A recipe for Filipino Spaghetti inspired by our visits to Downtown Los Angeles! Spaghetti noodles are paired with a sweet tomato meat sauce, hot dogs, and shredded cheese for quite the comforting meal.
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Downtown Los Angeles
I previously put together a post on Little Tokyo, but today I am featuring a few other areas we have visited so far in Downtown Los Angeles!
As a note, these photos span from 2018 to 2021. Much of the more recent visits include takeout containers with the food brought back home before photographing. Check local guidelines before visiting.
Birdies was one of our very first downtown stops after moving to Los Angeles. Located at 314 West Olympic Blvd, we were originally drawn inside due to the fun and unique variety of doughnuts. The doughnuts were indeed delicious, but I was particularly blown away by the breakfast sandwich.
The Birdies Breakfast Sandwich is packed with an over easy or scrambled egg, fried chicken tender or applewood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, and special sauce. We also enjoyed the Lemon Thyme Pistachio Donut, Galaxy Doughnut, and Horchata Twist with Dulce de Leche.
They now have additional locations in Norco and WeHo.
Petite Peso is a newer and incredible addition to DTLA at 419 West 7th Street. We have picked up take-out from here a few times over the past year and they also often have items available in an online shop such as lumpia, turon, and polvoron cookies.
Petite Peso focuses on a seasonal menu with breakfast, sandwiches, rice bowls, salads, snacks, and dessert. Our personal favorites include the Adobo French Dip Sandwich (chicken and crispy skin with charred onions, cheese and adobo jus) and lumpia (pork or vegan).
While they aren’t currently available, the kids absolutely loved the Filipino Spaghetti (inspiration for this post’s recipe!) and Pan de Tsokolate (cinnamon sugar pan de sal filled with a coconut chocolate ganache).
Poppy and Rose
Poppy and Rose has been another amazing spot to pick up take out (and we can’t wait to visit in person for their rooftop seating) at 765 Wall Street. Their breakfast and lunch menu features American and Southern-inspired cuisine with a California twist.
We tried the Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Waffle with smoked honey butter and chives, Lumberjack Pancake (buttermilk pancakes with two eggs, brick hash, and bacon), The Kitchen Sink Bowl (sunny side up egg, rice, jasmine rice, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potato, kale, green onion, pulled pork, bacon, pickled carrots and chili), Mimosa kit, plus a bagel with cream cheese.
Grand Central Market
I actually first heard about Grand Central Market before moving to Los Angeles when I was sent their The Grand Central Market Cookbook to review. When I was able to finally visit Los Angeles in person, it was one of my first stops.
Grand Central Market opened in 1917 and still sits at the original location on the corner of Broadway and Third Street. It reached peak capacity at over 90 stalls and declined for a few years before undergoing a revitalization and housing nearly 40 vendors today within a 30,000 square-foot area.
Parking in the downtown area can often be difficult, but there is a parking garage next door at 308 South Hill Street. Lines can get long at the more popular stalls during peak times. Operating hours may vary at different vendors.
A couple of our food stops within the market so far include the Khao Mun Gai (Hainan Chicken with garlic rice, ginger sauce, and clear soup) from Sticky Rice, a Sample Platter from La Tostaderia, and Currywurst from Berlin Currywurst (we also stopped by their location a few years ago in Chelsea Market).
Knead & Co. is also located inside the food hall, but we actually haven’t visited in person yet.
We did get to try their Lasagna Bolognese and Green Goddess Mac & Cheese through In Good Company‘s local frozen dinner delivery service though. Both were fantastic.
The Last Bookstore
A couple of months ago, Chad and I took a date day to walk around just the two of us while the kids were in school. We ended up finally visiting and spending a couple of hours in The Last Bookstore!
Founded in 2005, The Last Bookstore moved to its current location in the Spring Arts Tower at 453 South Spring Street in 2011. The space now houses over 250,000 new and used books across two floors and 22,000 sq. ft. They also have thousands of records, graphic novels, and so much more.
In addition to the vast collection of books, there are also plenty of whimsical spots for photo opportunities (look for signs, some sections and the galleries upstairs are off limits to photography).
It is such a fun place to browse and we can’t wait to come back with the kids.
Bohemian House of Espresso + Chai
Bohemian House of Espresso + Chai is just a block south of The Last Bookstore at 548 South Spring Street R110. This shop features a fantastic assortment of espresso and coffee plus artisan chai, vegan smoothies, and treats.
We tried the Boho Berry Vegan Smoothie (a favorite with the kids!), Cardamom Chai Latte, Dirty Chai, and I also picked up a bottle of date syrup to take home.
Little Llama Peruvian Tacos
We first came across Little Llama Peruvian Tacos at Smorgasburg Los Angeles and they now also have a spot at 222 South Main Street just west of Little Tokyo!
This counter service restaurant in a beautiful space takes the classic flavors of Peruvian cuisine and forms them into tacos, burritos, and tostadas for quite the unique and delicious blend of ingredients. The outdoor patio on the side of the building was also perfect for a quiet date lunch.
We tried the:
- Chips & Salsa: (vegan, gluten-free) a blend of mango, pickled red onion, jalapeños, and fresh lime.
