AutomobilesDining in Los AngelesTravel

The Summer of Loving LA 

ruyan view

The New Normal in LA is Back to Normal

In the same way that you don’t notice your kids growing up day-to-day, but others exclaim how much the kids have changed when they haven’t seen them in a while — the people living in LA are not as keen to how dramatically the city has transformed over the past few years, like I am, as a visitor a couple times a year. Vacationing in LA this past summer, I was delighted to find that the city had emerged from its unruly phase after the pandemic, and now acts like a nice, well-mannered city.  

One obvious difference is the shrinking number of tent encampments. Though they still dot the freeway underpasses and median strips along the side streets, the sprawling bivouacs of campers across the city have vanished. Also, traffic is significantly lighter at all hours as a byproduct of the new remote work culture. Likewise, the streets, stores and restaurants are less crowded. Around town, very few people sported masks, and generally, people seemed kinder and more relaxed. The tiny cookie shop where last year I was barked at by the masked clerk when I entered because I did not see the sign, “one customer allowed inside at a time,” had a short line inside, and the unmasked clerk was cheerful and buoyant.

For a tourist, these are good changes overall, though some of the pandemic fallout has diminished LA, such as permanent closures of restaurants or businesses and others that still struggled to make a comeback.

A favorite restaurant of mine in the Valley, Sun Café, an oasis off Ventura Blvd near Universal Studios, used to be a thriving spot for vegans in the know. After the parking lot across the street was commandeered by homeless and drug dealers during the pandemic, patrons stopped going to the eatery. The proprietors were forced to sell, and sadly the new owners continue to experience sparse crowds.

Other of the old haunts I frequented when I lived in LA for nearly two decades were back to normal. The WeHo Bistro was again serving their to-die-for garlic truffle fries and the gorgeously colored Aperol Spritz drinks to a full house. Trejos Tacos was back to dishing up their inventive bad-ass street tacos. And the Michelin Plated Restaurant, The Lobster, at Santa Monica Pier, is back to packing in locals and tourists for incredible sunset views and outstanding lobster bisque.

Enjoying Aperol Spritz at WeHo Bistro
Plentiful chips and salsa at Trejos Tacos.

Otherwise, most attractions around town have recovered well. A year ago, when we toured the Peterson Automotive Museum, we had to make reservations, submit to a screening that included taking our temperature, and wear masks. This year, the experience was completely carefree. My son and his cousin, both aged 16, who initially balked at the idea of going to a museum, were marveled by the expansive collection of vehicles. They snapped dozens of pics posed next to one-of-a-kind antique cars along with famous rides like the time-traveling DMC-12 DeLorean of Back to the Future, Scooby Do’s van, and the Honda S2000 from “2 Fast 2 Furious.” As a special treat, we toured the Vault, a vast garage of priceless and historical cars parked end-to-end. We were regaled by the docent’s stories of the bulletproof Mercedes owned by Ferdinand Marcos that could produce an oil slick to escape pursuers, and a 1998 Cadillac De Ville Parade Phaeton, more commonly known as the Popemobile.

Another attraction that rebounded with vigor is Cinespia, arguably the greatest outdoor movie event in LA, or anywhere. With thousands gathering blanket-to-blanket on the lawn of Hollywood Forever Cemetery to see films projected on Rodolph Valentino’s mausoleum, this exciting night of picnicking, music and movies has provided memorable film fan experiences for more than 20 years. My teen tourists where thrilled to see Fight Club under the stars, surrounded by patrons wearing black-eye make-up and dressed in flamboyant fur coats and torn and bloodied button-down shirts and ties, like Brad Pitt’s and Edward Norton’s pugilistic characters in the movie. As with every classic and modern classic film screened at Cinespia, the event featured a photobooth recreation of the set, in this case a boiler-room fighting ring. As a generous perk, the photos are posted for viewing on Cinespia’s site for free.

Of course, no trip to LA is complete without cruising Hollywood Boulevard. Compared to the near-empty streets with shuttered shops during 2021 and 2022, the place was buzzing during our visit. On a lively Saturday night, the strip was best explored in the luxury and grandness of a Ford Expedition, the vehicle that served as our crib on wheels for the week.

The boys loved rolling down the windows and opening the enormous sky roof and cranking up the bass on their Apple Music playlist, aptly named Mosh Pit; and I loved that they could sit in the 3rd row and adjust the stereo to play as loud as they desired on the rear speakers without splitting my eardrums in the driver’s seat.

Living large in LA, in a ride that was a trip in itself.

They had a prime seat to sightsee around Hollywood, and I won Mother of the Year by driving them around town in this impressive ride. At first, I was intimidated to drive such a wide-body vehicle through the streets of LA, but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to maneuver; plus, when other drivers saw me coming, they would pull to the side to let me pass. It was almost like a parting of the crowd for the guest of honor. It seems when people see a car like this approaching, they show deference, perhaps because of its large size, or perhaps to get a better view to see if there’s a celebrity passenger in the back.

Ready to roll, on a midnight cruise in Hollywood.

After day after day of tourist-ing and partying into the wee hours of the morning — which for the adults in our group included some curiously strong drinks at the Abbey in WeHo, leading to a search party and a missing person’s report, which is a whole ‘nuther story – we departed LA feeling feted, entertained, and well hosted. Our trip was like a lovely dinner party, with a guest list of people you actually like, good food, enjoyable conversation, and a few antics to make the experience memorable. Our week stay was just the right amount of time too. Los Angeles is again a great place to visit, and in fact, one day, I might just want to live there, again.

read more
AutomobilesDining in Los AngelesEntertainmentThe Left CoastTravel

Loving LA Despite Itself

cinespia screen

How a Black Eye Made Me Remember Why I Keep Going Back to LA

I usually visit Los Angeles a couple of times a year, returning to the hangouts I frequented when I lived in the city six years ago. I also make it a mission on each trip to discover new places and adventures. My most recent trip didn’t disappoint, as the good and bad of the town never fails to bubble up, like the ooze of La Brea Tar Pits.

It had been a year since my last trip to LA in summer 2021, which had started well with COVID’s dissipation but then ended badly with an unexpected surge in infections that sealed up the city once again. This time, the pandemic was almost a memory, as masks were the exception, tent encampments were fewer, and crowded public events were back in swing.    

