I've noticed this year that certain pioneering chefs are staking out their corners of our city for their rapidly developing gastronomical test labs. It’s exciting to see Josef Centeno making Downtown his stomping grounds, giving us Mexican inspired cuisine in completely unexpected ways, and fusions that shouldn’t work but sing. Gjelina is expanding its Venice empire with a new “bakery” that is, frankly, the stuff of dreams. Gjusta is a bustling agora of house cured meats and terrines, cakes and pastries, fresh baked bread, slow cooked brisket and pastrami sandwiches, where what seems like a staff of thousands is always busily executing myriad tasks in the vast open kitchen. At the Line Hotel in Koreatown, Roy Choi has planted his flag with two restaurants, the traditional Korean POT and the greenhouse aerie Commissary, where Choi delivers what he would serve at “family meal” to seasoned restaurant staff.
The point is: LA is a sprawling array of fascinating microcosms, and a freaking cool place to explore for a curious and open person, especially if that person loves food as a gateway to new experiences. I will travel for a food adventure. But I’ll also travel outside of my neighborhood just for a change of pace, and LA offers boundless day trip possibilities. Whenever I’m feeling stifled, I plan a drive up the PCH, looking for inspiration in Malibu. Or I’ll venture east and spend a day in Monterey Park, trying to figure out how to digest more quickly so I can move on to the next Chinese bakery.
One recent foray took me to Hermosa Beach to visit a writer friend who lives right on the water. As we walked by the sand on a perfectly overcast day, the cloud cover lending a bizarre dreamlike quality to the largely deserted Hermosa pier and boardwalk, I marveled at how his beach town could be so different from mine, just 30 minutes up the coast. Santa Monica has a really nice neighborhood feel and I absolutely love living there, but if you’re on the Montana side, it’s pretty bougie, and if you’re on the beach side, it’s pretty touristy. Hermosa feels sleepier, much less taken in by the gloss of LA. There are actual dive bars here. All the dive bars I’ve been to in LA required password access. There are entire stretches of sidewalk here without a single Lululemon pant in sight.
And there is Brother’s Burritos. A small L-shaped restaurant crowded with tables and stools and an eclectic mix of patrons, Brother’s is the kind of design-your-own burrito (or burrito bowl) place that serves legit pozole on the weekends for $6.75. My friend knows the girl at the register—he comes here once a week. She asks if he wants “the usual.” She explains to me that I will actually get two small burritos with my order; I learn later that the owner’s grandmother used to make two little burritos for him and his brother, so that’s how they serve them. I get a side of guacamole and I don’t regret it. It is limey and chunky. In my twin burritos are large chunks of well-seasoned, marinated grilled chicken, pinto beans, jack cheese, avocado and spicy salsa.
Brother’s isn’t a destination restaurant—there are hundreds of good burrito joints in this town, so maybe I wouldn’t drive out to Hermosa expressly to come here, the way I would drive to San Gabriel for Delicous Food Corner. But I would certainly drive out to Hermosa just because. And while I was there, I would gladly find myself at Brother’s Burritos. I would greet the three local French Bulldogs who often sit outside, I would order a bowl of pozole, and I would eat it at the counter while I watched meat grilling on the flat top. I would walk out, down the pier, and look back at the charming colorful houses dotting the city of Hermosa behind me. I would listen to the ocean, knowing that in an hour, I may be in the heart of Hollywood. But right now, I’m here.