Friday, March 28, 2008

Anglophile in Downtown L.A.

Discovering Downtown Dining

Since starting work in the City, I’ve spent many a lunch hour pondering what corner, alley and car lined street to explore in my tireless quest for really good food. My wanderings have taken me as near as the all-you-can-eat sushi buffet at Kyoto in the Wilshire Grand, and as far as Howard’s Famous Bacon Avocado Burgers on the corner of Venice and Dufresne. But out of all the diverse dining options available, these are the three I keep returning to in the heart of Downtown L.A.

Take the A Dash to City Hall, but don’t bask in its art deco grandeur for too long—instead, walk in the opposite direction towards Main and 2nd Street where you’ll find the Pitfire Pizza Company. If you’re looking for an after work dinner spot, the Pitfire Pizza Co. has a special going: $10 for a pint and an individual cheese pizza, or $20 for a pitcher and a large cheese pizza from 3pm until closing. But for lunch, this spot is hard to beat—you can create your own gourmet pizza that features fresh organic vegetables and nitrate, hormone, and antibiotic free meat, or enjoy one of their many seasonal specialties (like winter squash ravioli in a sage butter sauce). Paninis, salads, pastas and soups are also on the menu, often giving classic favorites like Mac & Cheese (with gruyere, mozzarella, gorgonzola and Parmesan) a unique twist. Prices range from $5-$10 for an entrée (but beware the $2.00 bottled water—that’s expensive!).

On the other side of City Hall, venture to 640 North Spring St. for the best Southern barbeque in the West: the Spring Street Smokehouse. Before it was redesigned in the hip trendster-tool-shed style, the Spring Street Smokehouse was known only to intrepid city workers willing to investigate hole-in-the-wall eateries. Now it’s a well known hangout, but you can still grab a spot at a checker-clothed picnic table and munch some sliced bread (an invention surpassed by nearly everything since 1928) while you stare in awe at the carnivore-friendly menu. My favorite is the pulled pork sandwich, which is so full of juicy bbq sauce-flooded pork, topped with cool and creamy coleslaw, that you wouldn’t dare eat it with your hands. The babyback ribs, slow smoked sliced brisket sandwich, and even a deep-fried whole turkey (which must be ordered in advance) keep customers coming back. Someday I hope to save room for their bourbon bread pudding… Prices hover around $5-$8, and you get two “sides” for $2 (hush puppies, French fries, baked beans etc.)

Ciudad, on 5th and Figueroa, is a great place to unwind with a $4 mojito, margarita or sangria after work (paired with $4 tacos). The chefs of Ciudad, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, take their inspiration from South America, Central America, Cuba, Spain, and Portugal, to create unique and flavorful dishes such as their Brazilian Seafood Moqueca with mussels, clams and shrimp in a coconut lime broth. One of the house specialties is the Peruvian Ceviche appetizer—white fish marinated in lime, ginger and aji amarillo chile, which is as healthy as it is delicious. Health is a priority at Ciudad, which uses seasonal, locally grown organic ingredients, sustainable seafood, and hormone and antibiotic free meats—and all menu items are trans fat free. If you’re around on April 12th, sign up for their South American Fiesta Cooking Class, taught by the master chefs themselves! Lunch appetizers are $5-$11, entrees from $12-$18, and dinner entrees are from $16 - $29.

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