Food and Drink

Where to Eat and Drink Near Banc of California Stadium

Fill up on tacos, mariscos, dumplings, fried fish, and drinks before or after your next LAFC or ACFC match.

Banc of California Stadium
Banc of California Stadium
Banc of California Stadium

It’s a common critique in the sports world that LA is too full of transplants and good weather and other things to do to be a good sports city. “They” say that the sunshine has made us soft and we’ll never match up to the hardened fanatics in Philly, Chicago, Boston, or New York, and that our home games always have too many fans of the visiting team. But those people have clearly never watched a big game from the outfield pavilion at Dodger Stadium, or from the 300 level of The Crypt, or in the North End at an LAFC match at Banc of California Stadium.

Banc of California Stadium opened as a soccer-specific facility in 2018, with modern design and one of the steepest bleacher angles among MLS stadiums, which means every seat is a great one for cheering on LAFC and the brand new Angel City FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. It also has a prime location in Exposition Park, built on the former site of the LA Sports Arena, so it’s right near the 110-10 interchange, and is perfectly accessible by public transit via the Expo Line or bus. That prime location also means it’s surrounded by some great food options, for before the game, after the game, or both. Here are our favorite places to eat near Banc of California Stadium:

Jackfruit Cafe
Jackfruit Cafe
Jackfruit Cafe

Jackfruit Cafe

Exposition Park
There was a minute when ghost kitchens seemed like something scary and untrustworthy, a trick played on an unsuspecting delivery customer. But several years on, it’s clear that they have become another path for independent restaurateurs to get their start. Jackfruit Cafe is a takeout-only vegan soul food cafe from chef and former actress Angela Means (she played Felisha in Friday) at Grand Food Depot, just across the 110 from the stadium. They’re serving a wide range of Southern and Southern California-inspired vegan food, like the Crunchwrap, Orange Chicken, and Birria Tacos. They’re also doing soul food classics like Collards, Mac and Cheese, Black Eyed Peas, and Jackfruit BBQ, so you can find exactly the right balance between fun sports food and actually eating something healthy.
How to order: Online through their website.

Holbox
Holbox
Holbox

Holbox & Chichen Itza

Mercado La Paloma/Exposition Park
It’s not really fair to lump these two restaurants together, because they’re each outstanding on their own. Chichen Itza is a long-running stall with some of the city’s very best Cochinita Pibil, Panuchos, and Habanero Salsa; Holbox is a mariscos counter with fresh, ethically-sourced seafood prepared to exacting standards with bright and acidic sauces. But both stands are in Mercado La Paloma, and both operate under the talented hand of Yucatecan expert chef Gilberto Cetina Jr. Put together, they are an unbeatable force in the Exposition Park area.
How to order: Pickup and delivery available via their separate websites, walk-ins also accepted.

Taqueria San Miguel

Historic South Central
The stand informally known as Tire Shop Taqueria wasn’t the first to do Tijuana-style tacos in LA, but they were among the first to receive citywide acclaim for it, with lines quickly growing to stretch down the block. There’s a good reason for that-the Carne Asada is outstanding, lashed with smoke that shines through the salsa and the dollop of avocado that they sling on top. The tortillas are made fresh by a dedicated team, and they have just the right pliancy and subtle corniness. You can get good Tijuana-style tacos all over the place nowadays, but this stand is still at the top of the class.
How to order: Walk-ups only.

Joan & Sisters

Jefferson Park
There are several great Belizean restaurants on and around the stretch of Western between the I-10 and MLK Boulevard, and it is worth going on an oxtail adventure to discover your favourite among them. Joan & Sisters is particularly good, with Meat Pies that flake just so and excellent banana leaf-wrapped Belizean tamales. If you’re headed that way on a Saturday, don’t miss their special Belizean Boil-Up, a loaded stew with fish, pigtail, cassava, plantains, and more.
How to order: Walk in or call 323-735-8952 to order over the phone.

