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Tag Archives: bars
Comfort food and killer cocktails.
My report at the L.A. Times here.
I thought Josef Centeno’s Bäco Mercat (in downtown L.A.) was simply a sandwich and soda shop.
I was SO very wrong…
Of course we begin with the Bäco flatbread sandwich: Pork Belly, Beef Carnitas, Salbitxada (Catalan sauce of tomatoes, almonds and garlic). Peter and I first tried Chef Centeno’s Bäco when he opened the Lazy Ox Canteen in Little Tokyo.
Bäco Mercat is the home of the “bäco,” the signature flatbread sandwich that was developed by chef Josef Centeno. The original bäco was the crispy pork belly and beef carnitas with caraway pepper. Since then, the bäco bread has taken center stage and works as a vessel for all things delicious: pork, beef, poultry, seafood and vegetables. (more on the website)
Please read Jonathan Gold’s Bäco review at L.A. Weekly
408 S Main St
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Follow @BacoMercat on twitter
I’m not a fan of overly sweet cocktails. Whenever I see “simple syrup” (sugar water) listed on a cocktail menu, I usually just order a vodka or scotch. There’s just something about mixing booze with sugar that guarantees I’ll be suffering a hangover the next morning.
Recently, my friend Chris Parke (mixologist/bartender at Raphael) created a special cocktail for the latest Test Kitchen night at Short Order. This was a one-time event showcasing burgers and cocktails from some of L.A.’s most talented chefs and bartenders.
On the day of the event, I was surprised when Chris tweeted that he named his clementine (“oh my darling”) cocktail after me. Of course I was honored, but what if was too sweet and I didn’t like it? MyLastBite.com has always been about focusing on the positive. If I don’t like it, I don’t share it.
Thankfully the drink was fantastic (everyone at our large table thought so too). It was fruity, refreshing and just a tad bitter. The clementine cocktail also went perfectly with my favorite burger of the night, made by Raphael’s chef Adam Horton.
Jo My Darlin’ Cocktail Recipe
2 oz Bourbon
1 oz Aperol
1 oz Clementine juice
2 dash orange bitters
A bit of chopped basil
A slice of clementine soaked in aperol for 24 hours (to garnish)
Lemongrass for garnish
Mix Aperol, juice, bourbon, bitters and basil together in cocktail shaker, then pour over ice
Garnish with lemongrass and aperol soaked clementine
Note: Chris added a tiny bit of cayenne pepper in my drink. He knows I like it spicy!
Photo of Chris by Lane Smith Jr. (provided by Chris Parke).
Because let’s face it… sometimes being bad feels so good…
Last week I was invited (by the kind folks at Shiny Object Co.) to check out the new Fall-Winter Specialty Cocktails at Villains Tavern downtown.
Blackheart (Goslings Dark Rum, Blackheart Spiced Rum, Rum Batter, Hot Water with Heavy Whipping Cream)
Day of the Dead (Mulled Spice Cider, Vodka, Apple Jack and Bitters)
Sleepy Hollow (Gin, Pumpkin, Citrus, Organic Egg Whites, Sugar, Heavy Whipping Cream and Chocolate Chili Bitters)
Edgar Allan Poe (A spin on the eggnog created in 1862 by Jerry Thomas, with Fighting Cock Bourbon, fresh green apple juice, an organic egg, sugar and nutmeg)
Along with the new cocktails, I munched on some terrific bar bites:
This was my first visit to Villains Tavern, and I’m already planning a return visit with friends. It’s location is a bit isolated, but I have to admit… that added to the sort of dangerous fun of it all!
The Dark Carnival at Villains Tavern
Friday Oct 29th & Saturday Oct 30th
7pm to 2am
Live Music, Freak Show, Costume Contest, Carnival Food more info>
Los Angeles, CA 91003
Note: This was a preview, media event (no cost). Thanks so much to Bradley Tuck and Megan MacEachern for the invite!
Casa Vega restaurant in Sherman Oaks has always meant “pure comfort” to me. Peter and I have been regulars since 1994 (when I moved from San Diego), and for years we ate there at least once a week. That was before the smoking ban came into effect (not that either of us ever smoked), and before hungry patrons were forbidden to drink cocktails outside.
They’ve never taken reservations, and back then we didn’t mind sitting out in the waiting area for an hour or more, because the covered patio felt like an extension of the inside bar. We always had the same drink; Two large “Tres Generaciones” Margaritas on the rocks.
After making our way into the actual bar, we’d wait a bit longer and loved watching the crowd. It was such a wild mix of people: Studio execs (like Peter), families with small kids, single gals and guys on the prowl, and a fair share of San Fernando Valley’s aspiring porn stars.
Our favorite tables were (and are still) one of the wall booths in the back right, larger dining room. If you’ve never been, and like people-watching, they’re well worth waiting for. From there, you can keep an eye out for whoever is coming into the dark room, and over the years we’ve spotted (to name just a few); Jennifer Aniston (several times, pre and post Brad), Mickey Dolenz from the Monkeys, and the one and only (“give-me-another-margarita-so-I’m-brave-enough-to-say hi”) George Clooney.
After settling in our booth, we never had to pick up a menu or actually order our food. The waiter would look at us and say, “One Casa Vega salad, one carnitas combo to share, flour tortillas, and a chile relleno on the side, right?”
Our love for the restaurant extends throughout our family. When my brother Greg visits from Scotland, the first place he wants to go in ALL of Los Angeles (straight from the airport) is Casa Vega. It’s legendary even in far away Bridge of Weir and Glasgow, although like most locals he refers to it as simply, “Vega”.
On the afternoon of 9/11, like everyone, we were glued to our television re-watching the footage and listening to a frightened America shut down. Our good friend and neighbor, Nelson, was with us and we sat around in tears, holding our dogs and feeling helpless.
