Sea Urchin Tacos, Quesalupas, and Jonathan Gold

February 14, 2023

About eight years ago, I was hell-bent on getting an interview with Jonathan Gold.

It's hard to think of a person more formative to my Los Angeles experience than the man, the myth, the he-single-handedly-made-taco-a-verb Pulitzer Prize winner himself.

His reviews were a fixture in my life. A compass of where to go next. An invitation to explore areas of my hometown that were new and thrilling to me. When City of Gold came out, my dear friend Katie and I waited in line in the freezing cold at Sundance Film Festival to grab a sumptuous sweet potato taco and see our hero at play. I'm embarrassed to have described that taco as "sumptuous" because damnit, he would have done better.

At the time, I was working in content at a boutique creative studio in Los Angeles, and we were standing up our first-ever print publication, Scoundrel. The idea was to highlight creatives who embody every sense of the evocative word, and to me, JG was it.

The thing is, as a non-journalist working for a non-name company and on a publication with all of zero editions, there was no chance I was getting time with Jonathan Gold. Want to know how I know? I tried, and I tried, and then I tried again.

But then I discovered a magical little 30 minute block of time on the internet, known as LA Times' lunch hour with Jonathan Gold. Every Wednesday at noon like clockwork, JG would show up to host a digital AMA, where we could, truly, ask him anything. A simple provocation and my scoundrel-like brain went to work.

Every week for well over a year, I bombarded that AMA, under my name and under many pseudonyms. I got my whole office into it. "It's Jonathan Gold time!" we'd proclaim. "Do you have a question for Jonathan?" I'd ask as we shoveled down mediocre sandwiches and longed for whatever he was so gracious enough to share with us that week.

I left that job before we could publish the whole article, but when Jonathan passed away in 2018 I went back and found every single question we asked (under every pseudonym, too. Painstaking!). 

For the first time ever I'm publishing every last unedited question and answer – all 127 of them if I counted correctly – for you and I to enjoy, and with a whole lot of gratitude for my fellow curious questioners and ex-colleagues Ari Katz and Dylan King.

These questions and answers have all been previously published by LA Times, so strictly speaking it might not be legal for me to be duplicating them here. But I'd like to think that we're all a little bit scoundrels, Jonathan included.

Long live JG.


I woke up in Glassel Park on the weekend craving a bagel with lox and did not know where to go or who to whine to about this very modern dilemma. To avoid this happening again, could you recommend anything nearby (or nearby-ish!)?

I think the closest good bagel and lox is probably at Wexler's in the Grand Central Market downtown - Glassell Park has many virtues, but great deli food is not among them.Last year people were talking about the weekend Belle's Bagels pop-up in La Perla Bakery up on Figueroa, but I'm not sure if it's still happening, or whether it offers lox.

My parents are rather unadventurous when it comes to food but I’d like to take them to a good meal around the Highland Park area. Where should I make a reservation?

Does it actually have to be in Highland Park? Ba is pretty good, a favorite among the professors at nearby Occidental College, and serves the kind of moules frites and coq au vin that your parents probably ate when their parents came to town for college weekend.

Hi Mr. Gold. I was wondering, as someone who has introduced us to so many restaurants we never even knew existed, are there any food secrets you hold close to the vest? Any spots that you don’t want to be discovered by the masses but you frequent? (Don’t worry, I’m not expecting you to tell us if so!).

I pretty much write about what I find. It's my job. But there are a couple of places I would love to write about where the food is wonderful, but the kitchen seems overtaxed by the burden of getting it out to more than a half-dozen people at once. I might put the Monterey Park Burmese restaurant Daw Yee Myanmar Cafe in that group. Really good.

I’m sure so many people have asked you what your desert island foods would be or your death row meal. So alternatively, imagine you’re in a personal hell. What would the devil be serving you?

I like Calvin Trillin's answer - the best Chinese restaurant in the world, except you're dining at a table of what are commonly known as meat n' potatoes guys, and you're not allowed to order. ``That sweet and sour pork is just too weird - let's just have the plain chicken.''

I first learned about the Monterey Park gem from your 2007 (aka Da Pulitzer Yearz) article, and it was with a heavy heart and empty stomach that I learned of Bollini’s sudden shutdown. Where is a suitable replacement that can fill the 16” thin-crust-sized hole in my life?

While there may not be an equivalent pizzeria in the Monterey Park area, it's still pretty easy to find good Neapolitan-style pizza in the SGV, if you count Pasadena. These days, I'm liking Settebello (which is also ni the Marina). The thin-crust, quick-fired Margherita is pretty close to what you'd find in Naples.

If you could sit down to dinner with anyone right now, who would it be, where would you go and what would you order?

I would be sitting center court at a Wizards game with President Obama, and we would be eating whatever they happen to be serving at Verizon Center. Chili dogs? Maybe. But we'd be watching Wall, Beal and Gortat, and everything would be fine.

Went to Olvera Street for the first time in a handful of years and now I’m itching to go back. Is there anywhere I should eat along that row?

I know Olvera Street may be the most touristed strip in all of Los Angeles, but there is still a lot to recommend it. I suggest the truly wonderful taquitos at Cielito Lindo at the north end of the street, and maybe a plate of nopales at La Luz del Día down at the south end.

Is there a future for the spork in adult eating?

There seem to be start-ups betting that it will be - the spork is kind of the utensil equivalent of Soylent - but I'm betting it will never catch on. I don't know about you, but I get extremely nervous putting anything like a sharpened spoon into my mouth. You never know what might pump you from behind.

Any opinions on the James Beard nominees?

The usual - the Best Chef: West finalists are short in Los Angeles chefs - I am rooting, as always, for Michael Cimarusti of Providence, who is sort of the Susan Lucci of these things. (Jon & Vinny too.) No L.A. Best New Chefs. Suzanne Goin is up for a major award, as she should be, but there's no notice taken of the kind of places our city excels in. #BeardsSoWhite? Kind of.

hello JG! i'm craving xiao long bao but not wanting to drive very far to get a delicious soupy fix. any recommendations in chinatown?

The original XLB in Los Angeles were at the long-gone Chinatown Mandarin Deli, where Chego is now. I can't actually think of any passable soup dumplings in Chinatown at the moment. You're just going to have to head for Din Tai Fung, Dean Sin World, Juicy Dumpling, Mama Lu, or one of the other San Gabriel stalwarts. ROC on Sawtelle is acceptable. And Peking Tavern downtown has good northern dumplings, although I don't think XLB are among them.

What’s the perfect breakfast pastry?

In Los Angeles? Probably the pain au chocolat at Maison Giraud in the Palisades. It is basically crunchy butter. And the cafe au lait is pretty good too.

