Friday, September 30, 2005

Cafe Stella


Last Summer, my wife and I were in Paris. It was late and we were walking around the darkly lit, cobblestone streets of St. Germain. The city felt deserted until we rounded a corner and happened upon a little French bistro that was alive with people. We got ourselves a table, a bottle of wine and enjoyed a fantastic meal in a room teeming with energy and cigarette smoke.

It was such a great Parisian experience and I am reminded of that night everytime I come to Cafe Stella (3932 W. Sunset Blvd.) We have been coming here since it has opened. They have changed for the better, especially when it comes to the service. We used to have to wait an hour for a table (reservation or not!). Thankfully the restaurant has expanded and the food has gotten better and better. In fact, I think I'd have to go out on a limb and profess that Cafe Stella is one my favorite restaurants. The steak au poivre and the moulles frites are world class. The wine selection is great and the ambience is so Parisian it makes me want to light up a cigarette even though I don't smoke.

When we are having a quiet weekend, sometimes we'll head over to Cafe Stella around five thirty and sit up at the bar. We'll split the charcuterie plate and share a delicious bottle of wine and then see where the night takes us.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Capri


I love the idea of The Capri (4604 Eagle Rock Blvd.) more than I actually like going to The Capri. In theory, there is nothing better than a casual, family run, Italian restaurant that serves homemade pasta dishes (all within walking distance from my house!) I keep coming back here despite the fact that the pasta is usually overcooked, the wine is terrible and the food is just plain average. Why do I keep coming back ? Well, there's no place quite like it in all of Los Angeles. The Capri is a genuine small town America experience. While you sit in one of the red leather booths and chow down some lasagna, you'd swear you were hundreds of miles away in Baltimore, Maryland, Springfield, Illinois or Mars, Pennsylvania.

The Capri is a bit like the twilight zone. I imagined that a little league baseball team was going to walk in any minute and then it happened...a little league baseball team walked in and filled up half of the restaurant. They just had a big game apparently. I suddenly felt the urge to poke my head outside and make sure I was still in Eagle Rock. And on top of this, two of the waiters are twins. When one of them served me a glass of Budweiser, I said to him very slowly "How can you be here, when you are actually over there." I pointed to his twin.

The Capri is great fun. It's usually packed with Oxy kids, LAPD, big families, bowling teams, Eagle Rock locals and the occasional hipster who misses being a big fish in a small pond. It's too bad the food is really average.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Cliff's Edge

It was such a nice, warm day today. My wife and I wanted to have dinner where we could be sitting outside, so we thought we'd give Cliff's Edge (3626 Sunset Blvd) a try, since we've heard many great things about it.

Finding this restaurant was quite a task. It's literally a doorway in a parking lot next to a 99 cent store (hence the pretty crap picture of me on the sidewalk). But, when you walk through the doorway, you find yourself in the most charming of outdoor settings. The atmoshphere of Cliff's Edge is unparalleled. It's an outdoor deck with trees, bamboo and plush pillows. As we sipped on our wine, we forgot that we were only a hundred feet away from the bustling traffic of Sunset Blvd.

Cliff's Edge serves an agreeable assortment of country Italian dishes. We shared a beet and horseradish salad to start. It was light and delicious. I had the grilled filet of beef, topped with gorgonzola while my wife opted for the pumpkin ravioli in a butter & sage sauce. I adored my dish, but my wife thought the chard, which accompanied her entree, didn't go so well with the ravioli. All in all, Cliff's Edge is the hidden gem of Silverlake. It's a fantastic place to host an event like a birthday party or bridal shower. recommended!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Original Tommy's


Things have gotten a bit ghetto around here. A few weeks ago, I was raving about Blair's and Cafe Beaujolais. Now, I'm writing about shitholes like Tommy's (1717 Colorado Blvd.) But, I have good reason. I am somewhat intrigued by the curious phenomenon of appreciating genuinely bad food under the influence of many cocktails. Now, this might offend the fans of Tommy's who claim their burgers are great. And to them, I have this one thing to say: I'm very sorry you were born with such bad taste.

