y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: March 2013

Jury Duty in Downtown LA - The Food

After 4 posts on downtown sites and landmarks, ultimately for me it all comes back to the food. So the final installment of my jury duty adventures is about the local food.

Lunches there had to be short, inexpensive and fairly quick due to the absolute need to be punctual. Getting in involves going through a security check, having your bags x-rayed and being NYC style aggressive about getting on the elevator. It took up to 15 minutes for each ride in which we were crammed like sardines!

There were no facilities for refrigerating or heating up food and the cafeteria in the court house left a lot to be desired.

On top of that, I had a fellow foodie friend on jury duty at the same time in the same building as well as couple of friends who worked in downtown. Between those prospects and my solo exploring, I definitely hit the beaten path on local food.

Here is a quick photo summary of my 1 month of jury duty eats. I didn't take my good camera due to multiple security checks during the day at court.

Let me go in order of preference, beginning with the better options. Some I went to after jury duty, so they are not quite a lunch time walk away.

Hopefully it will give some visual ideas to the next person who gets a multi-week term of jury duty.

Back to the Cathedral I wrote about on this last post, the Galero Grill cafe was basic but good quality food. I ate a tuna melt and Starbucks coffee, so did not memorialize that lunch.

I also joined a friend who works in downtown for happy hour at Nick & Stef's Steakhouse. We enjoyed some great oil marinated olives with garlic confit, citrus zest and toasted almonds.

Spice Table Mar13_a exterior

The beautiful brick building, our dinner site one day after court, is The Spice Table I've been here a couple of times and enjoyed it. You can see larger photos and read detailed dish descriptions on a previous post, here.

Spice Table_dishes

The Oyster and Crab Pan Roast, on the right middle, with coconut milk, lemongrass, fish roe, grilled British toast was new to me. The shellfish was beautifully tender, but the coconut milk broth was too creamy for such delicate flavors.

We had a tasty Beef Rendang, but I misplaced the photo, so this photo from Kevin Eats, on the lower right, captures the dish.

Downtown Far Bar Mar13_entrance

While waiting for The Spice Table to open, we hung out at The Far Bar, within this narrow entryway.

Lobsta Truck Feb13_lobster roll

A Lobsta Roll from the Lobsta Truck hits the spot every time. Do I need to say anything besides "fresh Maine lobster on a toasted split top roll with butter"? That was a rhetorical question.

Downtown Mar13_Mexicali carne asada vampiro guero chilesjpg

Vampiros at Mexicali? No brainer. I've already written about these over here.This one is a crispy quesadilla filled with carne asada and their special garlic sauce. I loved the side of blistered Guero peppers in Cantonese-Baja style seasoning.

Downtown Grand Central Market Saritas Feb13_revuelta pupusas

This doesn't photograph that well, but the made to order revueltas pupusas at Sarita's Pupuseria in Grand Central Market is comforting and filling, though the huge line there takes a bit of time. 

The curtido, or cabbage salad mixes perfectly with the rich pupusa. The gentleman there gave me a free side of caramelized plantains.

Downtown Mar1_Syrup Liege waffle chocolate banana

One day I picked up a decadent breakfast of this Liege waffle from Syrup Desserts, stuffed with bananas and sprinkled with tiny chocolate chips and powdered sugar. It was an intense trial that led me to this type of treat.

This authentic Belgian waffle has crunchy crystals of sugar in the batter which automatically sweetens them. It is also made to order and comes out steaming warm. 

Sandwich Smith Mar13_oatmeal cookie with PB and J

My friend also on jury duty gave me this after court treat from The Sandwich Smith in Little Tokyo. It tasted like shortbread oatmeal cookie with peanut butter and jelly inside. I love the crumbly texture against the creaminess inside.

Downtown Mar13_Grand Central Market shrimp ceviche

Shrimp ceviche from Grand Central Market. For $4 it's a great lunch on a warm day. I couldn't figure out the name, but it's the stall just to the left of the Broadway Street entrance.

Downtown Feb13_DWP building e cafeteria hamburger

I enjoyed this burger from the grill to order at LADWP building cafeteria. The fresh pico de gallo, avocados, onions and crunchy house made pickles really works on a sunny Southern California day. I believe this huge burger was under $5.

The cafeteria has great prices and a huge selection. You have to sign in and go through security to get there.

Downtown Mar13_farmers market hush puppies strawberries

Farmer's Market days were super exciting for me, although I enjoyed the produce stalls more than the food. The Creole stall served a runny jambalaya, but their hush puppies were fabulous. The batter included a pop of chile and herbs which were subtle but flavorful.

