My LA to Z: Joel Stein

The TV writer and journalist, who moved to L.A. from New York in 2005, shares his favorite hangouts—”Jewishy” or not

joel stein

Would a mensch visit his 88-year-old grandmother in South Florida just to convince her to vote for Barack Obama? Would he pretend to be her hired driver when she begins making racist comments in a Wal-Mart?  In Sex, Drugs & Gefilte Fish, Joel Stein and others offer a new and hilarious take on Jewish culture.  Stein moved to L.A. from New York four years ago. His favorite spots prove he’s an Angeleno.


Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant

Langer’s doesn’t have the most Jewishy vibe, but God damn is that good. There’s no deli on the East Coast that’s that good. I don’t go there often enough. I get the pastrami sandwich. It’s even a number [on the menu], so you don’t have to think. You just point: Obviously, we’re all having that.

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Osteria Mozza

If [my wife and I] want to spend a lot of somebody’s money, Osteria Mozza is pretty perfect. Sometimes we sit at the mozzarella bar.  We always get the grilled octopus, some kind of mozzarella, and then just two pastas. It’s a nice-looking place, and even though it’s packed, you can usually score a seat at the bar. I’ve been annoyed that it’s impossible to get a reservation despite the recession.  

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Elite Restaurant

If you’re working from home, it doesn’t take long to drive to Monterey Park. We’ll go there for lunch. There’s no traffic. We’ve done it once with the baby—he’s very portable. Sometimes, we’ll even stop at Cook’s Tortas (in Monterey Park) on the way home. OK, I’ve only done that once.

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Super King Market

You can’t go on weekends because it’s just packed. You just realize that our [diverse] cultures are so different because everyone is buying gallons of yogurt. Everything they are cooking must involve yogurt because you can’t go through this much yogurt.

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Writers Guild Foundation Shavelson-Webb Library

There are all these writers that go to the WGA, and it’s like an office. They have tea and coffee, parking is free—it’s a good deal. I’m always afraid to go into that building. I have no connection to the WGA other than my health insurance.

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Bronson Canyon

We live on this canyon called Bronson Canyon, and at the end of the street there’s a pretty good hike. We do that a lot. I Baby Bjorn the baby and he comes too. He likes any kind of adventure. Before the baby, I used to “run-hike-run”: run to the hike, and then hike it, and then run home. I don’t do that anymore.  

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The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

We used to go there every time we came from New York. The tea thing is pretty fun, but the scope of it is so impressive. I’m not a plant person or anything, but it’s all these different little worlds. It’s just very impressive.

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The Getty

I just think it’s in an incredible-looking building, and after being in New York, and seeing what a museum is, to come out here and see something so open and built into the landscape, it makes you feel like you’re in the West. It’s just a good place to interview somebody. You’re standing outside and you’re looking at the city.

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Philippe The Original

I’d never liked French dip sandwiches before and still think the idea of them is gross, but when you eat them there—especially the lamb ones—with the sawdust floor with the old photos, you feel both like the city has history and that you’re out in the West where people were shot and made railroads and stuff.

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Upright Citizens Brigade Theater

For some reason, we’ve met a lot of people that perform there, and we can walk there. It’s like $5 for a show. It’s very small and the shows are short, which is nice. You just sit wherever. There’s always this crazy line that’s very intimidating, but it’s like Southwest Airlines—you get in fast. You could cast a sit-com just from hanging out there for week.

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Images courtesy of (in order): (1) Flickr/CindyStockholm, (2) Rose Gray, (3), (4) Jake Fermanian, (5) Tom Bonner, (6) Flickr/ClintonSteeds, (7) Tim Street-Porter, (8) Alex Vertikoff, (9) Flickr/[email protected], (10) Hawkey Photos