There's an old saying that goes something like "a new city is only as good as the friends you meet there." There's some truth to that if you can get past the terrible, cringe-y sentiment, because it's hard to deny that the best way to get to know a city is with a tour guide—somebody who knows the best clubs and the spots with cheap drinks and cheaper tacos that won't completely decimate your gastrointestinal tract.
In honor of our new VICE Guide to Los Angeles, we asked some LA-based musicians and artists to act as our virtual tour guides and fill us in on their favorite spots in the city. This time, we hit up actor Martin Starr to talk about the best gems in LA. He gave us some good recommendations, but he never did let us in on the location of his secret sushi spot—no matter how many times we asked.
VICE: What do you love about LA?
Martin Starr: For a while I didn't love LA and all I thought it offered me was the relationships I had with people here. Now one of the things I love most about LA is that there is such a great variety of food. Really delicious food. The older I get and the more my tastes mature, I find myself dreaming and fantasizing about food.
For me, one of the ways in which you get to know a city is through the food. Whenever I travel for work, one of the first things I seek out is the food.
What are some of your favorite places to drink?
Home. I also like the Philly West. It's a nice, chill place. I don't go out and drink a ton. But, there are a lot of great places to go out and imbibe alcohol. I feel like it's taster's choice, but for me, it's small dive bars. One of the reasons I love that place is that they have Guinness on tap. I've had a few birthdays there.
Are you a party person?
I like social gatherings more than parties, probably. Too many people and I tend to get uncomfortable. I hang out in smaller groups—I like just being with my friends. When you're on the road, what do you miss most about LA?
It's an evolving answer, but it's always food. Well, that's not true. My mom reminds me of home. And when I'm on the road, I just miss having that camaraderie with my friends. When I come back, I like to hit up the restaurants that I missed, one of which is a sushi place I won't tell you about.
I can't tell you my favorite sushi place. I like that it's my small little sushi place that I can go to. It's the best sushi I've had outside of Tokyo. But I did used to go to a place called Noshi Sushi as a kid that I liked.
So what are some of the best places to help an visitor get to know LA through its food?
Mao's Kitchen, for Chinese. It's a different type of flavor than you get from like a Panda Express place or even a sit-down place. This is fresh chicken and fresh beef and they have an orange chicken that is good, but their sesame and beef is to die for.
I stopped eating dairy seven or eight years ago, so I don't eat a lot of Mexican food. If I do, it's in Austin and I'll eat Tex Mex.
Jitlada and Night + Market Song are the two best Thai places in LA. Jitlada is in a little strip mall. There is always a wait, but it's so good there. I like the fried morning glory salad. It has breaded and fried flowers. I like it better without the shrimp. Night + Market Song has a crispy rice salad that is amazing. You can get it really spicy. Those are both good places to put your taste buds in check.
LA is a burger town, and there are two tiers of burger: fast food and artisan. For fast food I always like In-N-Out, simple and easy. It may be cliché to stay, but it's the best fast food hamburger you're going to get. It's usually one of the first things I do when I come home from traveling. I order the triple meat, no onion, no pickles.
The best burger, period, is Hole in the Wall. They make their own patties there. They do a pulled pork burger there every once in a while as a special and, I mean, it's fucking amazing.
It seems like you would advocate for people to not judge a restaurant by its strip mall covering?
That is one way to put it. You don't have a choice in LA, because it's so difficult to come across property and if it happens to be in a strip mall, you have to take it. In general, in a city like this, a restaurant won't survive unless it's really good or really cheap. A lot of really good places are popping up more and more in strip malls.
What are some misconceptions and true stereotypes about people in LA?
One of the misconceptions is that people aren't intelligent here. I think that is a major misconception. A lot of the people I know and look up to are incredibly intelligent, well read, present, and genuine. As much as this business can affect people, I think it can also drive people in a lot of ways. Granted, there are other sides to the city. To assume that everyone is one way is inaccurate.
Where do you go when you have nothing to do?
It depends because there have been different phases in my life. From 16 to 21 or 22, I would just get in my car and drive and that put me at peace. In my mid-20s, it was playing basketball and chanting. I grew up Buddhist, so it centers me.
Were comics and trading cards and superheroes a big part of your childhood? Yeah I think I always imagined life would be better as Wolverine. That never came true, but it still seemed to turn out all right.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Check out more from the VICE Guide to Los Angeles.