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Midtown Lunch Comes to L.A.: An Interview with Zach Brooks

Midtown Lunch, the popular New York website dedicated to finding a great meal during your lunch break for under $10, is coming to Los Angeles. Well, more specifically, it's creator, Zach Brooks, just happened to move to L.A. and will continue his lunch-driven mission from the left coast. His first post from Los Angeles (which you'll be able to read from the Midtown Lunch website) is set to go up tomorrow or Monday. Squid Ink had the chance to talk with Brooks a a couple of weeks ago, while he prepared for the move. Here's what he had to say...

Zach Brooks of Midtown Lunch

Photo Courtesy of Zach BrooksZach Brooks of Midtown Lunch

Squid Ink: For people in L.A. who haven't heard of Midtown Lunch--what is it?

Zach Brooks: Midtown lunch came out of the idea that in an office there are two groups of people. There are the people that go to the same boring places, eat the same boring salad or sandwich. Then there are the people that are looking to get more out of their lunch hour. It's gotta be cheap. I feel like it's a person's unalienable right to have a good lunch for under ten bucks. It's supposed to be a useful site. Originally it was just about finding interesting places in Midtown. Even though most people thought it was a wasteland, including me, but there are actually a lot of delicious, ethnic options if you know where to look.

SI: Is your L.A. based blog going to run under a similar premise?

ZB: It's gonna be like Midtown Lunch L.A. I've always been hesitant to expand. I don't think there's another area like Midtown anywhere. So many people crammed into such a small place. The L.A. blog isn't going to be about just going to downtown L.A. and writing about those places. Same in Philly [where they recently expanded]. The idea in expanding is that it's all about finding Midtown lunches in other cities. My goal is to find under ten dollar, quick service lunches near where anybody works. I plan on spending time downtown, mid-city, along Wilshire, Burbank near all the studios. But it's not about sticking to one area. And dude, lunch is awesome! If you go to another city, if you're traveling, it's really easy to find the best restaurants and the hottest restaurants. And yeah, some of those places may serve lunch and there are some blogs dedicated to off-the-beaten-path ethnic restaurants. But Midtown Lunch is a specific kind of meal. It's a workday meal. It's about the one hour a day you have and not wanting to waste it on something boring. It's a specific kind of meal where you say "I don't want to waste my lunch on something boring," but Animal isn't open for lunch. I need to find the lunch spots where I should be eating.

SI: Do you have a start date, or a target date for the new blog?

ZB: I'm gonna be moving to LA pretty much starting February first. I think I'm gonna start blogging about what I'm eating right away. I'm gonna hit the ground eating. I plan on stuffing my face, essentially, from when I get off the plane. I just don't know where yet. The Philadelphia and Downtown [expansion] had been planned for a while, but the L.A. thing just happened in the last two weeks, so I'm still kind of figuring it out.

SI: Midtown lunch is expanded too. What are you doing and how is it going?

ZB: It's good. The response has been really positive. People seem to be excited. I don't know. Whatever. I'm just a guy that likes to eat. I have no idea how this happened.

SI: Any particular types of foods that you're excited about in L.A. that you can't get much of in New York? Or even any foods that you're excited to check out the L.A. version of?

ZB: Obviously Mexican. I love street food, so I'm super excited about checking out all the taco trucks and the new school trucks. I'm already a huge fan of Kogi, as hyped as it is in New York, but I [freaking] love it. That shit tastes good. And I ate it after the hype and I thought it lived up to the expectations. I'm super excited for their Yoshinoya rip off, or whatever they're doing. But all I'm saying is it better be under ten bucks because I want it to be a Midtown Lunch.

SI: You've lived in L.A. before, right?

ZB: I lived in L.A., and I love it. The cheap food scene, the Midtown Lunch has been amazing always. There's no good Vietnamese food in New York, I'm super excited for that. The list is already started.

SI: First lunch?

ZB: I don't want to give it away. But I did find out about it from Squid Ink. And I did find out about it from The Guru, which is what I will describe him [Jonathan Gold] as on the site. He will be responsible for most of the meals on the first 6 months or so. So I'm excited for that.

The only other thing I want to say is: I kind of want to make it a little clear that, like, Midtown Lunch, or at least me personally, I'm not like this blogger who's like "I'm coming to L.A. to discover all the hidden treasures." I am perfectly aware that nobody in L.A. knows what Midtown Lunch is and don't give a shit. The food blog scene in L.A. is amazing. I'm not really filling any sort of giant void in the L.A. food scene and I'm fully aware of it. The truth is I'm just a fat guy that loves to eat. I was doing it in Midtown and now I'm doing it in L.A. Blogs are about community. It's not about discovering places and bestowing them upon the people. It's about having a vibrant community, wherever you are. If I find it on another blog, I'm all about giving credit to that other blog. And everybody grows together. I don't see Midtown Lunch as any kind of big arrival. I'm just hopeful that it can be a part of a pretty awesome food community.