We really like their oysters and their fresh fish - LA doesn’t have too many good seafood joints at that price point.
TEAM USA FIELD REPORT: I was THRILLED by the gathering at Tom’s Urban sportsbar in DTLA! The venue is opening early (i.e. before 9am) for all USA games, co-promoted by our local pro men’s team, the LA Galaxy. A film crew was there, documenting the crowd. It was vibrant and jumpin on a Sunday morn, 80 (!) people excitedly in the venue already and more popping in as the match went underway; all to cheer on TEAM U-S-A, YAAAAAAAAAY !!!
Tom’s Urban is a big, slick, clean, new-generation sportsbar, with tons of monitors. It has a very large oval-shaped bar (which I sat at), plus tables galore. Parking can get expensive at the LA Live complex, but being early on a Sunday morning I got lucky with a free street space a block away. Menu is “gastro sportsbar,” if that makes any sense; upscaled, gourmetified versions of burgers, pizzas, sandies, wings and fries, plus some further entrees. Of the latter I got a shrimp & cheddar grits, and it was outstanding. The grits held together well and had a great-tasting combo cheese element. Its six shrimp on the top were large, plump, seasoned and griddled. Everything was sprinkled with cubes of juicy bacon which was more smoked than salty and sweet; and my favorite, sliced green onions. Cajun-y spicing was just right. When it arrived the guy next to me’s eyes bulged and he gushed, “Wow, that looks GOOD!” He was right. Hell yeah I’d order it again.
SO much new construction is going on right there, around Staples Center and the LA Live. I was most recently there last year; not that long ago; and just since that time a whole new supermodern sphere-shaped building has gone up on Fig right in front of Staples. It pretty much obscures the sight of Staples from the street anymore. So much gentrification and modern construction is going on in downtown LA (there were cranes EVERYWHERE) and Hollywood that it’s getting so that I don’t recognize these towns anymore. These towns, my town?
KOREA NON-FIELD REPORT: I tried, but could not, view-dine a South Korea game, because it turned out the Koreatown sportsbar Toe Bang was not open by noon that day, like it said it would be on the website I initially saw. Hence I wandered in to Escala, the recent “Korean-Colombian” venture located in that same “Chapman Market” rococo complex; but whose servers told me the Korea game was not till the next day. Ca-ca! They were wrong; I simply checked the FIFA website with my phone, and there was the Korea game, in progress. I came back in and pointed this out to them; then the server tried, but could not get the game on their TVs. Nobody was there for it anyway. I took a look at Escala’s menu; it is very Colombian, not Korean, despite how it may be advertised. It’s a lovely and airy space, comfortable and strongly designed. I wish them well, and would check it out for a Colombia game. No other eatery in that same K-plaza had the game on. With time ticking away I darted to the mini-mall across the street, with several K-eateries; I sat down at one that was able to put the game on for me, Shin Jung. But I was the only person there to see it. The shortrib combo plate was decent but server forgot to bring me my soup. When I brought this to her attention and she acknowledged the mistake but would not do a make-good on my tab, I took it out of the tip and got the heck out.
JAMAICA FIELD REPORT: Everybody come on down to Natraliart, a spiffy Jamaican diner that is comfortable and has a many-choice menu. I thoroughly cleared my oxtail lunch combo plate. All items were discrete, distinct, and their sauces carefully did not slop into one another. It came with five oxtail slices/discs, in wonderful brown gravy; some beige lima beans; a couple chunks of seasoned potato; a generous mound of delicious “peas” (mini redbeans) & rice; good hot collard greens, which were injected with some carrot shreds; and topped with the best fried plantains ever – more flavorful than most, and done just right. Everything was extensively cooked till well-flavored – let’s just say, the opposite of al dente. The plate came with a side salad of generic lettuce greens dressed with ranch; unremarkable, but the side salad was not what the combo plate was about. To drink, I loved my Reggae Punch, which was red-hued fruit punch imbued an extra dimension with strawberry syrup. The plate was excellent, and with tax/tip and all came to only $24 for great taste with much variety.
There was a small – 10 persons tops, including several middleschoolers – contingent in the house, watching the game and whose quiet focus turned to spirited cheers when JA scored.