It was a typical Monday night. I was at The Chalet and I was pretty well sauced. I must have been ripsnortin' drunk, 'cause I think I bought a round of drinks for everybody in the room...or, at least, those in my immediate vicinity. Anyway, I ended up in the back seat of some lady's BMW with about six other people who I'd just met. I was getting a lift home and while we were heading west on Colorado Blvd., I suddenly demanded that we all go to Tommy's. They insisted I was crazy, but within seconds, I was ordering a double chili cheesburger & fries. It didn't take much to convince a car load of drunk people to order the same exact thing. We consumed our burgers like it was the last supper. I mean this literally, by the way. We re-enacted The Last Supper while we ate our chili cheese burgers. I was Jesus, while my friend Kurt pretended to be Judas. He's a veggie. He's kraaaaazy.

Each bite was magnificent. This was extraordinary, because I've eaten burgers from Tommy's before and thought they'd tasted like ass. But, after a night of boozin', there was something magical about that chili. It was the quintessential pairing to the half bottle of scotch tossing around my stomach. For most people, the perfect drunken food is a greasy taco or perhaps a freezer-burnt Tombstone Pizza. For others, it might be a $300 dinner at Pacific Dining Car. But, for me, it's a crappy ass chili cheese burger from Tommy's. What's your favorite ?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Sushi Bar Yoshida


I'm gonna just come clean and admit that I'm not the world's greatest sushi expert. In fact, I only really started eating sushi about 5 or 6 years ago. But, I've been eating it long enough to appreciate a good sushi bar like Yoshida (2026 Huntington Drive). Apparently, this place used to be located in a Pasadena strip now. Now, it has moved to this new location in San Marino, which as far as I can tell, is the Beverly Hills of the San Gabriel valley.

Yoshi, the head chef, selects the freshest fish every day to serve a stunning array of sushi. People come here in droves, week after week, to get their fix of white tuna, pompano, oyster sundae, philadephia roll and the chef's very own Yoshida Roll (crab, avocado, tuna and yellowtail). We've only ever sat at the sushi bar here, but they serve tables as well. Yoshida is very small and it's very popular. The room has a fantastic energy and there's usually a crowd waiting to be seated outside. Get there early. It opens at 5pm. And don't forget to order the Sorbet Sake!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Pho 79

Pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup, is a delicious dish and there are many fantastic places in Los Angeles that serve it. Today, we cruised over into neighboring Alhambra, to give Pho 79 (29 S. Garfield Ave.) a try. The best thing about Pho, is the plate of accompanying herbs. I ordered the Pho with a combination of well cooked beef and very rare beef (It's all about the beef at Pho 79). When it arrived, I immediately grabbed my plate of herbs and I piled them on top of the soup. I through them all in..big gobs of basil, hot peppers and sprouts. The now very fragrant soup was absolutely delicious. And when you add the right amount of hot sauce, Pho is a divine, gastronomical experience. Fresh and delicious.

Since we were first timers to Pho 79, we tried to ask our waiter for another menu recommendation; perhaps something that would go well with our Pho. He pointed out the fried egg rolls in the menu. I was hoping for something a little more adventurous, but the egg rolls turned out to be a delicious addition to our soups. We wrapped the egg rolls in a lettuce leaf and dipped them into the sauce. Ah, lovely. All this and a couple of Tsing Taos and our bill was barely twenty dollars.

I'd recommend coming here, but if you prefer more vegetarian options, try the fancier Pho Cafe in Silverlake, which is just as good in my opinion. Actually, the meatballs are much better at Pho Cafe, too.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Italiano's Pizza

I love Highland Park. York Boulevard is a lovely avenue full of trees and old storefronts. It's primed for a gentrification invasion. It's already happening on Figueroa, the other main drag of Highland Park. And, if you were to be a smart real estate investor and buy one of those lovely old craftsmen houses just off York Blvd., you would soon discover that Italiano's Pizza (5101 York Blvd.) is your first call for Pizza delivery.

