Archive for the ‘Single Diner’ Category

Single Diner: The Würst Way to Spend Jury Duty

March 16, 2009

Sausage on grill at Voderer Sternen
When I visit my friend Elaine in Zurich, I make a daily stop at my favorite Swiss culinary establishment, and serious sausage stand, the famous Voderer Sternen Grill. The line is always long, but quick and orderly, and when one finally makes it to the front, the gentleman behind the grill has no time for dawdlers. Like a Swiss German version of Seinfeld’s International Soup Kitchen Nazi, you have to choose fast, a Bratwurst or Servelat, white or red. Holding the steamy link in my left paw, a hot crusty roll in my right and a small container of salaciously sinus-opening mustard in my teeth, I find a standing table and order a good German beer. I alternate flavors as I take a dip, a bite, a bite, and a sip until all has disappeared and I have to decide if I can legitimately order another without rolling home.

In comparison to the Voderer Sternen, my biased opinion is that American hot dog stands, like Pinks in LA, truly pale in comparison. I highly doubted that the level of sausage pleasure I experienced at the VS could be matched in the United States until I heard about Würstkuche in downtown LA’s Little Tokyo. Taking advantage of an extended stint on jury duty at the lovely Metropolitan Court House on Hill Street, I visited the restaurant two times last week…a definite perk of the two-hour jury duty lunch.

With twenty-two sausages to choose from, cooked on an open grill similar to the Voderer Sternen, the links come from local vendors. Classics like Bratwurst, Hot Italian and Kielbasa (and their veggie rivals) are included on the list and the two gourmet ones I tried—Austin Blues, a hot and spicy, tri-pepper and hardwood smoked pork link and Santa Fe jack cheese and jalapeño peppers, a turkey dog, were both good, with my preference leaning to the Austin Blues, a reminder of the Louisiana hot sausage and smoked kielbasa I grew up on as a child. The crazier exotic link selections, such as rattlesnake and rabbit with jalapeño peppers and the alligator and pork, will have to wait until I get through the classic terrain first. Each sausage purchase comes with your choice of mustards, like my favorite whole grain, as well as quality toppings like carmelized onions, sweet peppers, and sauerkraut, all packed into an over-sized, freshly baked, hot roll.

While the menu beyond the sausages is simple in concept, offering fries and drinks, it’s the depth of selection and variety within each category that impresses the foodie in me. Hot, thick-cut, and sea-salted Belgian fries come in a white wrapper complemented by a moving selection of ten dipping sauces like bleu cheese walnut and bacon or chipotle aioli. Innovative and hard to find bottled sodas, including locally bottled Nesbitts, and a dizzying selection of Belgian and German beers on tap, bring this tasty meal to under $20.

A corner restaurant with minor signage on the outside and a line of hipsters out the door, Würstkuche is challenging to find in Little Tokyo but of course, well worth it. Sandwiched into a really cute neighborhood that is a neat discovery in itself, the restaurant is industrially modern in design, with the eating area structured like a modern beer hall. Long tables, for large communal groups who want to hang awhile, take up most of the floor with a seated bar in the back. Unlike the Voderer Sternen, that only offers two sausage choices with a line that moves at a clip, be prepared to wait a bit for your on-demand dog, fries and beer. If you ask, the owners will offer you trial tastes of the beers on tap while you wait. As this place gets found out, that’s not a bad idea in order to make sure the starving sausage lovers are kept at bay.


SINGLE DINER: My Three Lovers

August 9, 2008

I’ve got three lovers right now—each to fit a different mood.  One is for those late nights when I really have to satisfy an urge, another is for when I’m feeling a little wilder and need some spice, and the other is for pure unadulterated passion.  Last week, I fit them all in and totally overindulged. 


Tuesday was my late night lover- Norm’s.  I don’t really admit to going to Norm’s (although I guess I am now) but Norm’s has menu items I can’t get anywhere else like mozzarella sticks and French dip.  I like laminated menus, shiny plastic chairs that swivel, and name-tag wearing waitresses with skirts a bit too short.  And I love the satisfaction of a meal for $9.99 with not only a steak and potato but soup, salad, and bread. Now that’s a deal.   

Norm’s is close to my office so I went I for the lunch rush to try the “Southern inspired menu.” Jackpot!  A Catfish, hush puppies, cheese grits combo!  God had smiled down on me.  Catfish is my Southern girl favorite and I love to smother it with ketchup like I did when I was little.  Grits are number two on my list of Southern delicacies. And cheese grits….Lord just take me now. It wasn’t a gourmet experience, I could go on about the things that weren’t Southern enough, but I won’t.  I went there for exactly the experience I got—simple, straightforward food, served in a diner (albeit Flinstones-inspired) restaurant with a colorful and diverse clientele.  My dad would have been on cloud nine.


Saturday night was Lotería Grill.  I typically go to the Farmer’s Market location once a week but wanted to try the new sit down restaurant in Hollywood.  I really believe this is the best Mexican restaurant in town.  The new place has exactly the same menu as the counter at the Grove but also includes a great bar, with every Tequila known to man, free chips and salsa (FM charges extra) and the most amazing helado (ice cream) I have had since living in Los Angeles. 


