L.A. BENTO: Redefining Lunch in a Box

September 24, 2009

I live in Northeast L.A.  When my husband and I moved here from Hollywood (a whole 7 miles), someone suggested we join the NELA Yahoo Group.  I’m so glad we did!  We’ve found out about great events and restaurants and stores in our area that we’d have no idea existed otherwise.

A few days ago, I came across this post from the NELA list.  It’s about L.A. Bento, a neat little lunch-in-a-box place that just opened up in Glassell Park!  Bento is a Japanese word for single-portion takeout and L.A. is the word for…  Well, you decide.   Together, they mean “really yummy gourmet lunch!”

I went there this morning to meet some friends and got a coffee, and because I’d heard from Ara on the NELA list that the croissants were “out of this world,” I had to try one.  Ara was right.  The croissant was perfect.  Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  Rebecca, you would have been drooling!  And the coffee was fresh from Jones in Pasadena.  ‘Nuff said.

While waiting for my coffee, I asked the very friendly Matt about how the lunch-ordering thing works.  He pointed me to the menu.

That’s it!  Choose a sandwich and side.  Everything is $10.  Also, they will deconstruct the sandwhiches and serve them as entree salads, if requested.  They have:

  • Turkey
  • Roast Beef
  • Tuna
  • Muffletta
  • Chicken Salad
  • And a vegetarian option

But it’s not that simple.  The turkey has oven dried tomato, homemade pickles, havarti, and remoulade.  Yum!  I ordered the muffletta.  It was salami, capicola, ham, provolone, muffletta relish, pepperoncini and it seemed like there was a garlic spread as well.  Here’s my lunch (at my desk later this afternoon):

For my side I ordered the Quinoa salad.  They also have Orzo and Cous Cous.

When lunchtime came I found myself going “mmm” and “m-mmm” with each new bite.  The  sandwich was perfect and the Quinoa salad was amazing!  The potato chips were fabulous and I’m a potato chips snob.  And the cookie was the right kind of soft.  A perfect-tasting, perfectly-sized little chocolate chip cookie.  Ooo, it was a good lunch.  Gotta treat yourself once in a while right?

So the idea with these guys is that they are there so that if you live in the Glendale/Glassell Park/Highland Park/Eagle Rock area, you can drive by there in the morning from 7 AM to 10 AM and pick up your gourmet lunch for the day.  But it gets better!  All their proteins are hormone-free and sustainably farmed.  All their breads are baked daily at Breadbar (artisan bread-makers).  And they use 100% recyclable paper products for their packaging!

Furthermore, L.A. Bento delivers!  Both figuratively (in all that I’ve mentioned above) and literally!  If you get your order in by 11:30 AM!  For orders of 10 or more, the delivery fee is waived.  This would be a great way to cater an office lunch or a small (or large!) film shoot.   Healthy and yummy!

Or just come hang out on their sidewalk, listening to the Glassell Park roosters, from 7 am to 10 am and enjoy some great coffee and an amazing croissant.

You might wonder why I have no picture of the box, since it *is* a “lunch-in-a-box” place!   Well, these guys are so fresh-on-the-market that their snazzy boxes haven’t arrived yet.  They arrive Tuesday September 30th.  But no worries about this food establishment, it’s run by the creative and passionate minds behind Room Forty.  Check ’em out!

Here’s the deets one more time:

  • 7 am – 10 am – buy coffee, pastries and an awesome to-go lunch at the window
  • until 11:30 am – order lunches for delivery (for orders of 10 or more, delivery is free)

L.A. Bento

3329 Division St, LA CA 90065



    September 9, 2009


    Along with the loss of life and homes, this photo encompasses the reason I feel great sadness regarding the Station Fire.  As of this post, here’s the information from the incident report (note that the Est Containment Date has been pushed back one week!):

    Basic Information

    Incident Type Wildfire
    Cause Arson
    Date of Origin Wednesday August 26th, 2009 approx 03:30 PM
    Location Los Angeles River Ranger District / Angeles National Forest
    Incident Commander Dietrich / Fender

    Current Situation

    Total Personnel 4,497
    Size 160,357 acres
    Percent Contained 62%
    Estimated Containment Date Tuesday September 15th, 2009 approx 06:00 PM

    Eagle Rock ‘n’ Rollin’ Along!

    August 27, 2009

    A while back I posted about the Eagle Rock ‘n’ Roll Farmers’ Market.  It was their second week and I think it was a slow start…

    I returned this past Sunday and I found a much more vibrant, busy, eclectic and populated farmers’ market.  Well done guys!

    Their signage has improved and is pointing in the right direction finally.