I tried the most delicious strawberries ever as a sample, but the purchased basket did not taste the same, sadly.

Downtown Mar13_farmers market Canela Catering empanadas a beef and mushroom

Downtown Mar13_farmers market Canela Catering empanadas b banana dulce de leche

The empanadas were amazingly satisfying, though somewhat rich. I had the beef and the wild mushroom, both different shapes and flavors and equally good.

For a small dessert bite the size of a cookie, they had a $1 mini empanada with bananas and dulce de leche filling. They were all warmed perfectly and available frozen to bake at home.

Downtown Mar13_Farmers Market silver rings

Other than the food, the silver jewelry options really thrilled me, with great price points (if you pay cash and bargain). I got this mother pearl and butterfly rings, both made in Thailand as well as a pair of rhodium teardrop shaped hoop earrings.

One of my fellow jurors kept hoping our trial would last long enough for her to come back and buy rings also.

Downtown Colburn School Cafe Feb13_khmer beef with sesame and pears

Colburn Cafe at The Colburn School - Khmer beef with sesame and pears.

I would never expect a school to have Cambodian food in their cafeteria. 

But a performing arts school? Maybe the talented students like more variety.

This location has that and more exotic choices at decent prices. Those are pears in the dish, not potatoes. It's an interesting combination although I would have preferred some sauce as it was rather dry when mixed with the rice.


We had a very hurried lunch at Josef Centeno's very trendy Tex-Mex restaurant, Bar Ama. The menu looked so exciting, we wanted to order everything. Unfortunately it was not my favorite choice. The food was too heavy, oily and not spicy enough for me. 

The house made Truck Driver hot sauce amped things up a bit.The Cauliflower and Cilantro Pesto dish was divine though.The caramelized florets were perfectly cooked were dressed with cashews, pine nuts and lime.

The Puffy Tacos (grilled shrimp and lengua) as well as Ama's Enchiladas didn't really wow me. Too much oil dripping down into my hands and too much of  gut bomb. I will stick to Centeno's Bäco Mercat which has similar flavors that are more complex, in my opinion.

The food options and variety in Downtown L.A. does not ever disappoint me, and it was great to try various lunch options as a "local".

Jury Duty in Downtown LA - Part 4 - Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

Another huge establishment I'd never paid much attention to in downtown Los Angeles is the postmodern Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The cathedral serves as the model and center of the community of over 5 million diverse Catholics in the archdiocese.

Since it resides 2 blocks away from the Court House, and a juror told me the cafeteria was good, It was worth checking out during lunch. In this case, 2 lunches, due to the large size.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_b bells

The bells, clearly visible from Temple Street, visually drew me in each time I walked by.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_b outside

Professor José Rafael Moneo, a Pritzker Architecture Prize winner, was commissioned in 1996 to design the Cathedral in its 5.6 acre site perched above the Hollywood Freeway.

The Cathedral contains virtually no right angles, contributing to its modern style. 

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_c outside

In 2002, the cathedral, under Cardinal Roger Mahony, was built to replace the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, after it was severely damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
The main entrance gate is off of Temple Street, with a non-traditional entrance off center, on the south side of the establishment.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_d entrance

The plaza features a couple of soothing water fountains, the Gateway Pool and Water Wall, designed by California artist Lita Albuquerque. The sound of the water drowns out the heavy traffic found on all four sides outside the cathedral.

The color of the concrete walls on the exterior, plaza and courtyards evoke the sun-baked adobe walls of the California Missions. 

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_e fountain

In the Gateway pool are words from Mass in various languages, sandblasted out of the marble.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_a Robert Graham statue

Mexican born and L.A. based sculptor Robert Graham is the designer and sculptor for the Great Bronze Doors and the Statue of Our Lady of the Angels for the Cathedral.

Above the doorway a modern sculpture of Our Lady of the Angels with the sun and moon images, as well as a halo above her head, crowns the entrance.

Mary is shown in a welcoming stance with outstretched arms, and without a veil, jewels, crown or elaborate clothing and her features reflect the ethnically diverse community of Los Angeles, such as long braided hair. 

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_h sculpture at doors

This is just a detail of the immense outer doors, which are different than any Church doors one has seen. Graham's doors depict various cultural and historical narratives, including ancient pre-Christian symbols from around the world. Everything is put together using a context of numerology.

