Vineland Avenue and Burbank Boulevard in North Hollywood is a famous intersection, at least to some. The perfectly silly Circus Liquor is there, with its polka-dotted clown sign lording it over everything else in sight. Of course, that sign (and its parking lot) gained a bit of notoriety in the mid-'90s as the spot where Alicia Silverstone's character in Clueless was mugged.
Nowadays, you'll find a lot more than just Circus Liquors at Vineland and Burbank. For one, there's a big brown strip mall on the northwestern corner, with a Fatburger right up front, beckoning in the hungry and disoriented. There are further delights inside the B-V Shopping Center, like a Middle Eastern borek shop with a single table, some fantastic Lebanese food and a Korean barbecue/noodle/sushi shop, all rolled into one.
Circus Liquor's Valley-famous signage will always rule this intersection, but peek around the corners of the adjacent strip mall, and you might find some pretty damn good eats there, too.
Although Mini Kabob in Glendale looks like a modest house repurposed into a commercial restaurant, describing it as like dining in someone's living room would be far too extravagant. You're basically eating at Ovakim and Alvard Martirosyan's modestly decorated kitchen counter.
Mini Kabob meets all the criteria of a great hole in the wall to the millimeter: 1) It's mom-and-pop operated, by first generation immigrants no less. 2) It's located in a tiny building on a narrow side street off Central Blvd. in Glendale, just south of developer Rick Caruso's behemoth Americana. 3) There are just three tables and eight chairs, all mismatched. 4) They serve high quality food in large portions at affordable prices. And 5) They're expert specialists.
On the post-Soviet streets of Eastern Europe and Eurasia, the piroshki is the fast food of choice. A fast fried doughy bun stuffed with warm, savory fillings like potatoes, meat or mushrooms, the piroshki boasts just the right amount of dough-to-filling ratio for your eating and holding pleasure.
Lucky for Los Angeles, piroshkis have made their way here, thanks to Armenian and Russian diasporas who have set up bakeries from Van Nuys to Glendale and West Hollywood where they serve up these cultural staples, usually bought a dozen at a time, that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner or while you're sitting in traffic on the dreaded 405 and wondering if there's any hope that you will eventually make it home. Just make sure you have napkins nearby.
We've included a list of places in L.A. that make their piroshkis in-house, fresh and piping hot for your eating pleasure. It probably doesn't beat your babushka's (that's grandma to you) fried dough treats, but it does come close.
The Venn Food Diagram train has ventured west of India and landed in Armenia, the ancient landlocked country wedged between Iran, Azerbaijan and Turkey, which recently produced the world's earliest leather shoe and wine-producing facility. Steady immigration from Armenian communities in Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Greece and Armenia to Los Angeles have made the city home to its largest diaspora in the U.S., adding multiple cultural layers to the concept of Armenian food, and in the process introduced it to L.A.'s masses.
Moral of the Story: From Zankou Chicken, whose shawermas and mouth watering garlic sauce, created in Beirut's Bourj Hammoud neighborhood have emerged with cult-like status among foodies, to Persian-influenced Raffi's Place, where diners flock for charbroiled succulent beef and lamb entries served on beds of basmati rice - L.A. loves its Armenian food. While the cuisine's true origins are often debated within Armenian circles, in L.A, it's been more than just a plate of kebab- revealing a glimpse into Armenian history, culture and tradition.
We know about momos, Nepalese dumplings. On occasion we have even mentioned mandoo, Korean dumplings. Throughout the world there are many forms of dumplings, which is not surprising as they are a superior comfort food. Warm, savory, carby and even a tiny bit saucy, there is a lot to love when it comes to dumplings. But Turkish dumplings, or manti, have a creaminess that elevates them to the ultimate level of comfort food.
Manti can come in different shapes and can be cooked by steaming, boiling or baking. However, regardless of preparation it is almost always served topped with garlic yogurt and sprinkled sumac. In Los Angeles, manti in its various forms can be found in several restaurants, but more often than not, we find ourselves ordering it at Best of Mediterranean, Mantee Café and Sako's Mediterranean Cuisine.
We, and perhaps you too, are feeling a little sick right now. Congested, body aches, taste buds not exactly firing on all cylinders. So for this week's food fight, we're changing the format a little. Rather than taking two versions of the same dish and seeing which one is tastier, we're eating two very dissimilar bowls of soup, and declaring the winner based on which one makes us feel better. But rather than eating something we grew up with, like chicken noodle, or matzo ball soup, we dug into some of our city's deep, and rich ethnic diversity.
"You should open a restaurant." It's one the highest compliments talented home cooks everywhere can get after sharing their dishes with friends and co-workers. For Marianella Robles, the compliment rung in her head. And when she saw an opportunity to open up a small restaurant in her neighborhood of Lincoln Heights, she called her then boss and fellow home cook, Victor Kyundibekian, and together they partnered to open Armex, Lincoln Height's new Armenian and Mexican restaurant.
Robles is no stranger to the restaurant business: her aunt used to own a restaurant in the same neighborhood. But as an adult, she was making her career as a secretary at one of Kyundibekian's manufacturing businesses. In the tight knit office, she would bring in Mexican food for her co-workers. Kyundibekian would also cook for the office, and Robles especially looked forward to when he would make his specialty, kabobs.
Boureg, or börek, or burek, or any of the other numerous versions and spellings thereof, is a very popular food eaten throughout much of what was once the Ottoman Empire. In fact, these pastries, often stuffed with cheese, meat, vegetables, or a combination of them all, are also ideal to eat while watching a sporing event in someone's living room, crammed onto the corner of an ottoman. Just as with a simple sandwich or burrito, self contained foods are perhaps best enjoyed when they are inexpensive, and eaten in a situation where other items would be particularly inconvenient -- like a street corner or a poker table. So in honor of a really long tennis match, two World Cup games and the NBA Draft, today's food fight takes on two attempts at the Armenian spicy cheese boureg.