Willy Blackmore is Los Angeles Editor for Tasting Table. He sent this dispatch after his tasting tour of the Expo Line.
The exit signs that demarcate the 10 freeway are more helpful as markers of progress (or lack thereof) than as invitations into the neighborhoods at the end of each off-ramp. When traffic-bound on the 10, I treat Fairfax as my median, and know that, when driving from Silver Lake, I’m roughly halfway to the 405 when I pass that exit; I can’t tell you anything about the neighborhood that lies just to the south.
That’s the directional, determined nature of car travel: the landscape you pass is just a facet of the time spent moving from point A to point B. Conversely, traveling by public transit involves revoking the single-destination itinerary of driving. The brief halting at each stop en route to “yours,” is what makes public transit seem like a nuisance to many. But it can also be treated as an excuse to explore.
“Good Food” producer Gillian Ferguson and I recently took to the rails of the newly opened Expo Line to see what culinary experiences we might find. The current end of the line, the Culver City station, is a short few blocks from the Helms Bakery District, home to Sang Yoon’s vaunted dining destinations, Father’s Office and Lukshon; we visited neither. Rather, we made the point of stopping off everywhere along the way, hopping off the train for cochinita pibil tacos near USC, and wandering through the Belizean neighborhood around the Western Ave. stop to eat the rum and coconut-heavy confections of that Caribbean country. Those Afro-Caribbean restaurants are followed by Creole fried-fish spots at Crenshaw, just one stop west.
But our best Southern discovery near the Crenshaw station has to be Kobbler King, an all-cobbler bakery run by Brian McMillan. He sells the usual fruit cobblers, made with peaches and the like, but there are so-called “food” cobblers too, full of savory fillings like shrimp, clams and crabmeat. Across the street, chile-red-stained
sausages are sold out of tiny window at Pete’s Louisiana-style Hot Links, which opened in 1949, around the same time the forbearers of L.A.’s creole community
came to the Southland looking for WWII-related manufacturing jobs.
The promise of a great taco, a delicious plate of oxtails, or picking up an all-cobbler meal, entrée and dessert, are all great reasons to take a leisurely ride along the Expo Line. But seeing another side of the city and visiting a neighborhood you’d never pull off the 10 to check out on a whim, might be an even better one.
You can hear more tomorrow on “Good Food,” and check this slide show for a sneak peak! And find more top picks at the Good Food blog.