- Lomo Saltado Taco (my favorite!, gluten-free)- Garlic and ginger marinated steak with smashed yukon gold potatoes, huacatay aioli, and tomato escabeche.
- Pollo a la Brasa- Beer and aji panca pepper marinated chicken with smashed yukon gold potatoes, huancaina sauce, and pickled red onions.
- Papa a la Huancaina- (vegetarian and gluten-free) Smashed yukon gold potatoes with aji amarillo pepper and feta sauce, egg, kalamata olive powder, and cotija.
- Cilantro Rice (vegetarian and gluten-free) with huancaina sauce and pickled red onions.
Smorgasburg Los Angeles
Visiting Smorgasburg Los Angeles quickly became a favorite Sunday activity for us. Located at ROW DTLA at 777 South Alameda Street, this outdoor food market is packed with a wonderfully diverse variety of food stalls and shops. There is also easy and usually plentiful garage parking.
The market can get very busy. We often arrive right before opening (current hours at the time of this post are 10-4 Sundays) and find a table first.
Once the kids are settled, we take turns picking up food. If visiting one of the more popular vendors, try to get there quickly. The lines often get long, especially around peak lunch time.
The vendor list often changes. It has been a couple of years since our last visit, but we especially enjoyed Wanderlust Creamery (and often now pick up pints from their Venice location), Workaholic (Manduyo), Bolo (now in Hollywood and Glendora), Mano Po, MUMU Bakery Cafe, and Donut Friend.
I have just included a tiny snapshot of the incredible food found in Downtown Los Angeles and what we have tried so far. There are many many more places on the list to hopefully visit before we leave and I will be sure to update when possible.
Our children tried Filipino Spaghetti for the first time when we lived in Virginia. There was a Filipino-Puerto Rican restaurant just north of us in Lorton (unfortunately now closed) and it was on the kids menu. They were immediately hooked by the combination of sweet sauce and hot dogs plus of course the pile of shredded cheese on top- especially paired with a few lumpia on the side.
Now that we are in Los Angeles, it has been their go-to whenever they see the spaghetti on the menu. They particularly love Petite Peso’s and also Big Boi’s in Sawtelle. While going through all the different food photos from Downtown Los Angeles for ideas, Claire requested her favorite Filipino Spaghetti to pair with the post.
Filipino Spaghetti has a unique blend of sweet and tangy flavors thanks to the addition of banana ketchup. Developed by Maria Y. Orosa as a substitute for the less available at the time tomato ketchup in 1942, banana ketchup/sauce combines local and more plentiful bananas with sugar, vinegar, spices, and food dye to form a similarly colored condiment.
The banana ketchup is paired with ground meat, sliced hot dogs, tomato sauce, onion, and garlic to create a thick, flavorful sauce. Immediately before serving, the sauce is poured over the spaghetti and topped with plenty of shredded cheese.
A Few Tips
I kept the recipe basic as the kids like to enjoy it at home, but there are a few different variations.
Some recipes add heavy cream, evaporated milk, or condensed milk towards the end of cooking to add a little creaminess to the sauce.
Other common additions include chopped bell peppers, carrots, mushrooms, and/or corned beef.
In addition to the hot dogs, use ground beef, pork, or a combination of the two for the meat sauce.
Adjust the flavors to taste with more or less brown sugar and salt. Remember they will dilute a little when combined with the spaghetti.
If the sauce is too thick, stir in a little pasta water to desired consistency. If too thin, simmer for a little longer until the liquid has reduced.
For those in the Los Angeles area, I have been able to locate Banana Ketchup/Sauce in Seafood City Supermarket and other grocery stores with Southeast Asian ingredients. Marvin Gapultos has a recipe for homemade banana ketchup in his book, The Adobo Road Cookbook (Amazon Link), but I haven’t personally tried it yet.
Check the label on the Banana Ketchup/Sauce bottle. It can be mild or more spicy. I stuck to mild for the kids.
Filipino Spaghetti Recipe
Adapted from The Unlikely Baker
- 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) vegetable oil
- 4 hot dogs sliced on the diagonal
- 1 large onion peeled and chopped
- 4 garlic cloves peeled and minced
- 1 pound (450 grams) ground beef, pork, or a combination
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) tomato paste
- 1 cup (240 milliliters) banana ketchup
- 28 ounce (794 gram) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 pound (450 grams) dried Spaghetti
- 4 ounces (113 grams) Cheddar cheese shredded
- In a large pan, drizzle the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the hot dog slices and cook, stirring often, until golden. Remove the hot dogs to a plate and set aside.
- Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened.
- Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Crumble in the ground beef/pork and cook, breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned.
- Stir in the brown sugar, salt, and pepper, followed by the tomato paste. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring, to heat through and blend.
- Pour in the banana ketchup and crushed tomatoes, stirring to combine. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
- Stir the hot dogs back in the sauce to heat through.
- While the meat sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add the spaghetti to the water and cook until al dente, just tender. Drain and divide among individual serving bowls.
- Season the meat sauce to taste and divide over the bowls of spaghetti.
- Top with shredded cheese and serve immediately.