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Cheap Fast Eats, Silver Lake Edition: Hong Kong-Style French Toast, 'Bomb AF' Mariscos Tacos, And — Of Course — Smash Burgers

A pair of light-skinned hands pulls a part a slice of pepperoni. Underneath the pizza is a yellow table and chair with a pizza box containing different slices on it.
A slice of pepperoni pizza amongst slices of Adriana, burrata and cheese from La Sorted's Pizza in Silver Lake.
(Brian Feinzimer
LAist )
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Cheap Fast Eats #7: Silver Lake

Silver Lake. The vibrant neighborhood that’s ground zero for “Eastside cool” while also teetering close to every hipster cliche you’ve ever heard of.

(If you don’t know what I'm talking about, watch this clip from an episode of the Cartoon Network show Teen Titans GO! entitled "Hafo Safo." A reference to the former Happy Sad foot sign, now home to one of L.A.’s hottest restaurants in town.)

But while the neighborhood is no longer as edgy as perhaps it once was some 20 years ago (perhaps due to the not-so-cool cost of housing), in terms of food, it seems to be serving a more evolved version of itself these days.

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It feels like there are more chain restaurants than ever — while visiting the area, I was struck by the irony of even pre-existing chain restaurants being replaced by other chain restaurants, like the current location of the fast-casual salad to-go spot Sweetgreen, on Sunset, which used to be an El Pollo Loco.

As I found myself staring up at the paint-splattered mural on its exterior that’s at the corner of Sanborn Avenue, the lyrics to the Talking Heads song Nothing But Flowers immediately popped into my head:

“This was a Pizza Hut
Now it's all covered with daisies
You got it, you got it”

Despite this flattening of culinary culture, with delivery app drivers double parked along crowded narrow streets and boulevards, there still remains a level of sophisticated innovation that’s worth seeking out on any given day.

About this series

From young upstart chefs who've solidified their voice through the food of their ancestors to restaurant owners who've continuously evolved their concept to match the needs of the community — all that, along with a healthy dose of pizza, tacos, and burgers, will keep you happy and full.

This is Cheap Fast Eats: Silver Lake Edition.

Bodega Park

A photo taken from above of various sandwiches surrounded by foil wrapping atop a metal baking tray atop a green surface.
Avocado egg and cheese, pork bulgogi roll and bacon egg and cheese sandwiches from Bodega Park in Silver Lake.
(Brian Feinzimer
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What do you get when you get a restaurateur like Eric Park, who's constantly tinkering with a dining concept, sculpting and molding it until it lines up perfectly with the life cycle of the neighborhood?

The answer is Bodega Park.

If you ask Park where he got the idea for the utilitarian cool cafe that sits on the intersection of the two boulevards of Sunset and Silver Lake, he says it’s because his wife really likes coffee.

Park has occupied the same real estate for the better part of a decade. In that time period, Park had children, and what was once a full-service gastropub became an Italian sandwich shop, which slowly morphed into the delightful family-friendly dining experience it is today.

It’s easy to get drawn in by the chop cheese or any other of the Italian sandwiches which resemble the color palette of a Pre-Raphaelite painting. They sit royally against the minimally decorated cafe space, highlighted by a cinder block counter with a black marble countertop that was designed by Park’s wife, Miriam.

Instead of a menu board above the pay station, there’s a QR code (don’t worry, there are laminated copies also available at the counter as well). The wooden furniture connotes a feeling of all-inclusiveness and accessibility, meaning a child, an older adult and everyone in between could sit and feel comfortable.

Different types of breakfast sandwiches are part of Bodega Park's all-day breakfast menu, owed to Park’s time on the East Coast attending culinary school and falling in love with the Italian hoagie sandwiches from Philadelphia — seen, of course, through the lens of a Korean American who grew up in Los Angeles.

If you’re like me, the go-to is the pork bulgogi, featuring house-made marinade and containing a few slices of raw white onion and mayo on a modern rustic style bun, somewhere between a ciabatta or a French roll, with its crusty outside and moist fluffy inside.

Add a couple of splatters of the accompanying smokey-sweet hot sauce, and the results are nothing short of fantastic. Maybe it’s the sweet, spicy marinade that contains hints of chili with notes of nutty umami that still manages to capture the essence you’d find with an al pastor.

But if that’s not what appeals to your sensibilities, the other viable option is the East-coast baddie approved bacon, egg and cheese, executed perfectly with a superbly cooked piece of thick-cut bacon and a simple slice of American cheese, along with an over-medium fried egg. It will send you happily on your way towards what will no doubt be a perfect rest of your day.

The interior of a brightly lit cafe with wooden minimalist tables and chairs, white walls, a wooden beam accent wall, and a bar with coffee grinders and a glass fridge. A diverse group of people sit in various tables eating and chatting. Some people wait in line to order.
Bodega Park on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake.
(Brian Feinzimer

2852 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026
Open Tuesday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.


