All posts by Kevin Ott

Kevin was discovered in 1987 by a team of climatologists deep within a Greenland glacier, wearing a flight engineer's coveralls and carrying what appeared to be a United States nickel dated 1332 and bearing the image of Tomas de Torquemada. After years of socialization and language training (he only spoke Middle French and had a paralyzing fear of birds), he was allowed to rejoin modern society. Today he lives in Los Feliz with his girlfriend, Alanna, and makes a hobo's ransom working as a freelance writer.

Green Christmas Trees! No, Not That Kind Of Green.

Every Christmas, I have the same problem: How can I have a nice Christmas tree while keeping my carbon footprint tiny?

Seriously: You buy a fake tree, and you’re just adding to the demand for petroleum by-products. Not to mention you’re stuck with a giant piece of perpetually dusty plastic that makes your forearms itch every time you put it up. Real trees are a little better, since they can be mulched after the holidays, but those can be shipped into LA from as far away as Oregon.

Here’s the solution: Rent a live tree that can be re-used year after year. Seriously!

The folks at Living Christmas will deliver a potted tree to your home, then come and pick it up after the festivities are over. They’re located in Los Angeles, with a delivery zone stretching from the Pacific Palisades to Seal Beach. And because the trees stay alive over the holidays, they can be re-used year after year. You can even adopt a tree, so you can have the same tree every year.

Living Christmas has a few rules, but nothing unreasonable; basically, you can’t flock the tree or kill it. The cost is a little more than a cut tree, but you can save money by picking up the tree yourself. And their delivery trucks are biodiesel-fueled, so even the transit impact is low.

I got this year’s tree before I found out about these guys (from the reasonable and friendly folks at Toluca Lake Christmas Trees); otherwise, I’d totally try them out. If anyone out there in readerland decides to check out Living Christmas this year, drop a comment here for our edification.

(Thanks to The ‘Queg for her help with this post.)

The Creepy Beneath Our Feet: Wrap-Up

Photo by Muhammad Mahdi Karim.

All good things come to an end: Lost. The Beatles. Earth’s natural resources. And now, Blogging.la’s discussion of the Lizard People. It’s been a fun ride.

For those of you looking for a resource, Alexandra has collected links to each installment in the series in her epic Halloween post. But here’s an in-series clearinghouse as well, since you’ve all been such good sports about my weird little obsession with the oviparous Angelenos living under the soil:

LA’s Lizard People

The Patron Saint of the Lizard People

The City With Scaly Shoulders

Lizard People and the Bigger Picture

Passages to the Underworld

Lizards in Disguise

The Real (And Not Actually Creepy) Thing

The Creepy Beneath Our Feet: The Real (And Not Actually Creepy) Thing

Most of you probably know that there are lizards in Los Angeles: The real kind you can find in Audubon field guides and herpetology texts. During my morning runs in the hills above Los Feliz, I commonly see at least two or three per day during the warmer months, skittering across my path.

The nice thing about these lizards is that you can actually see them.

Reptiles abound in Los Angeles County, and you don’t have to go snooping through pedestrian tunnels or the seedier segments of the Internet to find them.  Here’s a quick list of what you might be able to find in some of the less urban parts of the county.

Western Fence Lizard. Photo by Walter Siegmund.

Western Fence Lizard. You can usually find these guys sunning themselves on rocks in Griffith Park other spots with relatively high elevation — that is, until they spot you and scurry into the undergrowth. A cinch to find, these will be visible (but only for a few seconds) along any hiking trail.

Western Skink. USGS photo.

Western Skink. These are a little harder to find, but easy to recognize due to their smooth, streamlined appearance. Younger specimens have brightly-colored tails. Look for skinks in less populated areas during the summer months.

Southern Alligator Lizard. Photo by Althepal.

Southern Alligator Lizard. The word for the southern alligator lizard is adorable. But beware — they’re feistier than Canadian indie music festival. They’re not hard to catch, but once you do, there’s a good chance you’ll get bitten and/or pooped on. Yeah, they poop defensively. Kind of like grandpa during those last few months.

