(Courtesy of Top Chef/Bravo)
Top Chef's Jamie Lauren grew up in New York City but she's a California cook at heart. As a staple of the San Francisco restaurant scene for almost a decade, she represented the best of the west for two seasons of Bravo's hit series. Last July, Jamie headed south to play executive chef at Beachwood, a gastropub in Venice Beach. More recently she's been creating a menu for L.A.'s Vodvil, a high-concept karaoke joint with small plate homestyle meals, set to open next month. But even Top Chefs have to let someone else do the cooking sometimes. We asked Jamie for her five favorite places to eat in California. She gave us seven. Grab a bib, and hop on her food tour.
1. Gialina Pizzeria: This cozy San Francisco Italian dive works off a seasonal menu combining the local farm-to-table model with old-world Neapolitan pizza. Jamie's favorite dish? "Lets just say pork belly pizza. Done."
2. Little Delhi: Located in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, this Indian joint is on every insider's guide to the city. "It's the best Indian food I've found on the West Coast," says Jamie. She recommends starting off with an order of Aloo Tikki, the fried potato patties with curry, chutney and yogurt. "It's delicious."
3. Jitlada: Ever since the 1970's, Thai food lovers have flocked to this L.A. restaurant on Sunset Boulevard for authentic Bangkok cooking. Count Jamie as one of them. "There are many things I love about this place from from the rice salad to the super spicy frogs legs in the 'Chef's Challenge curry'," says Jamie, referring to the spiciest curry sauce on the menu. "I mean seriously...this is hot food!"
4. The Slanted Door: San Francisco's haven for modern Vietnamese fare serves only local, ecologically farmed meat and veggies. It's also had one of the biggest influences on Jamie's cooking. "My life changed when I had the Daikon rice cakes," she says of the signature dish served with shallots and mushrooms.
5. In-n-Out Burger: The pride of the west coast, this fast food burger chain revolutionized the drive-through. The burgers are free of additives, fillers and preservatives and cooked fresh to order. There's even a secret menu that insiders can name-drop to get add-ons just the way they like them. "I'm very particular with the way I eat my burgers," says Jamie. "Here it's a double double with grilled and raw onions, extra cheese and sub ketchup for special sauce. Um, yum!"
6. The Boiling Shrimp: "My current new favorite in LA," says Jamie. "This place takes the art of getting messy to a new level." The Hollywood Boulevard-based pit stop is designed for people who don't shy from wearing a bib, a requirement if you're ordering the Thai-cajun shellfish served out of plastic bags. "On top of all that," says Jamie, "they're playing contemporary hip hop. Love."
7. Goood Frikin' Chicken: This San Fran joint spells it's name with an extra 'O', because, yes, it's that good. Jamie can back it up. "Just go eat there," she says. "Order the Middle-Eastern style chicken with hummus and Zataar spiced flatbread. I think it's what I miss most about S.F."
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(Courtesy of Top Chef/Bravo)