Anyone who follows food in Los Angeles has heard of Zach Brooks. The irascible New York City transplant made a name for himself in The Big Apple with the website Midtown Lunch, scouting midtown Manhattan lunch spots that passed the crucial "under $10" test. Now that he calls Los Angeles home, the former music industry nine-to-fiver has begun chronicling great lunchtime eats from Santa Monica through Downtown on beyond on the sister site Midtown Lunch L.A..
Brooks also recently started a podcast as a natural offshoot of his love of all things music and food. KCET managed to sneak in a few questions to Brooks before he jetted off to the next great daytime food spot, or perhaps the next episode of his show Food Is the New Rock.
KCET: How did the idea of Midtown Lunch first come about?
Zach Brooks: Well, I was working at Sirius Satellite radio in Midtown Manhattan and really wanted to start a food blog. My wife said no to photographing our dinners out so, lunch it was! (She had food blogger photo fatigue long before it was fashionable.) Lucky for me there were a ton of like-minded eaters trying to find decent lunch in Midtown, so here we are.
KCET: Now that you're on the west coast, you're known as a no-nonsense food blogger with a lot of strong opinions. Do you think that's a fair assessment?
ZB: Really? That sounds like a bunch of bullshit. Seriously ... where did you even hear that? That is without a doubt one of the dumbest things I have ever heard in my life and nothing you say will change my mind about that.
KCET: The intersection of rock and food has become more prevalent over the past few years, with heavily-inked chefs and heavy metal burger trucks. What made you want to consolidate that into your podcast Food is the New Rock?
ZB: I left radio in 2008 to become a full time fatso, and started noticing a lot of the friends who I bonded with over music in my teens and twenties were also starting to obsess more about food in their thirties. At the same time you had this trend of bands starting to talk about how much they love to eat on tour, and chefs palling around with musicians they love. I thought it would be fun to talk to all these people about the connection -- so Food is the New Rock was born. Also, after four years out of radio, I wanted an excuse to get obsessive about music again. (Read: I wanted to eat with the Local Natives, Action Bronson, and My Morning Jacket.)
KCET: Have you come across any surprises in the food and drink scene so far in 2013?
ZB: It's only been open for a few days, but I think people are going to be really surprised with how amazing the new Bludso's on La Brea is. I wouldn't be shocked if it ends up being better than the Compton original. (And that's not the tap-poured mint julep talking. OK, maybe it is the mint julep talking.)
KCET: Screw the outsiders. For someone who already lives in L.A., where would you send them that you think they may not have tried but is worth the trip?
ZB: I'm always surprised by how little people take advantage of the ethnic neighborhoods in L.A. We are so lucky to have so many concentrated pockets of Asian, Mexican and Persian goodness in this city. Sure, maybe you've had Korean BBQ with friends at Cho Sun Galbee, but have you tried pork belly bossam at Kobawoo or hand cut noodle soup at Myong Dong Kyoja? It seems like everybody knows about Jitlada in Thai Town these days, but what about jade noodles at Saap Coffee Shop? And if you're still going to Chinatown for dim sum it's time for you to drive East into the San Gabriel Valley (you can't go wrong at Elite or Sea Harbor.)
KCET: What's next for Midtown Lunch L.A.? More exploring, with a keen eye on price?
ZB: Well, we're finally working on an app (which is long overdue.) But beyond that, I'll probably just continue doing what I've been doing: using Midtown Lunch as an excuse to stuff my face at delicious, inexpensive lunch places all around the city.