Art’s Delicatessen. Pastrami guys come and pastrami guys go, but what remains
constant is the ancient secret of the Wedge, which is to say the time-honored
configuration of bread and mustard and meat that makes an ordinarily overstuffed
delicatessen sandwich look like a sandwich that could eat you for lunch instead.
A true Wedge master could make a single slice of Hebrew National salami look like
a feast bountiful enough to feed the entire upper deck at Dodger Stadium. It’s
like the loaves-and-fishes thing — Jesus was a Jewish boy: He knew how it should
be done. The Wedge may be found in its platonic form at Art’s Deli, which has
been hardening the arteries of the faithful since the ’50s. If your pleasures
take a more tubular dimension, Art’s makes one hell of a knackwurst, too. 12224
Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 762-1221. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and
dinner. Beer and wine. Valet parking. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $13–$36.
AE, D, MC, V. Jewish Deli.
JG $
Mr. Baguette. Mr. Baguette, a Vietnamese sandwich shop in Rosemead, makes
its own high-quality charcuterie — ham and headcheese and steamed pork loaves
— that it sells separately by the pound, and bakes its own baguettes. There are
fresh fruit smoothies, ham and cheese croissants, Vietnamese iced coffee, and
pickled vegetables that come packaged separately from the banh mi sandwiches in
little Baggies, so that you can garnish yours to taste. For a quarter extra, you
can get the banh mi made on a fresh baguette frosted with toasted sesame seeds.
8702 E. Valley Blvd., Rosemead, (626) 288-9166. Seven days, 6 p.m.–9 p.m. No
alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. Sandwiches, $2–$3.95. Cash only. Vietnamese-French.

JG ¢
Father’s Office. At the microbrew fiefdom known as Father’s Office, whose
souvenir baseball caps read “F.O.,” dining is a full-contact sport. There are
no reservations, no minors allowed, and no menu substitutions permitted. There
is also no line, no wait list and nobody keeping track of seating, so if you want
one of the few tables in the bar (and, practically speaking, it is impossible
to eat the bar’s food standing up), you will have to circle the room until somebody
gets ready to leave, then plunge into a scrum. The signature burger is dry-aged
beef cooked exceptionally rare, dressed with onions cooked down to the sweetness
of maple syrup, Gruyère and Maytag blue cheeses, smoky bacon, arugula and a tomato
compote, all on a French roll. Is the Father’s Office cheeseburger delicious?
Of course. Does the effort required to acquire it resemble something out of Fear
Factor? Definitely so. 1018 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 393-2337,
Food served Mon.–Wed. 5–10 p.m., Thurs. 5–11 p.m., Fri. 4–11 p.m., Sat. 3–11 p.m.,
Sun. 3–10 p.m. 21 and over only. Beer and wine. Takeout. Difficult street parking.
AE, M, V. Dishes $4–$15. European Bar Food.
JG $
Maple Drive. Founded by Leonard Schwartz, an excellent chef who recently
left the world of expense-account cuisine to fashion the Zeke’s barbecue chain,
Maple Drive was a prime mover in the comfort-food movement that validated chicken
in the pot, meat loaf, and macaroni and cheese for the sort of diners who had
heretofore supped on truffled pâté. The current chef, Spago alum Vincent Manna,
is clearly an adventurous fellow, a man whose soul speaks through foie gras, sings
in the key of ponzu, expresses itself in lavender plum jus. Can Manna pan-sear
black cod or New Zealand snapper with the best of them? He can indeed. But there’s
pizza on the menu now, too. And it wouldn’t be Maple Drive without a cheeseburger
on the menu at lunch. 345 N. Maple Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 274-9800. Lunch
Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Dinner Mon.-Sat. 6 p.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 5:30 p.m.-9:30
p.m. Full bar. Takeout. Lot parking. AE, M, V. American.
JG $$
The Hungry Cat. The Hungry Cat is the restaurant a lot of us in Los Angeles
have been waiting for, a local answer to Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco or
New York’s Pearl Oyster Bar, a place to drop into for a dozen oysters or a bowl
of shrimp, a boiled crab or a bowl of chowder. The wine list is tiny, but includes
a ton of obscure seafood-friendly wines — Picpoul de Pinet, anyone? — and everything
is available by the glass. The crab cake, more crab than cake, is tasty if modestly
portioned, made from what the establishment claims is a 100-year-old Baltimore
recipe. The primary object of desire here is the lobster roll, an abstracted rendition
of the New England beach-shack standard transformed into a split, crisp, rectangular
object about the size of a Twinkie. In Cape Porpoise, the $22 it costs would buy
you a lobster the size of a small pony. But we are in Hollywood, where the next
acceptable lobster roll may be 2,800 miles away. 1535 N. Vine St., Hollywood,
(323) 462-2155,
Mon.–Fri. 5:30 p.m.–mid., Sat. 3 p.m.–mid., Sun. 5:30–11 p.m. Beer and wine. Validated
parking. AE, MC, V. Small plates $8–$22. Seafood.
JG $$
The Shack. The Shack is a manly place, a place that hosts Jaegergirl promotions,
a place where a man can watch the Lakers and drink a Rusty Nail. The Shack is
also an archetypal beach hamburger dive, the kind of vaguely nautical-looking
place where most of the clientele seem to treat the food as something to soak
up the beer: cheesesteaks, chiliburgers, fries. The basic unit of exchange at
The Shack is something called the Shack Burger, a quarter-pound of charred ground
beef and a Louisiana sausage crammed together in a bun. The Shack Burger seems
repellent on the surface, and it will seem repellent an hour after you eat one,
but like your favorite punk rock song, a Shack Burger is three minutes of pure
greatness, all grease and smoke and snap. 2518 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica,
(310) 449-1171; 185 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey, (310) 823-6222. Open daily for
lunch and dinner. Lunch for two, food only, $9-$14. Full bar. Takeout. AE, D,
V. American.
JG ¢
Yung Ho Tou Chiang. Yung Ho Tou Chiang’s got buns: flaky buns stuffed with
sweet, simmered turnips; steamed buns filled with spiced pork or black mushrooms;
crusty fried pies stuffed with pungent messes of sautéed leek tops; steamed pork
dumplings bursting with juice. The traditional accompaniment to soy milk is a
long, twisted, light-as-air cruller, and Yung Ho does them well. For another buck
or so, you can get the cruller smeared with a salty paste of pounded meat and
wrapped inside a cylinder of sticky rice, simulating the texture of a good sushi
roll. 533 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 570-0860. Breakfast, lunch and
dinner seven days 6:30 a.m.–6 p.m. Beer. Lot parking. Cash only. Food for two,
$5–$10. Chinese.
JG ¢

LA Weekly