Monday night I was deep in the west valley, looking for a quick bite to eat before a meeting. Yoshinoya? Um, no. Jack in the Box? No way. KFC? Not a chance. Wait, what's that neon light in the strip mall up ahead? Casa de Taco? Open 24 hours? Menudo on Sundays? Sold. $4 bought me two carnitas tacos with a citrus-y salsa verde, rice, beans and soda. I considered skipping my meeting and staying in this cozy joint, listening to Mexican country on the jukebox and joining the other patrons in swapping b.s. with the guy behind the counter, but my Spanish's not so good, and work called.
Fast forward to Tuesday morning. I was actually driving to the office (usually I'm a public transit gal), and decided to take a short detour down Western Ave to Paris Baguette Cafe and treat my coworkers to some breakfast pastries. This unexpected chain cafe comes to LA via South Korea, where over 1500 locations exist. I'd never been, but heard good things from others, and I wasn't disappointed. This self-service cafe (you grab a box, tongs, and go to town) produces a wonderfully flaky pastry and stocks the standards--chocolate croissants, apple turnovers--as well as Asian-influenced treats like a sweet potato pastry twist, and red bean buns. My favorite was the banana pastry, full of vanilla-y, banana cream, topped with banana slices.
This decadent breakfast was just barely topped by Tuesday's lunch at Mapo, a Korean restaurant just around the corner from my office. I snagged a seat among the businessmen and tucked into the best bibimbap (called dolsot, pictured left) I've had in Koreatown. It came sizzling in a big stone pot, and the bottom layer of rice crisped and carmelized on the bottom, adding a crunchy just-short-of-burnt taste to the already flavorful bowl.
Yes, Los Angeles, it's taken me four long years, but I love ya.
Pastry photos from Paris Baguette's website; bibimbap photo from Il Primo Uomo
Casa de Taco
7300 Topanga Canyon Boulevard Suite 8
Canoga Park, CA 91303-3333
125 N. Western Ave.
Los Angeles 90004
Strip mall at northwest corner of Normandie and 6th