Now there's nothing special about either of the locations (There's one on Figueroa, as well). It's not the kind of place you want to eat in, but the Pizza is decent and it's a welcome substitute to all the local chains that suck: Dominoes, Pizza Hut, etc. So, while your living in Highland Park and waiting for the Super-A-Foods to become a Gelson's, you can, at least, take comfort in knowing there's a place to get a good slice of pizza. Now, don't get me wrong. The Pizza is good relatively speaking. It's still much better to pop over the hill into Eagle Rock and pick up a pie from the best pizza West of the Mississippi: Casa Bianca Pizza Pie.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Armon's Restaurant

I've been a little busy lately so I apologize for all the low rent restaurant reviews. Gonna go somewhere nice this weekend for sure! I'm also sorry for not living up to the "daily" part of the "daily nosh". Contrary to my profile, I'm not really retired. In fact, I'm busy as all hell. However, I did find time this morning to get me a good breakfast. Armon's (5056 Eagle Rock Blvd.) is the closest thing to a diner in Eagle Rock. They've got booths, a nice long counter and CNN is playing on the TV. They also happen to serve a mighty fine breakfast. I really rate the Italian Sausage and Eggs here. And the service is good. I've only been here twice and they already recognize me.

"Italian sausage and Eggs ?" the waitress asks.
"Why, yes." I reply, as she fills my coffee cup.

I used to hate when my coffee cup would be filled every five minutes. I would take such great care to get the perfect balance of cream and sugar only to have it spoiled by heater after heater. But, that was when I was a younger. Nowadays, I'm a risk taker. I like my coffee black now most of time.

Armon's has a lot of old folks who've probably been coming here all their lives. The interior looks like it was last updated the year I was born. This morning, I sat across from an elderly lady who was eating a full-on meatloaf dinner. It put me off my appetite a bit, as it was only 7:30 in the morning. Quite bizarre. There were also Mom's with babies and a few college student types. It's never crowded. It's always reliable. It's Armon's.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Camilo's Restaurant

Camillo's (2128 Colorado Blvd.) is a reliable, neighborhood joint that is trying very hard to be a sophisticated, high end bistro. The prices are a little high and the presentation of the food is a little on the showy side. I was deceived at first, but then I ordered an appetizer called 'The Tower'. Yes folks, it's called 'The Tower'. It's layer after layer of feta, olives, tomatoes and cucumbers. Basically, it's a Greek salad/upside down cake. The gig was up. This is not A.O.C. This is not West Hollywood. This is Eagle Rock, where the idea of a posh appetizer is something called 'The Tower'.

Now having said that, I like this place. I come here often 'cause I crave the 'Camilo's Chicken'. It's a chicken breast stuffed with nuts and spinach and then covered in a sauce which, to me, tastes like a curry. When I close my eyes and take a bite, I feel like I'm in some Central London pub eating a hearty, working class man's lunch, but when I open my eyes, I'm looking at a decorative dish presented so flamboyantly, I had to look over my shoulder to see if Charlie Palmer was working the hot plate. It's a little confusing. But, that's the charm of Camilo's.

All of the entrees are good. The filet topped with a blue cheese is delicious. The pasta dishes are good. For a brilliant Friday night, I would suggest coming down to the Eagle Rock Farmer's Market. You can wander around for a few minutes and watch the Elvis impersonator (Or rather, watch the people WATCHING the Elvis impersonator.) Then head on over to the Colorado Wine Company for their brilliant Friday night wine tastings. Afterward, you can finish out evening with a nice, long dinner at Camilo's. And between you and me, "The Tower" tastes fucking great after a few glasses of wine.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sicha Siam

I'm going to just get straight to the point. Don't bother coming here. The food is not good. It's not bad either, but everything on the menu seems like it's coated in some kinda sauce...like a bad chinese restaurant. everything is hot and soggy. The only thing I liked here was the Thai Iced Tea. It was yummy. There must be two thousand calories in it, though, so basically don't bother.

