Restaurant Reviews

Restaurant reviews

Overhead shot of pizza slices

food review: NY style pizza at Gracie’s Pizza in East Hollywood

There are always new places to try in a city this big. Sometimes places open up that fly under the radar and I wonder why it took so me long to try it out. Gracie’s Pizza opened up nearby in the past year and a friend recommended that we try it, knowing that Ross and I are originally East Coasters.

Gracie’s serves New York style pizza, which has a thin and crispy crust, but is still soft enough that you can fold it. I’ve had NY style pizza from a few places in LA that were mushy, or had weird ratios of sauce to cheese, so I’m wary about pizza here. But fortunately, I had nothing to worry about at Gracie’s Pizza.

Gracie’s is located in the neighborhood of East Hollywood, kind of plopped in a more residential area. There is plentiful parking. The inside of the restaurant has a good amount of seating but still feels like an neighborhood place, like the pizza places from back home. We sat down and an employee came by to take our order. We didn’t have to wait long for the food to come out.

Cheese slice: $3

a slice of cheese pizza from Gracie's Pizza

I had just gotten my new camera lens that day and I was testing out taking photos with it, so please excuse the extreme focus here. This slice of cheese pizza was exactly what I wanted it to be; thin crust, crispy at the edges but still soft in the interior. Not overloaded with sauce or cheese, just the right amount. Ross teases me because I never fold my pizza when I eat it and take dainty bites instead. Hey, at least I don’t eat it using a fork and knife.

Grandma slice (pesto, grandma sauce, roasted garlic, burrata): $5

a slice of Grandma's Pizza

So Ross got this slice; I did not taste it. According to him, it was good but it had too many elements going on all at once and he preferred the cheese slice. The burrata was good though, silky and not salty.

Garlic knots with marinara dipping sauce: $5

These garlic knots were delicious; I ate them so quickly. They came out hot and were super soft and fluffy. They weren’t dense or tough at all, which happens to garlic knots sometimes. The parmesan garlic herb mixture on top was a nice bit of crunch and added extra flavor. They didn’t even need the dipping sauce. I wish I had gotten two orders of these.

Overhead shot of pizza slices

I thought this sign in the front window was pretty cute.

Neon red sign spelling out the word PizzaCool neon sign inside the pizzeria.

Overall, I really enjoyed the pizza at Gracie’s and the people working there were really nice. It reminded me a lot of the pizza back East, and we found out the owner is originally from New Jersey, so he definitely knows his pizza.

Gracie’s Pizza
Menu
4330 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90029

hanhgry.com: close up of box of ponchik pastries from Papillion

sweet treats review: ponchik from Papillon International Bakery

hanhgry.com: close up of box of ponchik pastries from PapillionYou know what everyone loves? Fried dough. I’m pretty sure every nationality or culture has its own version of doughnuts/beignets/etc, usually covered in sugar or stuffed with sweet, creamy filling. And I am totally happy to try them all.

There is no shortage of various fried goodies here from different cuisines. The LA area has a large Armenian population and clustered in Little Armenia near Hollywood and in the LA suburb of Glendale there are lots of Armenian bakeries. Some are well known for making ponchik, which are basically Armenian filled doughnuts. Ponchik are made with a yeast based dough fried in oil and typically filled with custard cream, although there are lots of other fillings like Nutella and different fruit jams.

Ross and I went to the North Hollywood location of Papillon International Bakery, an Armenian bakery well regarded for its ponchik. This location is in a small strip mall. They have two tables inside but it’s mostly a take-out or pre-order and pick up type place.

hanhgry.com: menu of ponchik filling flavorsThe ponchik flavor menu displayed in the bakery

We ordered four pieces: two custard, one dulce de leche and one strawberry. The lady told us it would take about 10 minutes, since they make them to order, so they are fresh. They sell a variety of other baked goods as well as the usual cakes but we were there for the ponchik! After waiting a few minutes, she called my name and showed me the box of freshly fried pastries, and I was surprised at how big they were. Each was about the size of my palm. They smelled AMAZING. Just imagine being surrounded by the smell of fried dough/batter with sugar everywhere. She suggested eating some right then and there since they just came out of the fryer, so she gave us some plates and we took one of the two tables in the store.

