Masa of Echo Park

Masa of Echo Park

Masa of Echo Park

Masa of Echo Park was initially published in 2011 for the The Place: Los Angeles. I have since updated and expanded the review.

“Echo Park is the urban Mayberry,” says Rhonda Reynolds, co-owner of Masa of Echo Park, a mom and pop restaurant on the corner of Sunset and Lemoyne, famed for their Chicago style pizza. She couldn’t be more correct. Though it’s easy for locals and visitors alike to breeze through this west downtown neighborhood on their way to West L.A., Echo Park has a lot going on for itself. The first incarnation of Masa of Echo Park was not initially a restaurant, but a car dealership! Built in 1922, the building housed roadsters for the discerning motorists of the rapidly expanding Los Angeles population.

By the 1930’s, however, the building was tricked out as the Carty Bros. Bon Ton Market & Van De Kamps Bakery, handing the keys over to Sarnos Family in the 1950’s for Carmelli’s Italian Bakery, Market and Coffee Shop; then in the 1970’s El Carmelo + Carmelo’s Cuban Restaurant & Bakery had run of the place. It took a break some time in the 1990’s before being bought and done up by Rob Rowe and Rhonda Reynolds, who officially opened Masa’s doors in 2004.

A Chicago native with extensive experience in Chicago pizzeria’s, Rob not only knows his pizza, but imports signature Chicago staples such as: Scala’s authentic hot Giardiniera and “well-seasoned pans lovingly forged in the Windy City”. Otherwise, all produce is fresh and local. With friendly marigold walls and country kitchen chic style, Masa is welcoming in both atmosphere and attitude.

Homemade Garlic Bread and Marinara
Homemade Garlic Bread with Marinara 5.95

Knowing our pizzas would take forty minutes, my friend Natalie and I kicked off our meal by demolishing the garlic bread: an entire loaf of bread made in-house, toasted & drizzled with olive oil, fresh chopped garlic & Parmesan cheese, served with warm, house made marinara sauce. Neither one of us could name its rival. If I weren’t intent on finally devouring the elusive Chicago Style Pizza, I would have very much been content with this basic appetizer and the salad below.

Manchego Salad 9.95

Rhonda, one of the owners, kindly sent over the unrivaled Manchego salad: organic baby lettuces, dates, granny smith apples, candied walnuts, Manchego cheese and pear dressing, drizzled with a balsamic reduction and olive oil. It almost made Natalie and I feel like we had enough “green points” to justify digging into our own deep dish pizza’s.

Lots of Cheese - Masa of Echo Park
Lots of Cheese 15.95
Mozzarella, Romano & Buffalo Mozzarella…lots of it

Natalie, a staunch pescaterian (she eats seafood), went for this trifecta of cheesy goodness and declared it an instant hit. I cannot comment personally, because she would have stabbed the back of my hand with her fork were I to have gone after a bite.

Custom Chicago Pizza - Masa of Echo Park
Custom Chicago Style Pizza $20.95
Genoa salami, pineapple, mushrooms

Small pizza’s start at $13.45 with an array of toppings costing $2.50 or $3.50, depending on which list you pick from. All of mine came from the $2.50 list, which means my small pizza cost the same amount as a large from the prefab list. I’m not saying it isn’t worth every penny, but I do caution you to make sure you have someone to help you eat all of this! I only ate two slices before I had to call it quits in order to leave room for dessert (and trust me; Natalie and I were in desperate need of wheelbarrows to haul our butts outta there, we were so full!). I gave the leftovers to my family. The consensus was unanimous: extraordinarily quality pizza. Fresh as the morning sun, I could taste the ‘homemade’ with every bite.

Croissant Bread Pudding - Masa of Echo Park
Warm Croissant Bread Pudding 8.95
Chocolate, almond & butter croissants baked in vanilla custard, warm caramel drizzle

Natalie and I were careful to only have two pieces each of our respective pizzas, for we promised ourselves the famed warm croissant bread pudding: chocolate, almond & butter croissants, pan baked in vanilla custard and drizzled with warm caramel sauce. How can I describe such bliss, other than to compare it to the Highlander: There can only be one.

