Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Cindy's Restaurant

I love a good ol' fashioned diner. Nothing beats sittin' at a stainless steel counter, drinking weak coffee, sopping up eggs with soggy toast and reading the opinion page of the LA Times. I'm always on the hunt for a good greasy spoon. Sadly, Cindy's Restaurant (1500 Colorado Blvd.) is not that place. But, as soon as I walked in the door this morning, I had the sudden realization that Cindy's might have been that place at one time. It was narrow on the inside with a long counter. There was no sign of any classic 50's steel in the design. It was bright and ugly. It was completely modernized in a bad way. A quick internet search of Cindy's even revealed that the place was built in 1946. Today, though, it has the lovely milieu of a Denny's.

As for the food? Whatever. It was suitable truck stop fare at best. I had eggs and bacon. The bacon was cheap, thin and greasy; a trademark of a good diner. But, in this case, I shall bestow my disapproval as I'm still reeling from the fact that people have no respect for the past.

Unfortunately, there's a lot of "could've been great" stories about Los Angeles. Colorado Boulevard lost a lot of lovely old brick buildings. For instance, the corner of Townshend and Colorado was totally demolished for a horrid strip mall. And now, I hear someone wants to tear down the last remaining Brown Derby to build a condo. Click on this link to Save The Derby!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

La Luna Negra

We were actually on our way to have a couple pints of Pedigree at Lucky Baldwin's in Pasadena, when we chanced upon La Luna Negra (44 W. Green Street), a tapas place just off Old Town Pasadena's main drag. We had been to Bar Celona (another Old Town tapas restaurant) before, but had not known about this place. My wife commented immediately that La Luna Negra looked like the kind of tapas place you might find in London. We easily abandoned our quest for English ale, and decided to get a table for two and load up on some small plates!

La Luna Negra is one big room with a bar on one side and makeshift stage on the other. It was early and there wasn't a lot of people, but I could imagine that if the room were full, it would ooze with a lively festiveness. We each ordered a Sangria. It was good, though the Sangria at Bar Celona is much better. It's hard to not compare this place with Bar Celona, as it is only a brief walk from here. And unfortunately for this place, Bar Celona is better when it comes to the food. We ordered four small plates and somehow ended up with a lot of meat on all of them. The filet skewers were the best. Nothing was bad, it's just not as good the nearby Bar Celona. The atmosphere is definitely more laid back and casual here though. Great place for a large group or afterwork gathering.

My wife grew up in London where there plenty of tapas restaurants and it seems like the U.S. has only just started catching up in the last few years. There's a new tapas joint popping up every month. And hey, don't get me wrong, Bar Celona is pretty avergage. For the best tapas in Los Angeles, my vote is for Cobras and Matadors.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Cafe Beaujolais

I love a good French Restaurant. When you dine at Cafe Stella in Silverlake, you feel like you're in a hip, bistro tucked away in some alley off the St. Germain high street. But, Cafe Beaujolais (1712 Colorado Blvd.), located in a converted 1920's bungalow, feels like a French countryside cottage where you can imagine wine vineyards sprawling in all directions outside the restaurant.

This place is authentic...attitude and all! You know you're in a good French restaurant when you see loads of French people dining there. The waiter, a very charming and sarcastic French guy, suggested that we try his wine recommendation which was very good. For entrees, the Filet Mignon and Fries served with a peppercorn sauce are textbook. Take a photo, file it in the encyclopedia under Steak Frites. But wait until you try the chicken breast, which is stuffed with pine nuts & ricotta cheese and then baked in a pastry. Scrum-diddily-umptious! I always get the onion soup to start with and I'm always raving about each bite. Their daily specials usually include a fresh seafood dish, too. A grilled Salmon was last night's special.

Word of warning: Watch out for the bread at the start of the meal. It is SO wonderful, you might fill up your belly before your starter arrives. Also, my wife always complains that they don't serve Mouelle Frites like they do at Cafe Stella. Perhaps, it's not a French, wine-country dish ? But, what they do have on the menu is great and it's always nice to see a restaurant crowded on weeknight. It was jamming last night.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Blue Hen

There is a handful of very good, contemporary Vietnamese Restaurants on the East Side including Pho Cafe, the highly overrated Gingergrass and now Eagle Rock's very own Blue Hen (1743 Colorado Blvd.). Located in a strip mall on Colorado Blvd., Blue Hen buy their produce from local farmers and feature an all organic menu of chicken and tofu dishes. Don't be fooled by the lack of curb appeal. it's rather nice on the inside.