I took my first bite and it was sooooooo good. Steam billowed out since it was still so hot. The ponchik is hollow, as you can see in the picture below, and filled with custard.  While an American-style doughnut is denser and filled the whole way through with dough, the ponchik has a thin outer layer that is slightly chewy and fluffy.


hanhgry.com: eating a ponchik from Papillion

hanhgry.com: close up of ponchik pastry

I only took a photo of the custard filled ponchik, but that was probably my favorite filling. I enjoyed the dulce de leche with its sweet caramel flavor. The strawberry tasted ok, but I probably wouldn’t order it again. I don’t really like jam filled doughnuts so it makes sense I didn’t love the strawberry ponchik. I preferred the creamy, thicker fillings like the custard and dulce de leche.

If you’re ever in the area and want to try some ponchik, I definitely recommend going to Papillon! At only $1.75 each, it was a delicious, inexpensive treat. Because it is fried to order, your ponchik will always be super fresh and warm. (However, I saved two of them to eat several hours later and even at room temperature they were still pretty tasty. I recommend eating them within the same day though; I think they would get too hard or stale after a day.)

 

Info:

Ponchik, various flavors: $1.75 – $2.00 each

Papillon International Bakery
2904 Victory Blvd.
North Hollywood, CA 91606
Other locations here

Full shot of unicorn milkshake from Creme and Sugar

sweet treats review: Creme and Sugar unicorn milkshake, cake and cookie

Full shot of unicorn milkshake from Creme and Sugar

The famous unicorn mikshake

If you’ve been on Instagram in the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen a dessert that went viral. The unicorn hot chocolate (and its frozen counterpart, the unicorn milkshake) is from a cafe called Creme and Sugar. I love anything sweet and pastel colored and luckily, Creme and Sugar is in nearby Anaheim.

Last week some friends and I went to check out their “secret” unicorn menu. Parking was easy in a giant surface lot. We got there around noon and the cafe itself is small on the inside, but there were couple tables and a coffee table/sofa area. When we came in, there were only two people ahead of us in the ordering line. That was just lucky on our part, as the line got crazy long a little after we ordered.

Creme and Sugar cafe, interior wall with unicorn chalk mural

This is the chalkboard mural that’s by the front entrance.

Creme and Sugar has the usual stuff you would find in a cafe, such as hot/iced coffee drinks, tea, and assorted pastries. Also, they also serve ice cream from Fosselman’s, which they use for their milkshakes. The decor is vintage inspired/shabby chic. They have a cute chalkboard drawing of a unicorn by the front door.

I got a unicorn milkshake, slice of unicorn cake and a unicorn sugar cookie.

Unicorn milkshake, 32 oz: $10

Close up of unicorn milkshake from Creme and Sugar

Creme and Sugar makes their unicorn shake with cotton candy flavored ice cream, giving the shake its pastel lavender color. They top it with whipped cream, a special blend of sprinkles (jimmies, colored sugar, sugar pearls), marshmallows, a rainbow swirl lollipop (for the unicorn “horn”) and a candy bracelet, with a metallic gold striped paper straw. I noticed some other people’s milkshakes came with a rainbow sour belt but mine didn’t. They serve it on a plate to catch the dripping ice cream and random sprinkles/marshmallows that spilled off the shake. The presentation is quite cute and pretty much made for Instagram/social media.

The shake came in one of those 32 ounce glass mason jars, and let me tell you- it is tough to finish a milkshake that big. I recommend sharing with friends, but I had this all to myself as one friend got her own milkshake and another only got cake. The cotton candy ice cream was not super sweet at first like I thought it would be, but a third of the way through the milkshake I had to stop and ask for a to-go cup. It was just too much liquid and way too much sugar, especially since I just came from a full meal at brunch. I took the rest of it home and finished it later. I would have preferred a smaller amount (like 12 or 16 oz) but that probably wouldn’t have looked as impressive.

Would I order it again? Yes, but I would share it with a few people!

Unicorn cake, slice: $8

close up of unicorn cake slice from Creme and SugarContinuing with the pastel unicorn theme, the unicorn cake is made of layers of white cake dyed to be light pink, sky blue and pastel purple. There was light yellow buttercream between the cake layers. The unicorn cake is covered with a thick, very sweet, pure white American-style buttercream frosting. The sweetness of the frosting was a little overwhelming and I didn’t eat all of it, as I’m particular about my frosting not being too sweet. I did eat all of the cake part. It was moist and fluffy, with a tender crumb. Not dry at all.

