Eating the same thing all day in an attempt to find some of the best food in Los Angeles.

Rules:
Order the same thing (as close as possible) at Three Restaurants, Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, all in the same day, within 15 miles of my apartment in Koreatown.

We will not claim that our findings decide whether something is the "Best in LA" or not, but we will tell you which is the best out of the three we ate.

3 Square Meals is Me, Randy Liedtke, a Stand Up Comedian and Cook at a Gay Bar. I’ve cooked in restaurants for about 7 years. And Chelsea Scott (My Girlfriend), Culinary School Grad, former Cheese Monger, and Pastry Cook, and current Chocolatier.

3squaremealsblog@gmail.com
Apr 16 '10

Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich)

Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich, crusty baguette with some sweet meat and generally cilantro, cucumber, jalapeno, julienned carrots and sweet pickled daikon radish.  Vietnamese food is the first fusion food, Chinese food with a French influence, hence sweet Asian meats on a French baguette.   

Breakfast Banh Mi:

Nam Thai Vietnamese Catering

North Spring and Alpine Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Most of the internet talk about Banh Mi in the Los Angeles area either speaks of San Gabriel Valley or Orange County.  Since we se have a 15 miles or closer rule set in place I was convinced both of these places would be too far away, but turns out the places we chose in San Gabriel Valley were about 14 miles from my apartment, you win this one gas prices.  Besides these two locations people also spoke highly of some Chinatown sandwiches.  We decided to go with the Nam Thai Truck, parked permanently at Spring and Alpine in the heart of Chinatown.  Nice looking truck with a ton of things stacked up in front of it also for sell.  Baked goods, beverages, and the lady was really pushing for us to buy some crates of strawberries.  No place to sit, so we ate in the car.

Nam Thai Sandwich (Pork Belly) - $2.75

They offered a handful of different fillings, we decided on the Nam Thai sandwich which the lady told us was BBQ Pork, and turned out to be BBQ Pork Belly.  The filling wasn’t too bad but obviously very fatty, but for Pork Belly should have had more of a crispiness.  Bread wasn’t the best, initially crusty but then tough and chewy to get through.  Would have been nice if the filling was a bit wetter, but the filling still had a nice flavor, sweet and garlicky.  The standard fix-ins were there along with giant slices of jalapeno that strangely weren’t spicy at all.  Overall not too great but I ate a whole sandwich and enjoyed myself just fine. 

Lunch Banh Mi:

Banh Mi My Tho

304 W. Valley Blvd, Alhambra, CA 91801

We made the trek to San Gabriel Valley and made our first stop here.  It was a tiny store front in a smallish strip mall.  Banh Mi My Tho didn’t have as much chatter online about it as some of the bigger mainstays, but pretty much all of the chatter was very positive.  Just inside the front door was a metal container full of their baguettes that you could buy individually which is nice to know.  The big menu above the cahier was all in Vietnamese so I just said strangely “Pork Sandwich?” and he pointed at a menu next to me that was in English.

Charbroiled Pork Sandwich - $2.50

We ordered the Charbroiled Pork Sandwich keeping the pork theme going.  Again, there was nowhere to really sit so we sat on a curb near the side of the parking lot and took pictures of our sandwiches like idiots.  This one was a real winner, really great crusty and light bread with some sort of garlicky mayo on it giving the sandwich some added moisture.  The meat was nice and sweet and recognizable, and the daikon radish was perfectly sweet.  Also along for the ride was a bit of a peanut sauce with big broken up pieces of peanuts.  This Jalapeno was spicy and the cucumber cooled it down nicely.  Pretty amazing Banh Mi, to pace ourselves we shared one sandwich and we both agreed we should have gotten our own. 

Dinner Banh Mi:

Saigon Sandwich and Bakery

718 E. Valley Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

Next we drove a few miles down the street to Saigon Bakery.  This place is one of the top places people talk about and has lots of options when it comes to Banh Mi.  There was a big menu over their heads with baguettes and round buns and about 15 different filling options.  Also saw people buying just baguettes at this place.  It was the only place we went to that had seating and it was nice to sit down and take a break from a long day of eating sandwiches by eating another sandwich.

Grilled Pork Sandwich - $2.25

To keep it fair, we ordered the Grilled Pork, which was tasty but clearly some sort of composite meat and tough to recognize.   It was a tad sausagey and salty and went well with the sweet veggie accompaniments.   The bread was really good which had a mayo on it as well, and was half of a larger baguette instead of the other places which used one smaller baguette.  This created a softer fluffy end and a crispy crusty end which was like eating your way from one sandwich to a different one.  I think if the filling was a little better this would have been an outstanding sandwich but as it was it was just pretty good.

