When I went to my doctor last month, she was pleased about my weight loss, something I attribute to the walking during my commute (and also to the stress of preparing to sell the house). But my doctor also cautioned, “There’s an awful lot of places to eat around there.” Boy, was she right. My wife and I have tried to be good about cooking at home, but we’re surrounded with seemingly every type of cuisine imaginable. It’s been tough to stay strict.

Places like Chinatown or Little Tokyo were originally segregated slums that were eventually turned into working tourist attractions after many of the Jim Crow-era laws were overturned during the middle of the 20th Century. In an attempt to attract tourists, many restaurants catered to the relatively bland palates of middle-America whites, a trend that gave birth to common dishes like sweet and sour pork, chop suey, teriyaki chicken, and egg foo young.

Authentic ethnic cuisines eventually moved further away to neighborhoods like Gardena or San Gabriel, where communities established menus catering to the tastes of their distinct populations. As Americans of every color started to develop a more adventurous palate, “fusion” food emerged, relying upon a pastiche of flavors taking inspiration from a variety of ethnicities. Consequently – and somewhat ironically – the Japanese food available in Little Tokyo today is…um, just okay. The new wave of modern restaurants opening all across Downtown serve my favorite foods.

So, let’s move onto my recommendations. Across each point of the compass, good food can be had for every meal. I’ve picked my favorite in every direction:

North, Breakfast
Two blocks north of my apartment is Jist Cafe near 1st and Judge John Aiso Street. The family has owned a cafe in Little Tokyo for generations and this is their latest. The owner is like your Japanese Ba-chan (Grandmother), one that insists on serving the food and clearing the tables herself so she can chat with her guests. My sister-in-law actually found this place on Yelp when Cafe Aloha down the street was inexplicably closed.

Their speciality is the Cha-Hsu Hash, shown here with two poached eggs and side of rice. Cha-Hsu is a marinated pork popular with both the Chinese and Japanese American communities. I can imagine my doctor cringing, but if I got a heart attack leaving the restaurant after eating this dish, I would die a happy man. Yes, it’s that good. I know the rice and potatoes is kind of an unusual combination, but it doesn’t matter, because you’ll want to soak up every drop of the gravy. My wife’s blueberry pancakes in the background weren’t too shabby either.

South, Lunch
In the AVA apartment building just south of my apartment on Los Angeles Street is Seoul Sausage. The original “restaurant” was a very successful food truck, but the owners are trying their fortunes with a brick and mortar establishment. Come for the food, stay for the beer. It should be a busier place than it currently is, so hurry before people catch on.

I ordered the Bahn Mi Sausage Sandwich with a side of Tots; my wife ordered a fried chicken bowl. The sandwich isn’t a traditional bahn mi, but an approximation consisting of chicken-apple sausage, mortadella, jalapeños, and about twelve other ingredients I can’t remember. The sandwich was good and went especially well washed down with a beer.

West, Dinner
Just a block and a half up 2nd street is Badmaash – Indian Fusion.  I lived in Berkeley, CA, which has some of the best Indian restaurants in the state so I’m really spoiled. To date, Indian food in Southern California has been decidedly “meh” for me, so I stopped trying. If it wasn’t for the smell emitting from this restaurant as I walked past on my way home from work, I probably wouldn’t have tried Badmaash either. Silly me. Badmaash is equal to, and in some ways superior, to any Indian restaurant in Berkeley.

During out first visit to Badmaash we went with the tried and true menu items for comparison: Chicken Tiki Marsala and good ole Saag Paneer. Both dishes were so good we began eating before I was able to take a photo. Next time we will try some of the fusion dishes; if they are as good as the Cheese and Chili Naan pictured above, we should be happy diners.

East, Dessert
Two long blocks east, down 2nd, through Little Tokyo, and crossing Alameda into the Arts District at Traction and Hewitt is Pie Hole. With several other locations around SoCal, there are options, but I recommend this specific location if pie remotely interests you. Heck, this place is so good, it might convert you to pie despite its somewhat expensive prices. It’s worth it.


The Mexican Chocolate Pie is as close to a sure thing as anything in this world. If you only go here once, order this pie. If you return, order this pie again before trying something else during a third visit.

So there you have it, my favorite restaurants across Downtown Los Angeles. In case you’re wondering, we’ve tried all of these restaurants in just three months since moving to DTLA. And, yes, my doctor is pissed. I’ll let you know how it goes next month.

Solar Eclipse 2017 Viewing
“If you can’t get to the path of totality for the solar eclipse, Griffith Observatory will host a public viewing event for the partial solar eclipse on our front lawn from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon on Monday, August 21. The Stellar Emporium gift shop will be open (and selling eclipse viewers). The Café at the End of the Universe and the historic level of the Observatory building (home of the Observatory’s coelostat, or solar telescope) will also be open.”
When: August 21st, 9:00 a.m. — 12:00 noon
Where: Griffith Observatory

Net Zero 2017: Energy + Water + Waste Conference
AHBE is a proud sponsor of the nation’s largest event dedicated to net zero building design. Attendee registration has nearly doubled in each of its first three years, thereby showing the building industry’s increasing interest in a net zero future. Verdical Group, the conference organizer, is projecting the host venue to be at capacity again with 600 attendees for the fourth annual event in August 2017.
When: August 24th
Where: IBEW Net Zero Plus Facility, 6023 Garfield Ave, Commerce, CA 90040

