Restaurant Review #267: Horse Thief BBQ, Downtown LA

Authentic Texas-style barbecued brisket in Downtown LA? Believe it. Located in a sleek edifice just outside Grand Central Market, Horse Thief BBQ serves beef brisket (pictured, 1/2 lb., $12), pulled pork, spare ribs, chicken, and rib tips. Some of the sides are more upscale takes on down-home classics: jicama cabbage slaw, blue cheese and bacon potato salad, aged white cheddar macaroni and cheese. There are also braised greens and black beans, and a sole dessert: banana pudding. The drink menu consists of lemonade, iced tea and water.

Everything is essentially to go, but you can enjoy your food on the premises (they even serve it on butcher paper!) at one of the many outdoor, shaded, bench-style wooden tables if you can't wait to get it home. If you're a homesick Texan, or anyone else who likes good barbecue, don't miss Horse Thief. (Then go across the street and work off your meal on the stairs alongside the Angels Flight.) If you're making a special trip, go early, because they do sell out.

Horse Thief BBQ
324 S. Hill St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Hours: 11:00am to 4:00pm daily
Horse Thief BBQ menu
Horse Thief BBQ website


Restaurant Review #266: Yozen Frogurt, Westlake Village

I decided to try Yozen Frogurt because I was feeling burned out on Yogurtland, my usual froyo shop of choice. There was also a bit of a Hollywood glam factor in my decision--I've seen either this location or the West Hills one (I'm not sure which) in more than one episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the show I most love to hate.

At 9:30 on a Saturday night, the store was nearly dead, but it was immaculately clean and the two employees were both friendly. I was only given two sample cups, which hardly seemed adequate when there were 16 self-serve flavors to choose from, none of which I had ever tried before. I put two samples in each cup so I could try more, though it occurred to me later that I probably could have asked for more sample cups. I get that they don't want people to just come in and eat samples and leave, but I'd think that the more samples you let people try, the more delicious flavors they'll want to buy.

The store's layout is a bit awkward, with toppings in more than one place, not enough room between the secondary topping bar/checkout station and frozen yogurt machines, and the large yogurt cups in dispensers against a far wall where I didn't even see them until I checked out (with two small yogurt cups containing less yogurt than I wanted to purchase but as much as I could carry). Also, some of the toppings are in dispensers that make it difficult to control how much comes out--it would be better if they were in containers with spoons.

Despite these gripes, Yozen Frogurt is my new favorite frozen yogurt place because the flavors are a cut above. Supposedly they have just 12 to 20 calories per ounce, which is hard to believe given how sweet and rich they taste and how creamy their texture is. Of course, I obliterated the low calorie count by topping my froyo with peanut butter syrup, marshmallow syrup, butterscotch syrup, caramel syrup, Oreos, and cinnamon Cap'n Crunch. The prices are similar to those of other frozen yogurt shops. Of the flavors I tried, I didn't think the butterscotch or no-sugar-added vanilla had much flavor, but I loved the peanut butter, dulce de leche, and horchata and I'd highly recommend Yozen Frogurt.

Yozen Frogurt 
2900 Townsgate Rd.
Westlake Village, CA 91361
Hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11:00am to 10:00pm; Friday and Saturday, 11:00am to 11:00pm
Yozen Frogurt flavors
Yozen Frogurt website


Restaurant Review #265: Wildcraft Pizza, Culver City

I am a pizza aficionado. I make pizza from scratch once a week. And most restaurant pizzas let me down--I don't think they're as good as my homemade version.

Wildrcraft in Culver City is an exception. They distinguish themselves from other pizza places by using a sourdough crust (which is now on my to-bake list) and a 900-degree oven (not something I can replicate at home, unfortunately). They also use fresh ingredients, which of course many other pizza joints do as well but with less spectacular results.

I went to Wildcraft for lunch on a very calm holiday Monday when the restaurant was nearly empty (I imagine that's not typical). The rest of my party wasn't there yet, but the waitress seated me on the patio where I'd be able to see them walk in and served me water while I waited. Our service was great throughout the meal.

I ordered the O.G., the least expensive option at $11.00, but also my favorite type of pizza: oven-roasted tomato, mozzarella, fresh basil and garlic. Half the pizza was enough for a light lunch. Most of the other pies are in the $12 to $15 range and have more unusual ingredients like porchetta, treviso, pistachios and clams (not all on the same pizza). Also on the menu are salads, a few veggies, and panini, but why would you come here and not order pizza?

The sourdough flavor is subtle; more noticeable is the crust's chew, slight crispiness and hint of char (none of the gigantic burnt bubbles that mar many a hot-oven pizza). Finding a mozzarella that melts properly, especially at high temperatures, without turning to mush or burning is a challenge; the chef has gotten it just right with fior di latte. In lieu of red pepper flakes, Wildcraft serves house-made chili oil with pepper flakes in it, plus real grated parmesan. And sitting on the patio is a great way to enjoy the ambiance of downtown Culver City on a warm, sunny day. They also have an extensive craft beer menu and carefully selected wine list.

I had a great experience at Wildcraft and I'd definitely go back. Despite being a trendy Westside joint, it doesn't feel pretentious at all. The pizza is worth driving out of your way for.

Wildcraft Pizza
9725 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
Open daily at noon
Wildcraft Pizza menu
Wildcraft Pizza website