We started off our meal by ordering a couple of Lime Tonics (sparkling water with freshly squeezed lime juice). It was a lovey summertime drink. If you know me, you know I like a good sandwich, so I tried the Blue Hen Sandwich. Served on a French baguette, this delicious chicken sandwich marinated in fresh herbs and served with a cilantro mayonaise, is awesome! I'm pleased when a sandwich isn't too big either. I hate having to open my mouth really wide to take a bite. This sandwich was perfect. Then, I tried the Blue Hen Salad. "Ah, Crispy Fresh!" I suddenly shouted aloud like a disturbed child. The entire restaurant turned to look at me as I rocked back in forth in an uncontrolable spasm of delight. This chopped cabbage, carrot, peanut & herb concoction with a delicous garlic and shallot dressing was prepared so good, it made me all nutty. We then tried the curry which was also good. But, the one dish I would avoid is the so-called, Grandpa's Porridge. It was a little bland and monotonous. otherwise, you can't go wrong!

So, for those of you out there who are ranting and raving about Gingergrass, swing by Blue Hen for a very different approach to modern Vietnamese cooking.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Antojitos Guerrero

I walked into Antojitos Guerrero (5623 York Blvd.) and asked the very nice woman behind the counter what the house specialty was. She pointed to a dish called Birria De Chivo. When I saw that this was a dish made with goat meat, i politely asked the woman what the 2nd best house specialty was. She suggested that they make the Birria De Chivo with beef. "sounds good! " I said. (You see, I'll never be a real food critic..goat meat ? that sounds fucking disgusting.)

Antojitos Guerrero is a family run, Mexican restaurant specializing in food from the state of Guerrero in Mexico. Guerrero is in the south where it's tropical and fertile unlike the desert-like conditions of Northern Mexico. The resort town of Acapulco is on the coast of Guerrero.

Along with the Birria, I also ordered the pork ribs. And just in case I made a grave error in coming here, I asked for a side of Pupusas. I somewhat knew what to expect with a pupusa, if all else went wrong. But, alas, The Birria was delicious. It was the most tender portion of beef chuck in a delcious marinade. The tender beef was falling apart on my fork as I put it into a homemade torilla, added a handleful of fresh cilantro and onion and then topped it off with a little hot sauce. Wow. I will be coming back again for this. This place has raised the bar for me with respect to Mexican food. The pork ribs were equally good. They were cooked in a spicy red mole sauce. Another dish which is supposed to be delicious is the Barbacoa De Rez which I did not try, but I will be back again.

Note, they only make the Birria and Barbacoa on the weekends and they accept cash only. I dare you to try the goat meat.

Friday, August 26, 2005


When you walk in Greco's (1065 E. Green Street), an Italian-American restaurant in Pasadena, you suddenly feel like you're in a mob movie like The Godfather. The owner even looks a little like Tony Soprano, barking orders to the staff from behind the cappucino-wine bar. I love the vibe of this place: tile floors, dark wood tables, tall ceilings and antique family photos on the walls.

But, our mobster-chic fantasy was shattered when our mixed green salads arrived. They were not good. The dressing had no flavor. It tasted only of oil. There was also a softball-size handful of shaved mozzarella piled on top of the salad choking what little salad there was to taste. This was not a good sign of things to come.

My wife ordered the Scampi. It was a shrimp sauteed in a garlic, white wine sauce on a bed of pasta. I opted to try one of Greco's traditional pizzas which take 30 minutes to prepare. We drank a recommended bottle of wine from our waiter which was adequate and then we soaked up the atmosphere trying hard to forget our dreadful salads. Unfortunately, things didn't get any better. The scampi arrived and it was piled high with capers. My wife hates capers. The menu said nothing about capers. Ordinarily, she would just eat around them, but in this case, there were so many (Seriously, there were like 50 of them!) and the white wine sauce tasted like a watery caper sauce. To top it off, the pasta was overcooked.