Pineapples on pizza. Offensive, okay if you're willing to be that person, or yes delicious?

Strictly speaking, any pizza topping that isn't marinara or margherita is going against the original code. So once you're putting sausage or pepperoni on it, you might as well go all the way to pineapple. One of my favorite pizzas ever was the prosciutto and melon pizza the late Ed La Dou used to serve at Caioti. So while I personally may not ever have pineapple on my pizza, I defend the right of others to do so. Legendarily, Hawaiian pizza was young Barack Obama's call at Casa Bianca when he was an Oxy student 30-odd years ago.

In anticipation of the release for the critically-acclaimed, soon-to-be-Oscar®-nominated documentary “CITY OF GOLD,” how do you feel about the en-vogue trend of throwing real gold on common foods? I’ve seen burgers, donuts, and even aurous bacon! Are they all that glitters, or simply an expensive, gilded gimmick?

Gold on food is definitely a gimmick, whether it's floating in Goldschläger, sprinkled on tuna at Go Sushi Mart, draped across kheer in an Indian restaurant or put onto a concoction of cod sperm and osetra caviar on a deconsecrated holy wafer I once had at Nobu in New York. Since gold is highly nonreactive, it tastes of nothing. But the next morning, there will be gilded poo, if that's your bag.

I drunkenly stumbled to Taco Bell last night for the fast food abomination known colloquially as a Quesalupa, and I regret every delicious second of it. Can you recommend some non-traditional Mexican cuisine so I can cleanse my (literal and proverbial) palette? Follow up question: te quieres Taco Bell?

A Quesalupa! You, my friend, are living the dream. I still remember my first enchirito as if it were yesterday. And no amount of medication will help me forget. Anyway, I could suggest a Typhoon Shelter Crab at Seafood Palace in Temple City, because Typhoon Shelter Crab, but I suggest you head over to Trois Familia instead. See what Ludo does with the Taco Bell menu. Sleep soundly at last.

JG, do you have a favorite outfit or item of clothing to wear when dining out or reviewing?

I am very fond of the clerical vestments I picked up on the Via dei Cestari in Rome. They're from a pretty obscure order - you wouldn't have heard of it - but they put me at ease.

Can I find escamole in Los Angeles? And if so, where should I go, J Gold?

I haven't seen escamole - Mexican ant eggs - in a while, and I'm not even sure that it is technically legal to import them. Laurent Quenioux sometimes serves them at his pop-up feasts - google his name for clues - and John Sedlar occasionally had them at the sadly departed Rivera.

I'm trying to plan a dinner out with some friends who are in town, but as a group we are split vegan/non-vegan. Where can I go that has good options for both sides of the table?

The vegan-nonvegan split seems to be the coming thing on Los Angeles menus, and a lot of the most interesting restaurants are leaning that way. Alma, which I just reviewed, is one good option - mostly vegetable, but with a great steak dish too: Baroo is mostly vegan, but also not quite. Jitlada is always a possibility. And there is always Middle Eastern cuisine, which seems evenly split between vegan and not. These days, I'm liking Adana:

Let’s say you’re stuck in front of the pastry window at Canter’s. What are you going home with?

I grew up going to the bakery at Canter's, so my favorites are all on the sentimental side, I fear. I still have a sot spot for the cherry turnovers. I like the soft hamentashen (stuffed with mun please, none of that sticky jam) around Purim, although the cookie ones are okay. The rugelach aren't bad. And I seem to remember an oniony cheese bialy, although I may be confusing it with the one at Beverlywood, which is truly good.

I want to buy a good bottle of mezcal. What brand should I be looking for and where can I get it?

There are so many good mezcals for sale now - a big change from the not so distant days when the only one available was the one with the plastic worm in it. A couple of brands I really like are Piedras Almas and Del Maguey, each of which has an extinsive line of single-origin mezcals that can cost a couple hunderd dollars each, but whose basic model is perfectly good. I tend to get them at Everson-Royce Wines in Pasadena, but you should be able to find them at any well-stocked liquor store.

Best place to get waffles?

Brown Sugar in West Oakland. Barring that, the waffles at Square One are great. Roscoe's, of course. Bruxie's iff you lean that direction. And a sentimental ffavorite: Watts Coffee House.

Perhaps an oddly specific question, but what are some of your favorite cauliflower-based dishes in LA?

The first dish that comes to mind is the splendid porridge of caulilower and millet at Odys & Penelope on La Brea. Otium has a good dish of caulilower and raisins. The caulilower tacos at Colonia Tacos in Whittier.

I’m craving a really top notch tostada. Guide me please!

You could drive to Ensenada - the sea urchin tostadas at La Guerrerense are about the best thing it is possible to eat anywhere in any form. (If you're not planning on driving to Baja any time soon, La Guerrerense usually makes an appearance at the annual Street Food Fest at the Rose Bowl here.) Other than that, the seafood-intensive Poseidon tostada at the Mariscos Jalisco truck in Boyle Heights is excellent.

On the hunt for some great ceviche. Guide me!

You live in a good city for it. La Cevicheria, on Pico near Crenshaw, has excellent Guatemalan-style ceviche, including the elusive mule foot clams sometimes. And I just visited Lonzon's, a new-to-me Peruvian bakery in Culver City whose sea bass ceviche was first rate.

I rament to laksa question last week, but I totally phorgot. My phad (thai)! What’s your favorite Asian noodle dish in Los Angeles? Holler at batchoy!

I vacillate! But among them has to be the boat noodles at Sapp, the Chengdu-style zhachiangmian at the new Mian in Alhambra, the phat Thai at Pok Pok phat Thai, and the bun cha Hanoi at Brodard in Little Saigon. There are probably three dozen more...

Hi JG! This weekend is my one year anniversary living in LA, where should I go eat to celebrate?

Go on twitter and figure out where Guerrilla Tacos is going to be parked, and then go there. It's usually next to a great coffeehouse (Blacktop, Cognoscenti), so have a cortado too. When evening comes, make a reservation at the Walker Inn and have a cocktail flight. Uber home.

What should go on a pizza, J Gold? Assuming you’re making the pizza.

Bufala mozzarella, a sauce made with crushed San Marzano tomotoes and meagerly applied, fresh basil and perhaps a pinch of Maldon salt. Although I have to admit: when I make my monthly pilgrimage to Casa Bianca, I always get the pizza with sausage and fried eggplant.

Current cocktail of choice and where do I find it?

I could easily be persuaded to change my allegiance to the spritz at Normandie Club, but the sentimental choice for favorite nightcap belongs to the Aviation Number 2 at the Varnish. I wrote about it for what sadly ended up being the very last issue of Gourmet, and it reminds me of happy times.

