Kid Hit Menu Items: Parts of the menu change weekly, but basically you pick your protein (lemongrass chicken, marinated tofu, Taiwanese fried pork chop, bulgogi “burger,” crispy tofu balls, for ex.), and then select the “vessel.” So meat of choice is served as a wrap, combo plate, or bahn mi. Plus there are other sides to chose from, like the tangy citrus slaw, and often a special fried rice. James was kinda picky last time, but he ate some rice, and the salad, of all things.
Adult Perks: Easy access to various DTLA offices, or MOCA. Adjacent to the courthouses, too.
Pros: Combine with an Angel’s Flight ride! (Or MANY rides, as the case may be.) Starry Kitchen’s space is simple and very kid-friendly, with plastic chairs and nothing too precious. Plus owners Nguyen and Thi are incredibly gracious hosts who make sure their customers are comfortable and happy.
Cons: Unless you’re already Downtown, or score a space on the street, it takes some effort to get here, what with the crazy deep, deep underground parking garage situation and whatnot. I had to wander a bit (OK, and use Google Maps on my iPhone) to locate the exact spot. Maybe that’s just me. It’s really not that hard to find.
High Chairs: Yes. Nguyen bought a couple in response to customer demand, and I’m very proud to say my baby was the first to initiate one of them.
Parking and Access: Waaaay in the bowels of Cali Plaza. SK validates for two hours, which is good, because otherwise it’ll cost you about $32 to park for a casual lunch. Or you can troll for meters on Grand Avenue.
Other Tidbits: Back in grad school, us newbie urban planners loved to hate on California Plaza for being a corporate, socially controlled space full of inhospitable hardscapes, security cameras, and generic chain eateries. (Paging Mike Davis!) Now there’s something totally awesome there — other than Grand Performances. Chances are if you follow food via any sort of social media in Los Angeles, you’ve known about Starry Kitchen for a while. Nguyen and Thi Tran started S.K. as an underground supper club in their North Hollywood apartment, until they ditched their other careers to go legit and move Downtown. The restaurant is across from Casa just down the steps from Grand Avenue. Nguyen’s energy is truly unstoppable, and he is indeed the fun “kid at heart” he claims to be — in the best way possible. The couple gets major points for gobs of sincerity and distinct point of view. If only all business owners were this passionate about what they do. And were SO nice to kids!
Cuisine: Pan-Asian Comfort Food
Hours: Monday – Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Thursday – Saturday 6 to 9:30 p.m.