San Fernando Valley Sandwich Crawl

Hot Dog Los Angeles

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Cemitas Poblanas Don Adrian, 14902 Victory Boulevard, Van Nuys, CA 91411, 818 786 0328


LA Times writer Linda Burum led me to Adolfo Huerta’s Van Nuys hole-in-the-wall. The Puebla-style sandwich shop holds only three tables, and they were all full, so I had to eat on my feet in front of the adjacent Laundromat. Not exactly ideal, but it was still worth trying the adobada, a sesame-studded bun loaded with spice-soaked beef that was supercharged with chipotle salsa and topped with cool slabs of milky panela cheese, onions and fresh-cut avocado. The sandwich was pretty good, with big flavor, but the roll was too big and could have tasted better.

Cha Chaa, 12936 Sherman Way, North Hollywood, CA 91605, 818 503 8884 [CLOSED]

Thai Dessert Los Angeles
My final stop was on a stretch of Sherman Way in North Hollywood that serves as Thai Town’s main competition. The weekend-only dessert tables at the back of Cha Chaa were yet another Burum find. There’s a reason she literally wrote the book on Ethnic Food in Los Angeles. I started with fresh-steamed glutinous dumplings filled with a crumble of peanut, daikon and onion.

Thai Dessert Los Angeles
Five feet away, a woman was cutting mango into Styrofoam cups of hot, coconut milk-soaked sticky rice. Too often, the fruit is fibrous and out of season. At Cha Chaa, the mango was sweet, ripe and completely irresistible.

Thai Dessert Los Angeles
Sweat was streaming down my cheeks and my stomach was about to pop, but it was impossible to ignore the black rice topped with firm slabs of custard and shredded young coconut. The sweet, al dente rice, creamy custard and intensely flavored coconut were an ideal match. It’s pretty clear that Cha Chaa has the best Thai sweets in L.A.

The ride’s two standouts were Fab Hot Dogs and Cha Chaa. Sandwich Express and Cemitas Poblanas Don Adrian are both worth trying, but Los Angeles hosts better banh mi and cemitas Poblanas. Would I take another seven hours to bike through the Valley? Absolutely not, but it was a great experience, and it’s an easy drive back over the hill.

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Joshua Lurie

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

Blog Comments

i have tried the ripperat fab hotdogs it was to mushy for me an not enough flav/but the chili fries/an the i think its called the kansas city my sister had was my fav. i am looking forward to try the other places u talked about thanks 4 the info

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Pal Cabron sounds great! I missed JG’s article on it as I was moving house that week. I’ll definitely try it. And, yes, I love pork skin (if it’s not too gelatinous). Thanks for the recommendation.

I haven’t had better cemitas than Don Adrian, but I haven’t been to too many places. I’m really interested to know which place(s) makes your favorite cemita poblanas.

P.S. I’ve been to Cooks Tortas, which is fantastic, but I’m not sure if they make cemitas.

The bread could use a little work, but the cemitas were better today at Pal Cabron in Huntington Park. They import the mozzarella-like quesillo from Mexico and use papalo, cilantro’s more assertive cousin. I’d recommend the barbacoa, and they just introduced a cemita with fatty pork skin, if that’s your thing.

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