Another reason to avoid this place is the location and the atmosphere. The restaurant is in a strip mall in a space that feels like a dry cleaners or mini mart. The lights are too bright. When we popped in for our quick, cheap dinner, we were the only customers for dinner on a Thursday night at 8pm. Depressing. What the fuck was I doing here? Who eats here? Maybe I'm being a snob. Maybe my idea of a shithole is someone else's idea of classy joint. Who am I to judge? Anyway, I'm gonna just leave this one for the poor Occidental College kids and the locals with bad taste.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Cafe Atlantic

After years of eating the pig slop they call Cuban food at Versailles, my expectations weren't very high for Pasadena's Cafe Atlantic. But, as soon I saw the food, I was surprised at how fresh and well prepared everything appeared.

As we were seated, I ordered a Watermelon Martini which looked kinda girly, but it tasted refreshing and it primed me for my avocado salad which was tangy and delicious. I had the sauteed steak marinated and topped with onions served with a side of plaintains, rice and beans. I'm always doggin' the rice and beans in restaurants, but they were GOOD here and the portions weren't absurdly large either.

Cafe Atlantic is the cheaper, cafe version of the more high end Xiomara. I am convinced that the food at Xiomara must be spectacular, as Cafe Atlantic was one of the best Cuban/Latin American restaurants I've been to in a long time. ¬°Fidel, mirada en mis pl√°tanos dulces!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Golden Gopher


I love drinking just a little bit more than I like eating. I should do a drinking blog, but it would get boring really fast. Each post would go something like this: me at bar, me ordering single malt scotch, me making new friends and then me convincing those new friends that I'm o.k. to drive myself home. But, with eating, you gotta mix it up a little. Having said that, I love givin' props to a good drinking hole and tonight that hole is The Golden Gopher (417 W. Eighth Street).

This downtown hovel used to be a skanky dive bar but it has been tastefully redone by the folks who own Three of Clubs, Liquid Kitty and North. It's a cavernous space filled with a few tables, chairs, an outside patio area and a Ms. Pac Man game. It feels like an apocalyptic speakeasy. The best thing about this bar is that it has it's own liquor store so after you get sauced, you can grab a bottle or two for the road. They have Lagavulin behind the bar, so I was all set for night of high class boozin'. I was with some friends and we were intrigued by the interesting mix of people: retro punk rockers, artsy loft dwellers, gang banger types and guys in suits who probably left work for a quick drink and found themselves on an accidental bender. They'll probably show up at the office tomorrow in the same suit smelling of booze and strippers. I know.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Blair's Restaurant


The best restaurant in Silverlake is Blair's (2903 Rowena Ave.) This unassuming, little place can hold it's own against some of the finest restaurants in Los Angeles. It is worth a drive if you live on the other side of town. The food is superb. The atmosphere is warm and ideal for a nice long meal with old friends. The two dimly lit rooms are comfortable and relaxed. Indie-rock girls pretending to be waitresses are friendly and surprisingly attentive. Can I make this any clearer people !? This place is great!!

I started my meal with the mixed green salad which had pear, blue-cheese and candied walnuts. it was great and not too filling. My accompanying girlfriends this evening shared the grilled prawns. We polished off a fabulous bottle of wine before our entrees arrived. We tried the risotto, the grilled filet of beef and the halibut. All were fantastic. After our second bottle of wine, we each had a port and shared the chocolate tart. What an exerience! I am looking forward to the next special occasion so that I may return.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Cole's Pacific Electric Buffet

Last night we met some friends downtown at Cole's Pacific Electric Buffet. Cole's is the oldest operated restaurant and bar in the city of Los Angeles. Henry Cole opened this place in 1908 and today Cole's has the esteemed distinction of having invented the French Dip Sandwich. Most amazingly though, the interior of this restaurant has remained largely untouched since 1908. Pretty Spectacular!

Cole's is a block away from Skid Row. While we were trying to find a place to park, we witnessed a homeless person mugging another homeless person in the middle of the street. Then, the five minute walk to Cole's from the parking lot was met with hordes of people asking us for money. Thanks to the policies of our former governor, Ronald Reagan, there is a tremendous amount of homeless people wandering the streets of Los Angeles.

