Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Oinkster

I have to admit I’m on the fence when it comes to The Oinkster ( I enjoy the atmosphere of the Eagle Rock restaurant especially dining outdoors underneath its sign which proclaims to the world they serve “slow fast food.” And it’s always crowded when I’ve gone so it’s obviously popular with the locals. As for me, I’ve eaten there twice and both times it left me feeling a bit underwhelmed. The food was pleasant enough but nothing that made my taste buds beg for more.

The first time I went I had the BBQ pulled pork sandwich. Full disclosure: I love BBQ pulled pork. When I still lived in Philly, the main reason I went to Phillies games was to eat the amazing pulled pork sandwich at Greg Luzinski’s restaurant, Bulls BBQ. It was tender and juicy with a sweet, tangy sauce that wouldn’t quit. You never needed any peanuts or Crackerjacks once you had that sandwich.

On the other hand, The Oinkster’s BBQ pulled pork sandwich was dry and if there’s anything I hate, it’s dry pork. I like a lot of BBQ sauce on my pulled pork and if the Carolina BBQ sauce the menu says is on it was actually there, I barely tasted it. If you prefer your pork dry, then this is the sandwich for you.

The Horchata shake. Quite the yum.
I decided to get a burger on my second visit. Every June, the restaurant has a burger fest so I figured I’d get a head start and give the burger a try. I got the 1/3 pound burger. It’s made from fresh Nebraska Angus beef, with their own Thousand Island dressing, dill pickles, onions, tomato and lettuce. I also added cheddar which was .75 extra. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good burger but it was nothing worth bragging about. In N Out is far superior and it’s a lot cheaper. For me, the best part of this burger was the caramelized onions. But I didn’t pay $6.25 (well $7.00 with the cheese) for yummy caramelized onions did I?

Classic 1/3 Pound Burger. It was good but no In N Out.
But I have to give The Oinkster mad props because there is one thing they do kick ass at and that’s pastrami. It’s absolutely magnificent. It’s cured for two weeks, rubbed with their secret spices and smoked with applewood. They put it on a roll with red cabbage coleslaw, caramelized onions and gruyere cheese. It is the bomb. You may even remember seeing it on an episode of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Both visits I’ve taken a bite of it from my dining companion and thought “I should’ve gotten that” but ended up trying something else. I don’t know why. Maybe I was in denial. Maybe I just wanted to be adventurous. Who knows? Now I know what you’re saying: “You tried it, you liked it, and you should’ve gotten it the second time. You have no one to blame but yourself. It’s your own damn fault.” And you’re absolutely right. A little harsh but right nonetheless.

The pastrami. Now THIS does kick ass.
So I have finally learned my lesson. If I go to The Oinkster a third time, I’m definitely getting the pastrami. Although each time I’ve been there, I’ve seen a lot of people getting the rotisserie chicken so maybe I should try that. It seems to be as popular as the pastrami.

Damn you, Oinkster. Every time I think I’m done with you, you pull me back in.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

El Jefe Pop-Up

If you’ve seen the new Jon Favreau film Chef (and if you haven’t, what’s wrong with you? It’s great.), then you know his character ditches the restaurant world and re-discovers his passion when he opens a food truck called El Jefe that serves killer Cubano sandwiches.

In a delicious way of life imitating art, Favreau and Chef Roy Choi (a producer on the film and food consultant) have been promoting the film by having El Jefe pop-ups and serving those mouthwatering sandwiches. Last Thursday, they did one at The Line Hotel in Koreatown (where Choi has his newest restaurant Pot) but I was unable to go.

However, this Memorial Day Weekend got even better when Choi and Favreau tweeted they were having another pop-up all weekend long at The Grove at the location of Gordon Ramsay’s recently closed Fat Cow (a name Ramsay’s probably called a lot of people). There was no way I was missing this one so Saturday night I got my ass down to the Grove. And, man, was I glad I did.

The Cubanos were just as delicious in my mouth as they looked onscreen. Boiled ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard, butter, and pickles served on a crispy baguette. This was one amazing sandwich. And why wouldn’t it be? It was from Choi’s own recipe. And to wash it all down? A refreshing cup of watermelon agua fresca.

The El Jefe Cubano. At first it was a superficial attraction...

....but then it was love at first bite.

In addition to all of this yum, Favreau and Choi were there as well chatting up the crowd. It was so cool to meet Jon Favreau. Of course, I love his Iron Man movies but this is the man who gave us the modern classic Swingers. That movie came out around the time I moved to L.A. and for me it captured a wonderful period of my life. Favreau was very cool and nice enough to sign a poster and pose for a picture.

Okay I am not stoned in this picture. There were
technically difficulties with the camera and
I wasn't ready when it finally went off.
I swear!

It was also a thrill to meet the Kogi master himself. If you read The Bite regularly, you know I admire the man’s mad culinary skills. I was just about to open my Cubano and chow down when he suddenly walked by and before I knew it I was shouting “Chef! Can I get a picture please?” and he happily obliged. I also told him “You fucking rule” before he left.

Now I must tell you ever since I moved to L.A., I have never gushed when meeting a celebrity. I have never even asked one for a picture and this includes Clooney. But when I saw Choi, I have to admit I gushed a little. It’s not my style and I’m not proud of it but it happened. I’ve made my peace with it.

Me and The Master

The whole thing was a pretty surreal experience. Friday night I’m watching a movie about a chef who finds his redemption in a Cuban sandwich and the next night I’m eating that sandwich. 

By the way, if you’re reading this on May 25th or 26th and live in L.A., good news: They’ll be doing the pop-up one last time at The Grove on Memorial Day from 7-11 pm. If you’re reading this after? Bummer, dude. You missed a kick ass sandwich.