Friday, July 11, 2008

Eats After the Playouts

[Before I write what I was going to write, I interrupt this blog post to share a link I just found while doing research for a future blog post.. I googled "Yokotake accordian band" and this is what came up:

It's an article featuring Dennis Yokotake's (our Easy Livin' keyboard player) oldest sister, Jane (aka "Yoko"). Quite amazing. If you know me, you may know her, too. Check it out!]

Ok, on to today's topic. In my Easy Livin' days, we used to refer to the gigs we got as "playouts" - which is what Dennis used to call them. I would call them "jobs," the others would call them "gigs" but eventually we all started using the term "playouts."

Whatever.. after our playouts or gigs or jobs, often we'd go eat. This post is a tribute to the wonderful and cheap eats I was introduced to during those days.

If you were a JA on the westside, you knew about Mago's, located on Centinela in Mar Vista. Open 24 hours, it was a favorite place to stop for a late-night teriyaki plate. They had the usual hamburgers, but also stuff like yakitori, chashu, won tons, etc. My favorite was to get the won ton plate - something like 6 (or was it 8 or 10?) fried wontons on top of rice, with this shredded lettuce and mayonnaise salad on the side. Soooo greasy! Mmm, I loved it, haha. Later on the owners closed it but opened Marina Mago, a totally boring Japanese restaurant.

Up the street near Venice was a place Teri introduced us to: Bruno's. An Italian place with a large dining area done in marble, this place looked expensive but was amazingly cheap for the huge portions of lasagna, spaghetti, and other standard southern Italian items they served up. The place was always crowded. They had terrific bread, too. I still remember those flattened-out rolls.

After one playout, we were sitting there eating when one of our buddies who came along, Rob Karatsu, looked like he was going into convulsions. He had his mouth full and was making strange noises and pointing at his plate. I thought he was choking and asked what was wrong, while he kept gesturing at his plate. Finally, he opened his mouth. "These meatballs are really good," he proclaimed. I just stared at him and finally said how mad I was because I thought he was dying or something and here he was raving about a meatball. "But they're the best I ever had," he assured me. Sadly, Bruno's, she no longer there.

Still around and still my favorite taco place, is Tito's Tacos over on Washington Place half a block west of Sepulveda. You may have read my post from a few days ago paying tribute to the place. Mmm, I love those tacos that others have accused of being the most overrated food in Southern California, if not the state or country. Again, thanks to Teri for introducing that one. The tacos have increased in price since those days but taste the same.

Around the block from Tito's, on Sepulveda, is Johnnie's Pastrami. I haven't been there in many years and the price has gone sky high so I can't comment on what it is like now but that was my favorite pastrami place. People rave about The Hat - let me tell you, the Hat was nothing compared to Johnnies! They had great pickles as well. One of these days I have to get back over there and see if it is as good as I remember. After Easy Livin' disbanded, Michael Kosaka and I used to still go there quite often for lunch. Pastrami, fries, Coke and those pickles. Sunday greasebomb.

I recall one late night post-playout when Dennis, Michael and I went to Johnnies. We were n the parking lot, sitting in Dennis' Capri (remember those?), listening to Blood Sweat and Tear's Blues Part II on his car stereo system. There was no better setting for that particular piece; if you are familiar with it, you know what I am talking about. It's the perfect soundtrack for late, late quiet nights. Sorry, I couldn't find the song on YouTube to link to.

One last place to mention: Chris and Pitts BBQ. This one we discovered after a playout with the Yokotake Accordian Band. Yup, the same band I googled at the top of this post. Dennis, Teri, me and this other guy who was a singer in that band named Alan had returned from Fresno, of all places, just in time for dinner. We drove around looking for a place to eat and ran across Chris and Pitts, which used to be located on Sawtelle near Pico.

Turned out we had found another good one. Good barbecue, but what was best about it was that it was cheap! It became a regular on our rotation. Yummy BBQ at dirt cheap prices. Sadly, that one is gone, too.

And that's the tour of the eats we used to have after our playouts. Good thing our metabolisms were faster back then.

On Highway 99 heading up to Fresno, the below song stands out in my memory. Every time I hear it, it reminds me of that trip. And that memory naturally segues to thinking of eating at Chris and Pitts after we got back. (ignore the silly first few seconds of the video and wait for the music, one of the finest songs ever written sung by one of the best singers)

Our country was going through a lot of turmoil back then, but we were young, and lost in our music and food.


Anonymous said...

Mago’s, mmmmmm. Remember your first kiss? I remember my first chashu avocado buritto. We took it back to the UCLA boat dock and our windsurfing class of 6 girls and a guys ate them there. Later on we bought our marina house and I had the tough decision of the A plate or the B plate. Did you know that their all beef burrito had a half pound of thinly sliced rib eye? I watched the Marina Mago’s open and did not care when it closed but later when Mago’s itself was shuttered, I was in complete disbelief. I drive there very hungry as usual and was surprised at the open parking lot. I see the paper thanking everyone for the patronage and the notification of the closing. Nooooooo. I stood there for at least 5 minutes before going back to my lonely car and sitting in it for another 3 minutes. I left mourning a terrible loss.

Got back from BWI and The Yard on 3 July of this year. Feeling a little peckish, I asked Yoko if she wanted a pastrami sandwich and dialed in Johnny’s. I had not been there in 20 years. The Honda pointed to somewhere on Adams. Shudder. Once I got off the 405 at Washington and hit nearest restaurants Johnnie’s popped up. The price has gone up to over $9 but it’s so good and half a sandwich will fill you.

Anonymous said...

Why is there no edit function? The windsurfing class had 6 girls and 2 guys. We took Windsurfing 1,2 and 3 together and I was the only person not to know of Mago's.

Rickie Miyake said...

I felt the same way you did about Magos (and Marina Magos - meh). It was shocking to discover first that they greatly reduced their hours, and then later that they closed altogether.

I need to get back to Johnnies one of these days. Another friend of mine went there not too long ago and reported that it was still very good but like you said, expensive. By the way, the Johnnies on Adams is owned by the same people as the one in Culver City (or so I have been told by a reliable source).

And finally - yes there is no edit function. I had to delete a comment for a different post because I couldn't correct it!