Pico Boulevard between Beverly Drive on the west and a little beyond Robertson on the east is a Miracle Mile of multiethnic, multicultural Jewish foods. The dense concentration of mostly kosher restaurants, cafes, groceries, bakeries, fish markets, fast-food spots and delis make it a rich source of specialty items for cooks, a meeting place for kosher diners and a terrific snack-and-shop destination for food lovers in general. Plus, it’s a hub of late-night dining.
No single-day itinerary allows for a thorough exploration, but you could start at the deservedly popular decades-old Factor’s Deli, with its convenient valet parking, lovely brick-and-flowers patio, good fresh deli standards, best-in-town children’s menu and open-till-midnight hours. Or begin the day lunching with a few friends at the no-frills Haifa cafe, where the quality and prices are cut above the street’s many snack shops and you’ll need help to make a dent in the extensive menu of Middle Eastern salads, appetizers, and entree plates. Try the Yemenite beef soup or the turkey shawarma. Salads of cumin-scented carrots, smoky chopped eggplant and piquant beets are notable for freshness and rich but restrained seasoning.
Thus fortified, cooks can look for ingredients for Israeli, Moroccan, Armenian, Persian, Greek, Lebanese and other culinary styles, while non-cooks can load up on an amazingly rich array of takeout options. You’ll find bagels, lox and lots of hummus, sure, but also kalamata and rosemary pretzel challah, Cajun chicken sausage sandwiches, beautiful bottles of the anise-flavored liquor arak, vegan chocolate cheesecake, and well-priced spices.
On the sophisticated side, there are iconic and delicious harissa-spiced Tunisian tuna sandwiches (tuna, potato, hard-boiled egg, salsa-like mechouia and olives on a toasty-crusted stirato roll) at Got Kosher? Provisions, an upscale takeout spot. GK? is lively at lunchtime, with workers picking up sandwiches of chicken schnitzel on pretzel roll or pulled brisket with coleslaw, and it does a bang-up business on Friday mornings when customers come in for phoned-ahead Sabbath meals of sesame-seared salmon, chicken with preserved lemons, raisins and olives, or mint couscous with macademia nuts. Meanwhile, the best of the more ambitious sit-down restaurants is the excellent Shiloh’s steakhouse. Also on the upscale side is the new Eilat Pastry Cafe, with coffee service and delicious soft chocolate rugulah (rich rolled-layer cookies).
For mid-range eat-in or takeout, try a breakfast of shakshuka (think North African huevos rancheros) at Bibi’s Warmstone Bakery, a wonderful bakery-cafe where wooden-paddle wielding bakers pull out a continuous stream of fresh-baked pita, sambusacks (like calzones), pizzas, toastees (pitas or Jerusalem bagels with cheese), the Iraqi-style sabich pita sandwich with eggplant, hummus and browned boiled eggs, and flakey cheese or potato turnovers called burrekas (aka boureka, briq, etc.).
There are dozens of kosher pizza places and quick Mediterranean spots. At Nagilla, there’s a food-court feel to the separation of meat and dairy: Pizza, falafel and salads are found in one cafeteria-style space while kebobs, burgers and other meat dishes are in an adjoining grill. The falafel are great—crunchy, flavorful and light—and the array of salads includes a good baba ganoush. Check out the area’s most popular teenage after-school hangout, Jeff’s Kosher Gourmet Sausage, a kind of kosher Jodi Maroni’s. It offers deli and grilled sandwiches and sides, specializing in sausage sandwiches like the Russian (garlic and beef sausage on an onion roll), with site-made sausages or hot dogs, also available by the pound.
Some novel crossovers such as the Glatt Kosher Subway outlet and Sushiko, a sleek, modern kosher sushi place, offer locals handy options but aren’t outstanding in themselves, although the Subway is open until 2 a.m. For party platters or airplane lunches there a score of smaller delis, including the well-known Label’s Table, which also has a branch in Woodland Hills. At Gordon’s Fish Emporium, you can order a whole poached salmon or just point to something in the market section and have it cooked up to eat at one of the rickety (again, this is no frills) sidewalk tables.
There are several groceries, large and small. The small Pico Glatt Kosher Mart has such useful and interesting packaged goods as an Israeli cocoa spread (think Nutella), Turkish coffee and soy-based frozen treats. Fresh favas were 59 cents a pound, and big bunches of herbs were two or three for $1 (but they’re not organic or very local). At Livonia Glatt Market, a small, well-stocked market at Pico and Livonia, a refrigerator case displays dozens of varieties of Sabra hummus along with a meat/poultry section, many kinds of flatbreads and an intriguing array dried legumes in combinations that cook up beautifully. Elat is a midsize market with a great selection of pan-Mediterranean ingredients. Look for paprika and other spices, big blocks of feta, Armenian flatbreads and shelves full of various brands of rosewater. Nearby Glatt is larger and has a more mainstream selection.
Among the many bakeries, Classic Le Palais is notable for its French-Moroccan vibe: Pick among chocolate poppyseed croissants, baklava and rugulah. And the venerable Beverlywood Bakery delivers top-quality across the board, from breads (an amazing pumpernickel with raisins somehow embedded in a regular pattern) to cookies and cakes.
Remember that most retailers will be closed Friday evenings and Saturdays. Call or see websites for kosher certificates. Kosher adherence is a complex system that includes rules about food cleaning, preparation, distribution, cooking and combinations. For diners with non-kosher diet restrictions, certain practices result in options for pork-free, nondairy (but not necessarily vegetarian) and vegetarian or vegan dishes.
Kosher markets may ask that you not bring in purchases from other shops. Service is often notably warm and friendly; stores cater not only to members of nearby Orthodox communities, but also to secular Jewish immigrants, expats, commuters stopping by for a fresh pastry and cooks of all levels of experience.
Beverlywood Bakery, 9128 W. Pico Blvd., 310.278.0122; beverlywoodbakery.com
Bibi’s Warmstone Bakery, 8928 W. Pico Blvd., 310.246.1788
Elat Market, 8730 W. Pico Blvd., 310.659.7070
Factor’s Famous Deli, 9420 W. Pico Blvd., 310.278.9175; factorsdeli.com
Glatt Kosher Subway, 8948 W. Pico Blvd., 310.274.1222; glattkoshersubwayonpico.com
Glatt Mart, 8708 W. Pico Blvd., 310.289.6888
Gordon’s Fish Emporium, 9116 W. Pico Blvd., 310.275.6603; gordonfishemporium.com
Got Kosher? Provisions, 8914 W. Pico Blvd., 310.858.1920; gotkosherinc.com
Haifa, 8717 W. Pico Blvd., 310.888.7700, 310.550.2704; haifala.com
Jeff’s Kosher Sausage, 8930 W. Pico Blvd., 310.858.8590; jeffsgourmet.com
Label’s Table, 9226 W. Pico Blvd., 310. 276.0388; labelstabledeli.com
Livonia Glatt Market, 8922 W. Pico Blvd., 310.271.4343
Nagila Pizza, 9411 W. Pico Blvd., 310.788.0111; nagilapizza.com
Nagila Meating Place, 9407 W. Pico Blvd., 310.788.0119; nagilapizza.com
Pico Glatt Kosher Mart, 9427 W. Pico Blvd., 310.785.0904; picoglattmart.com
Shiloh’s Kosher Steakhouse, 8939 W. Pico Blvd., 310.858.1652; shilosrestaurant.com
Sushiko Kosher Japanese Restaurant, 9340 W. Pico Blvd., 310.274.3474; sushikola.com