Last month, funnyman Steve Carrell denounced food-on-sticks while declaring, “In Los Angeles, everything has become a corn dog” and insisting that the skewering stop. By now, we’ve come to expect people saying all sorts of things about our city that don’t really make sense just for a laugh at the expense of L.A. and its penchant for bottled water/skinless chicken/supermarket sushi. But still, our minds churned. Are we obsessed with chowing off of sticks? So we did what food blogs do in these scenarios and drew up a short list. And by golly, the 40-year-old virgin just might be right.
A rich landscape of regional eats from around the world, L.A. sees stick food (which we imagine was invented before man could even dress himself) well-repped in L.A. By now, most everyone has their favorite destination for kebab, more or less the king of food-on-sticks whether its cooked on a steel sword and presented stickless or comes still quivering on the pike, while kushiage, yakitori, satay, and spiked offal are highly sought after, among the rash of newer restaurants showing what they can do with protein and a stiff piece of wood.
So stick with us as we explore some of the varied options out there for impaled meats, fruits, dessert, beer, and body parts out there, pinpointing a few local favorites through which sticks do run in our Grub Guide to food-on-sticks in L.A.
9575 W Pico Blvd. Beverly Hills; 310-277-0133
Ricardo Zarate’s follow-up to Mo-Chica introduced 90210 to amped up anticuchos, those Peruvian street staples of skewered meats, offered on a long list that includes black cod, beef heart with walnut rocoto, huancaina potatoes with quail eggs, beef filet with uni butter, diver scallops with aji amarillo, and miso salmon with pickled cucumbers.
Tar & Roses
602 Santa Monica Blvd. Santa Monica; 310-587-0700
Andrew Kirschner sets his wood-fired obsessions on a series of small plates and entrees here, the former including juicy nuggets of chicken oysters on a fat stake with a sauce of cilantro and tamarind that is a must-order.
114 S Central Ave. Downtown; 213-620-1840
Food & Wine “best new chef” winner Bryant Ng upped the game for Indonesian, Singaporean, and Malay satay, roasting marinated meats over open coals on a custom-designed grill in delicate, fatty wisps of juicy lamb belly, chile prawns bearing two types of heat, sweetly spiced beef, lemongrass chicken, beef tripe, and lamb heart with a shellacking of Sichuan peppercorns.
9739 Culver Blvd. Culver City; 310-838-9739
On Monday, Tasting Table spread the news that this beer pub was now serving “beer-on-a-stick,” that is, beer popsicles made with frozen craft brews and sold for three bucks a “pop” Friday through Sunday after 3:00 P.M. The frozen beers, mixed with simple syrup and juice, change weekly and according to which beers the place is currently obsessing on.
Stix & Straws
310 E Grand Ave. El Segundo; 310-726-9194
These guys are so into food-on-a-stick, it’s even in their bold motto: “food tastes better on a stix.” Um, huh? This could very well become the Chipotle of stick food, offering eight inexpensive skewers with the likes of shrimp, beef, chicken, tofu, and vegetables, very customizable with a range of sauces to choose from and the option of getting them on bread or on a salad.
Hot Dog on a Stick
1633 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica
Possibly L.A.’s most iconic food-on-a-stick, this corn-dog has filled many a mallgoer and beachcomber’s belly over the decades, served as a simple boiled wiener under a thick coat of batter with fresh squeezed lemonade. For many an Angeleno, the taste is synonymous with summer sunbathing or family shoe shopping.
My Tornado Potato Food Truck
A single fried potato spiraling around a sharpened stick in a swirl of interconnected chip segments. Hokey? Maybe a little. But stronger people than us have been unable to refuse the charms of this junk food artistically splayed out like a honeycomb of crisp edges and soft spuds.
Feng Mao Mutton Kebab
3901 W Olympic Blvd. Koreatown; 323-935-1099
Do you know the mutton man? This Sino-Korean marriage is a shrine to skewers and serious carnivorism, offering staggering rows that are ten-strong with mutton meat and offal, plus pig heart and intestines, chicken wings and gizzards, and whole quail for guests to sizzle over their own charcoal grills, aided by a small plate of cumin for the lineup to roll through. And yes, you may even find bull penis if your needs have so far gone unsatisfied.
2141 182nd St. Torrance; 310-515-6147
While the option to wrap your skewers in bacon is available on just about everything at a kushiyaki joint like Sakura in Culver City, this inexpensive Torrance spot kills it with a seasonal spread of vegetables and well-constructed seafood and meat skewers (and yes, some are even wrapped with bacon, too). Lotus root finds its place nestled next to uni, garlic arrives in a trio, each nearly as big as arancini in balls of prickly fried batter, pork belly is offered with Welsh onion, and chicken meat balls are stuffed with shiitake, many of them almost too good-looking to eat.
203 E 2nd St. Downtown; 213-687-0690
Downtown’s famous destination for yakitori, there is practically no part of the chicken Kokekokko won’t grill over its imported white charcoal to put on your plate, be it the neck, heart, skin, shin, or tail. Plus, the chicken is all Jidori, offering a tribute to L.A.’s proprietary, most chicken-y chicken. Ba-gawk!
2230 W. 6th St. Los Angeles
If you can steer yourself from Langer’s, dear eater, you’ll find that a little poking around the borders of the park can yield some seriously awesome Mexicellence on a stick. For your savory side, few pleasures can rival elote, the impaled corn-on-the-cob served hot off the grill, glazed with butter and crema, and sprinkled with cheese and chili powder. For dessert, score a fruity paleta, which might not rival some of the city’s standard bearers, but hey, you’re here, it’s hot, and it’s a frozen fruit dessert on a stick. If you’re exploring east of Alvarado, you should be able to find a favorite elote vendor or paleta cart with a little poking around of your own.
1417 S. Robertson Blvd. Beverly Hills; 323-422-8885
Do you really want a cupcake-pop? Eh, why not. They’re sweet, they’re on a stick, and it’s basically cake. The ones coming off of this truck and out of the Beverly Hills storefront have so far been our favorite, though we’re hardly hardened when it comes to cupcakes on sticks.
Old Country Cafe
2 E. Valley Blvd. Alhambra; 626-284-4610
SinoSoul blogger Tony Chen tells Grub Street, “Nobody beats Chinamen in eating shit off a stick,” blowing our minds with tales of night markets in inner China bearing fried star fish, scorpions, and beetles on a stick. This Taiwanese cafe may not go too far into the world of creepy crawlies, but Chen does tell us to look out for the notorious classic of steamed and spiced pig’s blood cake, offered like a hulking Sugar Daddy of congealed swiney sanguinity on a stick. Chen also tells us our SGV stick-food needs can be satisfied over lamb offals at Yi’s Kitchen in San Gab, and over chicken parts at nearby Uncle Yu’s Indian Theme Restaurant.
EE Convenient Store
1107 S Baldwin Ave. Arcadia. 626-447-2398
Anyone who has dodged their share of mo-peds in Taipei knows that the streets are also clogged with that ubiquitous American hellhole known as 7-11, though the ones in Taiwan do have more interesting fare like stewed eggs and shaggy coats of fried meat on sticks. This place comes remarkably close to the experience with a famous self-serve bar of fish balls on sticks including shrimp, tofu, and scallops.