It's birthday week, mine specifically, yesterday to be exact, 55 to be frank. A very close friend scooped me up for an extended lunch this past Monday and let me just say that our lunch at Lazy Ox Canteen counts among the more truly satisfying dining experiences of recent memory. The first meals at AOC, Canele and Gjelina all come to mind. We had heard all the recent Press but for some odd reason thought that the Monday after Oscars would not require a reservation and although the small space at 241 So. San Pedro St. downtown L.A. was bustling the congenial hostess made us feel welcome and even gave us the one corner booth. Seconds later she rushed over realizing that someone else had promised it to a couple who'd called earlier and offered us the table next to it insisting on buying us a beverage. My friend had a lovely Faiverley pinot priced at $10 and I the usual iced tea. The first was on a blackboard but I couldn't tell you the price of the second since it didn't appear on the check.
Roasted corn kernels rolled in a chili lime seasoning are brought immediately to the table which I downed. Better with iced tea than red wine. We ordered partly from the black board and partly from the printed menu. Throughout we were taken care of by people who know what they're doing. We started with a cauliflower soup, with a curried shrimp, flame grapes and basil oil that my friend thought a little salty but that we both found delicious for $8. Soon to follow were the best salt cod fritters or brandade since the first Pinot Bistro opened under the auspices of Splichal and Becerra, also for $8 for three small but satisfying pieces. I had the burger not adventuring toward items like Spanish mackerel or pig's ears for $13 and it was a cross between a burger and a slider topped with Carmody cheese, arugula with a horseradish mayo. It came with great thin, slightly oily fries, as well as a homemade whole grain mustard and red pepper ailoi. Great. My friend had the salmon with yuzu and beluga lentils which had her immediately commenting that for $19 it surpassed in both size and quality the $31 version she had recently had at Bouchon. $52.68 before tip was the final tab.
I wanted to finish with the rice pudding for $7 but she offered me the option of doing dessert elsewhere. We should have kept it simple. By the time, we considered driving to Pie 'n Burger and Porto's, the time factor kicked in and I offered that it would be fun to try Babycakes since were in the area. I'm glad we did though the sparse case display and the half off everything sign was worrisome. What can I say? I fantasized about Pie 'n Burger's scrumptious coconut cream pie with both fresh cream and meringue and ended up with a vanilla cupcake sans dairy, sugar and wheat. The foodie in me appreciated the opportunity to report while the kid in me, well, you know. Still an interesting enterprise that must be highly valued in some parts but I asked when the cakes had been made and they offered the day before so the spelt laden versions that we tried of the red velvet, chocolate, carrot and aforementioned vanilla were somewhat dry but more flavorful than I would have thought. The staff was sweet and made us fresh coffe for the occasion. $3.95 per cake divided by two plus $2.50 for the coffee.
A fun addendum. Yesterday I stopped at DK's, a donut shop on Santa Monica Blvd. at 16th St. that never gets included in the whole Bob's vs. Primo's vs. Stan's discussion but that can always be counted on for that donut fix. I was stopped in my tracks when I saw a tray of newly frosted maple twists with bacon! I asked if someone had recently been to Nickel Diner and the young man behind the counter simply said, "No. It's just a great combination." At a $1.95 it was the culinary surprise of the week. This Saturday I'll continue my annual tradition of heading to California and Lake.
Lazy Ox Canteen
241 So. San Pedro St.
130 East 6th St.
1614 Santa Monica Blvd.
Pie 'n Burger
California & Lake