We got to Cole's and ordered a couple of scotches at the bar. It was early and there were only a handful of people there. The clientele was a collection of downtown dwellers and after-work-for-drinks types. When our friends arrived, we grabbed a red leather booth by the bar and then lined up at the buffet. We all tried the French Dip Sandwich since it was apparently invented here. The chef takes the french bread, ladles on the au jus and then layers on the thinly sliced roast beef. There's no dipping at the table here. I thought the French Dip Sandwich was amazing. It was great and probably the best one that I've ever had. My wife, who isn't much of a meat eater anyway, disagreed. The beans were also delicious as was the roasted potatos. Stay away from the cole slaw and the vegetables, though.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Michelangelo's


Just a stone's throw away from Spaceland, Michelangelo's (1637 Silverlake Blvd.) is a great, neighborhood Italian. This is the perfect place to go when you decide last minute that you want to go out for a meal, but don't want to make a big deal out of it. You just want to go out, sit in a nice room, have a plate of pasta and not worry too much about spending money or entertaining friends.

The decor is a little on the cheesy side, but who cares, the food is great and the vibe is unpretentious considering you're dining in the heart of hipsterville. The pasta dishes are great and the pizzas are thin and tasty. But, the starters are the real surprise: the homemade burrata bruschetta is fantastic as is the marinated, grilled mushrooms which taste like biting into a juicy steak.

So, the next time you have to go and endure a night of ear blistering indie-rawk at Spaceland, go early and fill up on some casual Italian food before.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Dante's Chicken and Ribs

I was excited when I heard a new Bar-BQ joint was opening up in Eagle Rock. Dante's Chicken and Ribs (2006 Colorado Blvd.) is a small, clinical looking place with a stainless steel counter and few tables. It's a terrible place to dine in. There's no room and while you eat, people stand above you waiting in line to order their food. I heard that they were going to annex the room next door and make it into a dining area. I sure hope that when they do this, they throw down some extra cash to make it a comfortable place to eat 'cause Dante's isn't bad.

It's not authentic bar bq. It's more of a fast food joint in disguise. Some of the menu items are great and some are not. The collard greens are pretty tasteless, but the chicken wings can't be beat! I also enjoy the breaded boneless chicken tenders. They are tasty, especially when you dip them in the accompanying chipotle mayonaise. Not a healthy meal at all. Other highlights on the menu include the Colorado salad which is romaine lettuce, pulled bar-bq pork, onions, cheese and a chipotle dressing. I will we be back as I have yet to try the ribs themselves.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Pat and Lorraine's


I had a fabulous Labor Day weekend. This morning I woke up face down, cradling a bottle of scotch in someone's back garden. After stumbling over a fence to find my car, I was chased and then attacked by a Jack Russell Terrier named Bono. When you're feeling as bad as I was this morning, the only medication I need is a greasy plate of eggs from Pat and Lorraine's.

I was already feeling better as I grabbed a seat at the counter. I chose not to keep my sunglasses on, however you can certainly get away with that kind of 'dickhead' attitude here. The crowd at Pat and Lorraine's is a hodgepodge of Oxy College kids, working class folks, church groups, large families, hipster couples and the occasional derelict, which in today's case, is probably me as I was hunched over, nursing a tomato juice and wearing a t-shirt covered in grass stains.

I ordered the eggs over easy with a side of bacon. There's none of that fancy-schmancy, apple wood smoked nonsense here. Just a pile of wet, fatty bacon probably cooked in the same grease as last night's fish special. Sometimes three aspirin and a tomato juice just don't do the trick. You gotta have a plate of greasy fried stuff to get you back to normal. If I wasn't hung over, I would say the food here is nothing to write home about. it's cheap and what you would expect from a local, neighborhood coffee shop.

