KCET asked for food related submissions from local bloggers for our July 15 food package. Charles G. Thompson has cooked, worked, and eaten in restaurants in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Europe, Mexico, South America, and the Far East. He currently writes about his food-related experiences on his blog 100 Miles.
I live in the Atwater Village neighborhood of Los Angeles, and really love it. It is a true neighborhood. The four or five block stretch of Glendale Blvd. between Riverside Dr. and San Fernando Rd. is chock full of local, independent businesses - many of them food oriented. Whether it's a coffee place, Mexican take out, a wine shop, or even a bookstore they're all within walking distance of my home. Additionally, there are more businesses on Los Feliz Blvd. I walk to many of them often. Here's a list of 10 favorites that you can also walk to if you live in the neighborhood, or drive to for an evening, or weekend outing.
Canalé is my local 'special occasion' restaurant. It's a bit more upscale than most of the other neighborhood places. The food is exceptionally well-prepared using local, organic and sustainable ingredients. It's the perfect place for a date, out of town guests, or simply a nice, relaxing meal on a Friday night. The communal table is a great way to meet new people from the neighborhood, or those from farther afield.
How can you not like a business that makes brownies using Valhrona chocolate, all organic ingredients, and is named Sweets for the Soul? My love affair with these brownies was solidified during the last presidential election when they introduced the 'Obama Brownie' - cocoa base with dark and white chocolate chips. A second favorite is the 'Hotter Shot Brownie' - spiced with cayenne pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and more.
3. Kaldi Coffee & Tea
3147 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
This is truly a local, neighborhood coffee house. The vibe is comfortable, no fuss, no muss. A few mismatched arm chairs and a couch; small round tables; locals working away on laptops, or reading. They roast their own beans, the chalk board is full of more coffee drink variations than I've seen in most other coffee establishments - and the coffee is good. The baristas know how to make a cup of coffee, and they are beyond friendly and helpful.
4. Hugo's Tacos
I'm a fiend for Mexican food. I could eat it at every meal but I don't. When a Hugo's Tacos opened on Glendale Blvd., I was quite happy. Healthier Mexican food is always a good thing. Not only healthy, but well-prepared and delicious too. A small taco stand-style place, you order at the window, grab an outdoor table, and wait for your number to be called. Owned by the same people who own the two Hugo's Restaurants (West Hollywood & Studio City), this is healthy Mexican food at its best.
Every neighborhood needs a good wine merchant. 55 Degree Wine fulfills that need in Atwater Village. A small independent wine shop with a basement tasting room, they offer wine and beer tastings, and also have a selection of cheeses, and cured meats. The sales staff is super knowledgeable and friendly. Tell them how much you want to spend, what you're looking for, and they'll come up with several selections. The wine and beer tastings are fun as well as educational. After you're done tasting walk down Glendale Blvd. for something to eat.
6. Say Cheese
Say Cheese is actually located in Silver Lake near the corners of Hyperion Blvd. and Rowena Ave. A little farther afield than Glendale Blvd. but still worth every step it takes to get there. I've been going to Say Cheese for over 15 years now. It is a gem of a place that offers café food on one side, and a delectable array of cheeses and specialty foods on the other. The owner, Glenn Harrell, and his staff are friendly and knowledgeable when it comes to choosing cheeses, and the sandwiches and salads on the café menu are fresh, interesting and well-prepared. My current favorite: the 'Hyperion Submarine' - artisan salami, fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, shaved red onion, tomato and mesclun with balsamic oil on a baguette.
7. Viet Noodle Bar
3133 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Viet Noodle Bar is a recent addition to Atwater Village, and a welcome one. I probably walk over to eat there at least once a week if not more. The simple menu of phos, noodle dishes, and Vietnamese sandwiches are always a perfect meal - and the price is always a comfort to the pocket book. The sleek décor with its long communal tables adds a modern yet neighborly feel to the place. Dining alone? No problem, just grab a book to read off the very cool wall of books.
I love the diversity of culinary choices in Atwater Village. Baracoa Cuban Café is another popular local place. Who doesn't like Cuban food?! My favorite dish is Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Rice) (Until It's Gone) - as the menu says. My first question upon being seated is always: "Do you still have arroz con pollo?" The answer is usually "no" as I normally don't go until the evening and it's already gone by then. But when they do have it I'm in heaven. The rest of the food is straight ahead Cuban and just as good as the Chicken with Rice.
Baker, Barbara Monderine, recently took over the L.A. Bread space on Los Feliz Blvd. and opened The Village Bakery & Café. This place is a true neighborhood bakery and Barbara's artisan breads, pastries and desserts are as good as any you might find in Paris. Many locals can be seen buying loaves of bread for home, grabbing something sweet, or ordering off the brunch and lunch menus and eating the seasonal, homemade food there. (My current favorite baked goodie: Double Chocolate Walnut Brownies.)
10. Alias Books East
3163 Glendale Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90039
East because the first shop, Alias Books is located near UCLA on the West Side. Every neighborhood should have a post office, a library and a really great bookstore. Atwater Village has all three within a few blocks of each other. While a bookstore isn't necessarily food related I wanted to include it here because Alias Books East truly has an amazing selection of cookbooks. Every time I walk by I end up buying at least one new book for my collection which is proving to be a tad dangerous! If you are cookbook hound like I am, check out the selection at Alias Books East - you won't be disappointed. After you've made your purchase wander down Glendale Blvd. for a coffee, some pho, or if you aren't too late, a plate of arroz con pollo.