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Judge VardiganOut of Jurisdiction:
Judge Vardigan in Los Angeles

Say what you want about Los Angeles and I probably won't interrupt you. Yes, the horizon is the color of a rusty tin can. Yeah, all the rivers have concrete beds. And sure, you need a map every time you want to go somewhere, and then must drive a car many miles to reach that place. But if your destination is a restaurant or a bar, your choices are endless and, by Füd Court standards, immensely desirable. Check it...

Apple PanPalms Thai Restaurant
5273 Hollywood Blvd.

Located in one of L.A.'s 849 strip malls and surrounded by other Thai restaurants in "Thai Town," Palms boasts pretty good Pad Thai and curries. But if you happen to catch a set from the Thai Elvis, those dishes take on a surreal excellence. On this night he did five or so Elvis numbers, and then an inexplicable "Imagine" cover. Did Presley cover Lennon? Not to my knowledge. In any event, he's the real deal.

Apple Pan
10801 W. Pico Blvd.

As my friend Arty tells it, "Between the paper plates, paper burger wraps, paper drinking cones and styrofoam water cups, Apple Pan is unabashedly eco-unfriendly." He'd also proclaimed it home to his favorite burger in the United States, which is one helluva claim from a man who eats more burgers than any other American. Like many places in L.A., Apple Pan's got a great old-school feel. A 20-seat formica counter and all the cooking action and waitering going on right in front of you. I loved the Hickory Burger, smothered in a smashing barbeque sauce, and the pecan pie a la mode capped the meal perfectly. When I saw the brush-cut old counterman scrawl a multiple pie order on the counter and later erase it, I was sold. That cinched Apple Pan as one of the all-time burger joints for me.

709 N. La Brea (near Melrose in Hollywood)

Pink's hotdog stand has stood since 1939, and judging from the 30 people in line at 2:30 p.m., reaching 2039 should be no great challenge. I'd dreamed of Pink's since seeing it featured on a PBS special about hotdogs around America. The menu is heart-stopping, particularly the bacon-cheeseburger dog, which marries a Polish dog, burger, bacon, and cheese inside a burger bun church. I imagine most people drive straight to the hospital afterwards. The Pink people are also famous for crowding piles of pastrami around dogs — no joke. I went low-key with a Chicago Poli, while my dining tour guide Tricknick Danny Tice went with the turkey dog (pictured here). They don't skimp with the trimmings, and washing it down with an old-school Bubble Up made for a perfect little lunch on an LA afternoon.

Café Tropical
Sunset Blvd., in Silver Lake

Tour guide Tricycle, a former Bay Area resident, called Tropical a San Francisco-type "oasis," and I can see what he means. This place would be comfortable in the Lower Haight, easy. Fresh pastries (I had a cherry turnover) and knockout coffee that I crave even now. Apparently Brazilian, it kind of mixes your average cup of joe with a latte. And they serve it hot as hell, which thrilled me. Rounding out its San Francisco feel, some dude (name of Robert Mitchell) approached us with petitions and urged us to drop our affiliation and join the Peace & Freedom Party, whose platform he couldn't explain at all.

India Sweets 'n Spices
Venice Blvd.

This one's a secret little gem. It's a few doors down from the Museum of Jurassic Technology, which you should visit, but I cannot explain why (it is too much for a füd report). Stop in after the museum and grab some samosas (60 cents for veggie) and whatever else looks good behind the glass, and then eat them while discussing the exhibits and watching kids play cricket on the concrete of the parking lot next door.


I don't know where this one is, but I know there are two of them and that we ate at the newer one. Come here with a voracious appetite, and order the garlic chicken. They'll give you half a roasted chicken sitting in shallow juices flavored with lemon and garlic. This chicken alone could fill you up, but they also throw in fried plantains (dunk them in the chicken shallows), black beans and rice, some sliced bread, and maybe one other thing I don't remember. It's a full meal, and everyone I spoke to down there is a big fan.

House of Pies
1869 N. Vermont Ave.

My last bite in LA I sat there with old Dan, gulping coffee and water after an afternoon above the city, wandering around Griffith Park and Observatory. Like so many restaurants and bars in LA, Pies is dominated by booths, which is a very good and comfortable thing. We split a slice of Bavarian Chocolate Banana Cream Pie. I don't know how you beat pie and coffee in a booth. A big thanks to Danny Tario for driving me everywhere I wanted to go, even when we didn't know how to get there.






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