Sunday, December 30, 2007

Porky's BBQ

BBQ seems to be something that everyone can associate with. There are various types of BBQ, something to fit everyone's tastes. Porky's has been widely regarded as one of the best BBQ restaurants in Southern California. They specialize in pulled pork and pork ribs, but also serve beef and chicken. Their BBQ is dry rubbed and smoked for up to 20 hours over hickory wood.

The pulled pork sandwich is overflowing with luscious, slowly smoked pork butt that has been dry rubbed. It is topped with coleslaw and just a hint of BBQ sauce. The sauce is a little tangy and not too spicy. The sandwich has to contain at least a half pound of smoky pig. There is just enough fat on it to glisten your lips and give it that extra flavor. The only thing that could be better was if the meat was hot, but they take it right off the smoker and serve it at that temperature, otherwise that juices would evaporate with the added heat.

The yams are very Southern style, loaded with butter and brown sugar. There was just a little too much butter for my taste, and its heavily seasoned with cinnamon and nutmeg. It's almost like a mini dessert in a bowl.

They even have Golden Bird Fried Chicken, and chicken and waffles for adventurous types.

Porky's truly is one of the best BBQ places in town.

Porky's BBQ
801 E. Manchester Blvd.
Inglewood, CA 90301
(310) 671-2900

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Chicagoan's rejoiced when an outpost of their very own opened up in California. Throngs of faithful diners lined up non-stop to relish one of the things they missed most, the Chicago hot dog. Even though Portillo's has been open for a while now, it always seems to be crowded.

I came here wanting a taste of something truly original, the Chicago hot dog with the works. For Chicagoan's nothing can seemingly be beat. For Californians it seems like an odd mix of ingredients to pile onto a hot dog.

The Classic Hot Dog comes adorned with mustard, relish, onions, sliced tomatoes, Kosher pickle slice and sport peppers loaded onto a steamed poppy seed bun.

The hot dog has a natural casing for those who like that snap. The hot dog itself is very good, nice and juicy although a bit on the smaller side. The combination of all of the ingredients just didn't work for me though. There was way too much going on. I didn't realize it was a sweet relish, and though the Kosher pickle's saltiness was a flavor contrast, I went into cucumber overload. The cornucopia of toppings just seemed to hide the taste of the hot dog, which is ashame since the hot dog should be the main character and not just another role player.

I would certainly give Portillo's another try, but would tone it done and have it "California style".

8390 La Palma Ave.
Buena Park, CA 90620
(714) 220-6400

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Brodard Restaurant

Brodard Restaurant is neatly hidden away behind a shopping center. So many people have gotten lost trying to find it that getting to the restaurant seems to be like being invited to a secret club complete with complicated stealth handshake and all.

Brodard’s is known for their spring rolls, particularly the pork ones. Although they do serve other types of Vietnamese dishes, the spring rolls are what keep people coming back.

The Chai Gao, or Eggrolls, are filled with pork, shrimp and crab along with vermicelli noodles and vegetables served with a chile lime fish sauce. The eggrolls come steaming hot, clearly right out of the fryer. When bitten into, a nice resounding CRUNCH can be heard and felt. The balance of ingredients work well together. The addition of vermicelli noodles is a Vietnamese twist on the Chinese classic and may catch diners off guard if eating them for the first time. The eggrolls are served with pickled daikon and carrots in addition to the chile lime fish sauce. The sauce is not overly hot, but it helps to cut through the richness of the oil.

The Nem & Chao, Hai Cuon Moi Loai, or Mixed Spring Rolls, come two to an order. This is split between the infamous shrimp and pork spring rolls. These are not made with distinguishable pork or shrimp, but instead is a paste with a slightly sweet taste. The first thing you notice about the spring rolls are their size. These are, by far, the biggest spring rolls that I have ever seen. In addition to the sausage like pork or shrimp paste filling, each spring roll contains lettuce, carrots, mint. Cucumbers and spring onions that stick out one end of the spring roll like antennae. The spring rolls are served with a “house special sauce”, which is an Oompa Loompa orange and is a mystery as to what it contains.

