Jon & Vinny’s (Craig’s Pick)
“I felt like I was eating in a very expensive sauna“
Location: 412 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Craig’s Order: Breakfast Pizza – YUKON GOLD POTATO, EGG, ROSEMARY, OLIVE OIL, PARMESAN, RED ONION
Jared’s Order: Breakfast Pizza – YUKON GOLD POTATO, EGG, ROSEMARY, OLIVE OIL, PARMESAN, RED ONION
Split: VINNY’S COFFEE CAKE
Thoughts: Jon & Vinny’s is the place you take someone on date three to show that A. you are in “the know” of trendy LA restaurants and B. to show that you’re not afraid to spend a little money on some quality Italian cuisine. Here’s my take: Jon & Vinny’s is a little too expensive, a little too small, and a little too cool. Try it out for breakfast (like we did) or lunch to save yourself from having to reserve a table a month in advance, and check it out for yourself. The food alone was fantastic. Jared, Mike and I were satisfied with our meals, and the interior design and layout of the restaurant was very trendy (I felt like I was eating in a very expensive sauna). It seemed to hit on everything, but lacked a certain spice that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps the hype around Jon & Vinny’s influenced my opinion before I stepped foot in the door, and maybe that just means I shouldn’t meet my heroes.
Craig & Jared’s Score: 8/10
Berlin’s (Roommate Mike’s Pick)
“Berlins is the kind of restaurant we struggling artists need“
Location: 8474 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048
Craig’s Order: Doner Sandwich – Beef, lamb, onions, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, marinated red cabbage, jalapeños wrapped in freshly baked bread. With homemade yogurt tzatziki sauce.
Jared’s Order: Doner Wrap – Beef, lamb, onions, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, marinated red cabbage, jalapeños wrapped in lavash bread. With orignial spicy sauce and feta cheese.
Thoughts: Berlins is a whole different kind of 8 out of 10. Where Jon & Vinny’s was a 9 that wilted into an 8, Berlins is a 6 that blossomed into an 8. Located in a small strip mall on west 3rd street, Berlins will not catch your eye. If it weren’t for our roommate Mike’s misstep of picking a restaurant that was way out of our price range, we would have never stumbled into Berlins. Serving up very affordable German Döner, Berlins offers a menu varied enough to accommodate most dietary restrictions and choices. Not unlike Chipotle, you order at the counter and list the amenities you want to accompany your sandwich, wrap, rice bowl, salad, etc. however they deliver your food to you after you pay and take a seat. For what it looks like you are getting, the food was delightfully flavorful and filling. Great for a quick weekend lunch or an easy pick up on your way home from work, Berlins is the kind of restaurant we struggling artists need.
Craig & Jared’s Score: 8/10
Din Tai Fung (Jared’s Pick)
“Stick to the soup dumplings“
Location:10250 Santa Monica Blvd unit 2400, Los Angeles, CA 90067
Craig & Jared shared order: 2 orders of beef stew, 1 order of pork xiaolongbao, 1 1order of pork and crab xiaolongbao (soup dumplings).
Thoughts: Testing out their third and newest location in Century City, Din Tai Fung was destined to be our new soup dumplings go-to spot. This Taiwanese legend known for its xiaolongbao sits prominently in the corner of the Westfield Mall, flexing it’s open floorplan and classy interior. I went with a group of 6 in the middle of the week, and the place was at full capacity. After a 15 minute wait, we were seated, and the journey begun. Unfortunately, like Jon & Vinny’s, this experience did not live up to the expectation. The main issue was the service, as we were not acknowledged for 15 minutes after being seated, and our waters came another 10 minutes after that. We all ordered individually, with a few shared items mixed in, and our food was served sporadically. One friends entree came out 20 minutes before someone else’s. It took about 45 minutes for everyone to finally have their full meal, and by then half the table had finished their food. The food itself was above average. The stew, fried rice, and short rib I tried were all on par, however the xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) made this restaurant worth giving another shot. My recommendation, don’t get cute and order a little of everything, stick to the soup dumplings, and your experience should turn out a little better than ours.
Craig & Jared’s Score: 7.25/10
Maple Block Meat Co. (Craig’s Pick)
“They should call this place Mable Block Biscuit Co. because of those flaky jewels.“
Location:3973 Sepulveda Blvd, Culver City, CA 90230
Craig’s Order: Brisket and Ribs Plate – quarter pound sliced brisket, half pound pork spare ribs, with ranch beans and braised greens. One biscuit
Jared’s Order: Brisket and Ribs Plate – quarter pound sliced brisket, half pound pork spare ribs, with mac and cheese and potato salad. One biscuit
Thoughts: Hiding in plain site on Sepulveda Blvd, Maple Block Meat Co. is and should be your neighborhood barbecue go to if you live in or near Culver City. The first thumbs up of many for Maple Block is its parking situation. Parking availabilities literally sway dinner location arguments in Los Angeles, and Maple Block offers a small 10-15 car lot that saves lives. The restaurant offers inside and outdoor patio seating options, as well as bar seating. The layout and decor is inviting, casual, and friendly, similar to a microbrewery. Out of all the things Maple Block does correctly, the actual barbecue itself was the missing ingredient. On our podcast, Chew-001: A Food Podyssey, Jared and I discussed the possibility that our timing may have been at the root of this problem. We arrived about 30 minutes before they were switching between their lunch and dinner menu so there is a possibility that we ate the last of the meat that was prepared in the morning and missed out on the fresh-out-the-smoker BBQ that was coming for dinner. The meat didn’t have any glaring holes, it was fine. But that’s just it, a popular barbecue spot in LA shouldn’t have barbecue that’s “fine”. The meat was slightly cold and a little too chewy. The brisket was better than the ribs, and the spicy BBQ sauce better than the regular. The sides held the meal together—the brisket ranch beans, braised greens, and mac and cheese were all fantastic. Each meal also comes with white bread and a chimichurri sauce. The absolute cherry on top was the biscuits. They should call this place Mable Block Biscuit Co. because of those flaky jewels. Come for dinner, order a bunch of meat and a bunch of biscuits.
Craig & Jared’s Score: 7.5/10