On an early and incredibly sunny Saturday morning I embarked on a four-hour journey across Los Angeles to eat at the hottest—and apparently most secretive—bacon spots in the city. A company called Secret City Tours created the $60 tour, which took over 50 passengers all over the city in a giant bus. A disclaimer before I continue: I didn't 'get' the whole bacon craze. Still don't. I've always been amicable with the stuff, but never thought that every non-bacon food in existence suddenly needed to have bacon in it in order to be worth my time. I thought perhaps this tour would change my mind and I'd suddenly get why bacon is such a national treasure.
I arrived at the Universal City Red Line station at around 9:45 AM and was instantly greeted by the two tour guides, both wearing the same shirt that depicted a fat pig gleefully saying, "Mmmm bacon." Damn, does this pig even know? I went inside the giant white bus, noticing that nearly everyone else on this tour was middle-aged married couples. Some knew each other, making it very clear this was not their first rodeo. I heard one couple asking another couple, "How was the taco tour?" These people are serious food tourists. I felt inadequate.
The bus filled up quickly. Our tour guide, John, introduced himself and asked the crowd if they loved bacon, which of course resulted in a bunch of hooting and hollering. Every time John said the word bacon, women screamed and men cheered. John calmed everyone down real quick, however, when he started spewing extremely uninteresting facts about Los Angeles. We'd pass by streets and he'd tell us who that street was named after. We'd pass by a building and he would tell us what the inside looked like. He did this throughout the tour.
Our first stop was in Hollywood at a restaurant called Grub. Because it is so small, we did not get off the bus—the chef brought the food to us, climbing aboard to give us a simple strip of bacon on a stick. She went on to discuss the bacon, which is called "crack bacon" and hand-rubbed in a blend of spices and baked. It tasted like sunflower seeds at first, but later tasted like a kind of Teriyaki jerky. As confusing as this bacon was, it was still pretty delicious. I wouldn't describe it as "crack bacon" though, but maybe a less addictive but fun drug, like "shroom bacon."
Stop number two was inside the terribly exclusive farmers market at The Grove. We went to a self-described "artisan hot dog stand" called Fritzi Dog. Here, we were served what's called a Bacon Pup: a little nugget of smoked, sous-vide applewood bacon dipped in homemade corndog batter and served with a side of their signature sweet and sour sauce. It looked delicious, but I was deeply disappointed with its taste. The bacon was too moist and chewy and the sauce was not a good fit in my opinion. I ended up just craving a regular corn dog.
Back in the bus, John started quizzing us on how well we knew our bacon. He asked trivia questions like, "How many pounds of bacon are produced in the US every year?" Whoever got it right won a bacon-related prize. The answer to this specific question, according to John, is a startling two billion. Two billion pounds of bacon. We are sick, sick creatures.
Stop number three was at a relatively new restaurant called Roadhouse LA, located on Sunset and connected to an improv comedy club. The restaurant opened their doors just for us, which was nice of them. Chef Kyle came out and served us a tiny bite of their root beer bacon, which is cured in-house for three days. On top of the bacon was a square of vanilla-scented scrambled egg, and a light vinaigrette topping. This was the most delicious thing we'd had so far and I was extremely upset we could only have one tiny bite.
Back on the bus, more prizes were given away like bacon luggage tags and bacon-flavored potato chips. For some reason, every prize was hilarious to everyone on board. I won nothing because I am bacon-illiterate, a complete idiot when it comes to all things pig. I blame my Jewish upbringing. We got to the fourth stop, a burrito and taco eatery known as Yuca's in Los Feliz. Here, we were served a twice-fried bacon burritito (tiny burrito). This was our biggest serving of food so far, and though the bacon was not the star by any means (I couldn't even really taste it), it was still damn good with their hot sauce.
We continued on to downtown LA and had to stay in the bus again at the next stop, the Nickel Diner, where their chef brought to us bite-sized maple bacon donuts. I was wondering when dessert bacon was going to happen. Here it was. It was very sweet and super doughy. One bite was more than enough for me.
Only a block or two past the Nickel Diner was our next stop at Pete's Cafe. Here we were handed whiskey bacon shots, which I couldn't handle—whiskey mixed with butterscotch liqueur was too much for my stomach. The chef then brought us a second item, which was a chocolate and pretzel-covered strip of bacon. I took one bite and felt like one more would make me barf, realizing that I really can't mix sweets with bacon. It didn't help that the thing looked like a bird had crapped on it and the pretzel bits did nothing to help. This was my least favorite stop, but a guy standing next to me kept repeating the phrase, "freaking amazing." Maybe I'm the freak for thinking it was awful. It was truly, truly awful.
We had one more stop to go. My stomach was audibly mad at me at this point, and I feared that one more piece of bacon would make my heart stop. I looked around, though, and everyone else was doing just fine. They were laughing and answering questions about Kevin Bacon and winning more amazing prizes while I was having a horrific crisis. This was the most bacon I had ever had in a day, and it wasn't even that much. This is, apparently, what I get for thinking I can play with the big boys. I admitted defeat, vowing not to eat whatever was going to be served at our last and final stop.
The grand finale of our tour was in Atwater Village, inside Village Bakery. We stepped off the bus and a woman holding a platter filled with brioche-wrapped bacon greeted us. I hesitated grabbing one but had an internal pep talk with myself and went for it, found one last ounce of strength in my body and gave the sucker a bite. I ate the whole thing in a matter of seconds and felt like a champ when I got back on the bus, where I fell asleep as John spoke more about the Los Angeles River and what year the Mexican-American War ended.
We got back to where we started. Collectively, everyone on that bus paid over $3,000 to eat a bunch of Costco samples. I don't think I could ever do anything like this again, but was proud of myself for doing it. I think bacon and I need to spend a little time apart for a while. We'll be friends again soon.