I always start with the tortilla soup, then some carnitas or enchiladas suiza. With its creamy consistency, the soup, topped with manchego cheese, dried poblano, avocado slice and tostado garnish, beats anything else I know in LA.  If I just want a snack, the carnitas work well and I love the originality of the meat combos to choose from…I recommend trying the sampler to really get the gamut. For Saturday, since the restaurant had the tequila bar, I downed a margarita and then tried the magical pina colada helado.  I couldn’t help myself-I loudly proclaimed that everyone at the restaurant should try this stuff.  I told at least 4 strangers and the bartender.  I’m not kidding, that stuff is magical. 



Sunday afternoon was Pizzeria Mozza.  This place ranks as one of my favorite restaurants bar none!  The pizzas live up to the hype, basically because the crust is truly extraordinary (thank you Nancy Silverton) and the topppings are so well balanced, nothing overwhelms anything else―it’s a melody of outstanding ingredients.  Pizza aside though, in my opinion, the Mozzarella Caprese with homemade buffalo mozzarella, sunned tomatoes and high quality olive oil is the best thing on the menu.  You can’t believe you are eating something so sublime and simple.  Top that all off with a great Italian wine and I smile the entire time I am eating. 

While my lovers don’t help me keep my waist line in chec, they do leave me with a smile on my face, thinking about the next time I’ll be able to see them again.




SINGLE DINER: Little Love Pockets from Heaven or LA-Italian Style

July 4, 2008

Maybe because it’s summertime, your intrepid and starving SINGLE DINER is feeling a little in need of a good European vacation.  With travel across the pond more than expensive, eating well in LA, especially at some of the highly lauded Italian restaurants, seemed like an affordable solution.  Rules of thumb for us, we always eat at the bar, bring a book and focus on the food at hand. 

SINGLE DINER revisited two great restaurants, Osteria Mozza on Highland and Melrose, late on a Tuesday night, and La Terza in the Orlando Hotel on 3rd Street at 5 PM on a Thursday.  Both have wonderful pedigrees.  O. Mozza has been turning the heads of the most discriminating eaters with Nancy Silverton behind the counter and Mario Batali on board (if only in name?) while La Terza, sister osteria to Angeli Osteria, certainly comes from good stock-I hear Silverton used to do Mozarella Nights there before moving to the Mozza duo. 

While my methods of observation are not necessarily scientific, there are summer Italian food items I always have to have.  I started with the Prosciutto and Melone at both.  The portion and presentation at Osteria was a little more “controlled” with a perfect addition of olive oil gracing the perfect melone and charcuterie.  La Terza’s had wonderful melone as well and both were similar in standard, but La Terza just wasn’t quite as graceful.  But one thing, both still needed a bit of fresh cracked pepper which was never offered.  I ordered the $38 glass of Brunello at Mozza and started with a Chianti at Terza but my wonderfully enthusiastic bar tender Greg, steered me to a Barolo that had alot more going on.  Both were lovely, complicated enough, the Brunello more so, and balanced well, not to much alcohol overload (the Chianti was not balanced, thanks Greg for taking it away!) 

My main courses were similar-Francolli di Brasato at Mozza and Agnolotti with lamb and parmigianno reg. sauce at Terza.  Both daintily al dente although I felt the Mozza dish needed a bit of salt and maybe some pepper.  I’m all for subtle and light but the pureed meat in the raviolis was a tad too bland.  The Agnolotti at Terza was perfect though.  I ordered a half portion to not go crazy and little love pockets from heaven is my best description.  Perfect proportions of the lamb combined with the pasta and the cheese sauce.  Lovely. 

I can’t not say anything about the bread and the service.  These items for me are always what put the cherry on the top of the sundae.  Let me say it was a close race on service, with La Terza winning by a hair, but considering that I was the only one at the bar at 5 PM, let’s call it even.  Bread though? La Terza, how do you know we love our bread warm with a little olive oil and grilling?  Ms. Silverton, you are a bread genius but I hold you to the highest standard always…this night didn’t cut it.

I didn’t have an official dessert at La Terza, my lemon drop started the evening and so I guess let’s say that was dessert.  Sugar rim was a little rocky, but good enough.  The Rosemary Olive Oil Cakes with gelato and glass sugar accompaniment had been sold to me at Mozza because of their simplicity.  Sadly, while I was a little overstuffed at that point, the salt inclusion which started off as an interesting play against the ice cream and the little cakes, became cloying very quickly.  I just couldn’t finish it. 

My total bill at both was in the $75 and up range for one person.  I do recommend considering half portions when you order pasta…you really get away from feeling it’s a horse race to finish everything and you aren’t so overstuffed later.  Both get my SINGLE DINER stamp of approval with the following SINGLE DINER ratings:

SINGLE DINER COMFORT RATING:  28 of 30 for both.  Didn’t matter if I was there with someone or by myself.
MEETING NEW PEOPLE:  Osteria M. The bar is very large and more of a party crowd.
BEING TAKEN CARE OF: Both tie.  Osteria M. had great service, hard to tell with Terza as I was one of two at the bar and the bartender talked to me the entire time.
BEING LEFT ALONE: Osteria M.  Too busy for anyone to notice you unless you want to be noticed.
QUIET FOR WORKING OR READING: I would not give marks on this to either, La Terza can get pretty loud and it’s a small bar.

Hugs and kisses….