I love discovering tasty, new-to-me places in my (or a close by) neighborhood. Hippo in Highland Park had been on my radar for a while now- multiple friends had raved about it, and I couldn’t help but drool over their Instagram. So when we had good friends in town staying with us recently, I knew just the spot for dinner. Nestled off the busy street, just behind Triple Beam Pizza (another fave!), Hippo’s rustic, Italian-American vibes make it seem very New York to me. Perhaps that’s why I liked it so much from the moment we walked in, but once we tasted the food, it truly won me over. The bread basket of housemade focaccia was perfectly crusty and chewy, and I strongly suggest you start with the burrata di bufala (imported from Lazio-Italy!), served with even more delicious, carby goodness. I was a huge fan of the veggie starters- from the cool haricot verts with serrano chili toasted hazelnuts & Frenchie vinaigrette, to the griddled cauliflower with cauliflower “tahini” & walnut raisin caper relish, the flavors were truly unique. Of course, several housemade pastas are on the menu (and worth an order!), including the semolina spaghetti with guanciale, tomato & spicy pickled peppers, as well as the winter squash cappellacci with browned butter, sage & amaretti! Carefully handmade pasta, perfectly cooked to al dente, truly makes all the difference. Be sure to check out the rest of our meal in the slideshow above- there were honestly so many noteworthy dishes! We actually already had plans for ice cream after dinner, so I didn’t get a chance to try Hippo’s desserts- but there’s always next time! Post-baby, I’d like to go back for “Hippo Hour”, their version of happy hour, for some tasty small plates and a cool cocktail as well!
Mh Zh had been on my list of places to try in LA since before we ever came here, and it's pretty obvious why. It checks off all the boxes of what I want in a dining experience- Middle Eastern flavors, great bread, wood-fired veggies, lamb, & fish, and outdoor seating! All ideal things in my book. The only thing missing is a great bottle of wine to pair with such delicious food! (They used to be BYOB & are currently working on their liquor license). The space itself is quite small and doesn't take reservations, so we hadn't ventured over for dinner until recently, and wow, I'm so glad we finally did! The whole experience is very "Silver Lake"- with brown paper table cloths, silverware in a jar, and menus casually written on paper bags, all happening right on a cute little corner of Sunset Blvd. But trust me, the food couldn't be further from that boring, cookie-cutter fare you'll find elsewhere.
If you're feeling super hungry or with a group, I highly recommend you "fire menu", which is essentially ordering everything on the limited menu, and makes for a great smorgasburg of shared plates. My husband and I ordered a la carte, and still managed to try a wonderful assortment of dishes, many straight out of their Josper oven. Anything served with Bub & Grandma's bread, which is stocked at many popular restaurants in LA, is always a highlight, so we dove right into it with bowls of tehina and ful . Mh Zh's ful is a white bean stew of sorts, and comes laced with schug, a super flavorful Israeli hot sauce packed with green herbs and garlic. Yum. The grilled beets seemed so simple, but the depth of flavor involved was truly remarkable, and we both consider them some of the best we've ever eaten! The nightly special was lamb chops, which we love and naturally felt obligated to order. They were so juicy, and paired nicely with a creamy, herby chimichurri sauce, and the whole branzino was cooked to perfection in the Josper oven! I already cannot wait to go back, and considering how close I live, there's no excuse!
I'll just come right out and say it- I'm obsessed with Lodge Bread Company. This bakery and café in west LA focuses on whole grain sourdough bread baking, freshly milled flours, and wood-fired pizzas, and truly impresses in all ways, if you ask me. Every day, Lodge Bread churns out some seriously delish and hearty bread, unique pastries, and both Neapolitan & pan pizzas, not to mention some tasty wood-fired veggie dishes as well. It's truly everything I want in a meal- carbs and sweets! I'd been eyeing the (gigantic!) sourdough cinnamon roll ever since I first saw it on Instagram, and finally indulged on my most recent visit. It's not overly sweet, thanks to a lighter, whipped frosting and that hearty whole grain sourdough, but utterly delicious with the perfect amount of cinnamon flavor! Next on my must-try list is the babka!
I've now gotten to try a good variety of things from the menu, and have yet to be disappointed. Upon first entering the bakery, after checking out the bakers handling the dough with such care , you'll find the beautiful array of pastries baked fresh that day. I highly recommend trying a couple (or five). Other than the cinnamon roll, the pine nut blondie and the carrot olive oil cake are to die for! The wood-fired cauliflower with pickled raisins & chermoula is just bursting with flavor, as are the roasted beets with chicories, cara cara oranges, labne & pepitas. You can't come to Lodge without ordering pizza. Trust me, just do it. My pan pizza was thick and chewy, almost like a slightly crusty sourdough focaccia, piled high with roasted veggies. Our sweet pea pie was the perfect seasonal treat, topped with snap peas, pea tendrils, green garlic & ricotta! I'm now drooling again just thinking about this meal, so looks like a return trip is in my very near future!