Meet the man who ate all of Los Angeles
September 27th, 2011
09:15 AM ET
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Sean Robins has a long list of foods he doesn’t eat. “No beef, no pork, no lamb, no veal, no mushrooms, no cold cheese, no white sauces. That means no sour cream, no cottage cheese, no mayonnaise, no milk, no eggs. It’s not allergies - all preferences.”

Nonetheless, a picky palate didn't impede Robins from dining at every one of the over 2,000 restaurants listed in the 2011 Los Angeles Zagat Restaurants Survey.

Robins started his quest 14 years ago. The Ohio native was living in Los Angeles and working in the wine industry - unhappily, he adds - and was on a first date. “I was wearing a yellow shirt and a black leather jacket, I looked like a giant Jewish bumblebee.”

This particular date was going so well that Robins began naming their future children - right before he fell asleep at the table. Run down and exhausted from his job, he decided to quit, make several life changes, and take up a new challenge: eating his way through the Zagat guide.

It’s a daunting task, eating at every restaurant in the second largest city in the United States. Los Angeles is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined and has a population of almost 10 million people. The highways and byways of the city are notorious for congestion, and driving is something Angelenos don’t undertake lightly.

But the journey is what will “Feed the Monster,” Robins' self proclaimed name and the title of his food blog.

“I think first and foremost you learn patience," says Robins. "You drive an hour and a half away and you put expectations on things that might not be met. And sometimes the best part of the experience isn’t the lunch or the dinner but the people you meet along the way. Or the fact that you’re in Alhambra and you never would have been.”

Rather than tabulate how much he’s spent in his pursuit, a question he’s often asked, Robins says he’d rather tally up the miles he’s driven. He wonders if it would be the equivalent of traveling to the moon.

His 14 year journey has been filled with slavish record keeping. Each time a new Zagat edition came out, Robins would note which restaurants had been added or deleted or had closed. His goal was a moving target - one that almost broke him when Zagat decided to add Catalina Island, Ventura and Ojai.

“I actually thought they found out what I was doing and they were f***ing with me” laughs Robins.

Catalina wasn’t his only potential breaking point. When the new guide was released, Robins was just 44 restaurants away from hitting his goal. Suddenly, the distance ballooned to 103.

He recalled, “I remember sitting in a Barnes and Noble and I called Angela, my wife, and said 'I don’t want to do this anymore, this is ridiculous, what am I doing?' And then the next day I was in a new restaurant.”

In 2003, Robins’ mission took a very personal turn. “My mother called me and said, 'Your father has stage four cancer, he has a week to live and you need to come home.' I remember sitting there and thinking how life changes.”

He traveled back to Ohio wondering if it would be the last time he’d ever see his father, an alcohol distributor whose very career had instilled in his son a love of good food and wine. His father survived the cancer, but can no longer eat or drink anything, other than a little Scotch.

Robins decided his future eating endeavors would honor his father, a man who still appreciates a good restaurant. To him, it’s about the camaraderie, the people and the atmosphere, even more than the food.

For nine of the 14 years, Robins’ wife Angela has accompanied him. They pick a destination and tackle as many as seven restaurants in a day, splitting an appetizer at one, ordering entrees at another, working their way through the list.

“There were times when I’d say what am I doing? Should I continue this? There are better uses of my time. Then I’d look at her, we’d be somewhere far flung and it would validate that this was exciting, it was a way to learn about our city and learn about ourselves. It’s been invaluable.”

Robins adds, “The breadth of restaurants in this city especially with different ethnicities is unbelievable. What I love about Los Angeles is you drive and see a sign that says Koreatown and yet all signs are in Spanish and that to me is fantastic. Or my favorite Greek restaurant, Papa Cristos, is in Koreatown.”

After nearly 2000 restaurants, just figuring out where to eat his “last meal” was a challenge. Robins knew it had to be a place that would be around for years. He finally decided on Pink's, an iconic hot dog stand with lines of customers wrapping around the restaurant at almost every hour of the day.

