Downtown's Greenbar Distillery, which bills itself as the first distillery in Los Angeles since Prohibition, has this year created a new bottle, called City Bright. This gin is an ode to L.A., according to founders Litty Mathew and Melkon Khosrovian.
"This gin comes from our love for Los Angeles' immigrant restaurants," Mathew said in an email. "Eating fresh mint at the Armenian sandwich shop. Drinking lapsang souchong tea at our favorite Sichuan restaurant. Indian spices in Mexican tortas." Read on to see which restaurants in particular inspired Mathew and Khosrovian in the making of this gin. It's an excellent guide to understanding L.A. and tasting the best the county has to offer.
Los Cinco Puntos
"Longtime Boyle Heights favorite has among the best burritos but also a little market with dried chilies and other Mexican cooking essentials."
3300 E. Cesar Chavez Ave., Boyle Heights; (323) 261-4084, los5puntos.com.
"No trip to LAX is complete without a refueling stop in Inglewood. Strong spices, mellowed out with long cooking, are what make Pakistani comfort foods a favorite."
13619 S. Inglewood Ave., Hawthorne; (310) 644-6395, alwatanrestaurant.com.
"It’s the bright salads with lots of lemon and mint that bring us to this Glendale spot. Great counterpoint to the lamb kebabs."
1110 S. Glendale Ave., Glendale; facebook.com/varoujskabobs.
"This is the real Hollywood power breakfast. Porridges and side dishes with lots of kaffir lime and basil."
5265 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 467-8935.
Best Noodle House
"The San Gabriel Valley has plenty of Sichuan-style restaurants. But we love this one for its balance of tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorn, star anise and cassia, especially in cold dishes."
9329 Valley Blvd., Rosemead; (626) 782-7432, bestnoodlehouse.com.
Skaf Lebanese Cuisine
"Glendale knows what to do with mint. It’s usually served with the minced raw beef kibbeh nayeh. Cinnamon in the chicken soup is unusual and tasty."
367 N. Chevy Chase Drive, Glendale; (818) 551-5540.
"South L.A. showcase for ancho chilies and lime and to hang out with people who like mole."
322 E. Washington Blvd., downtown; (213) 749-8723.
"Mostly a snack shop but important if you want every spice in the same bite."
11814 186th St., Artesia; (562) 860-2310, suratifarsan.com.
Thien An Bo 7 Mon
"This is the place you go with eight of your closest friends. The star anise in the broths and unusual fresh herbs like 'fish' mint, Vietnamese cilantro and lemon balm have kept us going back for years."
8837 Valley Blvd., Rosemead; (626) 286-6665.
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SHOW ME HOW
"We usually run into someone we know at this stalwart of the East Hollywood Thai scene. Sometimes we go just to have the lime and chili dipping sauce served with the beef jerky."
5257 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; (323) 466-0153, ruenpairla.com.
Quesadillas JaJaJa Betty
"Next to the produce mart in DTLA, this truck has been a favorite since we moved here. We first tasted herbs like papalo, the arugla-/watercress-like herb, here. All of Betty’s salsas are outstanding."