Pacific Gopher Snake. Photo by K. Bell.

Pacific Gopher Snake. Technically not a lizard (duh), these are also called bull snakes or pine snakes. These also make good pets, though I don’t think it’d be right to pull one from its natural habitat. Like the other animals on this list, you can usually find gopher snakes in places where they have lots of undergrowth to hide in.

So, you heard it here first: The real story on the lizards of Los Angeles. You’ll note that none of the reptiles on this list are affiliated with any extraterrestrial or extradimensional threat; nor do they commonly disguise themselves as Hillary Clinton or King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

We’ll close up shop tomorrow.

The Creepy Beneath Our Feet: Lizards in Disguise

The president. Probably not a Lizard Person. Definitely an American citizen. Photo by Pete Souza.

Most people who believe in Lizard People tend to believe they possess some degree of shape-shifting capability. As in, they can disguise themselves as humans. As in, the person standing in front of you in the line at Pink’s might be a Reptoid in human form. Listen to his order; if he asks for live dragonflies and grasshoppers on his hot dog, there’s a good chance they come from herpetological stock.

And of course, if you guessed that Lizard believers have waaaaaay crazier ideas about President Obama’s birth origins than the Tea Partiers, you guessed right.

To the Lizard believers, if a given person is in a position of authority, there’s a good chance he or she is a Reptoid. Don’t believe me? Check out this list; it’s a little old (Gale Norton hasn’t been Secretary of the Interior since 2006), but it’s pretty comprehensive. If the list is to be believed, practically every elected or appointed federal official is a Lizard agent (or at least propped up by extraterrestrial interests). Which is, of course, absurd in the extreme, since everyone knows Dick Cheney is at least 46 percent human, and Condi Rice is an extremely lifelike robot.

A lot of these ideas come courtesy of David Icke, a conspiracy theory writer who claims that the Lizard People come from the Fourth Dimension, which would be an awesome name for time-travel-themed nightclub. We would play mashups of Bjork and Stephen Foster and dance the tarantella and spill mead all over our jerkins. It’d be great.

But I digress. The Fourth Dimension isn’t actually the fourth dimension as physics and Euclidian geometry define it, but another universe that exists over our own. The Lizards come from another planet, but in that universe. Or something. After that it gets confusing, contradictory, and startlingly anti-Semitic, so I stopped reading.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with Los Angeles, and by talking about the most highly-placed Reptoid agents in the US Government, we’re getting farther and farther afield from the garden-variety Lizards living here in Southern California. But don’t worry. We’ll get back to those guys tomorrow.

The Creepy Beneath Our Feet: Passages to the Underworld

So. The Lizard People live underground. In caves beneath Los Angeles. But according to some believers, they visit the surface regularly (there’s one story that I haven’t been able to source about a humanoid Lizard dressed in human clothing spotted on Mt. Shasta up north). And if they have all these dealings with aliens, how do they get in touch with them? How do the subterrestrials meet up with the extraterrestrials?

The answer is simple: Shuttered pedestrian tunnels.

This is one of the tunnels near my house, at Hollywood and New Hampshire. There are more than 200 of these around the city, many of which were built in the 1920s and ’30s. They lasted until the late 1980s, when Angelenos apparently got tired of living near tunnels full of rats and gang initiates, and the city closed them down one by one. They didn’t go down without a fight, though; city workers went so far as to install mirrors inside some of the tunnels so pedestrians could see if a predator was lying in wait for them.

Locals, and some neighborhood officials, also complained that the tunnels were perfect spots for child molestation, but none was ever reported. Really, you have to wonder about someone who, upon seeing a given location, says “Hey! This would be a great place to molest a little kid!” But I digress.

We all know the real story. Knowledgeable people at the highest levels of government spread stories about muggings and rats and lurking pederasts, all the while knowing that LA’s pedestrian tunnels were an ideal egress route for the Lizard People. And they sealed up the tunnels — ostensibly for our own good.