Robins says it reminds him of places in Ohio, because in those lines you can find “a millionaire, doctor and a policeman all side by side because they want to be there." He reasoned, "It’s a democratizing experience for me that was the perfect and fitting ending to this.”

On August 13, Robins and 50 friends gathered at Pink's and avoided the line. “We had table service, table cloths and pink roses. Gloria Pink was unbelievably kind in allowing us to take over part of her restaurant.”

The meal had a charity component, Robins wanted to give back to the hospital where his dad had the surgery. Over the course of his last month of eating, Robins says he raised $7000 for the James Cancer Hospital.

Robins isn’t quite finished though, the new Zagat survey was released this month, leaving him with 40-50 restaurants he hasn’t visited yet. He plans to keep eating and wants to raise funds for a different charity each year.

Feeding the homeless is his next mission, and Robins says he feels compelled. “How lucky am I to be able to do this. It’s been a lot of fun.”

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Filed under: News • Restaurants


soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. mn

    Dang! That's a lot of money!

    September 29, 2011 at 9:07 am | Reply
  2. Willya Felaeshme

    you guys are trolls. this is pretty tight, not to mention that this guy supported some 2000 different local businesses. just a guy taking advantage of the opportunities in the greatest country on earth

    September 28, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Reply
  3. Mandy

    I don't understand why people hate on the guy so much. Obviously he had to pay for the food he ate and probably has a job or whatever works for him (blogs make money too), and probably why it took him so long. The point of this article is that he is enjoying good food- one of the many ways to explore different places and cultures around a city, in his case L.A (some people even make awesome shows about traveling and eating!). I just moved to L.A a year ago and the food is probably my favorite thing about the city. There is nothing wrong in enjoying good food and being open to new culinary experiences as well. I thought it was a cool story.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:32 pm | Reply
  4. BPT

    This is the stupidest thing I've ever heard of. Is this supposed to be inspiring? He quit his job, which was probably pretty good. (Everybody is run down by their jobs, get over it) And his new mission was to eat at restaurants? There are people out there helping children with cancer, or feeding the homeless, and this guy is supposed to be an inspiration?

    What did he do for income for 14 years? And of all the places to eat at all the restaurants, he picks a dump like Los Angeles. There are so many other great cities in this country with much better food and drink. This is a stupid story.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Reply
    • ryan

      Some cancers are social and are the bitter negative types that eat away at you, until one day negative vitriol is all that falls out of your keyboard.

      September 29, 2011 at 1:08 am | Reply
  5. Peanut M&M

    I think a lot of people on here are drawing conclusions from nothing. No where does it say that he is doing this in place of a job. It says that he decided to quit his job fourteen years ago, but it never said that he has no job. Which would also explain why it has taken him fourteen years to get to 2,000 restaurants.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  6. Ballson Chinn

    He needs a job and purpose in life.

    September 28, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Reply
    • Ricky Martin

      I love ballz on my chin...

      September 28, 2011 at 1:13 pm | Reply
  7. Dolce21

    Wait a minute that is not Michael Moore! Under the heading there really should be a picture of Michael!

    September 28, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Reply
  8. FoolKiller

    Hm. And I'm lucky to have time to read about it...

    September 28, 2011 at 11:48 am | Reply
  9. yellowlegalpad

    cool story, bro

    September 28, 2011 at 8:38 am | Reply
  10. jayman419

    It doesn't seem like it should count if you got to 7 places in a day and split appetizers.

    I mean, if there are around 2000 in the guide, and only 40-50 change at each one, you'd think going to one meal out per day would have only taken 7 years or so.

    September 28, 2011 at 7:32 am | Reply
  11. aj

    how did he afford it?

    September 27, 2011 at 11:28 pm | Reply
  12. AreYouKidding?