I'm going to a show at Largo this weekend. Thoughts on where I should get a bite first that's in walking or close driving distance?

I kind of liked the old Largo, when all of Farfax was within stumbling distance. But you might try the newish Aburiya Raku, a branch of the incredibly popular Las Vegas izakaya, whose food has been incredibly good recently. The sashimi, fried chicken, cold soba - all good.

Mr. Gold, I'd like to pack my winter vacation full with great culinary adventures. Might you recommend three restaurants you are loving right now that would be good to check out during the upcoming weeks? Thank you, sir.

I know I just mentioned Shibumi, but I do find myself wishing I could go back there quite a bit - and if you've been, the menu is about 60% new. I have been finding myself at Thien An (in Rosemead and Little Saigon) sort of an eccentric amount lately, sometimes for the 7 courses of beef set meal, sometimes for the enormous grilled catfish, sometimes for both. And if you have a weekday off, you should probably check out Destroyer in Culver City, which is almost perversely unapproachable but has really extraordinary food.

The top soft serve, please.

All of the places I would have singled out for their custardy soft-serve a few years ago seem to have vanished. But the designer-y soft serve that is the mandatory dessert at Jon & Vinny's is good. If you're willing to drive to the SGV or Cerritos, Honeymee has an interesting take on the phenomenon. And there is the odd soft-serve at Cotton Hi in Koreatown, topped with Pop Rocks, Fruity Pebbles and swirls of flavored cotton candy. Majestic in its way. I'm also looking forward to whatever soft-serve maestra Christina Tosi from the Momofuku empire is planning to whip up when she opens up here next year.

Lebanese food. Where to (in LA of course)?

In Little Armenia, there has always been a debate about this. Some people like Carousel. I have always preferred Marouch, whose Lebanese food - mezze, kebabs, daily stews, desserts - are first rate. You might also consider Mantee in Studio City, a branch of a well-known Armenian place in Beirut, Alcazar in Reseda, or Carnival. Sunnin in Westwood also has its rabid fans.

Nom nom, sandwich time! What's the most inspirational sammich I can smash down my gullet for lunch today?

Since it's Wednesday, you're well-placed for the lunch-only fried-chicken sandwich at Night + Market Song in Silver Lake, which is certainly one of the most inspirational chicken sandwiches in town right now. Other than that - banh mi dac biet at Buu Dien in Chinatown, The Sandwich at Roma Deli in Pasadena, a cemita with milanesa and extra cheese at Elvirita in Boyle Heights, an extra-hot torta ahogada at El Guero in East L.A. - so many...

What do you think is the best option of the fast casual spots around LA?

Does Guerrilla Tacos count as fast-casual? I didn't think so. I suppose if I were coming off an offramp into an area that has as many fast-casual spots as Buttonwillow has fast-food chains, I might opt for Tender Greens. They're locally based, they foster decent relationships with farmers, they let the chefs at each individual restaurant dictate at least some of the menu, and sometimes a big salad with a little meat is exactly what you need. Also: cold Unibroue. If only somebody could persuade them to serve real iced tea instead of a product that tastes like a bubblegum infusion...

Something with chocolate please, today. Also something with alcohol. They can be in different places, but both feel necessary on this day of days.

I've mentioned it in this space before, but I think the best chocolate dessert in town at the moment may be the rye-crust chocolate pie at Odys & Penelope on La Brea. And there's a full bar!

Congratulations on another wonderful 101. So, what narrowly missed the list?

For the first time since I've been making these lists, Golden Deli and Musso & Frank missed the cut. And it made me pretty sad, because I love and visit them both, and they are both important to the city. I have the feeling that they may sneak back next year.

Mr. Gold, I just made shakshuka for the first time last week. What's in yours?

Well start by sauteeing minced garlic in olive oil, of course - a lot of garlic. Za'atar, a slug of toasted cuminseed, salt, pepper, and a can of plum tomatoes squished by hand. You'd think I'd use Aleppo pepper, and sometimes I do, but always supplemented with a healthy slosh of sambal olek. Simmer until the oio begins to separate, about 15 minutes, and then top with olive-oil fried eggs. Or poach the eggs in the sauce. Up to you.

We all know Oprah loves bread. So if Oprah were in town and you had to take her to get one bread/bread item in the city, where would you go?

I wish I knew more about Oprah and her bread preferences. Really I do! My tendency would be to go first to the country white at Gjusta, which is my go-to bread at the moment (except when I've gone with Clark Street), but I think the most emblematic L.A. bread at the moment may be the Sonora wheat boule from Kenter Canyon in the Hollywood Sunday farmers market - a pleasingly crackly crust, but a dense, elastic, mildly sour crumb, and it will stay pretty fresh all the way back to Chicago if she doesn't finish the loaf. Excellent grilling bread too.

Hello! Where would you take each of the presidential candidates out to dinner if you got the pleasure of dining with Clinton, and were forced to take Trump out (not that I'm biased or anything)? :)

Ms. Clinton is known to be disposed to spicy foods - the hot sauce in her bag and everything - so I'd probably tend in that direction. Spicy fried chicken is probably too obvious, so nix Gus's and Howlin' Ray's. Chengdu Taste would be a possibility, as would Jitlada, but there might be a smack of the state dinner about it. So - maybe Sapp Coffee Shop? I think she'd like the boat noodles, and it might give her a bit of street cred. As for Mr. Trump - I can't even think of a taco bowl in town at the moment, although I'm sure there is one. He likes fast food - maybe we could have his limo do the drive-thru at Chano's or Lee's Sandwiches

Hello JG. I'm thinking I want to get some takeout comfort food for this evening's debate, as I think I'm gonna need it. Where should I go?

The perfect debate food, I've found, is probably Popeye's chicken. You don't have to think about it too hard, there's probably an outlet near your house, and you can use it to mask the taste of the straight whiskey you will undoubtedly be consuming in great gulps.

I’m planning on making some Gabriela Camara style tostadas this weekend, but really want to make sure I score some prime tuna. Whereabouts should I go to procure excellent fish?

First of all, don't buy bluefin. Just don't. But you'll always find great stuff at McCall's in Los Feliz, Michael Cimarusti's Cape Seafood & Provisions . . . or if you feel like spending a bit less, I generally like the fish departments at the Mitsuwa Japanese supermarkets.

Hi JG! I just got back from Mexico where I enjoyed the deliciousness of chiles en nogada. Is there a place locally where I can take friends to get this tasty seasonal dish?

I really like the chiles en nogada - meat-stuffed chiles with walnuts in a pomegranate-studded cream sauce, often considered Mexico's national dish - at Babita in San Gabriel. Just the right pungency to the chiles. (Best, of course, when pomegranates are in season.) La Casita Mexicana also serves a good version.

