Fountain and Vine: Bento Boxes, Romanian Cuisine, Empanadas + (Decorative) Puffer Fish
Not all strip malls are created equal. Some, squat and lifeless with little more than a coin-op laundromat as their anchor, are destined to be invisible from the ordinary eater's eye. Others, like the looming two-story monster on the corner of Fountain and Vine in Hollywood, are the subject of hearty discussion. Sure, you've been to M Bar on the corner, and maybe even gone with a vegetarian friend to Doomie's once or twice, but what do you really know about the food at this lumbering blue-tiled strip mall? Didn't there used to be a French restaurant there once? Isn't that pita place decent? What's better at El Floridita, the Cuban chicken or the salsa dancing? We thought we'd find out.
Sabina's European Restaurant
Noam Bleiweiss Sabina's European Restaurant
Beginning at the western-most edge, you'll find Sabina's European Restaurant, a no-nonsense corner eatery with lots of windows and few tables. There's a deli case, but that's mostly for cans of soda, and almost no one orders at the counter anyway. Instead, pull up one of those heavy church basement chairs around a glass-topped table and wait (and wait and wait) for your amenable waitress to eventually amble over. Despite the continental name, the food at Sabina's is pure Romanian, which means lots of stews, some breaded schnitzels, plenty of cabbage and a history of dumpling abuse.
Instead of the light, flourish dumpling wraps you may be thinking of, stuffed with some sort of minced meat or peppery potatoes, the dumplings here are about the size of a dime, dough through and through. They're no less tasty for their simplicity though, and the chewy bites fill you up while keeping costs down. Speaking of which: Sabina's European Restaurant is cash only, and they've got the "don't even ask!" sign to prove it. That's OK though, because you can't find an entree over $5.75, no matter how hard you look. For stewed and spiced chicken with a plate full of tiny dumplings, that's certainly a deal. And, if you can't find an ATM nearby, you could probably pull six bucks worth of change out of your car. Sabina's is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and is cash only. 1253 N. Vine St. #12, Hollywood; 323-469-9522.
Doomie's Home Cookin'
Noam Bleiweiss Doomie's Off-Menu Big Mac
Surprisingly spacious inside, with lots of table space and pleasing wooden accents, Doomie's Home Cookin' is the sort of vegetable-heavy restaurant you don't expect from a strip mall. They even serve a small selection of beer from the cold case, and the open kitchen behind the front counter gives off a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Despite its strip mall stature, this is a place to bring friends.
The food at Doomie's is either vegan or vegetarian, but still skews strongly in the direction of their Home Cookin' moniker. Crusty "fried chicken" is a popular choice, thick and warm but without the briny flow of salty chicken juice. Burgers do well, of course, particularly the off-menu Doomie's Big Mac, which tosses together two fake meat patties into a triple bun, vegan cheese tower of hefty vegetarian eating. It's sort of the perfect meal to describe Doomie's; big and appealing, familiar but with a vegetarian twist. Doomie's is open daily from noon to 10 p.m., and gladly accepts credit cards. 1253 N. Vine St., Hollywood; 323-469-4897.
Noam Bleiweiss Chicken Curry Sandwich at Redemption Foods
There's a feel-good story to Redemption Foods. Open since December of last year, the California fusion eatery is a home for rehabilitated felons to turn their lives around. As part of the broader outreach of the New Horizon Community Reentry Center, Redemption Foods employs ex-cons in their kitchen and on their waitstaff, which means you can always get a story with your sandwich, if you're interested.
That same staff, by the way, is unfailingly kind and attentive. They push out curry chicken sandwiches on soft ciabatta rolls or cajun shrimp BLTs to diners inside the spare, sleek dining room. There are more substantial main courses, from a thin hanger steak to a pile of rosemary chicken. The burger, of course, is a highlighted menu option as well. But the best thing you'll get at Redemption Foods is satisfaction, the type that comes from helping out those who maybe haven't had it as easy as you, but are trying with every plate to make things a little bit right. Redemption Foods is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m., and closes at 8 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. They also gladly accept credit cards. 1253 N. Vine St., Hollywood; 323-463-4166.
1253 Vine St., Los Angeles, CA