Ranking:

1st – Banh Mi My Tho

2nd – Saigon Bakery

3rd – Nam Thai Truck

Mar 12 '10

Rotisserie Chicken

Breakfast Rotisserie Chicken:

El Pollo Bailador

3553 West 3rd Street Los Angeles, CA 90020

Wild Card Alert! There is virtually no information on this place on the internet.  But if you Google El Pollo Bailador you’ll find a slew of Youtube videos of people dancing like chickens, all with less than 100 views.   It’s yelp review has two comments (both pretty positive) and no where online lists their hours.  We chose it because it is only a couple blocks from where I live and I drive by it on a daily basis, I figured it was time to try it.  I called and asked when they were open and the man couldn’t understand me.  I rephrased the question five times until he said, “I DON’T GET IT!” We figured our best bet was to go here first since we weren’t sure when it would close.  It was a small place with only 4 or 5 hard wooded booths and a big gas burning rotisserie.   This place in my mind defines the part of Koreatown that I live in, an Asian man working behind the counter at a place that serves Mexican Rotisserie Chicken and Boba, while a Latino soccer game plays on the TV.

1/2 Chicken Meal $7.00

1/2 Chicken, Rice, Beans, Salad, 3 Corn Tortillas, Salsa, and a Can of Coke

The chicken was cooked real nice and had a good garlicky flavor.  The skin wasn’t crisp at all but moist and pretty sticky, which was alright I suppose but I would have preferred less hydration.  It was a really good deal with all the other things that come along with it, you can also get just the half chicken for $5.00.  But with the cheap price also comes a pretty small bird with not very much breast on it.  I really enjoyed it, the chicken was moist and flavorful and I would definitely go back, considering the price and how close it is to my apartment.

Lunch Rotisserie Chicken:

Pollo A La Brasa

764 South Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90005

People be talking about this place, lots of chatter on the internets about the wood burning rotisseries and the spicy green Aji Sauce.  We parked a few blocks away and could smell the smokey shack right when we got out of the car.  A real small place on a little island between roads with chopped wood stacked high all around it.  Peruvian rotisserie chicken with a handful of different sides and Inca Cola in cans (which I saw people drinking and wished I had ordered.) 

1/2 Chicken Meal $8.31

1/2 Chicken, Rice, Salad, and Aji Sauce

The bird was much bigger than El Pollo Bailador’s, you get what you pay for I guess.  Parts of the skin were crispy while other parts were tender, but not sticky or too wet.  You could really taste the difference that real wood burning makes, the flavor was smokey and amazing.  It was had a good garlic flavor and salted perfectly but overwhelmingly the flavor came from the wood.  The white meat was delicious and moist and the dark was super tender slightly fatty and it all paired nicely with the powerful spicy Aji sauce.  I know we are mostly comparing the actual chicken but the salad wasn’t half bad either, topped with lots of things that they could have gotten away with not including such as beets, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, red bell pepper, and cabbage.  The place was a tad dirty looking but that adds some charm, which is my way of saying the chicken was so good it didn’t matter.

Dinner Rotisserie Chicken:

Zankou Chicken

5065 West Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90028

Zankou is an L.A. staple from all the weird murder stuff, bright yellow shirts, and Beck singing about it.  New Zankou’s keep popping up all over Los Angeles County but we went to the original restaurant on Sunset.  A big open cafeteria like room full of red and yellow hard backed booths.  When we got out of my car in the tiny parking lot, a big homeless guy that resembled middle aged Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds asked me how I’d been, to which I replied, “I don’t know you” then he argued with the security guard about how he did know me.  Gas rotisserie Armenian chicken and vertical spits of meat are their specialty.  This place is open till midnight so we went there last.

1/2 Chicken Plate $9.19

1/2 Chicken, 2 pita bread, Hommus, Diced Tomatoes, Garlic Sauce, Pickled Turnips, and Yellow Peppers

The skin was crispy to the point that the wing was almost too dry to eat, which was an ok sacrifice to make, cause the rest of the skin stayed nice and crispy while the meat under it was crazy moist and tender.  The size of the chicken was similar to Pollo A La Brasa.  The bird was perfectly cooked and basically fell apart as you picked at it.  The skin was good and salty, but while the meat itself was really great it had much less flavor then the other two.  But the chicken is great to eat along with the hummus and the white creamy garlic sauce (which I love but opted not to eat this time cause I tend to burp it’s flavor for days).  This place is great and for an extra good deal, share a whole chicken with some friends with hommus and extra pita bread.