I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the food-as-art-installation work from the likes of Craig Thornton.

As a former performance art fan, I'm not sure I'm as into the food-as-performance trend as perhaps I ought to be. I've never attended a performance by its master Rirkrit Tiravanija, who cooks Thai dinners for his audiences, but the idea at least doesn't move me. And while I adore the performativeness of dinners by chefs like Rene Redzepi, Massimo Bottura and the Roca brothers, who address art issues in their cooking as much as they do traditional culinary ones, it never quite seems right when attempted by other than an absolute master chef. Am I not specifically addressing Wolvesmouth here? Correct.

You know, I'm bummed about Pok Pok. Where should I go to ease my troubles?

Pok Pok Phat Thai is winding down, or shifting focus or something. And I'm bummed about it too - I've been winding up there at least once a month. Even when I've been in the Far East Plaza for Howlin' Ray's or LASA, it's been nice to stop by for a Thai basil drinking vinegar and maybe a quick app. The phat Thai noodles were best in town. I think the place I might go instead though is the actual Pok Pok a couple blocks north. They don't have a lot of noodles in their repetoire, but the fiery salad game is strong, they have icy Singha in addition to the drinking vinegars, and the fried chicken is on point.

I'm thinking about hitting the beach this weekend but also want to eat delicious things! Which beach should I go to and where should I eat before or after nearby?

I'm not sure this is the answer you're expecting, but the seaside eats in Manhattan Beach are pretty great. Walking up from the sand to a cold glass of Chablis and a platter of oysters at Fishing With Dynamite seems pretty good to me.

Mr. Gold, come Friday I'm going to need comfort food and lots of it. Where should I go that's not so far (within 45 min) from Highland Park area?

I think starting Friday that comfort food in California is de facto going to be Mexican. In fact, Governor Brown should find a way of signing that into law. So you may be tucking into lamb barbacoa or carne asada fries at My Taco, double orders of huaraches at Huarache Azteca, or carnitas-cooked innards at Metro Balderas. The stop by Belle's for some salt bagels and a schmear and pick up a 12-pack of Bohemia on the way home.

Hello, do you listen to any music in particular when you’re cooking at home?

I like to listen to the Lakers game when I'm cooking. This fall, my meals have had a slightly painful edge.

It’s a bit early, but I’m gearing up for Jewish Christmas (aka movies + Chinese food). What restaurant should I take the family to for dinner?

On Christmas, maybe the lines will be shorter at Chengdu Taste. We can only hope.

If you HAD to eat from Taco Bell, what would you order?

Crunchwrap Supreme. Is that even a question?

Any thoughts yet on Trois Familia?

I pretty much like it. I mean, what's not to like about nachos sauce mornay, or potato ``chilaquiles'' enhanced with brown butter? And the anti-fussiness is wonderful.

Let’s say you’re going to a show at the Hollywood Bowl. What would you pack in your picnic basket?

And just what are you seeing at the Bowl this time of year? Anyway, my baskets are pretty much like yours. Although last summer I was relying heavily on the Cuban sandwiches from Tropical in Silver Lake, which have either the benefit or the unfortunate side effect of broadcasting their presence for several rows on either side. They also go nicely with cheap and cheerful Spanish garnacha.

I am putting together a “taste of Los Angeles” care package to send to someone who has moved away. I’ve gotten about as far as SQIRL jam. Do you have any recommendations on food goods to include that might travel well?

SQIRL jam is always great in care packages from Los Angeles. So are the salted caramels from Little Flower, the walnut oil from La Nogalera at the Santa Monica and Hollywood farmers markets, and maybe a jar or two of mole negro from Guelaguetza.

Hi Jonathan, what’s your favorite food-related movie?

The obvious one, unfortunately. I mean, Tampopo is really hard to beat. But I also admire Chef, Udon, Eat Drink Man Woman, La Grande Bouche, Tom Jones, and those squishy Miike things that always involve cannibalism in one way or another. Also: Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck, which is wonderful.

What's the secret to the perfect Thanksgiving turkey?

Salt it a couple of days in advance, air-dry unwrapped on a rack in the fridge, ice down the breasts when you bring it out to come to temperature, and blast unstuffed in a 450-degree oven for much less time than you think. Crisp skin; juicy turkey; nice brown drippings for gravy.

What are the best diners to go to in LA for breakfast?

Nick's Cafe is always a good time at breakfast. The ham and eggs are justly reknowned.

Have you ever felt, upon further reflection or perhaps someone challenging you, that you were wrong in any judgments in a review?

Weirdly, not that often. I mean, when I've visited, say, Singapore I may have a somewhat different idea of Hainan chicken rice than I did before, but the L.A. versions I like tend still to be the same. But I change over time too. And I still wince a little when I think of a mean review I did of Chasen's a long time ago, which didn't kill it but didn't help. The vegetables did seem canned, the famous chili was bland, and the banana cake tasted like something you could have picked up at Ralph's, but I didn't quite understand its aesthetic until years later. I hope I've matured.

Mr. Gold, where should I go for Israeli food?

For Israeli food, you can never really go wrong with the Hummus Bar & Grill in Tarzana, whose hummus has a silkiness and depth that even Israelis admire (and Israelis never agree on anything). If you're looking for after-midnight shakshouka, Aroma is pretty good, and the ambience is about as authentic as it gets. I'm not sure I've ever been without a stranger at another table walking over and grabbing something off my plate. Fun!

What's worth eating along Ventura Blvd?

These days, it's all about Bellwether in Studio City, which is the model of what a neighborhood restaurant should be. Try to arrange your visit to coincide with fried chicken night. Thank me later. Other wonderful places on Ventura Boulevard include the modernist izakaya Asanebo, the Spanish-style coffeehouse Gasolina, the ramen-ya Jinya, and the almighty DuPar's.

Thinking of hitting up RiceBar. Any recommendations on what to get?

It's really hard to go wrong at Rice Bar, and there's not a lot of leeway either in the cramped 7-stool space or the tiny menu of Pinoy grain bowls. I am partial to the longanisa bowl - such good sausage! - and the sun-dried anchovy bowl is funky as hell, but also kind of great. Pancit noodles are also great. But if you go for the sandwich with fried egg and Spam, that one's on you.

Where does one get good detroit style pizza in LA?

Funny you should ask! Because while until recently I had assumed that Detroit pizza was basically a dumbed-down version of a Long Island grandma pie, apparently it is not. I've eaten a fair amount of pizza in Detroit, but have been loath to give credit to the region that birthed both Little Caesar's and Domino. But Detroit pizza is - a thing; not terribly different than the soft, square, squishy grandma pie, but also noble in its way. On Monday nights, Alvin Cailan and Isa Fabro make crisp, oily glorious Detroit-style pies at the Unit 120 space in Chinatown, and I can recommend it highly. It travels well too!

