I’ve made it to about three hundred restaurants in four years in LA, and only one of them was vegetarian, so I’m pretty serious about these meat dishes. Pro: they’re all cheap. Con: none of them photograph well. (And in one case, photos aren’t even allowed.) So, pardon my textiness.

Kitfo
Rosalind’s Ethiopian Cuisine, 1044 S Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles 90019

$11

Rosalind’s is one of my favorite Friday date-night restaurants, and my guy and I buy up Groupons for it as often as they come along. Kitfo is hand-chopped beef served nearly raw with butter, chiles, and other northern African spices. It gets sauteed for mere seconds before being delivered to the table with roll-ups of injera, the light, spongy pancake used to pick up food in Ethiopian dining, the sole utensil in this fun and casual culinary culture. We usually order fried appetizers and a lamb stew besides, and the portions are enormous, so we end up with leftovers. In the morning, we scramble eggs with the leftover tartare for breakfast. And the morning after that, I’m craving Rosalind’s all over again.

Weiwuer Lamb
Mao’s Kitchen, 7313 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood 90046

$12

I’ve eaten this at least twenty times in two years. I can’t go two months without it. Weiwuer is a not-particularly-phonetic way of spelling Uyghur, an ethnic group that inhabits the Xinjiang northwest region of China (above Tibet, east of Kazakhstan). It’s shredded lamb, flash-cooked in a wok with cumin, chile, cilantro, jicama, onion, tomato, and cashews. It’s vaguely reminiscent of Middle Eastern food and Mexican food, because of the cumin, while tasting like neither. Good dishes to order besides are the fried salt and pepper seafood, kung pao with shrimp, and $1 Beijing spring rolls. Delivery is available if you live nearby, but eating at Mao’s is a pleasure, as Chinese operas are silently projected on a screen overhead, tables are large and spread out, the dining room smells nutty and savory, the service is warm and calm, and, brace yourself here, there’s no corkage fee.

Porchetta Truck
Bucato, 3280 Helms Avenue, Culver City 90034

The porchetta is not currently on the menu at Bucato, so let this post be a strong message to the restaurant that it should be there, always. (Did that sound forceful enough? I want it to sound forceful.) Outside of porchetta, I don’t choose to cook with or order dishes with fennel, so it’s somewhat of an anomaly for me that porchetta is one of my favorite foods. But it just works. And Evan Funke does it best. His porchetta arrives, surprisingly, in pieces — some lean and tender, some lean and chewy, some fatty and crispy, some fatty and soggy, some somewhere in between — with the fennel, garlic, and chili strewn about. It is really fun to eat and really annoying to finish.

Truffle Burger
Umami Burger Valli, 12159 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City 91604

$12

I mean, holy shit. Truffle-infused hamburger meat with melted truffle cheese in a really soft, fluffy bun. All I know is that a lot of R&D goes into Umami Burgers, and that it’s all kept very secret, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Adam Fleischman has a secret farm with cows that eat only white, black, and summer truffles their entire lives, much like Iberico pigs that eat only acorns to produce the eponymous ham. I mean, how else could he do it? Anyway, if you, like me, have truffle salt and truffle oil in your kitchen at any given time, you need to have this burger. I recommend the Studio City location because it’s consistently the best, and the throne-like chairs are pretty fun, too. (And if you like that, go to Vegas and order Hubert Keller’s $60 Rossini burger with shaved truffles and foie gras at Burger Bar. It comes with garlic fries and a boozy milkshake, for good measure. Definitely split it with someone.)

Spicy Pork Burrito
Kogi Truck, locations vary

$6

Whatever the wait time is at the Kogi truck, it’s worth it. The spicy pork is similar to bulgogi — tender pork shoulder and fatty belly spiked with gochujang (red chili paste), probably soy sauce, probably garlic, probably ginger, probably sugar, probably a lot of other things, served up in a soft flour tortilla with scrambled eggs, cheese, and hashbrowns. It hits all of my comfort food criteria — sweet, salty, spicy, soft, and squishy. Honestly, I don’t think Roy Choi got famous for fusing Korean and Latin American food, or for inventing the food truck as we know it. He got famous because his food tasted better than most of the food out there. I have rarely felt as compelled to return to a chef’s restaurants (and food trucks) as I have with Roy Choi’s. Most restaurants I go to, once is enough. Not with him.

Well shit. Now I’m hungry.

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