Thursday, July 29, 2010

Apple Pan

There was one burger place that I had been so eager to try. I heard about it from friend, it was mentioned on a TV show and I drove by it pretty regularly. Finally, today was the day that I decided to eat at Apple Pan. I was expecting a regular restaurant layout, but when I walked in the door I was greeted by a counter that ran three sides of a square, all surrounding the grill area.
After about a ten minute wait I sat down at the counter and was given a menu. While a scanned the few options I was very surprised to see that the two main choices, the steak burger and the hickory burger, had the exact same description. Only upon my inquest to the waiter was I able to learn that the two burgers were separated by the type of sauce that was applied to them. I decided to go with the first choice, since I was slightly worried about getting barbecue sauce on my shirt, still on from my day as an intern.
When the burger was served it was done wrapped in paper, which I have come to expect of restaurants in this area. As I took my first bite I was greeted by warm lettuce and a tasty patty. I would say though that the relish on the burger was a bit overpoweringly sweet. The lettuce truly abounded with perhaps as many as six layers at points. While this was fine on the outside when it was warm, the internal lettuce was cold and unappealing. Overall it was a fine burger, but I wouldn't say that it lived up to either the hype or the $6.75 price tag. Though I must say that there were plenty of people waiting, so I guess that it really was market price.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fords's Filling Station

While running an errand for my internship I had seen a flyer for the Culver City monthly block party. It is held every third Wednesday and this day I decided to check it out. After I parked I wandered around the nearby street looking for the party, the only thing that I found was that whoever named the event really did not know what those words meant. Rather than a blocked off area with booths and such, the whole thing amounted to balloons in front of select restaurants, some free samples, and a few specials at certain locations. This wasn’t the worst thing, but it really wasn’t what I was expecting. I decided to stop into a place called Fords’s Filling Station for their special of a beer and a slider. Possible extra s aside, I was very excited for the fresh cooked outdoor meal.

The deal came with a beer, a slider, and some music from a folk trio (not pictured). I chose lamb over beef for the slider and draft 24th street pale ale over bottled PBR for the beer (who would ever choose the PBR?). The slider was fresh grilled and topped with blue cheese, lettuce, and sautéed onions. The meat was rather juicy, the bun was very good and I was surprised find that the blue cheese was not overpowering. Some might have noticed from the photo that I have really stepped up from my regular college days to the blue cup. This yuppie serving style was an important departure from the ubiquitous red cups that I’m used to. What filled the blue cup was even better and this nice bitter flavor was a fine compliment to the lamb. With a very delicious slider and a nice beer pairing, the meal was very good. The only thing that kept it from being a great dinner was that the portion was more of a sample than a full food experience.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Infield

After a wonderful meeting at noon I was driving around the valley trying to find something for lunch. I saw one sign advertising Swedish/Thai and I had the strong desire to taste this daring fusion cuisine. I then quickly realized that this was not an avant-garde restaurant, but was instead advertising a variety of massages. I continued on my quest until I saw The Infield, a small baseball themed hotdog stand. The seating was old seats from Dodger Stadium along with a small section of wooden bleachers. The tables were decorated with pictures of players, stadiums, and fans.

With a wide variety of hotdog styles as well as preparations, the menu itself seemed rather daunting. I overcame my indecision by choosing the special written on a chalk board. I was in for the fire dog. Most of the time when restaurants serve things with fire in the name, they are unwilling to actually cook with significant heat for fear of scaring away more sensitive customers. Would be disappointed by another mild meal? I was trying to keep my hopes up.

When I first bit into the hotdog there was very little heat and I was ready to throw in the towel. Immediately after my hope was restored by a nice late heat, which was accompanied by red pepper flavor in addition to the burn. The hotdog was pretty thick and would probably more accurately described as a sausage. I ordered mine with mustard, relish, and onions, but the wide variety of possible toppings would probably allow anyone to customize their dog to their own standards. With a delicious dog and a fun environment, I would highly recommend a trip to the Infield.

14333 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423

Friday, July 16, 2010

Texas BBQ

Today I made sure to eat a salad for lunch and withdraw money from in an ATM in preparation for an exciting BBQ dinner. The inside of Texas BBQ was well adorned with ox heads and other Americana, but I wasn’t there for the decor. I decided to order “the Duke,” which was listed on the cover of the menu as a combination of ribs and brisket accompanied by my choice of side, which happened to be baked beans. While I waited for my order I was given peanuts in the shell to eat. Though I knew that I was supposed to just leave the shells around and on the floor as those before me had, I generally have trouble just throwing my trash on the floor and therefore kept mine as a pile on the table.