The next time you’re near one, give a listen. What was that noise? A shuffle? A scrape? A thick, scaled tail sliding against a rock wall?

They’re down there. Listening back. And waiting for someone to get impatient to cross the street.

The Creepy Beneath Our Feet: Lizard People and the Bigger Picture

So what’s the deal with the Lizard People, anyway? Are they good guys? Bad guys? Are they from Earth? Are they from space? Are they all dead? Do they still live under Los Angeles? And why did they choose LA to live underneath?

The answers to all these questions are pretty much whatever you want them to be. Stories about the origins of the LA’s subterranean population of lizards are as numerous as the lizards themselves aren’t. But there are a few things that most accounts of los lagartos clandestinos have in common.

Most paranormal enthusiasts seem to believe that LA’s Lizard population — whether it’s still buried under the Central Library or not — is part of a greater population of reptilian humanoids, called “reptoids.” Sometimes they’re called “Reptoids,” though it’s unclear whether this is simply because of poor copyediting or because that’s the official name of their species. If it is the actual name of their species, we can be fairly certain they don’t pose any threat to humanity, because, come on, the most badass name they could come up with is “Reptoids.” If we can’t hold our own against a race that uncreative, we deserve to be enslaved.

Anyway, it’s generally agreed that whether they hail from Earth or another planet (possible planet name: “Repto”), the (aw, what the hell) Reptoids are part of a multifarious array of intelligent beings that visit/kidnap/fornicate with humans on a regular basis. Again, stories on the origins of the various beings present in this rogues’ gallery of sentient biodiversity differ; in some stories they’re from other planets, in others they’re from dimensions beyond time and space. It’s also generally agreed that all of these races have Big Plans for the human race, usually involving something something 2012 something.

Often the Reptoids are described as being in cahoots with the Greys, which are those big grey aliens with almond-shaped eyes that abduct people and do (sometimes horrible, sometimes pleasant) things to them. Whether the Reptoids are in charge of the Grays, or the Grays are in charge of the Reptoids, or both races are in the employ of some larger and more sinister or perhaps benevolent force, depends largely on which crazy person you sit next to on the bus.

Of course, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Like: How stoned do I have to be before any of this makes sense?

Part of journalism is answering the hard questions. So I’m going to go and try to do just that.

The Creepy Beneath Your Feet: The City With Scaly Shoulders

If you look closely, the Lizard City is shaped sort of like this guy. Of course it's impossible to look closely at something that doesn't, from a strictly technical standpoint, exist.

So, one of the more intriguing things about LA’s legendary population of Lizard People is that they once lived (and possibly still live) in an underground city shaped like a lizard. Or at least, people say it’s shaped like a lizard. In actuality, it looks about as much like a lizard as any other city. Look at an aerial view of St. Louis or San Jose or Altoona. They’re all pretty much equally lizard-shaped. The underground Lizard City is much the same. In all likelihood people have been agreeing that it’s shaped like a lizard primarily out of politeness.

But it does raise some questions about how the Lizards work. If the city is herpetologically planned, that shows a pretty impressive degree of industriousness. Imagine the logistics of building a city shaped like a lizard above ground. Now imagine doing it at subterranean depths that would make a Chilean miner gasp.

So, they’re reptiles, right? How did they make a city underground, hidden from the sun? Aren’t they exothermic? How did the Lizard construction workers not keep falling into torpor from lack of warmth? And what do Lizard construction workers shout at attractive female passersby? I assume something like “Hey, baby! Lemme see that cloaca!” or “Oh, Honey! You got my hyoid bone goin’ crazy over here!”

Why build the city underground at all? Apparently they built the city long before human feet trod North American soil. Why not just build it right on the prehistoric surface of the Earth, where there are palm trees and palisades and dragonflies the size of Chinook helicopters? Were they hiding from someone? And if so, who?

