City of Gold: LA Gastronomical

Producer/director and first-time writer Laura Gabbert’s documentary feature City of Gold offers a festive, slightly fawning tribute to Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold, whose specialty is discovering and celebrating the little hole-in-the-wall greasy spoons (or even sidewalk vendors) where, he believes, the real innovations are taking place and where the multi-ethnic cultural landscape of Southern California can be savored in the dishes they prepare – many of which look mighty appetizing indeed.

Gold, unpretentious and slightly eccentric (in an appealing way), is just as happy chowing down with a bottle of soda or a beer as being served at a four-star restaurant, if not more so. His reviews have brought sustained popularity to many of these under-the-radar eateries, and their owners are understandably effusive in their praise, especially in his ongoing efforts to discover them in the first place.

We also learn a bit about Gold’s background. As a child, he studied classical cello and found a measure of success, before being turned on to punk rock, which he also played. We meet his wife, LA Times editor Laurie Ochoa, their children, and several of Gold’s colleagues at the Times. Indeed, the film occasionally feels like a plug for that newspaper, but at a time when newspapers are struggling to survive, it’s not entirely out of place.

City of Gold works best in its looser, more laid-back moments. When it strives for a profound observation, which it occasionally does, it tends to overreach a little bit. Besides, it’s not really necessary. The lighter it is, the livelier it is.

City of Gold opens Friday at RED Cinemas, 1305 Battleground Ave., Greensboro.

At 7 pm, in association with the Marshall Free House Restaurant in Greensboro, RED Cinemas will present a special “Super Club Film Series” screening that includes both City of Gold and the feature documentary King Georges, (which explores the history of Philadelphia’s famed restaurant, Le Bec-Fin). Admission is $10, and includes a “pre-game” of pub bites cooked up by the Marshall along with $5 pints of Pig Pounder beer. For advance tickets or more information, call 336.230.1732 or visit RED Cinemas on Facebook. The official RED Cinemas website is: MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2016, Mark Burger.