The starting gun fires at 7:20 a.m., sending Memorial Day marathoners streaming south down Figueroa Street. For 26.2 punishing miles, many runners stick to energy gels and electrolyte-spiked sports drinks, but spectators have no such concerns. Tens of thousands of supporters line the L.A. Marathon course and often wait hours before their friends and family run by. Even watching all that running makes a person hungry. Here’s where to get a good meal:
Former Mayor Richard Riordan owns the Original Pantry Cafe (1). The 85-year-old institution never closes, so you can grab breakfast before, during or after the race.
L.A. Live is AEG’s new sports and entertainment campus. The complex offers plenty of dining options, but for breakfast, just one: The Farm of Beverly Hills (2). The bordered patio is the best area to eat dishes like caramelized pear crepes.
USC Hospitality recently launched a dining strip along the edge of campus, including Rosso’s Pizzeria and the Lab gastropub, but only McKay’s (3) is open early for breakfast. Build your own omelet or trust in the huevos rancheros at the restaurant named for legendary USC football coach John McKay.
Leimert Park is best known for Phillips Bar-B-Que (4). Louisiana native Foster Phillips opened his first ‘cue parlor in 1980. Now he douses red oak-smoked pork ribs and sliced beef with lip-stinging sauce at three locations -- this one without seats.
Around the corner on Crenshaw Boulevard, Get It N Go (5) features outdoor seating, zydeco music and stick-to-your-ribs Bayou classics like jambalaya, boudin and boiled crawfish.
Leroy Ross, the patriarch of a three-generation barbecue family, smokes rib tips, pork ribs and sliced beef with a mix of oak, hickory and almond at Tasty Q Barbecue (6). Ross is also Crenshaw’s “king of the fried turkey.”
Chef Marilyn’s Soul Food Express (7) is a popular low-priced buffet, where 99 cents nets you red beans and black-eyed peas, to name just two options.
The great in-between
Cruise up Crenshaw, hang a left on Venice Boulevard and discover Maria’s Cafe (8), a coffee shop inside AMF Midtown Lanes. Farther west, Con Sabor Pupuseria (9) has been dispensing Salvadorian comfort food since 1997, including an array of filled griddlecakes.
Cuba native Orlando Garcia and son William now own five branches of Versailles (10), serving the classic dishes of Dad’s youth, like garlic chicken and ropa vieja.
King David Grill (11) is east on Pico Boulevard, with patio seating, kebabs and unique dishes like Iraqi Hamin, a slow-cooked chicken dish designed for four.
Marilyn Torres has owned Petite Sara Cafe (12) for 18 years. Early in the day, the focus is on omelets and house-baked muffins. Later, you’ll find salads, sandwiches and red velvet cupcakes.
India Sweet House (13) has sold Indian sweets by the pound since 1981, including Barfi Pista, squares crafted from milk, cheese, sugar and pistachio. Nearby, the name Golden Indian Grill, Italian Pizza & Ice Cream (14) pretty much says it all.
Wilshire Boulevard office towers east of San Vicente will be ghost-like on Memorial Day, but several eateries will remain open. Eiko Sushi & Roll (15) is a shoe box-sized Japanese and Thai spot. Sit at a sidewalk table and watch runners pass by while enjoying sushi, sashimi and rolls.
Green Apple (16) is a contemporary cafe with a glass-fronted patio, panini press and green apple smoothies. “Eat drink live love” at Caffe Latte (17), a longtime breakfast favorite for selections like the spinach and mushroom frittata and cinnamon-walnut-lemon muffin.
Baking legend Nancy Silverton may have moved north to Mozza, but La Brea Bakery (18) remains a destination pastry palace; caneles are always worthwhile.
Koreatown is where eating options really multiply. This stretch of Olympic Boulevard is a 3.3-mile fast track to downtown that’s jam-packed with culinary excitement.
Manna (19) is a high-volume haven for “unlimited meat.” For $16.99, settle at a grill-topped table on the covered patio and cook short rib, brisket, black pork belly, marinated pork, chicken and beef.
Kaesung Kimchi (20) sells seven types of kimchi, including turnip green and standard cabbage. Down the block, Kyong Ji and her husband, Yeng, have built ChoSun Galbee (21) into an ivy-covered temple for refined marinated short ribs.
Sa Rit Gol (22) is patterned after a traditional country house in Korea. Owner Kyung Hah has earned a devoted following for her cuttlefish pancakes and chile-blasted pork belly. Around the corner, Healthy Zone 52 (23) specializes in porridge. A tank near the door hosts clinging abalone, just one of their available toppings.
A lesser-known but larger branch of Guelaguetza (24) showcases “Autentica Comida Mexicana.” Consider multiple moles and chilacayota, a sweet drink with squash, cinnamon and brown sugar.
O Dae San Korean B.B.Q. (25) is a sleek barbecue parlor, named for a Korean mountain, featuring leather booths, stainless steel hoods that swallow smoke and short ribs marinated in “house special sauce.”
Beverly Tofu House (26) resembles a mountain cabin, with tables, benches and stools crafted from tree cross-sections. Since 1986, they’ve focused on soon tofu -- soybean cake stews -- pairable with barbecue meats and seafood for a bargain feast.
Dae Sung Oak (27) -- Jenny Lee’s “Big Shiny House” -- hosts tabletop barbecue grills and handmade buckwheat noodles. Watch the runners pass by from the upstairs dining room.
Shik Do Rak (28) is dedicated to duk bo sam, slippery rice paper filled most often with deckle, brisket or marinated kalbi.
Grab a quick torta Milanesa or a pink pan dulce at Panaderia Guerrero (29).
Seoul Garden (30) serves sizzling beef on platters shaped like turtles and cows, plus slabs of broiled cod in spicy soy sauce.
The sprawling menu at the Rampart branch of Rodeo Mexican Grill (31) hosts shrimp ceviche, enchiladas and the quesadilla sincronizada -- stuffed with a choice of meat, onions and bell pepper.
The home stretch
After passing under the 110 freeway, you’re back downtown at L.A. Live.
The Yard House (32) is the clear choice if you want to drink a half-yard of craft beer. Fleming’s (33) is a contender for a post-race feast because of its cuts of prime steak.
At Rock ‘N Fish (34), the Kapalua rib-eye is marinated for 72 hours in pineapple-soy sauce.
Right at the finish line, you’ll find the Standard (35), a 24/7 coffee shop inside downtown’s trendiest hotel. Riordan’s Tavern (36) is the former mayor’s other downtown spot, selling “stiff drinks & great steaks.”
Lurie blogs at www.foodgps.com.
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