What is your most preferred pastry?

Food editor Amy Scattergood points out that the chocolate tart at Bestia is stunning at the moment, and Karen Hatfield's chocolate rye pie at Odys & Penelope is great. We're at the height of eat-a-peach season; my mind is starting to melt.

Can we talk about tagine? Where should I get some?

You might think that Revolutionario, run by North African tagine whiz Farid Zadi, would be a swell place to get a tagine, but you'd be wrong. Merguez sandwiches, yes; mechoui tacos, sure, but not tagines. So does this leave us with Momed or the glam Ryan Gosling-owned Tagine? Probably! Or get the Paula Wolfert Morocco book and start making them at home. Bonus points if you ripen your own smen.

My sister and I have a very busy night planned of ordering takeout and watching the OJ documentary. We're around the Culver City area. Where should we get takeout from?

If you're watching OJ, you sort of owe it to yourselves to get takeout from the Cannibal, don't you? The sandwiches are decent - or get steak tartare and feel the blood.

For National Fried Chicken Day, what are you eating? And related, where should I go if I want a fried chicken sandwich within a 20 min radius of downtown LA?

I've been eating a lot of fried chicken lately. I mean a lot. I went a few times to Howlin' Ray's for last weekend's review, revisited a dozen Asian fried chicken places for that piece Saturday, and fried 120 pieces for a fourth of July party. I had fried chicken and chilaquiles fir breakfast this morning. But if I were going to snag a fried chicken sandwich today, I'd probably go for one at Howlin' Ray's - order it hot, but not Howlin'. Just because. 

Do you have a favorite spot to eat on Pico or is it like picking the best out of your children?

One restaurant on Pico? Pardon me as I weep. But I have been thinking a lot lately about the Guatemalan bloody clam ceviche at La Cevicheria, which is so freaking good. No alcohol, so just dream of rum as you're eating it.

Where's the best fried chicken sandwich, JGold?

The best fried chicken sandwich, of course, is at Bakesale Betty in Oakland, which is the place that started the current craze. But as we both seem to be in Los Angeles, the fried-chicken sandwich at Son of a Gun is very good, as is the lunch-only version at Night + Market Song.

I’ve been snubbed by my secret crush, and I need to drown my sorrows. What’s the perfect comfort food to get over my woes?

Chef's Table is very well done - splendid kudos for Niki Nakayama, who deserves them. I'm looking forward to the next season.

JGold, it’s my birthday next week. Where should I go for a celebratory dinner out with a few friends that will be somewhat indulgent but won’t completely break the bank? All kinds of food are welcome and you’re invited, of course.

Is it drinks and also dinner? In that case the patio at ERB downtown is wonderful, with a stunning bourbon list and great biscuits, burgers, ceviche, etc. A nice place to hang. If it's mostly about dinner, you might go with either Officine Brera downtown or Dudley Market in Venice, both of which seem appropriate for the occasion.

What type of Sunday brunch is best?

Best to me? It must involve excellent java, spiciness is imperative, and noodles are ideally in close proximity. Which means that more weekends than not, you'll see me at one pho restaurant or another, either in San Gabriel or Santa Ana.

After years of having seemingly defeated an addiction to coffee, I have willingly and blissfully fallen off the wagon. As much as I love a run to G&B, I’d love to get an at-home set up for brewing myself a great cup. What do you recommend I brew in and where should I get the beans?

Congratulations. You are now an official member of the human race. And apart from the occasional caffeine headache, you're going to have fun. For a setup, I suppose I'd recommend more or less what the cool kids are doing: a burr grinder - they're all pretty much the same if you're not obsessed, but a bottom-of-the-line Baratza will do just fine - and one of those fancy pour over drip things. I use a Chemex, because I like drinking coffee through the day, and it filters out the stuff that makes it bitter - but really, almost any filter will do. Also, one of those fancy kettles with the pencil-thin curved neck if you want to make graceful pouring motions, which are fun first thing in the morning.

Dear Mr. Gold, My good friend Dylan (usually present on these Q&As) is in Chicago for one night tonight. Where should I tell him to have dinner?

Only one night? Alas. Judging from his questions in the chat, I think he might really like Fat Rice, a kind of neo-Macanese place in Logan Square. Very delicious. If the line is too long, the German gastropub food at Table, Donky and Stick is great, or he can hope for a cancellation at Blackbird.

I would like some pad see ew.

Shouldn't you be eating pad kee mao instead? Much spicier. Anyway, I like the version at Krua Thai in North Hollywood. The kitchen gets the right wok char on the noodles.

Hi Jonathan. I’m going to Sambar tonight. What should I order?

The pork vindaloo, like an Indian-influenced take on porchetta, is delicious. The zucchini kofta, of course. The saag and paneer nan. And the cheese thali, which is unusual and delicious.

hi JGold, do you frequent any of the farmers markets around LA (and if so, which do enjoy most?), or do you have an particular local grocery stores you like to pick stuff up from?

I wish I could make it to the Wednesday Santa Monica market sometimes, but I'm always here, doing the ive chat you're signed into right now. But I'm at the Sunday Hollywood market at least twice a month, and I also go to the Saturday Pasadena market, the Sunday Alhambra market - great Asian vegetables - and the Thursday South Pasadena market, which has a wonderfful prepared food section. Also the Sunday Atwater market, actually...

Hi J Gold! I just want to eat roast chicken and drink a martini and I am happy to keep going to Taix to do that, but I'm wondering if there are other locations for this should I want to expand my savory horizons ever?

Would I be too patrician if I suggested Republique? Because their roast chicken and their martinis are both excellent, even superb, although decidedly not free. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative, you could grab a chicken at Pollo a la Brasa in Koreatown and sneak it in to the Normandie Club - a combination that sounds awfully appealing to me.

Jonathan, do you have a favorite food-related publication you like to read? (And if so, please do tell!)

I mean, Lucky Peach. I'm probably contractually obligated to mention how much I miss Gourmet here, and I do, but the writers and editors of LP are curious, skillful, and quick to admit when they're wrong - humility is not much in evidence at most food publications. I also enjoy the British food quarterly Cleaver, which writes only about Chinese food. And a couple of Australian magazines, Gourmet Traveler, and the annual Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, which is doing wonderful things under the guidance of Myffy Rigby.

Would you ever consider opening your own restaurant? Or pop-up curating chef favorites of your own?

Would I ever open a restaurant? No. Those guys work really hard. And clearly, my knife skills are not up to the task. But curating a series? My friend Dana Cowin seems to be a having a great time doing it for Chefs' Club in NY - it could be fun.