Not knowing what might happen with the COVID situation, I planned a lot of outdoor and open-air activities, which I figured were a safer bet for avoiding rubbing elbows with the unmasked masses. I also found a way to avoid waiting in line to buy tickets for attractions like Universal Studios and the Van Gogh exhibit by using Tiqets, an online booking platform. The service offers a flexible cancellation policy, in case circumstances change, and they offer special deals and packages, like express access passes for Universal Studios Hollywood, perfect for short vacations so you can skip lines and enjoy more of the rides and shows.

The incredible surround-sight-and-sound Van Gogh Experience was pleasantly uncrowded, especially since my group took advantage of the VIP access tickets with an hour early entry. Plus, we all got a cool poster and $10 for the gift shop, which I applied toward a Starry Night jigsaw puzzle, which I will put together, someday.

As I always do on my LA visits, I explore the touristy attractions. It only makes sense when you’re in one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations to enjoy cruising the Sunset Strip and strolling the Hollywood Walk of Fame — but also to do the things that makes LA LA, like hiking Runyon Canyon, and going to Cinespia, my favorite outdoor movie event, where thousands of movie lovers flock with their blankets, coolers and LED votives for an alfresco dinner to DJ tunes followed by a modern classic movie. While the Cinespia enterprise has grown exponentially since I first started attending 20 years ago, expanding into multiple cinematic locales, I still gravitate toward the original venue of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. There I have enjoyed beloved films like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Point Break, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Die Hard (yes, in December, because it is a Christmas movie), and Dirty Dancing (the latter on July 4th, complete with fireworks timed for Patrick Swayze’s climatic lift of Jennifer Grey, projected on Rudolph Valentino’s Mausoleum.

As has been my LA story, when I am in LA, something dramatic, and sometimes traumatic happens. This time, I had a bad fall, breaking and spraining my fingers, suffering a concussion-inducing face contusion, and banging and bloodying my knee, thanks to the dark alleyway and awkward steps leading to my Airbnb accommodations. After a trip to Cedars-Sinai Urgent Care, I was wrapped in a cast and doped up on pain killers. This is when my perspective became a little foggy yet clearer about what was different in LA this trip.

While many of my plans – like my favorite bike ride on the path from Santa Monica to Manhattan Beach — had to be scrapped due to my injuries, I carried on, as the show is apt to do in Hollywood. So I did what I could, which was eat and drink, at least a few times a day, at some of my favorite restaurants and bars, like Hugo’s in West Hollywood, Real Food Daily (where I never fail to see a celebrity enjoying the city’s finest vegan menu), WeHo Bistro (for to-die-for French onion soup), Sun Café on Ventura Blvd., (best vegan smoothies around), and the Abbey (where the burgers and fries are passable, but where else can you drink and watch nearly naked men dancing on the bar, surrounded by statues of saints?).

In a couple of days, I was cleared to drive, so my friends were relieved of taxi duty. Luckily, I had the next best thing to a chauffeur, which was a Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit Reserve 4×4. Of course, I was doing the actual driving, but it hardly seemed like it. Despite busted fingers and my hand bandaged up like Rocky, I was able to navigate the side streets like a champ. I’ve been driving SUVs for 16 years, so I am used to sitting up high, which is a definite advantage driving LA streets, otherwise known as Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. For instance, I was easily able to steer around a guy dancing in his underwear in an intersection (an actual event during my trip), and quickly react to the usual entitled LA drivers cutting me off to get one car length ahead. I felt insulated and protected by the heft of this car, such that if, heaven forbid, someone pulled out in front of me, I would probably plow through them War of the Roses style and be just fine. I was also thankful for driver assist and auto parking features that helped compensate for my compromised dexterity.

During every trip back to LA, I take account of what got worse, what stayed the same, and what changed for the better. For instance, my old go-to grocery store in Santa Monica, formally a Lucky’s, then an Albertson’s, is now a Gelson’s. Chalk one up for improvements. Other upgrades include my son’s old playground in WeHo by the public library, which is now the home of a spanking-new aquatic center; and new green bike lines that sprouted up throughout Santa Monica and West Hollywood – though even with these dedicated bike lanes, motor vehicle drivers still encroach on biking right-aways, but it has it helped improve biker safety by a degree. Another sign of progress was that almost every public bathroom was all-gender.

Things that have changed and stayed the same can be summed up in an incident that occurred when I was leaving T.J. Maxx in Santa Monica. A security guard tackled a homeless guy stealing a purse. That’s the usual thing. The new thing was that the guard was wearing latex gloves, presumably for COVID.  Another stayed-the-same thing was that the Abbey was packed. The new thing was large screen TVs behind the bar flashing, “Warning. Beware of pickpockets. “Again, I presumed this was due to the COVID-driven pre-recession climate ratcheting up crime rates. There were fewer tent cities, especially at the beaches, though there were plenty of the usual vendors selling sage and crystals.

Despite my spill at the Airbnb, I felt lucky for the rest of my trip. Maybe because of my injury and not in spite of it, people treated me nicely. Like the woman at the Walgreens who looked at my broken fingers and my blackeye and whispered quietly to me, “Are you OK?” Others stared sympathetically at me, held doors, smiled and otherwise extended kindnesses to me, possibly assuming I was a victim of domestic violence. I experienced this kinder-and-gentler LA all the way to my gate at LAX, when the United Airlines boarding agent took a look at me and invited me to board early, gave me an entire row to myself despite a full plane, and checked my carry-on for free.

As I clicked my seatbelt around me, I realized I had forgotten my scapular, a religious amulet I wear on flights for the protection of the Virgin Mary. Usually, I would’ve considered this a bad omen and freaked out; but as I reached into my jean pocket, I found a scapular patch, which I had found lying on a bench during my visit to Universal Studios. I pinned the scapular to my shirt, over my heart, and I relaxed into my five-hour-10-minute flight back to DC. So went another typical, atypical trip to LA, where good, bad and the surgically enhanced come together in a way that happens “Only in LA.”

read more
Dining in Los AngelesEat & DrinkLifestyleTravel

Almost unmasking LA before a summer surge sent us packing


Trying to stay ahead of the curve during a pandemic vacay to LA

I went back to Los Angeles this summer, taking a vacation from my new hometown of Washington, D.C. My second trip to the city since the start of the pandemic started much better than when I visited over spring break, in April 2021. LA had made huge strides toward reopening. Restaurants welcomed diners indoors, attractions and theme parks re-opened, and stores removed mask mandates for the vaccinated. But then that all changed.

