This year for spring break I decided to do something different. One of my best friends has been studying ‘abroad’ in LA this semester for BU’s film/tv program, and, given that I have never been before, I figured this was a good opportunity to experience a new (and warm!) place while reuniting. It turned into a super fun group trip which entailed a detailed Google doc (thanks to my OCD) to meticulously plan the 3 days, jam in as much touristy activities and eating as possible, and forever be made fun of by my friends.
Though we were only there for three days, we managed to try a lot of really good food. I shamelessly had my phone out and ready to take photos to capture each and every place and most dishes. I’ll go in chronological order:
Well, our hotel happened to be LITERALLY right next door, so we couldn’t NOT get In-n-Out for our first meal at midnight when we arrived. It was an obligation. The place was jam packed at that hour and we even had to wait a little while (so much for their name). In any case, I’m not much of a burger person (sue me) so I don’t have too much to say…I got a regular cheeseburger and chocolate milkshake. Probably would’ve enjoyed it more had it not been 3am in my head at the time. I was also slightly confused because apparently In-n-Out has this sort of ‘secret menu’ that only regulars/non-tourists/BuzzFeed readers know about. News to me!
On day one, we woke up early and drove to Surfrider beach (Malibu area) to soak up some sun and, at least for me, stick my feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. The beach was gorgeous, but as much as we wanted to stay out in the sun for hours on end, we were soon hungry. Since we had been told by two separate individuals to go to Gladstones, we figured we should probably try it. It’s located right off the oh-so-scenic Pacific Coast Highway as we headed back toward Santa Monica. We gave our name to the hostess and had to wait for about 15 minutes in the lounge area until our table was ready. The waiting went by quickly though, as we were entertained by the sandbox built into the lounge area. Dan tried to make friends while we occupied ourselves by assigning other little kids as mini versions of ourselves (i.e. the little girl with the hat was me, the little girl with the ice cream all over her face was Nikki, etc).
So about the food…everything on the menu looked amazing and I would’ve easily eaten anything on it. It was a tough decision bu I finally decided on the fish tacos (sounded very Cali to me at the time). Dan tried ceviche for the first time (so proud), Hannah got a flatbread pizza (goat cheese yes please), Nikki got some sort of wrap that she ‘Californified’ (which pretty much means just adding avocado to said dish), and Chris got a cajun grilled salmon sandwich. Although pitchers weren’t on the menu, we inquired anyway and managed to swing a pitcher of blackberry/raspberry margarita (good decision). The amazing meal was made even better by the perfect weather and view of the beach.
3) The Grove:
The next day, after an incredible tour of Warner Bros., we went to The Grove, a must-see item on the Google doc. I didn’t know what exactly ‘The Grove’ consisted of, despite how much I’d heard of it, so I was really open to anything. Turns out, it’s this incredibly beautiful outdoor shopping area and, attached to it, there is an amazing semi-covered farmer’s market area with virtually every type of cuisine you could possibly want.
We did one walk-through just to get a lay of the land, and then we had to make the very difficult decision (#firstworldproblems) of where to settle down and actually buy lunch. Chris and I settled on a cute little French place and Dan, Nikki, and Hannah decided on Mexican (#carnitas, Dan?).
While I was waiting for the three Mexican diners to get their food (I was polite and didn’t want to start without them, though I may have nibbled on some of the croissant because how could I not?), I walked over to a little fresh produce stand and FINALLY came upon the avocados I’d been searching for. I purchased 2 perfectly ripe avocados (though I was hoping they would be cheaper considering we were in California…oh well #worthit). I couldn’t wait and immediately cut into one so I could add it to the sandwich I bought for lunch. And that is what we are calling ‘californifying’ it.
I brought the other avocado home and had it for breakfast (duh) because our Days Inn ‘continental breakfast’ was just not cutting it. Mashed avocado is SUCH a great alternative to cream cheese/butter/jam on toast. Breakfast of champions.
On the way out of the Grove, we had to get ice cream (because when it’s warm out, it’s pretty much an obligation). So we stopped at Bennett’s which had a wide variety of flavors to suit all of our cravings. I couldn’t resist ordering a Cabernet Sauvignon sorbet (because I’m such a huge fan of JP Licks’ Maneschewitz sorbet which only is offered twice per year in Boston). It was delicious and refreshing (and classy?).
We met up with a friend from BU who graduated last year (shoutout to Saba) and who is now out in Cali writing for the LA Times (here’s to hoping for employment come graduation…). After much discussion, we finally decided to meet up at Carney’s, a very unique restaurant because it is actually in an old train! Very cool. The menu included primarily burgers, so I got a turkey burger and sweet potato fries (my favorite) which I pretty much watched the cooks make the entire time because they cook right in front of the waiting customers.
5) Griddle Cafe
I’m not sure where to begin. Our friend Jeremy made it very clear during the planning process that this restaurant was a must. So we decided to go for brunch after hiking Runyon Canyon (so the calories would cancel out?). The photos really don’t it justice, so just take my word for it. The pancakes are the size of medium-large pizzas and they are typically served three at a time. While we waited for our table, we saw how massive the portions were and knew better than to order a stack of three pizza-pancakes. Instead, we opted for the single pancakes, which, it turns out, are still too large to eat in one sitting.
In addition to pancakes, the cafe serves egg dishes, french toast, and non-brunch items. The 6 of us managed to order quite an array of dishes as the photos clearly show. There was no way we could finish–or even close to finish–all the food that came to our table.
Needless to say, we needed to be rolled out of the cafe. Moving was a struggle to say the least.
6) Diddy Riese Cookies:
Jeremy insisted we visit this cookie shop located by UCLA. Considering how great his Griddle Cafe recommendation was, we figured trusting his recommendation was a good call. So after visiting UCLA and admiring the beautiful campus (too late to transfer? JK…), we stopped by the little shop to each get a handful of cookies. That being said, I still felt so full from brunch that I got the cookies to-go. The place only takes cash which is annoying, but, at $0.35/each, the cookies are SO incredibly cheap I really shouldn’t complain. I admit I have high cookie standards (the gold standard remains Paradise Bakery) so they were not the absolute best cookies ever, but they were definitely worth the visit. They were all completely full of chocolate chips/M&Ms/etc which was great.
Believe it or not, we actually did other things in LA besides eating, I swear. But it holds true that the best way to explore a new place is through its food.