Going to be on York Blvd. later today. Where should I pop into for a bite or drink or otherwise?

El Huarache Azteca is a good place to start - excellent huaraches, and other street food in the Mexico City style. The Hermosillo can be a fun place for a glass of wine and a snack. I really like the lamb barbacoa at My Taco. Or pop up to Colorado Blvd. and drop into Cacao for a michelada and a couple of duck carnitas tacos - very nice.

What’s your least favorite question you’re asked either as a food critic or with the recent City of Gold press?

I'm having fun with the questions, almost all of them. The ones that may be hardest to answer at the moment tend to deal with the issue of appropriation, a difficult topic that would take hours to properly address. Discussing it always makes me think as if I'm taking an oral exam...

Just moved into a place a stone’s throw from Alhambra. Where should I be eating, Mr. Gold?

In Alhambra, you have the Sichuan cooking at both Chengdu Taste and Sichuan Impression and the Shandng dumplings and pastries at 101 Noodle Express. The Vietnamese nem nuong at Kanh Hoa are extraordinary. You will discover the 38 Degree Ale House and the old-school bar Jay Dee. Akatora is a decent izakaya. And you will eventually find yourself at both the Belly Buster and the Hat, because occasionally nothing but a sandwich will do.

Could you recommend somewhere for an Angeleno to eat today to mourn the loss of rhyme legend Phife Dawg?

I was so sad when I heard about his passing. Tribe Called Quest was one of the greatest hip-hop crews ever. I could be glib and recommend someplace in El Segundo, but I'll refrain. He was of Trini descent: you could always head down to Callaloo in Long Beach and have doubles and a glass of mauby in his honor.

Hi Jonathan! What's the best meal you ate this week?

At Anne Fishbein's birthday party, maybe: crackling, juicy roast pork shoulder; roasted rhubarb; balsamic-roasted onions; parsnips with apples; and a towering chocolate-frosted white cake Anne baked for herself. Delicious. Other than that - maybe a meal of braised pork shank, broccoli-stem salad and XLB at Mei Long Village. It had been a longtime favorite Shanghainese restaurant, but I hadn't been in a couple of years.

Please settle a hotly contested debate in our office. Pastrami: Langers or Wexlers?

I greatly admire the pastrami at Wexler's, and it is getting better with each passing month. (A sandwich just last week was spectacular.) Yet I will still have to give the nod to Langer's. But the quality of the navel cut they use and their extreme care with it are still insurpassed in the US.

What is your favorite pie and why is it key lime?

Actually, my favorite pie is probably coconut-cream from a no-name diner in rural Oklahoma. I'm not sure why every pie in the plains states is better than any pie in Los Angeles, but there you have it. It is probably about including unspeakable things in the dough - or at least a lot of home-rendered lard.

Where should I go for some great, authentic falafel?

I'm not quite sure what you mean by ``authentic,'' although I'm not sure it much matters much. The falafel diaspora is broad. But I do quite like the falafel at Arax on Santa Monica in Hollywood - authentic Armenian-Lebanese falafel, I guess, as well as the Arab-Lebanese falafel at Kareem's in Anaheim, the Israeli falafel at Hummus Bar in Encino and the evolved Brooklyn falafel at Madcapra in the Grand Central Market downtown.

What’s your favorite slice of pizza?

When I lived in NY, my favorite slice was at Joe's, so it would make sense that I would favor the Joe's here over the other slice as opposed to whole-pie, contenders, including the beloved Vito's. But I'm actually going to go with Zelo in Arcadia, because the freshness and the cornmeal-crust are pretty compelling. Zelo is probably the most underrated pizza in town, slice or no.

I’m in Echo Park and I want something warm (perhaps a soup or ramen or noodle-based something) for lunch. Where should I go?

Are you going to Little Tokyo? Because there is the wonderful choice of the ramen at in Men Oh the Honda Plaza or the udon at Marugame Monzo. Or stay in the neighborhood and get the pad see ew at Night + Market Song - if you can manage to get past the lunch-only fried chicken sandwich.

Do you have an opinion on sites like Yelp (among others) that essentially crowd source reviews?

If you use it correctly, Yelp can be an excellent resource. The map interface is very good. The range of restaurants is stunning. I like the millions of pihotographs. What it is not particularly good at is helping you decide where you might want to have dinner - the information is often badly wrong, the opinions are misguided, and unless you know precisely what you are looking for, you, are more likely than not, going to be misled. There is a place for Yelp, but it in no way substitutes for, say, well-informed newspaper reviews. (But you expected me to say that.)

Do you have any go-to cookbooks?

The really stained ones I've cooked out of a trillion times? Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Italian cooking, of course - I've practically memorized it - then Richard Olney's Simple French Cooking; nearly the complete works of Paula Wolfert (I've been working through the clay pot book lately); Marian Cunningham's Breakfast Book; the Chez Panisse book that Paul Bertolli co-wrote, and the magnificent Zuni Cafe Cookbook from the late Judy Rogers. Of new cookbooks? I've been destroying my copy of Claire Ptak's Violet Cafe Cookbook. Like all the damp pastries in the back of the Starbucks case given vivid and stunningly delicious life.

What's your favorite spot to get a cup of coffee? And speaking of coffee, what caffeinated beverage do you like to order?

I am firmly in the cortado camp at the moment, and the ones I currently like best are at G&B, Blacktop, Endor Ffeine, and Portola Coffee Lab. It is nice to know that no badly one's day happens to be going, it is possible to experience three minutes of caffeinated bliss.

How important is the dining experience to you? Basically, do you often order delivery?

I like restaurants. I like the people who work in restaurants. I like being part of a crowd experiencing something meant to be experienced as a crowd - I don't watch a ton of Netflix either. And although like any working parent I resort to takeout once or twice a week (usually Zankou), when I'm at home, I like to cook for the family. A restaurant need not be grand to be wonderful; it is the people who make the sense of occasion.

Oh no! Jon Gold is on Death Row for killing the restaurant review game! Which dishes are part of your last meal?

Like really on Death Row? I think I might just go with a couple of pounds of macadamia nuts, preferably roasted at Magee's in the Farmers Market, and leave it at that.

I’m headed to El Paso and Marfa, TX for the first time. Anywhere I should pitstop to eat (I’m renting a car, so willing to travel for good eats)?

I have my own ideas about Route 66 eats, but I was just daydreaming about the enchiladas at the H&H Carwash in El Paso. Kind of the ultimate Tex-Mex place.

Where's a good place to get a nice warm bowl of congee in this town?

funny - we sort of covered that in the food section this week. Amy Scattergood likes Little Sister, and chatted about technique. I wrote about seven favorite places here: But oddly enough, I think the posh new Huo Zhou Wang in San Gabriel may be better than any off them; congee on a different level.

