Monday, September 2, 2013

Alfredo's Mexican Food

One of my favorite small Mexican places in Burbank (el Mexicano) closed their doors earlier this year and my favorite machaca tacos became no more.  In it's place, a new Mexican place opened up - Alfredo's Mexican Food.

The whole place has changed from it's family-run stand -- the menu is no longer hand written but typed and printed, the tables and chairs have been updated, the kitchen was gutted and fixed, they have a bathroom and most importantly, they take credit cards now.

The reviews on Yelp are incredibly favorable even though there aren't many and every single one of them calls out the Carne Asada Fries.  In recent years, ever since food trucks became popular and gourmet, carne asada fries have been THE thing.  So I ordered them even though they were $8.  We also tried the carne asada tacos, cheese enchiladas, and carnitas taco.

The carnitas taco was super dry even when I piled on the salsa (green is spicier than red), I wasn't able to finish the taco.  The carne asada was just okay, it didn't have any particular flavor but it was tender, tasted like plain steak to me.  The Super Fries were huge. Easily enough to share or to feed two for a meal. They have carne asada, creme, guacamole and cheese.  I liked these but they weren't super amazing. They needed something more like jalepenos but the fries stayed crispy and the sour cream and guac really made it.

I am interested in going back and trying something else--like maybe the machaca or the chiliquiles but I don't think I'll be heading back anytime soon, there are many better places for tacos.

Alfredo's Mexican Food
911 N San Fernando Blvd
BurbankCA 91504

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Golden Road Pub

I've been hearing all about the Golden Road Pub and seeing it every time we drive through Glendale because of it's bright-blue building just off the freeway in an otherwise bland industrial area.

Yesterday afternoon we had our first chance to try it out.  The Pub is in a bright yellow building with many different seating areas--inside and out.  We opted for the front outdoor patio which has a couple of small tables and lots of long tables for large groups. The Pub was mildly busy but not crowded.  Lots of people were there with their kids playing in an area with ping pong, Foosball, giant Connect Four and a couple of other games.

I really liked the atmosphere of the place even on this very hot day. If you were to go there, order a beer from the bar (and order your food from the bar too) and then just hang around chatting and playing games you'd probably really enjoy it.

On the other hand...if you were planning to eat lunch, not try the beer, and order at your table, you might have the same disappointing experience we had.  Looking around us, the food looked great--juicy burgers, big salads, a giant pretzel with dipping sauce. We were sold.  I ordered the proscuitto and goat cheese sandwich with fig jam, Joey got the burger.  I stuck with water and Joey got the lemonade. We also ordered a big pretzel.

It was over 90 degrees in Glendale that afternoon, the water came without any ice and we never got a refill.
The lemonade was most definitely country time and was also a little bit warm.
Both the burger & sandwich were average at best, the bread was far to thick to enjoy the filling much. The salad I had as my side was good but drenched in dressing and the fries were totally average.  I can't speak for the pretzel because our waiter totally forgot that we ordered one and we never received it--but since it wasn't on the bill either he definitely completely forgot.  Our waiter never came back to our table until I flagged him down for the bill and even then it took some time.  I saw him start coming towards us and then turn away multiple times.

Lesson learned, this place needs a better chef who doesn't rely on heavy breads and light fillings. This mostly vegan menu may be really good and maybe I just got the wrong thing--but if I go again I'm ordering from the bar--where I have to wait for no one to get served.  Go here for the beer and atmosphere and get your food elsewhere.

The Pub at Golden Road Brewing
5410 W San Fernando Road
Los Angeles, CA 90039

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cafe Leila

While we were in Northern CA this weekend we met up with one of my greatest college friends for breakfast. She suggested we meet at Cafe Leila where they have breakfast but don't draw the crowds that are common for Sunday morning breakfast.

Cafe Leila is located on San Pablo which is a mixed shop street common to the city of Berkeley. While the street can be pretty crowded the cafe is an island of its own. It even has a free parking lot! The cafe is actually quite big despite the small looking front room. It goes back and back with a huge outdoor patio that we may have enjoyed on a warmer day.

The cafe was comfortable and had a smattering of customers - if everyone was concentrated in a small space it would've been crowded.

We ordered the Alex Breakfast and the California Omelet.  The Alex breakfast came with two eggs any style, bacon, toast, potatoes and fruit. The omelet came with an omelet (obviously) filled with tomatoes and avocado, cheese and garlic; toast, potatoes and cantaloupe.

