At the stroke of midnight, when October turns into November, all jack-o-lanterns must be spun 180 degrees to begin the second phase of their porch careers. While one side plays the role of generic autumnal decoration, the other succumbs to rot. Before long, the entire sphere collapses in on itself.
This putrid scene encapsulates the state of America’s relationship with the pumpkin itself. Having been forced upon us for generations as Halloween props, holiday pies, PSLs, and now perfunctory Instagram photo pit-stop, the big orange squash’s role in our lives has become stale and unappealing as that moldy lump on the stoop. The silver lining to this stagnancy is that it’s forced chefs and restaurants to experiment with the wide spectrum of other edible gourds out there, refining our collective palates in the process.
To that end, we compiled a list of our seven favorite “other gourd” dishes from around L.A. to help all you pumpkin haters get through the next few months.
Autumn Pear & Roasted Butternut Squash Salad ($12) at The Milky Way
Spielberg family matriarch and restaurateur Leah Adler ran the Pico-Robertson’s Kosher hotspot, The Milky Way, with her husband for more than 40 years, leaving an indelible mark on the local community. Today, nearly three years after her passing, the spot has reopened with a new menu and revamped dining room that serves modern takes on kosher classics, while still honoring Adler’s legacy. Beyond the traditional comfort food you’ll find year round, they’ve just unveiled a new fall menu that includes an autumn pear and roasted butternut squash salad, covered with walnuts, goat cheese and balsamic that delivers warm, earthy flavors in a healthy-but-filling package.
The Milky Way, 9108 W Pico Blvd, Pico-Robertson; (310) 859-0004, milkywayla.com.
Roasted Delicata Squash ($16) at Atrium
Butternut’s sweeter, nutrient-rich cousin delicate is a relatively new entry to the epicurean forum, having only been developed in the ’80. Los Feliz “greenhouse-inspired” dining spot Atrium gives this rising star its due with an entree dish complements the squash’s natural zest with pomegranate, kinako brown butter and sage.
Atrium, 1816 N Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; (323) 607 6944.
Squash Pie ($25) at True Food Kitchen
This health-conscious seasonal restaurant’s pumpkin pie alternative has become a sleeper hit and a surefire way to mix things up at family get-togethers. I mean, it’s already one of Oprah’s “favorite things.” Who are we to disagree with the queen?
Kal Guk Soo ($10.95) at Hangari Bajirak Kalguksoo
Nondescript Korean restaurants with stellar menus are all around if you know where to look, and K-town’s premiere Kal Guk Soo spot offers some of the best in the city. What sets their noodly soup dish apart are the slices of kabocha squash on top, adding a pop of fruitiness to the umami-rich broth.
Hangari Bajirak Kalguksoo, 3470 W 6th St., Koreatown; (213) 388-2326
Berbere Spiced Winter Squash Agnolotti ($22.00) at Baco Mercat
Chef Josef Centeno blessed us with another banger at his hit DTLA restaurant. Served with brown butter, sheep’s feta and grapes, these pasta pouches are bursting with complex flavors and are a welcome addition to the new seasonal menu.
Baco Mercat, 408 S Main St., downtown; (213) 687-8808.
Maine Lobster ($50) at Mar’sel
For those looking for dishes with squash in a supporting role, check out Mar’sel’s novel take on lobster, which is served with a butternut squash puree, as well as burrata, uni, golden raisins and handmade pappardelle pasta.
Mar’sel, 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes; (310) 265-2836.
Spicy Tuna Tartare with Zucchini Chips ($27) at The Tower Bar
I bet you thought we’d forget about the humble zucchini, but no list of pumpkin dish alternatives would be complete without it. Rather than steer you toward the dime-a-dozen iterations of zucchini fries out there, let’s take this in a classier direction with Tower Bar’s zucchini chips, best used for shoveling heaps of tartare into one’s mouth.
The Tower Bar, 8358 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood; (323) 654-7100.
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