Solar Saturday Mixer!
Join the Theodore Payne Foundation to raise funds to get SOLAR PANELS for their HQ and an air conditioning system for their classroom! Everyone is invited. Sun-themed and icy refreshments will be served! Hear a lively talk, visit the nursery and bookstore, hang out with like-minded TPFers. For admittance, please be sure to pre-register for yourself and your guest. Help the Theodore Payne Foundation meet their challenge grant: California native plants run on solar power and so should we!
When: August 26th, 4:30 PM – 6:30 PM PDT
Where: Theodore Payne Foundation, 10459 Tuxford Street, Sun Valley 91352

Nisei Week Japanese Festival
The Nisei Week Japanese Festival has lots of great events to participate in, including Nisei Week Rubik’s Cube Open – JACCC Plaza, 8am, the Golden Circle Dinner – Double Tree by Hilton, 4:30 pm (Dinner), the Coronation event at the Aratani Theatre, 7:00 pm, and the Grand Parade on Sunday, August 20th.
When: August 19th-20th
Where: Various across Little Tokyo.

Rancho Los Alamitos Farm Dinner
Dine amid the corrals, barns and farm animals at Rancho Los Alamitos and enjoy a delightful evening of remarkable food, lively entertainment and good friends. The farm-to-table feast is prepared by Chef Paul Buchanan, voted the Best Chef in 2015, 2016 and 2017 by the Long Beach Press Telegram Readers Choice Awards.
When: August 26th, 5-9pm
Where: 6400 E Bixby Hill Rd, Long Beach, CA 90815

Summer Nights at NoHo Plaza
During the month of August, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will be in the NoHo Arts District on Saturday nights from 6–9 pm! Stop by NoHo Plaza for art projects connected with LACMA’s collection and exhibitions and enjoy a live DJ set. Also called an exploding book due to its jutting geometric structure, the flower-fold book opens into a dynamic and magical art piece. Inspired by artists who embrace geometry from LACMA’s collection.
When: August 26th, 6-9pm
Where: NoHo Plaza (People St.) between 5223–5225 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601 from 6–9 pm.

Image by Dan Hubig for CALmatters

A tale of two regions: In California’s economy, North trumps South — for now: Ouch! “How Los Angeles wound up eating the Bay Area’s dust, at least in economic terms, is a tale of civic and political decisions, demographic circumstance and even global politics. And with the two regions accounting for most of the state’s population and the economic output that makes it a global powerhouse, whether the stark differences widen or narrow will have a huge impact as California meanders further into the 21st century.”

City-Wide Study Shows How Much Water Urban Landscaping Really Uses: “University of Utah scientists have conducted the first study to document landscape water use on a city-wide scale. Among other findings, trees are shown to be an excellent water-saving tool in grassy landscapes.”

White Supremacists Are Waging a War Against Public Space: “The attack also threatens public space, an amenity that is both scarce and necessary for democracy. The idea of the public square is under attack. And the extremist alt-right is waging a campaign to shut down the public square, using both violence and intimidation, especially under open-carry laws.”

Plan for San Joaquin Valley Reservoir to Recharge Groundwater Draws Concern: “The Semitropic Water Storage District proposes building a new reservoir on part of an ancient lakebed, then using it to capture flood flows to recharge groundwater. But others in the region fear it will deprive them of water.”

Artist at Work: Maya Lin: “I went to architecture school because I got labeled as an architect. The architecture professors were having a horror of time because I kept spending more and more time over in the sculpture department, and I don’t tend to think analytically as an architect. I analyze more like a scientist; I’m exploring the Earth, but not necessarily finding meaning and symbolism. Whereas I think with architecture, you get to codify, you understand why you do what you do. In a way, I’m much more interested in that I have no idea what it is or where it will lead to. So I got labeled as an architect…”

When my parents moved to California, they settled down just east of Chinatown in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Lincoln Heights. At that time, my parents decided to settle there due to it’s close proximity to Chinatown and the relatively affordable rent. I spent a good part of my childhood exploring the neighborhood, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to truly appreciate the walkability Chinatown offers.

What makes Chinatown so walking friendly?

I believe it’s partially attributed to the Chinese culture, but also because of the dense residential layouts, short blocks, human scaled storefronts, and most importantly, the small businesses that serve the community. There’s a wide variety of shops ranging from family owned supermarkets, herb shops, seafood, eateries, bakeries, clothiers, and many more serving the tight knit community. Growing up, my parents did all of their shopping and errands within a few square miles. We purchased our birthday cakes at Queen Bakery and Phoenix Bakery, brought our produce at Ai Hoa Supermarket, and picked up fresh chicken from the local poultry shop.

But the small businesses environment in Chinatown is changing. There is now a mixture of new and old businesses that co-exist together, each serving different demographics, both culturally and generationally. The younger generation has moved away from Chinatown, leaving an increasingly elderly immigrant population that relies heavily upon the shops and services for their daily needs.
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Over a year ago, I began feeling a little worried after reading renowned Cal Tech semiologist Dr. Lucy Jones’ prediction about the catastrophic earthquake that is bound to strike Southern California one day – or as Angelenos refer to it, “The Big One”. I was specifically concerned about all of the surrounding dams located in the San Gabriel Valley holding back extraordinary amounts of water.

Photo: Big Dalton Dam – Library of Congress, HAER CAL, 19-GLENDO 1-11

When I first moved to California, my uncle and I drove to see the Morris Dam in Azusa. I told him that I had never seen a dam before; in northwest Louisiana water just runs about everywhere, filling up an impressive network of locks and bayous. After our tour of Morris Dam, I realized what an amazing engineering feat it was to build such an impressive structure between the mountains of the San Gabriel Valley.

Big Dalton Dam – Library of Congress, HAER CAL, 19-GLENDO 1-15

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