How it started, and how it ended

When I arrived in early July, all over LA, there was an aura of optimism, from Hollywood to the beach cities, the populace was eager for a return to pre-pandemic life. Then, a few days before the end of my three-week visit, things took a turn. Just like that, COVID-19 case numbers went up by 60 percent in a single day, and city officials renewed mask orders for indoor public spaces.

After two weeks of feeling a new sense of freedom in the air and sunshine at the end of the tunnel, a stop into the Insomnia cookie shop in WeHo took me aback. As I donned my mask and entered the store, a vigilant employee loudly ordered me outdoors because only one customer was permitted in the store at a time. The tide had turned, again.

Mask, and mask again

Over spring break, masks were still ubiquitous, and tensions remained high between the cautious and the anti-maskers who felt face coverings were unnecessary — or an encroachment on their freedom. As the city readied for July 4rth Independence Day celebrations, it was rare to see a masked face anywhere, except for those behind the register or prepping and serving food, and most businesses had taken down signs regarding masking.

Shopping at Bay Cities Deli
Customers were not allowed inside to eat at the counter at Apple Pan

The only hold outs for masking I visited were the Apple Pan, the historic luncheonette on Pico Blvd., and Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica, where their vigilant masking enforcers put the Soup Nazi to shame.

Most of the “hygiene theatre” had faded away. At store entrances, gone were attendants whose job it was to politely screen patrons for masks and offer a squirt of hand-sani. While most people maintained some semblance of social distancing, the six-feet directive was six-feet under.

A rare sign of the times, before the renewed masking edict

Nobody puts LA in a corner

At Cinespia, LA’s longest-running outdoor movie event, the July 4rth screening of Dirty Dancing hosted a crowd of more than 2,000 attendees, sitting blanket-to-blanket, across the Hollywood Forever Cemetery lawn. As patrons dined al fresco and grooved to the tunes of the pre-show DJ, they were as high as Baby’s triumphant lift, without a mask or any other reminder of the pandemic in sight. When post-show fireworks exploded, the throngs cheered wildly. It was a true celebration of freedom.

Cinespia picnic before the show
The throngs at Cinespia, a welcome reprieve from social distancing, and masks
Mingling before “Dirty Dancing” started at Cinespia, like old times
The exhileration of freedom, celebrated with fireworks at the July 4 Cinespia event

At Knott’s Berry Farm, it was child’s play as usual. Despite reservation-only admission, the park seemed as busy as any pre-pandemic summer. Early in the day, patrons wearing masks were sprinkled about, but as the sun rose and temperatures hit 85 degrees, masks came off. Social distancing was almost nonexistent. Picnic tables were more spread apart than usual at eateries, but lines of closely packed-in kids were the norm. Even in indoor settings, such as the in-park restaurants, it was rare to see a mask. The good part was that kids seemed oblivious that there ever was a pandemic, as they squealed with abandon on the thrill rides.

Cool kids enjoying a sunny day at Knott’s Berry Farm theme park, without a pandemic cloud over their heads

Museums along the Miracle Mile were open, though operating at a reduced crowd capacity. Petersen Automotive Museum offered pre-purchasing of tickets and required an online wellness check and masks for visitors. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) also featured reservations-only entry for specified time blocks plus on-site wellness screenings and temperature checks before entry for indoor exhibits. Outdoor public art exhibits, such as the Urban Light lamppost field, and dining at the Resnick Pavilion were free and open.

Checking temperature at LACMA
Mask required at Petersen Museum
Social distancing but mask-free at the outdoor public art “Urban Light” installation at LACMA

Pandemic after-party

Nightlife continued to pick up where it left off when lockdowns started in March 2020. Cooped up for nearly a year and half, clubbers were out in droves. In West Hollywood, the world’s most famous gay bar, The Abbey, was crammed with people, though there were slightly fewer tables than usual, spread out on its expansive patio.

In Hollywood, with COVID case numbers falling midway through the summer, The Hollywood Partnership (THP), an organization dedicated to promoting patronage of the district center, ramped up its efforts to attract more visitors.

“By all accounts, domestic tourism is thriving,” said Kristopher Larson, President and CEO of THP.  “Hotel occupancy is back into the 60th percentile, a figure which already exceeds previous recovery projections for the year. We’re also seeing continued growth in pedestrian vibrancy on the Walk of Fame, and our pedestrian counts through June 30 have already reached levels comparable to fall and winter of 2019 pre-pandemic.”

Many Hollywood establishments, like The Dudes’ Brewing Company, did their part to help revive the strip by appealing to its lifeblood of tourists the good old-fashioned way: great happy hour prices for drinks and food, along with offering expansive fresh-air patio seating. Art Paz, a Dudes’ manager, also doubled down on providing attentive customer service, despite the fact that most restaurants remain understaffed due to many service workers staying home during the pandemic. “Good drinks, good food and good service will keep them coming back,” said Paz.

Hanging with Gus the manager at the Dudes’ Brewing Company in Hollywood
Happy Hours made happy again, with spaced-out outdoor seating at Dudes’

Sheltering space

Starting early in the summer season, tourist draws like Marina del Rey were flourishing. The newly renovated Marriott Courtyard Hotel on the harbor welcomed a steady flow of guests through July, and its upscale waterfront eatery, Brizo Bar & Restaurant, was fully committed nightly, requiring reservations at least 24 hours in advance. Like many of the properties across LA that saw a precipitous drop in clientele during the pandemic’s worst surges, the hotel took the opportunity to remodel as well as revamp its offerings, including expanding its outdoor dining and contactless mobile room-service, enhanced cleaning protocols, reservations for the pool, and 24-hour turnarounds on rooms.

An empty pool at Marriott Courtyard Inn in Marina Del Rey
The gym to ourselves at the hotel
Lucky to get a reservation at Brizo to enjoy the scenic outdoor patio overlooking the Marina
Lots of open space around the hotel grounds
The deep cleaning procedures showcase on the hotel’s private channel

Enhanced cleaning throughout the hotel are intended to help pandemic-stressed guests sleep well at night

Glossing over deep cleaning

If the sparsity of available accommodations in July was any indication, tourism was on track to surpass pre-pandemic occupancy levels. Hotels across LA maintained premium season pricing, and even reasonably priced Airbnb places were rare to find, partly because many hosts who bought investment properties were driven out of business when COVID hit, and guests canceled in droves.