Is there a chef that you would want to see cook a completely different kind of cuisine? For instance, do you ever think “What would Roy Choi do if he could only cook with Ethiopian flavors?”

An interesting question - sometimes I think of it from another direction, as in what it would be like if Wolfgang Puck had expanded on the kind of French cooking he used to do at Ma Maison before he opened Spago, or Joachim Splichal had continued the spectaculat modernist cooking he did in the '80s at Max. So: maybe wondering what Sang Yoon might do with Korean cooking. The advanced fermentation techniques seem right up his alley, and I'd bet he could transform some of the classic flavors into something formidable.

What's your opinion on the word "foodie"?

The word `foodie' is slightly embarrassing, almost infantalising. And it never seems like a tribe I quite want to belong to. But none of the other terms seem any better. `Gourmand' is pretentious, and carries the connotation of excess; `gourmet' is fussy, `foodist' is just dumb. I usually try to use circumlocutions when I am tempted to write the word, but sometimes I am weak.

Is there a particular place you prefer to sit at a restaurant? By the door or at the bar or otherwise?

When I'm by myself, I love eating at the bar. Other than that, just the usual boy thing, I guess - having my back to the door makes me nervous. As do special baller tables. Just stick me in the middle of the crowd.

I’m heading on a seventeen day trek through the Yukon with my St. Bernard, Jon Gold (no relation). What would be the best cocktail to put in that barrel around his neck in case I start to succumb to the sweet chill of cold death?

I should think that nothing but high-proof rum would do, sir. I recommend the leathery, masculine Smith & Cross. If you insist that it be in the form of a cocktail, you could always make daquiris.

Hi Mr. Gold. Been a fan of your reviews for quite some time and obviously among your many readers enjoy the varied crop of restaurants that you write on. My question is, do you think that restaurant critics have an obligation or responsibility to write beyond the five star?

Hey, thanks! I'm not quite sure what you mean than ``beyond the five-star,'' but I would hope that in a year of reading any critic you would know which barbecue pits were up and which were down, the rough location of the best half-dozen taco trucks, a few good bowls of noodles, and the general sweep of culture and civilization through a city as well as what hip new restaurants might be doing with foie gras or charred brussels sprouts. The ideas of pop cuisine and haute cuisine have at long last started to merge.

Please settle a contentious debate. Is pizza best day of or better as leftovers?

Pizza is best not just within the same day, but within seconds of it emerging from an inferno hot oven. The blisters on the roof of your mouth are badges of gustatory honor. I do kind of like next-day pizza plunked into a red-hot cast iron pan and plunged into a hot oven for a minute, but the crisp-yet-puddingy efect is entirely different from that of great pizza eaten fresh from the source. Someday, we'll discuss pizza a libretto, but this is not the time.

What's your favorite smell?

Violets. Or baking bread. I refuse to decide.

After completing a seven day trek on the Huayhuash Circuit in Peru to raise awareness for International Panic Day, I have acquired a taste for Guinea pig. Where in LA can I find some of the more adventurous and exotic cuisines that will whet my palette?

As you may have discovered, it is basically impossible to find cuy - guinea pig - in Los Angeles. There were a few restaurants in New York that had it for a minute, but the closest we ever had here was a (long-closed) Arequipa-style restaurant in Lawndale that served rabbit seasoned in the manner of cuy. Alas - it is so good seasoned with black oregano and roasted the way they do it in Cuzco as well as the way it is marinated and deep-fried as they do in La Paz. You'll have to wait for your next trip to the altiplano.

What are your favorite hot dogs in Los Angeles (or hot dog varieties - bratwurst, etc. counting)?

The best hot dogs, as everybody knows, are the bacon-wrapped, mayo-dripping spicy ones served by the vendor who magically appears on the sidewalk just as you are leaving the club. The second best are what you find at Fab's in Tarzana. I am also fond of Vicious Dogs in Burbank, and the Stand wherever it happens to be.

What are your thoughts on the debate regarding tipping that’s happening around the country, but feels pretty prescient here now with Andy Ricker’s latest commentary in Playboy?

I'll be covering a bit of it in my review of Pok Pok this week, but we are clearly nearing a crossroads as regards tipping. And I think Ricker is pretty much on the side of the angels here, but a huge, brand-new restaurant in an area people aren't used to visiting at night was probably not the best place to explore the possibilities. Restaurant food is going to start being more expensive pretty soon - you really can't expect hard-working line cooks to work for what the prevailing wage is at the moment - and whether it comes in the form of higher prices or tacked on charges is basically irrelevant.

What is the strangest environment you've ever dined in?

I've never done the undersea or crane-suspended dining things, and the many dinners atop the World Trade Center, mostly at Cellar in the Sky, are odd only in retrospect. So - by a broken-down old train high in the Pyrenees, where a mushroom-grilling woman mysteriously appeared as we were waiting for the engine to be fixed? How did she get up there? Who helped her push the cart? Where did all the red wine come from? And how were those grilled cepes with garlic so very, very delicious?

If in the near future, language fails us as a means of communication and the only way we are able to describe our identities is through a plate of food, what dish would you use to convey who you are?

You mean my own personal food emoji? Too difficult! I don't think a plate of chili fries sprinkled with Thai fish sauce, chicharrones and pickled ginger quite suffices.

What is on your list to try (or to revisit) this holiday?

I've been going to Grand Harbor in Temple City, the SGV's newest and grandest dim-sum/Hong Kong-style seafood restaurant. A splendid tureen of herbal black chicken broth last night. There are hundreds of dishes on the various menus, and I intend to try as many as I can in the next few weeks.

Do you ever experience writer’s block when writing about a restaurant and how do you overcome it?

Writer's block can definitely be a problem - see Laura Gabbert's documentary City of Gold when it comes out in March, which has it as a gruesome subplot. Especially when I'm writing about something I've written about 20 times before. How many different things are there to say about the cha gio at Golden Deli? But restaurants, luckily, are endlessly fascinating.

How do you even start compiling the 101? Is there an A Beautiful Mind-like bunker somewhere filled with crossed out flashcards with all of the restaurants in LA on it?

I like your style! Maybe we do need a bunker. But the basic outline of these things presents itself pretty easily, especially when I've had a meal someplace that knocked me backwards, and when I look back over the dozen or so of these I've compiled over the years (including the ones I've done elsewhere), you can see some definite trends and flows. But it's not easy. In order to name something the best Sichuan restaurant, you have to have a pretty good idea of what the other 20 in town might be serving...

What is your favorite current trend in food?

