“It definitely could stand on its own with any culinary metropolis out there,” Travel Channel host Adam Richman says of Los Angeles.
After all, he says, a city with Trois Mec, Maude, Angelini Osteria, Ink, Matsuhisa, Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants, the ketchup leather at Plan Check, and the burgers at Father’s Office (yes, the food-loving TV personality impressively mentions all of this individually in one thought) is already formidable. But that’s just the beginning of a vast dining scene that offers diversity like nowhere else.
“Anybody who says L.A. is a bunch of taco stands and In-N-Out really doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” Richman says.
So Richman, whose first season of Man Finds Food begins with an April 1 episode about L.A., understands that trying to properly capture the city’s food landscape in 22 1/2 minutes “is absurd.” He says he could easily find enough material for an episode on a short stretch of Ventura Boulevard or a block of Los Feliz. He could fill a 13-episode season just with L.A. if he had the opportunity.
But he did the best he could with his limited time in next Wednesday’s episode, which is why he was in Alhambra eating “a burrito made by a Korean man featuring Peruvian lomo saltado.” That’s a secret, unlisted item at chef Gavin Cha’s Cha Cha Chili that Richman reveals.
Richman also squeezed in other off-the-menu wonders like chef Brian Traynam’s Godzilla Destroys Skidrokio breakfast sandwich at The Escondite on the edge of Little Tokyo, as well as chef Jazz Singsanong’s chile-laden Jazz Burger at famed Thai restaurant Jitlada. He also paid a visit to his pal Eric Greenspan’s restaurant, reveling in the Inside Out sandwiches at Greenspan’s Grilled Cheese.
Richman, who lived at Hollywood and Vine recently when he was filming NBC’s Food Fighters, clearly knows where to find some of L.A.’s more extreme eats. He’s long been a fan of Jitlada, for example, and he says his friendship with celeb chef/Thai Town enthusiast Jet Tila made him want to give L.A. Thai food its due.
One important note about the Jazz Burger: “You have to order it in advance,” Richman says. “And it’s spicy. Jitlada is known for heat. I don’t know how many chiles they put in this. It’s not like an other burger you’ll have, it’s almost like a savory fried meatloaf.”
And to the delight of carb-avoiding Angelenos, it’s served without a bun.
As for his friend Greenspan’s Inside Out grilled cheese, Richman says, “It’s the best grilled-cheese sandwich I’ve ever had.”
But when asked to pick a favorite dish out of everything he ate for this episode, Richman says he can’t. His answer isn’t a cop-out.
“I think it’s just so hard to compare,” he says. “I don’t know how to compare a lomo saltado burrito to a short-rib grilled-cheese sandwich to a Thai burger.” And there’s also nothing like being on the edge of Skid Row and eating food from The Escondite and a chef who “cares so much about Chicago flavors.”
Dining in L.A. can feel like traveling around the globe, of course.
“Jitlada is so transportive and so authentic that the Thai Consulate comes to eat here,” Richman says. “Eric Greenspan is doing his version of the most iconic American food, and it’s right in the heart of Melrose.”
And then of course there’s the burrito with a Peruvian filling cooked by a Korean chef in a Chinese business district. That’s L.A.