Photo by Anise Mariko Lew, courtesy of Everson Royce Bar
Photo by Anise Mariko Lew, courtesy of Everson Royce Bar
Photo by Anise Mariko Lew, courtesy of Everson Royce Bar

Everson Royce Bar

Arts District
As a pre- or post-game spot it’s hard to beat a fun, raucous, and stylish patio. When you throw in chef Matt Molina’s simple but perfectly executed menu with a killer burger, and their great wine and summery cocktails, Everson Royce Bar becomes an essential stop even though it’s a little farther afield from the stadium than some other options. Knock back a michelada before heading over, and after the game their expansive book of spirits has all the interesting top-shelf liquor you could want to celebrate a big win or drown your sorrows, as the case may be.
How to order: Walk in, or book a table on Resy.

NorthernCafe
NorthernCafe
NorthernCafe

Northern Cafe

University Park
Game day food has a pretty strong overlap with college kid food-the goals tend to be something like quick, affordable, filling, and big flavours, often in that order. Northern Cafe, a counter-service Northern Chinese restaurant with a long menu focused on dumplings and noodles, hits each of those marks, with the big flavours jumping up a few spots. Their Juicy Pork Dumplings, Dan Dan Noodles, and Beef Roll are as good as just about any version you’ll find outside of the SGV, and the Chongqing Crispy Chicken is perfect sports food, fried bits of chicken tossed with an array of chiles.
How to order: Walk in or call 213-741-9050 to order over the phone.

La Flor de Yucatan
La Flor de Yucatan
La Flor de Yucatan

La Flor de Yucatan

Pico-Union
This little counter-service bakery on Hoover pumps out fantastic Mexican breads and pastries, but it’s more than that-they also have an excellent range of Yucatecan-style specialty dishes, tacos and tortas, panuchos and salbutes which you can get filled with their excellent meats like Cochinita Pibil or pork shoulder Poc-Chuc. They also carry a selection of cheeses, snacks, and sodas, and definitely don’t overlook their fluffy Yucatecan tamales.
How to order: Walk in or call 213-748-6090 to order over the phone.

Photo by Tanveer Badal, courtesy of La Casita
Photo by Tanveer Badal, courtesy of La Casita
Photo by Tanveer Badal, courtesy of La Casita

La Casita

Hotel Figueroa/Downtown LA
Perhaps the chaos of live sports and a big crowd is a little too much; what you need to get into the right headspace is an oasis, with a cactus garden and maybe a body of water, and definitely with a bright, summery cocktail. La Casita, the casual poolside restaurant and lounge at Hotel Figueroa, could be just the ticket. There are good, creative drinks and a short menu of Italian-ish snacks and flatbreads, and it’s a chill and sophisticated spot that feels miles away from the craziness of the 110 freeway even though you are only a minute off of the route home. It is a thoroughly appealing way to unwind after a stressful 90 minutes on the pitch.
How to order: Walk in or reserve a table online.

CW & Chris

South LA
Fish and chips and then a soccer match sounds like a great Saturday in the UK, and it works just as well here, albeit with a local twist. The eponymous father-son duo CW & Chris have been frying fish and fowl in South LA for 30 years and serving them over fries, with Southern sides like hush puppies, collard greens, and potato salad that are good enough to steal the show. Everything is fried to order, so you may want to call ahead if you’re cutting it close to kickoff, but it’s an excellent and affordable lunch, and a great way to build a sturdy base for all those overpriced stadium beers.
How to order: Walk in, order through the website, or place a phone order at 323-750-9403.

Experience USC
Experience USC
Experience USC

The Lab

USC
Sometimes the best food choice is also the most obvious one; near the stadium on game day, Occam’s fork is pointing towards The Lab, a popular gastropub with good beer, plenty of TVs, draft cocktails you can order by the liter, and straightforward well-made food. It can get pretty crowded there, especially on football Saturdays, and all of those people aren’t wrong-USC Hospitality, which owns and operates the spot, has done a great job keeping the vibe fun despite the odd and haphazardly implemented science theme.
How to order: Walk-ins only.

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Ben Mesirow¬†is an Echo Park native who writes TV, fiction, food, and sports. At one time or another, his writing has appeared in The¬†LA Times,¬†Litro,¬†McSweeney’s Internet Tendency,¬†Los Angeles Magazine, and scratched into dozens of desks at Walter Reed Middle School.

