An occasional series about high-ticket chefs and the low-cost food they love.
Meet Peter Haller, former Waterloo & City chef who now heads the kitchen at The Gorbals in DTLA. (The Gorbals just spun off in Brooklyn, at the Space Ninety 8 complex in Williamsburg.) “LA is a great place for cheap eats ...,” said Haller, momentarily interrupted by the roar of passers-by on Spring Street last month, after the Brazil vs. Mexico match that ended in a no-score tie. “It was a draw against Brazil, not a win!” he said, exasperated, as if the rowdy strangers could hear him. “The cultural diversity is what makes things so great here. There is a culture of chef-driven fast food. Plus I don’t think you can get tacos in any other major city in the U.S. like you can in Los Angeles. That applies to pho and ramen, too.”
“I live near Thai Town, so I’m able to scope out a lot of places. I really love the roasted duck noodle soup here—the broth has a nice depth of flavor. The name escapes me, but check out the dry, flat-rice-noodle dish with romaine lettuce too."
[By the way, the dish name that Haller couldn't recall: It's Emperor’s Noodle.]
5176 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles; 323-660-8006
PASTRAMI OR REUBEN SANDWICH
“I eat in DTLA a lot, and I recently tried Wexler’s Deli over at Grand Central Market. The pastrami and Reuben are both excellent and, just as important, it’s the best rye bread I’ve ever tasted. Micah [Wexler] spent a lot of time trying to get that recipe correct—I heard he went though 60 variations and designed the recipe with bakers. The texture of the crust is perfect. A place like this definitely brings value to DTLA as a dining destination.”
317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles; no phone
“Chef Wes Avila absolutely crushes it. In my mind, he's the guy living the Chef movie lifestyle right now. Wes is constantly changing his menu. It’s the weirdest combinations, things you think wouldn't work (I remember this amazing swordfish belly taco once). His sauce work is better than any Mexican sauce work I’ve seen, on a consistent basis. If he put out a line of salsas, I'd buy them in a heartbeat.”
826 E. Third Street, Los Angeles; 818-640-3033
“Sitting at the bar at Red Medicine is a hell of a deal. They serve a high-quality banh mi for only 12 bucks. It’s super delicious, the cocktail program is stellar, and they’re open until 2 a.m. Let me tell you: You’re not going to find a higher-quality sandwich at 1 in the morning.”
8400 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills; 323-651-5500
800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria
“The chef-driven stuff going on in LA at places like 800 Degrees and Top Round is really exciting. You have these really high-quality, cheap-food options you don’t typically see in other cities. Chef-driven and affordable, I think, is going to be the way to succeed in this industry. With something like pizza, you don’t have too many moving parts, just dough, toppings, and brick oven. The kicker is that Chef Anthony Carron knows more about pizza than anyone else baking pies in LA. It’s not NY style, it’s not California style, it’s not CPK or Wolfgang. It’s honest Italian pizza from a hot-ass oven. With simple foods, there’s a lot of skill and knowledge that goes into doing them properly. Here, it’s 10 bucks for a pie, order whatever makes you happy.”
10889 Lindbrook Drive, Los Angeles; 310-443-1911 (check website for other locations)
Photo credits (top to bottom): Peter Haller photo courtesy of Peter Haller; Flickr member Ron Dollete; Justin Bolois; Flickr member T.Tseng; Red Medicine / Facebook; 800 Degrees / Facebook (all Flickr images under Creative Commons)
Justin Bolois is a writer living in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBolois.