I took a walk on the wild side last Friday night while road tripping from L.A. to The Bay. Instead of my usual In-N-Out order, a Double-Double with grilled onions, I crammed every “secret menu” add-on I could think of in between the two delicately toasted buns. After enduring rush hour on The 405 and odious feedlots along The 5, this gal demanded some serious entertainment of the edible variety.
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There is no greater aperitif than a long walk. Strolling at an easy pace, admiring buildings and people along the way, works up an appetite like sitting in traffic never can.
While the number of restaurants within walking distance (and worth eating at) isn’t tremendous in our Pasadena neighborhood, The Astronomer and I have a solid list of go-to places including Pie ‘n Burger, Old Sasoon Bakery, and Cham Korean Bistro. Our most recent addition to the walkable and craveable list is Zankou Chicken, an L.A. institution located about a mile from home.
This much-loved rotisserie chicken shack was founded in Beirut in 1962 by Vartkes and Markrid Iskenderian. The couple fled war-torn Lebanon and opened the first American branch of Zankou in Hollywood in 1984. There are currently ten Zankou locations in and around the Southland.
Zankou is run much like a fast food establishment. Orders are placed and paid for at the counter, and numbers are shouted out as food is ready for pick up. Business was bumping the Friday night we visited. Still, lines moved efficiently and food was prepared swiftly.
An irresistible invite from Bellagio brought The Astronomer and me to Las Vegas for a weekend of dynamite wining and dining. After arriving at the hotel, checking into our room, and dropping off our bags, we strolled over to Sirio Maccioni‘s famed Le Cirque for a late-night supper.
Le Cirque, which opened 38 years ago in New York City, made its Las Vegas debut at the Bellagio in 1998. The restaurant is the recipient of the AAA Five Diamond rating, as well as one Michelin star.
Set under a plush circus tent, Le Cirque’s elegant and lively dining room felt miles away from the din of slot machines. In a city where bigger is generally regarded as better, this intimate space felt like a real treat.
Whereas New York’s Le Cirque is set among skyscrapers, this location is perched lakeside, overlooking the hotel’s famous fountains. Every fifteen minutes, The Astronomer and I were entranced by the dancing water and shimmering lights. It felt quintessentially Vegas, and maybe a little cheesy, but we loved it anyway.
Weekend brunches and seafood shacks are two of my favorite things, so it was only a matter of time before I made my way to Hungry Cat. A collaboration between Maryland native Chef David Lentz and his wife Chef Suzanne Goin, the restaurant is famous for impeccably fresh seafood, served without fuss, just like they do back east.
The concept has been so well received that the restaurant has opened outlets in Santa Barbara and Santa Monica in addition to its original Hollywood location where I dined.
With the restaurant located on an uber-touristy stretch in Hollywood, I found it impossible to channel the seaside spirit. Still, the restaurant tried its best to evoke that eastern seaboard ambiance with fresh lobsters and oysters on display over ice and pictures of cats eating the day’s catch.
My friend Amy and I shared a selection of oysters to start. With three varieties on deck this afternoon, I decided to go for one of each—Kumiai from Mexico, Chincoteague from Virginia, and Malpeque from Prince Edward Island, Canada.
The oysters were shucked to order and served with lemon wedges, a red wine vinegar, a rice wine vinegar with ginger, and cocktail sauce. Slurping these briny bivalves instantly transported me somewhere beachy.