Yes, I live in the Bay but I go to LA like every two weeks. Hey, it’s sunny, the boys are cute, and well, it’s so big with so much food. Here are the hits from this trip:
Malibu Farm Cafe, Malibu
Beat the selfie pole toting tourists and get here before 10:30 a.m. This farm-to-table restaurant sits at the end of Malibu’s pier and offers 360 views, as well as outside and rooftop seating. From the grey-blue trim to the fur rugs covering the wood benches to the string lights outside, it felt moody and warm here, just like our hazy Sunday morning. The food is refreshingly simple, nothing experimental, just good ingredients put together well. The salmon scramble has big hunks of lightly smoked salmon, the vegan chop salad was brightened by purple beets, butternut squash, avocado and a mix of greens. Fresh juices, good coffee, and wine and beer.
The babies liked it too.
The only time I’ve eaten brunch in a real bar was when I used to have bloody marys at Acme bar, back when it was still a dive bar and there was free Mexican food sitting on one of the tables every Sunday. I mostly just drank bloody marys.
This pop-up brunch by KTCHNLA is inside Ebanos Crossing, which is just around the corner from Grand Central Market. It’s way better than a bloody mary. For starters, Ebanos is a big swanky place with dark booths, a long bar facing exposed brick, and velvet curtains. The darkness will sooth your hangover, the light shining in between the curtains will remind you that thankfully you are not still at the club.
There’s a small menu that’s hard to choose from. The green pozole n egg was tempting, as was the tres leches french toast, and the basic bitch (eggs, house cured pork belly, potatoes and cornbread).The habanero scramble and the chilaquiles were both good choices. The scramble’s pickled habanero added just a little kick, tamed by the pile of arugala on top, the sweet crispy onions and the cakey cornbread and latke-like potato hash on the side. There are a few specialty cocktails, all you can drink bubbly options, and just a french press for your caffeine kick (so get your latte ahead of time).
We went at peak brunch time with a reservation, but didn’t look like we needed it.
Superba Snack Bar, Venice – CLOSED
At first glance the menu here is hard to place, it’s clearly italian (there’s pasta, burrata, meatballs) but with flavors so outside of an Italian landscape (nori, plantains, serranos) you wonder how it’s going to go. Deliciously well is how. Come hungry, adventurous and perhaps with an extra layer as most of the restaurant is in a protected outdoor patio. We had the kampachi crudo, the braised oxtail toast, the crispy brussle sprouts, the squid ink cavatelli, and the gnocchi. Every dish was fun and surprising: the gnocchi in nettle pesto was melt-in-your-mouth-eye-rolling, the cavatelli satisfyingly stiff, the brussels crisp but soaking in a dashi broth that I could drink every evening. Prices are steep for the portions. Wine and beer only. Make a reservation.
I appreciate the genius of a restaurant that specializes in just a few things. In the case of guisados, it’s homestyle braises, which actually— as I learned while hanging with a food anthropologist in Mexico City— were the first kind of tacos. Guisados has a lot of options, the two I liked most were the nutty, poblano-style chicken mole and the steak picado. The rest I could’ve traded in for a whole stack of their freshly made corn tortillas.
Bar Ama, Downtown
I didn’t fall in love like I thought I would here, but it’s worth a mention if just for the originality of the dishes. This is a place to go with lots of people, the portions are plentiful and the menu looks fun. Unfortunately, the eggplant mole was almost overwhelming in its quantity and spice. The sweet potato arrived whole and split down the middle with charred edges to match a tiny cast iron skillet, absolutely beautiful but uninteresting. To their credit, I didn’t expect to be wowed by a potato. The braised short rib chalupa was hearty, with traditional flavors like oregano and chile de arbol shining through and a layer of beans and avocado holding the crispy tostada together. It probably saved me from the after effects of a long night of drinking. I would give this place a second try.
Who knew that among the toe rings, kettle corn and body builders, you could get a good cup of coffee near the Venice boardwalk. This tiny sanctuary is run by longtime barista art champion, who uses Four Barrel beans and unlike most Bay Area baristas isn’t afraid to be too cool: he had just finished making a vanilla syrup and asked us if we wanted a bit. Yes, of course I want to quench my deeply secret dunkin doughnut coffee cravings with this much higher quality vanilla almond latte. If I ever get an espresso machine it’ll be the same turquoise color as his. Find peace here.