    Also, instead of hiding back behind Macy’s they’re now out front, along Colorado, in plain view and easy for newcomers to find!

    They’ve got about five times as many tents/vendors as before.

    There’s now a fish guy, a guy who sells eggs (I’m planning on getting to know him)…

    …more prepared food vendors, more clothing vendors…

    …and more for the kids to do.

    They even have a live rock ‘n’ roll band.

    I was looking for the cheese guy and couldn’t find him so I stopped by the information booth and no one was there…  But then I found the manager looking after someone’s table and he told me that the cheese guy would be back “next week”.  Yay!

    All in all, I think the Eagle Rock ‘n’ Roll Farmers’ Market is doin’ great and here to stay!


    May 12, 2009

    Ryan and I had dinner recently at Cafe Beaujolais in Eagle Rock.  It was delightful.

    This place used to have a reputation for rude waiters and slow service.  But it seems to have improved in the past few months.  Indeed, the current Yelp! reviews attest to its popularity:

    “…on a Friday evening, in a sleepy little section of Eagle Rock, you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a young urban hipster.”

    And the place was truly full when we arrived (about 9 PM); but with only one group ahead of us, we only had to wait about 10 minutes for a table.  We were prepared for slow service and some attitude, but the waiters seemed to be going out of their way to be nice.  Seems they have successfully adapted to American sensitivities.

    They boast real French everything.  The waiters, who are French, wear t-shirts that say, “Everything French, even the attitude.”  Each of them look like some famous actor, which was odd.  There was French Jake Gyllenhaul, French Michael Cera, French Karl Urban, and French Johnny Depp.

    While we were waiting, one couple left and I noticed French Karl Urban, who seemed to be the Head Waiter, asked them if they enjoyed their experience.  Their response was something like, “It wasn’t quite horrible before, but it was much better tonight.  And as always, the food was amazing.”  It seemed like those two were regulars to whom French Karl Urban attributes much taste.

    My favourite was cute little French Michael Cera, who brought us bread and water.  He bustled around that place doing lap after lap, topping off everyone’s water, bussing dishes and resetting tables.  He was ridiculously cute and focused.  I wanted to pinch his cheeks.

    I had asparagus soup (the best I’ve ever tasted).  I appreciated that our waiter, French Johnny Depp, went out of his way to ensure that I was aware there was no dairy or sugar in the soup – just the veggies, chicken stock and some spice.  Very thoughtful.  Ryan had the French Onion Soup.  It was the best French Onion Soup that I’ve had anywhere.  And I’ve had French Onion Soup all over North America.

    For our entrees, Ryan had the rack of lamb.  It was perfect.  I had filet of beef flambe.  It was awesome.  Cooked just like I’d asked for – medium.  Tender on the inside and crispy on the outside.  Great flavour!  It came with scalloped potatoes au gratin and perfectly cooked asparagus and carrots.  Lovely.

    We didn’t have dessert but I was watching the waiters, especially French Jake Gyllenhaul, bring some excellent-looking desserts out from the kitchen.  Most obvious was the plethora of empty crème brûlée dishes distributed throughout the restaurant.

    Our waiter, French Johnny Depp, said, “bonjour,” when we arrived and “cava?” when asking how our food was.  I took great delight in answering, “Salut!” and “Cava bien!”  And “bonne soir!” as we excited, while he hollared after us, “Merci, Bonne soir, au revoir.”  Truly delightful.

    “Suburbia is the New Slum” or “Inner City as the New American Dream”

    June 16, 2008

    As an urban dweller, I found this article from CNN quite interesting.  

    Although I’m relatively young, I still find myself drawn to the appeal of the non-urban lifestyle, but I think much of that may simply be because I live in a city that has many of the liabilities of the urban communities described in this article, such as pollution, traffic, crime, congestion, but where the particularly high cost of living and lack of public transportation, or a “Walkable Urbanism”, minimize the benefit of the urban lifestyle that this article describes as so appealing.


    June 11, 2008

    In their recent newsletter, the kids at That Yarn Store posted a list of celebratory dates in June

    June 13 Blame Someone Else Day
    June 13 Sewing Machine Day
    June 17 Eat Your Vegetables Day
    June 17 World Juggler’s Day
    June 18 Go Fishing Day
    June 18 International Panic Day
    June 18 National Splurge Day
    June 19 World Sauntering Day
    June 20 Ice Cream Soda Day
    June 21 Finally Summer Day
    June 21 Go Skate Day
    June 21 National Hollerin’ Contest Day
    June 22 National Chocolate Eclair Day
    June 23 National Pink Day
    June 23 Take Your Dog to Work Day
    June 24 Swim a Lap Day
    June 25 Log Cabin Day
    June 25 National Catfish Day

    The kids over at Holiday Insights can confirm most of these.

