If you’ve lived in Austin for more than a few years, you probably already know that we have a tremendous amount of Californians moving to Austin on a daily basis. Weather we like it or not, we’ve had to learn to accept it as the price we pay for living in a city with amazing food.
Despite how many people continue moving to Austin, a lot of Texans love traveling to the west coast for vacation and weekend getaway trips. Eating amazing food is one of the most important highlights of a great travel experience and most Texans aren’t remotely shy about their eating habits. If you’re planning a trip to LA but don’t subscribe to a “California beach diet” style of eating, you’ll need to know where to stuff your face with enough belly filling fare to keep your food coma habits alive and your Instagram feed fully stocked.
Pack your stretchy pants and those shorts with the elastic waistband. I’ve skipped the light and healthy eats in favor of the meaty, sugary, carby, heart stopping hot spots. If you’re not one to worry about the camera adding 10 lbs and a double chin to your selfies, prepare to eat your heart out. Here’s my guide to a few of my favorite spots throughout the great city of Los Angeles.
Believe it or not, authentic central Texas BBQ has actually reached the West Coast. I had a really hard time believing it when I first heard the news, but it’s as real as the amazing California weather. Founder and owner Dana Blanchard was born and raised in Los Angeles but has deep Texas roots, dating back to the early 1900s when his great grandmother Pearl Woodward left Uvalde, TX in a covered wagon with her family. Pearl knew a thing or two about BBQ as her specialty was smoked brisket and chicken, tamale pie and desserts like Cinnamon Apple Pie and Pecan Pie.
Today, Dana hones in on his heritage at Pearl’s BBQ in the The Arts District outfitted in a silver airstream trailer and a partially-covered graffiti-covered lot replete with picnic tables and his giant smokers where you can expect to see dozens of people lining up to get some of his Austin-style BBQ. The BBQ and sides are outstanding, even by the highest Texas standards. The brisket and beef ribs are as flavorful and moist as you’d expect to get at any of the best spots in Austin, made with Certified Angus Beef. The pecan and apple pie are arguably the best I’ve ever tasted (sorry grandma) and almost makes you forget you’re actually on the west coast. If you have friends in LA, make sure you take them to Pearl’s while you’re in town, maybe it’ll prevent them from moving to Austin.
Nashville Hot Chicken has reached its all time paramount in popularity around the nation. Restaurants and food trucks in nearly every major city in the country seems to be getting in on the action, so it seems natural for LA to play host to one of the more exceptional spots on the west coast. Howlin’ Rays is slinging out some of the most authentic Nashville hot chicken in country. To be fair I haven’t had the chance to try any other hot chicken in the LA area, but its crispy, rich flavor is unmatched in consistency and overall lasting taste. If the renowned long lines don’t tip you off or scare you off once you arrive, you’ll eventually find out why they’re so insanely popular after devouring a half-chicken and waffles. But please trust me, it’s worth the 2 hour wait if you’re up for it.
La Brea Bakery has been a hot spot in Los Angeles since 1989, offering several different fresh baked artisan style breads. Not long after opening, the bakery began making a name for themselves all over Los Angeles as the demand for their breads skyrocketed among local restaurants as well as all over the state of California. Today, La Brea Bakery & Cafe is one of the most popular spots in town for breakfast and lunch with several locations around Los Angeles. If you’re in the mood for a solid breakfast or pastries, La Brea Bakery Cafe is an easy favorite among the loyal citizens of LA.
There’s a nasty rumor that people in LA don’t like eating carbs and bread. I think I’ll call “fake news” on that because after a visit to Republique just a few steps down from La Brea Bakery, it seems like everyone can’t seem to get enough of it. Republique boasts a modern, multipurpose chef’s approach to french plates and pastries, as Chef Walter Manzke presents fare made with delicious local ingredients in a relaxed yet refined space and comfy communal tables throughout.
It won’t take you long to figure out that Republique has been one of the hottest spots in town since opening. The space and cuisine easily make it the most Instagram-able spot in town with bright, airy mile-high ceilings and an inventive french menu plush with gorgeous baked goods and tasty offerings that will most likely be your list every time you visit LA. I only say that because I’ve been twice in my last two visits.
By now, you can probably tell we didn’t have any intentions of eating “healthy” during our visit to LA. With that said, my favorite spot is Birdies downtown. They only focus on two things, donuts and fried chicken and they absolutely crush it in every way. Their inventive and colorful donuts are made fresh all throughout the day, beautifully covered in creatively covered icing and sprinkles. Their free rach fried chicken is incredible and full of flavor as they’re available in family boxes up to 6 pieces or in sandwiches.
The fried chicken sandwiches are gorgeous as it’s made with their special slaw, piled high on top of house made buns with dressing and pickles. I don’t remember actually seeing it on the menu, but ask for the Birdie’s Breakfast sandwich using a frosted maple donut with an over easy egg, fried chicken tenders, apple wood smoked bacon and Tillamook Cheddar along with a drop of Birdies special sauce. I’ll be expecting a call me to thank me afterward!
If someone walked up to you and told you the best Thai cuisine in all of Los Angeles was at a spot named “Luv 2 Eat Thai”, especially in the way it’s spelled, you’d probably think you’re being pranked. When you see it’s location in a tiny strip mall next door to a 7-11, you’ll think you’re being set up. When you finally sit down to place your order, you’ll become a believer. In what can only be classified as one of the most unlikely spots in LA to find outstanding cuisine of any kind, Luv 2 Eat Thai Bistro avoids the crowded, tourist trap areas of Hollywood and remains a beacon for locals looking for great food.
Nearly everything on the menu will impress you, from the standard pad-thai and Thai fried chicken, to the Issan and Phuket specialty dishes. If you go all-in without any ridiculous visual biases or expectations, you’ll be impressed with any dish you order even if you’re a moderate Thai cuisine lover. If you’re serious about Thai food, you’ll be amazed at the flavor and the spices, as it’s prepared about as authentic as one may expect anywhere in the United States. I normally don’t visit the same spot twice when I visit another city, unless it’s outstanding. I can say with full confidence that I will gladly return on my next visit.
Unless you’ve been dead for the last 20 years, you’ve most likely heard of Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles. Roscoe’s has been filling the bellies of the good people of LA as the nation’s most well-known soul-food staple, since 1975. Over the years, the restaurant has been mentioned in dozens of movies, TV shows and popular music as one of the most popular destinations for celebs and folks looking to fill up on old school breakfast food.
On my most recent visit to LA, I visited Roscoe’s in Englewood on my way back to LAX prior to my flight. Even on a Wednesday, there was at least a 45 minute wait to be seated, which anyone will tell you, isn’t bad. The venue and it’s patron add to the legendary character of this famous restaurant. If you arrive at the right time, you may be lucky enough to see a famous face or two and possibly a customized, old school Cadillac Brougham with gold rims in the parking lot. When I was finally seated I ordered the Obama Special – which includes 3 jumbo pieces of fried chicken wings and their famous waffle that nearly covers the entire plate with a side of house butter and syrup. The hospitality and service is welcoming and pleasant and my server even called me “baby”. Roscoe’s provides a soul food experience
A special thanks goes out to all of the amazing restaurants that hosted and welcomed us in to their restaurants during our visit to Los Angeles. I’m full now!