Brief Comments on Los Angeles
A travelogue by Evelyn C. Leeper
Copyright 2011 by Evelyn C. Leeper

We went to Los Angeles for six days recently for a family get-together. This is not a trip report, but just some random comments.


Food was an important part of the trip, so it gets discussed first.

We did not eat on the plane (other than some trail mix we brought), so we ate lunch/dinner as soon as we picked up our car. This was at Beach Side Cafe, an Ethiopian restaurant in a small strip mall that actually had a second Ethiopian restaurant in it as well! We shared a vegetarian assortment plate and tibs (beef pieces in a spicy sauce)--with a lot of injira, that wonderful Ethiopian sourdough crepe. With tax and tip, this was $23 (all prices here include tax and tip)--a lot cheaper than Ethiopian food in our part of New Jersey.

Breakfast Friday was in an unnamed Chinese restaurant in the Gower Plaza, another small strip mall. Actually, these are not strip malls so much as L-shaped malls at corners, with little parking lots at the actual corners that open on both streets. (But pulling into these lots is usually a mistake, as it is rare when one can find an emoty space in them, and it is often almost impossible to manuever one's way out again. Street parking is easier.) Mark had a big bowl of seafood wonton soup and I had a big bowl of seafood soup for $13 total.

Lunch was at Carl's Jr. Mark had a burger, I had a bean and cheese burrito, and we shared a soda for $7.90 total. We try to avoid chains when we travel, but this is a favorite of Mark's and we don't have any back east.

Dinner was pizza and salad at Mark's nephew's house with the family.

Breakfast Saturday was at Sr. Meñnos, a Mexican place in--you guessed it--another small strip mall. These are ubiquitous throughout the area. We each had two tacos. I had barbacoa and chorizo; Mark had lengua (tongue) and buche (?). I also had coffee, which was pretty good. (I think it is hard to find bad coffee in Latino restaurants.) The total was $8.13.

We had a snack at McDonald's after doing the Hollywood Walk of Fame (yogurt and fruit for Mark, a hot fudge sundae for me).

Dinner was at Joe's in Venice. This was in honor of Mark's mother' 90th birthday and was the main event of the weekend. Mark's sister had arranged a limited choice menu to make things easier (a choice of appetizer/salad, and three options for the main course). I had spicy greens with goat cheese (not all that spicy, really), and Mark had mozzarella and roasted baby beets. For the main course I had Chicken Jidori with pumpkin tortellini; alas, I don't recall what Mark had. Dessert was birthday cake (carrot cake).

Sunday morning was the naming ceremony for Mark's twin grand-nieces, so of course there was food there--bagels, lox, etc., etc.

Dinner was at Western Doma Noodles, a Korean restaurant a half-mile from our hotel in a strip mall with another Korean restaurant, and in Koreatown, where every block had multiple Korean restaurants. This one was highly recommended in either TripAdvisor or Yelp, and was indeed good. I had my usual Sun Doo Boo Jigae, and Mark had a spicy seafood soup. Before the meals, they brought beaten rice (you beat rice into a dough and shape it into finger-sized sticks) in a spicy sauce, and nine dishes of banchan (instead of the New Jersey six). These included kimchi, seaweed, zucchini, greens, mung bean sprouts, fish slices and vegetable, spicy potato shreds, shredded radish, and potato salad(!). Total was $21.

Breakfast Monday was at Chichen Itza and this was a real experience. Chichen Itza itself is a small Yucateño "restaurant" in a place near USC called El Mercado. El Mercado is like a large warehouse converted into a mini-mall of the sort one would find at Englishtown Auction in New Jersey. There are several restaurants, but also other shops and businesses such as a tailor/dressmaker (complete with sewing machines right there), a shop carrying cleaning supplies and so on, a bakery, etc. We arrived about 9AM and parked in what was probably the DMV lot behind it, but though there were large sections of the lot labeled as being for DMV business only, the section at the back facing El Mercado had no such sign.

Inside El Mercado it was very loud. First of all, something had set off the fire alarm, and they were waiting for the Fire Department to come and turn it off. But there was also a ten-piece brass band playing music in honor of La Virgen de Guadalupe, whose day it was (December 11). Almost everyone who worked in the building was gathered around the band, clapping and dancing. This was holiday music I enjoyed, so I have to conclude that my aversion to the Christmas music in most stores and malls this time of year is due to its relentless and ubiquity, not to the Christian nature of the holiday.