Because I got only a slice and not an entire cake, there was less of the special sprinkle blend on the frosting. It was still really cute though. It reminded me of the sprinkle blends from Sweetapolita, with the varying textures and sizes of the different sprinkles. The shimmery sky blue large sugar pearls are so pretty!

Unicorn cookie: $6

Close up of decorated unicorn sugar cookie

This was a typical rolled sugar cookie decorated with royal icing. The cookie was chewy, which is my favorite consistency for cookies (I’m not a fan of crisp or thin cookies). The royal icing decorating was flawless, with no bumps or bubbles. The horn was decorated in a shimmery gold icing, which was a nice touch.

Additionally, Creme and Sugar also serves unicorn hot chocolate and unicorn candy bark. Of the three items I tried, I liked the cake the best. I may have to go back and try the unicorn hot chocolate! What do you guys think about desserts like these? Does the spectacle of all the over-the-top decoration make the desserts seem more enticing to you?

Creme and Sugar
6312 E Santa Ana Canyon Rd
Anaheim, CA 92807
http://www.cremensugar.com/

hanhgry.com | trois familia: double decker potato tacos

Trois Familia: Mexican-French inspired brunch

Ross and I went with our friends Jared and Alaina to Trois Familia for brunch in Silver Lake a while back. It’s a small restaurant operated by Ludo Lefebvre, a well-renowned French chef who also runs Petit Trois and Trois Mec in Los Angeles. I’ve never been able to go to his other restaurants since there isn’t that much I can eat there as a vegetarian, although Trois Mec does allow for vegetarian options…so maybe one day. But Trois Familia is almost right down the street from me, and it had received quite a bit of buzz for its brunch.

I think brunch really only became a huge “thing” within the past decade or so because when I was in high school and college, brunch was not the big deal that it is now. In college I went to greasy diners for super late breakfast meals (shoutout to Plato’s in College Park and Tastee Diner in Silver Spring and Bethesda!) but that doesn’t come close to the whole brunch universe that exists now.

I suppose because Los Angeles has a million restaurants and so many of them serve brunch, it’s interesting to see different takes on what are usually the same several dishes (some sort of pancake/waffle, breakfast burrito, eggs benedict, and so on). Trois Familia’s food is inspired by the French background of its chef and also draws from the huge influence Mexican cuisine has on food in Los Angeles.

We got there around 10:30 am, put our names down and were seated after about a 20 minute wait. They don’t take reservations, so I highly recommend getting there early on the weekends.

The restaurant itself is not a huge space but it’s cozy. It feels like a neighborhood place, with cute little decorative touches like a turntable, family-style dining tables that look like picnic tables, and bright primary colors everywhere.

Drinks:

hanhgry.com | trois familia: cup of fresh-squeezed limeadeJared got a Nutella Malt, I got a limeade and Alaina ordered the horchata. We all took a sip of each other’s drinks and they were all pretty good. My limeade was nice and tart and not too sweet. The Nutella malt was creamy and had a strong hazelnut taste to it. If you like Nutella, order this. The photo above is of my limeade.

Food:

Ross and I ordered the following:

Crispy hash brown chilaquiles, sunny side up egg, cotija, salsa macho – $9.75

hanhgry.com | trois familia: hash brown chilaquiles
Imagine a really high quality version of the McDonalds hash brown patty topped with a sunny side up egg and a spicy (well, it wasn’t THAT spicy) salsa. I wish this dish had been bigger (another hash brown patty/egg would have been nice)- it was gone in what seemed like a few bites. This felt more like an appetizer than an entree. The hash brown wasn’t greasy and was crispy enough to hold up under the salsa and egg yolk once I pierced the egg.

