We've been there. It's rush hour. Or, Obama's in town. Or, there's a terrible hip-hop band on the freeway. Or, everyone decided to leave work at the same time. Whatever the reason, the Google Map's all red, you're not going anywhere, and you want out of your car. In other words, you may as well eat.
To tide you over while you're stuck in traffic, we'll be periodically rounding up tasty spots right along your freeway commute where you can calm your aggravation and wait out the bottleneck. Today, we focus on the stretch of the 10 between Downtown and Santa Monica.
10. Dino's Burgers (Vermont Exit). At Dino's, the half roasted chicken plate comes with tortillas and fries sogged from sitting under chicken's juices and marinade. This is probably not the best roast chicken you've ever had, but it's most probably the best roast chicken plate you've ever had for a Lincoln and some change. 2575 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles; (213) 380-3554; Monday – Thursday 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday – Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
9. Papa Cristo's (Normandie Exit). Papa Cristo's is both a Greek restaurant and a market, so you can easily pass the time by ordering a gyro or falafel plate or by perusing the aisles and admiring the countless varieties of olive oils and vinegars. On your way out, pick up a few goodies from the bakery counter for the rest of your commute. 2771 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 737-2970; Tuesday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
8. The Natraliart (Arlington Exit). Any restaurant that quotes Marcus Garvey on its homepage deserves at least one visit. The Natraliart serves a flavorful, hearty jerk chicken, as well as other homey Jamaican fare. If you're not feeling too jerk-y, the vegetable and beef patties (savory pastries somewhat like empanadas) and freshly squeezed juice make for a delicious snack. 3426 W. Washington Blvd.., Los Angeles; (323) 737-9277; Tuesday – Saturday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
7. Phillips' BBQ (Crenshaw Exit). Along with JNJ Burger Shack, Phillips also can lay legitimate claim to having the best spareribs in LA. In fact, the brisket here might be better than JNJ's, and its restaurant signage definitely is one of the best in the city. 2619 S. Crenshaw Blvd. Los Angeles; (323) 731-4772; Tuesday – Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday – Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
6. Vees Cafe (La Brea Exit on the 10 W / Fairfax Exit on the 10 E). The cozy Vees Cafe almost is too cute for its location right off the freeway in the middle of an otherwise drab section of West Adams. The cafe serves coffee and paninis, so if you just need a quick bite and caffeine jolt, this will hit the spot. 5418 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 931-8337; Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Saturday – Sunday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
5. JNJ Burger Shack (Fairfax Exit). If you want a greasy burger, you've come to the right place. If you want BBQ, you've come to the right place. JNJ is really two shacks in one: on the burger side, you can have a burger with one patty or two. If you are Ron Swanson, you could order the “4 Finger Burger”: two patties, two hot dogs, two cheese slices, three bacon slices, and, of course, an egg. On the BBQ side, delicious, tender spare ribs. 5754 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 933-7366; Monday – Thursday 10 a.m. to 6:45 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
4. Gloria's Cafe (National Exit on the 10 W / Robertson Exit on the 10 E). Gloria's Cafe recently re-opened after a brief renovation, and it's still as wonderful as it ever was. Gloria is there most nights, giving you personal recommendations off her Mexican and El Salvadorean menu. Trust her when she suggests the pupusas and the carne adobada. 10227 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 838-0963; daily 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
3 & 2. Chego and Scoops Westside (Overland Exit). Chego, Roy Choi's non-mobile outpost, is just a few blocks south of the Overland exit and open just in time for dinner. It's billed as “chillax peasant food for the soul”, hot bowls of rice with layers upon layers of flavor inspired by all corners of Los Angeles. In other words, after cursing traffic and ruing the day you decided to live here instead of Oregon, Chego will make you love this city again.
Literally just a block down the street, a scoop of brown bread or other creatively flavored gelato from the westside location of Scoops may be the cure for what traffic woes ail you. A pourover coffee with fresh Intelligentsia beans won't hurt either. Chego, 3300 Overland Ave., Los Angeles; (310) 287-0337; Tuesday – Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Scoops Westside, 3400 Overland Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 405-7055; Monday – Saturday 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.
1. Tacomiendo (Bundy Exit on the 10 W / Centinela Exit on the 10 E). Tacomiendo makes all of its tortillas in-house, which makes you appreciate their huge burritos that much more. The Super Burrito in particular is a gargantuan log buried under enchilada sauce, guacamole, and sour cream. For something similarly enormous but less meaty, try the vegetarian taco. 11462 W. Gateway Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 481-0804; Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday – Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.