I am deleting some, because I’m on a mini-strike against “user generated content” sites.
I choose to support wordpress.com because I use the open source version.
Chung King Cafe
4578 Whittier Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90022
This is an old restaurant that is still making food in the old Chinese-American style, with dishes like egg foo young, sweet and sour pork, Mongolian beef, etc. It’s not like the newer style in nearby Monterey Park (and even that isn’t new anymore, since it’s been around here 30 years). This is 1940s to 1970s Chinese-American food. They used to exist everywhere… and now they seem to be vanishing.
Partly, it’s due to people like me, who are from the SGV and started eating at the newer establishments that served the immigrant Chinese communities from Hong Kong and Taiwan. The food was much better, generally, and it was a very different style, more authentic. Little did I think that this would lead to the demise of 20th Century Chinese-American food.
I think people need to make an effort to eat at the remaining ones, because we’re upon a third wave of Chinese-American food, which is the steam table fast food style and the ayce buffet. These aren’t the same. The newer style is more pan-Asian, and includes sushi and western buffet items. It’s still in flux. It has a lot of the same names and dishes, but the recipes are not as good. Even more tragic – the recipes aren’t likely to be copied, because the people who run these fast food places are immigrants from China and Southeast Asia, where they don’t eat this type of Americanized Chinese food. Nobody from China knows what American sweet and sour pork is supposed to taste like.
The end of 20th Century Chinese-American food is almost certain. I remember when Japanese restaurants specialized in sukiyaki, and it was hard to get sashimi. Times and people changed, and now it’s pretty hard to get sukiyaki… but you can get sushi at the supermarket. The same will happen to Chinese-American foods in the LA area, but it can be forestalled. Try eating some egg foo young. It’s not authentic, but it can be really good.
King Cole Pizza
612 S Lorena St
Los Angeles, CA 90023
(Note that Yelp has the wrong address. It is 612 Lorena, by the 60 freeway.)
This was quite a find. I’ve seen this place, on and off, for around 30 years, but never went in. (Reason: the Kentucky Fried next door is really good, or was from the 70s through the 90s, when my family would occasionally make sure to stop at this particular restaurant to get chicken. This is around 6 miles from home.) It turns out they make a good pizza here. Being in East LA and all, there’s a certain Mexican angle to the food. You get a free bowl of jalapenos with your food. The salad is basic iceberg and tomatoes, with the white cheese, so it kind of reminded me of a tostada. We got a roast beef sandwich, but it had taken a step toward being a carne asada torta, with melted cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and the beef was heated on the grill like a cheesesteak. The pizza was heavy with cheese and pepperoni, and kind of greasy, but in a very tasty way. The crust was crisp on the bottom, and soft, and well done.
If you like Pizza Hut, but want a thinner, crispier crust, and oilyness that tastes better than PH, you will probably like King Cole Pizza.
People into retro things will appreciate the Ye Olde English Pizza Pub theme stolen from Shakey’s and Round Table Pizza… back in the 60s, for some reason, the popular fascination with fake Tudor architecture collided with the Italian family restaurant, and these Anglo-Italian-American pizza restaurants popped up everywhere. They not only have retained the English theme, with Mexican modifications, they have a lot of retro-style painted illustrations on the walls. They also have a retro video game that plays Mr. DO!
2024 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90057
I’m not sure how this chain works. It has a menu similar to a restaurant with the same name in Huntington Park. The most notable thing, to me, is that they make pretty good medium grain rice, which I sometimes crave. I had the fried fish pieces, and it was okay. Nothing spectacular. It comes with salad. The weird thing is that it tastes like a Japanese restaurant. The rice and salad dressing are exactly like all the old Japanese restaurants, which are getting kind of rare. So it was nostalgic. (“Ahh natsukashii.”)
I think this might be a Korean operation, even though all the staff are Latino, because the menu in the HP location’s website lists “udong”, which is their spelling for “udon.” Or maybe it’s some other group copying Koreans. The overall menu is a trip. Burgers, burritos, tacos, Salvadorean items, pollo rostizado, fried fish, teriyaki and other Japanese food, udon, sushi, chow mein, something that looks like chigae, caldo. This 90057 location has an abbreviated menu, and I don’t remember seeing sushi on there, but I may be wrong.
All I can say is, “times change.” Back in the old days, a spot like this would have had pastrami on the menu. Everyone had pastrami. (Langers is practically next door, too.) And there’d be fried chicken too. I guess the pastrami and fried chicken days are the old days, and the chow mein and Salvadorean is the future.
I wish I could have tried the meat and chicken, but I can’t really eat those.
Quickie Dog / Taco Quickie
7716 Eastern Ave
Bell Gardens, CA 90201
I was unable to find the address for this on the web, but it deserves some mention. I was introduced to TQ because it sells a thing called the Big Beefer, which is taco meat on a bun, kind of like a sloppy joe. Taco Bell used to have this, called the Bell Burger. Plus one for that.
They have a really good tostada that’s kind of like the school cafeteria tostada. Everything here is pretty much like taco bell or pup n taco food from the 1960s. It even tastes like that, which is what makes it special. It’s a real blast from the past. It’s a genre of food that barely exists anymore — the hot dog stand with Mexican food. (Though it’s probably only time before taco stands add Mexican style hot dogs with bacon.)
If you want “authentic” Mexican food, it’s all over the region now, but if you want the fake Americana/SGV stuff, you have to hunt around, and this is one of the spots.
Taqueria 4 Amigos
3149 San Gabriel Blvd
Rosemead, CA 91770
It’s a little on the heavy side, but they’re still real good.
(Edited in 2006)
The restaurant is no more. It went the way of the great El Huguin that preceded it. To the big rotisserie spit in the sky.
(About El Huguin: it was the first 1990s style taqueria in the area, and the first time I had carne asada in a burrito with refried beans and Mexican rice. I think it was in the mid 1980s when I first had it. Up until then, the burritos we had were based on stewed meat. There as Gloria’s, I think on Valley. There was one at Jim’s on San Gabriel. There was a Lupe’s in Pico Rivera, and a different Lupe’s on 3rd St. There was J&S on Garfield. Garduno’s in SSG and Montebello and El Monte. Pepe’s in Alhambra. Taco Lita. Tepeyac. Chano’s. Los Ruiz (which I never had a chance to eat). Ramona’s. I’m sure I’ve missed a hundred others. It was all over the place. But El Huguin was a different thing, with meat roasted on a spit. Nowadays, that’s associated with al pastor, but this shop spit roasted the beef. They also had the small soft tacos, though that wasn’t quite as uncommon. (Pretty much everyone made some version of a soft taco at home, because it was a pain to fry the tortilla.))
Here’s a couple highlights of memories of El Huguin: