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L.A.'s Eclectic Food Scene

Kat Odell

Photo by Elizabeth Daniels

Eater.com editor and restaurant critic Kat Odell shares a meal with Sky's Steve Marsh.

Kat Odell is unexpectedly controversial for a nice girl who grew up in Westchester County, New York, longing for mac and cheese. Her dad was a lawyer who packed her elementary school lunch full of dumplings or garlicky noodles. “He was always cooking us Malaysian or Turkish or whatever,” she remembers. “And I was like, ‘What is this weird stuff you’re giving meeeee?! I don’t want this!’ ” Now 30, the editor of LA’s Eater.com and the star of Bravo’s catty look at LaLa land’s foodie universe, Eat, Drink, Love, Kat is mortified looking back on her Velveeta dreams. Especially from where we’re having lunch today, at the Venice Beach branch of Café Gratitude, a vegan restaurant chain originally based in San Francisco, but somehow seeming as LA as possible.

“I’m going to get the Pure salad,” she says in her adopted valley girl lilt. “It’s kind of my go-to.” She tells me I should try The Whole or the kelp noodles. “But you have to like kelp noodles, obviously.”

Kat has been out in LA for seven years, moving from Manhattan when she landed a job at Bon Appétit in 2006. She was hired by Eater in 2009 and has been covering the city’s food scene in Eater’s bloggily aggressive style ever since. “The lack of coherency is the coherency of LA’s food scene,” she says. “The chef-driven concepts that are emerging now are a direct result of all the incredible ethnic food that exists on the outskirts of the city. What people don’t realize when they talk about LA is that we have the best regional Chinese food in the country in San Gabriel Valley. We have the best sushi. We have amazing Thai. Mexican. Persian. Koreatown? Insane,” she says. “And all these places are dirt cheap. There is no reason to go to Philippe Chow and spend $12 on xiao long bao. Go to SGV and spend $2!”

After sitting with Kat over raw vegan enchiladas, it’s easy to see how passionate and knowledgeable she is about the food scene here. Which is why it’s so puzzling that she’s allowed the other, less hole-in-the-wall side of LA, the Hollywood side, to have so much control over her image on Eat, Drink, Love. She’s being portrayed as kind of the female version of a cad on that show, and it just doesn’t ring true in person. “Yeah,” she admits. “I’m not thrilled about the Bravo show. I’m hoping we don’t get picked up for another season.”

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A Downtown Renaissance

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