For our family’s extended stay, I opted for a no-frills two-bedroom, two-bath Airbnb rental in Beverly Hills for $250 per night. But despite promises of “deep cleaning,” the wipe up after the last guest was cursory at best. Even if there were no pandemic, I would’ve appreciated a quick sweep under the bed, which would have netted a previous guest’s credit card along with medical papers indicating the person was being treated with antibiotics.

Boom or bust

No one needs to tell anyone in LA, whether they are a tourist or a full-time resident, about the high cost of housing there. While many Californians are suffering the economic impacts of COVID-19, wealthy buyers have capitalized on low interest rates, driving elevated prices even higher. In September 2020, California’s median home price reached $712,430 — outpricing homes for working families.

This fact hit home when I took a trip down memory lane to my old residence in South Carthay from which I moved five years ago. I met the new owner of my duplex, a 29-year-old retired adult film actress. She was one of the lucky ones who bought early in 2020, landing a deal of $1.6 million for my former 4,000 sq.-foot duplex, complete with a pool and four-car garage. In today’s market, it would be at least $2 million. Ridiculous home prices have driven people onto the streets and are the reason many Airbnb hosts don’t give a darn about meticulous housekeeping, because rentals right now in LA can demand a premium price without grand offerings.

The mean streets of LA

One major visible consequence of COVID-19 remains the tent towns of homeless people, who have encamped along highways, beaches and the even borders of some of LA’s most affluent neighborhoods. With the lifting of eviction bans expected at the end of summer, putting more people out of their homes, surely these homeless camps would have grown, but due to Biden’s recent stay on the ban, this explosion of homelessness may be abetted a while. For now, LA has adapted to their new living situation, such as when I got directions from a seller on Craigslist who advised, “You can park beside the building, next to the homeless camp.”

Tent cities along the beach and across LA highlight a depending housing crisis

Social distancing disorder

While they may be a few feet farther apart, people are once again all up in other people’s faces in LA. After an 18-month hiatus from normal socializing, it’s no wonder people have forgotten their manners. Servers at restaurants, where a labor shortage has impacted their ability to properly service customers, told me that patrons have become more demanding and have less patience for slow service, ironically blaming those who are working – and not those sitting out the pandemic and collecting unemployment.

A usually decorous friend who lives in West Hollywood told me she was shushed twice in one week, at a hair salon and then at a nail salon, because her voice was disturbing others. She surmises either she has forgotten how to use her indoor voice after many months of quarantining, or other people have become less tolerant. From my own observations and experience, it seems to be a little of both, not just for her but for many of us.

Traffic signs

Indeed, both the good and the bad of LA have re-emerged post pandemic. Traffic has returned across the city. While I enjoyed quicker travel times over spring break, it was exciting to see the activity on the roads again, including an only-in-LA experience of being caught in the middle of a literal Ford-versus-Ferrari drag race on the 405 when a Mustang and an 812 GTS blew past my Lincoln Nautilus at a minimum of 100 miles an hour.

One drive I have always loved in LA is along the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu. On a quiet Monday night, I cruised up the coast to see how my old favorite hot spots had weathered the pandemic. As I turned onto PCH in Santa Monica, an overhead sign flashed a warning to any covidiots still undecided about what they should do if they wanted to get to the end of the pandemic. It read, “This Is A Sign to Get Vaccinated.”

A sign to help those who are lost find the way out of the pandemic

On a Monday night in Malibu, the Gladstone’s crowd was not applauding the sunset like they had done for 44 years, because the restaurant was closed up tight – a casualty of the pandemic, but other hotspots like Moonshadows, Geoffrey’s, Dukes, Malibu Seafood and our ultimate destination, Paradise Cove, were hopping, proving that you cannot keep a determined tourist down and out, in Beverly Hills, or the beach cities.

Masks are the new black

Midway through my visit, Mayor Eric Garcetti called for people to mask up again indoors. With the revived orders, the rancor of the arguments about them resuscitated, casting a pall on LA once again. But while LA was the first, they were not the last to call for a reshowing of face coverings. In the weeks to follow, one by one, as the Delta variant surged, cities and states asked people to once again mask up indoors, vaccinated or not, based on their area’s incidence of COVID-19 cases.

Ebb and flow

With a wave of new COVID cases sweeping across the city, there was a sudden and sad turnabout in the lightness and liberty that I had experienced during the first part of my visit.

Perhaps as a cosmic analogy to the changing tides in hopes, a massive dump of 17,000,000 gallons of raw sewage off the shore of El Segundo closed down the beaches for the rest of our trip. It was too stinky to even get out of the car at the Blue Butterfly Preserve, which we hoped to visit on our way to LAX.

As our plane soared over the ocean, I looked longingly at the City of Angels beneath us, with great optimism, on a wing and a prayer, that our next trip back in a few months will be maskless, carefree, and coronavirus free.

read more
Eat & DrinkRestaurants

The fast and casual way to dine around the world


From Mexican to Mediterranean, enjoy mixing and making your own meals at these popular DIY eateries

With so many fast-casual concept restaurants popping up, it’s hard to tell the difference between them. The flavor of the day is a semi-DIY assembly line approach to making a meal, where the customer picks the main component of their entrée and then can add in other elements, aided by a counter worker. Subway was one of the first to do this, and chains like Chipotle, Qdoba, Cava and Mezza Grill followed.

Some of the fast-casual restaurants have perfected this co-prep style of ordering, and some have taken a step further with customization of foods that can be flash cooked. If it’s all become a blur, here’s a quick primer on the good, the baked and the healthy.

Chipotle is my life.”  At least that’s the confession of one young YouTuber sensation, and a few hundred thousand other people. For the next generation of millennials who want to have it their way but would not set foot in a MacDonald’s, Chipotle Mexican Grill is their frame of reference for fast food, though really, it’s fast-casual.  You go through the line, loading up on diced proteins, rice, corn and other toppings, inventing your very own modern Mexican mash-up of flavorful fresh foods, in less than a few minutes. Chipotle offers just enough choices to make it interesting but not so many you feel overwhelmed.  Its tasty enough the whole family will like it, and healthy enough even Michelle Obama eats there.

Qdoba is a more Mexican version of Chipotle, with a lot of customization choices along with ready-made options so you don’t have to make too many decisions. Their quality and satisfaction guarantee is that if you don’t like it, they will remake it. They fire grill their steak and chicken and slow-roast their pulled pork every day. They hand-mash their guacamole and include guac on every entrée by request at no cost. They feature a variety of salsas and encourage guests to try mixtures of flavors, including a signature spicy Habanero Salsa with a fruity flavor and creamy three-cheese queso.