The omelet was good with a good amount of filling. The potatoes had a nice "baked potato" feel served with green onions and sour cream.  The toast was ample and the coffee was hot.  The Alex breakfast also looked pretty good with an ample helping of fruit.

The conversation flowed and the cafe staff didn't mind us sitting around as long as we pleased.  I wish I could make this place my local coffee shop--but it's a little bit of a drive.

And FYI, Fry was not at the cafe.

Cafe Leila
1724 San Pablo Ave
Berkeley, CA 94702

Monday, November 12, 2012

La Note

While we were in Berkeley this weekend, we spent a lot of time eating at local restaurants. It was fun to find new places and rely on the reviews of yelpers as we searched for places to eat near our hotel that weren't names we recognized. On Saturday morning, we headed to a late breakfast.  We searched the reviews and landed on La Note.

We were pretty worried that it would be a long wait because breakfast on the weekends is a very popular meal - even for people who aren't on vacation. The restaurant is also pretty close to the college and we worried that for some reason parents would be in town taking their poor college kids to breakfast.  There were also a lot of Ducks milling around town (and breakfast did them good, seriously 59 - 17?).  We parked in a 1 hr spot and bit our nails for the 5 minutes before we were surprisingly seated inside.  The restaurant is loud but comfortable.

Did I mention that this weekend it was cold? I could pick up a breeze each time the door opened but the roving waiters kept me warm with refreshes of coffee every few minutes.

La Note is a French restaurant. I was drawn to several items on the menu - and the size of the chocolate croissants were super tempting but I resisted.  I ordered a ham and cheese omelet that came with potatoes and toast.  My husband ordered the cinnamon brioche french toast with lavender and orange syrup.

The omelet I had was the fluffiest I have ever had. It used Swiss cheese and lots of ham and was incredibly flavorful.  The potatoes came with whole cloves of roasted garlic. The fresh jam on the table made me eat all my toast. The french toast also looked good and even though it didn't come with anything but an orange slice, it was plenty of food.

If there is a lot of hype for this restaurant, it's well warranted. The prices are a little high for breakfast but the food is different than you would get at other restaurants. The use of French ingredients to build well-known dishes is fun and different. Every dish I saw around me looked delicious. The tomatoes that are featured on the menu looked like something that I'd like to try another time.  Next time?

La Note
2377 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94704

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nick's Pizza

This weekend, my husband and I drove up to San Francisco for a wedding.  We stayed across the bay in Emeryville to continue our not-so-expensive weekend giveaway and be in proximity of all the different events we attended.  After we finally arrived around 7:30 pm on Friday night we decided to seek out dinner. Back on the road somewhere around where the 5 turns into the 580, we were wondering if it was possible to eat Sourdough pizza crust somewhere near our hotel. Upon arrival we decided to drive by Nick's (who came up when we searched for sourdough pizza) and Zachary's (who came up simply for pizza) - a place I've heard of since I am a Chicagoan.

When we drove past there was just one couple in Nick's, Zachary's on the other hand was packed with a crowd so thick it seemed like breathing would be hard.  We headed back to Nick's deciding to favor the high reviews rather than the surprisingly sparse population. We're glad we did!

What nice employees! Even though we were the only people in there we felt right at home. It wasn't weird like it is when you go to some places and are the only one at the tables. The employees seemed to be having a good time making food, preparing dough and chatting. They paid attention to us and knew if we needed something but they also left us alone so we felt like we were at home.  From the sound of it, it seemed like Nick's does a lot of carry-out and delivery. I loved the tables made from slabs of pretty wood. The decor was basic but colorful. A refrigerator in the corner held a water dispenser with cups on the side. They had Jenga to play while you wait.

At Nick's the menu changes every week. We ordered the pepperoni pizza which was probably the least unique of all the choices (besides just cheese). There was one on the menu with walnuts and squash blossoms that caught my eye - but I knew it wasn't for my husband.  I also added on a salad and dinner was about $25 - which is about the same price we pay at our favorite local pizza place in Burbank.

I loved the salad I got to start off the meal. It was a beautiful mix of fresh greens with plenty of small tomatoes on top. The dressing was balsamic Italian but also delicious.  We also got some walnuts - in the shell to eat while we wait. How fun!

The pizza was super hot when it came to our table. We ate all but two slices. I loved the tomato sauce which was fresh with actual bits of tomato visible with the spices and herbs (noticeable fresh basil flavor). The pepperoni was very smokey with a nice flavor and feel. I could've used a smidge more cheese but the full package was there.

