I’ve developed a lot of weird habits during quarantine, and, upon some introspection, most of them tie into food, either directly or indirectly.
I channeled my profound sense of hopelessness about the world - and my carbohydrate intake - into training for a marathon. (I’m actually running it on Saturday, wish me luck!) I also started to cook a lot, and have visited basically every market between East Hollywood and Pasadena. I even went full mad scientist, spending multiple nights attempting to make the perfect Night + Market nam khao tod from home. And, like Brant and Kat, I’ve been obsessively ordering takeout and relishing LA’s burgeoning pop-up scene, racking up a record number of random Venmo charges on my monthly expense report (many apologies to the Infatuation’s finance department).
So, after months of cooking, running, drinking, sobbing, and eating, these are my five favorite spots in LA - right now.
I’ve visited a lot of amazing pop-ups in the last couple months - Dough Daddy, Metztli Taqueria, and The Bad Jew, to name a few. But no spot is anything like Perilla. Chef Jihee Kim, who runs this Korean pop-up out of a tiny kitchen on South Harvard Blvd., puts a level of thought and care into every single dish that I’ve rarely seen in a restaurant. The menu is mainly banchan, ranging from delicately balanced meat dishes, like the sweet-and-salty bulgogi and tofu skins, to fresh vegetables, like crunchy green bean muchim or tender marinated okra, and there’s not a weak spot in the bunch. When I say you should order the entire menu - it’ll run you about $100, and last at least two meals for two people - I mean you should order the entire menu.
When I moved to Los Angeles, a friend who grew up in East LA took me to this tiny tortilleria for what he said were the best breakfast burritos in town. Five years later, I still love La Azteca - but my favorite thing there isn’t even the breakfast burrito, it’s their chile relleno burrito. It gets stuck in my head like a Carly Rae Jepsen song, and I can’t stop thinking about it until I eat it. The flour tortilla is perfect, dense, and pliable, and the warm tomato and onion salsa complements the deep-fried chiles and smooth, melty queso. Get it with carnitas - the salty shredded pork works wonders as a contrast to the chile relleno.
FOR SEAFOOD (AND CHICKEN):
When people say that a certain food “tastes like home,” they usually mean it reminds them of home - maybe it’s something their parents cooked, or a dish they always ate around the holidays. But the Little Namskaket oysters at Found quite literally taste like home to me - they’re farmed on the sand flats of Skaket Beach on Cape Cod Bay, less than a mile from where I grew up. The second I shuck one, I’m hit with the sulfuric low tide scent that defined my childhood summers. Beyond just helping me out when I’m feeling homesick for New England, Found is one of my favorite spots for a lot of reasons - I always shape my order around their salty, crispy fried chicken (added to the menu mid-pandemic), and the accompaniments usually include their unique, bisque-coated lobster roll, the creamy, smoky clam chowder, and the wedge salad, which is somehow just as good as the seafood here.
FOR COOKING AT HOME:
The best thing about high-quality seafood is that you don’t have to add much to it to make it taste great. And that’s exactly why I love Fish King, the Glendale seafood shop that has a wide range of incredibly fresh, sustainable, and downright gorgeous seafood. Their sushi-grade ahi, hamachi, and Scottish salmon are all ideal when I want to make sushi at home (they also sell nori and sushi rice), and if I’m in the mood to grill, they have what is genuinely the best swordfish I’ve ever eaten. I never leave without a container of their house-made poke, either - it’s a great appetizer for any seafood-based meal. The employees here are super helpful, too, and they’ll give you pointers about anything you want to cook.
FOR A DRINK:
Echo Park taproom/bottle shop Sunset Beer Co. has been a personal favorite of mine for a very long time now, and that’s because they’ve got the most knowledgeable staff of any beer spot in town. During the pandemic, they’ve done a remarkable job capitalizing on that strength - you can call (or order online), tell them what you like and how much money you want to spend, and they’ll put together an order for you. It’s sort of like having my own personal Cicerone (beer’s version of a sommelier) one phone call away. Which hasn’t been very good for my alcohol intake (or my stated goal of “not spending half my salary on beer”), but it’s worth it for the incredible options they have at Sunset.