Thursday, July 10, 2008

Downtown Dining, Cheap Eats Edition

Yogurt Land in Little Tokyo boasts around 30 flavors of frozen yogurt, which can leave a gluttonous patron with one heck-of-a brain freeze. The instinct to try everything, combine flavors, and create a small sculpture in your cup is irresistible since you serve yourself and can pile on the fruit toppings (raspberry, strawberry, mango), “dry” toppings (peanut butter cups, mochi, sprinkles), or “cold” toppings (cookie dough, brownie bits, cheesecake bits). Yogurt flavors range from classic to exotic, with taro, mango, pumpkin and green tea right next to pistachio and espresso. My artistic creation of peanut butter, chocolate, cheesecake and cookies n’ cream yogurts with Oreos, white chocolate chips, brownie bits and chocolate sauce came to just $3.75—you pay by weight. 130 S. Central Ave. Los Angeles.

George’s Greek CafĂ©: someone tell the cooks in back that it’s spelled GREECE, not GREASE! But when they get it right, and they often do, it’s very good. Brave the long lunch line which moves surprisingly quickly, and try the Spanakopita (flaky phyllo filled with spinach, feta and spices) with a dollop of tzantiziki, a yogurt, garlic, mint and cucumber sauce ($8.25), or play it safe with a lamb Gyro ($6.49). Don’t forget the vegetarian Dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves, $3.94) and the equally unpronounceable Keftethes--ask the waiter for the “meatball things,” he hears that all the time ($3.94). 7th and Figueroa, in the downstairs food court.

Super Torta is one of those great Los Angeles hole-in-the-wall joints that City workers know so well—and the place is packed with them. For readers who derive their knowledge of Mexican food from the drive-through menu at Taco Bell (like myself), a torta is a Mexican sandwich served on a fluffy variation of a baguette, called a bolillo, with guacamole, meat, tomatoes, onions and peppers. The bolillo is the secret to this sandwich’s success- the pillowy middle absorbs the meat juices and sauce almost like a French dip from Philippe’s, but is saved from sogginess by a toasty outer edge. Don’t let the spicy pickled carrot appetizer scare you, it’s actually pretty good. Bring a friend fluent in Spanish to order, or just point and smile like I do—the waitresses are very understanding. Prices are around $6. 360 S Alvarado.