    If he went to Pinks....what did he eat if he doesn't eat meat? "NO beef, no pork, no veal....." ?????

    September 27, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Reply
    • Stacy

      They do have veggie dogs. ....(They do at the Pinks at Cedar Point, which is the only one Ive been to)

      September 28, 2011 at 8:11 am | Reply
  13. marv

    MUST... BE... NICE...

    September 27, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Reply
    • marv

      Did the L.A. Times infer that he was Jewish just to explain how one could afford this little mission of "I'm totally crazy?"

      September 27, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Reply
      • Trystan

        Yeah, and to smooth it over with the readers they tried to tug on all of our heart-strings because of his dad. Yeah let's write a story about me because my dad is alive too, and I like salt on my food! ASTONISHING.

        Nevermind, it's not kosher salt. I don't fit in here.

        September 27, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Reply
      • Pinko Communist @Trystan

        What a flamming a hole troll.

        September 28, 2011 at 8:49 am | Reply
      • Flaming Liberal@ Pinko Commie

        Didn't you hear? He peed in his own corn flakes and is blaming it on the world.

        September 28, 2011 at 9:00 am | Reply
  14. mary

    I would prefer to hear about which places he thought were great and why and
    which were Not so much so and why .

    September 27, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Reply
    • Trystan

      That's what yelp is for.

      Beside, this guy only ate crackers every place he went. You see the laundry list of foods he refused to eat? He's certainly not an expert on eating. Hand this guy a matzo.

      September 27, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Reply
    • Peanut M&M

      He has a blog.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Reply
  15. THE BROWN NOTE

    they just had to mention he was jewish

    like we care about his mythological belief system

    ban religion

    and stop writing articles that promote this archaic faith eurotrash

    September 27, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Reply
    • thereald

      ...I'm with you on this...lately, I see or meet people and try to leave all those labels behind and honest feel way better...but people and the media just promote more ssheitte like that...?...

      September 27, 2011 at 10:54 pm | Reply
  16. Uneducated

    Does he have OCD, perhaps?

    September 27, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  17. Bob

    Ha. This guy went to Camp Wildwood in Bridgeton Maine.

    September 27, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Reply
  18. Rachael

    I'm a little confused by the point of the article. Why even mention all his allergies if it's not touched on at any point in the rest of the article? Also, how does someone with all those allergies even eat out all the time? It's like they just threw it out there, then left us hanging. Also, how exactly is he raising money for charities by eating out? This isn't mentioned either.

    September 27, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Reply
    • Brooke

      Rachael, you need to re-read the opening paragraph. They're NOT allergies. They're food preferences. He's a picky eater. The point of mentioning them is that it made it even more of a challenge to find things on each menu that he would/could eat.

      September 27, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Reply
    • ethnicboy14

      Rachael – "I"m a little confused by the point of the article. Why even mention all his allergies if it's not touched on at any point in the rest of the article? "

      Um...it definitely says those are NOT his allergies, just his preferences.

      September 27, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      "It’s not allergies – all preferences."

      Reading comprehension.

      September 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Reply
    • Rachael

      Wow! Brooke was so nice ... then the others chimed in. I didn't have my glasses on people. Trust me: I have no issues with reading comprehension. I do, however, have very poor eye sight.

      Good grief. Do people always have to be so scathingly sarcastic? It really is not necessary.

      September 27, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Reply
      • ficheye

        They were just responding to their inner troll, Rachael.

        The other day I asked someone what a word meant, and you would not believe just how many posts I got taking me to task for not googling it first. It's an annoying world, and likely to become even more so.

        September 27, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Reply
      • Trystan

        Even more annoying are people that have no backbone and are easily upset by a few words on the internet. It's amazing in this day and age just how many weaklings are floating around in the internet-turd bowl.

        Take care and god bless!

        September 27, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Reply
      • thereald

        ...that is the reason why I am giving up on humanity...every time you deal with people you can hear it in their tone of voice how much azz ho les we all are...