We’ll explore that next time.

The Creepy Beneath Your Feet: The Patron Saint of the Lizard People

Not Warren Shufelt. But you never know. Photo by Cy.

I could write for days about G. Warren Shufelt.

Imagine if you crossed Doc Brown from Back to the Future with the gadget guy from Wild Wild West and threw in a little Joseph Smith and Edgar Cayce for good measure. You’d get G. Warren Shufelt.

Shufelt was the guy who, along with his colleages Rex McCreery and Ray Martin, first brought America’s attention to the Lizard People in the 1930s. A mining engineer from Arizona, Shufelt was approached by McCreery and Martin to excavate a portion of Fort Moore Hill (just to the north of the Chinatown dragons on Broadway). City Hall allowed them to do this, because — and this is where you might want to warn your desk that it’s about to get smacked by your forehead — the three men claimed that the Lizard People had a huge stash of gold, and they would split whatever they found with the city.

Here’s how they did it: McCreery and Martin had an ancient and yellowed map of the Great Lizard City that lies beneath Los Angeles. They didn’t say where they got it. The ancient underground city of the Lizard People, they claimed, was shaped like a lizard, much like Seattle is shaped like a pretentious hipster. (But wait: This is only one version of the story. In another version, Shufelt got the map from a guy named “Little Chief Greenleaf,” whose authority no doubt derived from his cool rhyming name. But we’ll talk about him in another post.) For his part, Shufelt had invented a device that, when exposed to a given material, like gold, could detect deposits of that material underground. Armed with these flawless and well-calibrated scientific tools, the trio approached City Hall in March of 1933 with an ironclad argument for digging up a substantial portion of the landscape.

“We have a specialized device that can find caves full of Lizard treasure,” Shufelt told City Hall. “And a map. It’s all very scientific. You just have to attune the apparatus to the specific vibrational frequency of the Lizard gold. We’ll give the city half of everything we find!”

“Sure, whatever,” said City Hall. “Just clean up after.”

For days, Shufelt dug into the side of Fort Moore hill in search of delicious reptilian gold. Of course, they found nothing; somehow, the Lizard People were too crafty to be found by a trio of crackpots and their pseudoscientific machine. By September, the crew had given up hope of ever finding anything.

More tomorrow on the Lizard City itself.

The Creepy Beneath Your Feet: LA’s Lizard People

The first thing you need to know about the Lizard People is that they live under Los Angeles. Or, they did, at one time. Or maybe they live in space. I don’t really know. Actually, the second thing you need to know about the Lizard People is that, like most other paranormal New Age ephemera, every single scrap of information about them seems to contradict every other scrap of information about them. And whenever you try to read about them, your head starts to swim, like when you’re listening to the crazy guy on the bus, or the IT guy in your office who still wears his GOOGLE RON PAUL shirt.

Let’s back up a bit.

You may have heard about it, you may not have: There’s an old urban legend about humanoid reptiles living in caverns beneath Los Angeles. They do all the things that humans do — walk upright, use written language, change the station during NPR fund drives — but they’re lizards. Depending on which version you’re hearing, they either lived here long ago or they still live here now.

But the difference between this urban legend and most other urban legend is that there are still a whole bunch of people who think the Lizard People are real. Seriously; the web is lousy with them. While there’s nobody who fervently believes there’s a prison escapee out there whose prosthetic hook still dangles sadly from the car door handle belonging to some hapless, cockblocked varsity cornerback, the Lizard People have legions of devotees. Seriously. The internet is lousy with them. Look it up.

Of course, very little of the information on the Lizard People makes any sense. Some people believe they lived on Earth long before humans, in a lizard-shaped city in a cave under Los Angeles. Others believe they live in space and are waiting for the right moment to take over our planet and turn us all into livestock. Some believe they’re basically good guys; others believe they’re evil. Many people believe all of these things, simultaneously.