Some of the ancient symbols include the Hand of God, griffins, fish, doves, serpents and various other themes.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_k altar

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_i interior

Once inside, once can see how the very modern also embraces the traditional elements of a cathedral, developing a majestic style that appeals to the 21st century visitor.


The architect chose to highlight natural light to flood throughout the cathedral. In some cases, warm and milky glowing light filters through Spanish alabaster windows. Due to the back lighting, this photo does not do justice to how magnificent these windows with natural colored veining patterns are in person.

The images to the right are tapestries hanging alongside the pews.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_m angel sculptures

Sculptor Max DeMoss designed and fabricated 12 dedication candle holders, surrounded by organically shaped, whimsical bronze and silver angels, in the cathedral nave. Each angel, referring to the 12 Apostles, are aflight with unique expressions and welcoming gestures.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_n art

The upper part of this photo contains a lovely statue of Mary. The tiny wall painting on the bottom left perches above the baptismal font. The subtle blue gradations depicting water was done beautifully. To the bottom right is an immense black walnut, gilded retablo.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_l students of Robert Graham

The cathedral continues the Church's traditional role as patron of the arts through this Robert Graham (1938-2008) Memorial Student Art Exhibit, an annual Catholic High School student show celebrating the late artist's desire to mentor students for careers in the visual arts.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_s masoleum

The Crypt Mausoleum is located downstairs beneath the Cathedral Church. The Mausoleum doors depict 2 guardian angels with torches etched on glass, to honor the departed.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_t masoleum

The Spanish limestone, stained glass windows and alabaster sconces throughout the Mausoleum lend it a dignified, quiet beauty.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_o stained glass

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_u masoleum

16 large backlit Baroque revival style stained glass windows along the hallways off the main corridor all originally placed in St. Vibiana Cathedral, were restored by the Judson Studios.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_v masoleum Gregory Peck

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_w masoleum Gregory Peck

This crypt mausoleum is the only place in the world with the opportunity for all, not just the privileged, to rest at a site of such religious significance. With close to 7,000 burial spots and memorial cenotaphs.

Along one of the hallways, you can find the final resting place of Old Hollywood movie star, Gregory Peck with his wife, Veronique Peck.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_x masoleum time capsule

Another corner contains a time capsule, to be opened in 2102.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_q chapel

Directly across from the masoleum is St. Vibiana's Chapel. 

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_p Vibiana shrine

The remains of Christian martyr, the Cathedral's patron saint, St. Vibiana, are preserved in a marble sarcophagus next to the Chapel.
Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_z

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_y

Coming back to the main floor, a door to go back out leads you to a Meditation Garden.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_za

In this outdoor area, you can get a view from behind the 150 feet tall campanile (bell tower), inspired by Giotto's Campanile for the Florence Cathedral in 1334, also known as Giotto's Tower.

The bells are about 4 feet high and computerized. One of the giant swinging bells comes from Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_zb

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_zc

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_ze

Another corridor of angels etched on glass, much like the mausoleum entrance, continues the tranquil feeling. Ironically, it shields us from the Hollywood Freeway, just beyond the window panes. The freeway as well as the cathedral's location at Civic Center, continues the theme of connecting people together.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_zd

I wasn't sure what this structure was, that I saw on the other side of the freeway, but a Google search told me it is Viennese architectural firm Coop Himmelbau’s eclectic $232 million High School #9 in Central Los Angeles.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_zf

The Jerusalem Fountain back on the Plaza celebrates the ties between Judaism and Catholicism.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_zg sculpture garden zi

Past the fountain lies a very unexpected Children's Garden and Olive Grove.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_zg sculpture garden zk

In Christian art the olive branch is used to represent peace. The children's garden is adorned with individually designed animals based on biblical scriptures. Each animal has its own personality created by a children's book artist. It makes a charming play area for kids and adults.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_zg sculpture garden zm

The fish has writing inside its mouth, which were most likely scriptures.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_zg sculpture garden zl

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_zg sculpture garden zh

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_zg sculpture garden zj

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_zg sculpture garden zn

Most of the Galero Grill cafeteria's outdoor tables overlook this whimsical garden. 

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_f wisteria

The plaza also houses wisteria vines. The whole structure is landscaped nicely.

Downtown Mar13_Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels_g bird of paradise with branch

In the exterior planters, I enjoyed how this Bird of Paradise is getting a "hug" from the prolific wisteria branch.

Overall the Cathedral combines a fully unique blend of traditional, modern, spiritual, artistic and endearing elements. It was worth a couple of visits.