En route there by sheer coincidence I drove past, and noticed, the new location of Surfas. It’s just a block away, on the opposite side of the street from Natraliart, and with a couple other kitchen-oriented businesses alongside of it. Last I knew, Surfas was having to close its Culver City location due to the City’s streetcar plans. I didn’t know it had reopened. After the game I stopped in (little parking lot in the back, fyi) to check it out; and picked up a couple items on my want list, a #30 cookie scoop and a container of buttermilk powder. The latter is to swap-out for some of the confectioners sugar in making frosting, which will hopefully render frosting less of a sugar bomb. Haven’t tried it yet; will see if it works…
CHILE NON-FIELD REPORT: The manager of Rincon Chileno in East Hollywood tried valiantly, but could not get, the Chile game on their TV. The USA/Sweden match was going on concurrently, and that’s the only game their TV package was picking up. Nobody was there to see the game anyway, only me, so I left but first got a chicken empanada and beef milanesa sandwich to go from their adjacent deli section. The empanada was fine; pulled/shredded chicken litely dressed in orange-red hued braise. They appeared to be home baked. It took kind of a while (don’t come here if you’re in a hurry) for my sandwich to come up, but after it finally did it was OK enough. Slices of breaded beef, raw tomato slices, and smashed avocado inside a baked bun comprised the sandie. Per the menu it was supposed to be lettuce, not avocado, however I wanted guac swapped for lettuce but managed to fail to communicate that to the counter guy, who did not speak English. Turns out he made it that way telepathically. Ha! So at least that worked out.
ARGENTINA FIELD REPORT: Upon arriving at Mercado Buenos Aires Granada Hills, I could see its three monitors were all tuned to a boxing match. After the teenage hostess at the door was finally done handling the guy in front of me’s to-go order, I asked her if one TV could be tuned to the World Cup Argentina game. She proceeded to burst out laughing. “Manager!” she fumbled saying. “Have to ask manager!” I couldn’t tell if she was laughing at my request per se, or laughing of embarrassment because she didn’t understand English very well. So I asked her again; she proceeded to laugh at me more. She then traipsed off behind the counter toward the back, presumably to ask the manager. Problem was, she was not coming back. She apparently went off and did something else. After waiting 7-8 minutes at the host stand, and after literally being laughed at, I said, “Eff it”; and got the heck out. Ugh, what an experience for the first time at a restaurant: being laughed at by a staffer who was practically a child; and being ditched. I will never set foot at Mercado Bueno Aires Granada Hills again.
I hopped in my car and headed to their Van Nuys location. In LA terms, it wasn’t far. At Van Nuys, it was TOTALLY different. Seven of the venue’s eight monitors were all tuned to the game (and the remaining one was also tuned to the Women’s Cup, albeit another concurrent match). The staff, who happened to be all male, were very enthusiastic about the game and were watching it themselves. Staff were appealing, charismatic, and happy to talk about Team Argentina, the Cup and the match. About 30-35 patrons were there during the game. To eat, I started with a chicken empanada; it was OK enough. Empanadas tend to be “limited.” Size was good. I then got a hot sandwich of beef (sliced filet mignon)/griddled onions/melted provolone, on a soft, fresh, oblong-shaped bun. Also good enough per se. (Its bun was xlnt.) It didn’t come with any sides so I ordered one of pure, aka thin mashed potatoes. I personally like them thicker, but was more than happy to comply with the difference for the ethnic experience!
NORWAY FIELD REPORT: Staff at Olson’s Scandinavian Deli was right when they said, “We’re always happy to turn the soccer game on!” But I was a bit perplexed that it wasn’t on already, when I walked in. I was the only person there to view-dine the game. Hmm. I guess not many Norwegians in LA who are womens soccer fans…?
I ordered a Swedish meatball sandwich to accompany the Martinelli apple juice I pulled out of the cooler. The balls were fine-grind beef, litely seasoned, and rather dry. There was no saucing or gravy atop them, however the brioche-bunned 'wich contained the additional element, and dimension, of beet salad. Now THAT was great – super-flavorful minced pickled cooked beet in a thick, creamy binding dressing. It was so yummy that I deconstructed the sandwich and took forkfuls of the beet salad solo. It’s available as a side for only $3; highly recommended! But I’d get a different menu item from meatball sandwich next time.
