LuncHaim Favorites

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Dear LuncHaimers,

I am recapping a solid first half of LuncHaim eats for 2013 and would like to pay a little visual homage to my favorite spots to lunch it up!

FYI, the Chego Truck is no more. Visit their new location in Chinatown:
727 North Broadway, #117, 90012

As for Guisados. They are still up to their old tricks and are in the works of launching a 3rd location in DTLA.

Much love to Guisados and Chego for all the good eats and pretty pictures!

C O R T E Z – Echo Park

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Cortez in Echo Park is serving fresh farm-to-table family style Mediterranean food. Their approach is simple: Good food sourced really close by and prepared with love. The lunch menu is not exploding with options. A prosciutto baguette, two salads, a quiche, chicken kebabs and a couple of desserts are pretty much all you will find (Cortez’s dinner menu is probably 3x larger).

When I arrived, they were already sold out of the chicken kebabs in yogurt sauce. The carnivore in me wanted to head elsewhere, but I stuck it through and ordered their wheat berry salad (pictured above) and spinach/feta quiche (below). Neither item is something I would ever choose to anchor my lunch, but I was not let down. Wheat berries, spring onions, pine nuts, dandelions and currants was a pleasant surprise and a pretty hefty portion for just one person. The flavors were fresh, earthy, sweet and ripe. Every bite just seemed as if each ingredient was taken from the earth at the peak of its edibility. The quiche was by no means hot right out of the oven, (not a problem for me…I am in love with food at room temperature) the crust was flakey and crisp without a trace of sogginess. The creamy sharp feta flavors accompanied the wilted spinach perfectly. I was impressed, and I am by no means a quiche guy!

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ImageCortez feels like your moms kitchen if your mom was an amazing cook who knew all about sourcing the best possible ingredients to whip up simple and fresh Mediterranean fare. Everything is meant to share which can always go here or there depending upon your personality at the lunch table. All in all, Cortez is a beautiful, clean and quaint spot to dine on some of the freshest food in the city. If you join their mailing list, the owners are constantly featuring new dishes inspired by what is currently being sold at your local LA farmers market. So expect their menu to change with the season.

The lemon-clove cake was a slice of heaven. I love it when the insides of a good fresh cake are soggy and moist but still thick with a whole lot of texture. With a mixture like lemon and clove, I was expecting the cake to be less like dessert and more like spiced bread, but it definitely tickled the sweet tooth. And my macchiato brewed with Sightglass espresso…Superb! Image

If you are still wishy-washy about just how fresh Cortez’s meat and produce are, they have a small market not too far away on Echo Park Blvd. called Cookbook. Check it out and everything will make much more sense. Cortez cares about what you eat and where the food you eat once called home.Image

Guisados – Echo Park

ImageBrand new to Echo Park is Guisados. I’m not from LA, so I am not going to sit here and write that I have any legitimacy in decreeing  a taco the best. But, Guisados‘ gots a grip on me.

Shall we start with the tortilla? Why thank you: Image Look at this mama makin’ masa tortillas one at a time. The result is a truly fresh and unique tortilla that is both pillowy fluff and an altered state of chew.

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What if Arnold Palmer was Mexican, you asked? Behold, a Jamaica (Hibiscus) + Lemon Limeade half&half: Armando Palmero

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Guisados‘ cocina cooks homestyle recipes. The meat and veggies are braised (I cannot stress the word braise enough) with care, seasoned and sautéed with exploding Mexican spice and flavor. Calabistas headlines one of five veggie tacos on the menu. Mole Poblano Chicken tacos are braised in mole, topped with sesame and roasted pepitas…Absolutely incredible (pictured right). ImageIf you are not a spice person, stay far far away from the Cochinita Pibil taco. You can get a spice level ranging from 1-10. Don’t think you can order a 2 and be safe. I am a spice lover and was dripping in Habanero sweat munching on a 2!

Get to Guisados. They are located in Echo Park and neighboring Boyle Heights, with a location soon opening in DTLA. This will be one of the most simple but extravagant taquerias you will ever visit. Image

Red Hill – Echo Park

Its BruncHaim down at Red Hill in Echo Park, folks. The fine people at Red Hill have finally done it! Fancy foodie fare at bargain prices. Red Hill 100% competes with many of the niche foodie restaurants popping up around Venice and Santa Monica, but you’ll be hard pressed to find an entree over $18 (for dinner, $14 for brunch).

I stumbled upon this eatery for dinner one evening and was so in love with their menu, that I asked my server for a glance at the brunch menu. After I picked my salivating jaw up off the ground, I glanced at my lady lover and told her “we be breakin’ fast here!”

Red Hill breaks down their menu pretty efficiently between First (appetizers), Second (tapas style plates) and Third (entree) courses. Their dishes do not have conventional names, but rather a simple yet tantalizing list of ingredients. And that is where they get you. Ingredients! The spectrum is just about covered with all types of dishes. You can nosh on something simple like CINNAMON RAISIN FRENCH TOAST, FRESH FRUIT or take your tastebuds for a culinary dance chowing down on MUSSELS & FRIES, SPICY SAUSAGE, WHITE WINE, CRÈME FRAÎCHE, THYME, SPICY AIOLI. 

Trying to explain Red Hill is like attempting to crack some wicked analogy on your SAT. Red Hill is simple, yet extravagant food for thought. Or as Kramer would have put it, “an orgiastic feast for the senses.”

Even if you’re a west sider, I highly recommend you trek your ass on down to Echo Park and feast at Red Hill. If you’re not satisfied, I’ll reimburse your gas money! 

Happy Noshing.

*pictured below YAM BISCUIT, EGG, BACON, AVOCADO, TOMATO, PICKLED CABBAGE, CHILE MOLE, HOME FRIES & POTATO PANCAKES, CRÈME FRAÎCHE, MOLEImageImage