An Asian young man with a black t-shirt, black apron, and backwards black cap, poses for a portrait while holding a plate of French toast. The background is a white tile entrance to a commercial kitchen.
Chef owner Ryan Wong of Needle LA holding his classic French toast.
(Brian Feinzimer

Chef Ryan Wong, who is a second-generation Chinese American and a lifelong resident of Los Angeles, didn’t set out to cook Hong Kong cuisine. His aspirations after completing culinary school were instead to focus on the Westernized fine dining that was part of his formal chef training. When he describes what he was hoping to achieve with his cooking at the time, he uses descriptors such as “Iron Chef” or “Michelin” calibre.

But after 13 years working in fine dining kitchens such as Trois Mec and Otium, Wong came to the realization he wanted to make food he had a stronger connection to.

“Something that is closer to home and probably that means more to me personally,” he says.

That something turned out to be a particular style of Hong Kong cooking, referred to as Cha chaan teng, a hodgepodge of Eastern and Western flavors with an international edge.

Wong, who grew up eating traditional Chinese food, pulls from this series of influences when selecting the menu at his restaurant Needle.

A perfect example would be the classic French toast. The Hong Kong-style French toast is not the kind found in most American households. Traditionally, it’s served as a midday snack, rather than breakfast. Two pieces of Japanese milk bread (the spongier, the better) sandwiched together with a healthy amount of peanut butter liberally applied in between. It’s dipped into an egg batter and fried at high temperature, then, once removed and cooled, covered in condensed milk.

Wong makes it his own, as only a kid from SoCal would. The end result is something resembling the outer rim of an apple fritter, his distinctive take on the dish. The toast is then topped with a hefty pat of butter, which eventually melts deep inside. The first bite tastes nothing short of celestial, with the sweet-saltiness of the peanut butter meeting the melty inside core of the dish and the crunchiness of the outside. It's enough to send the mind reeling to areas you didn’t know were possible.

Along with it, try their cold-brewed oolong tea, which delivers a perfect slightly fruit-meets-floral taste. If you haven’t yet had your share of exquisite textures, order the tea topped with coconut cream foam, which makes you feel like you’re floating on a cloud.

Two hands hold a round white plate with a slice of French toast with a melting chunk of butter and icing.
The classic French toast at Needle.
(Brian Feinzimer

3827 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026
Open Wednesday - Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.


An overhead image of three paper plates containing different types of tacos against a bright green background. To the left are a bottle of beer and various sauces in small plastic containers surrounding the plates.
Fish al pastor, soft shell crab and enchilada suiza tacos from Simón in Silver Lake.
(Brian Feinzimer

The cobalt blue truck known as Simón can be found parked in Sunset Triangle Plaza. The text that surrounds its logo reads “Mariscos Chingones, Seafood Bomb AF.” While such boastful declarations might be a turn-off, Simón manages to deliver on its promise.

Chef Francisco Aguilar came to L.A. after stints in Oaxaca and Chiapas in southern Mexico, working, studying, and developing his culinary language.

When asked why he chose the neighborhood of Silver Lake, Aguilar answers plainly “destiny,” which makes sense given how he makes the best use of what he has when creating his masterful seafood creations.

Armed with only a fryer, a plancha, and staple ingredients like beans, cheese and bacon, he seeks to hypercharge the flavors of each dish.

An image of three tacos on paper plates placed in line on the metal tray that's connected to a food truck. Behind is a row of glass jars filled with different types of salsas.
Fish al pastor, enchilada suiza and soft shell crab tacos in front of the salsa bar from Simón in Silver Lake.
(Brian Feinzimer

For example, the fish al pastor, is one of our favorites, rubbed with spices, then grilled and garnished with a sizable slice of lightly caramelized pineapple and a helping of guacamole, then topped with crispy onions. Or, check out the soft shell crab, which comes whole, garnished with chipotle mayo and their pico piña, their version of pico de gallo with pineapple and pickled onion.

Finally, there's the pescadilla taco, which at first glance gives the impression of an empanada rather than a quesadilla or taco, but at this point, who cares? It’s made with a fried corn tortilla containing a mixture of fish and shrimp, habanero cream and proper hints of lime, cheese and avocado.

Simón trucks can be found on most days, with a large number of tables and chairs plaza-side, making for the perfect al fresco dining experience. Take a moment and appreciate these exquisite creations as you bask in the sunshine.

An out of focus image of a light skinned man wearing glasses and black apron over a white shirt. He's holding a taco in one hand and with the other hand adjusting its contents.
Chef owner Francisco Aguilar of Simón puts the finishing touches on a fish al pastor taco.
(Brian Feinzimer

3667 W Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
Open 12 p.m.-6:30 p.m.

La Sorted's Pizza

A round pizza with four different kinds of slices: one is cheesy with round pepperoni, next to it a slice with chunks of white burrata and green basil leaves, then a pizza with red sauce, and another cheese slice with a green pesto-looking sauce. The pizza is on a top of an open pizza box which sits on a bright round yellow table atop asphalt of a parking lot.
Slices of pizza (Adriana, pepperoni, burrata and cheese) from La Sorted's Pizza in Silver Lake.
(Brian Feinzimer

There are times over the last year I've found myself pondering: Is Los Angeles a pizza slice town?

