Dish. With lots of light, lots of room and smart, friendly servers, Dish is a prime example of the new American coffee shop. You can’t go wrong with the Dish burger — a fat, juicy, meaty thing in a grilled-till-crisp sesame bun. 734 Foothill Blvd., La Cañada, (818) 790-5355. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Mon.–Fri. 7 a.m.–9:30 p.m. and Sat.–Sun. 7 a.m.–10 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. AE, D, DC, MC, V. Entrées $7.95–$15.95. American. MH ¤
Pink’s. Consider the Pink’s dog, uncouth and garlicky, skin thick and taut, so that when you sink your teeth into it, the sausage . . . pops . . . into a mouthful of juice. The bun is soft enough to achieve a oneness with the thick chili that is ladled over the dog, but firm enough to resist dissolving altogether, unless you order it with sauerkraut. And why wouldn’t you? 709 N. La Brea Ave., Hollywood, (323) 931-4223 (no phone orders). Open Sun.–Thurs. 9:30 a.m.–2 a.m., Fri.–Sat. 9:30 a.m.–3 a.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Takeout. Cash only. Dogs $3–$6. American. JG ¢ H *
Hot Dog on a Stick. It’s a hot dog. It’s on a stick. It’s fried in a sweetish corn batter and served by pretty college girls who wear tall, multicolored caps. Frankly, as regional hot-dog styles go, Hot Dog on a Stick may not rank with Nathan’s Famous in Coney Island or the elaborately garnished franks of Chicago, but the stands in those cities have no spectacle that even comes close to the sight of a short-skirted Hot Dog on a Stick chick pumping up a tankful of lemonade. In malls citywide. Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–6 p.m. No alcohol. Parking in mall. MC, V. Hot dogs $1–$2. American. JG ¢ H *
Oki Dog. Immortalized by the Descendents, beloved by the Germs, the original Oki Dog, long since closed, was to the original ’70s punk-rock scene in L.A. what the Brown Derby was to 1940s filmdom. The most famous creation that remains is the eponymous dog, a couple of frankfurters wrapped in a tortilla with chili, pickles, mustard, a slice of fried pastrami and a torrent of goopy American cheese — a cross-cultural burrito that’s pretty hard to stomach unless you’ve got the tum of a 16-year-old, but strangely delicious nonetheless. 5056 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 938-4369. Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–11 p.m. 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Sat. 10 a.m.–mid. Sun. 10 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Entrées $4–$5.50. American Cross-Culture. JG ¢ *
Phillip’s Barbecue. Crusted with black and deeply smoky, the spareribs here are rich and crisp and juicy; the beef ribs are meaty as rib roasts beneath their coat of char. They are the best ribs in Los Angeles, perhaps the only ribs that can compete on equal terms with the best from Oakland or Atlanta. And the extra-hot sauce is as sweet and exhilarating as a classic O’Jays LP. Tucked into a mini-mall between a liquor store and the local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous, Phillip’s might be a little hard to spot from the street, but if you keep your window open, you should be able to sniff it out from half a mile away. 4307 Leimert Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 292-7613. Mon.–Thurs. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. to mid. No alcohol. Parking in lot. Cash only. Entrées $4.75–$10.50. American. JG ¢ *
Pie ’N Burger. This is the best neighborhood hamburger joint in a neighborhood that includes Caltech, which means the guy next to you may be reading a physics proof over his chili size as if it were the morning paper. When compressed by the act of eating, a Pie N’ Burger hamburger leaks thick, pink dressing, and the slice of American cheese, if you have ordered a cheeseburger, does not melt into the patty, but stands glossily aloof. When the fruit is in season, don’t miss a cut of the epochal fresh-strawberry pie. 913 E. California Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 795-1123. Mon.–Fri. 6 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat. 7 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 7 a.m.–9 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. Cash only. Entrées $5–$10. American. JG ¢ *
Pollos a la Brasa. Peruvian-style chicken — pollo a la brasa, chicken on a spit — is the stuff to turn to when you’re looking for roasted chicken with lots of taste. The meat is remarkable, well-garlicked, slightly spicy, permeated with that pungent smoke. The flesh is juicy, the herbal flavor clear, the skin caramelized and crisp. With the chicken come a salad and little plastic cups of aji, a smooth, mint-green cheese-and-chile purée that is almost hot enough to sear the skin off your lips. 764 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles (also at 16527 S. Vermont Ave., Gardena), (213) 382-4090. Lunch and dinner Wed.–Mon. 11 a.m.–10 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Cash only. Food for two $5–$10. Peruvian. JG ¢