Ranking:

1st – Pollo A La Brasa

2nd – Zankou Chicken

3rd – El Pollo Bailador

Mar 7 '10

PANCAKES

BREAKFAST PANCAKES:

John O’ Groats

10516 West Pico Boulevard. Los Angeles, CA 90064 (West LA)

We went to John O’ Groats first because it’s a Breakfast/Lunch place and closes at 3pm.  Most of our online research for the best pancakes in L.A. mentioned this place.  I had never heard of it and felt like getting away from the east side so we hopped on the 10 and headed to West L.A.  Our server was an adorable older but not super old lady with a beret.  It reminded me of a small town restaurant, and not in a “trying to seem like a small town restaurant” kind of way.  So many places in Los Angeles think pumping a bunch of money into the interior of a place is the key.   John O’ Groats was clean, simple, and had good pancakes.   I’ll have to go back and order a burger, someone near us got one and it looked pretty amazing.

Renowned Buttermilk Pancakes $7.95

3 Pancakes, Real Maple Syrup, Land O’ Lakes Butter

The cakes were big and fluffy with the perfect amount of salt.  The butter was still cold which made it hard to spread on the light delicate pancakes.  The insides were crumbly and fell apart as you ate them, while the top layer would peel away from the rest of the cake.  A little hard to eat and could have used a little bit more maple syrup but all in all some real tasty pancakes.

LUNCH PANCAKES:

Mel’s Drive In

8585 West Sunset Boulevard. West Hollywood, CA 90069

I must admit, we didn’t plan on going to Mel’s Drive In.  Our original plan was to go to Dinah’s Family Restaurant.  I called the Dinah’s near LAX and they said they served breakfast all day then I saw there was a Dinah’s in Glendale so we decided to go there for lunch pancakes cause it was closer.  Turns out the one in Glendale doesn’t serve breakfast all day.  We were real far from LAX at that point and couldn’t afford the gas to make the drive.  By then some of our choices that didn’t make the top 3 were closed so we had to improvise.  We were heading to West Hollywood to go to Duke’s, grumpy and weak from not having any protein, when we saw Mel’s Drive In, and it’s big parking lot.  The famous Mel’s Drive In which boasts American Graffiti cred, was big, nice and comfortable (and open 24 hours a day (always open)).

Old Fasioned Buttermilk Pancakes $6.25

3 Pancakes, Maple Flavored Pancake Syrup, AA Butter

The cakes looked real nice and simple, classic diner style (OMG that’s what Mel’s is).  They were pretty spongy and kind of hard to cut through with just a fork, very resistant and stretchy.  I didn’t hate eating them, but definitely not the greatest pancakes.  My main problem with them was the maple flavored syrup.  Obviously real maple syrup is preferred but this syrup had a strange artificial tinge to it.  Combined with the pancakes it all kind of had the flavor of a weird waffle cone.  Again I didn’t hate it, I’m not one to turn down a weird waffle cone.

DINNER PANCAKES:

Du-Pars

6333 W. 3rd Street. Los Angeles, CA 90036

Du-Par’s, at the Farmer’s Market by the Grove, was last because it’s open 24 hours (constantly open).  It’s a nice looking restaurant full of red booths with a mixed clientele, but noticeably old people love this place (spoiler alert, so do I).  At the entrance is a flat screen displaying TV show clips in which their pancakes were featured, and the menu has a quote from Esquire Magazine that reads “Best Pancakes in the U.S.”  I’ve been here before and noticed the pancakes had gone up by 75 cents.  Prices going up during a recession?  We got 5 cakes, but you can also get 3 for a dollar less.  I say get 5 and split them with a pal. 

Legendary Buttermilk Hot Cakes $8.75

5 Pancakes, Real Maple Syrup, Clarified Butter

The cakes come piled high with more than enough real maple syrup and clarified butter to just pour on.  They are fluffy but still pretty heavy, and wet enough that they kind of stick to the top of your mouth  (but never doughy or undercooked).  Eventually the top layer would peel away a little as you worked on them but not as willingly as John O’ Groats pancakes.  The edges have a griddley crunch while the over all pancake stays real moist, which means they are cooked fast on a really hot griddle.  Because they are on the moist side it allows the pancakes to stay piping hot the whole time you are eating them.  Chelsea and I can honestly say that these are the best pancakes we’ve ever had.  The next morning, even though I was sick from eating pancakes all day I was still day dreaming about them.

 

Ranking.

1st Du-Pars

2nd John O’Groats

3rd Mel’s Drive In