Cava is a healthy eater’s protein and greens dream. The only quirky part about this build-it-yourself eatery is you have to be part chemist to figure it out, but once you grasp the system, you’ll be chowing down on delicious bowls and pitas to live for. You start with a base, like salad, rice or pita; then you choose from an assortment of dips and spreads, like hummus or a feta; then choose a protein of chicken, lamp, or beef; then choose from toppings like olives, slaw or quinoa; and lastly drizzle a dressing, such as sriracha Greek yogurt or lemon herb tahini. Of course, none of these menu items are so straightforward, i.e., feta is “jalapeno-infused feta mouse,”– and beginners will likely have to ask at least a few questions as they travel down the line pointing through the glass case at their selections. The good news is that it gets easier, and it’s worth it.

Mezeh Mediterranean Grill is an exotic delight if Mediterranean style food is your taste, then Mezza has plenty of hand selected fillers for your pita or your plate, like chicken shawarma, lamb kefta, shredded lamb, falafel, kebobs, basmati rice and chickpeas; greens like arugula and kale; and sauces like tahina and harissa aioli. The ingredients are fresh, bold and flavorful, but for the unindoctrinated, you may experience “menu paralysis” when overwhelmed with all of the choices. The best ideas is just to keep trying different options and finding your own perfect recipe for building your own bowl, pita pocket or flatbread wrap. Of course, there’s also hummus and seasoned pita chips and baklava light snacking and desserting.

read more
Dining in Los Angeles

Figueroa Phillys Serves Up Authentic Eats for Discerning Cheesesteak Fans


Former stand-up comedian leaves the stage, gets rave reviews for his crowd-pleasing subs

Danny Hizami awaits his next cheesesteak fan

With franchise sub shops on every block serving up mass-produced generic sub sandwiches, many of us have forgotten what a true Philly cheesesteak tastes like. If you want to experience the real deal — the Philly cheesesteak that hardcore Philadelphians clamored for at the recent Eagles vs Rams game at Exposition Park, then get in line at Figueroa Philly.

At the corner of Figueroa 39th Street, across from the stadium, the fast-and-friendly restaurant that Danny Hizami opened up seven years ago has stayed on top of its game by offering up the highest quality ingredients, like Boar’s Head meats, that give the eatery the edge that has kept crowds coming back year after year.

When Hizami, a former stand-up comedian, decided to convert his father’s former Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant into a Philly Cheesesteak shop, he made it his mission to bring the most authentic and delicious cheesesteak to LA. He traveled the eastern US researching and personally tasting the best hoagies, and he brought back the proverbial secret sauce that has made his restaurant famous. From his inauspicious opening day, when he sold just six subs, Hizami is now filling the house, selling upwards of 500 subs on peak days.

With an original menu of traditional subs, like their most popular sandwich, the Figueroa Philly — made with steak, fresh onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and your choice of cheese, Hazami began attracting cheesesteak fans. As diverse patrons, from students from nearby USC and sports fans, to conventioneers and tourists, frequented the restaurant, Hazami expanded the menu to please his clientele, adding specialty subs like “Flaming” Hot Cheeto Cheesesteak, The Yin Yang Philly, and the Texas, Buffalo and Boston Philly subs.

The menu also includes a line-up of deli delights, Mia’s Famous Hoagies, named for his daughter, featuring a variety of thickly-layered Boar’s Head meat sandwiches; and Laura’s Hot Wings, named for Hazami’s wife, available with Mango Habanero or Buffalo Hot Sauce.

For regulars, the restaurant has a “secret menu” of subs that are available by request. The menu also features limited-time subs, like the LA Street Dog Cheesesteak, a $12 sub that will be served only on Sunday, December 30, 2018, as a nod to National Bacon Day. The sub includes a bacon-wrapped hot dog, steak and topped off with melted Cheese Wiz.

Hizami’s inventive sub creations and careful sourcing of ingredients have earned Figueroa Phillys the distinction of Best Cheesesteak in LA by CBS, an honor which Hizami says is made possible due to simple economics and real estate values. He says as the owner of the premier real estate where the shop sits, which has been in his family for 40 years, he does not have the overhead of a lease, which enables him to spend more where it matters to his customers.

“I can buy the finest ingredients, which my competitors can’t do,” he says. “Our quality is what sets us apart.”

No matter what you order, if “Danny” — as he’s known to regulars — is behind the counter, it will be served with a broad smile. Its clear to see by his charismatic personality, exuded as he greets customers by name, patting them on the back, thanking them for their patronage, and cracking jokes like you’d expect from a former comedian — that he loves his work. By the faces of those enjoying their food, his clients love him too — or at least they love their Philly cheesesteak. Ba-dum-ch.

read more
Dining in Los AngelesEat & DrinkRestaurantsSports

Five of LA’s best sports bars to watch the Super Bowl


The Super Bowl LIII is set to take place on February 3, 2019 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Of course, nothing compares to watching the game in person. But not everyone is blessed with the funds to attend. Luckily, sports fans who want to watch the Super Bowl with a crowd of fellow fans have the option to attend viewing parties at sports bars.

Going to a sports bar instead of the stadium has its benefits. The costs for transportation, parking, and food are cheaper. Depending on which sports bar, one may also get to enjoy free wi-fi. During a game, it’s important to have internet access, especially if a person want to wager.

Sports betting has become legal in several states, which is why sports fans are now free to place their bets online. Aside from traditional bets, the Gambling website notes that unique bets are also trending. For instance, one can bet on wardrobe malfunctions, the duration of the national anthem performance, and more. With the free internet connection, fans will be able to wager in the last minute.

In LA, there are tons of sports bars to consider, given that the city is home to ten major league franchises. Here is a short list of some of the most popular sports bars in the area.

Sonny McLean’s

Image Source:

The Irish pub in Santa Monica has always been a hot spot for Patriots fans. On Super Bowl Sunday, the place opens as early as 8 AM. The bar offers 40 beers and ciders on tap, and fans get to enjoy the game on 23 flat screen TVs. House specialties include Chicken Pot Pie, Fish and Chips, BBQ Herbed Meatloaf.

The Standing Room

Image Source:

The Standing Room offers an eclectic menu selection of Korean-American items. For game day, it offers the $6 off-menu food specials, like chili dogs and wings. There’s also the $45 all-you-can-drink special on both beers and wines. The sports bar is located on Hermosa Avenue. Doors open at 11 AM, but the deals are usually available starting 1 PM.

