Saturday, October 3, 2009

New Films From The Past: Youth of the Beast

Youth Of The Beast
Dir: Seijun Suzuki
Starring: Jo Shishido, Akiji Kobayashi, and Tamio Kawaji

Seijun Suzuki made three movies a year for The Nikkatsu Company, a B-studio that cheaply produced Yakuza films in the 60's. These cookie-cutter films were used as filler for the second part of a double feature. Seijin made forty gangster films in twelve years for Nikkatsu before he was fired for making Branded To Kill. Nikkatsu didn't like the risk-taking Seijun developed as a filmmaker. His films were visually excessive, nihilistic, and overtly stylized in exchange for story. Branded to Kill failed at the box office, but today is considered by many to be an avant-garde masterpiece. Like the brash gangsters in his films, Seijun's attitude toward the system was subversive. The dynamic of having a rebellious autuer working under a strict studio created a genre never seen before Suzuki's time and rarely accomplished afterwards: the avant-garde gangster film. Youth of the Beast is the earliest example of this genre.

Seijun's black and white films are lit like tough noirs such as The Maltese Falcon and his color films can be as wildly vibrant as The Wizard of Oz. His central characters are often disillusioned cops or gangsters on a mission. His villains are intelligent, flamboyant, and cocky. Seijun’s work has influenced filmmakers like Wong Kar-wai, Quentin Tarantino, and Jim Jarmusch.

Youth of the Beast is viewed as Seijun's breakaway from the conventional Yakuza film. Not quite as abstract as later works, Youth of the Beast is the unique compromise of having both story and Seijun’s visual style. The story follows an ex-cop, Jo, who becomes a thug and pits two rival Yakuza gangs against each other.

"Why make a movie about something one understands completely? I make movies about things I do not understand, but wish to." - Seijun Suzuki

The only thing sharper than the dialogue is the clothing. Every gangster wears a suit, some better than others. There’s an epic gunfight in the end with at least 40-50 gangsters in suits shooting at each other. Seijun’s eye for great visuals make for some unforgettable scenes and moments, like the scene where Jo is first introduced to a gang in a nightclub.

The trailer promises “Every Kind Of Vice." It’s a 4 minute trailer, but I would stop by minute 2 because they show a lot -

If you are in the mood for something artsy, but still masculine and entertaining, Youth of the Beast should not be looked over. It’s a must watch for any Noir or Detective Genre fan.

4/5 – Worth Watching

Watch if you liked: Kill Bill, Dick Tracy, Gangster No. 1, The Maltese Falcon, Fallen Angels

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Los Anjealous: Peanut Butter Wolf vs. LA vs. $60

I reminded myself about the Peanut Butter Wolf vs. LA event with an email. June 10th came out of nowhere and I had told myself I was going to shoot PB Wolf every night of the week for fun. Besides needing sufficient sleep for my day job, the biggest problem was money. After two back-to-back vacations and a couple substantial investments, I was living very light. $60 a week light. And we’re talking about going out every night in LA, which means parking, show charges, gas, maybe a brewski. Even in a best-case scenario, the odds were that I would go bust by Friday night. Here’s what happened.

Sunday, June 10th Day 1
The first night was at Crane’s Tavern. I left around 9:00pm and street parking added another twenty minutes to my commute. I was hoping I didn’t miss the start of PB Wolf’s set, so I was relieved when I saw Diplo and Hollatronix spinning.

I asked “When is Diplo meets Dipset (Diplomatic Immunity 3: Diplosaurus) coming out?” He then made this pose. I think it means March 3rd.
I had to take a leak and I asked this dude in the bathroom if he knew when PB Wolf was going on. He said Wolf already went on, like at 6:00pm. My pee stream stopped out of befuddlement. It stung. As easy as that, I missed out on night 1. I was close to scrapping the entire project since it would be incomplete. Plus, I would get to keep my $60 for things I need to live, like food. But after the consideration, my week seemed too empty.

