Bike Bender: Highland Park + Glassell Park

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Food Tour Los Angeles

El Mar Azul marked the first stop on a 10-mile bike tour through Highland Park and Glassell Park.

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.

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Some bikers opted for seafood cocktails, but I stuck with tostadas: straight shrimp ($2) and a mix ($3) of octopus, abalone, shrimp and “crab.”

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

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It was nearly worth stopping for the logo alone at El Pariente, a truck that parks next to an auto repair shop and specializes in slow-cooked goat meat.

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El Pariente’s skilled short-order cooks press corn tortillas to order, transforming them into highly respectable tacos ($1) and quesadillas ($2).

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El Pariente sells pollo, carne asada and pastor tacos, but it’s a better idea to stick with the slightly gamy meat that the logo glamorizes.

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El Pariente also fills bowls with an overflowing servings of goat soup ($7).

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.

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El Pariente features a salsa bar that puts most Mexican restaurants to shame.

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

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We had to get to Eagle Rock Brewery by 4:30pm, and it was the longest leg of our ride, so each rider only had ten minutes to storm Galco’s to grab a bottle of soda (or beer) and some vintage candy.

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Olde Rhode Island Molasses Root Beer featured deep flavor and natural cane sugar.

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.

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Pat joined trailblazer Jeremy Raub, who supplied tastes of three different home brews that are all in contention for full-scale production.

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

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We concluded our tour on Verdugo Bar’s back patio for a Firestone Walker blowout.

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Firestone Walker outgrew their small facility on Firestone Vineyard’s grounds and moved north to Paso Robles in 2002, where they’ve been building their craft beer rep.

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Firestone Walker supplied us with a 5-gallon keg of Union Jack, their hoppy but highly drinkable IPA. We also sampled bottles from several mixed cases, including Double Barrel Ale, Hemp Ale, Pale Nectar Ale and Red Nectar Ale. This great variety showed Firestone Walker’s range.

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Our final surprise: a big box of Butter Tart Bakery pastries.

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.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Heineken, best beer EVER 🙂

dang i missed those buttertarts! we drank so much beer in like…40 minutes. well, christine drank like 90% of it. maybe 95%

thanks so much to both you and pat for organizing the event! my friend and i had a great time saturday exploring an area we probably wouldn’t otherwise venture to.

Totally gonna have to borrow my friend’s bike next time – the stuff on this bender looked totally delish. Great seeing you plus other bikers at the end @ Verdugo though.


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