Rob Eshman, “Foodaism” food blogger from the Jewish Journal, says “It is not a great food city. It is an almost-very good one.” This remark in his recent article is answer to Saveur’s #127th LA issue featuring the best of LA. Although the famous magazine showcased the most interesting, popular, and hungered for cuisines of LA, it seemed that to convince Eshman would be a feat impossible to achieve. Let us deviate from the usual food reviews and delve deeper into this interesting premise.
First let’s see what Saveur prides as LA at its best. A few of these places are: Pizzeria Mozza (a collaboration between Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joseph Bastianich) that Eshman describes as an “idea of the ideal”, Koreatown as described by LA Weekly, Gourmet Magazine, and Pulitzer winner Jonathan Gold, Thai town in the eyes of Saveur editor James Oseland, Wolfgang Puck as the “King of LA”, Little Saigon and its exotic offerings, San Gabriel Valley and its many unknown locations for amazing Asian food (happy to say my personal favorite, Savoy was featured, but Din Tai Fung was unnoticed), deli giants Langer’s, Nate ‘n Al’s, Canter’s, and many more places most of us die hard foodies cannot live without.
But even when most of us know how these places and many more satisfy our most discerning palates, the critic in everyone will always have something to say-good or bad. That is the very reason why Eshman’s article tickled the very critic inside me. Is it really true? Are we jaded by the glitz and glamour that we are blind to the many deficiencies of the LA food scene? Are we so into the fads and hypes that we have forgotten the essence of food? Here are Eshman’s 10 reasons why Saveur is wrong about LA, and my 2-cents with it.
1. “Restaurants close too early”. Oh My! What time do people really eat then? There are always places anywhere in LA that will serve you good food with a smile 24hours a day/7 days a week if you suddenly wake up at 4am craving for anything from the usual grease to a salad.
2. “Much of LA is a food desert”. To a point, yes. But only because some of the better places are not necessarily within the reach of everyone. Think-my preference may not be within my geographical location.
3. “Angelenos eat to live. They don’t live to eat”. But isn’t it true for everything else in life? We work to live within our means, not live to work. We keep healthy to live longer, not live longer so we can eat healthy. Besides it’s better to curb our eating habits, what with the recession and all.
4. “Supermarkets and cars ganged up to strangle LA’s food culture”. Driving doesn’t seem that bad when we need to get what we really want, believe me, people will go anywhere for anything they desire. Besides that I agree, Trader Joe’s is a gift to LA.
5. “The Coffee culture is below average”. Depends where you get your coffee, because mine is as strong as it gets, and the culture is as burgeoning and even better than any city I know, and NO, I do not mean Starbucks. It’s more like Insomnia, the Sunset row, etc.
6. “Driving makes for a mediocre bar scene”. I agree about our public transportation, but do not agree with the mediocre bar scene. And I am an expert on this “bar scene”. Take a cab, Yellowcab- (800)200-0063.
7. “There are too few outdoor dining options”. I agree.
8. “We have the best beaches and the best weather, and some of the worst beachside dining in the world”. Except for Santa Monica Pier and it’s gastro hubs, I agree.
9. “No one comes to LA for the food”. But who does anyway? If you want to go anywhere else beyond your square footage, do you not come for the attraction, and the food comes secondary?
10. “The fresh, local food scene has not permeated beyond the precious”. I agree to a point, the market has not been proven to be supportive of this cause, therefore not many entrepreneurs pursue this route.
LA is such a colossal mecca of gastronomy that it is impossible to know and feature all of its best, and that makes it also easy to feature its mediocre and its worst. I may sound a little biased because I am in love with my LA, but it is but a fact. To have so much places and so little time to scour and devour everything in LA, one is sure to miss the best dishes while assuming what is on the plate is already the ripest of the crop. I am not one to battle against Eshman as his tongue is different from mine, his experience may be more extensive than mine, and his palate may have tasted more of LA than mine. But I say before we judge, let us completely and with abandon explore LA as far and wide as possible. Because, as it is true for any city, the best may sometimes be stuck in the hole in the wall, obscure, unassuming locations. LA will need more improvement as it is not perfect, and I will never claim it to be. But I know it is a great, diverse, and delicious melting pot that can satisfy any hunger, even the loudest, and harshest of critics.