None of these three spots is necessarily brand new; but all three have recently joined my family’s regular rotation. They might already have reviews/threads, but they aren’t the most commonly noted spots.
The Jerk Spot (9006 Venice Boulevard, Los Angeles CA, 90232)
The Jerk Spot sits in a strip mall just east of the Culver/Venice intersection. It’s the same mall as Smitty’s, a Tom’s #5, a donut shop that seems to sell more boba than donuts – in between the Del Taco and the Wendy’s. (The Tom’s is currently notable for its boarded up windows, the result of a Del Taco employee mistaking his brakes for the gas pedal – or was it the other way around – and plowing through the windows.) Of these other places, I can only vouch for Smitty’s, where they do some very tasty fried fish and wings and so on.
TJS is unassuming. Just a few tables inside, a TV showing CNN or a soccer game, the food is served on paper plates with plastic flatware. The menu is limited, at least compared to Derrick’s. You order at the counter and if you glance to your right you can see the cooks preparing dishes.
They have five entrees, I’ve tried four of them. There is jerk chicken (you can request light or dark meat, I’ve only had the dark), curry chicken, brown stew chicken, curry goat and oxtail and beans. The former three cost 7.99 (8.99 for the white meat jerk chicken), the goat is 14.99 and the oxtail 15.99. I’ve tried all but the oxtail.
I and my family have absolutely enjoyed everything we’ve had here. It would be worth going back just for the jerk chicken and the nice and spicy sauce the provide on the side. But I actually have preferred the curry and the stew – chock full of juicy chicken and nice spices. I’ve never been to Jamaica, but I get the sense the food tastes homemade – it just has the grandmother’s recipe sense about it. All of these entrees come with a big scoop of rice and beans, plantains and a heaping portion of steamed vegetables (mostly cabbage with broccoli and carrots and so on.) Everything was really good and the portions are more than ample, particularly for the eight dollar price. We always order a few patties as well, they have beef, chicken and vegetable and all are worth the 2.75 cent price tag.
There is fish on the menu (I haven’t tried them yet), including snapper, tilapia and salmon – each prepared either blackened or jerk style. There is also Papillote prepared with your choice of the same fish. You can order reggae bread on the side (you can also do just jerk chicken and bread, instead of the typical sides) and there are some salads. Pretty basic. No beer or wine, just bottled and canned waters and soft drinks including some imported Jamaican brands and also homemade sorrel or a pineapple/ginger concoction.
This is a good spot for an inexpensive yet very tasty meal. Not fancy, not gourmet, just big portions of good food and a pretty low price. There are always people eating inside and just based on watching the register they do a good take out business as well.
Mi Ranchito Restaurante Y Pupuseria
2116 S. La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90016
Mi Ranchito is in (another strip mall). This one is on La Brea just north of the 10 freeway, south of Washington. For a while this location held El Nido, which served Panamanian food. There is no relation to the Mi Ranchito that used to be on Washington that became Fin.
MR has a pretty extensive menu of El Salvadoran and Mexican dishes. I’ve tried a few and all were good or pretty good. But what has us coming back are the fresh pupusas and the grilled meats.
They have six or eight types of pupusas and we’ve liked them all. They come in various combinations of vegetables, cheese, beans and pork and cost like 2-3 bucks apiece. (I’m not looking at a menu as I type this – just going from memory). Once you place your order, the staff puts two huge containers of condiments on the table – picked carrots, etc and pickled cabbage. Super fresh.
We’ve been ordering a pile of pupusas and the grilled meats platter to go along with it. The platter has chicken, beef, and shrimp on it, along with a few more pupusas, fried cheese, salad and rice. (I have to admit, the platter has always been a pretty good deal, but the amount of meat seems to vary slightly from “enough” to “wow, that’s a lot of meat.”)
MR serves cold beer to go with the soft drinks and if there is a futbol game to be watched it will be on one of the two TVs. Fancy? Not at all. Amazing? Maybe not. But a really good, solid meal at a good price in a cozy, no frills atmosphere? Yes, you bet. (I should also give a shout out to Cocos for pupusas – I didn’t include them in this review because they don’t have the rest of the menu to recommend it. I wish they did because they are closer to where I live. Cocos is on Centinela, near Braddock.)
