Leading up to this year's Best of L.A. issue (due out Oct. 3), we'll be bringing you periodic lists of some of the best things we've found to eat and drink around town. Ice cream sandwiches and bowls of tsukemen, fish tacos and dan dan mien, cups of boba and glasses of booze. Read on.
There are few things in Los Angeles more satisfying than a hike. The Southland is littered with trails that offer scenic overlooks of the entire city, ocean horizon lines and year-round waterfalls tucked into steep canyon cliffs. And after a miles-long trek through the dust and chaparral, you can return to civilization by stuffing your face at a nearby restaurant.
That's really what it's all about, right? Working off the calories so you can eat whatever you want and not feel bad about it. That's what these four great post-hike eateries offer: the chance to enjoy yourself, unabashedly, after you've huffed, puffed and sweated yourself dizzy for a few miles. Maybe you want fried food, or a nice meaty burger, or a pulled pork sandwich made by a real life cowboy. With these hikes — and the eateries that exist near them — you've got all of those options, and more.
Some hikes offer interesting scenery, others emanate a picturesque view; and then there are the ones that make your legs burn. You can have all three, if you want them, at Solstice Canyon, which sits just off of the PCH near Malibu. For the uninitiated, there's a loosely paved, flat pathway that works through the canyon's greenery to the ruins of an old mansion, complete with old fireplace. If you're up for the challenge, take the high road through the hills for sweeping ocean views and some fat-burning action. That's probably the path for you, considering you're about to lay your hands on some fish and chips.
Malibu Seafood is one of the best spots for fish and chips in all of Los Angeles, and it's just south of the canyon on the Pacific Coast Highway. The locals know how good they've got it, so expect a line on the weekends for their insanely fresh cod that comes squared off and thickly fried. It's greasy fare that will leave your fingers shining as you snack away on one of the bright red picnic tables that have their own ocean views. Starchy, warm, tender and satisfying, Malibu Seafood's cod fish and chips are the perfect rejuvenation after your Solstice Canyon hike. Or the best reason for a nap in the sand. 25653 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; 310-456-3430.
See also: 10 Best Fish & Chips in Los Angeles
If your whole goal with hiking is to shed some pounds, the Scenic Overlook in Baldwin Hills will certainly get you there. Even the paved, winding path for weak-willed hikers is a lesson in humility, especially during a hot summer day. But real death-wishers opt for the stairs, a grueling set of stone blocks that are higher and deeper than your average staircase. Imagine doing lunges for a quarter mile … up a hill … That's what the stairs at the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook is like. And when you're done, you can re-up on your protein levels with a big, meaty burger.
About a mile north of the trailhead is JNJ Burger Shack on West Adams, a throwback stand that's a hybrid burger joint and BBQ walk-up. You can order from either side, really, but if you really want to go all out, stick to the burger side and opt for the Four Finger Burger. It's a 20 minute wait, but what arrives is a tower of ground beef that is as unstoppable as it is delicious. Imagine two burger patties, two American cheese slices, strips of bacon and a split hot link on top, plus an egg for anyone keeping score. You should also imagine bringing a friend along for the hike and the burger, because you're going to want some company around for both. 5754 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-934-5390.
It would be impossible to offer one single hike to anyone interested in traipsing through the brush in Griffith Park. The sprawling urban oasis is criss-crossed with so many trails you could very well start on one hike and end up doing a completely different path. But no matter which fork in the dust you choose, everyone agrees that the best place to finish your session is at Trails Cafe.
The small, woodsy shack on Fern Dell Drive has long been a rest stop for hikers coming and going through the park. Trails Cafe is a natural fit with the scenery, pushed under some sequoia trees with perfect patio seating. There are sandwiches and salads, hotdogs and quiche, coffee for breakfast and ice cream for dessert. Trails Cafe is simple if you want it, complex and meaty when you're ravenous, and always teeming with fellow trail seekers. And when combined with your city-adjacent hike through Griffith Park, it's always going to be exactly what you need to finish off your day. 2333 Fern Dell, Griffith Park; 323-871-2102.
As a jumping off point for the wider Angeles National Forest, Big Santa Anita Canyon is impressive. There are miles of trails, back country campsites for the brave, multiple waterfalls and rustic Civilian Conservation Corps cabins from generations ago. Hikers have their run of the place, with wide pathways through much of the initial forest and thinner, less-traveled byways into the deep forest for seasoned backwoods campers. If this is your first time up the hill north of Arcadia, the Sturtevant Falls hike is a must-do, with a shallow wading pool at its base to cool down once you've meandered the few miles in to see the splendor. And when you're done, you can relax on a back porch in the woods while an honest to goodness cowboy makes pulled pork over an open campfire.
Just so we're clear: you can't always get the pulled pork at Adams' Pack Station at the top of Santa Anita Avenue. Eric, the chaps-wearing Westerner with spurs on his boots, only slow cooks his proprietary brand of pork butt on the third weekend of every month. But when he does, boy is it a treat. The swine is set to simmer over an open campfire for hours, right in front of the pack station itself, which otherwise outfits hikers with maps, snacks, handkerchiefs and the all-important Adventure Passes for the forest itself.
Once pulled and finished, the pork is tucked into a warm and waiting French roll, with a pickle spear on the side. If you so choose, Eric will even toss on a pile of blue cheese for a tangy, cheesy finish. Otherwise, just enjoy the offerings with a cold Sierra Nevada from the confines of the dusty pack station porch. More than likely someone will be playing the banjo or harmonica nearby, and the pack mules that haul in supplies to isolated cabins and give the pack station its name are just behind the barn. The scene is idyllic, the hike to Sturtevant Falls rejuvenating, and the pulled pork sandwich at Adams' Pack Station is among the best you'll find. At least this far into the woods, anyway. 1835 N. Santa Anita Ave., Angeles Nat'l Forest; 626-447-7356.
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