For some reason, The Wallace in Culver City goes kind of unappreciated by Los Angeles at large. Perhaps it's because when it opened, in December of 2013, the California-cuisine small plates menu seemed pretty similar to a lot of other places in town. Perhaps it's because less than a year after its opening the chef changed, and it's hard to keep track when personnel changes so fast. But people who live in Culver City know that The Wallace and its current chef, Joel Miller, are turning out some of the neighborhood's best food in one of its most convivial rooms.
Miller came on in August of last year, and his prior experience working in the kitchens at Scratch Bar and Cleo show here — he's taken much of Scratch Bar's creativity, and also many of the Mediterranean flavors found at Cleo, and turned them into a style of his own. He has a way with charcuterie, with vegetables (there's a whole portion of the menu dedicated to creative takes, such as sunchokes in a red bell pepper vinaigrette with labneh, turmeric oil and sumac) and with international flavors.
So what does a guy with such diverse influences eat when he's not working? A lot of pizza (and burgers, too). Miller gives us a rundown of his 10 favorite spots, many of them in the Valley. “I grew up in Northridge, and currently live in Lake Balboa,” Miller says. ” I just moved to a house there from my apartment in Sherman Oaks. I. Fucking. Love. The. Valley.”
10. Pizzasaurus Rex
“I'm biased because I've been coming here since I was a kid, but the pizza is killer. Imagine if Domino's was really, really, really good. Also gets points for best restaurant name ever.” 17646 Lassen St., Northridge. (818) 772-7739. northridgepizzasaurusrex.com.
9. Laurel Tavern
“As far as gastropubs go, this is the measuring stick. The Chorizo Sliders with pickled peppers, avocado emulsion and white cheddar can't be beat. Great food, beer and a no-B.S. attitude make this place special.” 11938 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. (818) 506-0777. laureltavern.com.
8. Irv's Burgers
“The burgers are great (I opt for a standard cheeseburger with everything), but it's the attentiveness from the staff that I love. Sonia is always there smiling, happy, energetic and ready to draw a picture of you on your plate.” 7998 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. (323) 650-2456, irvsburgers.com.
7. Cemitas Poblanas Don Adrian
“Huge, delicious sandwiches that pack a ton of flavor. The #3 Lomo De Puerco with avocado, onions, peppers and queso oaxaca is mind-blowing.” 14902 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys. (818) 786-0328.
6. Bay Cities Italian Deli
“One word: Godmother. Yeah, everybody loves it, but who cares? It's really that good. And now Uber delivers Godmother sandwiches on Wednesdays, so I can avoid the lines and have it come to me. I'll get a few of them a week and pass out halves to my staff.” 1517 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 395-8279, baycitiesitaliandeli.com.
5. Nikki's Pizza
“On the menu there are weird pizza combinations suitable only for stoners of the highest degree, but don't be fooled — these guys can make a killer New York-style pie.” 16851 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys. (818) 373-7300, nikkispizza.net.
4. Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle Annex
“The best damn ramen in Los Angeles. Thick, chewy noodles and an intensely flavorful broth put this place ahead of all other ramen spots.” 2050 Sawtelle Blvd., Sawtelle. (310) 231-0222, tsujita-la.com.
3. Jon & Vinny's
“It's all about the meatballs there. I honestly can't remember eating a better one.” 412 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax. (323) 334-3369, jonandvinnys.com.
2. Nat's Early Bite Coffee Shop
“I've been coming here more and more recently, and all I've ever had is the chilaquiles with chorizo and a combination of their red and green sauces. The homemade salsa is phenomenal and perfectly balanced. I could probably eat it without anything else. On the weekends there's always a sizable wait, but it's worth it.” 14115 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 781-3040, natsearlybite.com.
“Some of the best mole in town, but what I come here for is the barbacoa roja de chivo. A large bowl of young goat with broth and a side of tortillas. Pair that with a Margarita Guelaguetza or five and call it a night.” 3014 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown. (213) 427-0608. ilovemole.com.