Good tapes and good takeout: Those are the secrets to satisfied living in Southern California. Driving is a lot less hassled when you have music and food to get you through a traffic jam.
Which is why no resourceful Southern Californian is ever far from a quick bite to eat. The traffic may be terrible, but the savvy driver who eats at the right pace can save the last bite for the final turn into the driveway. Besides, after a quick trip to one of the following food establishments, who's in a hurry?
FRIED CLAMS, TUCKS POINT
As far as I'm concerned, the best thing about driving to Santa Barbara is pulling off the road in Ventura for fried clams. These are the best I've had on the West Coast: Tuck's Point imports real Ipswich clams and fries them in a Boston batter. What you get are buttery soft bellies and long chewy necks in a crisp golden coat. If you get your clams to go, you can navigate the parking lot and end up at the beach, where you'll find enough soft sand and ocean view to pretend you're on Cape Cod. 1567 Spinnaker Drive, No. 200, Ventura; (805) 644-2644.
CARNE ASADA TORTA, EL GALLO GIRO
Take a big soft roll and stuff it with thin slices of grilled meat, chiles, cheese, avocado, lettuce and tomato, and what do you have? Something that will keep you chewing for a long time--and keep you from hunger even longer. These are so good they might make the hamburger obsolete. 7136 Pacific Blvd., Huntington Park; ( 213 ) 585-4433.
DIM SUM, EMPRESS PAVILION TAKEOUT
Dim sum are the perfect finger food: Barely a bite apiece, they're easy to eat in the car without making a mess. They come in all shapes, sizes and flavors, and they're packed in little trays for easy eating. Order them from a dim sum restaurant and you may have a long wait, but Empress has a little place next to the restaurant that specializes in dim sum to go. The chewy fried balls filled with lotus seeds are particularly satisfying when you're stuck on the Hollywood Freeway. 988 N. Hill St., Los Angeles; (213) 617-9898.
PASTRAMI SANDWICH, LANGER'S DELICATESSEN
You don't even have to get out of your car for this one. Call ahead, and Langer's will not only have the city's most irresistible pastrami sandwich waiting when you pull up--they'll also bring it out to the curb. If ever there was a reason to have a phone in your car, this is it. 704 S. Alvarado St., Los Angeles; (213) 483-8050.
FRIED CHICKEN, ROSCOE'S HOUSE OF CHICKEN AND WAFFLES
Nothing is more satisfying than being able to wave a drumstick at some jerk who has just cut you off. He may be in front, but you've got something to eat. Roscoe's, which specializes in the peculiar combination of fried chicken and waffles, gives you big, meaty pieces of chicken in a very satisfying coat of crunch. While not as ubiquitous as the colonel, Roscoe does have three locations. 1514 N. Gower St., Hollywood, 466-7453; 5006 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, 936-3730; 106 W. Manchester Blvd., Los Angeles, 752-6211.
HOT DOG, PINK'S FAMOUS CHILI DOGS
It's greasy. It's not good for you. And the French fries are limp. Still, there are times when you just have to have a chili dog, and it has to be from Pink's. It's not that their chili dogs are better than anybody else's--they're not--but the clientele is. Pink's attracts some of L.A.'s most eclectic eaters, and every once in a while you just want to join them. 711 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 931-4223.
TACOS, LA SALSA
One of the most comforting things about driving around Los Angeles is knowing that you're never very far from a La Salsa. You can count on the city's best fast-food franchise to always have great tacos stuffed with grilled meat and slathered with really fresh salsa. There are better taco stands--but none with so many branches. 9250 Reseda Blvd., Northridge, (818) 772-2203, and 14 other locations in Southern California.
Most people come here to get dinner entrees to go--things like grilled pork tenderloin, warm seafood salads or roasted stuffed pasilla pepper. Me, I come for great sandwiches, such as spicy sausage stuffed into big crusty rolls and topped with smoked mozzarella. It's perfect freeway food. 1700 Silver Lake Blvd., Los Angeles; (213) 662-8655.
LAMB FRANKIE, BOMBAY CAFE
Hot food always helps make your drive more exciting. And one of the city's hottest dishes is the lamb frankie--an Indian street snack that looks like a giant burrito. While you're here, you might want to pick up some other food--particularly one of the fabulous homemade chutneys. 12113 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles; (213) 820-2070.
PIZZA, DA PASQUALE