Olson’s has a small section of import Scandinavian grocery items; I took a look on my way out. “Cloudberry jam” caught my eye. I’ve never heard of nor had cloudberry anything before. I may have to try that next time as well.
BRAZIL FIELD REPORT: The colorful Cafe Brazil with its equally colorful plates was a good place to be for their home-team game. Unlike its overcrowding, disastrous and frankly stupid management during the men’s Cup last year, it was relatively “normal” today. There was one rather large table of patrons there to see the game; oddly, they were rooting against Brazil. Other than them, it was just me, in terms of being there specifically to view-dine the game.
Overall the food’s good here, and has a lively amount of variety. I started with a chicken empanada. It was only $2.50 but it was TINY. It was made of a hyper-crumbly dough with taste that obliterated the chicken and alleged creamcheese filling. For main dish, I decided to go with the regulation Brazilian stew feijoada, as I’d never tried it here before. Unfortunately it was nothing special; imagine a tough chunk of pork (bone attached) and a petite link of a particularly bland beef sausage (Calabresa?), with a can of Goya black beans poured over the top and heated. It came with the traditional side plate of white rice (xlnt) and collard greens: thin julienned, and fried al dente with toasted garlic. Tasty! – as was the final side, browned manioc flour. The cafe features fresh juices; mine, the Tropical, a mix of passionfruit and guava, was a winner; and I tend to believe it actually was fresh-squeezed due to the amount of fruit fibers within. Glass size was generous and large.
I may not be back for soccer, but I will for food, and when that happens, I’ll pass on their empanadas and also get a different entree; maybe the skirt steak or tropical shrimp combo plates, or linguica sandwich. They also have brunchy egg dishes here, all of which looked great when I glanced around to my fellow diners.
JAPAN FIELD REPORT #2: I had my mind made up to make this game’s destination Little Tokyo. Since its sporty Far Bar and Bar Nirvana were not open early enough, I first wound up at Las Galas. It was the only place I could find there with the Japan game on, and on it was – brightly displayed on the venue’s 10 monitors. There was a lunch crowd in there, but I think I was the only person dining there in order to see the game. This was perplexing, as the men’s games last year drew double figures at Far Bar. Well, maybe the venue desirability to the locals has something to do with it too. Anyway, “Las Galas,” which proudly keeps a poster of '80s Dodger pitcher Fernando Valenzuela in the window, is a Spanish-language name. It has a big menu with a lot of Japanese choices, but also some Korean, American and Mexican standards, i.e. quesadillas. In the Japanese spirit of things I started with an order of California roll, which was of average par, and got a bowl of ramen with clams. It was fine and plenty. To drink, a hot green tea (unfortunately made with a bag, agh!). Multiple servers checked on me frequently, about eight times in all.
I closed out at halftime and walked over to the Doubletree Hilton, which has a large clientele of Japanese travelers. They proudly had the game on their most prominent TV, the big one right in the lobby. It was also on one of the TVs at the lobby’s bar. One or two guys were watching it, but that’s not the point in this case as travelers are constantly coming/going. The main point is that the Doubletree Little Tokyo was smart and wonderful to have the women’s game on and featured. Namaste, y’all!
FRANCE FIELD REPORT: Being a Team USA fan, it took a lot of I-don’t-know-what inside of me to go to a French venue when our ladies were playing against theirs. But, for the diligence of this post, I made myself do it. (Lol) Atmosphere Mar Vista was boho beauty as always; your choice of indoor cafe bar, or the colorful, Euro-funky covered patio off to the side, both with their casual mismatched furniture as support for the fabulous menu. All I got today, however, was an espresso bar drink (as I didn’t want to thwart my appetite for the ballpark hotdogs I was looking forward to having later). I ordered something chocolaty and it tasted great but I can’t give it 5 stars as it lacked whipped cream. The bar doesn’t stock it! But I’ll be back when the time is right, to try Atmosphere’s scallops in orange blossom sauce, shrimps flambe, “old school onion soup,” forager risotto, lentil salad bowl, and of course ham & gruyere omelet. YUM.
There was a small but spirited contingent of Frenchies there, glued to the TV cheering their team on; about 10 total including the three counter guys, who were really into it. I stepped in, got my drink, made my observations, but ducked out soon; as let’s not kid ourselves, I am a hardcore USA supporter!!