Monday June 11th Day 2
The second night was Funkmosphere at Carbon, which is about four minutes away from where I live. I arrived around ten, not paying cover or parking. Wolf got there around ten-thirty and he wasn’t going on until midnight. I talked with him at the bar and told him what I was doing. We exchanged information and I got his card, which became useful later on. I had two beers, eight dollars plus a two-dollar tip, ten dollars spent total so far. Funkmosphere was dope.

His shirts were themed according to the genre of the night.

Tuesday June 12th Day 3
Day 3 was Cover Me Badd at Cinespace. I hunted for street parking, but caved in and payed six bucks for parking. The line into Cinespace looked about an hour-deep, so I went straight to gate. I told the guy at the gate that I was on the Stone’s Throw’s list, and gave him my name, which of course wouldn’t be on there. When he came back and said my name wasn’t on the list, I told him it was a mistake and showed him PB Wolf’s card. The guy didn’t even look at it and let me in, but said I would still have to pay. I figured I lucked out and payed the ten dollar entry fee. That’s twenty-six dollars total spent so far. I got home around 2:00am, downloaded the photos, got to bed around 3:00, but didn’t fall asleep until 3:30.


Wolf put on an Alvin and the Chipmunks cover song and that dude was like, “Yo, I used to rock this shit.”


Wednesday June 13th, Day 4
The lack of sleep was adding up. My alarm clock went off, but I kept snoozing it until the last possible interval. I even skipped the time allotted for a shower. I was tired the whole day at work and money was getting slim. I had spent 14 dollars on miscellaneous stuff since Sunday leaving me with 19 dollars for the rest of the week. Day 4 was Dub Club at The Echo. After getting past the doorman with a business card and a camera, I got to the main floor around midnight. There were more people smoking weed than drinking alcohol, which made me feel comfortable since I showed up high.




I had to get gas on the way back. 10 dollars didn’t go very far, leaving me with 9 bucks until Saturday at midnight. When I got back home, I had the hardest time falling asleep and knew the next day was going to suck.

Thursday June 14th, Day 5
My alarm woke me out of REM sleep, which makes you feel twice as tired. When I got to work, I took a fifteen-minute nap under my desk and woke up with carpet patterns on my face. All I could think about was sleep.

When I got off work I took a three-hour nap and woke up around 11:00pm. I was still exhausted. Serpico was on HBO5. I remember liking it just ok when I saw it about five years ago, but I was really into it this time around.
Maybe I was making it better by pretending it was the prequel to Pacino’s character in Heat.
The movie was ending, it was around 12:30am now. I was literally 50/50 for going out at this point. ‘Tough it out, kid’ I told myself. I decided to suck it up and head out. I was putting on my shoes right as the Serpico credits ended. The next movie came on as I grabbed my keys.

It was Scarface.
I’m not a ‘The World is Yours’ shirt wearing fan, but when the intro hits with all the Cubans coming to America, I’m hooked. The intro song reminds me of “It’s Mine” by Mobb Deep where they use that same beat. Nas kills it on that track. I stayed in, watched it, and fell asleep around the ‘Take it to Limit’ montage.

Friday June 15th, Day 5
Woke up to some bittersweetness. Yes I was rested, but the project and I couldn’t survive on $9 bucks. It was one or the other. It’s hard for me to leave something that’s incomplete, but there was no story-book ending in this one. I used the rest of the money for tuna cans, bread, and bubblegum tape.

I guess what I learned from this experience is that Pacino always delivers.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Exercising for people who hate exercising - Mt. Lukens

Like many people, exercise is not a pastime I enjoy. It’s not just the painful physical exertion that gets to me, it’s also the associative things: the smell of gyms, lying my head on benches other people sweat on, and not being able to listen to songs I used to love because of workout connotations. The biggest turnoff for someone like me who is not a gym rat, is the judgment I feel from regular gym rats. Every time I walk to the treadmill, I feel their eyes on me, checking my body for deficiencies they don’t have. The gym is supposed to be the place to get healthy, but they’re places to go to remind yourself how unhealthy you really are.

