Los Angeles v. San Francisco: We’re Not Talking Baseball

Although every San Franciscan likes to claim that their city was the first to be into good food and to have world class restaurants what they lack is the diversity and volume of Los Angeles. (At some other point, I will try to argue that with the number of immigrants from France and Italy to Los Angeles in the early 1900s, my family among them, there had to be some good food, but another day, another day).

San Francisco has some great restaurants (Chez Panisse? then again, that’s Berkeley) and some truly innovative chefs, but when someone once tried to tell me that SF had invented food trucks, I was really amazed. Yes, they are a proud city, but are they really that naive, egotistical, fill in the blank?

Maybe I’m being naive, but Los Angeles is the land of food trucks, all beginning with that lonesome taco truck. The taco truck is a fixture in the landscape of cars and roads. Anytime after 5pm, you will see them at all the places with night shifts. Go to places with lots of workers, taco trucks. We even had one show up during lunch at my high school. (My friends in San Jose said they had the same thing, but let’s just run with this.) Where else do you find your food on wheels, along with everything else? Los Angeles, of course.

Or as my cousin once said: “You know it’s going to be a bad hangover when you wake up and you can feel your head pounding, the booze oozing from your pours, and you can still taste the cilantro and onion from the 3am taco stop.” If drunk food doesn’t sum up a culture, I’m not sure what does.

So Los Angeles might not be quite as old an established city or live up to it’s rep of having movie stars and glamour every which was you turn. But it’s a hidden city — only the locals know where the real places are — and the food goes with that. San Francisco’s merit lies in the fact that it is small and easy to explore, even in a weekend. But it is often expensive, like everything else there. LA is cheap and gritty and surprising.

You’ll see why if I ever remember to write about Nick’s and my experience in the depths of San Gabriel, which is home to the largest population of Cantonese speakers outside of China. Let’s just say there was enough grit, it was cheap, and we were definitely surprised.


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