When the plate was served I noticed immediately that there was very little sauce on the meat. I had tasted barbecue without sauce, but was still suspicious. As soon as I took a bit of the brisket though, all of my fears were put to rest. This was some of the most moist and tender brisket I had ever tasted and that was all without being particularly fatty. The ribs were slightly more seasoned but still very tender. The lack of sauce and seasoning actually allowed me to really taste the flavor of the meat, which was very pronounced.

There was a small cup of sauce included with the meal on the side for those who were not happy with the general preparation. This sauce was thinner than others I had used before and was much heavier on the vinegar. Although not something that I had experienced before, I think that this style of sauce is very typical of Texas BBQ and southern BBQ in general. Overall I thought that the meal was very good and incredibly moist without fatty. The lack of sauce and spices might seem like a setback, but in this case it really accentuated the taste of the meat.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mandarin Kitchen

For dinner I first endeavored to eat at the Texas BBQ restaurant that I had seen on my way to work. After a route that a kind person might have called innovative and any other would have called stupid, I had arrived. My worst fears were realized when I saw the sign prominently displayed on the counter that read “cash only.” I was completely out of cash and therefore out of luck. As I continued home I passed several strip malls and on a whim pulled into one of them. I was searching for a restaurant that would give me food in exchange for brief possession of a plastic card. I arrived at the Mandarin Kitchen and ordered the orange chicken. I sat waiting for my meal listening to a playlist that was mostly made up of heartfelt Chinese ballads, but that also contained Greenday’s “Wake Me up When September Ends.” Huh? The food was given to me in a brown paper bag inside of a plastic bag, so it was not until I got home that I actually saw what I had ordered.

Sometimes Chinese restaurants include a large amount of vegetables in their meat dishes, and while that probably would have made my mother happier, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this serving was all meat. With a large container of chicken I was sure to have plenty in the event it tasted good and plenty in the event it tasted bad. This chicken unfortunately fell on the side of the latter. It was neither low quality meat nor over fried, but I would say that the rice had substantially more flavor than the chicken. In a restaurant authentic enough to have Chinese on the menu I have no clue as to how they got away with serving food so bland. Maybe I just picked the wrong dish or maybe some people around here just can’t handle flavor. The fortune of “you will be coming into a fortune,” rounded out the meal by adding a tasteless prediction to tasteless food.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Flame Broiler

Continuing on my health food bent, I come to something that may actually be considered somewhat healthy. I walked into my local Flame Broiler, which has the subtitle of “a healthy choice,” and ordered the chicken bowl topped with green onions. The food was served up quick and since I had been to this particular place before I knew that I should add some sauce before actually taking a bite.

If this were a job interview meal it would probably be the time when they looked at me very suspiciously for adding salt to the soup before I tasted it, but this time I made sure to check around to make sure that nobody was watching. I reached for the hot sauce and poured some on, then went for the brown sauce, which had taken on a new and interesting label.

After I bit into my grilled chicken and brown rice I realized that in this case, magic was simply another word for soy. With the proper added sauce the meal was quite tasty: the chicken was moist and had a nice charcoal flavor that lived up to Flame in the name. It was nothing extraordinary, but at around five hundred calories one really shouldn’t be expecting much more. While this does fall into the food category of things I could probably make at home, there is one thing that I don’t have at home: magic sauce.

Monday, July 12, 2010

BBQ Chicken

After a few days of tacos, cinnamon buns and burgers it was time for a meal that was healthier. I noticed a restaurant down the street from my house that heralded the health of its food and made sure to play up the use of pure olive oil. I knew that Los Angeles was somewhat known for its health food, but it was finally time for me to get with the program. I walked confidently into BBQ Chicken, who’s t-shirts proclaimed it “the world best chicken family restaurant.”

It took me a long time to look through the menu and decide what I wanted, but out of the category of Olive Luxury Chicken I decided to go for the chicken strips. The woman behind the counter was nice enough to tell me that I could upgrade my order from four strips to five for the low, low price of zero dollars. There were so many different combos on the menu that two of them offered such similar things at the same price. Each meal was cooked fresh so I sat down at a table and listened to the Korean pop music while I waited for my food.

When the chicken arrived it was served with French fries, honey mustard, ketchup, and a knife and fork. I put aside the knife and fork and bit straight into the first French fry. It was well crisped but still large enough that one could actually taste the potato. The fries were great when dipped in the honey mustard, which was not as sweet as it is sometimes served. When I first bit into the chicken it was a little too hot for me to actually eat so I was forced to take a slight break and soak up some more Koreapop. When I was finally able to eat the chicken I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the breading was thin enough to not interfere with the taste of the chicken but substantial enough to have kept the meat very moist. The breading was also seasoned with enough red pepper to give it some kick, but not enough to make it painful to eat.