So I’m going to try to clear it up for everyone. In celebration of Halloween, I’ll be posting a little bit of Lizard Lore every day from now until the end of the month. There’s no shortage of information out there; the hardest part will be for me to choose what to write about. But by the end of October, I promise you, we’ll all be a little wiser.

Or, more likely, a little stupider.

Menu Mining: Closin’ Up Shop… For Now

A cheesesteak from South Philly Experience. Who knew this would be one of LA's best dishes?

You know that part of the restaurant experience when one person is silently elected to collect the menus and hand them back to the waitron? Sometimes it ends up being two people, or one of the more robust athletes at the table, because sometimes menus are thick, heavy things, like Michener novels or American children.

And it’s the part of the meal with the most uncertainty. Did you make the right choice? You came here in the mood for pasta, but that fish sounded so good. Should you have gotten an appetizer? Soup? Will there be enough naan?

We kinda feel that way too. Which is why we’re closing the Menu Mining series, but keeping a thumb in the middle for future reference. So, while the bulk of our series detailing the best dishes in Los Angeles is over, you may see it pop up occasionally. So keep your eyes peeled.

In the meantime, here’s the master list of all the posts thus far.

The Inaugural Post

Garage Pizza’s eponymous pie

Little Dom’s Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes

Salt Peanut Chocolate Cake at The Nickel Diner

Crepes au Lard at Cafe Massila

Musso & Frank’s Semi-Secret Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Deep Fried Quesadillas at Antojitos Carmen

Potato Balls and Rellenitos at Porto’s

Slippery Shrimp at Yang Chow

Tuna Tuna Bowl at TOT Little Tokyo

Garlic Chicken at Versailles

Calzone at LaRocco’s Pizza

Bun Thit Nuong at Golden Deli

Chilaquiles at Hugo’s

Jake’s Mushroom Burger

Cafe Tropical’s Medianoche Sandwich

Sticky Toffee Pudding at Waterloo and City

Drunken Shrimp at The Gumbo Pot

Empanadas and Chimichurri at El Morfi

Shanghai Pan-Fried Dumplings at Kang Kang Food Court

Menu Mining: Empanadas and Chimichurri at El Morfi

I’m the proud owner of a pretty deadly combination of psychological quirks: My eyes are bigger than my stomach (and my stomach isn’t exactly tiny), and I hate to waste food. Which is why I wind up groaning on the couch with a distended belly every time I order empanadas from El Morfi, Glendale’s best Argentinean restaurant.

A cheese-and-onion empanada.

Adding to the problem is that the empanadas are pretty remarkably cheap at $1.90 apiece, or $1.30 apiece if you get them take-out style (which I usually do, though El Morfi has a great atmosphere). So I often get myself about six, which is roughly two more than I can comfortably finish. It’s not like the old days of the college cafeteria, when I once attempted to eat my age in fish sandwiches. I was nineteen. I ate seven sandwiches.

But: Empanadas. They come in a pretty broad variety, but my favorite is the corn, a deep-fried pasty full of sweet, hearty chowder. Coming in a close second are cheese-and-onion and cheese-and-jalapeno; the ham-and-cheese are delicious as well. The beef empanadas are pretty good too, though they’re hard not to compare to Jamaican beef patties, which I feel comfortable calling the best kind of empanada in the world, with the possible exception of this one salmon empanada my friend’s grandmother made for me one time in Madrid, and after eating it I marched straight to the American embassy and said I wouldn’t be coming back. Or at least I would have, but I ate too much empanada and couldn’t get off the couch, thus cementing pretty much every European stereotype of Americans.

A corn empanada. It's my favorite.

But no, really: El Morfi empanadas. The best part of ordering these is that El Morfi gives you a sample of their chimichurri sauce, which is surely tied with the garlic sauce from Zankou Chicken as Best Condiment In Los Angeles. Made with olive oil, garlic, parsley and the feather-dandruff from the wings of molting angels, chimichurri is at its best when poured into the open end of an empanada cut in half, so it can drip down and permeate the filling. Put it in your mouth and let the resultant feeling of euphoria roll past your uvula and down your throat. Yes, I know: “That’s what she said.” You know what else she said? Go to El Morfi and get some damn chimichurri sauce. If we don’t support them and they go out of business, god knows where we’ll get the stuff, and I don’t have the money for a ticket to Argentina.

