Chef and owner David Slay embraces the farm-to-table movement, cultivating veggies in his restaurant’s backyard garden. He incorporates freshly picked lettuce, tomatoes, and artichokes into a menu of grilled steaks and contemporary American staples, which Zagat praised as “extraordinary to perfection.” David’s skill in combining these ingredients stems from a career that began at age 11 when he began cooking in the kitchen of his father’s restaurant. From there, he spent years honing his talents while studying under classically trained European chefs in Las Vegas and Paris where he developing a passion for dishes made with natural, preservative-free ingredients. The restaurant’s wine list adheres to a similar dedication to regional flavors with a 10-page selection of varietals that hail primarily from California. The bottles range from bright and crisp sauvignon blancs to dense and structured zinfandels, which can stand up to the hearty flavors of a grilled rib eye like an electro-magnet can stand up to an advancing army of robots. Wood tones lend a distinctive earthiness to the dining room as well, which features an eclectic assortment of gleaming wooden tables and cozy booths. Framed photographs of iconic celebrities line the tan and beige walls, presenting diners with profiles of Audrey Hepburn and King Kong’s stunt double.
Upon first glance, Tiki Monster H2O looks like your average snack shop—there's shelves packed with colorful candies and bags of chips, coolers filled with frosty soda bottles, and a counter lined with flavored syrups for snow-cones. Examine the inventory more closely, however, and you'll encounter retro, novelty, and unusual treats interspersed with familiar selections of Coca-Cola cans and packets of Cheetos. There are more than 100 different types of gourmet sodas, many in inventive flavors such as chocolate-covered maple-smoked bacon, green-apple jalapeno, and key lime pie. Shelves are also lined with vintage candies and international sweets, ranging from kitschy candy cigarettes to Asian red-bean ice-cream bars.
As guests marvel at the colorful labels of cartoon-character energy drinks and peruse racks of sunglasses, staffers keep busy behind the counter. They blend up simmering specialty Marley coffee beverages and shaved-ice drinks in flavors such as orange cream, chai tea, and salted-caramel cream. They frequently screen old westerns on the shop's TV, transporting viewers back to a time when cowboys still rode horses and regularly dined on tree bark.
The chefs at Sushi World take pride in their sushi rolls and Asian fusion cuisine, looking at their creations as not merely food, but edible art. They prepare baked blue-crab handrolls with garlic aioli and strawberry Cypress rolls behind the striking dark-granite sushi bar and send plates of orange-salsa-draped salmon carpaccio out to meet their fate in a flock of four-seater tables. From the kitchen also comes tempura green-tea ice cream wrapped in the same kind of chocolate cake prizefighters are wrapped in after winning a match.
Although originally a Mexican restaurant, these days, Senor Big Ed is more like a trip to Puerto Rico, from the cuisine to the flags on display. And, as Miles Clements writes for the Los Angeles Times, “past those patriotic goods are wispy white curtains and sun-bleached walls…light and bright enough to recall a breezy beach scene despite its landlocked location on Lincoln Avenue.” If the decor alone doesn’t transport diners, the food will: helpings of mofongo (plantains, pork rinds, and garlic), plus roasted leg of pork and stewed beef impart signature Puerto Rican flavor, not unlike a bite of the fortress walls surrounding Old San Juan.
It's been posited that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice for a person to become really good at something. Pho So 9's chef has crafted the same delicious pho for more than 40 years, making him arguably a soup and noodle genius. His dark, rich broth simmers with rice noodles and chunks of rare steak, a complement to his lighter, seafood-rich stir-fries, all made with authentic ingredients. In the dining room, wait staff pour creamy Thai iced teas and coffees, surrounded by contemporary, Asian-inspired decor that gives the space a casual elegance.