Sunday, May 3, 2009

More places to visit in and around Los Angeles

Los Angeles and its surrounding areas are filled many amazing places to visit. There are many things to do. Here is a list of some of the best places to visit.

Pink’s Hot Dogs

Pink’s is a Hollywood institution. On La Brea Boulevard near Melrose Avenue, it is the best place to get a hot dog, and not just any old hot dog. Pink’s hot dogs are not overcooked, they are fresh and topped with unique and creative ingredients. A great dog is the Guadalajara dog with relish, sour cream, onions and tomatoes. Forget about the ketchup and mustard. These hot dogs are not the run of the mill dogs. And if you are not in the mood for a hot dog, Pink’s also offers burgers, burritos and a selection of other tasty treats.

For more information about Pink’s Hot Dogs, visit

Canter’s Deli

A corned beef sandwich on rye bread and a pickle. Yum. Just one of the many menu options available at Canter’s. And do not forget to stop by the bakery on your way out of Canter’s Deli on Fairfax Boulevard in Los Angeles. The Jewish deli, bakery and restaurant is open 24 hours a day. Stop by any time you want some fresh rugala or macaroons. With reasonable prices and a menu that offers something for everybody, Canter’s is on the short list of places you must visit in Los Angeles.

For more information about Canter’s, visit

Du-par’s Restaurant and Bakery

The oldest restaurant in Farmer’s Market at Fairfax and Third is also the best place to buy pie. Du-par’s first opened in the late 1930s and was renovated a few years ago. It reopened in 2006 and it has the best pie around. A whole pie costs about $10 and there is everything from peach pie to strawberry lemon pie, which is now being offered for the month of May. It is not the typical chain diner. There is a real feeling of the 1930s in the restaurant. The staff are friendly and the prices are right. And Du-pars is also open 24 hours.

For more information about Du-par’s, visit

Billy’s Deli

Billy’s is another deli, but it is a great deli in its own right. Billy’s offers a selection of sandwiches and other meals, but the atmosphere is one of its best qualities. The walls are filled with historic photographs of California and two large aerial shots of what the surrounding area looked like before it was developed. It is the type of place that has regulars and the staff know their names. And instead of getting a basket of bread or some chips and salsa, a bowl of thick pickle slices is set on the table. If you love pickles, Billy’s is the place to go. They are fresh and crisp and not too sour.

For more information, visit

Amoeba Music

Located on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, Amoeba Music is the place to go to find the latest music, movies and memorabilia. Not only that, Amoeba also has an extensive collection of used VHS tapes, DVDs, CDs and cassette tapes. Walking into Amoeba is like walking into a warehouse for anything movie, TV or music related. There is not just one floor, but there are two floors of fun things to peruse through. Movie lovers and music fans should definitely check this out.

For more information about Amoeba music, visit

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Los Angeles, home of the best bagels and chili

Los Angeles has a lot to offer to its visitors and its residents. In particular it has a lot to offer in the way of food, not just any food, but really good food. From gourmet to fast food, the options are limitless.

But two places to get really good food in Los Angeles are the Original Tommy’s Hamburgers and Brooklyn Bagel.

Both are extremely different in their offerings, but both are essential to visit if you enjoy chili, burgers or bagels.

Tommy’s, founded by Tom Koulax in 1946, is a staple in Los Angeles.

“There’s nowhere else to get chili around here,” Wilton Mijngos, local said.

Mijngos said he has been a customer of Tommy’s original location on the corner of Beverly Boulevard and Rampart Boulevard for 20 years.

The original shack has a counter that runs along the side so that customers can eat their food. Eating standing up is the only option at Tommy's and it really adds to the whole experience.

“I’ve been coming here since I was young,” Mijngos said. “It comes natural to me.”

The original location in Los Angeles was originally just a shack on the corner of the street, but today it is a shack with a parking lot and one other serving station. Both offer walkup service to customers.

Part of the unique ambiance of the restaurant is the complete absence of tables, chairs, and an indoor eating area.

Customers form a line at the shack or at the other ordering station to order their chili dogs, chili burgers and other chili items, and they find a place at one of the counters that run along the shack and the building across the parking lot.

A chili boat with cheese, onions, pickles and a slice of tomato. Tommy's also offers chili dogs, chili cheese fries, chili tamales and breakfast.

Napkin holders are on the walls and there is plenty of elbow room needed for eating the deliciously messy Tommy’s fare.

Koulax’s mission for Tommy’s was not just about great food, but great service too.

“Back in the day he was all about serving the customer,” Robert Auerbach said. “It was a working man’s philosophy.”

Auerbach, the regional supervisor and Koulax’s stepson, said he grew up working at Tommy’s in North Hills and that Koulax gave him a chance to prove himself.

“I considered him dad,” Auerbach said.

“Dad used to bring home burgers every night,” Auerbach said. “We loved Tommy’s.”

