An L.A. StoryFalling in Love
I was born in Los Angeles; Santa Monica to be precise. I grew up without much money and didn’t ever realize it because the city was so alive with culture and life, I didn’t pay much attention to the rest. My childhood days were spent on Olvara Street w my dad’s parents listening to live mariachi while feasting on street tacos. We went to the Farmers Market for fresh tamales and fascinating people-watching and once a week, when I stayed with them, my grandma or my grandpa and I walked to the Mexican market for sweetbreads.
I also had the pleasure of rollerskating with my mom and my sister on the boardwalk from Venice to the Palisades when I was no more than 6 or 7 years old, and that’s where I could smell everything from grilled barbecue to Mediterranean cuisine (and sure, freshly rolled joints or lighted incense). That jaunt up and down the sandy concrete boardwalk was a place where all of the world’s travelers flocked to. I saw people from everywhere, heard dozens of different languages spoken, and for a while felt connected to something way bigger than my little life that happened in a pocket of the city could understand.
Going out to eat wasn’t a regular thing for us with the exception of an occasional visit to Bob’s Big Boy for a burger and hot fudge sundae with my mom’s parents, my Grandma and Grandpa Evans. But once in a great while we went somewhere pretty special. We went to a place that will forever be engrained in my memory: The Sea Lion in Malibu (and yes, there was a real sea lion in a Doughboy pool that greeted you when you parked the car and headed inside). The restaurant is long gone and is now what we lovingly know as Duke’s but just imagine it back in the 70’s and early 80’s! It was quite a place!
It was an experience that I never forgot – mainly because I finally made the connection that the pretty crabs in the tank were in fact the same pretty crabs now cooked and presented on a plate (let’s just say I never ordered the crab). Still I found the idea terribly endearing: getting dressed up and heading out to a fancy dinner with my family.
I grew up surrounded by diversity, awakened by food, and it’s been my favorite world to dwell in ever since.
So, whether it was realizing the crab in the fish tank would soon be boiled on someone’s plate or noticing how colorful the range of fresh produce is at a Farmers Market, for me, food had always been romantic. It’s funny, I remember the first trip I made to the grocery store at eighteen years old, living on my own in Burbank. I walked into Handy Market and was in awe. Fresh fruits and vegetables lined a very small aisle and freshly butchered meats enticed my inner cook. I knew from that moment on, I’d never be the same.
Living in this city of angels (and demons) all my life has shown me so much. Most of it experienced through the meals I’ve enjoyed, the places I could travel to in a single plate or an interesting cocktail. I have fond memories of dates I’d go on (even the lousy ones), nights out, escapes to iconic bars to grab a bite, a martini, places I would escape to where I’d write on vacant napkins or in a tattered black and white college bound journal. My stories were brought to life in restaurants and bars throughout this city.
Los Angeles is where I’ve spent my life. I’ve traveled to dozens of countries and islands, over a hundred different cities, but coming home has always been a warm reminder. In spite of the reminders of my broken heart, losing people I’ve loved, tragedy, career ups and downs, wealth and struggle, and in the end, my relationship with this wonderful/often overwhelming city, my love affair with LA continues to blossom.
Mostly because there is a tale in every corner of this massive city consisting of 50+ little tiny cities and towns that fall under the great county of Los Angeles. Each one reminding all of us of something, but it’s the places I’ve eaten and the people that work there, the strangers I’ve spoken to, and the smells that take me back to a moment. This city is where I learned to love. In bites, in ingredients, in talking about those things we trap within — spoken only over a meal.
Truth is, it’s a beautiful thing: gathering in the kitchen or sitting down to dine. While we’ve come to take the luxury and treat of dining out for granted, we shouldn’t. Eating out was never intended to be how we enjoyed three square meals a day. It’s meant to be a treat, a place to spend our hard earned money and enjoy a glorious bite of something local, something simple, or something decadent.
Los Angeles offers that in spades and personally, I’m grateful for it.
Below is a look at the L.A. restaurants and bars I’m hoping to get to, to taste, review, and experience first hand: