Category Archives: Los Angeles CA restaurant

Great Burger (Ford’s Filling Station)

Great Burger – Ford’s Filling Station

Great Burger: Ford's Filling Station, Culver City CA
Great Burger: Ford's Filling Station, Culver City CA

Pub Burger – Ford’s Filling Station – Culver City CA

Ford’s Filling Station in Culver City serves up one of the better burgers in the Los Angeles area. Made with organic Niman Ranch chuck, the beef patty is great and properly cooked to order. Ford’s ‘pub burger’ is topped with Maytag blue cheese from Maytag Farms in Iowa and is capped with a Yosemite-sized dome of caramelized onions. The Maytag blue cheese is a great topping on burgers, and the amount feels right. I like caramelized onions but the sizing here was generous;  you’ll want to scrape half the onions off to maintain the burger’s balance and taste the meat. The lettuce comes shredded, and the tomatoes are peeled, which feel like stylistic (not culinary) touches. The buns are excellent and slightly toasted inside with full flavor throughout.  

The pub burger comes with a monster pile of onion rings which are crispy and very good. (They’re a bit greasier than one would like, but still very tasty and grease-reparable with an extra napkin or two.) 

The extra red onion slice will sit, lonely and purple, since you have a plate of caramelized and fried onions…overall, a great burger, despite the onion fetish.

The Grade: Great

The Damage: $16

The Skinny: Ford’s Filling Station

9531 Culver Blvd, Culver City CA

Phone: (310) 202-1470



Chicken Mole (Casa Vega, Studio City CA)

Chicken Mole – Casa Vega, Studio City CA

I’ve had chicken mole at many places, and Case Vega makes a pretty darn good mole. The rice & beans topped with cheese is pretty standard; tastes like most any Mexican restaurant’s rice and beans. Well, the beans are above average, actually. But the mole, one of Casa Vega’s house specialities, is pretty wicked. It’s a well-balanced mole, imbued with  smoke and chocolate and it swarms in your mouth with heat, smoke, meatiness, and sweet.

Chicken Mole, Casa Vega Studio City CA
Chicken Mole, Casa Vega Studio City CA

The Spot: Casa Vega, Studio City CA

If you can deal with the boisterous, noisy, margarita-dosed crowds and mediocre service at best, Casa Vega can be a fun place to hang with friends. (Really, the service needs a new manager to train the whole staff…it’s just too slow.) It’s generally better (safer) to drink there than to eat, but some dishes (like the chicken mole) are worth the poor service. For Mexican fare, especially in a city with great Mexican food like Los Angeles, Casa Vega is  pricey and not your best value. But Casa Vega is about fun; it’s  an old-school restaurant. Launched in 1958, its walls are peppered with dark Mexican-themed paintings that are nearly 40 years old. I don’t think it’s changed much since its opening, so that’s what you’re paying for. There’s not much old-school respect in L.A. so you can find more quirky places like this in the Valley. Margaritas are pretty great, as is the people-watching. There are always odd celebrities in the joint, and a curious cross-section of Angelenos.

Casa Vega's Old-School Neon Sign
Casa Vega's Old-School Neon Sign

The Grade: Very Good, maybe Great (depending on margarita intake)

The Damage: ? expensive.

The Skinny: Casa Vega, 13301 Ventura Boulevard,  Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Phone: (818) 788-4868

Hours: Mon – Sun, 11:30 am to 2:00 am

No reservations! (That means go early or drink often whilst you wait)

Casa Vega on Urbanspoon

Meatballs (Osteria La Buca, Los Angeles CA)



The décor at Osteria La Buca is charming and warm for an urban conversion, with high ceilings, exposed steel beams and brick walls. The interior blends simple sophistication into an overall feeling of a neighborhood joint and since that part of L.A. doesn’t have many, it’s a nice feeling to be there.  The place has three dining sections: two downstairs and one upstairs. The little front garden room where people want to sit most looks to me like a sad terrarium or after-thought of a smokers’ lounge in a forgettable foreign airport. You’re too close to the neighboring tables, which is OK if the food is stellar. It just depends if you like that room enough to sit close or if you have the L.A. gene that requires you always be seen. I prefer the front wraparound area downstairs, which feels more like  a bustling neighborhood cafe.

The all-Italian wine list is a nice touch, but most diners would need some waiter assistance with selections from a list of grapes and blends uncommon to the typical American palate. Unfortunately, my waiter at Osteria La Buca automatically pushed the most expensive glasses to us. I knew two other choices were equally good and about half the price, so this was a bad takeaway. Pushing higher priced menu items without consideration for the customer is just a pet peeve of mine regarding restaurant service. Hopefully, that guy’s not working there anymore.


The most recent night I dined at Osteria La Buca, meatballs were a special appetizer. They were excellent and perfectly cooked, the way an ancient family recipe warrants. It was a bit odd that the meatballs didn’t sit on, say, some polenta or something to make the appetizer a bit heartier. But the meatballs properly hit the spot nonetheless, with fresh-baked crostini to soak up the ruddy marinara sauce.

Meatballs, Osteria La Buca, Los Angeles


THE DAMAGE: about $14


5210 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles CA

Phone: (323) 462-1900


French Dipped Sandwich (the original) (Philippe, Los Angeles CA)


America’s Best Sandwich (possibly)

Philippe The Original French Dip Sandwich, L.A.
Philippe The Original French Dip Sandwich, L.A.


Neighborhood: Downtown L.A.

The Dish: The Original French Dipped Sandwich

The Best French Dip Sandwich is the Lamb Dip Sandwich. The beef and pork are good, but there is really nothing quite like the tenderness and flavor of the lamb dip sandwich.

Be sure to slather a little of the notorious, house-made mustard on the sandwich. For folks who like hot food, it’s a fire-starter if used in the proper proportions.

Lamb French Dipped Sandwich at Philippe

As sides, the potato salad’s quite good. There are lots of things on the menu, from old-school, hearty soups (navy bean, split pea) to pickled beets, eggs, and pigs’ feet, but most guys usually just barrel down on 2 or 3 sandwiches.

Philippe The Original Lamb French Dipped Sandwich

The Vibe: Really this ranks as one of my favorite places to eat of all time, for so many reasons. It’s over a century old and used to be the caterer when giant circuses came to town. It’s just a couple short blocks to Union Station and was the prime feeding ground for anyone riding the rails. it’s got the same vibe from a century ago: ancient booths and communal tables and bolted-down stools, sawdust strewn old flooring. And, during the decade or so I would occasion its giant hall in LA, it looks like most of the servers are the same, too.

Phillipe The Original is one of the few restaurants in L.A. that has the everyman feeling about it, that survived the times when just past Beverly Hills were orange groves and Malibu was barely heard of; a place that, for me, hearkens back to the Depression through the film noir era. Seems like a joint that a mug who’s down on his luck might scrape up enough for a bite.

The Damage: Lamb French Dip Sandwich $6.25

Beef, Pork, Ham, or Roasted Turkey French Dip $5.15

The Skinny: Philippe’s, The Original French Dipped Sandwich
1001 N. Alameda Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 628-3781