After awhile I just got angry and didn’t want to sit home and cry anymore. I jumped up and said, “That’s IT… we are NOT going to stay here and be afraid… we’re going to Vega”. Thank goodness they were open. It was early (5pm or so) and there were only a few other people in the bar. Slowly, the restaurant started filling up and although the mood was somber, the camaraderie in the room made it okay to be out getting drunk and socializing on such a horrible, tragic day. Nothing could take away the shock of what happened earlier in the morning, but that meal at Casa Vega was one of the most comforting I’ve ever had.
Admittedly, the food isn’t pretty to look at, but it is ooey gooey delicious. We’ve spent many a crowded Cinco de Mayo there and no matter what the occasion, we never stray from our favorite dishes: One Casa Vega salad (a crisp tortilla with chorizo, spiced beans, lettuce, tomato, beets and parmesan cheese), one Carnitas combo to share (tender pieces of seasoned pork, served on a bed of shredded lettuce with freshly made pico de gallo), flour tortillas, and a chile relleno on the side. And of course at least two “Tres Generaciones”Margaritas on the rocks. Now, that’s pure comfort if you ask me.
13301 Ventura Blvd (at Fulton Ave)
Dining Date: Since 1994
The Kogi Taco Truck made me miss being in my twenties. Especially over the last couple of months, since I started following their Twitter updates on my cell phone. Late at night I’d be in bed reading a book, and have to stop so I could see the incoming Twitter text: “10PM-2AM@The Brig – Abbot Kinney and Palm in Venice”. I couldn’t stop wondering, “Who ARE these people partying EVERY night of the week, chasing down the Kogi taco truck at 2AM?”
It was sort of depressing, because I wanted to be out there chasing the truck too, but then again, I didn’t want to be OUT THERE chasing the truck (or chasing anything for that matter). The Alibi Room in Culver City actually runs a Kogi kitchen (monday thru saturday), but still, I had no desire to fight rush-hour traffic and wait in a ridiculously long line, just for a TACO.
Shortly after I turned twenty-one, I moved to Pacific Beach in San Diego, then spent the next couple of years partying non-stop with my friends. Our days consisted mostly of working in retail during the day, sunning ourselves on our days off and planning “girls night out” EVERY single night of the week.
Most of us were on pretty tight budgets, but we knew which beach bars served free “happy hour” food (drinks bought by the fellas), and it usually consisted of nachos, taquitos or plates of bacon-topped potato skins. Remember when potato skins were the cool, new appetizers?
Our favorite drinking holes back then were places like the Beachcomber or the Pennant, and we never missed a Tuesday $1 Margarita night at Diego’s on Garnet Avenue. Quick trips to Mexico for cheap lobster and margaritas were followed by dancing all night at the local clubs.
These nightly adventures always ended with a trip to Roberto’s Taco Shop in Mission Beach, which was steps from the shore, next to the aging Big Dipper roller coaster. The giant, carne asada burrito was my favorite and I always ordered it with extra guacamole. I can’t recall ever eating there during the day, or going there sober for that matter, but back in the day, Roberto’s Taco Shop was MY Kogi.
If you’re not familiar with Kogi BBQ, then you probably don’t live in the Los Angeles area. The first time I read about Kogi was on an EaterLA/Lesley Balla post back in December (boy, do I miss her on Eater these days). Ever since then, Kogi has been the “it” taco truck in the city, offering the flavor of spicy Korean barbecue, conveniently wrapped in a fresh tortilla. Kogi gained even more followers when they started using Twitter to communicate upcoming locations with their customers. It was a simple (and brilliant) way for Kogi to keep in contact with hungry, usually late-night, eaters.
Last Thursday, I just happened to be reading the Kogi website, when I noticed a post titled, “What 20 Bucks Can Buy You”, and was thrilled to learn that it was for a fundraiser in nearby Burbank the same evening. The Gina Alexander Philanthropy Project partnered with Kogi to offer All-You-Can-Eat Kogi tacos for $20, with the proceeds benefiting the Center of Hope Village (for abused children) in the Philippines.
I called Peter and made sure he could make it home early so we could finally try the now-famous Kogi tacos together. Just last week the Kogi truck had been on the Fox lot where he works and he hoped to try it then, but the line was just too long for a my workaholic husband, who doesn’t like to break for lunch anyway.
We arrived at the event 30 minutes early, and after paying our $20 donation (each), we headed for the Kogi truck line, quite pleased to be very close to the front. It was another hour before the truck actually showed up, but there was plenty of entertainment to keep us occupied (photos below), and we didn’t mind because it was all for a good cause.
Peter and I both ordered two Korean Short Ribs and one Spicy Pork. The All-You-Can-Eat Kogi Taco offer, was limited to three at a time, which made sense because when I looked back at the line behind us, there must have been at least 150 hungry people waiting on the street.
The tacos were terrific (LOVED the spicy pork), and we were content with the three that we tried. Of course if we didn’t have to get back in line and wait again, we would have definitely made it a furious pig-out session, but mostly it felt good to make the donation (Peter later told me he slipped them another $20), and to FINALLY get a taste of the Kogi phenomenon!
Afterwards we headed home, took our pups for their evening walk, and then I fell asleep next to my husband reading my favorite, new book. And guess what? I was tickled pink, NOT to be in my twenties again.
Upcoming All-You-Can-Eat Kogi Taco dates:
Thurs, June 25
Thurs, July 30
Thurs, August 27
You must rsvp for your name to be placed on the list.
Email/RSVP or Get more info by contacting
My current, favorite book (that I’m reading again)
Roberto’s Taco Photo Courtesy of David C.
Dining Date: 4/30/09