Critics’ choice: Street vendors too good to stay outdoors

A-Frame Los Angeles; Souvlaki GR New York City; Skillet Diner Seattle

A-Frame Los Angeles

Launching a Korean taco craze didn’t satisfy Roy Choi for long, said Jonathan Gold in LA Weekly. Three years after his Kogi trucks went viral in L.A. and won his inventions national recognition, the chef known for unlocking the marketing power of Twitter has created “a fantasy ski chalet” as his first full-fledged restaurant. A former International House of Pancakes, the space is now “all blond wood and soaring ceilings,” and the concept is, as the menu says, “Modern Picnic.” Choi wanted to re-create the feeling he had as a kid eating crabs from the shell on Redondo Beach Pier, so expect to use your hands and to leave with the flavors of a multicultural city “caught under your fingernails.” The furikake kettle corn is a mandatory starter, pairing sweet popcorn with a Japanese seasoning of dried fish and seaweed. The excellent Thai-style clam chowder has a “soulful Italian underpinning of pancetta.” The grilled lamb chops come in a salsa-inspired green sauce. “For dessert? Sticks of deep-fried pound cake rolled in cinnamon—instant churros!” 12565 Washington Blvd., (310) 398-7700

Souvlaki GR New York City

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When it comes to eating souvlaki, “who has not suffered a tough, ashen skewer at a misbegotten street fair and thought, ‘Nevermore’?” said Ligaya Mishan in The New York Times. A year ago, Souvlaki GR took to the streets with a cure, serving grilled pork and chicken that are “moist and tender, with a whiff of char.” The success of the four-wheeled operation has since sprouted a slice of the Greek islands on Manhattan’s Lower East Side—a restaurant/newsstand with “blazing” white walls, cobbles underfoot, and doors painted “that impossible Aegean blue.” The menu doesn’t stray far from the original—why mess with the formula that won a People’s Choice Award at New York’s street vendor cook-off this year? The “meticulously cubed” chicken and pork are served on skewers or stuffed inside a pita. Because portions are small, you’re within your rights to also order a side of oregano-dusted Greek fries topped with feta. 116 Stanton St., (212) 777-0116

Skillet Diner Seattle

Located at an intersection that’s become Seattle’s hottest destination for foodies, this easygoing diner is “a light-filled breath of fresh air,” said Allison Austin Scheff in Seattle. Maybe we should have expected nothing less from the folks who still run Skillet Street Food out of an Airstream trailer. Looking for perfection in an all-day breakfast option? Try the Belgian waffle under two sunny-side-up eggs, served with “meltingly tender pork belly.” Come dinnertime, “the Salisbury rib-eye steak is plain great,” and the goat-cheese dumplings with pulled pork shank is “like chicken ’n’ dumplings for grown-up palates.” Relaxing in one of Skillet’s cheery booths or at its central countertop, you may notice that the kitchen has occasional misfires. But most of the comfort food is spot on, and the setting is as friendly to hipsters as to parents with kids. “Imagine that.” 1400 E. Union St., (206) 420-7297

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