The Lab Gastropub at USC [DTLA]

The Lab is a gastropub located across the street from USC. In the spirit of gastropubs and wine bars, like Bar FoodWestside Tavern, and Bacaro, The Lab features nice selection of libations and food.
With dozens beers on draft & bottled to go with reds & whites , The Lab has a drink for almost everyone. The school science themed restaurant has a large outdoor patio with a big fire pit. There’s also a private section for parties, which also spills outdoors to comfy seating. Inside the main dining room, there a couple of large communal tables. I’ve always liked communal tables, since we can people watch and see what others are munching on. With few chalk blackboards around the room, the places maintains the school theme. Even the restrooms and menus, which are presented on clipboards, feature a science feel.
I decided today to have the Beer Can Chicken Sandwich with truffle mac and cheese, while Miss C had the The Lab burger with sweet potato fries. Though these burgers and sandwiches aren’t cheap for 10 and 12 USD, respectively, they aren’t presented and made with inferiors ingredients. With angus beef and apple bacon, they aren’t your typical student dorm cafeteria food. I thought the burger was good and the mac and cheese passable, I didn’t think the prices were warranted. I wish the mac and cheese had more burnt cheese & crust from the panko and flavor (even with the somewhat bland gruyere). I did enjoy the bread on the burger, which held well with a messy avocado. The sweet potato fries were fine, but not as good as ones at Golden State.
As an undergrad at USC, years ago, and a current graduate student, I feel I am quite experienced with the different dining options around the USC area. Since the Lab retains a usc.eduurl, I assume that USC is the owner. They cater towards the students, faculty, and guests of USC. With these high prices, they won’t see many frat parties, like the 501. But I can see deep pocketed alumni stopping by before football games. I think USC has the right idea with the Lab, but I only wish, selfishly, that the prices were a bit lower.
What to Order: The Lab burger and Beer Can Chickien
What not to Order: Mac and Cheese
2 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT
The Lab – 3500 S Figueroa Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90007 (213) 743-1843

The Brazilian Pot Pies at Wood Spoon [DTLA]

When I was last in Los Angeles – in August, I had put together a list of places that I wanted, rather needed to feast on. On this list, and near the top, was Wood Spoon. I had heard that this downtown Los Angeles Brazilian restaurant had a pot pie that was worth the visit.

But with my limited Brazilian cuisine knowledge, I wondered how a Brazilian style pot pie would look and taste? Would it have the beefy and meaty attributes of those of a churrasco? Perhaps Wood Spoon was combination of American influences of the south and south american with traditional pot pie? Then you realize the Latin cuisines feature many baked goodies, such as empanadas.

Wood Spoon’s pot pie includes moist and juicy rotisserie chicken. The creamy sauce with the buttery crust almost makes you think of American ones. I’m a real big fan of savory baked pies and foods. I know in Northern California, there’s a mobile food truck called The Pie Truck, which also features yummy pies. The salty olives and roast corn, not found up in the American pot pies, was really good. Unfortunately, they only had one choice of meat for their pot pie. I bet a juicy pork one or a hearty beef/steak one would be quite good as well. Heck, if done correctly, lamb would be fine as well.

Anyways. . . Wood Spoon, with it simple sign of a wood spoon, also has a great pork burger and fish sandwich. I was also looking forward to the pork burger, which should come to a surprise. It was tasty with grilled onions. The fish sandwich was ok. . . wasn’t my favorite.

I’m not sure if I would visit again, if I had only had a week in Los Angeles. But I was happy that I had a chance to try the pot pie. Another note, the ventilation in Wood Spoon sucks. . .it was so hot when we had our dinner there.

1 Pigs
Price Range 2 $/¥/NT

Wood Spoon on Urbanspoon

Wood Spoon
107 W 9th St
Los Angeles, CA 90015
(213) 629-1765

Cook’s Tortas [SGV]

Not many people know Mexican cuisine features sandwiches. This combination of old and new world influences can be seen directly with theses sandwiches – the Torta. Bakeries and flour was brought over and developed by the French in the early 1800′s. Then by using locally cured and marinated meats, the Mexicans produced wonderful sandwiches.

