Sunday, May 20, 2012

Night, Day & Food on the LA Expo Rail Line - VIDEO

The Cinematic Chef is at full throttle in this latest video, uniquely capturing the freshly opened light rail Expo Line, inside and out, night and day.  This is not a typical boring travelogue, but a feast for the eyes in which The 99 Cent Chef pulls out all the f-stops! (The video is located at the bottom of this post.)

From my home in the Village Green, I can walk to L.A.'s latest transportation option, the Expo Line - so now my visitors can ride along with the Chintziest of Commuters to get a cheap-eyed view.

 And be prepared to stop along the way for economical eats: from flame broiled $1.25 hot dogs at Earlez Grille on Crenshaw Boulevard, to a 99-cent (per piece) sushi Happy Hour at Octopus Japanese Restaurant downtown, from a delicious $1.50 Birria Taco on homemade tortillas at Danny's Tacos (also downtown), to luscious free candy samples from See's Candy in Culver City, and finishing up at the end of the Expo line on Venice Boulevard in Culver City for hormone free hot dogs from Let's Be Frank, and a vegetarian feast at India Sweets & Spices -- both a measly $5.50.


The Expo Line runs 8.6 miles, from downtown's 7th Street Metro station at Figueroa Boulevard, to Venice Boulevard in mid-City. The rail cars are sleek, smooth, air-conditioned. They operate from about 5 a.m. until just past midnight, and the ride only costs $1.50 one way (click here for all the fares.) There are 10 new stations in operation (2 more on the way,) with the trains stopping about every 15 minutes -- click here for a PDF of daily schedule stops.

 View from La Brea Avenue Station overpass

I've turned my latest video expedition into a round-trip trek in which the sidewalk noshing begins just outside the Downtown 7th Street Metro Station. (And this blogpost is loaded with links, just click on any red type.)

First up is the great sushi happy hour at the Japanese restaurant Octopus. You'll find better and more expensive sushi joints in Little Tokyo (about 10 city blocks away), but for cheap, fresh and tasty fish in a stylish atmosphere, this is the closest station stop -- it's on 7th Street, just a block east of Figueroa Boulevard.


Two-piece orders run from $1.98 for Mackerel, to $3.27 for Yellowtail Belly, along with drink specials. Happy Hour is from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday (followed by a late-night 'reverse Happy Hour'.) For my full review of Octopus from 2 years ago, with yummy photos, just click here (note that prices have changed, but not too much).


Another block away, within sight of L.A.'s beating bibliographic heart, the Central Library, is a new literary-themed watering hole mixing up drinks with names like the Jack London Martini, A Clockwork Orange and Faulkner's Smash.

The gastropub is appropriately called the Library Bar. The drinks are in the $10 - $12 range (our bartender said one is all you'll need), but they do serve beer on tap at $4 happy hour prices until 8 p.m. The menu includes a Cobb Salad, Library Burger, or Roast Marrow bones for $9. Click here to see their website menu and general info.

Travel further East on 7th, just past Olive Street, to find a great street-food trailer called Danny's Tacos. The specialty is Birria de Chivo -- a stew of goat meat that is fall-off-the-bone tender braised in a spicy and intensely flavored broth.


The tacos are only $1.50, and the tortillas are handmade -- so soft and tasty.  They park on the street just after 7 p.m. and stay open until about 2:30 a.m. To read what the Yelpers think, click here. Please note: Danny's Tacos is a food trailer, so they do change location from time to time -- best to Google them first to make sure of latest location.

Back on the train heading west, you'll pass the Pico Boulevard station (at Staples Center - home of the Lakers, the Clippers, the Sparks, and the newly crowned, Stanley Cup winning, Kings), and then a few stations later, you'll reach the Crenshaw Boulevard stop, where you can see Earlez Grille right across the street.  Earlez flame broils some of the best hotdogs in South L.A. The price is right too, with daily specials including a $1.25 Beef or Turkey Dog Saturday Special. For my full review, including photos and a video, just click here.


Dessert awaits at the end of the line just off the La Cienega Boulevard station stop (my home destination.) When you step off the elevated train station and go down to street level, you will be beckoned by the sweet, odoriferous siren call of See's Candy. Follow your nose to where the melting chocolate fragrance permeates the air. 

See's Candy is just a block south on La Cienega Boulevard. Look for the large white building on the west side of the street -- you can't miss it (you can even see it from the train platform.) And best of all the samples are handed out for free!

See's Candy compound (factory & store) and Baldwin Hills

Believe me, I've had my share -- I've tried 4 at a time! (If you feel guilty about getting something for nothing, they offer a 3 piece sample bag for $1.69.) This is where I get Mom her sweets for Mother's Day, and you should stop by here for your sweetie, too. They have a large selection of classic confections, but there are plenty of delectable new flavors -- if you think they are too old-fashioned and you haven't been in ages, you'll be surprised at all the creative chocolates on their menu. For their latest sweet tooth selections, click here.


The end of the line is in Culver City at Washington & Venice Boulevards. Just a short block and a half east, at about 8758 Venice Boulevard, is the Helms Bakery Distric. Dining destinations in this building complex, include two restaurants from L.A.'s innovative chef Sang Yoon: Father's Office, which help launch the gastropub reboot in L.A. and his latest, Lukson, a new take on Southeast Asian Cuisine.


But if you don't want to spring for a $12.50 burger at Father's office, I can recommend a cheap meal of chemical and hormone free hot dogs from Let's Be Frank -- housed in a simple trailer in the Helms parking lot (across from Father's Office) serving delicious all natural hot dogs for $5.50. The wieners are sausages really, and much larger than the average hot dog. Even the sauerkraut and pickle relish is locally sourced and organic. This is such a great dining destination that I made a special Let's Be Frank blogpost, with a video that you can see by clicking here.


And the cheapest epicurean has not forgotten about his vegetarian visitors. Three short blocks west of the Culver City Expo stop on Venice Boulevard is India Sweets & Spices. You can pick up curries, produce and spices in their market or get a great meal deal at their vegetarian buffet. It's a full meal with choice of 2 entrees, rice, yogurt, pickle and chipati for $5.50!


Finally look south a block away and you will see Culver Boulevard - L.A.'s most eclectic dining destination. New and innovative eateries are springing up almost every month on this teaming boulevard. This blogpost would go on forever if I listed them all. Just click here to see some of them.

I send out a big 99 thanks to the eateries I shot along the Expo Line; and an extra thanks to the LA Metro, its drivers, and my fellow commuters. So all aboard -- you have a free ticket to ride on L.A.'s newest public transportation hub, the Expo Line, with the Chintzy Culinary Conductor as your guide!

Night, Day and Food on the LA Expo Rail Line - VIDEO
Play it here. Video runs 9 minutes 27 seconds.

To view or embed from YouTube, click here.

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