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Food

Why Inglewood is a pretty great place to eat now, even before the Rams start playing

Inglewood will soon be home to the returning Los Angeles Rams, but football fans aren’t the only ones who should take note of this South L.A. city. With a diverse array of affordable and family-owned restaurants serving many hard-to-find specialties, it’s a pretty great neighborhood already. You can find Somali, Jamaican, Malaysian-Burmese, Cuban, Mexican, Southern and soul food restaurants, attesting to the crossroads at which the city has long been situated, both culturally and geographically.

The 108-year-old city of Inglewood — its vintage vibe extant in mid-century marquees and sidewalk payphones — is located in the physical heart of the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, between the 10, the 405, the 110 and the 105 freeways. Yet Angelenos’ knowledge of the food options in Inglewood is often limited to Randy’s Donuts, its supersize fried brown ring the unofficial gateway to the city. But there’s much more than fritters and doughnuts in Inglewood.

When it opens in three years, the 300-acre Rams stadium,  at the site of the former Hollywood Park Racetrack, will alter the actual landscape of the nine miles the city encompasses. The nearly $2-billion stadium and its grounds will include four parks, a hotel, an office tower, a concert venue and numerous restaurants and shops. Stadium developers have already approached Connie Cossio, owner of Inglewood favorite Coni’Seafood — the Mexican seafood restaurant is on Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants list — to open an outpost on stadium grounds.

Whether it’s decades-old soul food counters or newly opened hipster restaurants specializing in vegan fare, Inglewood has a number of options that would blow away any tailgating picnic of the future. Even if you don’t know your halfback from your blind side, here are some restaurants to explore in this changing city.

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Banadir Somali Restaurant. Raise the bar on morning pancakes with delicately folded anjero, a crepe-like accompaniment to goat or chicken stew served for breakfast with fava beans that will blow away your brunch date. Abdirahim Ahmed manages his brother’s 5-year-old halal restaurant, which is less than a mile from the stadium’s grounds, opens at 6 a.m. daily and serves as a de facto community center for Somali immigrants.  137 W Arbor Vitae St., Inglewood, (310) 419-9900.

Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen. “Lunch or Dinner?” That is the question the waitresses at the counter will ask you at 11 o’clock in the morning at this 41-year-old cafeteria-style restaurant owned and operated by the Dulan family. Whatever your answer, pick the fatty oxtails, and, yes, you want them over rice with gravy. Mac and cheese, green beans, cornbread muffins, it’s hard to go wrong — unless you neglect to order a slice of sweet potato pie. 202 E Manchester Blvd., Inglewood, (310) 671-3345.

Equelecua Cuban Cafe. A vegetarian and vegan-friendly Cuban cafe might only make sense in Los Angeles, but if you’re an animal lover craving faux shrimp al ajillo, or “arroz con (sin) pollo,” this is the place for you. Owner Caro Lafaurie opened the restaurant last year, after tinkering with vegetarian Cuban recipes since she renounced her inherited carnivorism as a young teen. 1120 W Florence Ave., Inglewood, (323) 741-2822, www.equelecuacafe.com.

Fiesta Martin Tacos. The menu at this popular taco counter offshoot of family-owned Fiesta Martin Restaurant and Grill isn’t too different from its 7-year-old progenitor, with one important difference: fresh-made gorditas, the hard to find “fatty” stuffed tacos. Wash a couple down with the full service juice bar that includes fun concoctions such as “diabetes y colesterol” (cactus, parsley, pineapple, grapefruit, cucumber and celery juice), or its close cousin, ulcer juice. 1314 N. La Brea Avenue, Inglewood, (310) 672-1314, www.fiestamartinmexicangrill.com.

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Front Page Jamaican Grille. Entering this small 10-year-old storefront restaurant is like walking into a life-size Jamaican flag — there’s that much green and yellow on its walls. There’s reggae too, as husband-and-wife co-owners and chefs Valdo and Pamela Carlyle dish out their flavorful food. Whether you order the jerk chicken or the beef patties, be sure to request a glass of the strong home-brewed ginger beer. It’ll help wash down the “reggae wings” which are, as the menu indicates, “HOT.” 1117 W Manchester Blvd. # C, Inglewood, (310) 216-9521, www.frontpagejamaicangrille.com.

Golden Bird. This 63-year-old restaurant is one of the remaining early fast food restaurants to originate in Los Angeles — it’s been around since before the Fearsome Foursome made Rams history. The fried chicken is an obvious pick for any tailgating picnic of the future. In the meantime when you visit the restaurant be sure to check out the vast collection of bottled sodas organized by drink color. Cash only. 8300 S Western Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 750-0705, www.goldenbirdrestaurant.com

Ms. B’s M & M Soul Food. There certainly is a Ms. B behind this ‘50s-era Mississippi soul food diner: Beverly Reece took over the business from her godmother in 1990 and still serves house specialties such as fried liver and onions. Unusually for the genre, the restaurant also boasts a bustling drive-through business. And just beyond the driveway out front, a large poster now hangs inviting the Rams “to try our yams.” Even if you’re not a football player, you probably should801 E Manchester Blvd., Inglewood, (310) 412-2800.

Mutiara. Before there was fusion or mashup foods there was Malaysian cuisine: at once Chinese, Thai, Indian, Bangladeshi, and in this case, also Burmese. At Myo Aung’s 8-year-old halal restaurant, the options include “samusa,” mee goreng, chicken biryani, or beef rendang. Just point to the pixelated photos of the dishes above the counter and eat. 225 S La Brea Ave., Inglewood, (310) 419-7221.

Rusty Pot Cafe. Snag a table outside on pleasant Market Street and be sure to order the cornmeal-crusted catfish breakfast special if it’s available. This Arkansas-inspired menu includes favorites such as shrimp and grits as well as truffle fries, kale salad and other California classics. Owner Linda Credit learned to cook from her mother and four older sisters, but wanted to bring her interpretation of new American cuisine “with a Southern twist” to Inglewood. 324 S Market St., Inglewood, (310) 412-5901.

Veronica’s Kitchen. Veronica Ogbeide Shoyinka has run this restaurant (and its Van Nuys satellite) for over 20 years, feeding the Nigerian community and its film industry, known in some circles as Nollywood. Check out the variety of spicy Nigerian chicken or fish stews with fou fou (pounded yam, rice flour or cereal), jollof rice, moi-moi (black-eyed peas) and plantains. 528 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood, (310) 673-4890.

Woody’s BBQ. The mid-century marquee of this 41-year-old family-owned barbecue hut (formerly a burger shack) is hard to miss. So is the oak woodsmoke piping from the pit’s chimney. The restaurant was originally named for its Louisiana founder, Woody Phillips (his son Rodney has run the Market Street location, as well as the Florence location, for 26 years; his sister runs the original location on Slauson). Lunch options include the “Lady’s Lunch” (chopped beef and chicken link) or the “business man’s lunch” (two ribs and chicken link). Do not miss the house-made peach cobbler, served very hot. 475 S Market St., Inglewood, (310) 672-4200, www.woodysbarbquela.com.

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