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Counter: A bistro, a rice bar

We were reminded this past week of how vibrant a food town Los Angeles is — not that we ever need much reminding of that, granted. But when the folks from Lucky Peach came downtown to the Million Dollar Theatre to do a food event, with Jonathan Gold reading an essay and Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon performing a recipe, among other attractions, and then everyone wandered next door to Grand Central Market for food, it was hard not to feel some civic pride.

That vibrancy was again evident this week, in the Studio City bistro that Jonathan visits for his latest review. And in the tiny Filipino counter restaurant where a former executive chef at Patina is cooking the rice bowls of his childhood. In a Boyle Heights coffee shop where some incredible sandwiches are on offer, even though they're kind of hard to come by. And in El Sereno, where there are some pretty great Mexican restaurants making birria and ceviche.

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Bellwether is on-trend

Stewed chickpeas at the Bellwether in Studio City.
Stewed chickpeas at the Bellwether in Studio City. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

This week, Jonathan checks out the Bellwether on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, a newish bistro helmed by Father's Office alums. There he finds the menu "aggressively on-trend," with dishes of charred Brussels sprouts, baked meatballs with ricotta, roasted carrots and the like; barrel-aged cocktails; and fried chicken Mondays. That said, those dishes are very good.

Rare lonches

The pork loin lonche from Primera Taza.
The pork loin lonche from Primera Taza. (Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

Deputy Food editor Jenn Harris heads to Boyle Heights to check out the excellent Mexican lonches, or sandwiches, made by Chuy Tovar and his wife, Rosalinda Hernandez, of Primera Taza Coffee House. Using bread he gets from Guadalajara, Tovar makes either pork or cheese lonches about once a month. Are they worth the wait? We think so: The pork comes from noted restaurant Corazon y Miel in Bell, the hot red salsa is made by Hernandez, the panela cheese is made by a vendor Tovar found at a local farmers market — and the sandwiches are enormous.

One chef, 7 chairs, many Filipino rice bowls

Pork longaniza is served with pickled vegetables, garlic crumbs and garlic fried rice at chef Charles Olallia's Rice Bar on 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles.
Pork longaniza is served with pickled vegetables, garlic crumbs and garlic fried rice at chef Charles Olallia's Rice Bar on 7th Street in downtown Los Angeles. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Food editor Amy Scattergood pulls up one of the seven available chairs at Rice Bar, Charles Olalia's tiny Filipino rice bowl restaurant in downtown L.A., to talk to the chef about how he got there. Before he opened the little counter, Olalia was the exec chef at Patina, and cooked at the French Laundry and Restaurant Guy Savoy — a pretty dramatic change of pace.

What to eat in El Sereno

Barbacoa from Vaquero in El Sereno.
Barbacoa from Vaquero in El Sereno. (Ben Mesirow)

If you find yourself in El Sereno, hopefully you're hungry, as there are a number of excellent places for Mexican food. There are trucks and brick-and-mortar restaurants, kitchens in convenience stores and some truly fabulous unmarked stands, and many of them focus on iconic dishes from Baja to Jalisco, Puebla to Nayarit and beyond. We check out three in particular, where we find creditable bowls of birria, Guadalajara-style torta ahogada, and some great ceviche.

Drinking in Long Beach

It seems as if Long Beach — yes, Long Beach — is the center of the craft beer universe in Southern California. As our beer columnist John Verive reports, the southern city has become the region's beer mecca. Filled with brewpubs and brewers, beer geeks and some pretty great beer, just a few beer spots include Belmont Brewing Co., Beachwood BBQ and Congregation Ale House — with more coming.

Patrons at Beachwood BBQ and Brewing in Long Beach get drinks served in different glass shapes, the better to showcase each beer's unique qualities.
Patrons at Beachwood BBQ and Brewing in Long Beach get drinks served in different glass shapes, the better to showcase each beer's unique qualities. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Jonathan Gold's 101

Jonathan Gold's 101 Best Restaurants, the authoritative annual guide to local dining, is online for subscribers.

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