When I was 19, I went on the Atkins diet, the first diet and exercise plan I ever went on. I lost 40 pounds, but I contribute losing weight to working out seven days a week rather than the unhealthy no-carb diet, which made me feel weak when I wasn’t on ephedra (which is no longer legal). I attempted another diet when I was 23, a low sugar diet that made me pass out after 8 days and that was the end of dieting since. With rare exceptions, exercising was never fun. Jogging was forever excruciating, stair climbing made me queasy, and weight lifting was often embarrassing. The only times I liked exercising was when I forgot I was exercising. I remember the times I enjoyed playing basketball with my friends or when I would go biking for long distances. As I’ve gotten older, I realized that the secret to exercising for people who hate exercising is to be active in things that are fun. Personally, the activities I enjoy are biking, hiking, swimming, and most sports that we all played back in P.E. I recently read about gyms that offer Dodgeball leagues, and that’s something that makes me eager to return to gyms. Often times, the motivation that kept me on the treadmill was spite for gym rats. But who needs spite when you can tag a gym rat in the face with a dodgeball during exercise?

I’m starting a feature that lists fun activities around Los Angeles for all of you who hate exercising just as much as me. My goal isn’t to whip everyone into shape, but rather to make you feel less guilty about that In-and-Out Burger you ate last Saturday night.

My first feature is hiking to the highest point in Los Angeles – Mount Lukens.


Fortunately, I didn’t have to travel to get on this six-hour round trip hike, it’s basically in my front yard, but here’s directions for everyone else: Mount Lukens is located in the Angeles National Forest of Tujunga. From Studio City, it’s a 45 minute drive. Get on the 210, exit Sunland Blvd, head north towards Tujunga. Make a left on Oro Vista, follow it until it turns into Big Tujunga Canyon Road and turn right onto Doske road once you see the Wildwood Picnic Area sign. You will need to display an Angeles National Forest Adventure pass, which you can buy at the 7-11 off Oro Vista and Sunland. You can purchase Adventure passes daily or annual, both of which are relatively cheap.

The Mount Lukens hike was my most ambitious hike in recent memory: 8 miles round trip with a 3200 feet elevation gain. I just got into hiking recently, so most hikes up until Mt. Lukens were two hour round trip hikes with little elevation gain. I had three friends join me and they made the difference between brutal and spectacular, but the hike was kind a marriage between the two: brutacular.
The hike is sporadically shaded, which makes for good areas to rest and rehydrate. The hardest parts of the hike are the beginning and the end because of sharp elevation gains. Everything in between is consistent: zigzagging paths with a mild elevation gain. The trail narrows dangerously at points and cactus often protrudes into the path, so being constantly aware is important. The hike is seasonally suggested for the winter and spring. In the summer (I don’t know why anyone would want punish themselves that badly, unless they are Catholic, which I get), rattlesnakes and ticks populate the trail. A friend of mine once went up in the summer and on the way down, almost stepped on two rattlesnakes that were well camouflaged in the dirt. I can’t imagine being three hours up, getting bit, and being stuck up there with no cellphone reception or an immediate way down, that’s the stuff nightmares are made of.

