Opinion: Is Erewhon really worth it? What you should eat in Los Angeles - and what you should skip

Los Angeles has much to offer foodies, but not everything is worth a taste.
Los Angeles has much to offer foodies, but not everything is worth a taste. Photo credit: Newshub.

Los Angeles has endless offerings for first-time visitors: the scorching concrete jungle is home to not only celebrities and film studios, but is also a hub of incredible cuisine.

LA is known by many as a melting pot. With almost four million residents coming from different cultures all over the world, it is unsurprising the city has a rich culinary landscape.

And with Delta Air Lines putting its hat in the ring with direct flights from Auckland to LA, now is a better time than ever to get a taste of what the city has to offer.

But with hundreds of options to choose from, it can be hard to take your pick. Here are the eateries I reckon you should try - and the ones that are maybe better to avoid.

Six Taste's Food Tour

Grand Central Market, Downtown LA 

Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles has a vibrancy that is just unmatched. The huge, buzzing food court opened its doors in 1917 and is the city's oldest public open-air market that has become a microcosm of the city's vast immigrant communities.

While I would love to have tried every stall of the 40 that were on offer, it would have been an impossible feat. Instead, here's what I got a taste of.

Sarita's Pupuseria - Hit

Sarita's serves handmade pupusas based on the owner's family recipes. The Salvadorian stall is also famous for more reasons than one, making a cameo in both the award-winning film La La Land and the TV series Best Thing I Ever Ate.

If you're wondering what a pupusa is, they're thick, stuffed corn tortillas. Ours was filled with beans, cheese and topped with curtido - a cabbage slaw made with tomato salsa and vinegar. It was warm, mouthwatering and delicious, with the curtido cutting through the savoury flavours.

Eggslut - Miss

Eggslut is all about eggs, if you could have guessed. The popular sandwich restaurant now has locations all around the world, with 'The Slut' taking the cake as its signature dish.

The beauty of 'The Slut' is that it is not particularly complicated, but it isn't meant to be. It's essentially eggs and mashed potatoes on toast.

The cage-free coddled egg is placed over housemade potato puree and topped with salt and herbs. Hungry foodies can enjoy mixing it all up before slathering it onto a toasted baguette.

It's delicious, rich and creamy, but it's probably something you've tasted before. While familiarity isn't always bad, if you're travelling halfway across the world, there are more adventurous things you could try.

Left: Sarita's Pupuseria, Right: Tacos 1986 El Perron.
Left: Sarita's Pupuseria, Right: Tacos 1986 El Perron. Photo credit: Newshub.

Tacos 1986, Downtown LA - Hit

Another feature of the Six Taste Food Tour, TACOS 1986 does not disappoint. I tried the El Perron taco; its an off-menu item but you can ask for it at the counter. This fresh burst of flavour has melted Jack cheese, carne asada, pinto beans, guacamole and salsa, all served in a hot tortilla. The last bite was a heartbreaking affair, knowing the group had to move on.

But despite its deliciousness, the El Perron is also messy - prepare to have juice running down your arms, so it's best to have some napkins on hand.

Beauty and Essex, Hollywood - Hit

If you're looking for a place with character, Beauty and Essex is definitely one to consider. The restaurant feels like the inside of your great-aunt's jewellery box, with a pawn shop-inspired entrance featuring beautiful accessories, instruments and art, all for sale.

Of all the dishes I tried, I found a few standouts, including the kale and apple salad with shaved goat cheese and candied pecans, as well as the braised chicken meatballs. But what I enjoyed most may sound a little unconventional: grilled cheese, smoked bacon and tomato soup dumplings. You may not think those flavours belong in a dumpling, but once you have one, you will want more.

Beauty & Essex's Tomato Soup Dumplings.
Beauty & Essex's Tomato Soup Dumplings. Photo credit: Newshub.

Beachwood Cafe, Hollywood Hills - Hit

If you're in LA and going up to the Hollywood Sign, the Beachwood Cafe is the perfect stop for a refuel. Harry Styles' fans might even recognise it from his song 'Falling' - and that's not the only celebrity encounter we had there. Anna Kendrick and Aotearoa's own Cliff Curtis were also enjoying their respective brunches.

Beachwood Cafe is a sunny, farm-to-table eatery that promises an all-day menu with everything made from scratch. I opted for a build-your-own scramblette with baby spinach, capsicum, tomatoes and cherrywood-smoked bacon. The whole thing is served scrambled together with a side of toast and crunchy roasted potatoes. It was here that I learned how massive American portions can be.

Overall, it's a great breakfast spot and if you're in the area, it's definitely worth stopping in - you might even spot a celebrity.

Jon & Vinny's, Fairfax - Hit 

After a long walk to Fairfax, I breathed a sigh of relief seeing the neon Jon & Vinny's sign. But with the food being talked up along the way, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The Italian restaurant was tiny, dark, loud and very crowded - clearly a popular place.

Everything at Jon & Vinny's is served family style, which is a great way to sample more of what's on offer - even so, between the seven of us, we still ended up ordering more than we could handle.

While the pizzas and salads are great, the marinara braised meatballs and the spicy fusilli are by far the best things on the menu.

The meatballs were massive and served with toasted garlic bread and ricotta; they were juicy and flavourful. I also had the pleasure of trying the meatballs again a few days later, flying from LAX to Auckland business class courtesy of Delta Air Lines. The meatballs were just as delicious in the air as they were on the ground.

On the other hand, the spicy fusilli is a vegetarian option with a vodka and basil-based sauce, topped with Parmigiano. It doesn't sound like much, but it's quite possibly the best pasta dish I have ever tasted - and I can't be the only one to think so, because Google is full of people trying to recreate it.

Erewhon, Fairfax - Miss

Of course, we couldn't go to LA and not try one of the most viral places on the map - Erewhon. It's a high-end grocery store with takeaway smoothies that have taken TikTok by storm. 

The place feels a bit like it was created by an out-of-touch celebrity trying to guess the prices of everyday items - US$20 (NZ$33) for a smoothie seems totally reasonable, right?

While most ordered Hailey Bieber's viral 'Strawberry Glaze' pink smoothie, I went with the Coconut Cloud concoction. While it's not dedicated to a celebrity, the Coconut Cloud is equally as popular on the internet - probably because it's bright blue.

Erewhon's bright blue Coconut Cloud smoothie.
Erewhon's bright blue Coconut Cloud smoothie. Photo credit: Newshub.

The drink is filled with almond milk, coconut cream, banana, pineapple, avocado, vanilla stevia, blue majik (a freshwater algae that gives the drink its colour), almond butter and vanilla collagen. I could swear I waited for half an hour for it too.

It was a nice smoothie; there was a novelty in trying it, but it was very heavy and did leave me feeling a little ill afterwards.

Would I try it again? No. Was it worth the money? Absolutely not. 

Newshub travelled to Los Angeles courtesy of Delta Air Lines and LA Tourism and was hosted by Loews Hotel.