Soda Jerks. The ice cream served at Soda Jerks, an old-fashioned soda fountain in Pasadena, is Fosselman’s — an excellent local brand that’s been made in Alhambra by the Fosselman family for the last 80 years. Soda Jerks is a kid-friendly place, with cheerful college-age attendants behind the counter. You can order lunch (great hot dogs!) before your ice cream, or you can cut to the chase: unwieldy scoops of toasted almond, coconut-pineapple or rocky road in a sugar cone. I love cones — cake or sugar — but coming to one always makes me sad; it means the end is in sight. 219 S. Fair Oaks Ave., Pasadena, (626) 583-8031. Open weekdays 8 a.m.–9:30 p.m., weekends till 10 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Parking lot. $3–$7. AE, MC, V. Ice Cream. MH ¢ *
Soot Bull Jeep. Soot Bull Jeep may be the best of L.A.’s 100-odd Korean barbecues, noisy, smoky, with all the bustle you’d expect in the heart of a great city, a place to cook your own marinated short ribs and baby octopus, pork loin and tripe, above a tabletop heap of glowing hardwood coals. If you are new to this sort of thing, a waitress will return periodically to make sure that your ignorance of cooking times injures the meat no more than absolutely necessary. 3136 W. Eighth St., Los Angeles, (213) 387-3865. Open daily 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Street parking. MC, V. Entrées $15–$30. Korean. JG ¢
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Tasty Q. Around Thanksgiving time, this barbecue emporium may be best known as the home of the deep-fried turkey, a Louisiana delicacy that you can order here with a couple days’ notice even when it doesn’t happen to be November. Believe us: Turkey is not something you want to deep-fry at home, even if your cousin Lambert happens to think it’s a good idea. The rest of the year, Tasty Q functions as a genuine drive-thru barbecue stand — but trust us on this one too — Armor All is of absolutely no use against the sauce. 2959 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 735-8325. Open seven days, 10:30 a.m.– 10 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. AE, MC, V. $9.25–$15.50. Barbecue. JG ¢ *
Toad House. This Korean pork-specialty restaurant has a pleasant bamboo-screened patio where the locals put out more smoke than the barbecue pits, and the walls are decorated with adorable photographs of tiny black pigs. The basic unit of consumption at Toad House is the combination meal for two, a sort of porcine tasting menu designed to take you on a tour of the tiny black pig. The centerpiece of the meal is undoubtedly the barbecued pork belly — the meaty, especially succulent strips of fat meat brought out to the table looking like nothing so much as a pound of uncured bacon that you sizzle into crispness on a tabletop grill. 4503 W. Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 460-7037. Dinner seven nights 6–11 p.m. Beer and rice wine. Lot parking. MC, V. Combination meals for two or three, $25–$50. Korean. JG $ H
Tommy’s. There’s no way around it: Eating a Tommyburger is an aggressive act. You can’t stop at Tommy’s and expect to go back to the office; you can’t 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. The Hollywood branch, a drive-thru right off the Hollywood Boulevard exit of the 101, makes it possible to coast in off the freeway, load up on chili burgers and cruise back toward downtown in a scant minute. 5873 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, (323) 467-3792. Open daily, 24 hours. No alcohol. Lot parking. ATM cards, cash. $4.20–$5.50. American. JG ¢ *
Top’s. The drive-thru hamburger is generally a sorry proposition, a junkyard of unhappy Happy Meals, of unstellar Famous Stars, of charnel-house malteds and grisly lumps of gristle, of TV-slick cheesy things and other restaurants so terrifyingly off-brand that you fear for your intestinal fauna. And then there is Top’s, where the bacon-avocado cheeseburgers are grand, goopy things; the onion rings are pleasingly crunchy; and the shakes are as dense and sweet as a life well lived. 1792 E. Walnut St., Pasadena, (626) 584-0244. Lunch and dinner, Sun.– Thurs., 7 a.m.–11 p.m.; Fri. and Sat., 7 a.m. –12 a.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. ATM cards and cash only. $6.35–$10.79. American. JG ¢ *