Chimichurri on a wedge of pita. It lasted only seconds after the flash went off.

The folks at El Morfi are smart, though; they only give you a small cup of chimichurri with your empanadas, and then sell the stuff at the counter for $3.75 a jar. Buy it. Slather it on bread. Marinate a chicken in it. Eat it directly from the container. No, don’t do that. You’ll get sick. But buy some. It’s good. You know what? Forget the empanadas if you want. Just get the chimichurri sauce. And bring me some.

Menu Mining: Slippery Shrimp at Yang Chow

Don’t worry. When I first heard the name, I thought it was gross too.

Slippery Shrimp. Just let the sound of it trickle through your ears. It only sounds like a seafood dish at best. At worst it sounds like slang for a sexually transmitted infection, something the government might have made film strips about, to keep our boys overseas from getting too friendly with the Vichy prostitutes. At your most absolute generous, you might assume slippery shrimp is something to eat, and even then it’s only something for the truly adventurous: Legs and eyestalks and feelers all sliding around each other in a desperate struggle to escape an oily fate.

You’d be wrong, of course; Slippery shrimp is comfort food at its most basic. To wit:

Photo by ruth666, with whom I enjoyed this very plate of shrimp.

Yes, you’re looking at a plate of deep-fried shrimp in a sweet-and-sour garlic sauce. It’s unbelievable. And when you go to Yang Chow in Chinatown, there’s quite literally a plate of it on every table. That’s what you do when you go to Yang Chow. You order one plate of slippery shrimp, and one plate of something else TBD. And there’s always a minor tussle over that last piece of shrimp.

There’s really no reliable way to describe slippery shrimp; it’s never exactly the same dish twice. It’s sweet but sometimes very spicy, sometimes only mildly. It’s crunchy, but sometimes much more garlicky than others. Sometimes it’s ridiculously hot, and you have to lay individual pieces of it on your plate, not touching each other, so they cool as quickly as possible and you can shove it into your mouth with such vampiric enthusiasm that you risk biting off the tips of your chopsticks.

Yang Chow has a menu full of winners. The string beans with minced pork is unreal. The moo shoo pork is unmatched. Even the broccoli with mushrooms, whose name is also its entire list of ingredients, is wonderful to behold. But going to Yang Chow and not getting the slippery shrimp would be like going to Disneyland and not riding Space Mountain, or visiting a public restroom and not availing yourself of the handicapped stall: An exercise in pointlessness.

A final note to the curious: There are three Yang Chow restaurants; one in Chinatown, one in Pasadena, and one in Canoga Park. I’ve only been to the one in Chinatown, so your slipperiness may vary if you live in the Valley or the northeast. If you’ve been to one of those, let me know how it is.

Menu Mining: Garage Pizza’s Eponymous Pie

Yes, dammit, I eat pickles on my pizza.

OK, OK. I’m a little defensive. That’s because ordering pizza with friends is like frolicking gaily through the enchanted marshmallow forest and then stepping onto a Bouncing Betty that blows your legs off. Here’s the problem: Some people are annoyingly picky eaters. You know the type; their diets consist largely of chicken fingers and unflavored oxygen, and they refuse to go to any restaurant whose condiments aren’t primarily ranch-based. Sadly, you will occasionally have to share a meal with these people, because we all have at least one friend who reacts to sushi or tomato seeds or green vegetables or ethnic foods with the shocked horror we usually tend to reserve for spiders or 9/11.

When I’m sharing pizza with friends like these, I tend not to order from Garage Pizza. And I certainly wouldn’t order Garage’s title pie, the Garage Pizza. Because it’s delicious, but it’s not a dish for the childish eater.