Health means different things in different places, but this experience had certainly taught me that I have no idea what the Koreans think is healthy. Since I have been concentrating on names recently, the second thing that I am still unclear about is what the Koreans think is barbecue. Categorical concerns aside, I really enjoyed the meal and think it is well summarized with a quote from the restaurant wall:

BBQ Chicken

10970 Le Conte Ave.

Los Angeles CA, 90024

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dolores Restaurant

It was well into the afternoon by the time that the big game ended, which made it a bit too late for lunch and far too early for dinner. I decided to stop into Dolores Restaurant and Bakery for a cinnamon bun, which was recommended to me by an anonymous online review. Could I trust the internet or was everything on there, particularly the stuff to do with food, just a waste of time?

As I have come to expect of cinnamon buns in general, the pastry was huge and covered with frosting. I took my first bite and realized that I made a mistake in ordering the bun so late in the day and that by ordering it to go I probably prevented them from heating it up. Oh well. It wasn't as moist as it would have been fresh, but for being room temperature the pastry wasn't bad. It was a tasty dough, although without a strong cinnamon flavor. The most interesting part was actually the frosting that topped the monumental mound of bun. While most frosting is made of almost pure sugar and is very sweet, this was much more similar to a butter cream. I normally don‘t like that type of frosting, but the less sweet frosting kept the sugariness of the bun from becoming overwhelming.

Keeping in the theme of recycling I come at last to the container of the bun, which was an ill fitting Styrofoam probably better suited for a hot dog. In a city that is at least superficially concerned with recycling this non compostable choice was an interesting one. The most shocking thing though came after I finished the bun and closed the container. I was surprised to see the Applebees name embossed on the top. While I have seen generic packaging for pizza and chinese food, I have never seen a restaurant use someone else’s packaging. Perhaps they were able to simply purchase excess pieces from an Applebees supplier, or perhaps they were more serious about recycling than I initially thought.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Taco Truck

On a morning mission to Pep Boys I was excited to see a common LA sight, a taco truck, parked on the street next to the parking lot. In New York City there has been expansion into trucks featuring food ranging from brownies to brown rice. Sadly, in Chicago there are no food trucks. I have read that this is due to a city regulation requiring all food to be packaged and secured before it is loaded onto a truck. Although this particular truck offered several types of Mexican food, this was a taco truck so I was getting tacos.

I chose to get the tacos with everything on them, which included onions, cilantro, and guacamole on top of the meat and corn tortillas. One thing by which I am continuously confounded with taco truck cuisine is the two tortillas per taco. Am I supposed to just eat the two at once? Am I supposed to just eat one and leave one? Or am I supposed to divide the meat and other toppings amongst the two tortillas and eat two smaller tacos? I’m an experimentalist so I’ll try all three.

The first taco was served with carnitas, a type of pork, and I ate it with a single tortilla. The meat was truly flavorful and in addition to the nice soft texture it had quite a bit of spice. The single tortilla really allowed the pork to shine by decreasing the taste of the corn from the tortilla. The second taco was pollo, chicken, and was eaten with two tortillas. The chicken was fairly bland, as chicken are wont to be, which meant the second tortilla, as well as the extra lime juice was really needed to get some flavor. The last taco was filled with asada, grilled beef. The meat was not a great texture, but had a nice charcoal taste that spread across the two tortillas. I do realize that I had terrible control and used a different meat for each style of tortilla eating. While I may not have gotten any usable results from the tortilla experiment, I certainly enjoyed running it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Samosa House

After passing it so many times on the way to work, I finally decided to stop into Samosa House for lunch. My previous experience with Indian in LA had been terrible, but my previous experience with Indian food in general had been excellent. Depending on who you ask, the sign out front advertising vegetarian/vegan food could be seen as a boon or a bust. The food was served cafeteria style and the combo meal gets you rice, three choices from the troughs, and some freshly baked naan. While the restaurant was called the Samosa House, a samosa did not actually come with the meal and had to be ordered extra.
Occupying the first few troughs were afew dishes somehow composed of different types of meat substitutes. Since most authentic Indian dishes do not actually contain meat, the prospect of getting a fake of an imitation was not one I found appealing. Given that, I decided to go with the dhaal, pakora, and my favorite: the saag. Anyone knowing me roughly ten years ago would have been stunned to find out that not only was I eating pakora made of cauliflower, but that I would actually list a dish made of spinach as my favorite. While the made fresh naan was given to me immediately, the samosa was only later delivered to my table. As a drink, I served myself water in a cup that felt as if it was, and was confirmed to be by the writing on the bottom, made of corn. Just like yesterday, they were trying to be environmentally friendly, but unlike yesterday they hadn’t put in on the marquee.