Sure, there’s a multitude of pie options that are quick to fill anyone up — but do we have the slice game for when you’re looking for that quick bite?

In terms of sheer volume, I'll admit that the city is a poor competitor to the infamous dollar slice spots found throughout New York.

But I’d wager to say that we instead excel in the sheer quality of slices that are available to us on any given day.

Take for example La Sorted’s Pizza, a small pizza shop in a strip mall, which is literally a counter in a doorway. While you order, you’ll be privy to a collection of personal ephemera behind the register that feels like you are staring straight into the mind of owner Tommy Brockert.

It’s littered with various nods of late '80s-'90s kid references, including a large portion dedicated to the Los Angeles Dodgers. (If you haven’t yet determined, the name of the pizza place is a reference to the famed Dodgers coach). Not to mention cutouts of Orel Hershiser, which sit next to a framed autographed photo of singer Randy Newman. We love it!

While we could marvel all day at the collection of pop culture wonders on display, we’re here to indulge in a slice of pie. With a selection of four different ones to choose from, it’s hard pulling the trigger, which is why we opt to grab all four slices and assemble a sort of "greatest hits" equivalent to an entire pizza.

The naturally leavened sourdough crust creations have a crispy outside with just a few hints of char that dot the top of the crust. Our favorite includes the Adriana slice, which uses house pesto and bits of sliced garlic that drip with absolute flavor.

Follow it up with a burrata slice, made with signature Mamba pie as its base. It features their three-cheese blend and sweet-tasting tomato sauce, then topped with milky dollops of fresh-tasting burrata cheese, along with a few strategically placed basil leaves, resembling a pizza Terrazzo of sorts, then drizzled with a quality olive oil. All play together like a symphony of flavors.

The exterior of a pizza shop with glass windows and a blue sign that reads in white text inside a red painted rectangle "LA Sorted's" and then in white text over the blue color "pizza hoagies snacks salads."
La Sorted's Pizza on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake.
(Brian Feinzimer

2847 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026
Open every day, 11 a.m.- 9 p.m.

Burgers Never Say Die

A cheeseburger sits on top of a white to-go container that reads "Burgers Never Say Die" in black font with the text partially cut off by the burger. Directly next to it is a bed of yellow french fires coming out of white paper bag.
A double cheeseburger and fries from Burgers Never Say Die in Silver Lake.
(Brian Feinzimer

It’s no surprise that we here at Cheap Fast Eats favor a good burger. This is why at the risk of repeating ourselves, we bring you another entry in the smashed burger patty pantheon.

Please keep in mind that Burgers Never Say Die wasn’t simply added in haste. No, in fact, Burgers Never Say Die is often cited by many as being the gold standard of smash burgers in Los Angeles.

Owner Shawn Nee was, however, somewhat of an outlier when he got into the burger game around 2017 while working as a cameraman and slinging burgers in the courtyard of his East Hollywood apartment complex.

Slowly developing a cult-like status in the burger-verse in 2019, he opened his Silver Lake location on a section of Glendale Boulevard, all the while meticulously refining his burger concept into what it is today.

The stark black and white signage resembles what we think is a reference to the 1988 John Carpenter movie They Live, which we can always appreciate, 'cause it’s one of our favorites. Saddle up the window and order the regular, that comes with American cheese, ketchup, mustard, pickles, and tiny bits of white onion.

What Nee and his crew have been able to achieve with his smash burger is nothing short of alchemy.

They’ve somehow channeled what a McDonald’s hamburger tasted like when we were younger. The mixture of ketchup and mustard with pickles and onions, the perfectly cooked burger patty with its smooth and lacey edges stirs up a certain amount of nostalgic taste, and yet almost supersedes it by making it taste better than our childhood memories.

The burger has no business being this good, but it is, and we are all better for it.

The walk-up front entrance to a building is painted white with the words Burgers Never Say Die painted in black font on the side of the building. Various groups are walking in the parking lot leading up to the to-go window of the restaurant.
Burgers Never Say Die in Silver Lake.
(Brian Feinzimer

2388 Glendale Blvd., Unit A, Los Angeles, CA 90039
Open Tuesday, 12 p.m.-8 p.m., Wednesday-Thursday, 12 p.m.-9:30 p.m., Friday- Saturday, 12 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Sunday, 12 p.m.- 8 p.m.
Do you have a question about food in LA — or something you want to tell us about?
Gab Chabrán reports and edits stories about food and its place in LA's diverse cultures and communities. Curious about a specific regional cuisine or have a recommendation for a hole-in-the-wall you love? Are you looking for the best place to take your kid for lunch? We’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line.

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