    Speaking of small businesses, if you’re looking for yarn or a place to teach you to knit, forget Target, shop at that yarn store over in Eagle Rock. What’s the name of that place again?

    The thing is, they seem very near to closing.  They seem to understand market economy theory, just not how to market themselves. They appear to be trying to market themselves in a loosey goosey sort of way with their irregular hours and down home website. But if they want to compete with the big boxes, they’ve got to get up to speed with what today’s consumer wants and expects. In podunk Kansas, I’m sure that they’d have their finger on what their local consumer wants and expects. It’d be pretty obvious and most small business owners would understand it tacitly, being a direct part of the marketplace themselves. But in Los Angeles, the marketplace is one of the most cosmopolitan cultures in North America! You can’t assume you know what your market is going to need, want or expect. So you HAVE TO assume the worst. You have to assume that they want the box store feel. So how does a small business in a little midwest niche of Los Angeles compete with box stores? Well, among other things, by having regular hours. That Yarn Store is well-located. It has a big sign and seemingly lots of neighbourhood outreach. But they have to be able to reach out on many different levels: to the consumer who appreciates local and to the consumer who wants convenience, organization, and easy-to-remember hours. Consumers who know that Target is open 9 am to 9 pm don’t want to have to check That Yarn Store’s website before they leave their apartment to know what their hours are. Their hours should be easy to remember.

    Well that’s the end of my rant, here’s a link to their rant about why they might have to close their doors soon. I hope they don’t. I have several friends who knit.

    And here’s their blog.


    May 30, 2008

    Once upon a time, a squirrel was trying to establish a home in a tree in the middle of the urban sprawl of the city of Los Angeles. It was a simple tree in the simple garden courtyard of a simple apartment complex; but the task was not simple.

    As the squirrel tried to move in his belongings, he discovered a whirring of activity around his head. And this whirring would not stop! He couldn’t tell where it was coming from! Here! There! It seemed to come from everywhere! He looked down to the earth and there lay a gray tabbycat, who was watching with earnest amusement.  The squirrel quickly realized that this cat was not watching him, but the whirring of activity that buzzed around his head!

    He yelled, “Who are you!? Get away!” And darted around and around to try a get a look at the blur that bothered him. “I’m trying to move in! Stop bothering me!”

    As he darted around the tree, he tried to make out the thing that was whirring by him, darting here and there. It stopped directly in front of him and hovered in the air.

    A hummingbird.

    “You are messing up my home,” the hummingbird clearly stated.

    “What?!” the squirrel incredulously retorted. “Your home?! I found it. It’s empty and I’m moving my stuff in!”

    “It’s not empty. It’s my home,” the hummingbird calmly announced and continued to annoyingly buzz around his head.

    “No! Stop! Stop annoying me!” barked the squirrel! “Stop! Stop! Stop!”

    Neighbours in the boxy trees began to stair out of their glassed holes.

    Down below the cat evenly trotted away, content to know that the hummingbird would be around for a while, but still wanting to get out of the irate squirrel’s path.

    The squirrel ran up and down the tree snapping at the tiny bird, “This is my new home! I’m moving in. You can’t stop me!” while the bird continued to dart around the squirrel’s head, here and there, until it noticed a particularly juicy-looking purple flower across the garden.

    After refueling, it darted away.

    The squirrel was left in utter frustration and confusion. Frozen upsidedown halfway up the truck of what it thought was it’s new tree, he waited. He wasn’t sure whether he was waiting for the hummingbird, or the cat, or a nice nut to fall… but he waited. It was early yet, he had all day to move in.


    May 2, 2008

    If it sounds like a news headline, it’s because it was news!  Today!

    We heard the helicopters start circling about 9 AM.  Around 10 AM we left to go get some keys recut and the old Russian dudes that repair shoes near our place had the news on.  They told us that the four (4) helicopters that we saw were monitoring a mountain lion sighting not 0.10 miles from our apartment!

    Mountain lion!?

    We crossed the street, keeping a close eye to the West below where the “ghetto-birds” were circling, and entered S’work Coffee for some sweet nectar.  They were unaware of the situation and we did our neighbourly duty by informing the barista of the danger.  He didn’t take us too seriously.

    We sat near the door for a while watching the copters circle.  Finally, we decided to chance the walk home.  Hours later, they called off the search, noting that it might have been a bobcat, not a mountain lion.

    Life is exciting in the foothills!

