Intelligentsia Cafe, Los Angeles

Cafes in KL are often open til way past midnight. Even if they aren’t, people still like to hangout at mamaks (Indian restaurants) or food courts til the wee hours of the morning, watching football on an LED projector screen. Otherwise, we’ll be watching late night movies or hangout at the shopping mall til late. What can I say, Malaysians are night owls.

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American culture is wayy different. After 9pm on a weekday, you’ll be hard pressed to find a coffee place that’s open. We dropped by at Intelligentsia at 7.30pm and they were already closing at 8pm.

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Fire truck red building screams hipster cafe

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Just had a quick cappuccino. The place is highly recommended with good reviews, and it did not disappoint. The brew was rich and strong, while the milk was steamed just right. Its too bad we didn’t get to try more. There weren’t many seats inside the cafe, which was decorated with yellow light bulbs to give off a cosy light, and wooden furniture/accents.

If I really moved to America in the future, I think I’d miss a lot of things about Malaysian culture. Our shopping, for instance. I haven’t seen anything other than strip malls in LA. In KL, you can throw a stone and it would land on a large shopping mall. People shop all day because its too hot to do anything else lol.

INTELLIGENTSIA

Silver Lake

3922 West Sunset Blvd.

Los Angeles, California 90029

6am – 8pm Sunday – Wednesday
6am – 11pm Thursday – Saturday 

Daikokuya Original Noodle & Rice Bowl, Los Angeles

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DAIKOKUYA looks deceivingly simple on the outside.

But this Japanese restaurant, which specialises in ramen, embodies the saying ‘Don’t judge a book (or restaurant!) by its cover’.

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Located in the middle of Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles, one can immediately tell Daikokuya from the rest of its competitors by the constant stream of dinner patrons lining up outside. The inside is typical Japanese – small space, open air kitchen and seats facing the cooking area. The walls are plastered with Japanese posters and pop art.

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For appetizers, we had a tempura basket of fried ebi (shrimp) and assorted vegetables such as sweet potato, long beans and aubergine. They came served with a sweet soy sauce.

Unlike some places which serve extremely oily fried items, these were done well and were crispy on the outside while retaining the moistness of the shrimp/vegetables on the inside. Good tempura!

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Their signature dish is Daikokuya Ramen (USD 9.50), which came in a specialtonkotsu (pork) soup base. It must have been boiled for hours and with lots of ingredients, as you can really feel the sweetness of the meat and bones with each sip. 

The ramen is springy with a slight bite; which was perfect since I don’t like soft, soggy noodles. It was topped over with slices of sweet chasiu, Japanese-style boiled egg (with the creamy yolk!) and bamboo shoots.

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I can’t describe how heavenly it feels to have a hot, soupy meal when its freezing outside.

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While I like their house specialty, my favourite was actually the Spicy Miso Ramen (USD9.95), which was sour, tangy, spicy and full of garlicky oomph. I’m Malaysian and eating spicy food is in our genes lol. The ramen also came served with egg and sliced chasiu.

The food lives up to its reputation as one of the best ramen establishments in Little Tokyo and some say LA! Service is fairly fast and efficient, albeit a bit brusque.

DAIKOKUYA 

327 E 1st St, Los Angeles,
CA 90012, United States
Open daily 11am – 12am (Mon – Thurs), 1am (Fri-Sat), 11pm (Sun)

Little Tokyo – Japan in Los Angeles

Konichiwa! Welcome to Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. One of only three officially recognised Japantowns in California, it hosts the largest population of Japanese-Americans in North America.

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Most of the museums were closed because we got there in the evening, but there is still plenty to see on its streets. Just outside the Japanese American National Museum is an unusual cube-shaped art installation, featuring photos of everyday people.

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An interesting building in the vicinity -The Honpa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple – features traditional Zen-Buddhism architecture.

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The streets are lined with Japanese restaurants and cafes. There is a very famous restaurant here called Daikokuya that serves excellent ramen!

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Just across the street is the Koyasan Buddhist Temple, decorated with stone statues of deities in front of a simple white building with grey tiles. Everything is very Zen-garden-esque, with fresh flowers and carefully sculpted trees and plants. The temple is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in North America, but I couldn’t tell by looking at it because it was so well kept.

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The tall red Little Tokyo Watchtower in the centre of Japantown is a structure that you definitely won’t miss

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The ‘Touristy’ part of Japantown. Loads of restaurants, clothing and souvenir shops.

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I found these hilarious. Incense sticks.

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Mochi. Vanilla and chocolate flavoured.

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Souvenirs – Japanese nest dolls and Maneki Neko (lucky cat), windchimes, scrolls, lanterns. Did not get any because I can get them back in Asia for cheaper.

