former Catholic rectory and it’s flooded with natural light and pretty people. Between our group of six, we pretty much tried almost everything on the menu, all of it good. I got the frittata with foraged mushrooms, asparagus, oven roasted tomatoes, and chevre, and it tasted like spring. One of my friends got the shrimp and grits and he wanted to lick his plate clean.
Drink fresh coconut juice at the Santa Monica beach.
The Santa Monica beach was about a 30-minute drive from downtown LA (where we were staying) but it was absolutely well worth the drive/traffic. It’s a 3 mile stretch and you can rent bikes, run along the beach, play volleyball, skateboard, roller blade, and do other active, outdoorsy activities. However my activity of choice was sitting by the beach, lazily drinking fresh coconut juice, being 100% relaxed on vacation.
I still can’t stop thinking about ube ice cream…
Have a great week!