The hike provides a rare combination of great views of the San Gabriel mountains and the city of Los Angeles. Most hikes in the San Gabriels only provide a better view of the mountain valleys, but the top of Mt. Lukens boasts views (on a clear day) that reach as far west as the Pacific Ocean:

As far south as Palos Verdes:

As far east as the San Bernadino Mountains:

The north is dominated by majestic views of the San Gabriels:


Only on Mt. Lukens does downtown Los Angeles look miniscule and not the financial kingdom it really is (it's really small in the far left hand corner):

If you don’t hike or exercise much and get winded by one flight of stairs, I do not recommend this hike. It’s very strenuous and it took everything I had in me to complete it. I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got back. My legs were wobbly, my kneecaps felt like they were going to explode, and my feet felt like mashed potatoes. When I got home, I collapsed on the floor and almost fell asleep. I stretched my legs but I couldn’t get up for at least 15 minutes. I was sore for three days. It was satisfying to finish, but I’m not sure if I would do it again. If I did do it again, I would hike up, stay the night, then come back down the next day because doing it all in the same day was tough. I can’t imagine driving home afterwards, my legs would be shaking from the physical activity. I recommend doing this hike when you have one day to recover, because the next day, your entire body will be stiff.

No matter how strenuous and exhausting this 6 hour hike was, it beats going to a gym and spending an agonizing 45 minutes on the stairmaster while the toned mother next you kicks your ass by going twice as long and twice as hard.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

This Right Here Is A True Story: The Action Is The Juice

Told Anonymously in First Person

This story takes place in the months leading up to the release of Star Wars Episode 1. The movie was hyped beyond any film in history, and while nobody knew anything about it, Episode One was shaping up to be a Star Wars fan’s miracle. Prior to Episode One, fans were limited to three movies that they had exhausted through toys, literature, clothing, and Special Editions. The three prequels promised something better than any limited edition Darth Vader toy ever could provide, brand new material. Meet Joe Black was a success because fans paid to see the Episode One trailer and left before the movie started. My good friend Tony was one of those fans. He had Star Wars toys, still in their boxes, lining his room like wallpaper. He had been a devout, even stubborn Star Wars collector all his life, and my excitement for Episode One was because of Tony. The first time we walked into our local grocery and saw Pepsi-endorsed Star Wars Episode One cardboard cutouts, I saw pervasive marketing. Tony saw something else, a new collector’s item.

Pepsi produced many characters into cardboard cutouts. The most common were Obi Wan Kenobi, Darth Maul, and Jar Jar Binks. The less common were Qui-Gon Jinn, battle droid, and Queen Amidala. Paul, another friend of ours, joined Tony and I as we drove from store to store, looking for characters. Paul was the person who took things too far. The kind of guy who does outrageous, hilarious, and extremely offense things to get attention, like coming up with a joke for a dead celebrity on the very day they died (i.e. “Steve Irwin always had a soft spot in his heart for stingrays.”). Adam, a star athelete and friend, also joined us. We staked out twenty stores in three days; checking for security cameras, greeters, and how far the cutout was from the exit.

At first we took cutouts that were low risk; the ones next to the exits. We scooped up a couple Darth Mauls and one Obi Wan. Tony drove an old truck with a long bed, so the night time scheme was for Tony to park the truck near the exit as me, Paul, or Adam grabbed the cutout and ran like hell out of the store. We threw the cutout in the bed of the truck, then hopped in and Tony sped off. It was a lot like a beer run, except we were stealing Star Wars cardboard cutouts.

If grocery stores have two entrances, then one of those entrances close at night to control the store. There were a couple instances were Paul somehow figured out how to unlock those doors from the inside. We executed a plan where Paul stood around the locked exit doors until Adam gave Paul the signal that he was going to steal the cutout. At that instance, Paul unlocked the doors and Adam grabbed the cutout, leaving unnoticed. Sometimes Tony did the stealing, and someone else would drive Tony’s truck. It was kind of a rule that you had to take the one you wanted. Tony got his Qui Jon that way and Adam had a Darth Maul that way. Paul had three cutouts, but he wasn’t preserving them, he stole for the thrill of it.