After devouring the pizza we decided to have dessert too. Every time one of the employees answered the phone and said "Chocolate chip cookies?" I was sold!  I ordered a cookie which was warmed for me and came piping hot. My husband got the salted caramel chocolate mousse - fantastic! Leave room for dessert when you stop in or order for home.

Nick's Pizza
6211 Shattuck Ave
Oakland, CA 94609
Weekly Menu

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Blossom Restaurant

For the last couple of weeks and the next four months I have been finding myself in Downtown LA on Tuesdays. I have dreamed of working in this unexplored area of Los Angeles and finding all kinds of new restaurants. Unfortunately, these first couple of weeks I haven't done that much exploring! Today, however I was excited to meet my Freshman year college roommate for lunch.  Forgoing our old favorite The Spaghetti Factory, we headed down the street to Blossom Restaurant for some quality Vietnamese food.

As usual, when I am eating out not with my husband I tend to lean toward places with foods he might not enjoy such as Asian or Indian foods. Sometimes I even go crazy and just get a weird sandwich!  In any event, when Melissa suggested Vietnamese I was totally game.

Blossom is right on the corner of Main just a few blocks from the courthouse where I have been spending my Tuesdays. It is definitely do-able if you are at Jury Duty in the general downtown area--particularly because Jury Duty lunch hours are absurdly lengthy. The restaurant has two storefronts with lots of indoor seating and a small outdoor patio that they pack tables into in order to get the best square footage from a small area.

While I've had Vietnamese food before, I was unsure about how to navigate the menu and what to choose. At first I was sort of thinking of ordering a crepe appetizer until I learned it would be more like an omelet. In the end, I ordered the shrimp curry. I was totally unfamiliar with Vietnamese curry and only hoped that it was closer to Thai than Japanese in variety.  My friend ordered a cold noodle dish with vegetables and eggrolls across the top.  I was a little jealous of hers when it came, but not after I tasted mine!

The food came to our table almost seconds after we ordered it--even before our drinks!  The curry had a great flavor with a little bit of a kick but nothing too spicy. It came with a generous ball of rice and was filled with shrimp, green beans, mushrooms and carrots in a green sauce.  I also had the Jasmine iced tea which was clearly freshly brewed possibly even from loose tea.  I never got a refill on my tea though and at $2.75 it's a little steep (no pun intended!).

The cold rice dish looked delicious as well and since she orders it almost every time, I imagine she thinks so too!  The ginger limeade she got to accompany her meal looked like a very dark iced tea and was obviously a powerful ginger flavor based on the color alone. Refreshing possibly, but definitely gingery!

The restauranteers were nice and helpful and the place was very reasonably priced. I will definitely be heading back to this place sometime soon!

Blossom Restaurant
426 S Main St
Los AngelesCA 90013

Monday, June 11, 2012

Big Daddy's Fire Grill

This year for my father-in-law's birthday, we headed to a new place in Pasadena that we'd only heard a few reviews about.  A casual burger place, Big Daddy's Fire Grill sits on the corner competing with the In and Out Burger and not much else nearby.

There is parking in a lot behind the restaurant and some street parking as well around the neighborhood.We arrived on a Friday evening around 7 and were able to grab a large table inside to fit our party of seven.  However, the patio looked like the real place to be and was crowded throughout the night.

Inside, the restaurant smells like a wood-burning fire. I thought bbq and was surprised that really wasn't the basis of the menu. The menu is vast and filled mostly with burgers and sandwiches. I decided to order the pork tenderloin sandwich instead of going with the typical burger but then I was tempted to make it a combo with some garlic fries.  Everyone else in my party ordered a burger of some kind or another except for one bratwurst.

There were mixed reviews on the hamburgers and bratwurst but I can only speak for the sandwich. Get the sandwich! The pork is slow roasted to tender perfection with rosemary and clearly the same wood-chip smell that is in the restaurant. You can taste the smokiness in the meat and it pairs well with the aoili. I didn't notice the garlic in the roll which is one of their signature items but I just loved the sandwich. I went on about it all night and by the end everyone was thoroughly annoyed that I ordered it and not interested in hearing more. The garlic fries were very garlicky but not as overpowering as the ones you get at Dodger Stadium. I thought it was a nice contrast but between the fries and the sandwich the meal was incredibly filling. I would've gladly shared the sandwich and just had a few fries from my husband's plate.

Big Daddy's Fire Grill
2122 E Foothill Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91107