When one thinks of a food critic, one might summon up the image of a pretentious, but well-trained expert in food — the kind of person whose nose is permanently stuck in the air.
That image of a stuck-up culinary connoisseur could not be further from the truth when it comes to describing Drew Hubbard and Ben Waters, the founders of the popular LA Foodie podcast.
Though these two high school friends might identify as food critics, they come off just as their podcast makes them seem: fun and relaxed. They aren’t afraid of enjoying all types of foods, and were even all right with serving Doritos and Oreos as party snacks at their Super Bowl party on Sunday.
In LA Foodie, however, the food is a little less generic. The Kansas City transplants have taken advantage of the fact that they live in one of the food capitals of the world and have set out to share all that Los Angeles has to offer with their listeners.
The site, which began as a blog and expanded to include a podcast, centers on the idea of being a tourist in your own city. Hubbard came up with the idea when he was working at a digital marketing agency. Just for fun, he began to experiment with websites and stumbled onto the idea of reviewing his favorite haunts.
According to Hubbard, 2008 was the perfect year to use as a launching point for the site.
“That was the time food became kind of sexy,” Hubbard said. “[It was] right at the time L.A. started becoming an awesome restaurant town.”
In 2011, he encouraged his high school friend Waters to come aboard. Waters, who had a background in television production and editing, had been listening to podcasts for a while and was easily persuaded to come aboard. Though this is their first time working together, Hubbard said that the allure of podcasting stems from their shared love for performance.
“It sounded like fun,” Waters said. “I had never produced a podcast, but I listened to a lot of them, and I found that many of them were quite boring. I wanted to make a segmented podcast, not one where you’re overhearing somebody else’s conversation.”
Together, their culinary blog and podcast has featured some of the best of Los Angeles food culture. As they munched on chips and dip waiting for the Super Bowl to start, they encouraged USC students to adopt a tourist philosophy when they explore culinary options in their backyard.
Off the top of their head, they suggested a stop-by-stop restaurant tour that students can take from the Exposition/Culver City Metro line, which passes right by USC.
First stop: right next to campus, at the Expo/USC station, the foodies highly recommended the food court-style group of restaurants next to USC at Mercado La Paloma, which features cuisine ranging from burgers to Thai food. They said the community effect gives the group of restaurants a “cool food experience.”
A Chinese restaurant named Ko Sai Kai is located at the Expo/Western station. Though they referenced Taken when they described the restaurant’s setting, Hubbard and Waters said that restaurant had amazing appetizers and recommended ordering the dumplings and egg rolls. Meanwhile, Earlez Grille is their suggestion for the Crenshaw stop. The store has a wide selection of hot dogs and comfort food, and the duo especially recommends the restaurant’s banana pudding.
For those who enjoy seafood, Mel’s Fish Shack at the Farmdale stop is a required visit. For those that visit, Hubbard and Waters agreed that the grilled shrimp is a necessary choice.
Next, at the La Brea stop, they recommend CJ’s Cafe. The guys describe the restaurant as a “soul food-esque, Mexican brunch joint.” They suggest the chicken wings and waffles topped with tons of maple syrup.
At La Cienega, Hubbard and Waters said the choice was easy: J.R.’s BBQ. The restaurant has outrageous chicken sausages, which are made on-site daily.
Finally, near the Culver City station, they recommend a restaurant supply store called Surfas that doubles as a cafe. The restaurant, which is open only for lunch, is an “unsung” part of Culver City, they said.
Hubbard and Waters clearly love to talk about food and for them, LA Foodie is a pursuit of passion. Today, the site has produced 36 podcasts, 404 blog posts and 6,311 tweets. They have a loyal audience and now many restaurants come to them to request to be featured on the blog, something Hubbard described as a “f-cking awesome problem.”
Hubbard and Waters said what lies in the future for LA Foodie is building it into a sustainable business. But success often follows passion, and the duo seems primed for another wave of success.