Barney’s Beanery

Image Source:

Barney’s Beanery dubs itself the “Eagles Nest West”, hence is another popular spot for NFL fans. One would have to reserve a seat here in order to watch on game day. Each reserved table includes complimentaries, but Barney’s reveals them on the day itself. The bar opens at 9 AM.

Tony’s Darts Away

Image Source:

Tony’s Darts Away’s party hours run from 10 AM to 1 AM. Here, fans are treated to 4 quarters worth of beer on tap, and complimentary bar snacks like chips, pretzels, and crackers. The bar also offers a vegan-friendly menu. Additionally, fans get to enjoy raffles and gift certificate giveaways throughout the game.

Brack Shop Tavern

Image Source:

50 cent wings and $15 pitchers on beer are the benefits fans get at Brack Shop Tavern’s viewing party. Also, if one reserves a table, it would include 40 wings and two beer pitchers.The bar also has a game room where fans waiting for the game can play darts, Pac-Man, and ping-pong. Brack Shop opens at 1 PM.

In case you need help on places to stay, refer to the Windy Side’s LA hotel guide.

read more
Eat & DrinkLifestyleRestaurantsTravel

When Doing Less is More, in Kaua’i


To each her own Kaua’i, the Hawaiian Island where adventure beckons and leisure reigns  

They say that each of the Hawaiian Islands has its own personality, and it did not take more than a few hours for me to figure out the character of Kaua’i.  Just ask any Hawaiian and you will get schooled on their state. As I traveled the island, I was amazed at how every local, usually a transplant, possessed encyclopedia-worthy amount of knowledge about the island.  I learned that each of the state’s eight main islands is very different, and each has their own history, culture and pride.  When a native of Kaua’i wanted to tell me what his island was all about, he said to truly experience it, I should do nothing.

Kaua’i is the laid back, decompressed island.  The oldest and fourth largest island is a surfer’s haven that embodies the lifestyle where locals chill and invite visitors to do the same. Everyone who lives on Kaua’i has a story of what brought them there and how they ended up staying.  I heard countless tales of those arriving with round trip airline tickets that became a one-way ticket to a new life. I also spoke to many locals who were born on the island, and several had never been off the island, and they had no desire to leave.

While tourists are welcome to kick-back and relax, for type-A visitors, Kaua’i hosts a plethora of activities for non-stop action.

Doing Kaua’i

Kaua’i is famed for many things, including its lush mountainous terrain, which has starred as the backdrop for every Jurassic Park movie. It is also known for its legendary surfing beaches, such as the surfing area off Makua Beach called Tunnels, which became infamous as the spot of a 2003 tiger shark attack on Bethany Hamilton’s in which the top-ranked surfer lost an arm.

Many of the beaches are beautiful to look at but are not for frivolous frolicking in the waves. The day we attempted to swim in the ocean, our shuttle driver from the Hanalei Resort reported that he had tried to surf that morning, but he turned around because the swells were too big.  That same day, we heard from another beachcomber a tale of a young man who narrowly escaped an attack by mounting a tiger shark and punching it in the eye after the shark toppled him by biting his surfboard. The quick-acting surfer then jumped back on his board and paddled to shore, limbs intact.

The many faces of Kaua’i

As different as each Hawaiian island is, each side of each island can have its own culture, climate and topography. To really get a feeling for each island you need to explore all its coasts. On the sunny side of Kaua’i, we visited Aston at Poipu Kai resort, a beachfront condominium community.  It was a hot and humid night when we arrived late, well after check-in time. I was worried the room would be muggy  when I learned the resort had no air conditioning, and I was skeptical when the management sent two room fans; but with the balmy ocean breeze coming through the windows, we slept comfortably and soundly.  The condo was nicely furnished with bamboo furniture and tropical printed draperies, with an open loft style upstairs master suite and two baths. Outside our window were beautiful bright pink flowering vines and a cute blue tile-lined swimming pool with an ocean view, where we were the only users. The grounds were quiet even though it seemed from the abundance of cars in the parking lot that the resort was at capacity.


The resort is near the Grand Hyatt Kaua’i, which was hosting the last evening of a cultural celebration, so we walked to the hotel to peruse the hand-carved jewelry and crafts displayed and to watch hula performances of children as young as five years old who confidently and gracefully told the stories of the island’s history with their interpretive dance.

We learned a good lesson about Kaua’i that night, when we walked home in the dark. We observed that total darkness that engulfs the island after sundown is incredible for star gazing, though it is hazardous for pedestrians. We nearly stepped on a dozen frogs and wished we had brought a flashlight and bug spray.

All about Po’ipu

By daylight, Poipu is a great place to stroll around and a central location for many activities Close to our accommodations we found a darling boutique shopping center, the Shops at Kukui Ula, where we found great prices on Tungsten and Koa wood ring, which we had set out to find after we spotted them in an ad in the Hawaiian Air inflight magazine.

The mini mall also had a great café offering a decadent turnover pastry chock full of warm melty coconut flakes, and a very cool Italian eatery, Pizzetta, with a delightful patio overlooking a garden and a lively happy hour with half-priced appetizers, including my fave, calamari, and $4 Mai Tais.

Po’ipu Beach Park was a three-minute drive from the Aston, but we could have walked in less than 10. There we ran into some handsome and friendly lifeguards who warned that swimming around the island could be treacherous where no lifeguard are present. They noted that there had been 11 drownings last season. With that cautionary bulletin, we decided to forgo swimming and sunbathed instead, in front of Marriott Waiohai Beach Club, which was a popular spot for snorkelers and stand-up paddle boarders.

Determined to find the beach less-traveled, we ventured on where the danger of no lifeguard didn’t bother the hard-core surfers at the secluded Kihili Quarry Beach, where we took our Avis rental car down a quarry road so obscure that it was not even on our GPS navigation map. While we only got our feet wet, we enjoyed the view of the surfers until the sun started to set.

Another day of Kaua’i   

Don’t worry if you forget to set your iPhone alarm clock in Kaua’i, the roosters will wake you up bright and early, each morning, afternoon, and in fact all day long.  The gorgeously colored wild roosters and their chicken mates can be seen strutting and pecking everywhere on the island, running amuck in parking lots, on sidewalks, in stores and restaurants and even in the halls of our hotel.

