Editor’s note: With the opening of the Expo Line’s extension to Santa Monica, locals have a new way to explore neighboring areas. The Daily Press will publish a weekly travelogue about what to eat, see and do near each of the stations along the Expo Line, starting this week at the first non-Santa Monica stop: Expo/Bundy.
From the elevated platform at the Expo Line’s Bundy station, the view to the north is wholly unimpressive. The traffic-choked intersection at Olympic Boulevard features two gas stations, a car dealership and a gym, arguably making an adjacent Staples office supply store its most thrilling attraction. (Whiteboards! Printer ink! The world is your canvas … also available at Staples.)
Since you’re getting around by train, you have no need for gas — or a car, for that matter. And you have no use for a gym, at least right now, because exercise is built into the journey ahead of you.
You’re headed for Pico Boulevard’s culinary corridor, a de facto district of global gastromony. In a half-mile section from Bundy to Gateway, the thoroughfare offers international eats at every turn. There’s Thai food at Chan Dara and quick, casual Indian at Chutneys. There are Chinese dumplings at Cheng Du and sushi plates at Yoba. There’s even pizza at Ciccero’s.
Your destination is Don Antonio’s, arguably the standout of the bunch, a stalwart for authentic Mexican cuisine and a West L.A. institution for more than 30 years.
But first, dessert.
From the train station, head south on Bundy Drive and take Tennessee Avenue east a few blocks to Granville Avenue, where you’ll turn right towards Pico. Finally, veer left onto Pico and pass Don Antonio’s. (Don’t worry; it isn’t going anywhere.)
Continue past Federal Avenue to Jamaica’s Cakes, an unassuming dessertery and espresso bar that has nothing to do with the Caribbean island nation and everything to do with tasty treats. The brainchild of Oregon native Jamaica Crist, this bakery known for its customized wedding cakes turns out delicious pies, cookies and cupcakes. But it closes at 7 p.m. on weekdays and earlier on weekends, so you’ll have to grab your goods before dinner and see if you can postpone your pleasure.
Hard choices are ahead. Perhaps you’ll go for a chewy chocolate chip cookie, maybe you’ll have a decadent red velvet cupcake or possibly you’ll settle on a gooey pecan bar. Better yet, get all three. Also, if you have to ask what’s in the decadent turtle cake (hint: not turtle), you should probably get some.
Now it’s time to head back to Don Antonio’s, appetite piqued.
The restaurant has been around since 1982, and its old-school booths make it feel even older. The dim lighting, formal waiter wear and strong margaritas only add to the aura. Pro tip: Ask if there’s room on the back patio, which somehow manages to offer vitality and serenity at the same time.
You’ll probably be inclined to dive into Don Antonio’s excellent chips and salsa, but don’t get carried away. Save room for the chicken taquitos, perfectly crunchy and served with creamy guacamole. Then there’s the massive Super Burrito, the kind of dish that makes its recipient’s eyes widen.
But the star of the show is the chicken fajita platter. It arrives on a sizzling skillet whose plume of white steam turns heads throughout the restaurant as it makes its way to your table. You are officially the subject of envy. Seasoned onions and peppers complement a plate that is easily big enough to share. (Not that you’ll want to.)
This section of Pico has you covered if you’re looking to keep the party going after dinner, whether you’d like a martini at Liquid Kitty across the street, a spiked basil lemonade at The Arsenal or a glass of pinot noir at Freddy Smalls. If there’s a game on, San Francisco Saloon has TVs and beer waiting for you.
Just don’t forget your dessert.
The Expo Line now has 19 stations covering 15.2 miles between Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica. A regular one-way fare is $1.75 and includes two hours of free transfers for those using a TAP card. A daily pass good for unlimited rides on Metro is $7 and monthly passes are $100. Visit taptogo.net for more information.
Contact Jeff Goodman at email@example.com, 310-573-8351 or on Twitter.