Basically, it’s a cheeseburger pizza. I know, I know: Cheeseburger pizzas are, for the most part, totally gross. Like taco pizzas, they often focus on ground beef as their main ingredient, and too often they come covered with iceberg lettuce that immediately and damply wilts from the heat of the underlying pizza, turning what could have been a pleasant meal into a slithery kelpish mess.

(I also understand the seeming contradiction in assuming that picky eaters would avoid a food item that’s essentially a combination of the two most unassailably normal American foods available. But such combinations often turn out to be the picky eater’s kryptonite.)

The Garage Pizza avoids the standard cheeseburger pizza problems, first by infusing the well-seasoned beef effortlessly into the sauce and cheese, including it as an important component of the meal yet not taking its presence too seriously. The diced tomatoes and red onions manage to stay crisp and fresh despite the heat of the pizza, probably because they’re applied after it comes out of the oven. And you’ll notice a market lack of iceberg lettuce, a vile and useless weed first cultivated by the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

And then: The pickles. Oh, lordy, the pickles. Huge and ripe and engorged with salt and dill. Hell, they probably come directly from a giant food-service-sized jar shipped directly from the massive industrial warehouses of Archer Daniels Midland, but you’ve never had pickles like this. They’re the best possible alternative to iceberg lettuce, since pickles are already soft and yielding and not meant to provide any measure of crispness. Whenever my girlfriend and I buy this pizza to eat with a movie, I always do the serving. That way I can save the slices with the most pickles for myself. I’m not a proud man.

If the Garage Pizza has any failing, it’s the crust; it doesn’t hold up well over time, and doesn’t reheat well. The segment underneath the toppings will be fine, but if the pie is more than 45 minutes cold you’ll probably have to stop eating at the “handle” portion of the crust. A small price to pay.

Of course, Garage has a whole host of other unique pies: The Hot-and-Sweet Pepperoni, with its pineapple and jalapeno; the Elmerino, with pignolias and pesto-dipped mozzarella; and the Game Pie, full of pork and peppers and onions. But I haven’t quite made it past the Garage Pizza.

New Series: Menu Mining

A cheesesteak from South Philly Experience. Who knew this would be one of LA's best dishes?

You know the situation: You go to your favorite restaurant, planning to try something new. You want to be one of the regulars. One of the people who’s had everything on the menu. One of those cool diners who knows the head chef’s first name and sometimes he comes out to say hi to you, and maybe suggests something that’s really good today and the right wine to go with it.

But then you sit down and open the menu. And your eyes fall right to that same thing you always get. And you think: NO! I promised myself I’d try something new. I promised myself I’d expand my horizons. But really, I’m kind of tired, and I’m in a comfort-food kind of mood, and anyway I don’t want to risk going home unsatisfied, because then I’d just wait until 10 PM and eat a frozen pizza or half a box of cheese crackers. So you order the old standby. And you don’t regret a thing.

This series is for you.

It’s dedicated to those dishes that keep you coming back; those singular meals at your favorite restaurants that make you say things like: Don’t go to Costa Alegre without trying the huevos divorciados. And don’t go to Fred 62 without trying the Bearded Mr. Frenchy. And certainly don’t go to Carousel without gorging yourself stupid on the Merry-Go-Round, an enormous pile of meat that some mad scientist could use to create an unholy cow-chicken-lamb zombie hybrid. It would seem so peaceful, until all those popping flashbulbs frightened it into a rampage. Why, oh, why did we hold the press conference on such a cloudy day! And now my beloved Sophia, dead! Dead! If only there were some way to bring her back…

But I digress. Over the next couple of weeks, you’ll read about some of the finest meals Los Angeles and its environs have to offer, from orange blueberry pancakes to fish tacos to bun thit nong. No, I won’t tell you what bun thit nong is. You’ll just have to wait. Also, I don’t know what it is.

So stay tuned. And let us know what your favorite dish is!