The Bun Bo Xao is a meal in a bowl. It contains sliced beef over vermicelli noodles with crushed peanuts, shallots and greens. The dish is very refreshing and is almost like a noodle salad. The dish is served with a chile lime sauce that gives an acidic punch to the dish but not much heat. Like most Asian dishes, the amount of protein in this dish is minimal compared to an American counterpart, which is my only complaint about this dish.

Brodard’s is definitely a destination restaurant for their spring rolls. Although the other dishes are okay, it’s the spring rolls that keep people coming back for more.

Brodard Restaurant
9892 Westminster Avenue, Suite R
Garden Grove, CA 92844
(714) 530-1744

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Joey's BBQ

Joey’s BBQ is a neighborhood joint that has three locations in the Inland Empire. Many people swear that this is the best BBQ around, and while although good, I’m not sure that I agree with that statement.

Joey’s is set in an old house that has an Old West feeling and styling. In the back, there are picnic tables where an old Cowboy plays Country and Western music to entertain the waiting throngs of people to be seated. You can also choose to sit outside and eat if you choose.

The Meatloaf comes wrapped in bacon. How can one resist not ordering this? The portion is rather generous and comes with a light BBQ sauce glaze. The meatloaf is just what you’d expect, nice and meaty inside that is nice and juicy. The bacon fat rendered in the cooking process gives the meatloaf even that much more flavor. The meatloaf comes with two sides; the corn on the cob is your standard fare. Nice and sweet, the corn is just perfect with some butter, salt and pepper. The Homemade Potato Chips were a bit on the wilted side. I think the chips were cooked in oil that wasn’t up to temperature as most of them were on the greasy side.

The Beef Ribs are nice, thick and meaty. Although Joey’s is a BBQ place, the ribs had a distinctive grilled flavor. There was a giant smoker outside, so perhaps they are smoked first and then finished on the grill. The ribs have a slightly sweet BBQ glaze on top of them, adding a nice sweetness and cutting down on the richness of the beef. The Baked Sweet Potato comes topped with butter and marshmallow crème. The Sweet Potato could have been baked a little longer to bring out the inherent sweetness of the tuber, but the amount of butter seemed to overwhelm the taste of everything.

Joey’s is a good neighborhood place. Without that many BBQ places to choose from this is a good choice with good value and friendly service.

Joey’s BBQ
3689 Riverside Drive
Chino, CA 91710
(909) 628-1231

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Starbucks Secrets?

I recently received a message from someone who used to work at Starbucks. Since I'm not much of a coffee drinker, I don't know the validity of this message, but it couldn't hurt to try some of them if you frequent Starbucks.


1. Drinks to try that are not on the menu
2. Drinks for those on a budget
3. Refills Anyone?
4. Eating there...
5. A special ESPRESSO experience that's really unique
6. Legendary Service and what that means in the real world
7. Things to look out for that make your Starbucks life easier


* Penguin/Zebra/Tuxedo: This is a mocha (with caffeine) or hot chocolate (no caffeine) that is half white chocolate and half regular chocolate. It's tastier than the regular hot chocolate and less sweet than a white mocha.

* Hot Chocolate with a shot of vanilla: Once you try it this way, you'll never drink regular hot chocolates again.

* Strawberry Lemonades: A lemonade concentrate is mixed with a strawberry puree. Can be blended!

* Gummi Bear: Only SGV-based Starbucks know how to makes this sweet fruit punch that tastes exactly like a gummi bear. I forgot the recipe.

* Steamer: Half regular coffee with half steamed milk. For those who like lots of milk in their coffee but don't like it cooling when they add creamer.

* Red Eye: Regular coffee with an add shot.

2. DRINKS ON A BUDGET (Don't be fooled by the word "kids).

* Kid's Hot Chocolate: It's a regular hot chocolate that's put into a short cup. It's only $1.

* Kid's Milk: Just as it sounds like. Milk for $1.

* Kid's Cider: Want to warm up without caffeine? It's yours for $1.

