If the film industry resides in Hollywood, the greater city of Los Angeles is its backyard. Filmmakers have taken to exploring this backyard in their movies, and local residents have come to accept that a routine trip to the deli can quickly turn into a cameo in the latest blockbuster. Though tourists have taken to camping outside celebrities’ homes for a glimpse of fame, there’s a less invasive—and far tastier—method of stargazing. Here, we follow the cameras to seven restaurants made famous by their appearances in film. If you’re flying in to LAX, your first stop should be Randy’s Donuts on West Manchester Avenue. No, Randy’s was not named after Randy Newman. It was, however, briefly featured in the music video for the singer’s 1983 paean to his native city, “I Love L.A.”. When the giant donut that sits atop the shop isn’t appearing in action films such as 2012 and Iron Man 2, it acts as a beacon, enticing pilots to visit during long layovers at the nearby airport. Next, take a drive over to Canter’s Deli in the Fairfax District. Though countless celebrities have feasted on Canter’s pastrami sandwiches since 1931, Walter Matthau bears the rare distinction of doing so on camera in Neil Simon’s I Ought to Be in Pictures (1982). Current owner Marc Canter recently penned a book about Guns N’ Roses, whose frequent visits to his deli evince the band’s appetites for things other than destruction. If pastrami and hair metal don’t satisfy your taste for decadence, head to the lavishly appointed Cicada Restaurant downtown. In a memorable scene from Pretty Woman (1990), Julia Roberts flings a snail across the restaurant’s art deco-inspired dining room. Her costar, Richard Gere, would return to the restaurant just a few years later in Final Analysis (1992). Perhaps he was drawn back by the mallechort elevator doors or gold-leafed ceiling—traces left over from the restaurant’s former life as a 1920s haberdashery. Cicada’s transformation seems minor compared to that of J & J Sandwich Shop. The 6th Street delicatessen was stripped of its walk-up sandwich counter and injected with a dose of 1950s noir for L.A. Confidential (1997). Recast as the Nite Owl Coffee Shop, J & J became the scene of a multiple homicide and ground zero for the movie’s pulpy action. Hop on the 101 freeway and exit at Franklin for a post-lunch coffee or milkshake at the appropriately named 101 Coffee Shop. Restaurateur Warner Ebbink carefully designed the shop’s interior—complete with swiveling counter chairs and plush leather booths—to mimic the funky diners of the 1960s. According to the New York Times, Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn frequented the diner back when it was called the Hollywood Hills Coffee Shop. They repaid the hospitality by immortalizing the shop in their hit comedy Swingers (1996). Get back on the 101 and take it out to the San Fernando Valley for the last stop of our tour, which brings us to a nondescript strip mall in Granada Hills. This is the site of Vincenzo’s Pizza, which the filmmakers behind the neo-noir Drive converted into Ron Perlman’s latest criminal lair. Though one of the film’s most violent scenes takes place inside the renamed Nino’s Pizzeria, it’s worth risking your life for a slice of Vincenzo’s New York–style pepperoni.Read More
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Ordering a Dodger Dog is a ritual. Customers queue up in one of two lines—one for grilled dogs and the other for classic steamed. They inch ever closer to the counter where stadium workers dole out foot-long franks that stretch far beyond the confines of steamed buns. Finally they head over to the condiment stations to load up on mustard, ketchup, chopped onions, or relish. Dodger stadium’s divide-and-conquer approach is the product of years of experience. Many estimate that the millions of Dodger Dogs sold each baseball season outrank sales of any other frank in the league. But once foodies have had their fill of the gargantuan Dodger dogs at the stadium, or even purchased at local markets, they’ve only just begun exploring the diverse hot-dog scene in Los Angeles. Take the Korean-style franks of Seoul Sausage Co.. They’re a bit harder to track down than a ballpark frank. Without a food truck or retail space to call home, these succulent, grilled delicacies crop up at street fairs and catered events all over LA, where their inventive cooks offer up a kalbi-flavored sausage topped with tangy kimchi relish, and a spicy pork sausage crowned with apple-cabbage slaw. For a taste of the increasingly hard to find LA street dog, enthusiasts can hunt them down at Skooby’s, where decadently bacon-wrapped franks nestle into fresh buns delivered by a local bakery. Perhaps the crowning glory of LA’s hot-dog inner circle is the chilidog, which local favorite The Hat has been slinging since 1951. Pink’s, on La Brea and Melrose since 1939, is now practically a regular set piece on TV shows and movies set in LA for its addictive dogs and cheerful, familiar sign. Their ode to the chilidog is a love letter to its loyal patrons written with all-beef franks slathered in chili, mustard, and onions. Elsewhere in the city, more progressive—even avant-garde—culinary sensibilities shape the future of the humble hot dog. At Let’s Be Frank, nitrate- and hormone-free dogs are made fresh from grass-fed beef and layered with toppings and veggies sourced from local farms. At The Stand, diners can customize their low-fat turkey dogs or chicken-apple sausage with quintessentially Californian toppings including avocado and corn salsa. At Vicious Dogs, the whimsical 8-bit-inspired art of cook Stacey Hughes colors the walls. The eatery’s Thanksgiving turkey dogs arrive smothered in all the trimmings—stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce. Adventurous patrons can even go off the menu and try their hand at topping Stacey by building their own creations, including Latin-inspired, deep-fried doggie flautas.Read More