Becks Prime, Houston

One of the things that I find awesome and unexpected about traveling regionally in the US is the wide range of popular “chain-type” eateries to which I am completely oblivious. Californians are often cited for their self-centric tunnel vision in many areas, and I am not an exception. As a teenager, after having visited a Potbelly and a Soup Box (this was in Chicago), the experience was both eye-opening and left me wishing they each had locations somewhere in LA or San Diego (they didn’t).

These are the sort of chains that everyone nearby loyally knows and loves, but might not have national infamy (like McDonald’s or ChickFilA) or be so individualistic that they land on city culinary lists targeting visitors. Nonetheless, they warrant a mention and a visit because they are just good, solid places to eat. This is what a place like Beck’s Prime means to me.

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Bouchon, Beverly Hills

The original Bouchon in beautiful Yountville, CA is a sort of pilgrimage site. When I was there, I had the most wonderful almond croissant, fruity macaroons, and chocolate éclair. As a part of a more balanced meal, however, my parents insisted that we also get sandwiches, which thankfully consist of more than just fat and carbs. Though the sweets at Bouchon usually get all the attention, the sandwiches are also wonderful. Thomas Keller updates the classics with carefully selected ingredients that are just a little different, ultimately creating a flavors that are memorable and completely craveable.

This particular craving compelled me to seek out Bouchon’s Beverly Hills location. I went in the middle of the week before my homework started piling up and before my extra-curricular obligations began to have time commitments more substantial than my classes. It was very sunny and and just humid enough to make dining en plein air a bit uncomfortable. But once the food started coming, the troubles disappeared as quickly as my appetizer, my sandwich, and my dessert.

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Umami Burger, Santa Monica

When In ‘N Out opened in Texas, people flocked as though burgers were being doled out for free. In ‘N Out makes my favorite fast food burger; this belief has remained steadfast since I first tried it in high school. Favorite restaurant burger? Umami Burger is definitely up there.

As their burger sales continue to surge, there are plans to expand to more locations, and even open a sandwich shop, Umamicatessen. (No comment on how well that rolls off the tongue…) With burgers as juicy and unique as the ones found at their five locations around Los Angeles, I think it’s only a matter of time until people start lining up outside their usually energetic and packed locations around the country.

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Afternoon Tea at Harrods’ Georgian Restaurant, London

Before I left for London, I researched and researched places all the touristy things I wanted to do and some of the yummy places where I wanted to eat. Afternoon tea was very high up on my list, after all, in my mind it’s so quintessentially English. Websites like Chowhound recommended the Mandeville Hotel, and brief a browse through their menu convinced me to go there. But the day my mom and I wanted to get afternoon tea, we weren’t close to the Mandeville Hotel. It was an awkward in-between time after having spent hours at the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey and before we had to go see Legally Blonde: The Musical, a time that we both agreed should not be spent transporting ourselves to and back from where we were staying (a lovely hotel in Kensington) or unnecessarily wasted trying to find a new landmark.

We had just been to Harrods for the Chocolate Bar the day before and on our way out, we had meandered into a remote part of the children’s floor and found the Georgian. It was our last full day in London. Afternoon tea had thus far remained elusive. Towards Knightsbridge we went (again). And we were there for nearly three, incredibly relaxing, tasty hours.

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Always Phamished for Bánh Mì

I have the best memories of bánh mì. My first experience was getting it with my grandma when I was a young girl in a heavily Filipino and Vietnamese part of San Diego. I thought it was going to be like a Subway sandwich. Kind of floppy, wet with too much dressing and mayonnaise, and filled with overly jiggly meat. I wish I knew then what I know now, that back in the late 90s that my grandma knew her food.

While I’ll primarily be focusing on my love (addiction?) with bánh mì, I’m also going to express how amazing the bánh mì is from an LA-area food truck called Phamish.

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