        September 27, 2011 at 10:57 pm | Reply
  19. Bobby

    Congrats on the "accomplishment", a true demonstration of American excess. It honestly sounds like this guy had an addiction he couldn't control.. He wanted to quit but found himself out eating the next day. “I remember sitting in a Barnes and Noble and I called Angela, my wife, and said 'I don’t want to do this anymore, this is ridiculous, what am I doing?' And then the next day I was in a new restaurant.” ...also, I bet 99% of the servers that waited on this guy were pissed. Sounds like small checks at every place he went. I feel extremely bad for all the 2000+ servers who had to wait on him. No pork, no white sauces, no thank you. Do the world a favor, next 2000+ times, eat at home.

    September 27, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Reply
    • BobbysMother

      LOL, man you sound bitter. let me guess you're a failed artist/musician with a liberal arts degree. also in lots of debt? the best you can do, waiter. check please

      September 28, 2011 at 12:18 am | Reply
  20. ElloSir

    Sounds like he hasn't eaten much at all...

    September 27, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Reply
  21. Multi-Tasking @ Work

    He's adorable...glad it's going for causes now.

    September 27, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Reply
    • ficheye

      He's adorable? Someone who seems like he doesn't have to work and eats out all the time.

      There are names for that and adorable isn't at the top of the list.

      September 27, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  22. Aaron

    A great place for food and drink specials is SpecialsAgent.com. They have over a million bar and restaurant deals, coupons, discounted specials and venue features. The site even features handy reviews and content from open table so you can find specials, book a reservation and get directions all in the same place. Check it out!

    September 27, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Reply
  23. dan

    "Sean Robins has a long list of foods he doesn’t eat. “No beef, no pork, no lamb, no veal, no mushrooms, no cold cheese, no white sauces. That means no sour cream, no cottage cheese, no mayonnaise, no milk, no eggs. It’s not allergies – all preferences.” "

    ...Then what's the point?

    September 27, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  24. johninmemphis

    He's a Jewish BumbleBee...

    September 27, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Reply
  25. M

    Umm, Elliot Yamin anyone.

    September 27, 2011 at 4:08 pm | Reply
  26. Todd

    "Robins isn’t quite finished though, the new Zagat survey was released this month, leaving him with 40-50 restaurants he hasn’t visited yet."

    Then he isn't "Meet the man who ate all of Los Angeles"... stupid.

    September 27, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Reply
    • Well actually

      It says he ate at all of the restaurants in the 2011 Zagat Guide, the new one is the 2012 guide.

      September 27, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Reply
  27. Todd

    In other news... most people in America skip breakfast and eat Lunch and Dinner...

    Who cares?

    September 27, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Reply
  28. RichardHead

    Please don't tell me he ate Paris Hilton.....EWWWWWW!!

    September 27, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Reply
    • Todd

      “No beef, no pork, no lamb, no veal, no mushrooms, no cold cheese, no white sauces. That means no sour cream, no cottage cheese, no mayonnaise, no milk, no eggs. It’s not allergies – all preferences.”

      I believe Paris Hilton's box could be the same as eatting sour cream, cottage cheese, mayonnaise, white sauces, mushrooms & pork.

      September 27, 2011 at 4:02 pm | Reply
      • Truth@Todd, RichHead

        Nah, I think those ingredients likely smell better. Just sayin.

        September 27, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Reply
      • Todd

        Forgot to mentioned it's baked together like her and booze.

        September 27, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Reply
      • R

        Ewwww!

        September 27, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Reply
  29. GetOverYourself

    What a Pain in the ***, stop being so picky, 2,000 restaurants, 2,000 pissed waiters and cooks

    September 27, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Reply
  30. Nick

    He's a movie exec/producer in Hollywood. That's how he can afford this. You can expect a movie version of this in 3-2-1.