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We took a bus to the interchange to catch another bus ride back to Fairfax Avenue. LA looks beautiful in the sunset, with the sun’s rays reflecting off buildings and their shiny windows.

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Pls Ignore tired, fugly face.

At first glance, I thought it was another art museum because of its beautiful design, but it turned out to be the Los Angeles Police Department. It is the third largest police force after NYPD and the Chicago Police Department, with close to 12,000 staff.

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Just next to it is a household name in journalism – the LA Times. Founded in 1881, the paper has earned itself 41 Pulitzer Prizes. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could have a stint here?

Getting to JAPANTOWN

  • Metro Gold Line – Little Tokyo/Arts District
  • Metro Red/Purple Line – Civic Center or Union Station (walkable distance)
  • Metro (bus) lines 30 and 330.

 

 

Wandering LA & Jollibee at Beverley Boulevard

Hey guys! We’re still exploring Los Angeles, where there’s plenty to see and do. Not surprising for the second largest city in California, with a whopping 18mil people. That’s more than half the population of Malaysia!

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Parts of SoCal once belonged to Mexico, so it is not surprising to see many Hispanic communities and their influences all over Los Angeles. Travelling around some suburbs, I sometimes found myself wondering if I was in America or Mexico. There were many buildings that mimicked the flat, squarish buildings of Mexico, and signs in Spanish everywhere.

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The Hispanic influence tapered off a little in the city centre, where things took on a more metropolitan facade. Ultra modern buildings and a mix of races walk the street, with an Asian restaurant here, a Mexican canteen there, etc.

LA is nicknamed the city of flowers and sunshine. While we saw a lot of the latter, I wouldn’t say the same about flowers.. except’ maybe in parks. There are a lot of palm trees though.

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The buildings are not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing.

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Koreatown. You’ll know you’ve entered the area once you see lots of billboards and shop signs with Hangul characters

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We had lunch at Jollibee @ Beverley Boulevard. It’s located just next to the subway station. To those familiar with the fast food chain, you’ll know that Jollibee is from the Philippines, serving items such as fried chicken, fries and burgers and home favourites like Filipino spaghetti and pancit.

Although we have a big Filipino community in Malaysia, no one has opened a Jollibee there – much to my dismay since I’ve always wanted to try it. LA has a large Filipino community (they even have a Filipinotown here!) so it was only natural that there’d be a Jollibee.

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I was getting sick of burgers and hot dogs, so having warm rice for a change was heaven. The Chicken Joy meal came with two pieces of fried chicken and awesome gravy. It was much better than KFC or any other fast food fried chicken I’ve ever had – tender and juicy on the inside, crispy and savoury on the outside. Now I really wish they have Jollibee in KL! 😦

E ordered Pancit Palabok, a bihun-like noodle in a garlic and meat sauce with slices of egg.

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View from the drive-in area.

Boiling Crab, Koreatown Los Angeles

Going through a long wait to be seated at a restaurant is agonising, especially when your stomach is rumbling and the weather is cold.

I was almost tempted to pop into a nearby barbecue joint after hearing that it would take an hour – but E insisted that we should try LA’s famous Boiling Crab in Koreatown.

So, wait we did.

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The Boiling Crab is a famous restaurant specializing in seafood done Cajun-style. It was a weekday evening and we had not anticipated such a crowd. We were lucky as some people left the line and we were moved forward, popping in after a mere 40 minutes.

Back in Malaysia, I wouldn’t have waited that long for any restaurant, no matter how good it is. But hey. It’s LA!

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Service is prompt and friendly for such a busy establishment. The decorations are sea-themed, with wooden paneling done to resemble a fisherman’s shack or dock. There was a giant shark mounted on the wall, and scribbles all over from previous patrons.

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You can choose to go with crab (their specialty), lobster, crawfish, shrimp and a variety of seafood. We went with shrimp because the crabs were too expensive.

The waitress expertly laid out a large piece of paper to act as our tablecloth, and loaded it with lemon wedges. It’s a genius idea. No worries about tablecloth stains and cleaning up the mess. And trust me, it got messy real fast.

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For appetisers, we had fried calamari, which came with a tangy tomato/chilli dip. This was awesome – fresh, springy squid with a crispy batter and seasoned just right. By far one of the best calamari dishes I have tasted.

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Then came the mains. We each got a pound of shrimp with a sauce of our choice. There are three types to choose from: lemon, cajun and garlic. If you can’t make up your mind, then go for the whole she-bang (mix of three).

The seafood is served in messy, sauce-splattered bags. It looks gross, but once you chomp into the big, meaty shrimps, you’ll forget all decency and just lick sauce off your greasy hands. You’ll have sauce running down your arms and face and not give a fk.