The main dishes were good and flavorful, but nothing special. The true standout was the garlic naan, which was just as good as the made to order bread would suggest. After eating the main part of my meal I turned at last to the samosa, which looked more to me at first like a Mediterranean spinach pie and was served with two different chuttneys. As I dipped the samosa in the first and took a bite I was quite distressed to realize that the chutney was cold. As I gave up the first sauce and dipped in the second I was foiled again by a failure to bring the condiments to the correct temperature. The only way that I was able to get over my disappointment was to simply eat the samosa plain. It was good and was particularly distinct by the daring use of nutmeg. The Samosa House was a fine eating experience in general, but one in which the title food of the restaurant played quite a minor role.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pop-up Catering

For lunch today I went to one of the catering stands on the Sony lot that emerge around lunch time and disappear shortly after. The main reason that I wanted to stop was that they offer employee pricing at five dollars, which, more important that saving me money, just makes me feel cool. There was a choice of Italian sausage (pork or turkey) or a veggie burger. Since I didn’t want to look ridiculous in front of the other intern by picking the veggie patty and since I am a big fan of streaks (devotees will know that I had the turkey burger yesterday), I chose the turkey sausage.

The sausage and peppers were accompanied by a pasta salad, a cookie, and my favorite part of the offering: the “eco friendly cup of water.” The sausage was fairly standard, but suffered from a bit too much bun for the amount of sausage. The pasta had a pesto that returned me to thoughts of my youth and added a nice touch of strong parmesan flavor to round it out. The cookie was standard and the whole thing was slightly better than one should have expected from a pop up catered lunch.

All of this was merely just a precursor to the most important part of the meal, which was of course the eco friendly cup. For a place notorious for use of bottled water, the cup struck me as rather deviant. In addition to being able to read the label, I could feel the reason that this cup was labeled eco-friendly: it was made of corn. As someone from Ithaca, where they always at least pretend to care about the environment, I had learned some important things about corn recycling. While the corn products are compostable, if you were to place it in a regular recycling or garbage can it will act just the same as any piece of plastic. Only when brought to a special recycling center can one reap the environmental benefits of the compostability. The lack of special receptacles led me to believe that the cup, like so many things labeled environment, was really just for show.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


After the finish of the world cup game I decided to venture forth from my apartment and into my local Fatburger. The first thing I noticed when walking in to the restaurant, besides the awkwardly placed Juke box, was the high price of everything on the menu. The combos were all around eight dollars, which reaches around nine with tax. This may seem expensive for fast food, but everything around Los Angeles costs about two dollars more.

I am a big fan of dining in at fast food places because it allows me to keep refilling my soda with that oh so delicious diet coke. Brands may have been originally created to guarantee uniform quality and flavor so one would think that a product from such a developed brand as Coke would taste the same no matter where it came from. In practice, an experienced connoisseur knows that the flavor of diet coke at different fountains varies greatly due to the syrup content. Just as a waiter pours a small amount of wine into a glass to make sure the cork has not spoiled, one should take a sample from the fountain just to make sure that it isn’t overly diluted. The fatcoke, as I want to call it, was particularly concentrated. It was something I noticed as I waited what seemed like an eternity for my combo to arrive. I noticed that service is a bit slower in Los Angeles, even though consumers often seem upset with the extended wait.

My wait was brought to an end as my combo finally arrived. The fries were well crisped and well salted, but my appetite piqued as my eyes turned to the burger. My first bite brought me many pleasant surprises. The patty itself was very flavorful and seasoned with pepper, the extra pickles I requested were tasty, the whole wheat bun added a nice base, and most importantly, all the ingredients of the burger were warm. While Heston Blumenthal worked hard to develop his hot and cold tea, the mixing of temperatures in a burger just dulls the taste of the veggies. Fatburgers well heated ingredients brought out the full flavors and combined to make a very tasty burger. The restaurant heralding itself as “The last great hamburger stand” may not deserve quite that distinction, but it was well worth the inflated price tag and extended wait.


Whenever I mention that I only work two days per week people are prone to ask “what do you do the rest of your time?” The answer, in addition to piece work consulting and writing my own projects, is that I spend a lot of time eating. There are many different exciting restaurants around Westwood and LA in general and I have been trying to sample a lot of them. Given that, it was finally time to do something that my mother had suggested for a long time: start reviewing restaurants, thereby spending even more of my time in the appreciation of food.