ESPN Radio Jock Power-Ranks L.A. Live Eats
All Night with Jason Smith's host | Photos courtesy ESPN 710
Jason Smith loves food, but he doesn't consider himself a food critic.
“I’m a meat and potatoes guy,” the radio host told LAist over a calorically dense meal at L.A. Live’s ESPN Zone.
Smith’s a rare radio talent who is both quick and smart enough to carry a show without the chime-ins of a co-host. With this time he can be heard chatting about more than just Dodger trade rumors -- also topics like The Wire’s fourth season or the ESPN Zone's nachos.
Both ESPN Radio 710 and ESPN’s local television broadcast centers are housed within Downtown's L.A. Live, home to nearly a dozen restaurants.
“I’ve been to most of them,” he said. What Smith looks for in a restaurant includes a superstar dish that demands a repeat visit, comfortable restrooms, and significant portion size.
In the sportsworld, Power Rankings are used to rate teams against each other based upon more than just win-loss records.
LAist recently had a chance to hear Smith’s power-ranking of L.A. Live restaurants (perhaps the first such list ever created.)
***Jason Smith's Power Rankings: L.A. Live Restaurants***
#1 -- The Yard House
If you’re counting everything, the Yard House is number one. The Yard House is huge, it has a great atmosphere, it has plenty of tables, and great food. It’s got enough TVs that you can follow everything that’s going on.
I went in there with my Dad once and it was the one time I was recognized here at L.A. Live. It was the night we went to see Joe Torre and Sandy Koufax speak. I never go out thinking, “I hope I get recognized.” We went to the bar, I asked the bartender, “hey, can you do me a favor, we’re kind of in a hurry, can we order food right here?” He says, “you’re Jason Smith right? Don’t worry about it.” I turn to my Dad and say, “see, your son, getting things done!” Then, I turn back to myself and say, “oh my God, that was perfect timing!”
One of the best things I’ve had at The Yard House were the fries. They were fantastic. In fact, my Dad, who hardly ever eats fried food, loved them.
#2 -- ESPN Zone
I know there’s a lot smaller portions now, but no, give me big portions. Give me as much as I want, I’ll eat as much as I want, bring it home, and eat the rest later on, or the next day. I’m not a fan of small portions. I like big portions. At The Zone, the portions are huge.
The Zone is great because you can put any game on the TV you want to at your table. Or if you sit in the big room, you can have the big TV in front of you. It’s like a mini-NFL Sunday. And when you go to the bathroom there are TVs above the urinals. You don’t have to miss anything.
I’d rather watch a game here than The Yard House, because I know I can watch anything I want to and keep on eye on other games. Especially for what I do, I always like to do that. It’s so easy. You just look straight up and see anything you want.
If L.A. Live was the Lakers, the Zone Queso [cheesey nacho dish] would be Kobe Bryant.
#3 -- Fleming’s
I went for lunch with one of the guy’s from work and I said, “I’ve never been here, what do I get?” He said, “get the burger. Trust me.” It was probably one of the top five cheeseburgers I’ve ever had in my life. Not that I remember four others that were better... so maybe that was the best burger because I remember it? It was so tasty. I thought to myself, “how do they not sell out of these things?” I think you can also get a Kobe, but I didn’t have a Kobe, it was Angus.
The burger at Fleming’s would be the Phil Jackson of L.A. Live.
#4 -- The Farm of Beverly Hills
I’ve been to the Farm a lot. It's great. The Farm would be the Ron Artest of L.A. Live, in that they have a couple of unpredictable things -- you don’t know how they’re going to be and they’re terrific. They have a brownie mocha -- that literally -- they take a brownie and you watch them crumble it up in the bottle and serve it to you. I had that last week, and I have to go back for more.
I went with a friend of mine, who has been around, and he works in sports, and we go to the Farm. He says, “how is the iced tea?” It’s pretty good. They bring the iced tea, and he says, “I can’t drink this.” He calls the waitress over, and says “there’s a lettuce leaf in my iced tea.” She says, “that’s a mint leaf, Sir.”
I thought, “oh my God, I can’t show my face in here again.”
#5 -- Rosa Mexicano
They have terrific Margaritas. I’m a big fan of my Margarita blended, but if you can get the right mix on the rocks it’s incredible. It’s just hard to do that. That’s why I default to blended because I know I’m going to get what I get. If you go on the rocks, you’re taking a chance -- it can either be incredible, or a little watery.
The Margarita is long and smooth, it would be the Lamar Odom of L.A. Live. I will tell you this: a Kardashian will not bring it down. (If you’re giving me a power ranking of Kardashians, I would go: Kim, number one; Bruce Jenner, number two.)
I don’t really remember their food. I remember the drinks more. Apparently that’s a big place after Kings games.
#6 -- Lawry’s Carvery
On the outside, it seems like it’s a place to sit down, but if you want to get something to go, you can get a great roast beef sandwich and be out the door in five minutes. Sometimes you need something quick, a little unexpected, and when you eat a sandwich there you're surprised how good the quality is. That would make it the Sasha Vujacic of L.A. Live: an unexpected boost.
I’m going to patent, and make money on this idea -- L.A. Live needs a place where you can go in and grab something quick. There are so many great places but they’re all big sit-down places. If you had a place down here that was a Quizno’s or Subway, you would have business out the door every hour of the day.
#7 -- The ESPN 710 Studio Vending Machine
The Vending Machine makes it on the Power Ranking, because whenever I need a chocolate fix, they always have the big Kat-Kat. That’s a stand-by, that’s a steady. That’s a stand-by you need to count on when all else fails. Vending Machine would be the Derek Fisher of L.A. Live. It’s been around a while, it’s dependable and every once in a while will give you something you don’t expect but don’t ask it for too much. Though, when you need something, is really going to be there.
They used to have the bags of Chips-Ahoy cookies, and I would get them three out of six nights, and it would take a couple of nights to fill them, and I would say, “how about you fill the Chips-Ahoy?” Trail Mix is going to be there until the world ends. There will be no trail and nothing to mix.
When I’m on the air, I can’t go to Katusya and that’s when the Lakers show. They eat there after every game. It’s the big chi-chi happening place. Meanwhile, after the game is over, that’s when it becomes superstar central. I would like to do my show live from Katsuya and maybe see how many spicy tuna rolls can I eat in an hour. I would do that and I would pay for it too. If I just eat a little bit in the morning, and I don’t blow up on soda during the day, I could probably do thirty tuna rolls in an hour.
I’d take on Joey Chestnut, or go all Kobayashi on him and try to bumrush the stage. It’s too bad about Kobayashi. To me, he was the first real competitive eater. He made it famous. And now he’s Mike Tyson -- just a side-show. He made the sport famous, brought it out from the doldrums, and now he’s a sideshow. It’s too bad, I like Kobayashi. Any guy who can be a one-name guy -- Kobe, LeBron, Kobayashi -- that’s pretty good.
I think the [new Clippers Coach] Vinny Del Negro of L.A. Live would be Cool Raspberry Frappucino -- a nice bit of refresher when you’re in the mood for something a little off-beat.
Bella Cucina (Not at L.A. Live)
The Kings eat across the street at Bella Cucina, which I’ve been to, which is very nice. It feels very high ends. They actually advertise: “This Is Where The Kings Eat.”
Related Link: Meet Jason Smith: ESPN Radio's All Nigher on LAist.