3. Refills, anyone?

Very few people know the very lax refill policy. If you purchased a Starbucks drink earlier that day and saved your cup, you can have refills of the following:

* Regular Drip Coffee
* Regular Ice Teas (including black, green, and passion)

Doesn't matter what size cup you have either and it's 50 cents! Technically, you could bring in a cup that's a day old but it sounds kinda gross. If you're going with the hot coffee, ask them to swish some hot water in it to clean it out.


Let's say you're on a casual date or plan to be there for awhile. Let's just also say you don't like eating food out of a paper bag.

Ask for your food to be served on a "for here" plate. That way you get some real china and some stores have real silverware. Also, it's always nice to have a cappuccino with extra foam served in a "for here" cup.

5. A UNIQUE ESPRESSO EXPERIENCE - Recommended for people who truly love dark coffee AND a regular. Trust me, they wont do it for everyone. Once you've made friends with one of the baristas (or a supervisor), you can ask for this and it's truly memorable. Plus, it really impresses a date who is into coffee.

* Ask the supervisor to make you a batch of coffee that is in a FRENCH PRESS. Yes, they have these.

* Ask for a stronger coffee that has real flavors like the Sumatra.

* Ask for at least two grandes (come on, be fair) to be made and to be served in "for here" cups. They will charge you for two grande coffees (hella cheap).

What you'll get is a large glass FRENCH PRESS of wonderfully made coffee in nice mugs. What might have tasted like "sludge" before, now tastes better. The french press brings out additional flavors and aromas that get lost when it's processed in the electronic machine.

This is a great experience for a true coffee lover and if you go when they are slower (i.e. Sunday mid-mornings, late afternoon weekdays). My dad and I used to do this. Drink fast though, the coffee in a glass french press only stays hot for 20 minutes.

6. LEGENDARY SERVICE IN THE REAL WORLD - I used to be a barista and I'm always surprised that people don't know what they are entitled to.

* If your drink sucks or you tried something new and didn't like it, you can return it at any time. They should immediately throw away the drink and then make you a new one. They are also supposed to not make any faces or comments when doing this. Plus, you don't wait in line again. You just go up to the bar and tell them.

* They will offer a suggestion or make you another drink in the same price range.

* If it's really really really terrible and your barista is rude to you or spills on you, a supervisor might give you a free drink coupon. This is in cases of extreme neglect.

* Every time your drink is handed to you over the bar, the barista is supposed to look up and acknowledge your existence.

Obviously, this legendary service varies at different places. For instances, I find beach Starbucks more accommodating than the business Starbucks.


* Ever wonder why your hot drinks drip on you sometimes when you drink from it? It's because you lined up the drink hole with the cup seam. It creates a small leak. For those with hot drinks, always position the drink hole away from the seam (preferably 180 degrees).

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Jolly Jug

The Jolly Jug is an old school diner. Famous for their sandwiches, this place has been seemingly around forever. Beige Naugahyde booths adorn the small dining room. This is a mostly locals joint, where regulars often frequent.

The Beef Dip is a large sandwich with loads of chopped beef on top of a French roll. The bread has a very thin, but super crunchy crust, while the interior is cottony soft. This is a straightforward sandwich, just meat and bread. What accompanies the sandwich is a different story altogether. Instead of au jus, a small bowl of gravy accompanies your sandwich for dipping. This is your standard brown gravy, but has a slight hint of something in the background, perhaps nutmeg. The beef was a little dry, but the gravy did its job in moistening and giving extra flavor to the sandwich.

The Pastrami Dip Sandwich is unlike any that I have ever had before. The pastrami is not cured for a very long time, and has sort more of a brined flavor. This gives the meat a fresher, and somewhat saltier taste than your normal Pastrimi. The meat is very lean and piled on high. As with the Beef Dip, the same gravy is served with the Pastrami. The unusual combination of the pastrimi and gravy was a new and interesting twist, which perked up your usual Pastrimi sandwich.

The Jolly Jug serves good food at a reasonable price, but more than anything is a bit of nostalgia.

Jolly Jug
4264 Peck Road
El Monte, CA 91732
(626) 444-8425

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Break Of Dawn

Break of Dawn was the setting for a get together for the OC Food Blogs group. This restaurant has garnered much attention among the foodie world. You have a highly acclaimed chef in Dee Nguyen, who was the Executive Sous Chef at the Ritz Carlton, who opened this restaurant in order to spend more time with his family.