We occasionally ran into problems. One night, Tony pulled the truck up to the front of a store as Adam and I were inside, ready to take a Battle Droid. It was around midnight, and the store greeter was also a shelf loader. He was a young guy and he was immediately suspicious of Adam and I. The greeter walked outside and saw Tony sitting behind the wheel of a running truck. Tony knew that the greeter knew, but if Tony drove forward, then the greeter would be able to get his license plate (our state isn’t required to have front license plates, just back). So Tony put his truck in reverse and backed all the way out of an empty parking lot and got away. It looked extremely suspicious, but Tony got away cleanly. I told Adam we should leave the store and as we did, the greeter stopped us and told us to empty our pockets. We didn’t have anything on us and he let us go. Adam and I walked a good measure of the way home before Tony found us and picked us up. Low risk jobs often had their complications, but when we saw the most badass of all Jedi, we knew we would take our biggest risk yet.

One day, Adam walked into a grocery store near ASU. Since the store is near campus, they have double the security to reduce constant beer runs. The store had twice the greeters, twice the cameras, and for the first time, a third party security guard. Normally, the cardboard cutouts are near the front of the store, so when Adam didn’t immediately see a display, he thought this store didn’t have them. Adam continued to walk to the other side of the grocery store and he cut through the store’s median partition. This main street center aisle had all the elaborate displays that are normally in the front. Adam spotted stacked Pepsi boxes, moved quickly, and that’s when he saw it - Mace Windu standing majestically on a stage of Diet Pepsi 12 packs.

The rule was the first person to see the cutout got first dibs, and Adam wanted Mace Windu. Tony was jealous at first, but got over it and realized it’s better to have Adam own it than the store. Tony and I were very excited about taking Mace Windu and we went to the store to scope it out. Paul was out of town at the time, and it was probably a good thing he wasn’t here for this, he was too much of a wild card. We walked in the store and right away, red flags popped up. It was a trap; it’s distance plus security. By the time security figures out that you’re stealing, they still have time to do something about it. The only good news about this store was that it was 24 hours.

We started drawing out plans of execution like the hood version of Ocean’s 11. Adam went to the store at 4:30 AM and simply watched what happens between 4:30 AM and 5:00 AM. Our plans often got too elaborate and we would have to simplify, making the plan stronger and less contingent. We planned on the days leading up to the heist, and the night before, Adam and I spent the night at Tony’s. It was a Saturday night, and we talked about the plan excitedly. I decided to go to bed early, get a little rest and then wake up and be ready, but Adam and Tony stayed up all night. We left Tony’s house at 4:00AM, making sure not to wake up his parents. I was alert, too excited to sleep.

We got to the store around 4:15AM. We parked in an adjacent parking lot and went over the plan again. I was the driver, waiting in the store’s parking lot until I got a signal. Inside, Adam was going to snatch Mace Windu when Tony gave him a signal from the front of the store, signaling that it was relatively safe. Tony would also signal me by tying his shoe and that would cue me to start his truck and drive to the front. It was 4:30AM, our go time. We figured the partiers have all passed out by now, and morning churchgoers haven’t left the house. There was an immediate problem. A paper delivery truck parked in the front where I was supposed to pick up the guys. We decided to wait it out. Twenty minutes went by and we started to worry how long this would take. We debated aborting the entire plan, but before we had to come to that decision, the paper truck left. We obscured Tony’s license plate with scraps of palm tree. We hopped in Tony’s truck and drove to the store’s parking lot. All those hours of planning have led to this.

We parked away from the entrance to hide the truck. Tony turned off the engine and left the keys in the ignition. I slid over to the driver’s seat as Tony and Adam got out and walked to the store. Tony and Adam disappeared inside the store. I waited there for a couple minutes with my fingers on the ignition key, ready to start the truck once I got the signal. Five minutes pass and I wondered what’s going in there. It was almost 5:00AM, the dangerzone. Finally, Adam walked near the entrance of the store and bent down to tie his shoe. I got the signal and Adam walks away from the entrance. I flip the key in the ignition.

