• Los Angeles Glow by Kumar Appaiah

Discovering the L.A. Food Scene

Written by Ysmay.

Tommy's Burgers by Mr. LittlehandTommy's Burgers by Mr. Littlehand

The foodie scene in L.A. is huge, and we can't even begin to cover all of it, but we will try to tap into it for you.

Los Angeles does have a few claims to food fame including the French Dip Sandwich (rumored to have been created in the early 20th century), the blended iced coffee drink from Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and the original Tommy's Hamburger. Additionally, Los Angeles is home to a wide variety of cuisines including Thai, French, Mexican, Greek, Persian, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, and much, much more. The most prominent cuisines in Los Angeles are Mexican and Asian while the city of Glendale has the highest concentration of Persian restaurants in the nation.

Janice Wald HendersonJanice Wald Henderson"Downtown is the hot and happening spot," says long-time food writer Janice Wald Henderson. "All sorts of restaurants are opening; Asian fusion, savory and sweet pies, homemade sausages, breweries - downtown is where it's at! Santa Monica still hits a sweet spot for amazing food - just visit Melisse, and you'll see."

There are lots of types of cuisine that are popular in Los Angeles, but some more than others. "Small plates are still very popular, and organic cuisine is consistently red-hot," Janice explains. "In New York, Italian-American is in vogue.  Here in LA, we still adore our sushi.  And haute takes on burgers and pizza are red-hot right now."

Janice Wald Henderson is a longtime contributor to Vogue, and Bon Appetit, among many other notable publications. She has been a senior editor at Chocolatier magazine for over twenty years, but she has worked in the food industry for over 30 years. Food has been calling her name since she was young, and how she got started is an interesting tale in itself.

"I've been enamored with cuisine since I lived in France, which was when I was 17," says Janice. "I spent a long summer vacation (three months) with a French family. My parents sent me to improve my French, as I had been studying since second grade. I went to meet cute French boys. My French 'mom' had other ideas; which was to help her cook in her country home in Normandy. So I went to the boulangerie for bread, the local farmer for milk, and made vinaigrette from scratch. I had no idea that salad dressing didn't have to be Kraft! I also dined in some of Paris's best restaurants. And I did meet some cute French boys."

There is more to Los Angeles food than just ethnic cuisines, French Dips, and Tommy's Hamburgers. "Everyone is looking towards healthier food," says Annie Padden Jubb, an expert in the organic and raw food realm. "They want to look better and feel better.  Education is leading people towards better, healthier food. Organic food is on the rise."

Believe it or not, organic and locally sourced ingredients weren't always this common in Los Annie Padden JubbAnnie Padden JubbAngeles. "The food scene has evolved enormously over the last decade," Janice tells us. "Everyone is becoming much more conscious of ingredients; where are they sourced and what do they do (or not do) to the environment.  For the longest time, the foodie world was all about trends - small plates, northern Italian, Italian-American, whatever.  And now, it's much more about what are we eating and why."

Annie has been working with LifeFood Nutrition for the past 22 years, and she takes a natural approach to food. "I see a remarkable increase in people seeking greater health through their food, thoughts, and relationships," says Annie. "Much of this is from the increase in degenerative disease. Taking control of one's own health gives back the power to the individual that is often given over to doctors or other figures of authority. We are in control of our own health by the choices we make each day: what we eat, think, do, and the people we associate with."

"People are realizing the impact of how they choose to eat," Janice explains. "So it goes beyond fat, sodium and so forth, and into are we really nourishing ourselves and the land?"

There are reasons to be mindful that many people forget about, but Annie put it simply, "So many magazines, blogs, and of course, the Food Network lend evidence to the fact that we are each our own nutritionists... we all eat!"

People are more and more looking for fresh food that's easily accessible, which is good news for those that organize and sell at Farmers Markets, which are replete in Los Angeles.

"People are seeking farm-to-market food; something picked in the last day or so," Annie tells us. "There is a Farmers Market every day here in Los Angeles.  The happening Farmers Markets are in Hollywood on Sunday am: two blocks from our shop, Life Food Organic Café, is the Hollywood market centered on Selma and Ivar (between Hollywood and Sunset off of Cahuenga and Vine) and it features lots of local organic produce, prepared food, and lots of live music.  It rocks! The other Farmers Market that is so amazing is in Santa Monica off of Main. Smaller but really lovely."

When we asked Janice about where to find healthy food, she says, "It depends on how you define healthy food. To me, it's organic, sustainable food cooked by using healthful methods. Sauteeing, steaming, grilling - not frying.  Not cooked with butter and cream.  Such restaurants are sprinkled throughout the city.  Brentwood has healthful restaurants.  So does Santa Monica.  Areas with higher incomes tend to be able to afford and support such dining establishments."

And Annie agrees. "You will find healthier food where there is more money and education. The vegan cafes that are organic are Cru in Silverlake, Real Food Daily in West Hollywood and Cafe Gratitude on Larchmont in Hollywood, as well as our shop in Hollywood, too."

A restauranteur who used to own The Raw Experience [a raw, organic, and vegan restaurant] in San Francisco, Annie currently owns LifeFood Organic Cafe in Los Angeles.

If you're interested in food events, Janice has a few recommendations: "LA Times and Food & Wine have joined forces to produce a big event in September, called The Taste. Another favorite of mine is California Spirit: An Evening of Food, Wine, Auction and Music Benefiting the American Cancer Society that Barbara Lazaroff hosts."

We recommend the Los Angeles food blog Viva LA Foodies, partly because of the witty name, and partly because of their awesome content. If you want a more personal experience, there are tons of groups dedicated to food including the L.A. Foodies Meetup group which is boasting a whopping 2,700+ members at the time of this writing.

It depends how you define healthyfood.  To me, it's organic, sustainablefoodcooked by using healthful methods. Sauteeing, steaming, grilling - not frying.  Not cooked with butter and cream.  Such restaurants are sprinkled throughout the city.  Brentwood has healthful restaurants.  So does Santa Monica.  Areas with higher incomes tend to be able to afford and support such dining establishments.
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