Everyone on social media said to eat these pastries. They were right
Sometimes, my social media feed is flooded with certain dishes. Friends, influencers and fellow writers will all rave about a burrito, a sandwich or dessert. A few years ago, multiple people messaged me about a must-try tuna sandwich from a pop-up in Los Angeles. I was tagged in countless photos and videos of this sandwich, dubbed by some as the best tuna sandwich in the world. (I am not referring to the Bub and Grandma’s tuna sandwich. You should really try that sandwich). When I finally tried the best tuna sandwich in the world, I could not have been more disappointed.
When the social media hype machine kicks into gear, it’s hard to ignore. And oftentimes, the thing everyone is going nuts over is really just meh. This week is devoted to three places that are worth the enthusiastic recommendations online. And I’ll tell you how to get in and out without waiting in line.
All the bourekas from Borekas Sephardic Pastries
With some time to kill on a recent Sunday, I tried Borekas Sephardic Pastries, the walk-up window multiple people have recommended since the shop opened last fall. They specialize in one thing: flaky, filled pastries called bourekas.
After seeing multiple people post about the long lines, I gave myself an hour. It was raining that day, but there were about 20 people ahead of me when I stepped into line. The three parties in front of me said it was their first time. As did the people behind me. Most everyone in line had heard about the shop from a friend, social media or a local news segment. Many had never tried bourekas before. They debated which flavors to get and wondered if the pastries were really worth the wait. I was in line for a full hour before I placed my order, and it would be another 13 minutes before I received my box of bourekas.
“It’s the PB&J of Israel,” said Gal Ben-goya, who co-owns the shop with her husband, chef Uzi Wizman. The two are originally from Israel, and also run the kosher restaurant PSY Street Kitchen a few doors down.
“Bourekas are a part of our life since forever,” Wizman said. “It’s a part of everyone’s childhood.”
Unable to find bourekas they thought suitable in the U.S., Wizman and Ben-goya decided to make their own. While Wizman said most of the bourekas you’ll find in Sephardic cuisine are made with margarine or oil, he uses ghee layered with filo dough in his recipe. The result is a pastry that’s crisp and flaky along the top and sides, but also chewy and a little bready in the middle. The butter is noticeable in each of the layers, lending the richness you expect from any good laminated dough.
The four savory fillings are inspired by the bourekas Wizman and Ben-goya ate as children. Spinach is paired with a salty feta sourced from Israel. Potato is whipped into a smooth paste with brown butter. Sliced mushrooms are bolstered with truffle. But the favorite might be the za’atar and cheese, filled with za’atar from Israel and a special cheese Wizman makes himself. It has the consistency of a creamy, whipped ricotta with the milky flavor of a farm cheese and just a hint of tang. It oozes out from the warm pastry, filling in all the air pockets with cheese.
The buorekas are all baked in a stone oven until the tops are a deep brown, then sliced with a mezzaluna knife into five strips. They’re served with jammy eggs, sliced pickles, a smoky, paprika-heavy hot sauce and a cup of tomato sauce for dipping.
Mix the hot sauce into the tomato, dunk your boureka, take a bite of egg, then a pickle, and repeat.
For dessert, Wizman is making a chocolate-stuffed boureka with a yogurt dipping sauce. Imagine hot chocolate pudding between flaky pastry covered in powdered sugar.
“The biggest compliment is when Asian people, Indian people, anyone who doesn’t even know what bourekas are actually enjoys it,” Wizeman said. “When you have regulars who are not Israeli, it’s the craziest, best feeling.”
I’ll let you in on a tip I wish someone had given me. Call to order ahead. You’ll receive a pickup time and you can hang around the window when you arrive. They will call your name when your order is ready. Just be prepared for some dirty, puzzled looks from the people in line.
120 pepperoni pizza with black garlic from Burattino Brick Oven Pizza
Calling the 120 pepperoni pizza at Burattino Brick Oven Pizza the 120 pepperoni pizza was always intended to be a marketing gimmick. And it worked.
“It kind of just rolls off the tongue,” said owner Emil Burattino.
If you head to the shop’s Instagram account, you’ll find a barrage of posts touting the pizza, showing it going into the oven, emerging from the oven, being folded, eaten, sliced and loaded into pizza boxes. Keep the sound on as you scroll. What got me to drive in 50 minutes of traffic each way to Carson (there are also locations in Rancho Palos Verdes and Toronto, Canada) is the sound of the crust cracking when the pizza is sliced, a distinct, sharp crunch I could almost taste when I heard it. That, and all the sizzling pepperoni.
Bill Addison breaks down his top 10 favorite new pizzerias so far in 2022.
It takes one person about seven minutes to top an 18-inch extra large pizza, covering every available surface with slices of Hormel pepperoni, but no one is actually counting.
“We just know it’s at least 130 based on the square footage,” Burattino said. “It’s just about making it memorable.”
That crunchy crust is Burattino’s pride and joy, and the reason he refuses to do delivery. The dough is hand-stretched to something that vaguely resembles a circle, then baked in a 600-degree brick oven. I ordered mine with the black garlic marinara, which incorporates chef Lee Kim’s 120-day fermented garlic. The ink-black paste is mixed with marinara to create a pungent, sweet garlic sauce you can order on your pizza.
This is not a gourmet pizza prized for its leopard-spotted puffy crust. It’s a style all its own, with pepperoni that stretches to the end of the golden crust, the black garlic sauce and cheese barely visible underneath. It made me think of the best-ever version of the loaded pies I used to eat with my soccer team after a big game. It’s the kind of pizza you enjoy without analyzing why it tastes good.
Regardless of the time of day, the restaurant will smell like garlic and the room will be full of people eating pizza or waiting for pizza. Preorder online and you won’t have to wait.
Lemon poppy seed pancakes from Lady Byrd Cafe
Most people associate this Echo Park restaurant with the individual dining pods that were set up on the patio during the pandemic. They look like miniature greenhouses, outfitted with furniture you might find in the window displays at Anthropologie. Countless diners photograph themselves eating brunch or having a date night. The pods are just as cute in real life, but I’m surprised more people aren’t talking about the Lady Byrd pancakes.
They’re served on a gold-rimmed plate that looks like it came from a doll’s tea party. Two golden, round cakes, each a half-in inch thick, sit in the center with fresh blueberry jam slowly turning the pancakes purple, a generous drizzle of honey and two dollops of whipped cream about to slide off. The ricotta pancakes are cloudlike and fluffier than most. My fork seemed to slide right through them.
This week’s recommendations include Venezuelan pancakes stuffed with cheese in Pasadena and a Korean pork bone stew in the San Gabriel.
While it might be hard to secure one of the dining pods during peak brunch hours, the pancakes taste just as good at any seat in the house. If you don’t want to deal with a wait or a crowd, order the pancakes for dinner.
Where to eat now
Borekas Sephardic Pastries, 15030 Ventura Blvd., Suite 25, Sherman Oaks, (818) 688-4588
Burattino Brick Oven Pizza, 531 Carson St. Unit A, Carson, (424) 267-5200, www.burattinopizza.com
Lady Bryd Cafe, 2100 Echo Park Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 922-1006, ladybyrdcafe.com
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