Auerbach not only loves the food, but he said he loves working for Tommy’s as well. He has been with the company for 25 years.

Auerbach said that for years the only advertising that Tommy’s did was in a “little square” in the sports section in the “Los Angeles Times,” and that many of the customers learned of Tommy’s by word of mouth.

Even though times have changed, little has changed at Tommy’s.

“It’s very East Coast,” Auerbach said. “It’s real high quality.”

Auerbach said that recently after more than 40 years, the restaurant is back with Coca Cola and that it has added fountain drinks at the original location that previously only sold soda in cans.

The original location is open 24 hours. It does not matter what time you crave a chili burger, just head on over to Tommy's.

“We just rolled out Coca Cola back in the shack,” Auerbach said. “The customers voted to put Coca Cola back. We put a great value on our customers.

Tommy’s is a great place to not only get great chili, but great customer service.

Brooklyn Bagel is also the place to go to get great food and excellent customer service.

“I am an on-the-premises owner,” Richard Friedman, owner and son of the founder said. “I care about my customers.”

The bagel store that was started in 1953 by Friedman’s father Seymour Friedman is the best bagel store in Los Angeles.

Bagels are made on site at Brooklyn Bagel in Los Angeles. They are always fresh and delicious.

I am not the only one who thinks so. According to Friedman, Brooklyn Bagel was voted number one by “L.A. Magazine” in 2008, 1998, 1995, 1989 and 1983.

“We think it’s better that we use a malt recipe,” Friedman said.

Not only do they use a malt recipe, but when they make a flavored bagel such as onion, it is not just a plain bagel with a topping.

“We try to make it onion inside and out,” Freidman said.

He said that they actually put onion in the dough.

Friedman said that there are 25 varieties of bagel and that the most popular bagel is the water plain bagel.

There are also other flavors like cheese, sesame and cinnamon raisin.

There is nothing quite like a fresh cheese bagel from Brooklyn Bagel if you are a cheese lover.

For the best tasting and the freshest bagels in town, make sure to stop by Brooklyn Bagel in Los Angeles located at 2217 Beverly Blvd.

For more information about Tommy's Original Hamburgers, visit

Gas: About $5
Parking: Free
Food at Tommys: About $5
Bagels: About $3
Total amount spent: About $13

A new Chinatown with old roots

Painted dragons, trinket shops and herbal stores, all on one street in Los Angeles. Broadway is not just a main street in Los Angeles, but it is the main commercial artery running through the new Chinatown.

Though it may not seem so new, what we now know as Chinatown is actually the new Chinatown. It was previously located where Union Station is today.

From the Great Wall bookstore to the Golden Eagle store, Chinatown has many things to offer its visitors and regulars.

“It’s different than other places,” said Michael Huyn, the nephew of the owner of The Golden Eagle.

The Golden Eagle is a store that sells sandals, waving porcelain cats and bamboo umbrellas among many other trinkets and knickknacks that are common in Chinatown.

Paper lanterns, live turtles, little Buddahs and windchimes fill the Golden Eagle on Broadway Street in Chinatown.

Huyn said that his uncle’s store has been in operation for more than ten years.

He said that he grew up in Chinatown and that he comes back often.

“It’s kind of like our icon,” Huyn said.

Randy Bin, a friend of Huyn, said that he enjoys spending time in Chinatown and that one of the places he spends the most time at is the basketball court that is free to anyone who wants to play.

“It’s pretty cool,” Bin said.

Susie Ling, associate professor of Asian American studies and history at Pasadena City College is a member of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California.

“We love Chinese American history and we are dedicated to bring awareness of it to the community,” Ling said.

“Chinatown is the historical foundation,” Ling said. “It exists because of both positive and negative forces.”

Ling said that because of discrimination in the 19th Century, Chinese in the United States could not live in regular communities and so they created their own community.

“Chinatown allowed early Chinese Americans and even someone like me to enjoy and celebrate the Chinese Culture,” Ling said. “It served as a home to celebrate the culture as well as a safe haven in early years.”

Ling said she came to the United States when she was 17.

“It’s a work place,” Ling said. “A very complex, very historically rooted place.”

“There’s history that’s right underneath you and often ignored,” Ling said.

New Chinatown was built in 1938 when the old Chinatown was demolished to make way for Union Station in Los Angeles. Old Chinatown was established in the late 1800s.

By 1900, according to the Chinatown Historical Society of Southern California, there were believed to be more than 3,000 Chinese residing in Los Angeles.

Though the Chinese in the U.S. faced discrimination and hardship, they came together at what is now a thriving historical landmark in Los Angeles.

Metro Gold Line has a Chinatown stop on Spring Street. The stop is just a short walk from shops and other attractions.

Ling said that some of the most fun things that happen in Chinatown are the annual parade and the New Years Firecracker 5K/10K Run/Walk.