I like avocado toast, but I will never admit it in public. And I've gone on a bit about the phenomenon of local kids of immigrants working in Michelin-starred places in Europe and the US, then coming back here to reinterpret the flavors of their youths. But at the moment, I'll have to go with the new emphasis on vegetable-forward cooking - not vegetarian necessarily, but emphasizing the worlds contained within roots and leaves. So much to explore.

Do you have a favorite culinary tradition? From either your own life or ones that you've admired from other cultures?

I've always sort of leaned towards Umbrian cooking, partly because I am lucky enough to visit on a semi-regular basis, but mostly because I like the meatiness, the direct flavors, the sliplicity and the intensive use of herbs. It's hard to replicate Umbria in Los Angeles, but I try my best. Lately though, I've been kind of crushed out on the flavors of Northern Thailand. I mean, is there a single bad dish in the repertoire?

If you had to fight in a spice war, what spice would you fight for?

Cumin. Definitely cumin. Because I can harvest fennel pollen in my back yard.

Do you have a list of adjectives you choose never to use in your writing because they are too convenient (like "delicious" or otherwise)?

I actually like ``delicious.'' At the very least, it's onomatopoeic - the sibilance kind of sounds delicious. I am mostly against cutesy words, the various yummies, nom-noms, scrumptiouses, toothsomes, mouth-waterings, etc. And there is a special place in grammarian hell reserved for writers who insist on using the word ``decadent'' when referring to dessert.

Sweet or savory?

Savory! Even in matters of dessert.

What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish (or dishes)?

The correct answer for this question is, of course, turkey. Because I've worked in the foodwrite game long enough to know that neither game hens nor squabs are a decent substitute for the most majestic of holiday fowl. (Although feel free to tempt me with a truffled pheasant if you're in the mood.) But my real answer would have to be stuffing, because a good one takes so much work, is so much richer than any self-respecting cook would allow him or herself the rest of the year, and because it is delicious.

What type of cuisine do you feel is most under represented in Los Angeles?

At the moment, Los Angeles has precisely one (1) great Eastern European restaurant, that being Warszawa in Santa Monica. And as inappropriate as big feeds of goose, dumplings, hearty soups and vodka may be in our climate, I would really like to see more exemplars from the region. (I like Polka in Glendale too, but the dearth still stands.)

What's the best food to order in or prepare for an exciting evening of "netflix and chill," as the kids say?

Popeye's Fried Chicken. It's cheap, readily available, you can get it extra-spicy if you want, and the spicy, liver-rich dirty rice is better than anything else you could possibly get from a drive-thru window. Plus, the leftovers the next day - especially the biscuits, split and toasted with butter - are beyond excellent.

My friend is moving away from LA and I want to take her on a full day of "best of LA" eats before she goes. How should this day pan out?

Well, you could just point her towards the 101 and let her choose. But if you're making a day of it, you could have breakfast at the Nickel, get coffee at Blacktop and then tacos at Guerrilla parked outside, drive to the Mariscos Jalisco truck for some of the crunchy shrimp tacos, then finish off with red-oil dumplings spicy boiled fish in green sauce at Chengdu Taste. Still hungry? Tasting menu at Spago...

What's your favorite Halloween candy?

I found myself terribly underwhelmed by a Payday last year. Apparently my nostalgia was misplaced. As the guy at the door, I am usually happy giving away good, old-fashioned Milky Ways, which have the advantage of being absolutely delicious when you freeze them. Whatever my proclivities may be, Halloween is no time to experiment with things like Valomilks or Chik-O-Stix.

Do you think there's a set good amount of time to wait to go to a restaurant after its opening to allow for getting their sea legs in order?

I do think a restaurant needs a bit of time. It is fairly unfair to talk about a kitchen's level of execution when it hasn't quite worked out where everything is quite yet.A lot of places that may turn out to be great are, after three weeks, little more than a few recipes and a prayer. Especially with fire-driven restaurants - some grills and wood ovens might take a year to break in, although of course I don't wait quite that long. Both Bestia and Sotto, for example, were much, much better after a year than they were in their irst weeks.

What is the ultimate PB&J sandwich?

The one you lovingly make at home for a child.

Where can I find the best Jonathan Gold-approved breakfast burrito?

Does a breakfast taco count? I'm pretty high on the migas at Home State. But you could do a lot worse than the breakfast burritos at Lucky Boy in Pasadena.

What is the best bet for a hangover cure lunch? Asking for a friend...

Sometimes I think half of Korean cuisine consists of hangover cures, including sullongtang, abalone porridge, pork neck and potato soup, soontofu, and that soup with cabbage and blood whose name I always forget. All of those are great. But for pure morning-after relief, I still rely on the Mexican standbys: menudo, pozole, birria, and the very delicious lamb barbacoa at Aqui es Texcoco. Wopuld I also include the delicious fideo at Colonia Publica in Whittier? Of course!

What meal makes you most nostalgic for childhood?

The Number Two Dinner at El Coyote. One taste, and I am 8 again.

I'm on the hunt for just the right mezcal. Where should I be looking?

The mezcal bar at Guelaguetza always has at least a dozen mezcals I've never tried, and they seem to know everything about them. Plus, you know, moles and such. Corazon y Miel has a smaller selection, but the sangrita they serve alongside it is first rate.

How important is the consideration of beverage to your restaurant reviews? Do you always order something off the beverage menu or sometimes just stick to water/sparkling water/something generic when reviewing a meal?

If the beverage is important to the idea of the restaurant, I always note it - as in the splendid wine list at Jon & Vinny's, which I wasn't expecting, but which adds so much to the experience. Or a restaurant with a great, curated list of craft beers. Or, as is so common at the moment, cocktails. Conversely, if a restaurant has a wine list that is too short and too expensive, I'll talk about that too. But if the beverage program is not terribly essential to the experience of the restaurant, I'll probably just leave it alone.

Is there any food that you out-and-out will not eat/try?

At the L.A. Times book club event last night - Hi Austin! Hi Roy! - somebody came up to me with a bag of the cricket-flour chips she was thinking of marketing. And I felt obligated to try them, because - you know - it's kind of what I do. Were they good? They were not. And not because of the cricket thing - they tasted like stale Cool Ranch Fritos. (Do they even make Cool Ranch Fritos?) So anyway: I'll try almost anything, unless it is endangered, repulsive or lethal.

When you evaluate a restaurant, have you ever had the environment be so bad that it adversely effects the food? Vice versa, have you ever had the environment be so great, that you would consider eating there again even if the food is mediocre?

In a very good new place the other day, I was seated quite near to what could only be the stench of sewage outside the restaurant. It did not put me in a bad mood. And there are definitely restaurants with great food whose volume, indefferent service or general non-food considerations (read: lounges) tend to put me off. But in general, it's all about the food. If the cooking isn't up to speed, I rarely feel much of a need to return.