Monday, September 25, 2006

Voted Best Food In LA?

If you live in the "eastside" of LA you've probably driven by what appears to be a schlubby drive-thru restaurant sporting a sign that makes two ridiculous claims. Situated on the southeast corner of Fletcher Ave and Riverside Drive., Rick's Drive in & Out alleges that not only "Everyone In LA Eats at Rick's," but that everyone in LA "Voted [Rick's] Best Food in LA."

While the veracity of these claims has yet to be determined, Rick's is a fine eating establishment that deserves a place in the lineup of regular eastside breakfast joints. Rick's is cheap, offers very little in the way of frills, and may be loud and crowded at times. What it does offer is the best breakfast potato option in pretty much all of LA. Preferences may vary from person to person on the choice between hashbrowns and homefried potatoes. Beyond that decision, the focus shifts to the merits and particulars of hashbown or homefry styles and flavors. The potatoes at Rick's are a kind of hybrid homefry/hashbrown, combining aspects of both breakfast potatoes.

To my knowledge a homefry is a relatively large chunk of a potato, usually-but not always-served with the skin intact. Cooked in butter and/or oil, the homefry comes with a salty brown exterior and a soft mushy middle, with the bit of skin providing a textural bonus. Visually, homefries served at breakfast appear as a pile of potato fractions-a dark contrast to the brightly colored eggs they usually accompany.

The hashbrown on the other hand usually appears flat and wide, almost like a large potato pancake. Usually shredded like a grated taco cheese, the hashbrowns I think of have much less soft, white potatoey middle, and more golden-brown crispy exterior. The shredding of the potato increases the surface area of the order exponentially, so a much higher percentage of the tuber comes in contact with the oil/butter, thereby creating a crispier, somehow less hearty flavor. The shoestring french fry to the homefry's steakhouse mega-fry.

The potatoes at ricks are homefries in that they are rather chunky piles of potato. They are not shredded, yet they have no skin. They appear to be potatoes cut into fairly large pieces, that are then blanched to the point where they begin to lose their structure. At this point they are doused with a seasoning of some sort and tossed on a well-buttered grill and eventually flipped. The result is breakfast potato heaven. Because the potatoes hit the grill in a deconstructed state they are extremely susceptible to the butter in the way that the shredded hashbrown is, yet somehow the cooking process on the grill creates texture so that there are chunks of potato created by the browning.

It is this potato offering that provides the backbone of Rick's breakfast burrito. If you don't want meat in your burrito, for somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.50 you get a giant tortilla filled with a ton of Rick's potatoes, and enough scrambled eggs to fill out the remaining space. Often breakfast burritos contain eggs that are prepared in a slip-shod manner, scrambled on the grill, and worse, allowed to get crispy and dry. At Rick's, the scrambled eggs are always fluffy and moist, and never runny.

With the warm tortilla wrapping my delicious eggs and potatoes, I am almost in breakfast heaven. But even if the potatoes were mediocre and the eggs overcooked I would probably still recommend Rick's for breakfast because every table is allocated two delicious fresh salsas presented in squeeze bottles. A smoked red chile salsa and a tomatillo-cilantro salsa verde. Both salsas are on the mild side, yet are quite flavorful. I personally like to douse every bite of my breakfast in some of each, changing the green:red ratio a little bit with each bite.


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