I pleaded with my wife not to complain. "Tony Soprano is gonna come to our table and break my kneecaps.' I said. But, she did anyway. The waiter admitted that it was a mistake on the menu and that it should have said capers. He was gracious and comped her meal. Please note that we hardly ever do this. In fact, I despise people who complain in order to get a free meal. Now, having said all this, my pizza was actually pretty good. It was thick. REAL Thick. If you like your pizza crust thick, Greco's is the place for you. Two people can easily share a small size.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't mildly disappointed in Greco's. Maybe I'd come back for the pizza and for the sensation of feeling like I'm in Goodfellas.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Auntie Em's Kitchen

I don't know what I would do without Auntie Em's Kitchen (4616 Eagle Rock Blvd.) This breakfast and lunch restaurant is within walking distance from my house. I have spent a fortune on their coffee, scones and array of delicious, lunch sandwiches. Their cobb salad, turkey meatloaf and grilled steak salad are also brilliant. And though they sometimes go a little overboard on the sprouts, Eagle Rock is fortunate to have such a place. Even better though, Auntie Em's have acquired the space next door and they will be opening a cheese shop in the next few weeks. Heavenly!

Chef-Owner, Terri Wahl also runs a highly successful catering business from Auntie Em's and she changes the menu accordingly with each season. Also, Terri's not just a rock star in the kitchen....she's REALLY a rock star, having fronted some very cool bands like The Red Aunts

Auntie Em's have just started a once-a-month dinner seating entitled the 'Farmers Market Dinner'. Last night was their second such event and my wife and I were there. We stopped off before hand at the nearby Colorado Wine Company, as they have paired wines with the Farmer's Market Dinner entrees. The dinner started out with delicious trio of chilled soups: yellow tomato gazpacho, chilled arugula and beet ginger. We both agreed that the yellow tomato gazpacho was out of this world. The chilled arugula soup was striking though I could not imagine ever eating an entire bowl it. It was a fresh and exciting start to a meal.

The second course might just have been the best. It was a toasted corn bread panzanella salad. The cornbread was elegantly mixed with bell peppers, tomatos, olives, capers and basil. This was such nice summer evening treat. I'm not sure if Auntie Em's has this on their regular lunch menu, but I can't wait to eat this amazing salad again. For our main course, I had the roast chicken with fig, olive oil and lemon bath while my wife opted for the crab cakes and fried green tomatos.

I wish Auntie Em's was open for dinner every night, after enjoying their farmer's market dinner. We would go all the time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Firefly Bistro

Just behind the charming intersection in South Pasadena, where the train tracks cross Mission Street, lies a delightful restaurant called Firefly Bistro (1009 El Centro Street). When we arrived, I felt like I was at a wedding, as the dining area was outside in a white tent. And in the evening candlelight, it was the perfect setting for a romantic dinner.

It was scorcher of a day in South Pasadena, so I was in the mood for a nice, cool gazpacho soup. My wife started her meal with the fried green tomatos which were REALLY amazing. I was jealous and I had to threaten her with physical violence to let me have a bite. I also tried a Firefly martini which had a frozen grape in it. For entrees, we tried the Grilled Harris Ranch NY Steak and the Sweet Corn Ravioli, both of which were excellent. The food was magnificent! In fact, I don't have a single complaint with this restaurant. This place is top notch and South Pasadena could use a few more restaurants that are just as good.

Firefly Bistro is also worth a drive from the West side. The neighborhood is wonderful. For a truly small town experience, take a stroll along Mission Street after dinner, try the homemade ice cream from Buster's Ice Cream Stop and then explore the amazing selection of indie movies at Videotheque. You'll feel like you're thousands of miles from Los Angeles.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


A few years ago I had dinner at Warszawa , LA's prominent Polish restaurant. But, growing up in a Polish family, I found it unfathomable to pay a lot of money for a pierogi. This isn't the case at Polka (4112 Verdugo Rd.), a darling little restaurant serving delicious, homecooked Polish cuisine where you feel like you really ARE sitting in an authentic Warsaw restaurant (not like I would have any fucking clue what that was like!) Located in a strip mall near the border of Eagle Rock and Glendale, Polka has an endearing ambience with booths, candles and plenty of kitschy knick-knacs from Poland.

I was feeling rather sturdy today, so I ordered the Royal Plate which is a combination platter of three separate entrees: Pierogi, Golabki and Gulasz. The pierogi's, filled with potato and cheese, were right on the money as were the Gulaz (pork & potato dumplings). The Golabki (cabbage stuffed with pork, chicken & onion) was good enough to convince me that I should make this my single dish of choice on my next trip. Each entree also comes with a yummy, sweet cabbage soup to start. We also sampled the kielbasa and owner Katherine Dabrowski encouraged us to season it with paprika. We seasoned liberally and I dipped each bite in mustard too...what a delicious sausage! I suspect that Polka would have even impressed my Polish grandmother (may she rest in peace), an accomplished cook herself.

