YACHT's Claire L. Evans and Jona Bechtolt have no shortage of restaurant recommendations.
After 12 years on the road, the Los Angeles-via-Portland, Oregon duo have eaten their way through cities all over the world. However you don't need to be lugging around amps for them while on tour to pick up their amazing, Spidey sense-like food abilities, since they're also curating daily eating tours of LA through their app, 5 Every Day.
It covers their hand-picked choices for everything relating to art, city, food, music, and a "wildcard" option that you have to download—for free—to find out for yourself. Below, Evans (who is also the Futures Editor for Motherboard) gives MUNCHIES the scoop on the best vegan banh mi that they have tried in Los Angeles thus far, chats with us about how LA's thriving food scene compares to the Portland's equally thriving food community, and shares the trick to eating good and keeping a vegan lifestyle while on the road.
Their full documentary hits Live Nation TV next week, but you can check out the preview for it exclusively on MUNCHIES.
MUNCHIES: How did you guys first find this glorious vegan banh mi? YACHT: Our number one-strategy for food discovery in Los Angeles—and everywhere—is walking and driving around. Looking out of the car, pulling over, scoping things that look interesting, stopping to look in windows, going inside stores and asking questions. We're particularly tuned to places that seem to have more than one thing going on culturally. This place KG Bakery piqued our interest because it's a Vietnamese bakery that advertises Mexican dulce de leche cakes.
What makes their banh hn mi superior? For one, KG is a family bakery, so the bread is always fresh, usually even warm, with the perfect ratio of crunch to softness. The banh mi is nothing fancy, as it should be. Plus they have two very legit fake meat options and vegan mayo.
Do you prefer eating banh mis in old-school places like KG Bakery, or slightly cheffed-up, fancier versions at more established restaurants? If you're paying more than five bucks for a banh mi sandwich, you're definitely doing it wrong.
What's the key element to a good banh mi? Definitely the bread.
Are you both vegan? If so, since when and why? We both suffer from veganism. Jona has been vegan since he was 20. I've been vegan for ten years, for all the normal reasons. It's not something we usually make a big deal about.
Do you ever break for special occasions when you tour/travel? Jona never breaks edge. I grew up in France so I make an exception for bivalves.
Given the opportunity to visit Vietnam (or anywhere where meat is served often), would you bend the veg rule? No. We've toured all over the world and have always been able to have authentic culinary experiences without eating meat. Some places are harder than others—Spain, France, and Korea all require effort—but every culture has vegetables.
You both lived in Portland, which has no shortage of good restaurants. How does LA compare? Food in Portland is definitely fantastic, but it's precious. We prefer Los Angeles for the sheer richness and diversity of regional foods in every strip mall, food trucks, and parking lot in the city. It's cheaper and a lot more interesting.
Aside from KG, what are your other must-eat spots in Los Angeles? We love trekking out to the San Gabriel Valley for Sichuan food—Sichuan Impression, Chengdu Taste, and Image Chengdu are our go-tos. Dune in Atwater Village is the best falafel in the city. Spinach potato burritos from Tacos Villa Corona. Pine & Crane and Night Market Song in Silverlake. Pizzanista downtown. Baroo, which is a tiny high-concept experimental kitchen in a strip mall in Hollywood.
Has running 5 Everyday made you guys more adventurous eaters? Definitely. We try new places all the time, for quality-control purposes. Something we had recently that we really loved was a tea leaf salad from Daw Yee Myanmar Café: fermented tea leaves, roasted peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, fried garlic, chopped tomatoes, peppers. It comes compartmentalized in little piles, and you mix everything up into a crunchy, dry confetti to your liking. We got really into Burmese food after having it in San Francisco, where it's more easily available, and hunted for a long while to find it in LA. Turns out it's in Monterey Park, like everything good.
Do you guys cook at home often? If so, what's your signature dish? Totally. Jona makes a soft tofu scramble with a metric ton of parsley that converts even the grumpiest morning people.
Are there any restaurants or bars you always visit on when you're on tour? Literally, name any city in the world and we'll tell you the vegetarian places there. Over 12 years of touring, we've built a pretty robust index. In a way, eating vegetarian on tour mainlines you right into the underground culture of a city. Vegetarian places tend to be countercultural in some way: they're hippie hangouts, punk spots, run by religious cults, etc.
What's your ideal last meal? A bathtub full of mapo tofu.
Thanks for speaking with me.