My passion for doughnuts was born in Seattle a little over a year ago [See: Top Pot and Frost], so it was only appropriate that I continued exploring the city’s fried dough scene on my most recent visit.
Launched this past May, Street Donuts combines two of my very favorite things—street food and doughnuts. The trailer is parked in an empty lot on 2nd Avenue and Pike Street, right next to a Japanese hotdog vendor.
A bowl of a dozen freshly fried rings goes for a cool $4.50, while a half dozen is priced at $3.25.
What sets Street Donuts apart from other mini doughnut hawkers are their unique toppings. Every order includes two toppings and additional ones can be added for fifty cents more. According to founder Yi-Chun Lin, caramel and ginger, as well as vanilla pudding and Nerds, are extremely popular among Street Donuts’ fans.
Continue reading ‘Street Donuts – Seattle’
I’ve been thinking a lot about Nguyen Thi Thanh ever since departing from Saigon in the summer of 2008. In the three years since I first sat down to interview her, there’s no doubt that her life has changed. In a corner of the city previously unknown to tourists, she now finds herself dishing up noodles to a steady stream of Anthony Bourdain fans. These days, it seems that a trip to Saigon isn’t complete without bargaining in Ben Thanh Market, flagging down a cyclo for a rusty ride, and sitting on a stumpy stool slurping up a Lunch Lady-made noodle soup.
I have often wondered how the Lunch Lady’s livelihood and that of her tight-knit community have been impacted by the fame and influx of foreign dollars made possible by modern travel journalism. Have her prices skyrocketed? Is her cooking watered down? Mostly, I wondered if I messed up something really great by blabbing about it to someone who had access to a global audience.
I found the 46-year-old proprietress more or less unchanged since we last met. She was clad from head to toe in a colorful do bo (Vietnamese pajamas) with a well-worn non la (conical hat) atop her head. Her smile was as big as ever. Nearly every table was occupied on this sunny afternoon, which meant that she and her team of workers were up to their ears in orders.
Continue reading ‘Life After Bourdain: Reuniting with the Lunch Lady’
The Astronomer and I began our third day in Saigon across the river in District 4, a densely packed island we called home for the better part of a year. In the three years since we’ve been gone, the old neighborhood has undergone quite a makeover. While the river is still as murky as ever, dirt roads have been transformed into sturdy bridges and run-down shacks have given way to shiny highrises. The lay of the land was so unfamiliar that The Astronomer had trouble navigating the streets at several turns. Rapid development can be mighty disorienting.
Fortunately, the vibrant street food scene hasn’t changed one bit. After stopping to pick up some xoi gac from my my favorite sticky rice vendor on Ton That Thuyet Street (pictured above), we searched the district for more good eats.
The smell of grilled seasoned beef wrapped in betel leaves brought our motorbike to a rapid halt. Even though we had just eaten bo la lot a few meals ago, it was too tempting to pass up.
The Astronomer’s bowl of bun bo la lot was piled high with herbs and sprouts tucked underneath a tangle of cool vermicelli noodles, peanuts, pickled carrots and daikon, and a swipe of crushed fresh chilies. Everything was evenly dressed with fish sauce. The best bites included a pinky-sized bo la lot nugget.
Continue reading ‘District 4, Saigon: Our Home Away From Home’
After lunching on two not-so-memorable sandwiches at Bay Cities and The Spice Table, I finally struck sandwich gold at Langer’s Delicatessen. Located across from MacArthur Park on the cusp of Koreatown, Langer’s has been smoking, steaming, and hand-slicing their world famous pastrami for over sixty years.
The Astronomer and I were inspired to make our way here after sampling the amazing smoked meat sandwiches at Schwartz’s in Montréal. While smoked meat and pastrami aren’t exactly the same beast, we were curious to see how the two compared and whether one was superior to the other.
Joining us for lunch were our friends and fellow Langer’s newbies Lien and Diana. We were seated at a table fit for four in Joan’s jurisdiction. Even though we only understood every other word she hushed, we all agreed that Joan was hands-down the greatest waitress ever.
All three of my dining companions ordered the unadorned hot pastrami sandwich ($12.95). Diana opted for an “extra lean” version that cost an additional $3.25. The sandwiches were served with two spears of dill pickles on the side.
Continue reading ‘Langer’s Delicatessen Restaurant – Los Angeles (Westlake)’