    September 27, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Reply
  31. Fact Check

    1) The population of LA is 3.7 million
    2) The population of LA COUNTY is 9.8 million.
    "The article refers to the city and county as one, which is not the case.
    It’s a daunting task, eating at every restaurant in the second largest city in the United States. Los Angeles is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined and has a population of almost 10 million people. The highways and byways of the city are notorious for congestion, and driving is something Angelenos don’t undertake lightly."

    3) Same goes for being larger than RI and Delaware. The County covers more area, but the city does not. Not a problem, expect when you continually refer to the city when you mean the county.

    This article is riddled with inconsistencies.

    September 27, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Reply
    • Fact Check

      except* When I insult others grammar and facts, I should probably ensure that I spell correctly.

      September 27, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Reply
    • Fact Check Hater

      For God's sake, get a life.

      September 27, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Reply
    • Oh Please!!!

      When people say LA, they are usually referring to the LA metropolitan area which pretty much covers all of LA county. It is not just the city of Los Angeles, but all the neighboring cities that collectively make up the LA area. Everybody knows this.

      September 27, 2011 at 9:07 pm | Reply
  32. Truefax

    Wish I had that kind of time on my hands, must be loaded.

    September 27, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Reply
  33. KWDragon

    So what does he do for a living that allows him to dine out at multiple restaurants in a day? His quest sounds wonderful, but damn Quixotic for the rest of us.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Reply
    • Cuso

      I see someone loves their word of the day emails!

      September 27, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Reply
      • KWDragon

        Or has a PhD...which I do. Besides, big words are fun. Don't you agree?

        September 27, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Reply
  34. Bob Engineer

    Sean, your cardiologist will see you now.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Reply
    • crazy

      why? does he want to give him a high five for not eating any beef, pork, or dairy?

      September 27, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Reply
  35. Gnossos

    "Sean Robins has a long list of foods he doesn’t eat. “No beef, no pork, no lamb, no veal, no mushrooms, no cold cheese, no white sauces. That means no sour cream, no cottage cheese, no mayonnaise, no milk, no eggs. It’s not allergies – all preferences.”
    So what did he eat at Pink's?????????????????????????

    September 27, 2011 at 2:21 pm | Reply
    • Eric

      The relish.

      September 27, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Reply
    • Cpt Obvious

      Turkey Dog?

      September 27, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Reply
  36. super stud puppy

    truly an american hero...I have never read anything as selfless and philanthropic as this man's personal gastronomic journey, no, not journey, odyssey...forget the men and women of the armed services, the firefighters and policeman, the numerous souls who lost their lives on 9/11, this man has shown us the true meaning of courage...mazel tav Sean Robins, a god among men.

    September 27, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Reply
    • Markus

      WTH?

      September 27, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Reply
    • Bitter Party of 1

      Some people have hobbies. You obviously need one.

      September 27, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Reply
    • Sweetenedtea

      Some people have sarcasm detectors. You obviously need one.

      September 27, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Reply
    • ryan

      Wow, he managed to stuff his face with healthy food at every restaurant in LA. Groundbreaking.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:10 am | Reply
  37. Lila

    I live in LA too and I feel so guilty when I keep going to the same restaurants because there are so many great ones to try.

    September 27, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Reply
    • ryan

      I totally understand you.

      September 28, 2011 at 1:12 am | Reply
  38. KK

    I expected a 400 pound guy. He looks a lot like Gerard Butler.

    September 27, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Reply
    • inyourhead00

      I thought the same thing when I saw him :)

      September 27, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Reply
    • Jesse

      I know, he's pretty sexy.

      September 27, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Reply
    • Aretha Holly

      He looks like Antonio Ballatore's younger brother.

      September 27, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Reply
    • Trystan

      You're right!

      He looks like someone that would love to date Gerard Butler!

      September 27, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Reply
  39. TX4UREXKARLENE

    How Wonderful !! Feeding the homeless !!! Good Luck :-)

    September 27, 2011 at 8:44 am | Reply

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