Anyway, we ordered a tamal hornado (a baked tamal which ends up with a crust on the outside) and two pollo asado tacos, which we shared. I also got Café Maya (Mayan coffee) which seemed to have vanilla or some other flavoring in it and was delicious. While we were waiting to eat, we looked at all the photographs around the eating area celebrating the film career of Jorge Negrete, a Mexican star whose popuularity in Latin America in the 1940s and 1950s was the equivalent to that of Bing Crosby here.

The total for the food, the entertainment, and the film museum was $12 (which of course was really just the cost of the food).

Dinner was at La Antequera de Oaxaca, just across from our hotel. This had been recommended for breakfast, but although on-line people seemed to indicate it opened at 9AM, and its sign said 9:30AM, it did not seem to open until later than that, so we always ate elsewhere. For dinner, I had Mole Suave (black mole) over a chicken leg/thigh with rice and tortillas, and Mark had a chile relleno with green sauce and rice and black beans, total with soda $21. There was also a Mole Rojo, but I was worried it might be too spicy. The Mole Suave was the only mole sauce I have had that is better than the one at Aby's in Matawan, and that may be because the Aby's sauce has more piquancy and hence a bit less smoothness.

Breakfast Tuesday was at a Burger King near the car rental place, and hardly counts. It was, however, cheaper ($4.95 for the two of us) than what one would get on the plane.

So if one considers Mexican, Yucateño, and Oaxacan as distinct cuisines, we did not really eat any cuisine twice (other than American fast-food, and breakfast on the way to the airport hardly counts). In six days we had Mexican, Yucateño, Oaxacan, Ethiopian, Chinese, Korean, Italian, high-end American food, and American fast food. Los Angeles is one great food town.

(In fairness, I should note that within ten miles of our house in central New Jersey, we have Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Chinese dumpling house, Chinese seafood, Japanese sushi, Japanese tappanaki, Korean, north Indian, south Indian, Italian, general Mexican, Oaxacan, Egyptian, Israeli, barbecue, grille, Greek, and of course fast-food American.)

General Comments

Newark Airport seems to have a pretty good process at the security checkpoints--very fast and efficient. Los Angeles (LAX) does not.

We stayed at the Hollywood Historic Hotel at Melrose and Wilton. It was built in 1929, so is not the most modern of hotels, but at $55 a night is a terrific bargain. (Mark gives a detailed review on

We had already visited the Nixon Library & Birthplace on a previous trip, so this time we visited the Reagan Presidential Museum and Library. The introductory film they show seems more like a movie trailer. There is no mention of Jane Wyman (one wonders what her family thinks of this).

In 19874 Reagan had said, "We must develop geothermal energy, move forward on solar energy research and every other promising means of meeting our energy needs." For all the love the Republicans claim to have for him, this seems to be totally ignored by them.

One quote is not included: "I am a Contra."

The whole museum is a bit too adulatory of both Ronald and Nancy Reagan, with nothing negative, e.g. no mention of astrology. It talks about how apparently it was God's plan to bring Nancy into his life, without mentioning that apparently it was God's plan to bring Nancy into his life when he was married to someone else.

Neither of the assassination attempts are mentioned.

Reagan's various foreign visits were mentioned; he made no trips to either Africa or South Asia.

One notable event of his Presidency is described as "U.S. invades Grenada and rescues 800 U.S. medical school students." There is also no mention of the downside of his Afghanistan policy. The museum gives him credit for release of the Iranian hostages, but not the blame for the bombings of U.S. installations during his terms. It does mention Iran-Contra but implies that Reagan took responsibility only because he had to as Commander-in-Chief.

We walked the Hollywood "Walk of Fame" which worked out to about four-and-a-half miles. It consists of both sides of Hollywood Boulevard from Gower to LaBrea Avenues, and Vine Avenue from Yucca to Sunset Boulevards. We found it interesting to see how many names we recognized, and trying to find a science fiction, horror, or fantasy connection for as many as we could. For example:

We also visited the famous Larry Edmunds Cinema Bookshop (6644 Hollywood Blvd.).

Another day was spent at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum.

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." -Marcel Proust

This museum said that mammals are distinguished by hair or fur, producing milk, being warm-blooded, and having a single lower jaw bone on each side. The definition I saw elsewhere--three bones in the inner ear--was not mentioned.

It also claimed that what distinguishes humans is that we walk upright, have larger brains, make tools before we need them, and use fire. In specific comparison to other primates, we also have a non-opposable big toe, arms shorter than our legs, smaller canine teeth, and less body hair.