11028 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
I sort of hesitated to include this one because there are pizza purists out there who might be offended – but oh well, we like it.
Mega Pizza is located on Washington Boulevard in the old Zam Zam location. It’s an halal pizza place with what they call “Scandinavian Pizza and Middle Eastern cuisine.”
We’ve been to MP a bunch of times lately. There’s always a few people eating inside and what seems to be a really brisk take out business. (One time we went at 7:00 and the place was empty. Empty. We thought they were closed. About 15 minutes later, the place was slammed. Slammed. It took us a minute to figure it out, but we realized it was Ramadan and folks were waiting until sundown to have their dinner.)
I won’t bother reviewing the “traditional pizza” because while it was okay the one time we tried it, it’s not better or really as good as other “traditional pizzas” and you might as well go to a better place if pizza is what you want to eat.
Instead, I’ll start at the bottom of the menu are recommend the Mega burger. It’s a juicy burger topped with melted cheese, fried onions and sautéed paprika. MP is the last place I thought I’d find a nice burger, but it’s really good. My kids (for what it’s worth, my “kids” are in their 20s – they aren’t “kids-kids”) have started going in just for the burgers, it’s one of the better burgers in our neighborhood – it’ just drips with juices. I’m as surprised as anyone – but this is a good 7.95 burger. It might not be a good 14.95 burger, but it’s a good 7.95 burger. You can get it with fries (which come on the crispy, well done side – which is nice for me because I sometimes specify “well done” when it comes to fries."
We always get an order of Mega hommos. It’s hommos topped with sautéed mushrooms, served with homemade bread (it’s not pita, it’s more of a warm, cracker type bread). If you go and try both the hommos and the fries – you will end up using the fries as a hommos-delivery service – it’s inevitable.
Now, the pizza. In addition to the traditional pizza, MP has some specialty and canoe pizzas.
The specialty pizzas are, more or less, middle eastern dishes prepared as pizza. There is a Copenhagen pizza (Mozzarella, chicken, onion, garlic and banana peppers with garlic dressing), Copenhagen gyro pizza (Mozzarella, gyro, onion, garlic and banana peppers with garlic dressing), Mega special chicken pizza (Mozzarella, chicken, salad, garlic, dressing and mega hot sauce) and Mega special gyro pizza (Mozzarella, gyro, salad, garlic, dressing and mega hot sauce). We’ve been digging the latter two, my wife and I like to share one of these and one burger. The pizzas aren’t as big as a (for example) large Domino’s but they are bigger and heartier than what some places call a personal pizza.
Including the Mozzarella in the ingredients is a bit misleading because there is actually only a sprinkling of cheese – it’s not a super cheesy pizza. And there is a lot of salad on the pizza. The crust is crisp on the bottom but softer on top, it’s not a “cracker.” The chicken and gyro are nicely spiced. All in all, these pizzas are more than the some of their parts. They are uncommon and maybe won’t scratch the “I feel like a slice of pepperoni” itch, but rather something enjoyable that stand on their own.
Finally, there is the canoe pizza. The canoe pizzas are more like open faced sandwiches served on hot, thick chewy rolls. There are three types (and I’ve only tried the latter two). There is the Sausage Canoe (Mozzarella, Eggs, sausage, tomato, saute onion, green pepper and feta cheese), the Meat Sauce canoe (Mozzarella, Eggs, sausage, tomato, saute onion, green pepper and feta cheese) and the Mirza Canoe (Mozzarella, eggs, eggplant, tomato, garlic and fresh basil). I like it when the fried egg breaks and the egg yolk sort of blends into the rest of the ingredients.
(By the way, I got too lazy to list all the prices. Here is the web address: http://www.megapizzagrille.com/ ) They have the prices there.
I know I’m not an eloquent food writer, I can’t ID specific ingredients just by tasting them necessarily and I run out of descriptors for food. (I am actually a writer by trade, just not about food.) And I know these aren’t the top-of-the-line type places that get a lot of attention. But they are small, family-run places that I and my family like and I’d like to see them succeed so I thought I’d write about them and maybe a few others will like them as well.