Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger dont re-define
Mexican food; they just prepare it well, transforming the taco, the tostada, the
homely chile relleno here a freshly roasted poblano crammed with Mexican cheese
and fried in an egg-batter crisp and lacy as the coating on tempura shrimp into
creatures almost unrecognizable if youre used to their Cal-Mex equivalents. The
long, black dining room, delineated by a crazily skewed ceiling painted with rocket
ships and wrestling-masked batmen, looks even better now than it did when the
place first opened. An order of the black-bean-intensive nachos called Eulalias
Chips is still exactly what you need with a hand-shaken artisanal-tequila margarita.
Border Grill is the rare mainstream restaurant whose tacos dont make you yearn
for a truck parked by an auto-parts junkyard somewhere in East L.A. 1445 Fourth
St., Santa Monica, (310) 451-1655. Open Sun.Thurs. 11:30 a.m.10 p.m., Fri.Sat.
till 11 p.m. Full bar open till mid. Takeout. Street and valet parking. AE, D,
MC, V. $12$26. Mexican.
. Is the coffee-shop cooking at Chips as artfully updated
as the menu at nearby Panns? Not quite. Do the eggs Benedict merit a long drive?
Perhaps not. Is the full-on late-50s exterior as museum-worthy as the Wich Stand,
where a teenage Brian Wilson used to go for hamburgers? Not really, even if that
old drive-in is a health-food joint now. But real, over-the-top Googie-style restaurants
are getting to be as rare as condors here in their birthplace, and you could do
worse than a Chips meal of patty melts and strawberry shakes. 11908 S. Hawthorne
Blvd., Hawthorne, (310) 679-2947. Open 7 days 6 a.m.8 p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout.
Lot parking. AE, MC, V. American.
Disneys Soda Fountain & Studio Store.
Bringing more than a hint of corporate
suburban-mall kitsch to this part of Hollywood, the Disney Soda Fountain & Studio
Store also brings the excellent ice cream imported from Dewars, a 1909 candy
counter across from Bakersfield High School that looks straight out of the pages
of an old Saturday Evening Post. Disneys waitresses, whose smiles seem superglued
to their shiny, shiny teeth, may not have quite the hometown charm of their Bakersfield
counterparts, but they efficiently bring out black-and-white sundaes lubricated
with hot fudge and whipped marshmallow, banana splits drowning in strawberry sauce,
and milk shakes made with vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, fresh bananas and
ground walnuts. The peppermint sundae, with its Dewars candy-stick-spiked peppermint
ice cream, is especially good. And the sweet-studded chocolate-chip ice cream
is always a sure thing. 6834 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; www.disneysodafountain.com.
Open daily 9:30 a.m.10 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout window. Street parking. AE, MC,
V. $6.75$24.95. American.
Start with the avocado salad cool, ripe chunks garnished
with thin slices of raw onion and dressed with splashes of vinegar and torrents
of good Spanish olive oil; then a heaping plateful of thin, pounded circles of
unripe plantains, fried crisp as potato chips and dusted with salt. Next, boiled
yuca; a big plateful of moros y cristianos (Moors and Christians), a tasty miscegenation
of black beans and rice fried with garlic and gobbets of fat pork; piles of fried
fresh ham, pierna de puerco, crisp and brown on the outside and meltingly tender
within, topped with an immoderate portion of caramelized onions. For dessert,
good flan and torpor and strong Cuban espresso. 2328 W. Pico Blvd., (213)
386-6131. Lunch and dinner 10 a.m.8:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. MC, V.
Food for two $9$28. Cuban.
Any place in town can serve you a grilled T-bone, but Suzanne
Trachts snazzy steak house is strictly postmodernsville, chefly riffs on the
strip steak and the porterhouse, the hash brown and the French fry, that may or
may not incorporate every last pea tendril and star-anise infusion in the Asian-fusion
playbook, if that happens to be your desire. Some people we know have never even
tried the steak here the braised pork belly, the glorious pot roast, and the
various and sundry wonders of Nancy Silvertons Mozzarella Monday are just too
compelling. But the steak is about as good as it gets. The décor is straight off
the set of a Cary Grant movie. Theres banana cream pie for dessert. And at the
bar warm, homemade potato chips. 8225 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323)
655-6566. Dinner daily 5:3011 p.m., brunch Sun. 10 a.m.2 p.m. Full bar. Valet
parking. AE, D, MC, V. Entrées $19$29. California American.
Ye Olde Kings Head.
Until the recent gastropub revolution, the
food at most pubs in England may have fully justified everything ever muttered
in a dark moment about British food. The Kings Head, a dank, overcrowded expat
hangout near the Santa Monica Promenade, is no gastropub, but it does serve some
of the best beer in town, which is to say the hand-drawn drafts of Real Ale that
never seem to make it anywhere else. The food is, unfortunately, all too authentic,
pasties and bangers and such, but the fish and chips are everything you could
wish for, sweet fillets of North Sea cod, enrobed in light batter and fried to
a delicate crunch. 116 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 451-1402. Mon.Thurs.,
10 a.m.10 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m.mid., Sat. 8 a.m.mid., Sun. 8 a.m.10 p.m. Full
bar open daily until 2 a.m. Takeout. Street parking. AE, MC, V.
Theres no way around it: Eating a Tommyburger is an
aggressive act. You cant stop at Tommys and expect to go back to the office;
you cant inhale a Tommyburger at 1 in the morning and expect your spouse to kiss
you when you finally stagger home. A Tommyburger is an uncouth thing, a sloppy,
stinking mess, oozing chili and raw onion, that takes over your system for the
better part of a day. Tommyburgers cant really be considered car food, unless
youre okay with orange grease spots on the upholstery and an aroma that lasts
longer than most warranties, but youll eat it in the car after the bars close
anyway, a double-size helping of Nirvana with a soda and a bag of chips. Beverly
Blvd. at Rampart St., Los Angeles. Open daily 24 hours. No alcohol. Lot parking.
ATM cards, cash. $4.20$5.50. American.
This restaurant, in central Reseda, is probably not
the first place you would look for a bowl of transcendent Thai food. It looks
like any suburban-Thai place, down to the glass-topped tables and the generic
art on the walls. At most times of day, the customer base seems to tend toward
locals intent on bland stir-fries. Yet there is a semisecret section of the menu
crammed with Northern-style dishes fresh chile dips served with chips of fried
pigskin, and sticky rice, and sour sausages, and fragrant pork stews. Among the
best dishes is a very passable version of khao soi, a giant bowlful of springy
egg noodles in a curried chicken broth that would probably be intended to feed
a family of six if you came across it in Chiang Mai. 7333 Reseda Blvd., Reseda,
(818) 705-8902. Closed Wed. Mon.Tues. and Thurs.Sun. 11:30 a.m.3 p.m., 59
p.m. Beer and wine. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, MC, V.