This year the run helped to raise money for Castelar Elementary School, one of the oldest schools in Los Angeles.

Dragons painted in the crosswalk at the intersection of Broadway Street and Bernard Street lead the way to the various bakeries, herbal shops and other stores.

For the most recent New Year’s celebration, Chinatown celebrated the Year of the Ox with a parade and festivities that lasted for a week. The 2009 parade was the 110th Annual Golden Dragon Parade.

Chinatown is much more than a tourist attraction. It is a place that brings a city together and many of different generations to appreciate its rich history and to look to its continuing bright future.

Gas: About $3
Parking: Free (Not all of the parking is free)
Total amount spent: About $3

Bob's is still hopping in the 21st Century

One Big Boy, one cherry coke and a side order of crispy onion rings please. That has been the meal, or some variation of that combination has been a meal of choice for many who have passed through the glass doors of the oldest remaining Bob’s Big Boy, located near the Warner Bros. Studios in the Toluca Lake section of Burbank along the 134 Freeway on Riverside Drive.

Hamburgers come with Bob's Big Boy special relish that really sets them apart from other burgers.

And though the food is delicious and that of classic America, many also come to the retro piece of American history for the weekly car show on Friday night.

“It’s just a nice place where people come together with a mutual appreciation of classic cars,” Chris Sabatino, a local chiropractor said.

Sabatino said he has been coming to Bob’s Big Boy for the past 20 years and that he attends the car show regularly, rain or shine. He showed up with his fully restored 1960 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Sabatino has a passion for classic cars, but Cadillacs specifically.

“I’m a cruiser guy,” Sabatino said.

“It was a time when people aspired to be better that they were. People respected America and they respected the name Cadillac. It signified the best,” Sabatino said. “The whole world marveled at our cars.”

Sabatino said he enjoys coming to the weekly car nights. His Cadillac Coupe de Ville is just one of many cars that he has restored.

Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank was built in 1949 by locals Scott MacDonald and Ward Albert. Wayne McAllister, a noted architect, designed the building.

According to manager Frank Rodriguez, Bob’s was one of the most famous and popular such restaurants in the late 1940s, and through to the 1960s.

Bob Wian founded the Bob’s Big Boy chain in Glendale in the late 1936. Prior to being sold to the Marriot in 1966, there were more than 500 locations nationwide.

“Everybody loves Bob’s Big Boy,” Rodriguez said.

“People used to line up for the carhop service and there would be a line out to the front,” Rodriguez said.

Though the days of roller skating waitresses bringing burgers and shakes to car windows are gone, Bob’s still offers the carhop service with a couple of modifications. The servers no longer wear roller skates and the carhop service is only available Saturdays and Sundays from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Though places like Bob’s are becoming harder and harder to find, the famous hamburger joint is always hopping Friday nights.

“People come even if they have to drive 30 or 40 miles or so,” Rodriguez said.

He estimated that from Friday morning, to 6 a.m. Saturday morning, between 5,500 and 6,000 customers eat at Bob’s and that about 1,000 come just for the car show in the evening.

“You just come to show off the work you put in to your car,” Karl Damisch, owner of a 1968 Chevrolet Chevelle and a car show regular said.

“All my friends had hotrods and it kind of grew on me,” he said.

Jesse Rios is also a car show regular and he brought out his 1969 Pontiac Firebird.

Rios' Firebird was one of many automobiles at the weekly car show at Bob's Big Boy. There were convertibles, trucks and even a few motorcycles.

“I like old things, classic things, because there are not many of them,” Rios said.

Rios said he started coming to the car show four years ago and that he enjoys his time there talking to other car owners, networking and seeing what others have done with their cars.

Bob’s Big Boy is an American icon that should not be lost in the shuffle. Bob’s is doing its part in preserving a huge part of American history, but it is also doing much more than that.

The Big Boy himself stands tall outside the entrance of the oldest remaining Big Boy location.

Every month, the Burbank Bob’s donates one percent of its dining room sales to various charities. It has adopted four charities.

In January, May and September, it makes a donation to the Burbank Police Department Downed Officers’ Foundation. The Donations continue to rotate among the John Burroughs High School Scholarship Fund, The Burbank High School Scholarship Fund and the Northridge Hospital’s Children’s Assault Treatment Services.

Bob’s is not only concerned about the community, but also the environment. Rodriguez said that the restaurant is going to go partially solar in about three months. He said that solar panels will be added above the carport outside the restaurant.

Bob's Big Boy, an American icon is sure to please hamburger lovers and car fans alike.

With its streamline architecture, retro signs and retro lighting, Bob’s Big Boy is an instant reminder of days past, but Bob's is sure to be a hit for many years to come.

For more information about Bob's Big Boy, visit or

Gas: About $2
Parking: Free
Food: About $10
Car show: Free
Total amount spent: About $12