Good Girl Dinette’s Chef Diep Tran loves breakfast, especially ones taken leisurely without consideration for time or caloric intake. She’s been toiling behind the scenes, crafting and tweaking her breakfast menu for the past year now, and she recently rolled out the goods for all to devour and crave.
“The menu for me is a snapshot of what it felt like to grow up in the ’80s, in Cerritos, being Vietnamese,” explained Diep in a recent Q&A. Among her sources of inspiration for the new menu were “Breakfasts of porridge, pho, and fried eggs splashed with Maggi; Lucy Maud Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and MFK Fisher books from the library; weekend cooking shows on PBS.”
As Diep was developing the menu and testing recipes, The Astronomer and I served as eager guinea pigs as she perfected her Red Boat-cured bacon, Croque-Garcon, and toasted pound cake.
After months of anticipation, we finally sat down this morning to experience the perfectly edited menu in its entirety. And it was well worth the wait!
While the Mexico City-style cooking at Metro Balderas is appealing any day of the week, it’s especially enticing on Saturdays and Sundays when carnitas are on parade. Weekends here are dedicated to glorious piggy parts, lovingly fried in lard then slow-cooked and braised in natural juices before being tucked into a corn tortilla and garnished with diced onions and chopped cilantro.
The Astronomer and I warmed up with the maciza (shoulder) and the costilla (ribs), the least adventurous cuts of the eight on offer. The former was more or less a mound of pulled pork, while the latter was lean, mean, and caramelized. Next, we tucked into the cuerito (skin) and trompa (snout), deliciously gelatinous morsels that soaked up the braising liquid like a porcine sponge.
Rico’s Mar Azul, a splashy blue truck stationed in an idyllic park off Figueroa, specializes in Mexico City-style seafood preparations. The concise menu lists tostadas, cocteles, and that’s it. The tostada de pulpo, a raft of tender octopus and avocado slathered in a creamy white sauce reminiscent of Greek tzatziki, is my favorite bite of all.
I had the best brunch at Highland Park’s Maximiliano the other weekend with a gaggle of girlfriends. Our party of seven piled into the restaurant some time past noon and proceeded to order everything that sounded delicious on the “kinda old school Italian” menu. It was a gustatory extravaganza full of giggles, gossip, and most importantly, damn good grub.
Chef Andre Guerrero of Oinkster fame opened the restaurant last October and introduced brunch soon after. I’ve yet to dine here after dark, but if the brunch time fare is any indication, I am in for a treat when I do.
In addition to the fine food, the space at Maximiliano is really something. Modern yet comfortable and full of natural light, it had a casual vibe that I liked very much.
We nibbled on the the Baker’s Bread Box ($8) as we perused the menu and finalized our game plan. The array of fresh-from-the-oven goodies included a wedge of pineapple brown sugar coffee cake, slices of lemon-rosemary and banana bread, corn muffins, and a blueberry scone. House-made butter was on hand for swathing each bite in richness.
While we found some of the offerings a touch dry, namely the coffee cake and the lemon-rosemary bread, the majority were well balanced and a delight to dig into.
Good Girl Dinette is a sweet little spot in Highland Park where “American diner meets Vietnamese comfort food.” In this clip, you’ll see us eating, girl talking, and meeting Diep Tran, the fabulous woman behind the restaurant. We had a blast filming the segment and hope that you’ll enjoy it just as much.