Farley Elliott is Taking it to the Streets in his DELICIOUS New Book

I am all about things that make you go “mmmmm”, and Farley Elliott’s debut book, “Los Angeles Street Food”, definitely falls in that category. Farley, a Senior Editor for Eater LA, does his city more than justice with mouth-watering descriptions of LA’s top food trucks, carts, stands, festivals and more, complete with photos that can only be described as food porn.

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Farley travelled far and wide for his soon to be go to guide, and I was lucky enough to catch up with him to talk about his book, the LA food scene, and of course tacos. You can check out our convo below.

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With all the great restaurants out there, what about street food gets you so excited?

It’s the innovation, the regional specificity. When you’re opening up big restaurants with big-name chefs, you sort have to take a maximalist approach — appeal to lots of people, and charge accordingly. With low overhead operations like carts and trucks, you can really focus on the one thing, or the two things, that you want to do, and do them with amazing accuracy. You can learn about the world through LA street food, because every place you visit is allowed to have its own footprint leading back to wherever it originated.

So many people come up with great ideas, but never follow through. What motivated you to actually make this book happen?

Well, for one, I always feel like I have something to say. That’s just part of being a writer. So there’s that idea — I get to say what I want, and you pick up the book and listen. That’s pretty great! I also wanted to write the book because, no matter how successful anyone is, we always try to find benchmarks to define ourselves. Having a book was a benchmark for me — a big one — and being able to see it on the shelf of my local bookstore was something that was important to me. Not wanting to fail yourself is a big motivator.

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You travelled to the far reaches of LA to hit up some of the vendors in your book. What was the craziest thing that happened on the road?

I did have a knife pulled on me once, but that was from a drunk guy and could have happened anywhere, at any time. It just happened to be in front of a taco truck. The idea of an unsafe taco stand or Taiwanese meat skewer truck has largely become a vicious rumor. Honestly, these are hardworking families trying to make a great product to feed their own neighborhoods; rotten food or outbursts of violence would be bad for business.

The photos in your book and on your drool-worthy instagram account are always amazing. Any tips or rules of thumb for taking awesome food photos?

Lighting is key. You can make bad food look good with the right light, but you will never be able to make amazing food look even remotely interesting in the dark.

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While delicious, the tacos, meat, pastries, etc. featured in the book might not be the most healthy. What street food would you recommend for someone trying to watch what they eat?

Well, there IS the idea of moderation in all things. But you’re right — it’s not the healthiest way to eat, especially if you spend most of your time in front of a computer screen. But there are fruit carts, juice vendors, trucks that serve goat birria with a hearty “bone broth” side of consommé. And yes, there are many, many vegetarian taco options, from huitlacoche (a funky sort of corn option) to stewed huazontle, which is a hearty green native to Mexico.

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If money and LA traffic weren’t an issue, what is your dream street food meal?

I’d start with elote from the Lincoln Heights corn man. It’s this amazingly simple corn on the cob that’s grilled, swiped with mayo and butter and dashed with salt and spices. From there, a round robin of tacos: one short rib from Kogi BBQ, one carne asada from the Tire Shop Taqueria, one al pastor from Tacos Tamix, and one carnitas from Tacos Los Guichos. Then the main: a torta cubana from Super Tortas D.F. in South LA. If there were any room left, I’d take some champurrado as a sweet finisher.

Oh, and an al pastor quesadilla from El Chato — as a late night snack, just in case.

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If you were to open up a food truck, what would it be?

I’d be no good at opening a truck. The margins are too thin, the days too long, and I’d blow up at a customer within the first few hours, probably. But in my best moments, I could see being a sort of short order breakfast cook within the food truck realm. Simple egg and sausage sandwiches, easy breakfast burritos, some high-quality drip coffee. There is something undeniably satisfying about feeding a crowd…

“Los Angeles Street food: A History from Tamaleros to Taco Trucks”, is available here, and be sure to follow Farley on Twitter and Instagram.