The Torta Ahogada is a great example of a Mexican torta – with fried pork on a thick baguette, similar to the French ones. They layer and smoother the sandwich with a thick and spicy dried pepper tomato sauce. This great, but messy sandwich is from Guadalajara, from the state of Jalisco. I have no idea how to eat it without a knife and fork, but I’ve heard people there, just pick it up and eat it, in all its glory, with messy hands.

Anyways. . . enough about the history. I was reading about different twitters, bloggers, and foursquare’rs going to this little spot in the suburbs of Los Angeles, called Cook’s Tortas. And at that time, I was going through a sandwich craze, going to Langer’s Deli for Pastrami’s, Porto’s for the Cubano, anything from Mendicino Farms, and the Beef Barchetta from Stacked Sandwiches, with disappointments from Bay Cities Deli. So I knew, I had to go to Cook’s.

I didn’t realize that Cook’s took over for the old Aloha Cafe spot on Atlantic Blvd in Monterey Park, till I got there. But oh well, restaurants come and go. After pulling in and walking in, the first thing you notice is the large ceiling to floor black board menu. I liked the coffee/cafe menu on how they explained how the coffees were made. There must have been over 20 different sandwiches. Yet I knew what I was going after . . . something pork related.

Pork . . .. pig . . . ham . .. . were the key words I was looking for on the menu. The Mojito, #151, was my pick, with roasted pork, garlic mojo, and slow cooked onions. This large sandwich with pork, garlic, and onions oozing all around was stupendous. As I consumed this bad boy, I had to be careful not to get the rich goodness on my clothes and hands. The bread was crusty on the outside, but not too hard. The inside softness soaked up the juices and grease to provide the moist base need for each bite. Not overly salty, the Mojito was just right. But after thinking about it, I could have added a little spicy pepper or sauce to enhance this experience. But actually, I was really thinking about the Ahogada, before I arrived, but I realized I only had one stomach, and the Mojito was great – so next time.

I think I remembered I had a drink and an appetizer from the menu . . .but I don’t remember it at all. . . Besides, you wouldn’t care if I didn’t write about it. The sandwich was the star. Hopefully one day, I will find a torta place in Taipei or Shanghai worthy of Cook’s.

What to Order: Mojito
What not to Order:

3 Pigs
Price Range 1 $/¥/NT

Cook's Tortas on Urbanspoon

Cook’s Torta’s
1944 South Atlantic Boulevard, Monterey Park, CA 91754-6302, +1 323 278-3536

Bollini’s [Montery Park] – closed

Traditional pizzas nowadays are tough to find. Pizza Hut, Domino’s, and Papa John’s dominate public perception of what a pizza is suppose to be like. Nuevo pies, such as California Pizza Kitchen, Wolfgang Puck’s, and to some extent Pizzeria Mozza are establishing standards for new generations. Chicago style, though my favorite, is more like a casserole, a quiche, or even like a meat pie. As much as I hate to give New Yorker’s credit, the thin crust pizza is proper one.
Bollini’s pizza is one of tradition. The thin hand rolled crust with fresh toppings, what makes the drive worth it.
Bollini’s Pizzeria Napolitana
2315 South Garfield Avenue
Monterey Park, CA 91754-7219
(323) 722-7600

Gaam [Koreatown]

Gaam is the ideal starting point for any night of fun, with its great drinks, grubbin’ food, and cool space. Boring restaurants won’t get you in the mood, but Gaam will.
Gaam features a great happy hour that me and my friend were able to take advantage of.
Gaam Happy Hour (taken from
Special Event sponsored by Cass, OB, & Chum-Churum
April-June – Everything on the menu is 50% off (Incl. Sake)
Mon-Sun – 5-8:30 PM
This was enough for 4 people to get thoroughly started. I know I stumbled out a bit buzzed. The fried chicken, the hand rolls, the soup, tempura, and sizzling beef were all part of the special. Also, the sake was included in the deal as well.
Other than the food and drink, the venue is quite possibly the best in K-town. You won’t find higher ceilings with an airy feel almost anywhere nearby. The low slung padded stools give Gaam an intimate feel with your friends – almost like you’re at home.
What to Order: Try to get there early to get the 5-830pm special.
What not to Order:
2 Pigs
3465 W 6th St, 2nd Fl
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 388-8850