Forage, Los Angeles

Perhaps more than any other city, Los Angeles makes informality chic, and no LA neighborhood does this better than Silver Lake, between Downtown and Hollywood. And within Silver Lake, Forage opened last year and has become the “it” spot. 

You have to seek Forage out. It’s got barely any street frontage along busy Sunset Boulevard, and once inside it’s glass-walled storefront, you order cafeteria style. You then tote your metal tray to the dining area overlooking the driveway and barely wide enough to ride two bikes through side by side. Take a seat on the single, simply varnished wooden banquette fronting the row of tables, or on what look like college surplus chairs on the other.

Forage’s ever-evolving menu is assiduously locavore, with a chalkboard listing local farmers and “foragers” who supply the ingredients. My plate of “carrots and peas” was typical, tweaking this humble sounding dish by sauteeing both orange and golden carrots with green peas and slices of snow pea pods, leeks and green onions.

Forage’s macaroni and cheese – regularly on the menu – reminded me that most other macaroni and cheeses disappoint. The most famous dish, though, is the pork belly sandwich: a thin slice of meat, gently spiced and served with house-made aioli, and piled with shredded cabbage, mild jalapeno slices and a tomato slice so big and round it reminded me of a red moon.

It’s all served with the cheery friendliness of those who know they’re doing good work – minus the sanctimony. Even the takeout containers, recycled paper boxes delivered in compostable plastic bags made from corn, feel good for you.