Bun Voyage

Art’s Delicatessen. Pastrami guys come and pastrami guys go, but what remains constant is the ancient secret of the Wedge, which is to say the time-honored configuration of bread and mustard and meat that makes an ordinarily overstuffed delicatessen sandwich look like a sandwich that could eat you for lunch instead. A true Wedge master could make a single slice of Hebrew National salami look like a feast bountiful enough to feed the entire upper deck at Dodger Stadium. It’s like the loaves-and-fishes thing — Jesus was a Jewish boy: He knew how it should be done. The Wedge may be found in its platonic form at Art’s Deli, which has been hardening the arteries of the faithful since the ’50s. If your pleasures take a more tubular dimension, Art’s makes one hell of a knackwurst, too. 12224 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 762-1221. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Beer and wine. Valet parking. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $13–$36. AE, D, MC, V. Jewish Deli. JG $ Mr. Baguette. Mr. Baguette, a Vietnamese sandwich shop in Rosemead, makes its own high-quality charcuterie — ham and headcheese and steamed pork loaves — that it sells separately by the pound, and bakes its own baguettes. There are fresh fruit smoothies, ham and cheese croissants, Vietnamese iced coffee, and pickled vegetables that come packaged separately from the banh mi sandwiches in little Baggies, so that you can garnish yours to taste. For a quarter extra, you can get the banh mi made on a fresh baguette frosted with toasted sesame seeds. 8702 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead, (626) 288-9166. Seven days, 6 p.m.–9 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Sandwiches, $2–$3.95. Cash only. Vietnamese-French. JG ¢ Father’s Office. At the microbrew fiefdom known as Father’s Office, whose souvenir baseball caps read “F.O.,” dining is a full-contact sport. There are no reservations, no minors allowed, and no menu substitutions permitted. There is also no line, no wait list and nobody keeping track of seating, so if you want one of the few tables in the bar (and, practically speaking, it is impossible to eat the bar’s food standing up), you will have to circle the room until somebody gets ready to leave, then plunge into a scrum. The signature burger is dry-aged beef cooked exceptionally rare, dressed with onions cooked down to the sweetness of maple syrup, Gruyère and Maytag blue cheeses, smoky bacon, arugula and a tomato compote, all on a French roll. Is the Father’s Office cheeseburger delicious? Of course. Does the effort required to acquire it resemble something out of Fear Factor? Definitely so. 1018 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 393-2337, www.fathersoffice.com. Food served Mon.–Wed. 5–10 p.m., Thurs. 5–11 p.m., Fri. 4–11 p.m., Sat. 3–11 p.m., Sun. 3–10 p.m. 21 and over only. Beer and wine. Takeout. Difficult street parking. AE, M, V. Dishes $4–$15. European Bar Food. JG $ Maple Drive. Founded by Leonard Schwartz, an excellent chef who recently left the world of expense-account cuisine to fashion the Zeke’s barbecue chain, Maple Drive was a prime mover in the comfort-food movement that validated chicken in the pot, meat loaf, and macaroni and cheese for the sort of diners who had heretofore supped on truffled pâté. The current chef, Spago alum Vincent Manna, is clearly an adventurous fellow, a man whose soul speaks through foie gras, sings in the key of ponzu, expresses itself in lavender plum jus. Can Manna pan-sear black cod or New Zealand snapper with the best of them? He can indeed. But there’s pizza on the menu now, too. And it wouldn’t be Maple Drive without a cheeseburger on the menu at lunch. 345 N. Maple Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 274-9800. Lunch Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Dinner Mon.-Sat. 6 p.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, M, V. American. JG $$ The Hungry Cat. The Hungry Cat is the restaurant a lot of us in Los Angeles have been waiting for, a local answer to Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco or New York’s Pearl Oyster Bar, a place to drop into for a dozen oysters or a bowl of shrimp, a boiled crab or a bowl of chowder. The wine list is tiny, but includes a ton of obscure seafood-friendly wines — Picpoul de Pinet, anyone? — and everything is available by the glass. The crab cake, more crab than cake, is tasty if modestly portioned, made from what the establishment claims is a 100-year-old Baltimore recipe. The primary object of desire here is the lobster roll, an abstracted rendition of the New England beach-shack standard transformed into a split, crisp, rectangular object about the size of a Twinkie. In Cape Porpoise, the $22 it costs would buy you a lobster the size of a small pony. But we are in Hollywood, where the next acceptable lobster roll may be 2,800 miles away. 1535 N. Vine St., Hollywood, (323) 462-2155, www.thehungrycat.com. Mon.–Fri. 5:30 p.m.–mid., Sat. 3 p.m.–mid., Sun. 5:30–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Validated parking. AE, MC, V. Small plates $8–$22. Seafood. JG $$ The Shack. The Shack is a manly place, a place that hosts Jaegergirl promotions, a place where a man can watch the Lakers and drink a Rusty Nail. The Shack is also an archetypal beach hamburger dive, the kind of vaguely nautical-looking place where most of the clientele seem to treat the food as something to soak up the beer: cheesesteaks, chiliburgers, fries. The basic unit of exchange at The Shack is something called the Shack Burger, a quarter-pound of charred ground beef and a Louisiana sausage crammed together in a bun. The Shack Burger seems repellent on the surface, and it will seem repellent an hour after you eat one, but like your favorite punk rock song, a Shack Burger is three minutes of pure greatness, all grease and smoke and snap. 2518 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 449-1171; 185 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey, (310) 823-6222. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Lunch for two, food only, $9-$14. Full bar. Takeout. AE, D, V. American. JG ¢ Yung Ho Tou Chiang. Yung Ho Tou Chiang’s got buns: flaky buns stuffed with sweet, simmered turnips; steamed buns filled with spiced pork or black mushrooms; crusty fried pies stuffed with pungent messes of sautéed leek tops; steamed pork dumplings bursting with juice. The traditional accompaniment to soy milk is a long, twisted, light-as-air cruller, and Yung Ho does them well. For another buck or so, you can get the cruller smeared with a salty paste of pounded meat and wrapped inside a cylinder of sticky rice, simulating the texture of a good sushi roll. 533 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 570-0860. Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days 6:30 a.m.–6 p.m. Beer. Lot parking. Cash only. Food for two, $5–$10. Chinese. JG ¢


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