A Cyclist’s Guide to the Best Food in L.A.
Former pro racer Phil Gaimon shares his favorite spots for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cookies
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Retired pro cyclist Phil Gaimon loves cookies. “I’m the cookie guy—everyone knows that,” he says. In fact, he throws a cookie-themed gran fondo in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles every year and rocks a KOM Cycling team jersey with cookies in place of the famous polka dots. On occasion, when he must, Gaimon ventures out to eat normal meals.
“It’s the best,” he says of both the cycling and the food in L.A. “I think there’s some of the best riding in the country here. Plus, if you’re a chef who wants to get noticed, you open a restaurant in L.A.”
One challenge to dining in the city is the sheer variety of options, which can feel overwhelming. But Gaimon gets help from some great connections in the foodie world. He’s become close with many of the city’s top cooks, and his fondo benefits No Kid Hungry, an organization hoping to end child hunger in America. So, if you stick to Gaimon’s plan, you’ll never have a bad meal in L.A.—or, God forbid, a bad cookie.
Breakfast at Sweetsalt
Gaimon starts his day with a few hours of desk work—writing, working on videos, or coordinating for his fondo. This means wherever he eats must be laptop-friendly. “Sweetsalt is effectively my office in the neighborhood,” he says, adding that some mornings he’ll stay at this small café up until the the start of the lunch rush. Gaimon’s usual order is eggs with veggies, like the microgreen omelet or the spinach scramble. “They also have the best bacon in the world. It’s kinda thick and always crunchy, and I think they coat it with honey.”
Time for a Bike Ride
Yes, L.A. has horrendous traffic. But when you trade four wheels for two, things take a turn for the better. Gaimon likes to ride into the Hollywood Hills. “Griffith Park, which is where the Hollywood sign is, has three different climbs on closed roads, so you can play there for a good part of the day.” For a longer day, you can ride from there all the way to Malibu. When Gaimon goes long, he’ll stop for lunch at Pedlar's Fork, a bike-themed restaurant and cycling shop in Calabasas. His go-to order is the baby beet and goat cheese salad, which is topped with a toasted walnuts and a balsamic vinaigrette.
Hit the Farmers’ Market
L.A. is a great city those who love farmers’ markets. Gaimon’s two favorites are the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market (Wednesday and Saturday mornings) and the market that Pedlar’s Fork hosts in its parking lot (Saturday mornings.)
Lunch (and a Quick Cookie!)
If he doesn’t stop mid-ride, Gaimon will refuel afterward at his friend Jeff Mahin’s restaurant, M Street Kitchen. There, he gets the crispy beef tacos, washes them down with coffee, then treats himself to one of Mahin’s famous chocolate chunk cookies. “It’s just a chocolate chip cookie done right,” Gaimon says, adding that he thinks it’s the best cookie in the city.
A Hike with a View
Because the hills outside the city are so steep and craggy, many have remained free of development, making them prime hiking spots. “You get these super-cool views of the city, but you can also get eaten by a coyote. I just love that dichotomy,” Gaimon says. A great nearby hike is the Temescal Canyon Trail, which boasts waterfalls (if it’s rained recently) and some fascinating rock formations. Alternatively, Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains has a great view.
M Street Kitchen will always be Gaimon’s go-to for cookies, but he has a few other favorite spots. “The Trails Café in Griffith Park has a decent cookie, and so does Commissary, in Burbank.” In fact, Gaimon says that the lunches at Commissary come standard with a free cookie. What’s not to love about that?
Dinner in Style or on a Budget
Do you want to eat like a celebrity? Or do you want an awesome $15 pizza so you can save money for drinks? Either way, Gaimon has you covered.
For special occasions, he heads to Baltaire, which he calls “an outrageous steak joint.” It’s run by chef Travis Strickland, one of Gaimon’s riding buddies, and the steaks are always perfect. Another spot he’ll hit when he’s feeling spendy is Dialogue, “where dinner is like $400 for 21 incredible courses or something like that.” The executive chef at Dialogue is Dave Beron, an avid cyclist. Gaimon says that you often seen him riding in the canyons in the morning, foraging for edible flowers and other items to incorporate into his dishes.
If you don’t have that kind of time or budget, Gaimon suggests Stella Barra Pizzeria. These hand-tossed pies are topped with premium ingredients—like organic sausage and shaved fennel—and cooked in a wood-fired oven. It serves beer, wine, and cocktails, and you’ll walk out feeling satisfied but not broke.
Time for a Nightcap
If you can’t do Baltaire for dinner, Gaimon recommends heading there for drinks, partly because the people-watching is phenomenal. “Everyone there looks like the stock photo that comes in a new picture frame.” Another reason, he says, is that “an Old-Fashioned done right is surprisingly hard to find.”
For something more casual, head to Cascabel, a Mexican restaurant with “the best margaritas you’ve ever had.” In fact, you can often find Gaimon here after a long, hot ride, getting his carbs and sodium replenishment via lime juice, triple sec, tequila, and a salted rim.