Polka is probably not the healthiest food to eat (even though a sign on the window says 'SO HEALTHY'), but if you ever get the urge for some pierogis or kielbasa, make Polka your next stop for some traditional, Polish cuisine. Be sure to bring your own bottle of wine, too. They don't serve alcohol and the corkage fee is just as reasonable as the menu's prices.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Galco's Old World Grocery

When I moved to Eagle Rock, my co-worker friend, Aaron suggested I check out Galco's Old World Grocery (5702 York Blvd.) a.k.a. "The Soda Pop Stop." I didn't know what to expect when I walked in this place. I'm not much of a soda drinker. I prefer the other kind of drink (the kind with alcohol). Nevertheless, I was floored when I walked in this store. It's a grocery store with rows and rows of every kind of soda made from all over the world. Their website doesn't even begin to illustrate how amazing this place is. I wandered through the store for about 20 minutes taking in all the various birch beers, cream sodas, ginger ales and sarsaparillas. They also have a substantial array of hard to find candy too. Somebody still actually manufactures candy cigarettes. Remember the chalky white ones with the red tips ?

Galco's also houses an impressive import and micro beer selection. I left with a six pack of New Orleans brewed Abita beer and a bottle of Dublin Dr. Pepper, from the oldest operating Dr. Pepper bottling plant in the world. It is still made with the original Dr. Pepper recipe which uses pure cane sugar as opposed to sucrose or glucose or whatever our bodies are being tainted with by all the cola conglomerates.

Galco's has a deli counter too, offering a few different types of sandwiches. An Italian sub is always a good gauge on how well a place makes sandwiches, so I ordered one. The bread reminded me of the bread that Dave's Chillin and Grillin' uses. Maybe they call on the same bread guy. The sandwich itself, however, was standard and unexciting. But, hey, what kind of cuisine were you expecting from a run-down grocery store that houses a war chest of soda pop. The sugary Dr. Pepper went down real good with my sub. I then chowed down a few candy cigarettes for old time's sake. After my visit to Galco's, I was sure of one thing: I had better eat a salad for dinner.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


There's no shortage of great Indian restaurants in Los Angeles. We have enjoyed some of the best meals at Bombay Cafe (in Santa Monica), The Clay Pit (in Brentwood) and Bombay Palace (in Beverly Hills). It wasn't until we moved to Eagle Rock that we discovered Pasadena's Akbar (44 N. Fair Oaks Ave.), a local chain of Indian restaurants created by chef-owner Avinash Kapoor.

As soon as you walk in the door, you are immediately distracted by the light show of tall flames erupting from the open kitchen. The aroma of freshly made curries and sauces is so potent, you can smell them from a block away. If you have to wait for a table, angle yourself up toward the counter to watch the chef juggle saucepan after saucepan over the open flames. It's far more exhilarating than that torpid hoedown they do at Benihana. It's too bad the counter space is wasted. I'd love to sit up there and watch the chef do her thing while I chow.

Anyway, we got a nice table by a window and we started by having the Papri Chat which are crispy crackers topped with spicy potatoes. It was a little spicier than we expected. The papadums and samosas were a reliable favorite complimented by the zesty chutneys they leave at your table. The raita was chunky and it came in handy for putting out the inferno in my mouth from the Chicken Chutneywala, a spicy chicken dish made with a mint chutney. If this was a number 4 on their hot meter, I pity the putz who orders a dish with a number 5! The Saag Paneer and the Bengan Aloo (eggplant in a coconut curry) are superior, but the biggest surprise for me was the Chicken Tikka Masala. Akbar has rekindled my enthusiasm for this otherwise commonplace, Indian dish. It was lovely. At the end of the meal, we were still sopping up the sauce with the remainder of the naan bread.

It should be noted that the service at Akbar was unpleasant. On both occasions that we've been there, the waitresses seemed harrassed and run off their feet. Last night, there wasn't even a hostess. It was a clusterfuck and I am ashamed of the fact that I had to get up and physically walk toward to kitchen to ask for my check. oh well. life's tough isn't it.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Dave's Chillin' and Grillin'

When I first saw Dave's Chillin' and Grillin' (2152 Colorado Blvd.) I was a bit put off by the look of the place. But, what this joint lacks in atmosphere, it more than makes up for in the quality of the sandwiches.

