Michael Connelly doesn’t paint the Los Angeles of his novels. Instead, he captures it as if he were a photojournalist, creating realistic word pictures for his readers, of palm trees and panhandlers, the million-dollar homes and the out-of-work homeless.
His L.A. is colorful, but those colors are often dark, illustrating the realities the rest of the country doesn’t see during the Rose Parade or on the Oscars’ red carpet.
Anyone who wants to visit Southern California based on his novels is either slightly twisted or simply ravenous.
No matter where you think he ranks behind Raymond Chandler among the legions of authors who write about Los Angeles, Connelly is the undisputed champion of creating memorable characters out of the city’s dining spots rather than merely treating them as settings.
Sure, his fans everywhere read about Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller (plus the likes of Terry McCaleb, Jack McEvoy and, recently, Lucia Soto), but the locals also find a restaurant guide hidden among the murderers, corrupt politicians and reverence for jazz.
Hard-core Connelly readers took note that the El Matador truck is a must for tacos; for the more casual fan who wants a taste of the world Bosch and Haller inhabit, here’s a starter list:
Musso & Frank Grill
6667 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles
The Hollywood institution makes frequent appearances in Connelly’s books and has been featured on the Amazon series “Bosch.” Classic martinis are much of the allure, but the steaks don’t disappoint, even if the sauces for them cost an additional $4.50. In “Trunk Music,” Connelly describes the tableside preparation of chicken pot pies, making it sound every bit as elegant as the service of bananas Foster.
Philippe The Original
1001 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles
Double-dipped sandwiches, community tables and 45-cent coffee – only 9 cents a cup until 2012 – draw the faithful to the ultimate level playing field in L.A. Executives stand in line behind uniformed cops as well as grandparents and grandchildren stopping off for a bit of nostalgia on their way home from a day game at Dodger Stadium. Don’t mess with perfection: Get the roast beef, and pull up a stool next to a stranger.
Pacific Dining Car
1310 W. Sixth St., Los Angeles
Late-night steak and eggs, anyone? Breakfast is always available at the restaurant that never closes and usually has a big name tucked into a booth. Connelly has said he favors the Dining Car when he’s in town to meet with someone, and it makes sense. Unlike many downtown spots, diners actually can converse here. Novices can try the baseball steak seen in “Training Day” during dinner hours, but the pros know it’s only $23.95 from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., and the omelets are reasonable whenever they’re needed.
6333 W. Third St., Los Angeles
There are five locations and two more on the way, but the original at Farmers Market is where Bosch belongs (even if he’s seen in Studio City on the Amazon show). It’s tough to imagine why anyone would order something beyond a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice and the signature buttermilk hot cakes – made with the same recipe since 1938. Just remember: The syrup goes on the bottom.
And one from Orange County:
292 N. Glassell St., Orange
OK, it only gets a passing mention in “The Crossing” and its name isn’t used. But it clearly was Bruxie in the opening paragraph of Chapter 4 when Bosch and his daughter visited Chapman University and “ate a late lunch at a restaurant on the edge of campus that served everything on waffles.” It’s a little tough to imagine Bosch ordering the Oregon pole-caught albacore tuna melt – our guess is he’d be more at home at Gabbi’s down the street – but the Carolina BBQ pulled pork might have worked for him.