To avoid ruined shirts and a trip to the laundromat, they provide plastic bibs to tuck down the front of your clothes.

Now, dig in!

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I had the garlic sauce. It was a little salty, but otherwise the shrimp was large and well-seasoned. (I can’t be the only one who loves sucking out roe from the shrimp head!) The garlic sauce was addictive. It would be great to go with rice, but I was worried that I would be too full, so.

No such thing as forks and knives. Get dirty!

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Overall, I was satisfied with the dining experience and the fast & friendly service, even though the wait is long. I’ve read reviews of people waiting 2.5 hours on holidays and weekends. But I think what keeps people coming back is simple – good food, and good service. A must visit if you’re in LA.

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I forgot to mention that they also have takeout. There’s a small lot next to the main restaurant where people can place their orders. I would recommend dining at the restaurant at least once though. For the experience. 🙂

Boiling Crab @ Koreatown
3377 Wilshire Blvd #115, Los Angeles, CA 90010, United States

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We wandered around downtown for a bit.

Since arriving in LA, it was the first time I had visited the city centre. The demographic is diverse, and there are many tall, modern-looking buildings as compared to LA’s grungy suburbs.

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Waiting for the bus ride to our hostel while enjoying sunset on Wilshire Boulevard.

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A girl rushed past us and dropped what we thought was paper at first – but turned out to be two dollars.

E wanted to go after her but she was already disappearing around the corner: that was how much of a hurry she was in.

So E, holding his drink precariously, decided to pick it up and keep the 2 bucks (free money, right?) but guess what? His drink slipped out and went flying all over the sidewalk. I laughed til I cried at this instant karma.

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The Space Shuttle: Endeavour @ California Science Center, LA

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Hello! Picking off where we left off after a fun-filled visit to the nearby LA County Museum of Natural History , we walked a short distance to a futuristic-looking building shaped like a bell curve – the California Science Centre. 

Located within the large grounds of LA’s Exposition Park, the science centre is directly opposite a stadium. There was an event going on there because we saw many high school kids in prom getup.

Anyway, we got a package tour – An IMAX 3D film and the Endeavour exhibit. The film that we watched was The Hubble: 3D, a documentary about space exploration. I was still so fatigued from my long flight from Malaysia, that I fell asleep 5mins into the film and spent the remaining hour sleeping, despite the surround sound and everything. You could imagine how tired I was!

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After the film (lol), we were ushered into the main building. Staff will guide visitors with the Endeavour ticket to the special exhibition hall.

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“I want these for my car..”

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Memorabilia from space explorers. It must have been a lonely journey, eating cold, canned food and with nothing to see outside but darkness for weeks on end. This also reminds me of Chris Hadfield’s version of Space Oddity, where he plays a guitar and sings in..well, space.

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Control center replica.

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The star of the exhibits – the Endeavour! It was humbling to gaze on this marvel of human technology that has been to the stars and back. It started its first journey in 1992, and had its last in 2011 before being ‘retired’ into a museum exhibit.It was named after a ship, the HMS Endeavour captained by James Cook in the 1700s. A fitting name.The old Endeavour explored uncharted waters, just as the modern Endeavour explored uncharted space.

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The cynical part of me said: “It’s ironic that mankind can fly into space yet can’t solve their shit on the planet. Like global poverty. Or lack of access to clean water. I mean, so what if you can reach the stars?”

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Training hatch.

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Massive, powerful engines.

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Allocate at least half a day for the place if you’re planning on a visit, coz it’s pretty big! Entrance to the regular exhibits are free, but if you want to look at the Shuttle and watch the film there are ticket charges.

CALIFORNIA SCIENCE CENTRE

700 Exposition Park Dr, Los Angeles,
CA 90037, United States
Open daily : 10am – 5pm

Los Angeles Natural History Museum

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A must-visit while you are in Los Angeles is the Natural History Museum at Exposition Park – the largest of its kind on the American west coast, with over 35mil specimens and artifacts.

We took a bus from our hostel near The Grove. On the way to our destination, we passed by a couple of affluent neighbourhoods and the famous University of Southern California campus. This was a far cry from the more gritty, ghetto-ish pockets in downtown LA.

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Walking through Jesse Brewer Jr Park, a well-kept neighbourhood green space with sparse trees.

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The museum’s back entrance looked impressive, with a couple of dinosaurs (LA loves dinos – I’ve seen them at almost every museum!) and large leafy plants lining the avenue. We got in with our discounted GoLA tickets. If you want to skip the long waiting line for tickets, you should try the back door.

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Greeted by bones of  what looked like a Mosasaur.

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The museum is divided into two floors. Allocate at least half a day to explore everything. 🙂  The first section we popped into was the geological gallery where they have all sorts of natural stones and minerals on display.