French bean & cheese burrito, garlic brown butter, wakame, preserved lemon – $9.95

hanhgry.com | trois familia: french bean and cheese burrito, exterior hanhgry.com | trois familia: french bean and cheese burrito, interior

Bean and cheese burritos are ubiquitous in LA. Trois Familia’s take on it was interesting because of all the different cuisines it is drawing from. Beans and cheese are Mexican, wakame is a Japanese ingredient (it’s a type of seaweed), garlic brown butter is French. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with all these seemingly disparate flavors. This dish was the biggest, portion-wise, of the dishes we ordered. This was super tasty. The burrito had been lightly pan-fried so the outside of the tortilla was crispy. I am not 100% sure of what kind of cheese was used in the burrito but it tasted like it may have been gruyere? or some other French cheese instead of jack or cheddar. Pinto beans were not mushy like the consistency of refried beans; the beans were still distinctive. The garlic brown butter was good and didn’t feel too overwhelming.  I couldn’t really taste much preserved lemon but I did taste a little umami from the seaweed. I would definitely order this again.

Double decker potato tacos, lime, crème fraiche, carrot pico, jack cheese – $12.50

hanhgry.com | trois familia: double decker potato tacos

This is also another dish everyone seems to be Instagramming lately, as it’s kind of an elevated version of the double decker taco from Taco Bell. It’s a soft tortilla encasing a hard shell tortilla, so you get the multiple textures of soft and crunchy/crispy. This was my favorite of the three dishes I ordered. The potato filling was seasoned well and not too salty– I’ve had potato tacos on both ends of the spectrum, either too salty or totally bland. This was just right. The carrot pico with lime was neat, as the lime juice toned down the natural sweetness of the carrots. The tacos were pretty big. I shared them with Ross but two of them for just me would have been enough.

 

One thing I keep seeing in other people’s comments about Trois Familia is that the portions are kind of small and you need to order multiple dishes to be full, which I found to be true. Even our waiter recommended ordering multiple plates. Ross and I ordered 3 dishes to share between us and we were still a little hungry after.A few people have mentioned the cost of the food relative to the portion sizes, but I’m not annoyed by that very much. I feel like the quality of the food justified the pricing to me. Service was attentive and the food didn’t take long to come out, despite the restaurant being very busy.

Overall, I quite enjoyed my meal here. They have added a few new things to their menu and now also do take-out, so I want to go back and try the new stuff, and a few other things I didn’t try this time.

 

Trois Familia
3510 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
323-725-7800

Open 7 days a week, 8 am – 2 pm.
Note: There is a small parking lot but it fills up quickly. Street parking also available.

wanderlust creamery: ice cream inspired by travel

hanhgry.com | Wanderlust Creamery storefront

hanhgry.com | Wanderlust Creamery ice cream case

Ross and I are always up for trying new ice cream. We recently went to a new gourmet ice cream place way up in the Valley (in Tarzana, to be precise) called Wanderlust Creamery. I found them through their Instagram account and their unique ice cream flavors based on different regions of the world sounded really delicious. Also, they’re one of the few places I’ve seen that offers different flavored waffle cones besides the traditional waffle cones most places have. Green tea waffle cone?! Sounds great.

The parking lot was crowded but there is plenty of street parking as well. The line was long but it had only been open a few weeks when we went. I think this part of LA doesn’t have many upscale, gourmet ice cream/dessert shops compared to say, central or West LA so a place like this is in very much in demand in the Valley.

You can see the menu on their website and they rotate flavors. They also have a ton of different toppings that they make in house. It’s not just sprinkles and whipped cream. They have honey boba, homemade strawberry shortcake crumble, pandan flavored rice crispies, and so much more.

I got two scoops, one of Pretzel + Rúgbrauð and one scoop of Sticky Rice + Mango, in a brown butter vanilla waffle cone, with strawberry shortcake crumble.

hanhgry.com | Wanderlust Creamery - sticky rice+mango and pretzel+rugbrauo scoops

Pretzel + Rúgbrauð (bottom scoop): This was incredibly good, with a satisfying mix of textures. I am a big fan of ice cream with chunks or mix-ins (cookie dough, fruit chunks, you get the idea). It was reminded me of a salted caramel pretzel flavor I’ve had from other ice cream shops. The ice cream base itself was smooth and creamy, with liberal amounts of salty, crunchy pretzel bits. It also had caramelized crumbles of rúgbrauð, which is a type of Icelandic rye bread. The rúgbrauð crumble was really good and makes me want to try eating the actual bread. The ice cream base was not too sweet, but had a subtle saltiness that was accented by the pretzels and bread pieces.

