This weekend, Ervin and I had to pick up some miniature pecan and apple pies for a party. I love both those kinds of pies, so I was on board for the trip. It was just a little bit south, down Western Ave. Which, from my neighborhood near Griffith Park, looks like the longest, straightest, continuous, uninterrupted street in all of LA. At least that’s what my roommate Chris and I tell each other. And everyone.
We started driving south through Koreatown. The traffic was getting sticky, even on a Sunday. I was instantly irritated. “What is everyone DOING?! GO!” Pedestrians seemed to fling themselves into traffic and somehow all the lights were always red. After the famous “20 minutes” it takes to drive anywhere in LA, we decided to cut through some side streets. Better! I like looking at the neighborhoods anyway. Traffic lightened up. Dogs were hanging out in the shade by parked cars. A kid’s bday party was in full swing inside a bouncy castle in a front yard. We passed a sign for “Good Soul Food: Home Of The Famous Quick-n-Split Burger” and I began to notice that everyone was wearing the same thing: an actual ass. Like, bubble butts galore.
Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Hollywood anymore.
While Ervin looks (and is) Puerto Rican, I am glaringly white, despite years of wishing for a tan-er complexion. (I’d even take “mother of pearl”). I felt bad about feeling a little conspicuous in the car, but then again, we were nearing rap-song-lyric universe. Sandwiched in between Inglewood and Compton. Which you’re familiar with, if you’ve ever heard Snoop (ugh, what does he call himself now? Snoop Lion?), Notorious BIG, or 2PAC. Here, get in the mood.
Confession: I love the rap and the hip hop. Second confession: I am ignorant about these neighborhoods in real life. It’s one thing to jam out to “Rollin down the street, smokin indo, sippin on gin and juice…laid back… with my mind on my money and my money on my mind” by myself in the car. It’s another thing to actually do that. I’m pretty sure they’re not joking about shooting each other.
SO, with all that “information” swirling around in my head (– ok, mainly it was song lyrics and scenes from End Of Watch), we continued past older black women, driving Cadillacs in impossibly chic Sunday style, a dollar store called “Wuz Up!”, and a party with an actual marching band in the front yard. We arrived at D’s Original Take Out Grill. I had this feeling that we’d seem annoyingly preppy, asking to pick up pies we weren’t even going to eat. I felt like I was canceling out any of Ervin’s street cred, like a Caucasian black hole.
“HEY! COME ON IN!” holy shit this lady is SO…. uh…NICE! Where are the gold teeth and the semi automatic weapons, Snoop promised me? The kitchen smelled like fried chicken and cinnamon. “The pies need to cool off, so why don’t you sit down at a table!” Wendy, one of the owners, has the biggest smile in all of LA.
The restaurant wasn’t open yet, so I took a look around. I noticed a picture of Damon, the owner and chef, with Flav-a-Flav. I silently calculated the awesomeness of being 2 degrees from Flav. Win.
It wasn’t long before a friend came to the front door. Wendy unlocked it and let him in. “I am HERE, for the bread pudding! You said you were doing it on Sunday and it IS Sunday!” He laughed a lot and picked up a giant order of freshly baked bread pudding. His Mom used to make it and since has passed. He says D’s does it different, and just as good.
A few moments later, as Ervin and I were chatting up Bread Pudding, Damon came out of the kitchen with a plate full of their famous “Crack Wings”. If you’ve bought their sauces at Whole Foods, or seen these wings on TV, they are worth the hype. Ginger Honey Mustard, and I’m gonna say yes – totally full of crack and now I’m addicted to them. We stripped every bone on that plate. I was like a wild hyena.
And then Damon served up another sample… Vanilla Cognac Bread Pudding. I have to say, “sample size” there is a full-on giant plate. And this bread pudding will haunt me for the rest of my life. It’s made with fresh French rolls, instead of stale bread, so it’s light, it’s warm, it’s friggin amazing. I wanted to hug it forever. Curl up and watch a movie with it. Take it home to meet my parents.
I was disappointed when the pies were ready to go. UGH! We have to leave??? I wanna sit at a table here, eat 10x my weight, and see who stops by!
Wendy and Damon are the greatest people I’ve met in a while. Call ahead to make sure they’re open, and not working on a catering order. And FYI, the bread pudding is seasonal and won’t last forever, because I’m planning on eating most of it.
I can tell you, I’m not so hesitant to make a trip south of Hollywood anymore. These two are lovely and real and everyone I met that day has a spirit that was so refreshing to share. Something that’s missing for me, in the heart of Hollywood. Where we can forget how important it is, to truly connect with people. Maybe someone different than ourselves. There’s something so simple about good food and good people, on a Sunday afternoon.
I like this kind of unexpected magic, this time of year.