Just got out of LA after a convention. Visited an old favorite, found a new favorite and finally made it to a legend.
The old favorite is Philippe's...one of the best places to chow in LA. For the uninitiated, Philippe's has been around since the early 1900's and as the story goes, a happy accident brought about the French dip sandwich. You stand in lines where the order taker also prepares your food. They do breakfast, but whenever I go it is for the sandwiches, soup/chili and sides. Nice selection of beers and an extraordinary selection of wines by the glass. Cash only with an ATM on site, so be prepared.
First lunch I had a lamb sandwich with bleu cheese, with a few dollops of the very spicy Philippe's mustard. This is my fave sanny there.
I also had a bowl of beef stew (really more like vegetable beef soup with huge chunks of meat and veggies) and their excellent potato salad.
Second visit was a beef sanny with swiss (and the mustard of course), chili with cheese (no beans) and cole slaw.
Excellent on both counts...Philippe's offers a dining experience like nowhere else on earth.
The new fave is a Mexican "restaurante familiar" in the Wilshire district. La Cueva De Chucho is right next to the EconoLodge at 3400 West 3rd (just east of Vermont). I had two meals there during my stay next door. Dinner was a big bowl of cream corn soup and a couple of sopes...one with cochinita en pibil (pork with achiote cooked in a banana leaf) and rajas en crema (strips of poblano peppers in a cream sauce). Breakfast was huevos mexicana (scrambled eggs with onion, tomato and serranos). Both meals were really good, sided with good rice and beans. Service is a bit lax (had to keep asking to have my coffee refilled) but worth suffering through because the food is really good. Both meals were served with good freshly made chips and red and green salsas.
The legend is Serenata De Garibaldi on East 1st street in Boyle Heights. I have frequented their westside location, Serenata Gourmet, but this was my first chance to eat at the original. It's in a horrible part of town, but OK after dark as it is near the police substation. I went for lunch and it was every bit as good as expected. They are known for their seafood dishes and sauces. I started with a coctel de camaron...their version of shrimp cocktail is more like a room-temperature tomato soup with chunks of onions, peppers and perfectly cooked shrimp, strewn with cilantro. Piquant and delicious. They offered a complimentary bowl of cream of potato soup, homemade with chunks of carrot and peppers. My entree was a fresh halibut filet with molcajete sauce, a very spicy rendition with lots of garlic, multiple varieties of peppers and avocado. Sabroso!