It doesn’t start. I tried again. Nothing. You old piece of fucking shit truck, I don’t know how to finesse you! I got nothing from the engine and I'm afraid I flooded the engine, so I give it a break. I heard an alarm go off. I looked up and saw Tony and Adam running like hell out of the store, Adam holding the Mace Windu cutout. Adam ran slower than normal because of Mace Windu’s wind drag. I saw a few people at the entrance, staring, and one store employee giving chase. I finally got the truck to start once Tony and Adam got to me. They hopped in the bed and I took off, speeding away in an empty parking. The guy chasing us looked at our license plate, but saw that it’s concealed. I turned for the exit, thinking we’ve made it, when there’s an old Buick blocking our path, trying to make a left. Two of the Earth’s oldest people are in that Buick and they are taking forever to make a simple left turn, while the guy who’s chasing us is catching up quickly. The Buick gave me just enough room and I jumped the curb to make the right and we took off. Tony and Adam lied perfectly flat on the bed with Mace, so the bed looked empty. I drove to our safe point and Tony took over the wheel. I told him about what the truck did and why I wasn’t at the front. “Oh yeah, it does that.” Tony said nonchalantly.

Although it didn’t go exactly the way we planned, Mace Windu was ours. We were days away from ending our junior year in high school and best of all, Episode One was coming out on the last day of school. We bought tickets for the noon showing. By this point, everyone was ready to crap his or her pants waiting for this movie, including me, someone who’s not even a Star Wars guy. Tony ditched his last final to see the film, he could have got an A in the class but took a B instead. I watched the film with my friends, and it was awesome but also kind of under whelming. Over the months, Paul and I saw that this film, and even the hype, was a farce. Episode One had good moments, but how can one ever forgive Jar Jar Binks?

Paul kept a sun-stained Darth Maul in his backyard. One rainy night, he dropkicked Darth Maul in half. Eventually the cardboard dried up and he was left with two pieces of trash in his backyard. I heard something Paul did that I’m not sure is true (but any unbelievable story involving Paul is usually true). Months after the Pepsi promotion was over, Paul duct taped the two Darth Maul halves together and put it back in the very store he stole it from.

All of the cutouts were destroyed one way or another, but today, Tony has his Qui-Gon Jin and Adam has the Mace Windu.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Los Anjealous: The Best Chicago-Style Hot Dog in LA

This is not a competition for the all-around best hot dog in LA. You can find a hot dog served in any conceivable manner in this city, there’s a dog for everyone. Is a Chicago-style hot dog better than any other hot dog you can find or make? Even though it all comes down to personal preference, the answer is still yes. It’s so good that every time I eat one with a newbie, they all say the exact same thing, “Damn, homey just smashed it.” It’s so good that it puts your life in perspective.

The Chicago-style hot dog has strict criteria. It’s a Vienna Beef Hot Dog with mustard, chopped onion, relish (neon green in color), tomatoes, sport peppers, celery salt, and a pickle all served on a poppy seed bun. Eating one will keep you going, eating two will take you out, eating three is suicide, but at least you’ll go out with a smile.

To have a solid basis of comparison for the competition, I ate at some of Chicago’s finest hot dog stands such as Portillo’s, Wrigleyville Dogs, Hot Doug’s, and Weiner’s Circle. Weiner’s Circle had the best looking dog, so we’ll use it as the standard.
There are so many toppings that you can barely see the hot dog.

I excluded Oki Dog, Skooby’s, and Papoo’s because they don’t serve a Chicago-Style. I also left out Portillo’s in Buena Park because it’s in Buena Park.

The competitors are: QT’s Chicago Dogs, Carney’s, Rubin’s Red Hot, Weiner Factory, Pink’s, The Stand, and Taste Chicago. They’ll be ranked on authenticity, price, and overall taste.


One out of four Byrds means don’t bother. Four out of four means it’s sitting on top of the Game.

