A Look into the Allure of Underground Dining with Starry Kitchen's Nguyen Tran

Pop-up restaurants have recently begun appearing in more and more cities, offering chefs a venue to explore cooking dishes outside of their own restaurant or to test culinary concepts that may one day be transferred into a brick and mortar.

Yet another restaurant concept has also been been making headlines: underground dining. These illegal restaurants operate without proper licensing and are often times run in personal homes or other non-zoned locations.  

One of the best known underground restaurants was Los Angeles’ Starry Kitchen, run and operated by Nguyen Tran and wife Thi Tran. Thi and Nguyen pursued cooking as a pastime, posting a number of photos of their dishes to Facebook before food photography became en-vogue. After Thi lost her job, the two were encouraged by their friends to give their cooking a go and the duo got together and opened an illegal restaurant in their tiny apartment. With just a few folding tables on the patio and a donation box at the front, the first few dinners were comprised mostly of friends of the Trans, however down the road, they began leaving flyers in neighboring apartments and news about their tiny restaurant began to spread.

Learn more about Starry Kitchen here

Unit 120 Launches Culinary Incubator in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza

Unit 120 Launches Culinary Incubator in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza

By Courtney Walsh, West Coast Editor

Pop-up restaurants are all the rage in Los Angeles, allowing for chefs to test a number of culinary ideas without the potential risk of a brick and mortar. Yet finding the right space for these pop-up events can be time consuming. Enter Unit 120, the culinary incubator launched this year by Eggslut’s chef Alvin Cailan in Chinatown’s Far East Plaza.

Meant as an arena for chefs to be able to experiment, play with, and test out their burgeoning food concepts, the space became an instant hit for local foodies always seeking to be the first to eat at the next big culinary concept. More importantly, however, was the space’s impact on Chinatown, and Los Angeles’ culinary scene as a whole. By providing a theatre to showcase the emerging culinary talent, Unit 120 has effectively leveled the playing field allowing young, emerging chefs the same opportunities that chefs working in larger, more well-known restaurants are.  

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Forage Brings Local, Seasonal Fare to Trendy Silverlake

Forage Brings Local, Seasonal Fare to Trendy Silverlake

By Justin Dolezal, Foodable Contributor

Silverlake, long an artistic and cultural hub in creative Los Angeles, has often lagged behind other neighborhoods in terms of quality dining options. It's not as if the neighborhood isn't fit for great dining; after all, this is a neighborhood that prides itself on contemporary relevance across the board. At the young end of the spectrum, Silverlake is a hip, trend-focused neighborhood, where indie bands and contemporary fashion dominate the scene. Mature Silverlake is composed of young families with expendable incomes, who frequent the neighborhood's farmers' markets and advocate for architectural preservation at community board meetings. It's certainly fertile ground, which has made the lack of exciting restaurants perplexing.

The tide may be turning, however, as a new slew of exciting food spots have opened recently, giving Silverlake's young, hip population more than a few fantastic places to eat. One of the more exciting spots to open in recent years has been Forage, a fast-casual eatery that feels particularly well suited to Silverlake's neighborhood personality. Located on the eastern stretch of Sunset Blvd that constitutes the the neighborhood's main thoroughfare, Forage focuses on preparing a rotating daily selection of seasonally inspired dishes, made with ingredients sourced from local farms and urban gardens. The idea of supporting local farms and businesses through sustainably sourced, seasonal cuisine is hardly revolutionary; these concepts have been buzz terms in contemporary dining for some time. But Forage has succeeded by utilizing the popularity of the Locavore movement to attract millennial diners to what is, first and foremost, a fantastic place to get food, presenting cuisine that reflects the local community in a way that feels at the same time of the moment and timelessly welcoming.

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5 LA Hotspots That Are Taking Mexican Cuisine to the Next Level

5 LA Hotspots That Are Taking Mexican Cuisine to the Next Level

By Courtney WalshWest Coast Editor

Mexican cuisine is undoubtedly one of Los Angeles' major culinary claims to fame.  With the city's close proximity to the region, the availability of fresh, local ingredients, the high number of Mexican ex-pats living within the city-limits, and the culture of culinary experimentation, it is no wonder that a number of different Mexican regional styles of cuisine thrive here.  

Inspired by the city's rich Mexican culinary heritage, these five Los Angeles hotspots have taken inspiration from a  variety of traditional, regional styles of Mexican cooking, expanding upon them to create a modern culinary expression that fuses the best that both Los Angeles and Mexican cuisines have to offer.      

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The Cali-based Fast Casual on the Rise: Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop

The fast casual focused on providing the consumer with healthy, yet affordable menu options, Greenleaf continues to expand in the California. With four wildly popular restaurant chains and two more new ones on the way, one in Hollywood and another Pasadena , Cali foodies can't seem to get enough of this healthy fast casual. But what makes this restaurant chain different than all the other green and healthy restaurant options in Southern California?

The Gourmet Aspect

The fast casual segment has changed how consumers eat and how they view dining out. Fast casuals are appealing, especially to the millennial generation, because the food options are seen as better quality, but the speed of service is almost on par with quick-serve. Greenleaf has proven that the LA market, known for being both health and eco-conscious, was just the environment for the chef Jonathan Rollo to bring gourmet cuisine to the masses. With a culinary background in fine dining, Rollo aims to provide flavorful, yet healthy dishes. "We are for healthy everyday eating, you don't only come here on a diet," said Cissy Baldwin, Director of Marketing at Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop. This is symphonious with the healthier lifestyle of the LA residents. Read More