Chili John’s is an institution. They serve authentic all-meat Texas style chili. and have been on the same corner in Burbank since 1946. They make their chili with beef, beef suet, chile, and spices – no tomatoes, no beans, no corn, no BS. You sit at the U-shaped counter which encircles the center island with its steaming vats of chili – beef or chicken, spicy or medium. You can have it over beans, spaghetti, or hot dogs. I was there for the first time in April to meet a friend, Anne, to talk about a screenplay I had written. I did her a favor a few weeks earlier, and she, ever gracious and generous, was returning the favor by giving me some suggestions about my work. Anne is an accomplished screenwriter and director, and I was grateful for her time and input. I took these two photos while I was waiting for her, and could never decide which one I liked best. (Seeing them side by side, I think I prefer the one on the right. What do you think? ) Oh, I had original spicy beef over beans with some chopped onions and oyster crackers. Soupy, greasy, spicy, and eminently satisfying.
This is the waiting area next to the bar at the Empress Pavilion, what was once our go-to Dim Sum restaurant. We would often go there with Jake on a Sunday for lunch. It is a huge place with a cavernous dining room that was packed with noisy diners nearly every day. On a busy Sunday, you might wait an hour for your table. Red-jacketed ladies pushed steaming carts, laden with towers of gleaming silver steamers filled with translucent dumplings, to and fro between the tables. Har Gow, Chicken with Pine Nuts, Gai Bao, Rice Noodle with Fish, Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf, Chicken Pies, Fun Quor, these were some of our favorites. Many of our best times with Jake revolved around food and eating.
In our family, food is more than just something to eat. It is a creative expression, an act of love. We cooked with Jake from the earliest age, and there are some wonderful stories that involve Jake and the kitchen. He ended up going to culinary school and worked in some of the best restaurants in Venice for a while. Sadly, the Empress closed a couple of years ago due to rising overhead. It has re-opened recently but is only a shadow of its former glory. Its closing propelled us on a quest to find a replacement. We traversed the LA area from Redondo Beach to the San Gabriel Valley, and finally found our new favorite, Ocean Seafood right down the street from the Empress in downtown L.A.