It’s the currency of concession stands, county fairs, and convenience stores across the nation. It’s the perfect size for quelling hunger pangs—whether they happen in the afternoon or after midnight. And, yes, sometimes you get to eat it straight out of the bag: The Frito pie.
As with other traditional comfort foods (see: chicken and waffles; doughnuts) the Frito pie is currently experiencing its own culinary revival both in L.A. and across the U.S. The chili might be house-made and the jalapeños house-pickled, but one truth remains: these things taste really, really good after a few drinks, regardless of their gastronomic status.
We’ve compiled a few choice selections, complete with corresponding intoxication levels (only a suggestion!)
Stone cold sober: HomeState, Frito Pie in a Bag ($6.50)
Is it weird to eat Frito pie for brunch? Not when you have the delicate, composed version at this Texas-inspired café in Los Feliz, which balances chili and cheese with lettuce, tomato, pickled onion and pickled jalapeños, all stuffed inside a bisected chip bag. Owner Briana Valdez offers a vegetarian version too, made with long-stewed black beans.
A little buzzed: Bar Amá, Nana’s Frito Pie, ($13)
The version at Josef Centeno’s Tex-Mex restaurant is heavy metal: Dense layers of chips, melted cheese and hearty lengua (beef tongue) chili—crowned with a dollop of sour cream and spiced with mulato chiles—spill out from a hot cast-iron pan. It might look unwieldy, but a chef with Centeno’s chops gives this dish a cultured edge.
Getting tipsy: Dog Haus, Frito Chili Cheese Bowl ($4.50)
It doesn’t get much more classic than this: A red tray lined with wax paper, a heaping mound of Fritos, ladlefuls of zesty chili, and a blanket of melted cheddar cheese that obscures everything else. Grab a fork, a friend, and get messy.
Straight up sloshed: Fred 62, The 99 Cent Truck Frito Pie ($7)
It’s very late; you are famished. Los Feliz’s 24-hour diner has you covered. The new “Night Owl Stoners & Drunkards” menu (served 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. daily) features in-the-bag Frito pie, fortified with roasted poblanos, smoked brisket chili, sour cream and two kinds of cheese. At this time of night, it’s much needed sustenance.
HomeState, 4624 Hollywood Blvd, Los Feliz; 323-906-1122
Bar Amá, 118 W 4th St., Downtown; 213-687-8002
Dog Haus, 105 Hill Ave., Pasadena; 626-577-4287
Fred 62, 1850 N Vermont Ave., Los Feliz; 323-667-0062