Having only heard tales of the elusive Chicago style pizza my whole life, I was eager to finally check the deep dish pizza off of my ‘foodie bucket list.’ A cozy spot good for family, date night, small and large friends night out, Masa of Echo Park is not only worth a try, but worthy of visiting time and time again.

Masa of Echo Park
1800 West Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
(213) 989-1558

Masa of Echo Park on Urbanspoon


The Park’s Finest (Echo Park)

The Park's Finest - Echo Park

Due to my own self-imposed rules of not posting more than one media event per week, I get a little behind. Back-logged with media invitationals is not a terrible aspect of ones life, though I do feel guilty for being unable to have a quicker turn around time. However, bloggers posting about their “freebies” is a sore spot for a lot of people, one that I have not addressed head-on as of yet (and don’t worry, I will) and adhering to the “one media event per week” is a rule I am going to stick to for the time being.

All right, enough with the idle rambling – onto the food! Back in October, I was invited to The Park’s Finest, a barbecue joint in Echo Park owned and operated by the Concordia family, along with their life-long neighborhood pals, the Bautista’s, Pajimula’s, and the Araquel’s, who tell their story in better words than I can ever do justice:

“Established in 2009 as a small-scale catering company, the family business has grown each year. With support from family, the block, and community, The Park’s Finest was able to open its doors to the public in January 2012. The Park’s Finest now functions as an eatery near Downtown L.A. that provides fast casual convenience with a sit-down dining experience.”

We all sat family style, cozying up to strangers; familiar faces in the home grown food scene of L.A., bloggers, Yelpers, journalists and family friends alike. In fact, I invited my big brother to accompany me this evening, which deepened my enjoyment of the evening as I could relate to the feelings of family that The Park’s Finest wanted to emphasize.

As if their enthusiasm and passion for their food and business wasn’t clear enough, photo albums were made (pictured above) for every guest to help underline the message of family and community which The Park’s Finest stands for. I still have my copy, and I intend to keep it as long as possible. Detailed touches like these are soul-bearing, and I respect the level of vulnerability these good people showed a handful of strangers by sharing their story.

The Park's Finest - Echo Park
Coconut Beef
smoked chuck roll, cubed, and stewed in a coconut cream

My. God. I want it. All of it. I really could have had this dish all night long and been a happy camper. I’m not going to lie; it doesn’t look significant in the least, but this dish packs a hell of a wallop in flavor.

The Park's Finest - Echo Park
San Pablo Pulled Pork
sixteen-hour slow-roasted pork shoulder

Though I am generally not a fan of pulled pork, once I experimented with the two sauces available to us – a sweet and tangy vinegar sauce and a savory slightly sweet sauce – this heap of pork was transformed. Secret is in the sauce!

The Park's Finest - Echo Park
Smoked Banana Leaf Salmon
olive oil, lemon pepper, pink himalayan salt, house pepper blend, house garlic blend

Salmon will never be my favorite. Unless it is in raw sashimi/sushi form, I am not a fan.

The Park's Finest - Echo Park
Ann’s Cornbread Bibingka
Cornmeal/Rice flour mix, baked on a banana leaf

As I prefer cornbread to be on the sweet side, this was a home run for me. I especially enjoyed the sugary crusted top.

The Park's Finest - Echo Park
Eagle Rock Brewery Manifesto Wit

I think the description of this is so incredibly fantastic that I cannot top it: “Belgian-style ‘wit-bier’ or white ale has a light wheat base and is typically spiced with coriander and citrus peel. for a unique twist, we add rose petals as well. manifesto wit is pale straw-colored and slightly hazy in appearance, with invigorating citrus, floral, and spice aromatics.the light body and subtle sweetness of this beer accentuate the peppery flavor produced by the yeast.these lively flavors, combined with the slight tartness in the finish, create a crisp and refreshing experience. it’s sunshine in a glass!”