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No Reservations: Brianna

If Anthony Bourdain did a Brianna-themed episode, it would include the places below. These are the spots I dream about and always want to go to. All involve sentiment, good food, and a lot of fun. This is No Reservations.

Mio Sushi (Portland, OR)

Venture into the purple house on NW 23rd Street and you’ll find the best sushi you’ve ever eaten. I’ve only been once with my sister, but even after 10 years, it remains at the top of my list. I know this is a left turn, but I suggest getting the super veggie roll. It doesn’t have any seafood in it, but really doesn’t need any. With a balance of  crisp vegetables and creamy avocado, it makes any California or tuna roll seem pretty pathetic.

Experience Music Project (Seattle, WA)

I’m sure most of you read this entry where I touched on my love for the EMP, but in case you haven’t, it’s the first place I suggest for anyone visiting Seattle. It’s an interactive music museum for people who REALLY love music. The exhibits are thorough and exciting and a lot of the items displayed come directly from the musicians themselves. You can record a CD with the instruments on display, you can stand in the middle of a Jimmy Hendrix concert in their virtual arena, or maybe put on a costume and take some rock star photos (see below). It’s not a museum where you just walk and browse, you get involved and that’s why they call it an experience.

Janbo (Everett, WA)

Every time I visit my parents we go to this Vietnamese restaurant. If you’re into fancy meals or ambiance try going into Seattle, but if you’re into authentic, affordable food, then this is the place for you. The summer rolls are fresher and bigger than any I’ve ever had, and the bowls of noodles come with every garnish you could ever want. In a city that’s usually cold and rainy, Janbo is warm and comfortable and there’s avocado milkshakes. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the GIANT cream puffs they give you for FREE at the end of every meal. While there, my parents always run into someone they know, which is the tell tale sign of a good spot.

Umami (Hollywood, CA)

Umami is the new In-N-Out for people in the know traveling to LA. It’s a rite of passage. A gourmet burger experience when fast food just isn’t going to cut it. I generally don’t eat meat, but part of that decision is knowing that I will always make an allowance for Umami. My first (and only) time there was meeting my friend Jen at the Hollywood location. It was an unforgettable meal because of the food, company and experience, but also because on the way there I was pulled over and forced to take a sobriety test. There was not one ounce of booze in my body, I’m just that bad of a driver. Good thing Umami has amazing margaritas. After picturing myself spending the night in jail, it was the perfect way to calm down.

Fingerprints (Long Beach, CA)

If you’re a music nerd, go to Fingerprints. They have any used concert DVD, CD, Book, record, t-shirt, button, etc. that you could ever want and they keep the prices low enough for the type of people who want those things to be able to afford. It is a large, sunny space that sometimes hosts live performances ranging from local bands to the Foo Fighters. I want to be there now.

Beach Music (Huntington Beach, CA)

This place is too cool for a website. It’s a tiny tiny store that sells guitars, basses, ukeleles, and more. Also, don’t be surprised if while browsing you have to dodge around someone in the midst of a lesson. Luckily, they’ve set up a space outside where you can test things out and have impromptu jams like the one pictured above. This is a real local spot and according to my jam partner a frequent stop of many rockers (like Mike McCready) who call Orange County home.

Taco Asylum (Costa Mesa, CA)

This place is so good I want to move in. And last time I was out West I pretty much did. To call what they serve a taco stems more out of utility than fact. What you get is a combination of the freshest, most unexpected ingredients wrapped in a crispy dough that perfectly marries tortilla and naan. There’s a constantly updated beer list and freshly made juice and if you’re smart like me, you’ll order both and mix them together. I call it the “Brianna Special.” A name that might have come from having too many Brianna Specials…

Buffalo Wild Wings  (Oswego, IL)

We all know about B-Dubs, right? It’s sorta my family’s spot. The food and all is good enough, but it’s more about moments like the one pictured below that makes this place special.