I will say, some very appealing French guys hang out at Atmosphere Mar Vista, both as patrons and as staff. Between them, the menu, the vibe and the amenities, there is plenty of incentive for a solo gal like me to come back!
ENGLAND FIELD REPORT #2: I’ve been superstitiously holding off on posting anything about England, considering that our USA ladies were to go up against theirs! But now that that’s over, I’ll let it flow. First, and main, pit stop was Lucky Baldwin’s in Old Pasadena. TVs were tuned to the match, but there were fewer than 10 persons there to see it. Last year, for the men’s Cup, it was packed. Hmm, urgh. I easily had a table and TV to myself. Server was chipper, but she was working solo that shift which can always be problematic. It took kind of a while to get my order taken; fish & chips with the chips swapped out for a french onion soup. The swapping was at no extra cost. The place was not busy, said fish doesn’t take long to cook and after 20 minutes post-arrival I still didn’t have my food yet. Then, the server clips by, claiming that the chef made the two pieces of fish but that they turned out “not looking good, so he started over with new fish.” Hard to tell whether this was a fib from her, or the kitchen, or not. Anyway, 30 minutes after arrival, my plate was served. Lucky’s golden battered Brit-cod remains the best I’ve found in LA; and sizable portions. The cup of French onion soup was fine, and side of slaw terrific. I pigged out while watching the game, but left early enough to get over to their other Pas location, Lucky Baldwin’s Trappiste. This had a happy crowd of about 20 diners to cheer on the English gals. I was there only a short time to make my observations; the game concluded 10 minutes later, and I got to hear the house break out in a cheer! Didn’t eat anything because I was already full, but the menu is the same as the Old Pas location.
SWEDEN FIELD REPORT: Headed straight out to Olson’s Deli for today’s game. I preliminarily checked into the Swedish-Turkish venue in Culver City, Gravlax; indeed, it was opening early for today’s game. But remembering how the kitchen was barely serving last year when they opened early for the men’s Cup, I took a pass from the experience, and stuck with Olson’s. There were eight patrons (including me) and three staff watching the game; not the quantity as for the men’s last year, but every bit as quality! Sticking with my plan to try something different from the most recent time I was here (scroll up re Norway field report), I ordered a shrimp skagen in the style of “smorrebrod,” which in Scandinavian cuisine means open-faced sandwich on dark bread. Olson’s fit the definition; it was served on a single square-shaped slice of dark pumpernickel bread, nicely oversize, which had been spread with salted butter and litely toasted. A large slice of good-quality dark lettuce held the skagen filling: medium-sized shrimp, in a simple creamy-white cohesion laced with tingles of golden caviar and much fresh minced dill; chilled. It was yum! It came solo so I got a side order of egg salad. I reckon this is the same egg salad they use for their sandwiches. It was finely-chopped hard-cooked eggs which seemed to be in the same dilled white binder (minus caviar) as the skagen. It was good but in conjunction with my sandwich it was a bit of a dill overkill. If I were chefin’ I’d swap out the dill in the egg salad for some celery bits, then adding dill only when it’s a solo sandwich. Whatever. But I am not complaining. I saw they had in the cooler a clear house concoction labeled “Olson’s Elderberry Water”; enticing, but I’d already started on a cane sugar Dr. Pepper. Today I ate well, and saw some pretty good game. This Women’s World Cup sure is fun!
We were at Grand Casino to watch the England game, an Argentine restaurant in Culver City. It was so mellow, the staff was nice and there was a bit of wait, but nothing unusual.
The outside patio (with tv) was packed and there were about twenty people inside. Great game. We had Milanese steak and chicken, with salads and some excellent mashed potatoes. My friends loved the chimichurri.
Sounded wonderful, Bookwich! I am so glad you caught a game…the Cup is really something, isn’t it? Plus thanks for turning me onto Grand Casino. I just got finished looking at its online menus, and really want to give it a try, especially their pasta. And I love their name!
ENGLAND FIELD REPORT #3: The Robin Hood in Sherman Oaks was a cool, calm and comfortable place to see this very emotionally charged match (it was vs. USA!), despite the substantial crowd and event-like atmosphere with their big movie screen set up in the dining room to show the game. All the bar TVs were tuned to the game too; with about 50 persons present drinking & munching to the Women’s soccer. This was about two-thirds of the turnout for last year’s Men’s; a proud and xlnt showing, all things considered.
