3361 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005
I think the best food to be had anywhere in the world right now is in our very own Koreatown. But not everyone can eat kimchee, tofu, pork belly and the like. Check that -- most everyone can, but will they?
For those of you who are squeamish about internal organs or have bad memories of Korean food from the war or too many M*A*S*H reruns, there is an oasis for you in Koreatown: Taylor's Steakhouse. It's a piece of perfectly preserved midcentury nostalgia food that'll take you right back to the Eisenhower administration when we were fighting Koreans on the battlefield, not the golf course, and we'd only eat their food if we were caught behind enemy lines with Hot Lips but no hot dogs.
Here's the dish...
Smack in the heart of Koreatown, surrounded by tofu joints, BBQ houses, noodle shops, and spas staffed by Korean lesbians in black lace undies (or so Sa tells me -- I sadly have yet to experience this first hand) is Taylor's. Founded in 1953 as "Taylor's Tavern," the operation moved to its present location on 8th Street near Western in 1970. And while the Caucasian population of the 'hood has since moved out to the suburbs, and the Latinos have vacated to wherever they vacate to, Taylor's remains, unchanged. It's classic steakhouse food: shrimp cocktails, Caesar Salads, and steaks of various cuts and sizes. Period. I think there's a fish on the menu somewhere but why bother? (This is not vegetarian-friendly food.)
Taylor's "world famous" item is their "culotte" cut, described as "the tenderest portion of the sirloin -- only two cuts per steer!" Sa imagined that they just take those cuts, and throw the rest of the cow away. How very 1950's. The full sized, 16-oz. $26.95 culotte is big, thick, and juicy, perfect for those (like me) who find filet mignon too flavorless, and like their meat to fight back a little bit, but have been burned once too often by leathery sirloin. If you're not the type to drive home in the big fin Caddy with white sidewalls to Jane Wyatt and the kids, you can get a more 21st-century sized "dinner" cut of the culotte for $19.95, including your choice of potato. Awesome deal. The house "Molly Salad" that comes with full dinners is a half-iceberg head, quartered and drenched in delicious blue cheese dressing with diced tomatoes -- a great version of a classic dish. The steak fries are underwhelming; get the baked potato, which is worth the price of admission by itself. It's got a toothsome, been-cooking-all-day skin, and it's like buttah inside... literally, if you're as liberal with the butter as I am.
The decor is just the way I like my steakhouses: all red vinyl booths and dark paneled walls adorned with bad seascapes and photos of sports stars, crooners, and regulars. Those guys sitting at the table next to you wearing big glasses and talking point spreads look and sound like Mafia, but they're actually former USC head football coach John McKay and buddies... identified by Sa from his picture in the foyer. The waitresses are all "honey" and "sweetie." The martinis are great, and retro-old fashioned in size: no birdbaths here. The wine list is smallish but there are some good buys... try the EOS Zinfandel ($24) with your steak.
It may not be the BEST steakhouse in Los Angeles -- the best I've had was probably at Mastro's in Beverly Hills -- but it's superior to places like Musso & Frank or Dan Tana's, and it's unquestionably the best bang for the buck. We're talkin' steak dinner for two with a good bottle of wine and maybe a salad to share for under a hundred bucks. At those prices you can even go when it's not your anniversary, without having to sell your Barbie collection to pay for it.
There's a nearly identical branch of the restaurant in La Cañada/Flintridge, but I recommend Koreatown, because while you're there you can scout out where you want to go for your next Korean meal -- or get that special "spa treatment."