Dave is a skilled craftsman when it comes to making the perfect five dollar sandwich. He believes in using only the highest quality meats. In fact, he was kind enough to let me sample them while he fashioned me a 6-inch Italian Sub. He topped off the sub with some finely cut, hot peppers which really made it tasty. The sub was simple and delicious. The bread that he used was fresh and really, really white. It reminded me of the kind of sub I would eat as a poor college student in Boston. I would starve myself all day, so that I could chow down on a sub from Beacon Street's BosDeli (just a stone's throw from Kenmore Square). It comes as no surprise that Dave is a Boston transplant himself.

I also tried, what appeared at first, to be a conventional French Dip sandwich. Then I watched Dave spoon a coat of horseradish sauce on it. It was so delicious that I discarded any notion of dipping it in au jus. It just wasn't neccessary. Each bite was a polite tribute to a slab of Lawrie's Prime Rib smothered in fresh horseradish. I will come back and I will get this sandwich again.

Know that Dave only accepts cash. And like nearby Dante's Chicken and Rib's, this place gets zero points for atmosphere. Not a good hang. Order your sandwich and take it home.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Colombo's Italian Steakhouse

Ever since we moved to Eagle Rock, I couldn't wait to try Colombo's (1833 Colorado Blvd.), an old-school Italian steak house which has been a staple of the neighborhood since 1954. We were treated to a jazz quartet the night we showed up as we grabbed a red leather booth in the appealing dining room. It took a good 10 minutes for our waitress to offer us a drink, but to be fair, she was 70 years old.

After we ordered, I wandered into the bar area to inspect the caliber of their single malt scotch collection. Unfortunately, they were only offering the usual suspects: Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and MacCallan. I was, however, struck by how charmless and narrow the bar appeared. This was a letdown, as I was hoping Colombo's could become my local three-martini-lunch kind of place. Three martinis at lunch sure make the rest of the day more manageable.

To start, I ordered a mixed green salad. It was crisp and drenched in Italian dressing and it was everything I expected it to be. For my entree, I went for the cracked pepper crusted new york strip while my wife opted for the hand rolled lasagna stuffed with fresh spinach & ricotta cheese. We both agreed the food was decent. And even though the service was a bit crap, I felt confident that I would give Colombo's another shot. With the jazz music and the cluster of people waiting for tables, the room had a lively atmosphere and the whole experience brought a smile to my face. Colombo's is the working man's Dan Tana's.

A week after we ate here, we had heard that two masked gunman entered Colombo's and forced all the patrons & employees onto the floor. They robbed everyone of their wallets and dashed off in a getaway car. Now, you see, it's this kind of news that will derail any chance of me becoming a regular. I like to watch Quentin Tarantino movies, but I don't like to feel like I'M IN ONE. Imagine if you were at Colombo's that night on a 'first date'. How embarrassing! You're so nervous as it is and then you have to get down on the carpet in front of someone you like, but hardly know...all the while a gun is pointed at your head. That sucks.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Restaurant Yama

This morning, I had to return some video's to videotheque, my favorite video store in South Pasadena. Afterward, I cruised down Fremont Ave into Alhambra to enjoy a sushi and teriyaki combo lunch at Restaurant Yama (433 West Main Street). This relaxed little joint has been dishing out sushi, sashimi, teriyaki and tempura since it opened in 1968.

The clientele was mostly local, Asian folks with the occasional lone business man. There was also a table of six cable guys on their lunch break who were obviously regulars. I ordered the california roll/tuna roll/beef teriyaki lunch combination. The teriyaki sauce was delicious; subtle and a little bit sweet. In fact, if I were to come here for dinner, I would probably avoid the sushi altogether and load up on a teriyaki dish. The cable guys, by the way, were going nuts over the tempura which I did not try. The real hit, for me, was the miso soup. It packed more punch than any miso I've had recently. It was unusually darker in color. The salad that arrived with my meal was topped with a tangy, French dressing. It had a slight horseradish taste to it and reminded me of a bloody mary. And speaking of bloody marys, I tried to order a beer, but the waitress said they don't have beer even though the menu clearly advertises Asahi and Kirin. I guess she didn't understand me. I did, however, order the hot saki which was, I have to say, dreadful. It was like drinking boiled, grain alcohol. I had 3 of them.

