Not all strip malls are created equal. Some massive operations feature handfuls of possible eateries, from vegan home cooking to coffee beans roasted in-house. Others, like the diminutive strip mall on the corner of Fletcher Drive and the last remaining dregs of Silver Lake Boulevard, don't even catch your eye at first. But tucked away in this corner strip mall is a Mexican food stop courtesy of the same folks who keep you well-fed in late-night carne asada fries and a desolate Thai place. There's always a desolate Thai place.
Silver Lakers already know the truck version of Gus's Lunch Box. It's the one that sets up shop in front of the Cha Cha Lounge, corralling drinkers into greasy decisions. The truck proved so popular with cash-wielding young adults that the crew decided to try their hand at the four-walls-and-a-roof model of restaurateuring, and opened up in the old Rosellin Pizza space around the corner. It's a tough sell getting locals to eat your food for lunch AND dinner (especially with Astro Diner so close), but Gus's minimalist outfit seems to be doing all right so far.
The tables are as expected: slightly sticky on top, perpetually wobbly, and the menu board is mostly photos and dollar signs, punctuated here and there with item descriptions in a font that is most easily described as Zubaz-style. There are also a few nuclear warning signs in bold yellow backing, letting the gringos know that “If You Order The Super HOT Sauce on Your Food Than The Super Hot Sauce Is Very Extremely Super Mother F**king HOT For Most Of You!! No BS.” So there's that.
Beyond the subtle signage about hot sauces, Gus's menu is a pretty straightforward rendition of a cheap San Diego taqueria. That means lots of carne asada, chopped and left to stew in its own juices for a bit, which makes the meat a little wet, a little greasy and very, very salty. With the burritos, there are all sorts of extraneous ingredients to help you soak up the sodium, including fresh lettuce and lots of guacamole. Your affinity for this sort of Mexican food usually depends on how many Moscow Mules you've had to drink; the burritos are meant to soak up your bar tab, but eating it for lunch could mean a food coma. Especially if you decided on the cheesy, goopy, starchy carne asada fries, which are actually pretty good. Gus's Lunch Box (the restaurant) is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and happily accepts credit cards. 2320 Fletcher Drive, Silver Lake; (213) 631-8250.
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You probably already have an idea of what Thai Taste looks like inside, even if you've never stepped foot in the place. Most Thai strip mall spots tend to have a similar decor, with one boldly painted wall, a few oddly framed paintings of elephants or something, and one touch (white tablecloths, nice bowls perhaps) that try to show the world how classy they can really be. But at the end of the day, all any of us want from our local Thai place is warmth and fire, peanuts and noodles, hangover cures and late-night Netflix companions. In that light, Thai Taste delivers exactly what you're looking for.
Lunch specials are a nice option, at $6 for smallish portions of chicken panang or pad prik king. Other entrees, like the teriyaki chicken or Mongolian beef, won't regale you with their delicate Thai flavors, but at $6 with a side of chow mein, it's hard to complain. And — this being Silver Lake and all — you can get any of the combos with soy instead of animal protein for a dollar extra.
The rest of Thai Taste's menu is a takeout eater's delight, with sloppy noodles galore and a nice selection of stir-fry plates. The Musmun curry (also known as Massaman curry) is a Muslim peanut interpretation of a classic Thai curry that isn't widely seen, served often with chicken and always with large, round chunks of potato. Add a side of brown rice, you observant Silver Lakers, and enjoy each soupy, hearty spoonful. Thai Taste is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and will take your Visa without comment. 2328 Fletcher Drive, Silver Lake; (323) 666-2464.
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