QT’s Chicago Dogs
4344 Woodman Ave. Sherman Oaks
QT’s has everything going for it. They have Chicago posters from the 80’s (Ditka everywhere), an old arcade system where you can pick from like four Neo-Geo games, and a menu stacked with bad health choices. They even serve the dreaded Maxwell St. Polish, a polish sausage with grilled onions and mustard. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

QT’s Chicago-style hot dog had all the right ingredients, a cheap price, and a good taste. The only knock I have against QT’s is that they can be inconsistent, but this is the only place in the city where you can grab a Chicago-style and beer in the same building, so that goes a long way.
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8351 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood
The Chicago-style here is called the Chicagoan. As in, it’s Chicago-like. I wouldn’t even give it that much credit. They should rename it ‘The hot dog you can make at Costco plus a dollar-fifty.’ I almost have sympathy for how bad this thing is.

Rubin’s Red Hot
15322 Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks
Rubin’s was recommended to me a while ago and any hot dog stand that has the words ‘Red Hot’ in it is usually a score. What I didn’t know is that Rubin’s Red Hot had closed some time ago and was now inhabited by some homeless people. I peered through the glass to look inside and saw a solid menu and what looked like a family genealogy that started in Chicago. Despite being shut down and surrounded by meth paraphernalia, it’s getting a better review than Carney’s because it looked like it had potential.

Weiner Factory
14917 Ventura Bl, Sherman Oaks
I asked the guy at Weiner Factory (who looked a lot like Jim from The Office) if they serve a Chicago-style. He said they had everything but tomatoes. That’s more toppings to the Chicago-style than many other hot dog stands, so I took a chance. Twenty minutes later, I forgot I even ate there. I would have completely forgotten about it but I was watching The Office one day and it came back to me.

709 N. La Brea Ave. Los Angeles
It seems like Pink’s creates a new hot dog every other week. They’ve made so many new ones that they’re running out of celebrities to name them after. Last week I saw a dog called the LeVar Burton. But what’s the point of creating new hot dogs if you can’t get the standards right? Pink’s serves their Chicago-style with a polish instead of a regular hot dog. It’s blasphemy. The most frustrating thing is that you know Pink’s has all the ingredients necessary to make a decent Chicago-style, but they don’t bother to get it right. If Pink’s could serve the classics right, they would be worth the line.

P.S. It’s time Pink’s created The Dilla Dog. It can be served on a donut.

The Stand
1700 Ventura Blvd. Encino
2000 Avenue of the Stars, Century City (right behind CAA)
You can usually tell that a restaurant is good just by looking at the menu. The criteria is simple: the menu offers unique choices amongst the profitable standards. The Stand’s Chicago-style is $3.95, more money than anyone should pay for a hot dog. But that doesn’t really matter in this case because it’s worth it. All the ingredients are fresh, the size is perfect, and most of all, it tastes great. It’s so good that addicts prefer it to crack. Go to The Stand and try one. With the first bite you will be able to tell the difference between a regular hot dog and that of a champion. And now that there’s a Stand in Century City, you can’t say it’s too far anymore.

Taste Chicago
603 N. Hollywood Way Burbank
I had a good feeling going into Taste Chicago because they rock the Vienna Beef sign.

I can’t say enough about how important the Vienna Beef sign is. It’s code for ‘Do yourself a favor and eat here.’ It’s almost always right, which is why it was so disappointing after I finished Taste Chicago’s hot dog. It’s a good-looking dog, but it was really bland. The dog’s bun was more like a big slice of bread, and it drowned out what little flavor the hot dog might have had. This one tasted more like a sandwich.

So to recap, The Stand and QT’s are the only restaurants that play for keeps. The Stand is the best lunch pick you can ask for. QT’s is perfect for the Friday night where you’re too tired to go out, but you still want to hang, so you call your friend in the Valley (everyone has one) and bring over dogs, fries, and a 6-pack of some weird beer you bought on a dare. Don’t waste your time trying a Chicago-style anywhere else. Unless you happen to be in Buena Park, then get some Portillo’s.