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THE GASTRO ECONOMIST

Craving kosher? Head to Glatt Gulch

June 12, 2008|Cynthia Dea

Glatt. NOW that's a word a lot of people don't see every day, let alone on almost every storefront for 15 blocks or so on Pico Boulevard, west of La Cienega.

Unless you practice strict kosher rules ("glatt kosher" informally refers to a sanctioned preparation of certain meats that can be eaten, according to Jewish dietary laws), the Glatt Gulch -- an affectionate nickname for this Westside neighborhood's vast glatt kosher offerings -- is a proper L.A. introduction to the world of Israeli cuisine.

An intergenerational mix patronizes the row of restaurants, which include kosher hamburger joints and kosher Chinese restaurants alongside temples and markets. The younger set flocks to the sidewalk tables of Jeff's Gourmet Kosher Sausage (8930 W. Pico Blvd., L.A. [310] 858-8590) for homemade sausage and pastrami sandwiches. And the Gulch seemed to collectively rejoice when the first Glatt Kosher Subway (8948 W. Pico Blvd. [310] 274-1222) opened last year, giving those who kept kosher the opportunity to eat mediocre submarine sandwiches like the rest of us.

But it's the snacky bites of pita and bright, year-round salads that bring me to Pico Boulevard. The fresh daily salatim, or salad, at Haifa Restaurant (8717 W. Pico Blvd. [310] 888-7700) is placed on your table immediately after putting in an order. In the tradition of Spanish tapas or Korean panchan, the small plates of coleslaw, egg salad, minced beets and spicy baba ghanouj are like a portion-controlled buffet.

The Israeli salad ($5.95) -- with cucumber, tomatoes and red onion -- can be ordered as a more substantial side (as with any of the other salads) to accompany the pita sandwiches such as the falafel or the shawarma, and is appropriate as extra pita filling. Main dishes, such as the roasted chicken ($15.95) and grilled schnitzel (a piece of seasoned chicken breast for $14.95), come with a choice of two sides including traditional Israeli salad, rice, beans, majadra (a mix of different legumes), fries and vegetables. While the waitresses have an impatient air about them, they're immediately disarmed if you ask for recommendations and will help navigate through the numerous main dishes on the menu.

Nagila Pizza Dairy Restaurant (9411 W. Pico Blvd. [310] 788-0111) is a kosher pizza haven. Besides its Israeli-style vegetarian pizzas ($2.30-$3.05), Nagila is popular among local vegans for fare such as falafel ($7.60 for the combo) and the vegi-shawarma ($5.15) that's made of soy, onion and mushrooms.

Nagila boasts that they always have 21 different daily salads -- which can't all be mentioned here -- but potato salad, hummus, tabbouleh roasted potatoes, coleslaw and Israeli salad are staples. Because mixing meat and dairy in these kosher establishments is forbidden, carnivorous friends can head across the hallway to Nagila Meating Place and everyone can gather with their food at the tables along the shared corridor.

While an urge for an Israeli falafel sandwich with coleslaw and red cabbage salad and a side of fries will be satisfied at Glatt Gulch, take care to curb your cravings on Friday nights. Most of these restaurants and shops observe the Jewish Sabbath and are closed from Friday afternoon through Saturday.

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-- Cynthia.Dea@latimes.com

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