When Jonathan Gold chose food over the Foreign Service

This weekend's year-end edition of "This American Life," about different creative kinds of mapping, reprises a 1998 segment in which Jonathan Gold — then the food critic for the LA Weekly and Los Angeles magazine — explains his year exploring the food offerings of West Pico Boulevard. At the time, in the '80s, he worked as a proofreader at a legal newspaper in Downtown and held aspirations to join either the National Security Agency, the CIA or the Foreign Service. "My goal in those days, I suppose, was to be Elliott Abrams, who was at that time the undersecretary of state under Reagan," Gold says.

He would ride the Pico Boulevard bus to work from his home in the Pico-Robertson area, and he decided to spend a year checking out — and mapping — the many kinds of ethnic restaurants he saw outside the bus windows, from Mr. Coleslaw Burger to Oki-Dog to authentic Guadalajaran birria places. He tried, he says, more than 150 eateries. "I became obsessed with the idea of Pico Boulevard," Gold says in the segment. "I don't think there's another street in Los Angeles that's quite like it."

The story also ran in the LA Weekly in 1998 and there's a This American Life transcript of the show.

Listen to Gold's segment below:

Photo of Oki-Dog:

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