Evidentially too tough for human consumption – and without natural predators, and out-numbering the feral cats which have given up hunting them, the feathered pests have proliferated in Kaua’i, necessitating “Please do not feed the chickens” signs throughout the island.  As with everything else in Kaua’i, the natives have a live-and-let-live attitude and have embraced the phenomenon with abounding rooster souvenirs and artwork art at the local galleries and gift shops.

Accommodating Kaua’i

To gain an appreciation for many parts of the island, we changed accommodations, staying at a few different resorts and condominiums. Our goal was to explore each of the regions and its highlights, such as the cliffs of the Napali Coast on the North Shore, the coconut groves of the East Side, the Wailua Falls of Lihue, the commercial center of the island, the beaches and history of the South Shore, and the art community of Hanapepe Town and the scenic vistas of Kokee State Park of the West Side.

Our second stop on our whirlwind six-day trip was the Hanalei Colony Resort, a quiet and comfortable resort, situated in an area of pristine natural beauty on Kaua’i’s lush north shore. The resort holds the distinction of being the only commercial property existing in this spectacular setting. The resort also features ocean front dining at the Opakapaka Grill and Bar and the Napali Art Gallery and Coffee House, where you can enjoy your morning java and shop for treasures created by local artisans.

Next we lodged at the Kaua’i Beach Resort, called Kaua’i’s most authentic resort, with breathtaking ocean views of the eastern shores of the Garden Isle and an expansive property of 25 acres which features four swimming pools, including two lagoon pools with waterfalls and a sandy bottom.

We found many excellent places to dine, starting with Postcards, the most-recommended restaurant, where we feasted on the famous Postcards Platter of pupus including crunchy seafood-filled rockets with coconut curry, crab cakes, spice-encrusted seared ahi, the Hanalei taro fritters.

We also enjoyed the lively atmosphere of Tortilla Republic Grill, serving fresh Mexican fare with an expansive selections to tequilas at their margarita bar.

Other mentionable restaurants on the island include the Kaua’i Grill at St. Regis Princeville, which is fantastic but not the cheapest place; Bar Acuda, for excellent tapas dining; the Tavern at Princeville, known for its gorgeous setting and good food; Common Ground, offering awesome organic farm with the best breakfasts you’ll ever taste; and Hanalei Coffee Roasters, serving up scrumptious breakfasts and great coffee.

Waterfalls, waterfalls, everywhere

What else can you do in Kaua’i, you ask? Everything, if you don’t take the natives’ advice and just chillax. You can test your bravery at Zip N’ Dip Expedition at Princeville Ranch Adventures, where you can soar over breathtaking jungle valleys on ziplines and stop for a dip in a waterfall swimming hole. The thrill was intense, especially when the guide told us to get a running start on one platform over a 60-foot ravine because there was a wasp nest in a tree near the cable. I kept thinking about tracker-jackers in Hunger Games, but our party made it to the other side unscathed.

It seems all adventures in Kaua’i involve a swimming hole. At Silver Falls Ranch, we trotted through the mountains on horseback, breathing in the fragrance of the yellow ginger and cooled by the balmy trade winds, on a journey to a waterfall where we could swim in the chilly, refreshing pool below. That outing proved particularly exciting when I, the least experienced rider, lucked out by getting the most spirited horse, who reared up when we hit some deep mud he didn’t like. Thanks to the attentive and quick acting guide, I stayed in the saddle, and I walked away with a good story.

Down the road a bit, will also enjoyed the exhilaration of unpredictable twists and turns on an ATV course, courtesy of Kauai ATV. Suited up with rather unflattering one-size-fits-big nylon gym shorts and T-shirts, which we donned in order to spare our clothes from the mud onslaught, we traversed the jungle in our mud buggies, which resemble giant go-carts with awesome shocks.


Our caravan of about eight buggies slogged through a muddy fire road through Jurassic Park country – also the setting for nearly 200 other movies — through sugarcane fields and under the Wilcox Tunnel, Kauai’s only drivable tunnel. Our buggies took a beating, rattled over rocks, ripped through ditches and mud puddles and griped the ground through steep off-road trails before arriving at a midpoint rest stop where stripped to our bathing suits under our clothes and jumped into – you guessed it – a swimming hole of refreshing mountain water from a cascading waterfall.

Our afternoon was made more exciting by the resounding boom of repeated gun blasts from a local neighbor who was hunting boar on his land adjacent to our rest stop.  A couple of the locals along on the ride, two 20-something women, guessed at the fire power, “Sounds like a 35 to me.” It was either that, or maybe some baby T-Rexes out playing.

Oceans of fun

No trip to Kaua’i would be complete without a snorkeling adventure, and Blue Dolphin Charters was glad to oblige us with a Napali Snorkel Adventure with Captain Andy. Being that it was a time of year when the waves can get rough, we were glad we took the advice of a shop keeper at the marina and downed Dramamine before boarding. Forewarned, we were not among the 10 people aboard who barfed, including a few kids, who were very unhappy for the duration of the cruise.

Due to the choppy water, the captain changed up the schedule, which was supposed to end with snorkeling, and instead anchored us at a secret spot where only one other boat was within eye shot. I bought an underwater sea camera at the marina but should have practiced with it before diving in, as I missed a money shot of a giant sea turtle that swam less than two feet under me and then came face-to-face with my snorkeling buddy.  After about 35 minutes we were ready to come up, as stinging plants had started to cling to our legs and other exposed skin. Obviously, this was a common occurrence, as when we emerged from the water, the crew was waiting with a spray that quickly cooled the sting.

Listening to the natives

We packed in as much activities as humanly possible in our week-long visit to Kaua’i, but I had one regret before leaving.  I wished we had been able to follow the advice of the natives, and just do nothing. While I wouldn’t trade our adventures for anything, I longed to just hang out on the beach, sip coffee at an ocean front café and watch the water, spend an entire afternoon browsing at the local shops, sit atop a cliff and take in the beauty all around me. The most important lesson I learned from our travels was that to truly experience the islands you need to stay a while, if not forever.

read more

Your own private peninsula at Portofino Hotel & Marina


Redondo Beach’s boutique hotel offers visitors what they want from a waterfront hotel

Sometimes the road less traveled is the simply the one that others have not yet discovered, and that’s fine with me, if I get to keep the best-kept-secret of The Portofino Hotel & Marina to myself. Well, maybe it’s not just I who stumbled upon this quant boutique property on the water on its own peninsula, off the beaten path of tourists, but I was glad to share it with other appreciative visitors who value its unique locale and attendant amenities.