Sticky Rice + Mango (vegan, top scoop): This was more straight forward. It’s based on a dessert you can get in almost any Thai restaurant. There was a mango swirl in the ice cream and it tasted like fresh mango puree, but I wish it had more mango in it instead of being mostly sweet cream with a few mango swirls. It was still really tasty though.

The waffle cone was freshly made (I watched them make the cones!) and it had a stronger depth of vanilla flavor than regular waffle cones. The strawberry shortcake crumble tasted just like the coating from the classic Good Humor strawberry shortcake ice cream bars (which I LOVE).

While Wanderlust Creamery is too far for me to indulge in regularly (it was about a 35 minute drive with no traffic), if I’m ever up in that part of the Valley, I would definitely come back again.

Prices: $4 single scoop, $6 double scoop. Toppings $1 each

Wanderlust Creamery
18511 Ventura Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 91356

Phone: (818) 774 – 9888

Hours:
Sun – Thurs: 12PM to 11PM
Fri – Sat: 12PM to 12AM

Honey & Butter: adorable and delicious macarons

I enjoy baking and consider myself to be pretty good at it. Not an expert by any means, but I can make a decent batch of cookies/cake/brownies, etc. from scratch. One baked good that has eluded me for quite some time is the finicky French macaron. I’ve attempted them several times and only once did I make a good batch with the perfect little feet, rounded dome and chewy interior.

I remember seeing them for the first time a couple years ago when I moved to LA and ate at Bottega Louie, a French/American restaurant with a gorgeous patisserie section. (A review on BL coming up eventually in the blog). Bottega Louie displays them in a giant rainbow of colors, and it’s tempting to get every single flavor. Their macarons are probably the most Instagram-ed food item in Los Angeles. Since then I’ve tried macarons from quite a few places, some of which were disappointing and others that are amazing.

There’s a macaron shop called Honey & Butter that is well known for their creatively decorated macarons. I’ve been following their Instagram account for a while now and am in awe of their decorating skills because regular macarons are hard enough to make, but to make them in different shapes and to look like characters from various TV shows and movies?! Their character macarons are insanely popular and usually sell out within an hour of opening. But they also sell regular macarons as well.

They’re located in Costa Mesa in a small shopping center called The Lab, which is about an hour away. I so rarely go down to Orange County, but I decided I absolutely had to go when they announced one of their themes was Sailor Moon, a Japanese cartoon show dubbed into English that I loved as a kid.

hanhgry.com | Honey & Butter macarons

Ross and I got there 30 minutes before opening and there were already about a dozen people in line ahead of us. Did I mention it was also 90 degrees outside? I really hoped the macarons tasted as good as they looked.

hanhgry.com | Honey & Butter macarons

They had so many flavors! There’s another whole shelf below the ones pictured above with more flavors and it was so hard to decide which ones to try, but I got a pack of 6 in a gift box and 5 Sailor Moon-themed macarons.

hanhgry.com | Honey & Butter macarons on a plate

hanhgry.com | Honey & Butter macarons on a plate

Look how smooth the shells are! They use really high quality, finely ground almond flour.

What I loved about these macarons was the consistency in the texture. All the flavors had the right chewy, soft texture for the shells. No hollows or holes. And they lasted several days! I bought the macarons on Sunday and stored them in the fridge. I ate the last of them on Thursday and it was still nice and chewy. I’ve tried other macarons that get really dry and hollow the day after I buy them.

Verdict: I highly recommend Honey & Butter macarons; these are some of the best I’ve had and I’ve even tried the gold standard (Laduree) but what I love is the creativity of their designs and the unique flavors!

 

Flavor reviews:

Strawberry Lemonade (pink and yellow shells): I could taste real strawberries in the filling. It tasted true to the flavor name; the buttercream had a nice balance of tart from the lemon and sweet from the strawberries.

Churro (white and pink shells): Top shell was sprinkled with cinnamon sugar mixture. Buttercream filling had cinnamon sugar flavor to it. Tasted like churros, but not like cinnamon buns– cinnamon bun/roll flavored stuff tends to taste really cinnamon-y and creamy, but this tasted like straight cinnamon sugar, so more true to churros.

