Destroyer: One week in, and Destroyer was already a complete scene at Friday lunch. The Hayden Tract is a bubble of hipness in otherwise fairly staid Culver City, and plenty of reclaimed Levi’s jeans, tiny bold eyeglasses, and asymetrical jewelry abounded on the outside patio. Everyone looked like an art student or an architect because they were.
The inside of the restaurant resembles a polished-up Sqirl or Baroo: Instead of a chalk menu, text is projected onto the wall. Ingredients are on display in clear plastic bins, labeled with tape, but also every table is festooned with small sculptures that look like they should have succulents growing in them but don’t. The low counter is lovely and inviting, and offers an view into the large kitchen, where the staff works picturesquely lit from above by a skylight.
I was alone, and I had no idea how to order, because every dish is a largish small plate, carefully composed but not quite enough for a full meal. I ended up getting the tartare and the black carrots, as well as a juice. Apparently like everyone else, I thought there were many types of juice, but instead it was a single juice with 6+ different ingredients listed one after another. My lunch was $32.
Was everything tasty? Yes, it was. The tartare had quinoa mixed in and came covered in thinly sliced radishes arranged like armor, or petals. The black carrots were flavorful and artfully served with their tops charred. The juice tasted like a very healthy and delicious juice, like creative class Los Angeles in 2016.
I love the Hayden Tract, and one of its biggest drawbacks is the lack of businesses that invite in the surrounding community. For that alone, Destroyer is very welcome. I wish it were not so precisely geared toward the nearby offices looking for a splurgy, hip breakfast or lunch, but so far it seems to be fulfilling that need. The food is thoughtful and Kahn seems keen to merge ambition and approachability in a really fascinating way. I look forward to seeing how Destroyer develops. —Meghan McCarron
Mini Kabob: You know how a certain type of restaurant will talk about their “home cooking”? It’s usually a diner, or a super casual neighborhood place tucked away off the main drag. They tend to work rich food, simple stuff you recognize at prices that are comforting. But what is home cooking really, especially in a city like Los Angeles where the meals that any given diner grew up on varies from tacos to stewed meats to shawarma to kale salads to Jewish deli sandwiches to adobo?
There is no singular “home” here in this city, which makes a place like Mini Kabob in Glendale stand out all the more. You might not know the cuisine of the Armenian people, you may not have grown up eating its delicacies, but one night spent inside the Martirosyan’s impossibly small restaurant feels like the warmest hug.
With decades in the meat grilling game, Mama and Papa Martirosyan are long past the days of shouting out their menu or their accolades. They simply do the work, day in and day out, that kind of effortless grind you see idolized in the kitchens of Italian and Mexican grandmothers everywhere. It helps that eating inside Mini Kabob is essentially a true extension of their home, considering the restaurant is about half the size of your wealthy aunt’s remodeled kitchen.
Three small tables make up the lot of available dining space, with about eight seats to share among them. The menu is that old hanging letterboard style from diner days gone by, where the characters plug into little slots and sometimes a lost L gets replaced by the number 1 and nobody says a word. It’s a compact offering, just kebabs and simple cuts of meat grilled right on the other side of a small half-wall (Mama does the grilling, Papa makes the skewers). There is rice aplenty, plus one small salad, and lots of hummus and potent garlic spread for mixing all together.
There is no number of necessary times to eat at Mini Kabob before you feel like this place is “home”. It starts at once and grows from there. Armen Martirosyan, the son of the family and the one more in tune with the modern style of running a restaurant, from hospitality to social media, will hang over the swinging cowboy door to talk to regulars and newcomers with equal ease. Mama will admonish you for not finishing your plate, while Papa tells a thickly accented joke before tossing off a wink and nod. This is living room dining, with everyone collected in a loose semi-circle around the kitchen, chatting amiably and laughing easily. This is what home cooking looks like in Los Angeles. —Farley Elliott
G&B Coffee: G&B Coffee is possibly one of the best coffee shops in the country, but if you haven't had the yeast-risen waffle at the location in Grand Central Market stop everything and go right this wrong now. It's crisp and lacy but also somehow tender. Salted butter fills each nook; maple syrup is its only source of sweetness. Needless to say, it goes great with a cup of joe. —Daniela Galarza
SQIRL: Everyone already knows about this, but I cannot stop talking about the long-cooked chicken porridge at Sqirl. Besides being outrageously flavorful — with a depth of sweetness from deeply caramelized onions, body from plump grains and stewed chicken, acidity from tomatoes, and exciting hits of cumin, cardamom, and black pepper — it carries for me the added weight of being a food that gave me second degree deja vu.
My mother grew up in Tehran and once described for me how weekday mornings went: A man or woman a large cauldron on a cart walked through the streets ringing a bell. Thusly summoned, parents and children dash downstairs into the street, mug in hand, to get their cup filled with a hearty, poultry-based porridge called haleem. It's a warm treat for chilly mornings. Though LA rarely experiences truly cold weather, my first bite of Sqirl's porridge was an unexpected recreation of my mother's shared memory, and one I'll cherish forever. —Daniela Galarza
Carnival Sherman Oaks: I go to Carnival in Sherman Oaks a lot. I have tried other great places (shout out to Pita Kitchen and RoRo’s), but nothing has my undying loyalty like the little strip mall gem.
