Colin Marshall takes a trip to the 99¢ Only Store and beyond with Billy Vasquez, better known as the 99 Cent Chef. They discuss the store as a prime venue for peoplewatching (whether the people dress in their Sunday best or in pink-striped miniskirts); the appeal of midcentury Googie diner architecture; how he drove out to Venice Beach on the 10 and stayed in Los Angeles for 37 years; the meaty usefulness of both chorizo and soyrizo; asparagus, a product you’d never have found at any 99-cent store a decade ago; 99-cent Italian beer with 99-cent Italian pasta, and 99-cent German beer with 99-cent German chocolate cake-coated marshmallows; ingredient substitution (like cumin for curry powder) as the essential skill of the 99-cent gourmand; the strange allure of Vienna Sausage corn dogs; inventing the only pasta that pays tribute to John Cassavetes; the suicidal possibilities of marshmallow ropes; the delicious possibilities of portobello crab rockefeller; the Banquet-to-Contessa spectrum of frozen dinners; the two-piece 99-cent deal to be had every Tuesday at Popeyes’; the Los Angeles Expo Line as a glorious passageway to places like Earlez Grille, Let’s Be Frank, and Chef Marilyn’s Soul Food Express, and his adventures at cheap eateries on rail lines past; how his Cajun heritage taught him, with nutria and crayfish, that you can eat anything; his street photography, and the Restaurant Nocturnes video series that came out of it; and all of the fascinating contradictions of Los Angeles, a city both beautiful and tarnished, that just might disappear if you don’t water it.
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