On May 30, I joined forces with Pat Saperstein from Eating LA to co-host the first-ever food-focused Bike Bender. About 30 people arrived by car, bike and rail at the Gold Line’s Heritage Square station. We rolled through Highland Park and Glassell Park, hitting multiple stops along a 10-mile route that showcased the neighborhood’s range, both indoors and out. The event worked so well that there’s a good chance the first Bike Bender won’t be the last.
Stop #1: El Mar Azul
The biking gods were clearly shining down on us; for the first time ever, there was no line at El Mar Azul. Owner Felipe Cejudo and his right-hand man dispensed unparalleled seafood tostadas and cocteles. Since 1994, Felipe and wife Rosie “The Texas Girl” have parked next to Sycamore Grove Park. Thanks to high volume, they’ve never bothered to raise their prices, and they’ve never had to sacrifice quality.
No matter how you top your crisp tostada, expect to find fresh-shucked avocado, a creamy slaw and finely diced onions. Spicy chile sauce is optional, but should be a requirement.
Stop #2: Birria de Chivo y Tacos El Pariente
The orange-red broth was intoxicating, enriched with goat meat and spices. The bowl was also loaded with flaps of gamy meat and tiny goat ribs. The soup came with steaming hot corn tortillas that were ideal vessels for slow-cooked goat meat.
The gleaming silver bar hosts bins of tangy salsa verde, chile-flecked salsa roja, seed-studded chile oil and a tremendous orange salsa that was smoky, a little creamy, and I’m guessing included habaneros.
Stop #3: Galco’s Old World Grocery
Stop #4: Eagle Rock Brewery
Jeremy Raub and father Steve previewed Eagle Rock Brewery, which isn’t in Eagle Rock, but will be the first brewery in the City of Los Angeles in years.
Jubilee 2008 was a malty holiday ale that clocked 7.7% ABV but sipped smooth. Black Mild was a deceptively light beer, only 3.2%, but with deep color and chocolate notes. Eagle Rock Wit was a 6.7% Belgian brew flavored with coriander, orange peel and (get this) rose petal.
Stop #5: Verdugo Bar
The bakery closed at 3 PM. Otherwise we would have included it on our route. Pat stopped by in the morning to pick up a box, ensuring that riders didn’t miss out on the best bakery in Highland Park/Glassell Park. We got tastes of oozing maple bacon tarts, moist coffee cake squares, scones and donut muffins. Most of our food was at the beginning of the ride, so by the time we reached the final stop, riders were hungry again. They totally devoured the box.
Thanks to everybody who helped to make the first Bike Bender special, including the participants, everybody from Verdugo Bar, the Raubs, and of course my co-host Pat. We’re already discussing future bike benders. Looking forward to seeing you on the road.