Aside: I want to get paid to write these kinds of descriptions. I don’t know if I truly tasted that many levels of awesomeness, but it was a mighty tasty beer nonetheless.

The Park's Finest - Echo Park
Ligaya Veggie Medly
zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms and red pepper

My brother was just about dying from meat overload when these arrived, satisfying his desire to balance out his meal.

The Park's Finest - Echo Park
Mt. Malindang Pork Ribs
seasoned, slow-smoked St. Louis style pork ribs and rib tips

A touch too fatty for my liking. Ribs are tricky, and I’m particular about them.

The Park's Finest - Echo Park
Beef Tri-Tip
tender, deli-thin season-crusted sirloin beef paired with homemade horseradish sauce

When tri-tip is done well, as these were, it can be positively magical for the tastebuds. This sampling as one of my favorites, along with the horseradish sauce.

The Park's Finest - Echo Park
Candy Coated Ham
coated with signature BBQ sauce every half hour for 12 hours

Quite easily, the best ham I have ever eaten. Tender, juicy ham with a richly sweet sauce…it will convert all of you “Honey Baked Ham” purists in a heartbeat.

The Park's Finest - Echo Park
corn off the cob served with mayo, fresh parmesan cheese & cayenne pepper

When I taste something like elota and my first thought is: “Oh, Jeebus, how do I replicate this glorious dish?” I know someone in that kitchen is doing something right. I really need to gussy up my corn dishes.

The Park's Finest - Echo Park
Beef Short Rib
a smoked, seasoned, meaty beef rib paired with house own crema horseradish sauce

Unless it’s lamb, ribs really aren’t my thing. I find them to be prone to dryness and all-too easily caught in ones teeth. I only had the smallest of bites of this beef rib, and cannot truly comment on it.

The Park's Finest - Echo Park
Gabi Greens

I wasn’t into these Filipino tubers, as they tasted like bitter collared greens, but my brother heaped them onto his plate. Dig in, bro.

The Park's Finest - Echo Park

I’m not one for turkey outside of the obligatory Thanksgiving holiday, but I would dig into a stack like this one with no problem. Every piece was moist and bursting with flavor of its own natural basting. I imagine this turkey is the kind of turkey Ben Franklin envisioned for our great country when he suggested the noble beast be our avian representative.

The Park's Finest - Echo Park
Cornbread Pudding with Salted caramel top

The dessert was provided by friends at Crème Caramel LA, known for their gourmet approach to bread pudding. This gorgeous dish left me curious to want to explore more of CCL’s offerings.

It was at this point the good folks at The Park’s Finest realized we could no longer consume any more of their fine fare. In a stroke of mercy and genius, they packed up the two remaining meats and passed around doggy-bags to take home. In them were the hot link medley (smoked, sliced spicy sausages with sweet filipino longanisa) and chicken wings. These, along with candied ham were taken home and enjoyed for my lunch the next day.

My Top Picks: Coconut Beef, Candied Ham, Cornbread, Tri-Tip and Elota. I could have died from the food coma this night gave me, but after having tasted these five items in particular, I would have gone with a smile on my face. I have every intention of recommending The Park’s Finest to all who ask, and returning in the (hopefully, soon) future.

The Park’s Finest
1267 W. Temple St.
Los Angeles, CA
Phone: (213) 481.2800

The Park's Finest on Urbanspoon

A Goose and her Man

I want to share this story with you because it’s so endearing you might just tear up (or maybe that’s just me?) I’m not big on geese, but I do love a fabulous unlikely friendship story between humans and animals. This aired on CBS & Sunday Morning back in February, with a follow-up video at the beginning of April. Enjoy.

Here is an update video, pardon the recap.

Isn’t that sweet? I can’t get over it. I hope Mario makes it out of the Los Angeles zoo and go back to Echo Park to his daily walks with Dominic ❤