    11 MILES

    December 17, 2007

    Yup.  I did it.  I ran 10 miles.  In fact, we went a little farther and did 11 miles… just because.  Well, because we accidentally took a wrong turn but that’s another story.  The point is, I did it.  And now it feels accomplishable.

    My running mates are deciding whether we should continue on a half-marathon training pace or up the pace to a full-marathon training.  I think my feet wish to continue on half-marathon pace.  I might need new shoes.  Or new inserts.  Something.  11 miles of pounding certainly takes its toll!

    This time we were joined by one of the faculty/staff members of Act One and he chose the route.  It took us by Warner Bros, Disney, the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, and of course, through Griffith Park and down Forest Lawn.  It was a lovely run and we saw several other training groups out.  As we past them (going the opposite direction), we would all wave at each other.  I enjoyed the solidarity.

    And I enjoy running.  I’m starting to think I’m affected.


    November 17, 2007

    For your next interior design project, find someone who drives one of these.


    October 20, 2007

    I’d never heard of it, nor seen it.  But here it is…

    I was outside in front of my building with my Armenian landlords waiting for the tow-truck to come tow the car that had parked in front of our driveway.  Their little girl came out eating what looked like a tomato!  So I asked what she was eating.

    Persimmon!  Inside she ran to bring me back two.  One for me, one for Ryan.  It tastes like a grape-flavoured apple.  Very yummy!


    October 5, 2007

    Typical California evening. Outside, wearing flip-flops but wrapped in a blanket, chatting with my husband, enjoying the jazz radio reverberating from my neighbour’s windows off the buildings and the dark night air… I waited. Read the rest of this entry »


    September 26, 2007

    Ryan’s former roomie Steve the Hipster and his lovely and classy-cool wife Sarah made a return trip to LA this past weekend! We met up with them and their friends, John & Charity, at our favourite neighbourhood haunt, The Alcove. Read the rest of this entry »

    How to spot a Hipster

    September 25, 2007

    Step 1: Know what kind of hipster you’re looking for.  To that end, see this (in my opinion) comprehensive list of hipsters assembled by the very smart & scholarly Brett McCracken.  There’s three parts…

    Hipsters, Part 1

    Hipsters, Part 2

    Hipsters, Part 3  

    Step 2: Visit their native habitat

    Step 3:  Step 3 is really cool. You probably haven’t heard of it yet, but by the time you do, the hipsters will have moved on to Step 4, because it is much cooler.  

    Oh, the horror….

    September 22, 2007

    Winter Storm & Flooding  

    Key Quote:  “In Los Angeles, the storm was not as bad as feared.” 

    What wimps we are….  

    (with good reason


    September 20, 2007

    My friend Heather had insight from a gaggle of would-be audience members in June.  Read her thoughts here.

    BERRY OF THE PINK – update

    August 15, 2007

    Yesterday, my husband tried Pinkberry for the first time.  Later that night, he brought me.  Bitter.  Yogurt-y.  Low-cal.  Well, one out of three ain’t bad!   A good excuse to have chocolate chips…

    Check that off the list!


    July 30, 2007

    California Desert

    On Sunday, after stopping at Peet’s for Latte Macchiatos and Corner Bakery for sandwiches, soup, and salad, we drove North. Through Angeles Forest along the Big Tujunga Cyn Rd which becomes Angeles Forest Hwy. Read the rest of this entry »


    July 20, 2007


    What does it mean?


    July 4, 2007

    Pinkberry Logo

    UPDATE (August 29, 2008): The New York Times had a great article entitled “The All-Natural Taste That Wasn’t,” on the hypocritical fake-ness of what goes into Pinkberry’s so-called “all natural” fro-yo.  Seriously, y’all!  California should open its eyes to the possibility of Frozen Custard!  It’s a little taste of heaven in a cup.

    In other news, a few weeks ago, I sweetened some plain whole milk yogurt and froze it in an ice cube tray.  Four hours later, I blended the yogurt cubes in the blender and enjoyed some smooth frozen yogurt.  Yummy – but too much work.

    UPDATE (August 15, 2007): Yesterday, my husband tried Pinkberry for the first time.  Later that night, he brought me.  Bitter.  Yogurt-y.  Low-cal.  Well, one out of three ain’t bad!   A good excuse to have chocolate chips…  Check that off the list!

    ORIGINAL POST (July 4, 2007): So Ryan and I haven’t actually been to a pinkberry yet; but (1) we’ve seen them… popping up all over the place. (2) We’ve heard about them… just last week an industry pro suggested to my class that instead of going for drinks with industry contacts, go for pinkberry! (3) And we’ve talked about going…



    Do you want to go get some pinkberry?


    That sounds fun.

    Read the rest of this entry »