By the way, the opening scene from Reservoir Dogs was filmed here and I can't understand why there isn't a commemorative plaque on the wall with behind-the-scenes photos of Quentin and the gang. Perhaps, the owners of this place aren't too proud of the colorful debate about the meaning of Madonna's "Like A Virgin". I should ask them sometime when I'm not so hung over.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Brits Fish and Chips


Today, we were in the mood for some real, authentic fish and chips. We priced getting on a plane to London, cab fare to our favorite "chippy", plus a modest hotel room for one night. It came about to about $5870.34. We then opted to just go to a place called Brits Fish and Chips (1770 E Colorado Blvd.) in Pasadena since we heard they do old-fashioned, London 'chip-shop', fish 'n chips.

We were a bit disheartened when we arrived. The dining room looked like a senior citizen community center. We were the youngest people there. We quickly walked into the bar, but it was even worse. It looked like bar, but it felt like a vacuum cleaner store. We were in serious trouble. Our options were few. We could go to Lucky Baldwin's (great bar -shitty food), or we could get back in the car and drive to The King's Head in Santa Monica. Frankly, flying to London is an easier trip than driving to Santa Monica from Pasadena on a Friday. So, we decided that we would stop making a scene and finally take a seat. How bad can it be ? And, they serve beer for Christ's sake! We ordered a couple of tall Boddington's on draft and two regular orders of fish and chips. We tried not to be distracted by the music that was playing. I think it was just the radio tuned in to K-BIG.

Our meals started with a salad which was surprisingly good and when our fish and chips arrived, we were pleased. It was quite good. I drenched the fries in malt vinegar and savoured the tasty deep fried cod. delicious. So healthy too (ha!). If only we could have THIS food at Lucky Baldwin's, I'd be there every Friday. Not sure I would make the journey to Brits again. The atmosphere is not very fun and I'm also trying to cut down on my fried foods.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Smitty's Grill


For the finest prime steaks in Pasadena, nothing beats the The Arroyo Chop House. But if you don't feel like paying through the nose, you can try the reasonably priced Smitty's Grill (110 S. Lake Ave.), the Arroyo's sister restaurant, which serves up some real good comfort food along with the usual steaks and chops.

Smitty's is laid out exactly like The Arroyo Chop House. It's one big room with a bar on one end and a second level of booths on the other end. Getting a booth along the wall is a choice location. You can sit and get a view of the whole place while you chow down. The service is great and the atmosphere is lively. In fact, I much prefer the energy of Smitty's over The Arroyo Chop House.

Last night, we started out with some cocktails. I ordered a Maker's Mark Old Fashioned and the bartender showered it with bitters. I was primed for some serious red meat after a few of those. The mixed green salads were adequate and the entrees were reliable. I had a petite filet with a baked potato while my lady friend enjoyed a homecooked chicken pot pie. We have been here a couple of times and we'll be sure to come back again.

whereas the Arroyo Chop House is for special occasions, Smitty's is for those weeknight's out when you get a craving for a steak.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Bucket


The Bucket, a rickety old shack on Eagle Rock Blvd., has been serving up hamburgers since 1935. This whole place could fit inside my living room. There's space for maybe three or four bar stools. The rest of you bums have to eat out on the covered patio filled with all variety of tables, benches and counters. The patio feels like the garage of a frat house decorated with sun-bleached Budweiser promotional items from the 80's. A roll of paper towels sits in a bucket on each table.

I chose a particularly hot August day to sit outside in the sun and eat a huge burger. Not the most comfortable dining experience. When it's not too hot, the patio would be a great place to knock back a few draught beers with a group of friends. Unfortunately, I don't have any friends. But, if I did, I would suggest we all go over to All Star Lanes and bowl a few rounds after our burgers. Then my friends would probably say "Well, bowling is kind of lame". And then I'd say "well, fuck you guys, I'm going bowling!"

Bottom Line: Hamburgers very good. French Fries very bad. And the hamburgers are huge! They're so big that after I ate here, my doctor had to put me on Crestor. Seriously, I went for my check-up the day after I ate here, and my cholestoral was sky-rocketing at a combined level of 286. Coincidence ? Maybe. But then looking at all the places I have eaten over the last month, it really comes as no surprise does it ?