As a frequent out of town guest of Grand Central Market, I try to find a new spot to eat every time I visit. Top Chef’s Ilan Hall’s vegan ramen joint was the perfect spot for me this trip. The site of several patrons sitting at the counter hunched over a large bowl of curled noodles in a delicious steamy broth with chopsticks in hand drew me in. Ramen Hood usually has a decent sized line that moves somewhat quickly. You basically order your bowl and do your best to find a seat at the counter or one of the surrounding tables in the market. Menu choices are various ramen bowls, some sides and some add-on’s for your ramen (vegan egg, bean sprouts, oysters, mushrooms, etc). They also have a combo special that includes ramen, a side and a drink.
I eat anything spicy and went for the Spicy Ramen. They have a variety of small plates to choose from for a side and I chose the avocado toast (a new thing I’m really into) for mine. The Spicy Ramen isn’t super spicy but they have plenty of ingredients on the counter that you can add more spice to it. The broth is very rich and milky because it’s made from sunflower seeds that are roasted and pressure cooked to obtain its natural oils. They also simmer kelp, white miso, onions and mushrooms in the broth. My Ramen bowl was fantastic and full of all types of flavor. The egg that is added in is vegan. The avocado toast was a pleasant surprise. It was one of the best avocado toast I have ever had (and I made my own creations at home). I’m not vegan and was really surprised how flavorful and filling everything was. I also enjoyed sitting at a counter and watching the kitchen staff work their magic. This was a really nice visit to the Market and Ramen Hood. I’m looking forward to a future visit.
I was excited to made my return to Slater’s 50/50 while visiting here in Pasadena. I had my first burger in 2013 and I try stop here every time I am in town. You can read all about them on my post. Slater’s is known for their 50/50 burger patties – made of 50% ground bacon and 50% ground beef. I had a quick stop here for lunch and tried their popular Sriracha Burger and Frickles (fried pickles). It’s a specialty item so I had to try it. The patty rests on Sriracha coleslaw and is topped with Sriracha sautéed mushrooms, pepper jack cheese, thick-cut bacon strips glazed with Sriracha mayo on a brioche bun. That’s a lot of Sriracha and it was delicious! I also got a Kona Big Wave beer. See you next time Slater’s!
So I’m cruising down the PCH through Malibu on my way to Santa Monica and I discover something exciting as I’m looking to satisfy my coffee craving – Santa Monica has a Philz Coffee! I first visited this amazing coffee house in San Francisco a couple years ago. If you don’t know anything about Philz, they custom make your coffee right in front of you. The Mint Mojito Iced Coffee has to be one of the best coffee drinks I have ever had! This particular shop opened in 2014 and was buzzing with activity when I walked in. It’s located on Santa Monica Blvd just east of 3rd Street Promenade. I purchased my drink and a bag of beans and the manager was nice enough to give me my drink on the house. I savored that drink all the way back to AZ and it didn’t disappoint. Come to Arizona Philz!
So I stopped in here while visiting from Arizona solely because of GD’s Instagram feed and their appearance on the “Great Food Truck Race”. I will admit the vibrant colors of their food photos was what reeled me in. GD Bro Burger got its start in 2013 as a food truck from a couple of buddies with a passion for food. They are known for their gooey cheese stuffed burgers with raspberry brioche buns that are topped with items like mozzarella sticks, kalbi poutine and kettle-cooked chips. It wasn’t too packed for my first visit here. I didn’t get the greatest service from the cash register guy (he walked away for almost 2-3 minutes and just left me hanging), but one of the food handlers at the bar made up for it with his warm and friendly attitude. I ordered the Juan & Only burger and pizza fries and the food came out in a reasonable time. I love lots of toppings on my burger, so the Juan & Only was the perfect choice for me. It had a nice blend of spiciness to it and I really enjoyed the abundance of avocado slices they top it off with. The pizza fries were good, but not anything to write home about. If anything, they made my photos look more appealing as a side item. I was bummed that the shake machine was down as I was hoping to try one their cool looking creations that I always see on their IG feed. I ended up getting one of their pineapple orange refreshers instead. The menu prices are comparable to any other food truck prices. Overall, I would say I had a pretty good experience here as I really enjoyed the creativity they put into their food and the overall cleanliness of the restaurant. Hopefully I will get an opportunity to stop in again in the future and try some of the items I missed out on.
GD Bro Truck started up in 2013. Two years later they made an appearance on season six of The Great Food Truck Race. That same year they opened a restaurant in Santa Ana one in Long Beach the following year.
Patsy D’Amore was the first to bring pizza to L.A. at the Casa D’Amore restaurant in 1938 after making pizzas in New York and Boston. Patsy moved his oven from the outpost he had on Catalina Island to Los Angeles and opened up the first pizza stand at the Original Farmers Market in 1949. His famous Villa Capri restaurant was a regular hangout of the Rat Pack in the 50’s. His daughter now keeps the family legacy going with this location at the Farmers Market. They make New York style pizzas and the lasagna and calzones are made up fresh daily. Amore means “heart” in Spanish and these guys love to say they make their pizza from the heart. In typical New York fashion, I grabbed a slice to go after a full day of sampling at the Market. The pizza wasn’t bad. Not much different from what you grab to go on some corner in Manhattan. I think what the draw for me was their long history with Hollywood. I’ll give their full menu a shot another day.
¡Lotería! Grill first opened in the LA Farmers Market by Jimmy Shaw in 2002. Now there are five locations across LA. Jimmy wanted to put true Mexican food on a plate after seeing so many Americanized versions of it all over Cali. Lotería is a type of bingo game in Mexico that uses game cards with images that represent Mexico. Many of these images are posted all over their restaurant. I read a guide of best foods to try at the Market and their popular nachos made the list. Some of their other favorites include the Chicharrón de Queso (pork dish), the tacos and their signature Guisos (slow-cooked stews). They also have a full breakfast menu for the early risers. Even though I was just sampling today, this mini nacho plate packed a punch. It consisted of corn tortilla chips, black beans, Pico de Gallo, jack cheese, tomatillo Salsa, onion and cilantro. I love nachos that just ooze with cheese and this one didn’t disappoint. The staff was great and it was fun to sit behind the counter and watch them passionately cook up some great food. I hope to grab a full meal next time around.
“Quality is the number one ingredient in everything we do”
Every time I’m in Cali I swing by Porto’s Bakery & Cafe and pick up some delicious pastries to go. Rosa Porto opened her first bakery on Sunset Blvd in 1976 after her family emigrated here from Manzanillo, Cuba. They went through some tough times before people started catching on to how amazing her pastries are. She started to add other international savories to her menu and the business took off. Today there are three locations and long lines out the door everyday. It doesn’t stop people from picking up box of cheese rolls, potato balls or a cake. In addition to the pastries, they have some amazing sandwiches, juices and a full cafe. Some of my personal favorites I pick up are empanadas, ham croquettes, meat pies, and of course the potato balls (try the spicy one). You also can’t go wrong with any of the danishes or croissants either. Even though the parking can be a little crazy, Porto’s is always worth a stop.