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The room is dark to protect the minerals and precious gemstones from overexposure.

 

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The boom in California is due to the gold rush, so no museum would be complete without a section detailing its history.

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We also went into a safe room where they had all sorts of beautiful gemstones on display. There were stones that reflected the light in dancing rays; ones shaped into ovals, globes or squares; shiny and opaque gems, and others that were solid with a matte-like texture. Some exuded an aura of unearthly loveliness. It makes one wonder about the power of the earth and its amazing creations.

Moving on to more bimbotic topics, we were looking for our birthstones – mine is sapphire, and E’s is peridot.

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Having had our fill of stones, we moved on to livelier things – the Age of Mammals Hall. The spacious place houses lifelike exhibits of animals from all over the world.

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The detailing on the animal exhibits was amazing. I wonder if they were stuffed? You could even see folds and creases on the animals’ hides.. if these were purely man made, then the craftsmanship is superb. The background paintings were also done well together with 3D props such as grass and trees.

In Malaysia, our animal exhibits are often dead-looking, with glassy bead eyes and are very obviously fake.

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I was very impressed with the quality of museums in LA. Many Southeast Asian countries do not invest in museum upkeep. We don’t get donors to keep the place running, resulting in their sorry state. Sometimes I find myself wishing that Malaysians would be more appreciative of art and our own history, instead of spending all our free time shopping and chasing the capitalist dream and material comforts.  There is so much to be learnt from the past, for a better future.

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The main hall has two large dinos – a T-rex and a triceratops. It reminded me of the movie The Night at the Museum. There are no dinosaurs in the South East Asian region, so our museums often feature cultural exhibits instead.

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The modern section of the museum details the history of Los Angeles in more recent times, such as how it was founded and the boom of the Hollywood industry. There was also a small scale model of the entire city, so E and I tried to locate streets that we have driven through and other familiar buildings.

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All over the museum were interactive touch screen boards. They didn’t only tell information, but encouraged visitors to participate. For example, the above board had us matching the different species of prehistoric animals and plants to the correct era. It would be fun for families with children and as a tool to teach kids.

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More dinosaurs

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A hall designed with Greek statues and European architecture.

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A ‘play’ room where visitors get to interact with various exhibits, like a made-to-scale polar bear with dirty white fur, faux fossil samples, and even deer antlers. Have fun taking quirky pictures! 🙂

We also dropped by a new building called the Nature Lab, which explores urban wildlife in Southern California. Samples of plants, animals and earth/minerals are kept in glass displays, some of which are available to smell, touch and feel.

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We went out the front door. If you don’t like lining up for tickets, you should try going through the back door. For this attraction, we used the GoLA card as well for 15-20% off our tix.

The LA Natural History Museum is an informative, interactive and lots of fun with many exhibits within its two floors. This is what I think about when one mentions a world-class museum – not drab and static stuff packed with info boards written in tiny letters. Worth the visit!

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Phone: (213) 763-DINO

Open daily from 9.30am – 5pm

Tickets (Adults) 12$! Cheap and worth the price.

Frank’s Charbroiler, Fairfax Avenue Los Angeles

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Rise and shine! Breakfast is an important part of the day, especially when you’re travelling 🙂 Our plan that morning was to take a bus to the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, but before we set off from our hostel along Fairfax Avenue, we decided to fill up our tummies first. I did some research because I was craving for burritos, and found that there was a nice local joint just further down the road calledFrank’s Charbroiler.

The place is run by Latina staff, who were friendly and accommodating. We were immediately served a basket of nachos with salsa to munch on before we ordered our mains. Not to be a prick, but I can see why Americans are among the most obese people in the world. I myself gained weight after just a few weeks here – because of the easy accessibility of food and humongous portions. I find it very wasteful when I see there is still food on my plate, hence I try to force myself to finish it. >->

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No frills, canteen-like setting. It was interesting how all the restos and cafes have a placard that says they have the right to refuse service to anyone. I have never seen this in Malaysia before. I think this is a great thing to protect restos, because some customers can be a real pain in the ass.

 

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Ordered one bacon breakfast burrito. I wasn’t expecting it to be normal sized after my few days of experience eating in LA, but…

 

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The portion broke my expectations. The size of one half of said burrito was equivalent to two burritos in Malaysia. (which would mean that the burrito could have easily fed four people with a small appetite) Filled with bits of salty bacon, scrambled egg, soft and mushy potato, picco de gallo (a type of Mexican salad), it was nevertheless yummy, warm and toasty. We kept the other half for lunch  because there was just too much .__.

You can’t say that they’re not value for money!

Frank’s 

363 S Fairfax Ave Los Angeles, Beverley Grove CA 90036

Phone: (323) 655-5277 (closed on Sundays)