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Century City

Classic Gold ~ The Year I Ate Pico Blvd.

2:06 PM PST on March 6, 2008

    Pico Blvd.

    We've long sung the praises of Gold, the patron saint of Los Angeles food writers and a giant among pygmies in the local rags. The Pulitzer prize winner has made his name with articles like the one we excerpt below, and if you have a spare week or two, keep reading through the Weekly's excellent archive of Gold.

    For a while in my early 20s, I had only one clearly articulated ambition: to eat at least once at every restaurant on Pico Boulevard, starting with the fried yucca dish served at a pupuseria near the downtown end and working methodically westward toward the chili fries at Tom’s No. 5 near the beach. It seemed a reasonable enough alternative to graduate school. After I’d finished work each day at a legal newspaper near city hall, I would walk to the next restaurant on Pico. After dinner I would buy an orange from a street vendor and catch a bus the rest of the way home. (I should mention here that I actually lived on Pico, over a kosher butcher shop near Robertson.) When the enormity of the adventure seemed overwhelming, I might buy a taco at one restaurant, a hamburger at the next and a bowl of chilate y nuegado at a third. I never made it to the beach, but I did eat my way almost to Century City that year, from the El Salvador Cafe all the way to the old Roxbury Pharmacy grill. I grooved on the Persian-Jewish neighborhood around Beverly, the remarkable strip of soul food between Fairfax and Crenshaw, the pan-ethnic zone around Westwood. I especially liked the neighborhood — mostly Central American — that had sprung up between Vermont and the Harbor Freeway, the thousands upon thousands of Guatemalans and Salvadorans who crowded Pico until dark, choosing toys from big displays set up in grocery-store parking lots, buying mayonnaise-smeared ears of corn from street-corner pushcarts. The restaurants in that neighborhood were good, too. I learned about everything from marinated octopus at El Pulpo Loco, El Parian’s Jalisco-style goat stew, and Salvadoran pupusas to El Nica’s giant Nicaraguan tamales, Cuban fried rice, Guatemalan pepian and Ecuadorian llapingachos.

    You can read the rest of the article at Photo by Waltarrrr from the excellent photoset Pico Blvd.

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