Guest post written by UK based model Indigo Papillon @oh_indigo
There’s a street just off Sunset heading into lovely Los Feliz, (or yuppie town as my bohemian boyfriend would put it), which at one time I was thrilled to call home- yuppie or otherwise (who could complain about living a stone’s throw from the most amazing little Italian deli around?). Hillhurst Avenue, in my opinion, is every food lover’s penchant. Neighbouring only a short block through from trendy N. Vermont, it is stocked with every foodie dynamic, from wine bar’s to the humble friendly fish taco joint which I would frequent- emphasis on the FREQUENT. Some of my favourite’s include Little Dom’s (Italian bistro and deli), Alcove Cafe (coffee shop and societal patio brunch spot), Mustard Seed Cafe (a smaller scale coffee shop with a wholesome touch), and of course, said fish taco joint, aptly named; The Best Fish Taco in Ensenada – or in this case, Los Angeles (yes, I went there taco connoisseurs, I’m going there … just go there!) Here’s a little 411 on some of these long standing and mouth watering establishments.
Starting from the Griffith park end and heading down in chronological order towards Sunset, let me set the scene by taking you back to childhood and referencing a little Disney classic called Lady And The Tramp- (yes, they’re dog friendly!). That chequered table cloth, the sunken dimming candle, the closely confined patio tables that’ll have you elbowing one another for every forkful of spaghetti you scoop into your oral orifice whilst gazing into your partner’s eyes over a plate of the most sumptuous meatballs.
This in short is my perfect first date spot. Romantic enough to set the mood, but sociable and frequented enough to not have your first date feeling really put on the spot. Many a lady hath been woo’ed at this establishment. This Italian spot in the heart of Los Feliz oozes romance day or night. I have never been disappointed with Little Dom’s. The staff are wonderful, the setting is delightful. Be it breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, you can’t go wrong. They’re a little on the pricier side, but well worth the extra buck for your belly. Their menu is subject to seasonal changes, but I recommend the blueberry ricotta pancakes which are always available at brunch, and always scrumptious. For the fish among us, they have an excellent bar and sophisticated drinks menu. if you like a good stiff cocktail, their Bloody Mary is your go to. Charming is the word for this neighbourhood favourite of mine. As well as the restaurant, next door they have their own deli which is operational from morning to afternoon! A restaurant at the end of my street complete with a deli that serves up the most delicate & delicious golden raisin & oatmeal cookies as well as other delicacies? What is love?
I used to live right next door to Alcove at one point during my travels and would be woken each day by the California sunshine and the low cacophony of hungry hikers brunching after a rewarding excursion through Griffith. Alcove boasts some seriously charming outdoor decor with it’s extensive outdoor patio adorned with fairy lights and on the more practical side of things, (regarding evening’s and LA Winter’s) heat lamps that will leave you feeling like you just came off a sun bed. The establishment serves updated versions of American classics as well as their in house bar crafting cocktails, fine wines and craft beers. The cafe also provides artisan baked goods, hand-roasted coffee and hand-crafted teas and even their own brand of chocolate. There is always an overwhelming choice of bakes available and something new and innovative that is created for each holiday.
As you walk through the doors of the building which is housed in two historic bungalows, the first thing to greet you will be the shameless display of gargantuan cakes (cheesecake, bundt & layer). Their menu is very varied and extensive and brunch is served till 5pm for the LATE risers among us (guilty as charged). Let’s face it, practical all day breakfasts’ cannot be ignored as incentive for choice! I would recommend their benedict’s and for lunch/dinner their salads are everything you’re going to need for the rest of the day. With a generous slice of cake bordering at $9.00, the prices are what put my Highland Park native partner off, but I would fight my case with him regarding the similar great community feel Los Feliz exudes, as well as the generous portion sizes. As well as the food Alcove also hosts a bevy of their own events including dinner & movie nights on the patio as well as being able to rent out their craftsman cottage in the back and host your own social gatherings. A truly atmospheric founding and always bringing the good vibes day or night.
Mustard Seed Cafe
Harboured just opposite Alcove, this can present a tricky conundrum on days where I am spoiled for choice and have an indulgent day off to eat, play and be merry. However, if I am craving a rosemary turkey burger served on a rosemary bun with house made potato salad … there really is no contest. Mustard Seed is a small and simple composition compared to Alcove, but a satisfactory one. If you’re not looking for a comparably stuffy, high end brunch – park your caboose outside and watch the freaks of LA mingle in their environment across the way with an earthy chai in hand and a home style plate of food in front of you. They are vegan/vegetarian friendly (hello, it’s LA) and also offer a very impressive and extensive menu for such a little establishment, serving everything from protein and fitness specials to hearty American classics such as grits and green eggs and ham. I also love that their breakfast comes with a melancholy of savory bread variations (rosemary, multi-grain, olive, marble rye or sourdough toast).
The only slight disappointment with this place? It’s only open till 4:30pm! The opening hours definitely highlight the specification of their meals- although I would happily eat their potato salad for dinner also. I would happily do an entire review about their potato salad. Did I mention the ridiculous nonsense that is their house made potato salad? I recommend asking for take out, setting down your picnic blanket in Griffith Park up the street and chowing down. Overall, Mustard Seed is innovative, but also have the basics perfected. When you need a giant plate of good and straightforward breakfast delights and want to skip the sceney atmosphere…this is it! What more could you really ask for?
The Best Fish Taco In Ensenada
So we come to the last and dare I say the best of Hillhurst’s fine dining experiences – or in this case, dirt cheap dining. Now for any place to include ”the best” in their name calls for some major cahones, and I don’t know about the Mexican coastal city of Ensenada … but to the local’s, it’s damn good. DAMN good. It’s not about the best. Even my own sexy Mexi couldn’t fault the appetising crispiness of the batter enhanced by the crunch of their cabbage and salsa toppings. Speaking of salsa’s (after all, a naked taco is not really a taco) – house made and the perfect accent for the perfect Mexican staple- my personal favourite being their radish addition. Can’t beat that textural combination paired with a soft taco and bite size fish pieces that flake perfectly on your palette.
They also offer a fruitier variety of hotter mango and pineapple as well as a traditional classic salsa. A squirt of crema tops the whole ensemble. These things are so cheap and so gratifying, I can easily plough through a dozen. They also have comedy nights here on Wednesday’s with outdoor seating! This taco spot has a rugged authentic charm with a casual and laid back ambiance. As well as fish, they’re serving up shrimp and potato taco’s and taquito’s- all freshly fried and all favourable. The horchata is sweet and riddled with cinnamon and refreshing agua fresca. You can’t go wrong here, so do right and sample for yourself one of my old neighbourhood primaries.
– Indigo Papillon