Milk and honey (pure white): a light vanilla taste with a hint of honey. Not too sweet.

Matcha (white shells): The matcha green tea buttercream was perfect– it wasn’t bitter the way matcha can be sometimes and had a light floral note to it.

Sea salt caramel (robin’s egg blue shells): So some places that do a salted caramel macaron have a caramel buttercream, others do a caramel filling. H&B uses a salted caramel buttercream and it was sooo good.

French Toast Crunch (white and robin’s egg blue shells): This was so cute with the French Toast Crunch cereal pieces, I had to get it. It tasted kind of similar to the churro macaron, but not as strong a cinnamon flavor.

hanhgry.com | Sailor Moon themed macarons from Honey & Butter

Luna (chocolate cat): Rich chocolate ganache filling, almost fudge-like in consistency. I don’t love chocolate, I like it but usually prefer other flavors but this was really, really good. I wanted another one.

Artemis (white cat): This had a taro buttercream filling. Taro is a very common ingredient used in Asian desserts; it’s a root vegetable similar to a potato or yam. This tasted like straight up pureed taro in buttercream.

Sailor Pluto: I honestly don’t remember what flavor the filling was but I did wolf it down, so I must have liked it!

Sailor Uranus: Enchanted Berries (raspberry and strawberry). I really enjoyed the filling for this macaron because I don’t really like raspberry on its own, but combining it with strawberry

Sailor Saturn: Vanilla buttercream was smooth and sweet.

hanhgry.com | me at Honey & Butter macarons

Me sitting in front of the Airstream trailer where Honey & Butter is located!
Shirt: American Eagle Outfitters
Skirt: old, Modcloth
Shoes: old, Bait Footwear

 

Honey & Butter
2930 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Hours:
Monday: Closed
Tuesday-Sunday: 12PM- until SOLD OUT

Prices:
Regular: $2
Character: $2.50-$3

hanhgry.com | soft serve cone with sprinkles from Dilly's Corner

small town & good eats: doylestown

My husband and I both grew up on the East Coast (suburbs of Philadelphia for him, suburbs of Washington, DC for me). We live in Los Angeles now but go back home several times a year. We’re at the age now where everyone we know is getting married, so the visits home have been more frequent the past few years for all the weddings.

A few weekends ago we flew back to Ross’s hometown of Doylestown, a sleepy and picturesque suburb of Philadelphia, for his friend’s wedding. Doylestown is very idyllic and much more rural than from where I grew up. It’s a very old town with beautiful homes (some from the 18th and 19th centuries), with a cute downtown area with lots of restaurants.

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Frances Bakery: macarons and cronuts

hanhgry.com | macarons from Frances Bakery

Every so often, a few former co-workers and I go on hikes (these are pretty short hikes, just a couple miles). It’s great to exercise and all, but the best part is going out to eat afterward. And then sometimes we get dessert. So many options around for dessert. Baked goods or pastries? Bubble tea? Ice cream? It all depends on your mood.

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bon appetea, ice cream, and polka dots on polka dots

hanhgry.com | jumping in front of the Fosselman's sign

Ross had some free time before he had to go to set for the last day of shooting on the film, so we went to a few places I love in the San Gabriel Valley.

The SGV is a region in Los Angeles County that is known for its Asian population and concentration of good and affordable Asian restaurants. You can find restaurants representing the different cuisines of China, Vietnam, Korea, and so on. But the SGV has a LOT of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants, so much so that there are restaurants specializing in specific regional cuisine such as Sichuan, Cantonese, or the typical Americanized Chinese food.

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hanhgry.com | bowl of vegetarian shiitake shio ramen at Ramen Champ

Vegetarian ramen at Ramen Champ!

Los Angeles is a mecca for people with alternative diets (vegetarian! vegan! gluten-free! raw! etc.) and you can find a vegetarian version of almost anything here. It’s usually very easy to find good vegetarian options even at places that don’t specifically cater to vegetarians. Vegetarian versions of dishes I thought I could never eat again are plentiful here, including Vietnamese pho and Japanese ramen.

I know the idea of vegetarian or vegan ramen sounds blasphemous to most ramen purists but when it’s done well, it tastes really good. And in LA, there are a variety of places that serve vegetarian ramen, one of them being Ramen Champ.

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