The space is rather quaint, but is set up to appear very open and minimally decorated with splashes of Asian touches throughout the restaurant. Above the kitchen, Chef Nguyen proudly displays his kitchen whites from his Ritz Carlton days. Articles about the restaurant also find their way around the walls. Break of Dawn is very informal, with picnic type benches inside while a couple tables are set outside for those who prefer to dine al fresco.

The Crème Brulee French Toast sounds like a winner on paper. What’s not to like when you combine French Toast and Crème Brulee. Four large slices of raisin brioche are dipped in an egg wash and then set in barely set crème brulee. Sugar is then sprinkled onto the very coconutty crème brulee then torched to give it that familiar crackle. The French Toast is then liberally dusted with powdered sugar, like Al Pacino in that infamous scene in Scarface. There were a couple of problems with this dish unfortunately. The French Toast was pre-cooked and was stone cold. The second problem was that the flavor of coconut totally overwhelmed the taste of the dish. It was hard to taste anything but coconut.

The Corned Beef dish was a slight take on the old standard Corned Beef and Cabbage. Thin slices of briny corned beef sit atop a sweet potato hash that is also mixed with potatoes. All this sits in a glistening pool of mustard sauce. To fit in with the breakfast theme of Break of Dawn, two poached eggs are served with the dish. When cut into, their bright yellow liquid gold comes rushing out like an oil gusher. An astringent topping of braised cabbage finishes the dish. All of the elements worked well together, however, I thought the acidity of the cabbage was a distraction from the rest of the dish.

Perhaps we caught Break of Dawn on a bad day, or they weren’t ready for a party of 17 people. With Chef Nguyen’s credentials, a second chance is definitely in the cards.

Here’s Chubbypanda’s review.

Break of Dawn
24351 Avenida De La Carlota #N-6
Laguna Hills, CA 92653
(949) 587-9418

Monday, October 29, 2007

Anita's New Mexico Style Mexican Food

As a member of OC Food Blogs, a review has been posted on that site.

To read the review and view pictures, please click here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Java Spice

With the recent closure of two Indonesian restaurants, Java Spice seems to be one of the few remaining restaurants specializing in Indonesian cuisine. Once owned by professional poker player John Juanda and his family, Java Spice has come under new ownership in recent times.

The restaurant is small, but tidy. The walls and interior space are sparsely decorated with Indonesian adornments. With the relatively small Indonesian community in Southern California, everything Indonesian seems like the TV show bar Cheers, where you can’t help but run into someone you know.

The Es Durian is sort of like a shake. Take some over ripe durian, if there is such a thing, mix it with some crushed ice and condensed milk, and you have this concoction which will send most Southeast Asians into ecstasy. Durian, known as the king of fruits, is definitely an acquired taste and smell. For the uninitiated, durian sort of smells like athletes foot with an underlying sweet funkiness.

The Ikan Goreng Tilapia Tuaco is a very large tilapia which is deep fried. Large cuts are imbedded into the flesh to let the sweet, pungent and spicy sauce to get into every nook and cranny of the fish. The flesh is firm, yet moist and the sauce gives the rather tasteless fish a life of its own.

The Beef Rendang is slow braised beef in a curry sauce. Unlike most rendeng’s that I have had, this version was rather sweet instead of the normal spice that is usually associated with this dish. The sweetness and richness of coconut milk bursts with each bite of the very tender cubes of beef.

The Ayam Kalasan is twice cooked chicken. The chicken is first cooked in coconut milk, then deep fried. The coconut milk imparts a subtle sweetness to the chicken. The finished chicken is then deep fried to give the bird a deep golden brown hue and to also make the skin crispy. Although the coconut milk should keep the chicken moist, there were part of the chicken that were overly dry.

Even without the star power that John Juanda would bring to the restaurant, Java Spice is a good option for Indonesian food at a very reasonable price.

Java Spice
1743 Fullerton Road
Rowland Heights, CA 91748
(626) 810-1366

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Rockenwagner Bakery

Since closing his flagship restaurant a few years back, Hans Rockenwagner has opened up an informal cafe and bakery, and a separate bakery that focuses on breads, pastries and sandwiches.

