I Found Home in a Pumpkin Pie Milkshake

After Moving to L.A. From a Small Town, I Craved a Familiar Place

When I left Watsonville (pop. 52,000) in the fall of 2012 to attend Occidental College in Los Angeles, I expected to cry at the absence of family and friends. But I didn’t anticipate how much I would miss small restaurants that I had taken for granted back home, like the tiny Japanese spot on East Lake or the cowboy-themed diner near our local Target.

I was in desperate need of an L.A. food spot that felt like home, so I made lists of places to check out on weekends, placing …