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Books I like: Counter Intelligence April 18, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Books I like.

The closest thing to anything approaching good news on Monday was the word that Jonathan Gold has become the first restaurant critic to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Counter Intelligence, by Jonathan Gold

I don’t think I’ve missed a single one of Gold’s restaurant columns since he began writing for the Los Angeles Weekly in 1986. Thanks to him I discovered the joys of Langer’s pastrami; the curious fact that the best Chinese food in Los Angeles is not to be found in Chinatown; the surprising joys of coffee made from a $11,000 coffee pot; or that the best Mexican food to be found on the West Coast is to be found 143 miles from the border.

Gold brought me out of my apartment and into parts of Los Angeles to which I never would have travelled otherwise. I doubt I would have ever given the neighborhood I now live in a second thought had I not followed my nose and Gold’s advice:

The overeducated misfits who frequent East Hollywood’s ethnic restaurants have their well-known favorites: Zankou for chicken; Sanamluang for Thai noodles; Marouch for hummus, grilled quail and fattouch. For café con leche there’s Tropical; for weissbeer and wurst, the Red Lion. And Agung near downtown has become the one place to go when you want avocado in your coffee.

Believe it or not, I’ve never met Gold (overeducated misfits from East Hollywood? I wonder what he means by that? 😉 And indeed, with one exception I have frequented every restaurant he mentions in that paragraph (alas, Agung closed before I could get to it). I think the moment I realized that I had become a native Angeleño most likely occurred when I was visiting a neighborhood or a restaurant that I had first learned about from Gold.

An important caveat: The kind of restaurants Gold writes about have a distressing habit of disappearing without warning. Always call or check online to make sure the places he recommends are still there. It’s ridiculous that Counter Intelligence has not been updated since its first edition in 2000; here’s hoping the Pulitzer will finally goose his publishers to rectify that.

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