My order is always the same: appetizer sampler with perfect balls of falafel, grape leaves, combination platter, and sometimes the grilled vegetable plate (if I’m extra hungry, which is most of the time). How do they make grilled vegetables so satisfying that it satisfies this staunch carnivore? I have no clue.
With so many other fantastic Middle Eastern restaurants in LA, proximity is, of course, a factor. But still, I find myself driving to the Valley for Carnival’s over-the-top homemade hot sauce that would probably make cardboard palatable. Smear it on those lovely grape leaves and find yourself completely unable to share the order.
If Pita Kitchen or RoRo’s had a full restaurant setting, perhaps I would find myself there more often, but on a Sunday night, I can’t help but to find myself within Carnival’s confines. —Crystal Coser
Wolfgang’s Steakhouse: My friends and I somehow thought that meeting up for a steak lunch on a Monday was a good idea. My buddy Daniel, who hasn’t been to Peter Luger’s in New York (neither have I, for that matter) was craving a massive porterhouse, so the closest analogue was Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in Beverly Hills. For some reason this place gets overlooked in the great Golden Triangle steak debate. Places like Mastro’s, CUT, and even Ocean Prime or The Palm seem to get all the glory, but Wolfgang’s continues to thrive on the northern edge of Canon because of its timelessness. The service is mostly on point, except for the occasional inaccuracies (our server said the steaks were dry-aged for 26, not 28 days).
Those are minor squabbles, because when that sizzling platter of glorious American beef arrives, it’s a frivolous, almost hollow ceremony. There’s a sense of guilt when I think of all the grain this monstrous portion must’ve required. I begin to think that we’re on the cusp of the end of the Pax Americana, when the world might tip into a nuclear conflagration or climatic disaster. Because I’ve done nothing to deserve this.
But for a few hours, this luncheon felt grand because it was devoid of any importance. It was meat, iced tea, creamed spinach, and crisp German potatoes, plus a heavy dose of gleeful camaraderie. And that porterhouse exuded just a bit more funk this afternoon, like it was dry-aged for far longer than a month. Eyes rolled when we sliced into the slivers closest to the bone, reveling in its dank flavor.
Dessert was equally epic, a trio of key lime pie, chocolate cake, and apple streudel, all straddled by billows of schlag, that German whipped cream that defies chemistry in its fatty richness. And yet, after an espresso, I had no problem returning to work. —Matthew Kang
Sa Rit Gol: Sa Rit Gol was a former homestyle Korean restaurant on a sleepy corner of Olympic nearby Western, and it was were I first met some very important people in my life. One of them ended up introducing me to the greater world of food writing and set my course into the universe of LA restaurants. That was nearly a decade ago, and the place had since closed. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, and Sa Rit Gol is back, helmed by the same family who once owned the Olympic Blvd original. This rendition, on a bright, clean perch along 6th Street, has far better environs. And the banchan is deliriously good, just like the original. With twelve little plates cradling the essence of Korean cuisine, your table mates will immediately descend on everything from the raw octopus covered in a slimy (but tasty) sauce to the crunchy dried shrimp.
The kimchi is satisfying, the julienne’d daikon radish is crisp, and heck there’s even a few off-cuts of fried fish to pick at. Then the main entree comes out: a monstrous cauldron of spicy braised short ribs with hearty vegetables and a bubbling sweet sauce. I found the cuts of meat on the tougher side, something the kitchen will no doubt remedy in the coming weeks. The fried atka mackerel was luscious and perfectly salted while the classic doenjang chigae we all devoured within 45 seconds. And the vinyl record-sized seafood pancake had a lightness, and delicateness that only a Korean mother could pull off. The meal’s price per person after tax and tip? $20. 3324 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA —Matthew Kang
Easy’s: My colleague Farley discussed Easy’s at length during the last Eater’s Journal so I don’t need to add too much more here except for that fact that when I took a single bite of this burger, I instantly knew what this way. Au Cheval. Freaking Au Cheval, the new school diner in Chicago that inspired a thousand burgers, including the epic sauce-laden burger at Petit Trois that Eater critic Bill Addison declared the best in the country last year.
Easy’s is Jeremy Fall and Alvin Cailan’s homage to Au Cheval, a burger I’ve had more than ten times. And while Easy’s sports a thick patty and raw red onion, the amalgamation of melty American cheese, plush bun, and seared meat tastes and feels exactly like the Chicago burger. Except for one thing, a few bites toward the end my burger were so coarse and inedible they got stuck between my teeth. Sinew, tendon, or whatever, had escaped the butchery process and ended up in my patty. It happens, I moved on. I’m hoping the next burger isn’t like that. But damn, LA has its version of Au Cheval now, and for that, I’m happy. —Matthew Kang