As past Los Angeles Philharmonic performances with acclaimed jazz musicians like Dianne Reeves, Chucho Valdés and Kamasi Washington will be featured on the third episode of "In Concert at the Hollywood Bowl" series, it only seems fitting to combine the night with food that pays homage to L.A.'s vibrant music scene.
In this food and drink guide, we highlight a longstanding Cuban supper club and a national dish that both serve as a nod to Valdés roots, and a live jazz venue that doubles as a home for delicious Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine. We also provide takeout suggestions from beloved Jamaican and vegan restaurants in Leimert Park, a neighborhood that Washington has referred to as the “creative center” of L.A.
In an interview with First We Feast, Washington said of the South L.A. arts enclave: “There’s a strong connection to jazz there. I’d see legends like Billy Higgins, the most recorded jazz drummer of all time, at the World Stage [venue] on a Thursday. Pharoah Sanders would show up too. They were giants among us. Leimert is a space for people to be creative. There’s no separation between the arts and the people.”
Vegan Bites and Coffee from Hot & Cool Cafe
When husband-and-wife team Anthony Jolly and Tina Amin set out to open their Hot & Cool Cafe in Leimert Park in 2018, they envisioned the space as being a throwback to old coffee houses that served as a place for political and cultural discourse. Since then, it’s become that and much more: a community space with live music, comedy and political events; a plant-based restaurant that addresses the need for healthful food options in South L.A., and coffee brewed from beans that Jolly roasts himself.
The cafe is available for pickup and delivery (through DoorDash and Grubhub), with items like vegan cauliflower "wings," a soul food bowl, sliders, nachos and nutrient-dense smoothies. Coffee lovers can also buy bags of Hot & Cool's beans on its website. Jolly has been in the coffee business for more than 20 years and lived in Ethiopia on coffee farms, where he learned to grow, harvest and roast beans.
The couple is currently hosting socially distanced community burger nights with jazz performances on Fridays, world music on Saturdays, and Afro Xen on Sundays in their alley. Check out their Instagram for more details.
Jerk Chicken from Ackee Bamboo Jamaican Cuisine
For 16 years, family-run Ackee Bamboo has been a staple in Leimert Park. It is one of few Jamaican restaurants in L.A. The Caribbean-born owners brought flavors from their island-country like tender oxtail, jerk chicken and shrimp, and slow-cooked curry goat to the vibrant South L.A. neighborhood. Even celebrities like Stevie Wonder and Ashley Blaine Featherson of Netflix’s “Dear White People” have made stops to the restaurant.
Ackee Bamboo is currently open for pickup and delivery on Postmates.
Cuban Ropa Vieja Recipe
While there are different variations of ropa vieja throughout the Caribbean and Spain, it’s particularly special in Cuba since it’s regarded as the country’s national dish. It’s braised, shredded beef cooked with red bell peppers and onions in a tomato-based sauce, and is often served with rice, beans and plantains.
"Ropa vieja" literally translates to "old clothes," a name that refers to a tale about a poor man who shredded and cooked his clothes to feed his family. He prayed while it was boiling, and it miraculously became a meat stew.
However, in this hearty ropa vieja recipe from America's Test Kitchen, your comfort dish won’t be made out of old clothes, but rather, some delicious, slow-cooked brisket.
Masitas de Puerco from El Floridita
If you don’t have the time to make ropa vieja, you can always order it from El Floridita, a Cuban supper club nestled in Hollywood. This family restaurant and venue, which has had generations of customers visit for the last 33 years, has been home to live salsa and Latin jazz music, social dancing and Cuban and Caribbean food and drinks.
Besides the Cuban national dish, other must-haves at El Floridita include its arroz con pollo (chicken and rice casserole) and masitas de puerco (garlicky, fried chunks of pork). If you have a hankering for a cocktail, they have a takeaway mojito mix that serves four. They’re currently open for outdoor dining, curbside pickup and delivery on ChowNow, Postmates, Grubhub DoorDash and Uber Eats.
Eritrean and Ethiopian food from Industry Cafe & Jazz
Industry Cafe & Jazz has been an integral part of the Culver City Arts District for the past 15 years. It’s equal parts a hub for live jazz performances and a memorable spot for Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine.
Eritrean owner-chef Aron Tadesse is a musician himself who plays the krar, a lyre-like stringed instrument from his home country and Ethiopia. When he was younger, his father would bring him and his family from Orange County to Culver City to eat at L.A.'s first Eritrean restaurant on Washington Boulevard, the same street that Tadesse's Industry Cafe is now located. Tadesse said he left his R&D research job years ago to open Industry Cafe because he loves the community and wanted to serve it.
One of Tadesse's most popular dishes is his chicken tibsi, sautéed with fresh tomatoes, garlic and onions. His restaurant is currently open for pickup, delivery (on DoorDash, Grubhub and UberEats), and outdoor dining. He currently hosts socially distanced live jazz performances on Saturday nights outside his cafe.
As the pandemic has severely affected small businesses, Tadesse’s restaurant and venue has also been hit hard. A GoFundMe has been set up to help keep Industry Cafe in business.
Top Image: Vegan breakfast burrito | Hot and Cool Cafe