While this hidden gem is in plain sight in Redondo Beach, a waterfront community flanked by other, more-crowded beach cities, it remains subdued and quiet – unless you count the barking sea lions (hence the sea lion plush animal in every room). It offers just about everything you would want when visiting a hotel in a coastal city — a harbor view; ocean breezes; plenty outdoor activities, like boating, paddle boarding, biking and other recreational activities; and easy access to shopping, dining, nightlife and places you want to be around LA.

The hotel itself is an oasis in the area, with its nautical-chic décor, ocean- and harbor-view rooms with private balconies, and a laid-back luxury vibe, where guests are encouraged to relax and breathe in the Southern California lifestyle. Visitors can unwind in the large lobby lounge, boasting floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the King Harbor and marina, or enjoy fresh California fare at the hotel’s own fine casual dining restaurant, BALEENkitchen, which features its own front-row seating to the Pacific Ocean.



The Portofino has become a haven for both business and leisure travelers, who relish its location on the water but out of the crush and stress of some of the jam-packed LA beach cities. Redondo over the years has relaxed and mellowed with age, attracting those who seek an escape but also those who appreciate the city’s history and its potential for revitalization.

A $300 million waterfront project was recently stalled, but swells of locals and visionary developers see the Redondo Beach area, and it’s historic pier and waterfront, as ripe for new life. Residents and business developers continue to advance plans to recapture some of the city’s history as a renowned vacation spot and create a new look and vitality that will propel the area into the future, as a magnet for those who gravitate to all that the waterfront can offer.


The Portofino is poised either way, to serve as a port for those passing through or those seeking a staycation, where guests can feel the ocean air and look out from their room – or from a chaise lounge by the hotel’s harbor-side pool — and see the sail craft gliding across the water, among paddle craft, and of course, the harbor’s resident sea lions.

read more
Dining in Los AngelesEat & DrinkLifestyle

LA is seeing Pink Dots again


LA’s legendary Pink Dot rises again with craft cocktails and fresh fare on demand


When I moved to LA nearly 19 years ago, my new bestie told me the joke of how she knew when her neighbor was on a bender.  The Pink Dot VW bug was basically on shuttle mode, appearing in his driveway multiple times a day. I learned Pink Dot was the LA-unique delivery service that would bring beer, munchies, whatever, to your door, within minutes.

For the partiers, workaholics, social-adverse, lazy, and other shut-ins, Pink Dot would bring them the goods to keep them going.  But after the original owner, entrepreneur Bill Toro, who launched the concept in 1987 and by 1999 had opened 12 locations, expanding too soon too fast, the darling of LA side streets was on the verge of bankruptcy.


A new owner, Sol Yamini, took over in 2001 to revive the service that he had grown up on, keeping alive the flagship store on Sunset Boulevard, and adding upgraded items, like sandwiches made with Boar’s Head deli meats and Clark Street bread, and first-ever delivery options, such as a Cocktails on Demand kits.


Pink Dot is hitting the streets of WeHo and LA again, with a vengeance. With a new logo to refresh their look, a new website to make ordering easy, and tons of new products available – from condoms to cupcakes, the polka-dotted bugs are back, zipping around the city from 9 am to 2 am, getting LA loafers what they want, when they want it, within 45 minutes.


read more
Dining in Los AngelesEat & DrinkRestaurants

Tumbi Takes Modern Indian Cuisine to the Next Level


From street food to haute cuisine, Santa Monica Indian eatery is an epicurean journey across India

Forget everything you know about Indian food when you step into Tumbi. On a trendy stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard, where a common Indian restaurant would not survive the what’s-next Westsider crowd, this upscale craft Indian kitchen is bustling, even on a typically slow week night. Certainly, the food itself is an allure, but the cool ambiance and outstanding service at this Santa Monica Indian eatery round out an excellent dining experience.


Chef Imran Ali Mookhi’s modern twist on Indian faire is inventive and daring, but of course first you must figure out what to order on a menu that seems exotic even to Indian food fans. Luckily, the serving staff is eager to help.


As our server was quick to note, Tumbi is unlike any other Indian restaurant. The menu is a mix of Indian gourmet foods and traditional street food, organized in categories equivalent to appetizers, entrees, and sides, listed as Start, Street, Tandoor, Dosa, Pot, and Side. With a quick primer, we learned that on average people order about five different items from the menu to share.

20180724_045227617_iOS20180724_050654561_iOS20180724_050953601_iOSEven for someone like myself who is intimidated by Indian food, due to my lack of knowledge about it, the server’s enthusiasm and warm manner was inviting, and her descriptions of the food and its preparation made the menu intriguing yet accessible. When the chef learned I was a newcomer to Indian cuisine, he came out to give his recommendations.

We started with a bursting-with-freshness heirloom tomato and caramelized pineapple salad with turmeric yogurt and mustard oil. This we enjoyed with a side of garlic naan. Our server relayed that the nanna bread here is known as “phenomenal,” in varieties of traditional, garlic, and malai.

We followed with a signature dish called Butter Chicken, figuring you can’t go wrong with any dish with both ‘butter’ and ‘chicken’ in the name. The savory boneless leg meat is simmered for 10 hours in a in mildly spicy tomato curry sauce, which adds to the rich vegetable flavor. The laborious process to cook this dish was well worth trouble.


Next we had Apricot Curry Patagonian Toothfish Masala – a soft and flakey seabass steak, which was cooked in the tandoor Indian clay oven. This method cooks the fish at a high heat, with the fat dripping onto the coals at temperatures of up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, preserving the juices and sealing in the flavor. Again, the means were worth the end result. This fish steak was delectable.

From the Street category, we munched on the Vada Pav & Ildi Fries, which are spiced potato patties with gun-powder seared pav bread, along with rice fries, which are sticks of steamed rice that is breaded and deep fried into satisfyingly crispy treats.

We wrapped up our meal with a delicious crunchy empanada-style dessert, a hard-shelled pastry filled with sweets and nuts and drizzled in chocolate and served with a small dollop of barfi Indian ice cream.


All the courses were presented with artistry that matched the extravagant flavors and spices, inspired by tastes from Rajasthan, New Delhi, Goa, Chennai, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tumbi is a hot mix of authentic street food with Indian haute cuisine, with a laid-back chic vibe that makes an Indian food newbie’s epicurean journey across India an inviting experience.  If Tumbi – named after an Indian musical instrument – is the music of Indian food, play on.


read more