Restaurant Yama is certainly not worth driving a long way for, but as a neighborhood, Japanese joint, it's great. It's small. There are only 12 tables. It was completely full at lunch today. And you can't beat the price: I paid $7.50 for 6 rolls of sushi, beef teriyaki, a salad, rice and miso soup.

O.k. folks! Until tomorrow....

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

El Arco Iris

Highland Park has scores of Mexican restaurants and before the year is up I'm going to try them all and I'm gonna tell you about 'em right here. My first stop is easily one of York Boulevard's most popular eateries. El Arco Iris (5684 York Blvd.) is a sprawling room with large tables and large booths. This place was built for families and on the night that we arrived, we had a pretty sizable party ourselves.

We were celebrating a birthday with some friends. Our evening began with the usual Friday evening wine tasting at the Colorado Wine Company. Afterward, we sailed over N. Avenue 51 into Highland Park. We were seated right away and promptly ordered a few pitchers of margaritas. The margarita's were satisfactory as were the chips and salsa. Our birthday guest shared the fajitas with his wife while the rest of us tried the usual fare: soft tacos, burritos etc. I tried a special entree which was a carne asada chopped and sauteed with onions & tomato. Curiously it looked exactly like the fajitas without the accompanying torillas. It was decent except for a few bits of tough meat. The rice and beans were unremarkable, but the prices were just right.

I would be hard pressed to come back here given the mecca of exciting taquerias and restaurants (Regional Mexican / Guatemalan / Salvadoran) dotting along York Blvd. Still, if you are yearning for an accessible home cooked Mexican meal, this might be right up your alley. Remember, even Mom can sometimes churn out a lackluster dinner every once in a while. (sorry mom!)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Chalet

They don't serve food here, but when i come across a fine watering hole such as The Chalet (1630 Colorado Blvd.) i have to give props. The interior feels like an Alpine Ski Lodge complete with wood paneling, a 1970's style fireplace and comfy, cushioned booths. They open every night at 7pm. It's fairly tranquil at that hour and perfect for a quiet, after work drink with friends. The place usually picks up with a trendy crowd toward the end of the evening. Note, we are talking Eagle Rock trendy, not Hollywood trendy, so it's not an annoying scene at all. In fact, it's a great hang for the over twenty-one Occidental horde. Years ago, Toppers Tavern was located at this spot. Back then, it was a local hole-in-the-wall that would host the occasional local band. Now, it's been transformed into a gracious, neighborhood bar with some choice single malt scothes and a brilliant jukebox stocked with the creme-de-la-creme of indie-rock (REM, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, The Postal Service, Radiohead, Franz Ferdinand). If you are there and someone is playing the Stone Roses album in it's entirety, chances are that's me sitting up at the bar sipping on a Lagavulin on the rocks. I'm also probably waiting for my pizza at Casa Bianca.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Fatty's and Co.

I have to admit that the idea of a vegetarian restaurant doesn't excite me. Everytime my wife suggests "let's go to Fatty's", I whine and groan about it all the way up until the food arrives at my table. I then spend the rest of the evening apologizing to her while I greedily devour everything on my plate. Every dish on the Fatty's (1627 Colorado Blvd.) menu is so carefully designed and thought out that I imagine the kitchen to be an experimental laboratory where a clever chef conducts research on elaborate taste combinations. How else would you arrive at the idea of throwing corn kernels into an omelette or creating a scrumptious sloppy joe sandwich out of vegetables. Add to this a sensible selection of fantastic wine, and you've got one of the most unique restaurant experiences in all of Los Angeles. The Fondue and the Pizza's are delightful, but for a real treat, stop by for brunch on the weekend and try one of the three items on the menu. yes that's right...they have only 3 things on the menu for brunch. But, if you try the omelette, you will never want for anything else again. How could I go to Fatty's and NOT have the omelette. It just ain't gonna happen! I am still stupefied by the veggie bacon. It looks like bacon, it smells like bacon, it almost tastes like bacon....but it's not bacon. The kitchen seems pretty big back there. I'm sure the chef needs all that room to imagine and design all these visionary dishes. For some of the finest gourmet vegetarian food, come down to Fatty's. Call ahead and make sure they are open. They keep some strange hours.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Casa Bianca Pizza Pie

When Jonathan Gold of the LA Weekly led the food critic's call to declare that Casa Bianca served up the best Pizza in Los Angeles, I assessed this situation immediately. This is a serious charge. I do not take this lighty. Pizza is one of my favorite foods. Pizza is serious business. I had to investigate and I had to investigate right away.