Food and Drink

Why Makrut Lime Makes a Star Ingredient in Cocktails

The Southeast Asian citrus is intensely aromatic and pairs with rum, gin, tequila, and more.

Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks

I grew up with a makrut lime tree in my backyard, admiring the double leaves and dimpled citrus fruit that frequently made their way into our family dinners. Makrut limes, which are sometimes referred to kaffir limes (although the term is controversial and has been widely retired), are native to Southeast Asia, but somehow my mom willed a tree to grow in our Southern California home with great success.

To me, makrut meant savoury Thai food: steamed fish curry wrapped in banana leaves and sprinkled with chiffonade makrut, simmering tom kha gai with floating bits of the hand-torn citrus leaves, and glistening green curry accentuated by the plant’s aroma.

But to others, makrut is an ideal ingredient in cocktails and other drinks. Such is the case for Fish Cheeks, a Thai restaurant in Manhattan known for its seafood dishes and eclectic, complementary cocktail menu. Beverage director Beau Fontano knew he had to include makrut in his creations, especially because the ingredient is so prominent on the food menu. Makrut lime finds its way in several drinks, most notably as a garnish atop the Thank You Kha, a riff on the acidic coconut stew tom kha gai, and the Manao Mao, a rum-based drink that uses makrut lime bitters.

“I don’t love using the word tiki, but if you think of those tiki rum cocktails, makrut definitely works well in those,” Fontano says. “But I also love it in martinis-there’s something really clean about it. And with makrut lime, if you’re just using the leaves, you can do a lot of rapid infusions.”

Fontano only uses the leaves, because the rinds and juice of makrut limes are famously bitter. “Regular lime has a little bit more sugar content, so that’s why it’s much more approachable in cocktails. Makrut limes tend to be more dry,” he explains. “But when you use the leaves in cocktails, you just smack it to wake it up a little bit and it gets that nice citrusy, refreshing aroma which is really fun.”

The leaves are cut fresh, so each drink has the scent of makrut lime leaves wafting off of them. “I’m sure at one point I will get around to it and try to figure out how to use the juice,” he laughs.

Further north at Paper Tiger in Portland, Maine, makrut lime leaves are also prevalent in a cocktail called Something Scandalous, a tequila-based drink intended to be, in the words of bartender Nick Reevy, “crushed easily.”

Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger

“I went with tequila, specifically, because in Maine it’s 80 degrees and humid pretty much all summer,” Reevy explains. “So I made something you kick back easily. Agave has a really nice softness that elevates the makrut lime, and the main flavour in that drink is the Thai basil.”

The drink is an alluring shade of green and is rounded out by cinnamon syrup and falernum. “Makrut lime is really herbal and bright in a way no other citrus is,” Reevy adds. “It’s interchangeable with other limes, but it just adds this whole other depth of flavour.”Makrut lime has even made its way into hard seltzer, albeit a limited edition drop from Lunar. Founder Kevin Wong knew he wanted to add another citrus drink to his rotation as he witnessed the successes of hard lemonades, but already had a yuzu iteration. Makrut lime seemed like a natural follow-up.

Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar

“It has a very intense citrus fragrance, almost perfumey or soapy,” Wong ponders. “Like I could see Le Labo putting out a makrut lime fragrance. It has such a commanding presence and body.”

To tamper down some of the boldness of the makrut lime, the hard seltzer uses makrut lime leaf extract, lime juice, and cane sugar. The aromatics of the lime are present without too much bitterness; instead, the seltzer is grassy, acidic, and dry. Wong recommends pairing the can with spicy foods, especially Szechuan dry pot.

The makrut lime seltzer is currently sold out, and Wong is unsure whether or not another batch is in the works. “I feel like makrut lime is the greatest secret unknown to the Western world,” he says. “It’s in medicine, candy, herbal drinks, cosmetics and aromatherapy. I think we did the seltzer too early, and I don’t know if the world is ready for us to bring it back yet. Maybe in a couple of years.”

But judging by the growing popularity of makrut lime in beverage menus, the comeback might be sooner than he expects.

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Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.

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