We recently covered 10 conveniently located eateries off the 10 between Downtown and Santa Monica perfect for those times when you'd rather eat than sit helplessly in traffic. The eastern stretch of the 10, between Downtown and the San Gabriel Valley, may not be as perpetually bottlenecked as the stretch between Downtown and Santa Monica, but that doesn't mean being stuck in traffic there is any more bearable. After all, this stretch includes one of the busiest interchanges in the world, the point where all hell breaks loose and drivers wrestle, wrangle, and curse their way to proper lane position just as the freeway splits between the 5, the 10, the 60, and the 101.
If you're on this part of the 10 and need to get out of traffic, whether it be to fuel up before heading into a game of freeway Frogger or to take a break after emerging, traumatized, from that brutal derby, you're in luck. A plethora of great bowls of pho, steamy plates of dumplings, and other assorted delicious Asian eats line both sides of the freeway on Garvey Avenue and Valley Boulevard. Here are at least ten of the restaurants where you can rest up and recharge.
10. Guisados (State St. Exit on the 10W / Cesar Chavez Blvd. Exit on the 10E). Often, when you walk into Guisados, you're handed a sample of the soup of the day, a little amuse bouche that probably is exactly what you need right at that moment. The tacos are just as comforting: the enormous chalkboard menu lists the day's selection of stewed and braised meats and fillings, lovingly simmered in an amazing number of sauces and spices. Whichever you choose, be it the calabacitas (corn, zucchini, tomatoes, and pepper) or the bistek en salsa roja (steak in a smoky salsa), you really can't go wrong. If you need someone to decide for you though, order the six mini-taco sampler and let the chef take care of you. A tamale or two to go, and you're ready for whatever bottleneck awaits. 2100 E. Cesar Chavez Ave., Los Angeles; (323) 264-7201; Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
9. King Torta (Soto St. Exit). On a rather drab, industrial section of Valley Boulevard, on the right side of the tracks, is King Torta. Choose your meat – carne asada, carnitas, al pastor, lengua, etc – and they'll make you a delicious sandwich with freshly baked bolillio bread. “Super” fries or nachos are topped with guacamole, natch. 4507 Valley Blvd, Los Angeles; (323) 222-7006; Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday – Sunday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
7 & 8. Huge Tree Pastry and Ten Ren's Tea Time (Atlantic Blvd. Exit). A tenth of a mile from the freeway exit is Huge Tree Pastry, noteworthy for the complete lack of trees, huge or otherwise, near its location on the lower level of a two-story strip mall plaza. What the bakery lacks in foliage, it makes up in Taiwanese-style food. Steamed dumplings, pork belly gua bao (vegetables and pork wrapped neatly inside a hot bun), and the fan tuan (sticky rice wrapped around a fried donut, or: what happens when sushi goes to the county fair) are your best bets. 423 N. Atlantic Blvd., Suite 106, Monterey Park; (626) 458-8689; Daily 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Cash only.
Just a stone's throw away in the brand new Atlantic Square Plaza is Ten Ren's Tea Time, a tea house enormously popular for its teas and boba. Small plates like sweet potato fries and mochi sesame balls are perfect snacks to munch on while you finish off your drink. The free wifi and generous outlets make this a perfect place to finish up your work, so you don't take the office home with you. 500 N Atlantic Blvd., Suite 179, Monterey Park; (626) 872-0800; Daily 11 a.m. to Midnight.
6. Beijing Pie House (New Ave. Exit). The “pie” in the restaurant's name refers to xian bing, a disc of bread about the size and thickness of an English muffin and stuffed with various meats and vegetables. Each order yields four pies, which means you can split the plate with your fellow carpoolers, or take the leftovers to-go. If you don't share or pack it up, you won't have room for a bowl of hand-pulled noodles and an order of the homeland meat cake, a delicate meat lasagna of sorts, with minced meat alternatively layered between thin sheets of dough. 846 E. Garvey Ave., Monterey Park; (626) 288-3818; Tuesday – Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Cash only.
5. Bánh Mì & Chè Cali (Del Mar Ave. Exit). There are so many bánh mì joints sitting in such close proximity on Valley Boulevard and Garvey Avenue that it's surprising that they all have managed to avoid cannibalizing each other. Banh Mi & Chè Cali is singled out here because it's bound to satisfy whatever craving you have. The bánh mì sandwiches are excellent (ask for yours on a baguette if you don't particularly take to having your sandwich on a thick French roll), but there's also a decent bowl of phở if you really can't make it to Phở Filet down the street. A generous assortment of pastries and chè (Vietnamese desserts) will give you the boost you need for the rest of your commute. 7968 Garvey Ave., Rosemead; (626) 572-3788; Daily 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
4. Shin-Sen-Gumi Hakata Ramen (Walnut Grove Ave. Exit). If the traffic has made you crazy for a soup a little more hearty than pho, ramen should do the trick. At Hakata Ramen, you customize your bowl of ramen the way you would customize your burger at The Counter: you choose the soup base, you choose the firmness of the noodles, and you choose the veggies and meats that will top off your soup. After handing your fate to the traffic gods, it's nice to take back a little control. 8450 E. Valley Blvd., Suite 103., Rosemead; (626) 572-8646; Monday – Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday – Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
3. Phở Filet (Rosemead Exit). There are possibly as many phở joints as there bánh mì joints in the SGV, and every few months, the baton for the best bowl of Vietnamese soup is passed on to the next new find. Phở Filet still is making laps around the track; its fans love the phở bac, the Northern Vietnamese version of phở, with thicker noodles than its Southern counterpart and served with paper-thin slices of filet mignon. Ask for the meat on the side, so you can cook it in the hot soup at your leisure. 9463 E Garvey Ave., Unit A, El Monte; (626) 453-8911; Monday, Wednesday-Sunday 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
2. Birrieria La Barca Jalisco (Valley Blvd. Exit on the 10W / Santa Anita Ave. Exit on the 10E). While Birrieria La Barca Jalisco offers the usual suspects of al pastor tacos, burritos, and the like, goat is the specialty here. And while it is good, the real stars might be the supporting cast: the homemade corn tortillas and fresh batches of tortilla chips are addicting, as are, surprisingly, the refried beans. 10817 Valley Mall, El Monte; (626) 452-2121; Daily, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
1. Art's Take Out Burgers (Peck Rd Exit). Art's is an El Monte institution, a little shack that's a bit like In-N-Out version 2.0. The burgers are remarkably similar to the ones at In-N-Out, down to the thin patty, but instead of fries, you can have your burger with a side of onion rings. You also have your choice of chili dogs, breakfast burritos, and steak sandwiches. Version 2.0 doesn't include Biblical cites hidden in plain sight, which, depending on your persuasion, may or may not convince you to try this upgrade. 11629 E Valley Blvd., El Monte; (626) 442-7554; Monday – Saturday 7 a.m. to 12 a.m., Sunday 8 a.m. to 12 a.m.