But ya know, Britfood is Britfood. (LoL) My appetizer of deep-fried mushrooms had ones which were juicy and big; but the external crust was so hardcore crunchy that it did not really work with them. A softer batter would have made better harmony. Eventually the poor waitress, working solo, brought out my entree of shepherd’s pie. Meat filling was browned crumbles of ground beef (lacking the sheep component which is authentic in England) with occasional slices of carrot, onion and celery, in a fair saucing…but just fair. In all due respect, I’ve made better ones myself with the Colman’s seasoning packet mix, and using veggie crumbles. Its mashed potatoes topping was seasoned OK and was the best part of my meal. The spuds themselves were topped with what appeared to be orangey cheddar whiz squirted on in a lacy design then baked. The green peas on the side were undoubtedly frozen supply, and were undercooked; too al dente. Brits will be Brits. The meal came with a dippin sauce of the distinctive English clear brown gravy which so many early American gravies were based on. This stuff can be excellent with traditional Brit roasts and its components thereof. (But not today’s deep-fried shrooms, ha!)
USA FIELD REPORT #2: The championship game had arrived – Team USA’s time to shine as bright as the stars they are! Tom’s Urban, with its early opening and promo lift from the LA Galaxy, was the place to be. I got there a half hour in advance to find a line snaking almost all the way down the block. They just hadn’t opened their doors yet; when they did, the place quickly filled up but everybody got a seat. They had a select menu for the event. I went again with the shrimp & cheddar grits (scroll up for previous review of the dish). Diners around me were going with the combo of a couple small (probably wings) pcs of friend chicken topping a huge pancake. The 'cake must’ve been 9 or 10 inches in diameter. They couldn’t finish it all. I got a seat at their bar, which is two-sided and rather large. I got a chilled apple juice put my food order in. Being packed all at once, service was understandably slow for everyone, but after 40 minutes a server lad shows up with a sandwich for me. “I ordered shrimp & grits,” I told him. He left and apparently did nothing about it, because after 1 hour my order still hadn’t arrived. (Other people around me had all gotten their food by now.) Tom’s had messed up my order. I informed a new server of this, who was very apologetic and had my entree finally brought out in less than 10 minutes; and comp’d it. So after some delay I ate great, a $30 meal completely for free, and shared in the jubilation and pride as our USA women beat their opponent and WON THE WORLD CUP. This was a great watch party, with some dang good food, and the type of excitement that can only come with a sporting world championship victory!
Now that the 2019 Cup is over, I’ve had a chance to digest (pun intended) my month of travels and experiences viewing the games while dining at LA’s fine ethnic venues. In summary, the winners, and losers, are below. Speaking of winners, Team USA are the champions, hooray!, for four big years, till the next Soccer Women’s World Cup in 2023. Till then, a friendly and heartfelt thanks to those of you who have read this post, especially those of you who chimed in, and particularly you who injected hearts! I know who you are, and I thank you with a wave and a heart of my own! – Cousteau
BEST VENUE: The Robin Hood Pub
BEST MEAL: Tom’s Urban (shrimp & cheddar grits with bacon)
BEST DRINK: Natraliart’s reggae punch
NICEST SURPRISE: Natraliart Jamaican
MOST DEDICATED TO WOMEN’S SOCCER EVENT: Fox & Hounds Pub
OLDEST CROWD: The Robin Hood Pub
YOUNGEST CROWD: probaby Wirtshaus, though I didn’t actually go this time!
BEST IF YOU ARE BRINGING KIDS: Olson’s Scandinavian Deli
BEST MUSIC: Alpine Village
WANT TO COME BACK TO: Atmosphere Mar Vista, Cafe Brasil (tie)
BEST VALUE: Thai Patio and Natraliart (tie)
MOST OVERPRICED: Tangaroa Fish Market
WORST MEAL: Tangaroa Fish Market (its “kiwi chowder” and weird collard greens)
WORST VENUE: Mercado Buenos Aires (Granada Hills location)
I’ve really enjoyed your posts! You go to so many interesting places I’ve never heard of, and your reviews are so funny.