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Leftovers: Toni’s Soul Burger and Otis Jackson’s Soul Dog

All-American soul power for the L.A. Times:


PHOTO by LUIS SINCO / L.A. TIMES

For every restaurant whose menu reads like a doctoral thesis on globalization, there are those that still consider a kind of insular Americana the noblest pursuit. These are the dens of hard-line pit masters and down-home confectioners, restaurants where the American culinary heritage provides incubation for innovation.

At the similarly minded but altogether unaffiliated Toni’s Soul Burgers in Inglewood and Otis Jackson’s Soul Dog in North Hollywood, that American ingenuity takes the form of a double dose of comfort: hybridized hamburgers and hot dogs fused with soul food.

Toni Malone’s towering burgers may be the most ambitious in all of Los Angeles. Yet there are no contrivances here: no custom-ground meat blends, no willful denial of ketchup and no flavors fortified by what might otherwise amount to a chemistry experiment. Instead, the restaurant’s signature burger is a tender, hand-formed turkey patty, a crispy lattice of turkey bacon, a firmly fried egg, a single slice of cheese, sweet mashed yams and wilted collard greens on a gently toasted sesame-seed bun. It’s a triumph of maximalism, a burger in expert balance despite its seeming overabundance of ingredients.

Each soul burger is constructed in a tiny storefront so close to Hollywood Park that you can nearly hear hooves hitting dirt. What scarce space there is has been decorated with framed photos of soul and R&B legends, a nod to Malone’s own powerful voice. Neighborhood kids and young families crowd in for takeout while Malone, earnest and effervescent, explains the intricacies of her burgers to those here for the first time.

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Leftovers: Don Huarache

Pambazos, cemitas and (of course) huaraches at Don Huarache for CityBeat:


PHOTO by ROSHEILA ROBLES

It’s a dusty world out on Don Huarache’s solitary stretch of Burbank Boulevard, a dry drag where cracked concrete abuts only the occasional nursery or upholsterer. Drop off onto the side streets and the North Hollywood neighborhood fades into rows of apartments and ramblers; the restaurant is one of the block’s few shining storefronts. But even as removed as it is from the so-called NoHo Arts District, you can’t help but think that’s for the best: the restaurant’s excellent Mexico City-style cuisine deserves undivided attention.

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