I left work early. I sat in traffic for 45 minutes trying to get to a part of town called Eagle Rock (where i currenly live now, by-the-way). On Colorado Blvd., I saw what appeared to be a cute little pizza parlour with a mob of people waiting outside. They must be here for the same reason, I thought: How dare somebody have the best pizza and I don't know about it!

Casa Bianca is old school; Red, leather booths, checkered table clothes and cheap wine. To describe it in simpler terms: paradise. Part of the Casa Bianca experience is to be forced to wait for an hour and be tortured by the aroma of baking pizza. And there is also something charming about sipping on shitty Chianti while waiting outside on a plastic lawn chair for your name to be called.

So, is the pizza THAT good ? Well, I ask you this: Why do you think I live in Eagle Rock now ? Answer is: yes, the pizza is THAT good. It's stunning. It's a chicago-style, thin crust pizza usually served all cut up in funny shapes. I think the secret is in the sauce. It's almost sweet tasting. And the toppings that will guarantee you return again and again are the Italian Sausage, The ground up meatball and the eggplant. The icing on the cake is how dirt cheap the prices are.

After moving to Eagle Rock, I went back and tried Casa Bianca once again to see if I liked the pizza as much as I thought I did. I ordered just a plain old cheese pizza. As I took my first bite, I looked over to the table next to me and watched a young couple eating a plate of spaghetti. Poor fools. They had no idea what they were missing.

Tips for first timers: 1. Go early and avoid the lines! They open at 5pm. 2. Pick up a bottle of wine from the nearby Colorado Wine Company. The wine at Casa Bianca is guaranteed to give you a headache. 3. Take-out just isn't the same. Eat in for a truly delicious experience.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Senor Fish

One of the first places we tried after moving to Eagle Rock was Senor Fish (4803 Eagle Rock Blvd.), as it is a stone's throw from my house. I had heard many good things about this place from friends. Senor Fish, a breezy, wooden deck wrapped around a converted craftsmen home, specializes in fish tacos and mexican seafood.

We arrived just in time for a weekday lunch rush. I was with my friend Johnny who was wearing a T-shirt that said "Don't Give Me Drugs." He felt a tad anxious as we lined up at the counter behind a couple of LAPD officers. I pointed out that his shirt says "DON'T Give Me Drugs" and not "Give Me Drugs". Big difference.

Johnny sampled the Ensenada Style Tacos while I was in the mood for the Carne Asado Tacos. Ensenada Style means that the fish is deep fried. His soft corn tortillos were piled with salsa and guacamole. The Carne Asada was cooked and chopped perfectly with just the right amount of fresh onion. The rice and beans were a little bland and the guacamole was textbook. For the true fish lover, you should pass on the tacos and go straight for the fresh, charbroiled fish. You get a choice of halibut, mahi mahi, salmon, trout and more. Senor Fish is now a flourishing chain with branches in South Pasadena, Downtown and Alhambra. This is certainly a better, home-cooked alternative to Baja Fresh and Poquito Mas. Delicious and simple.

Now, for the best gourmet tacos in all of Los Angeles, be sure to try The Loteria Grill at The Farmer's Market

It should be noted that we weren't under the influence of any drugs while eating at Senor Fish.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Goodbye West Side, Hello East Side

We just moved to Eagle Rock from Miracle Mile after living there for nearly 10 years. We were thrilled to escape the traffic jams, the tourists and all the annoying, Hollywood wannabes. The real reason we moved, however, is that we wanted to buy a house and we couldn't afford to live on that side of town anymore. Many of our friends reacted to our urban shift as though we were moving to another state. We admit to being well entrenched in all of the West Side's comforts, however we have looked at our 12 mile migration as an adventure.

Let's get real though! We really ARE only 25 minutes away from our old apartment building. Still, for us, it was a big change especially as we love to eat out A LOT. And there were some great restaurants on the West Side which we frequented quite often and will miss very much.

But, now, we are discovering some great new places on the East Side. And, by East Side, I mean Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Mt. Washington, Glassell Park, Atwater Village, Silverlake, Echo Park, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Boyle Heights, and other sleepy locales this side of the San Gabriel Valley. I hope this will maybe serve as a guide to those folks out there who are currently paying over $2500 a month in rent in Santa Monica when they could just move over here, buy a home and pay the same or less in a mortgage. The ocean is over rated. The East Side is cool.