Rockenwagner Bakery is probably most notable for their pretzel bread, and rightfully so. This artisanal loaf is like a huge un-knotted pretzel. The top crust has a very nice chew and a generous sprinkling of salt, that look like small diamonds in the rough. The bottom crust also has that nice chew, but is also very crunchy at the same time. The interior is everything you would want in a top notch pretzel and more. A slightly yeasty fragrance emerges when bitten into or torn apart. That distinctive taste that can only be a pretzel is recognizable from the first bite.

The Cheese Pretzel does not have that infamous knotted look, but instead appears like a buttermilk bar donut. Topped with a generous amount of cheese, the pretzel marries the best of both flavors. What could be better than a nice, chewy cheesy pretzel?

Well, for those that like things a little spicy, the Jalapeno Cheese Pretzel is your thing. Adorned with a couple slices of jalapeno, this cheesy concoction does have a surprising little kick to it.

If you're a pretzel fan, or like German baked goods, Rockenwagner Bakery would be an excellent choice. They also offer their famous Berliners, a German donut filled with raspberry jam and topped with cinnamon sugar, on Wednesday's, Friday's and Sunday's.

Rockenwager Bakery
12835 Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 578-8171

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Fage Yogurt

Many consider Fage to be the Cadillac of yogurts, and it would be hard to disagree. This Greek yogurt is strained which gives it a much richer and denser texture. The yogurt is so thick you can hold the container upside down over your head without fear of being “slimed” on. It also doesn’t contain any gelatin which gives it such a smooth moutfeel. The thick, dense yogurt quickly envelops your mouth in tangy goodness.

Fage is relatively expensive compared to most brands, about twice the cost. The quality and flavor more than make up for the price difference. Interestingly enough, Fage has about half the carbs of regular yogurt, but more surprisingly it has more protein than your average yogurt. It doesn’t make any sense when you consider that it is strained, and the straining process would expel all of the whey out of the yogurt. All of that liquid that you find floating at the top of a container of yogurt is whey, which is primarily composed of water and protein.

Fage doesn’t come in a wide variety of flavors. Besides the plain, the only other flavors are strawberry, peach and cherry. There is also a dual compartment container of Fage that contains a side of honey. I’d rather get just the plain container of yogurt and add my own honey so you get more bang for your buck.

Fage is what Pinkberry and all of the other new wave fro yo places aspire to be.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Roy's - LA

Set in a cozy little space, Roy’s LA seems amiss among the sprawling skyscrapers and bustling busy streets. But step inside and you are suddenly whisked away to a different world, a modern tropical paradise that I immediately associate with Hawaii. Vibrant colors adorn the wall, with both modern and some traditional decorations sprinkled throughout the restaurant. Stalks of bamboo line the outer edge of the dining room, while three huge Plumeria art pieces line the wall above the open kitchen, like playful warriors standing guard over the cooks.

The open kitchen is a form of entertainment in itself. While each line cook and sous chef has their own responsibility they also work with precise choreography, producing each dish to come together with perfect timing. Curtis Mar, Executive Chef, is the conductor of the kitchen, making sure each dish goes out on time and more importantly, meeting his discerning standards.

After being seated and getting settled in, a bowl of edamame was placed upon the table. The edamame were seasoned with Alaea red salt and just a whispery hint of something sweet. While not overly sweet, it did give the soybeans an added dimension.

The Grilled Hawaiian Satay Skewers are a mix of chicken, beef, eggplant and shrimp each with a different seasoning. The Curried Chicken Satay is tender and moist with a nice curry spice; it reminded me of a cross between an Indonesian and Indian dish. The peanut sauce helps to cut through the pungency of the curry. The Mongolian Beef skewer is very tender and flavorful. The concentrated soy glaze enhances the beef flavor. The Miso Eggplant satay is a nicely grilled slice of eggplant with a miso glaze that is both sweet and salty. The eggplant is slightly wilted but still retains a nice meaty texture. The Shrimp skewer contains two meaty shrimp that is paired with a wasabi dipping sauce provides a spicy kick to the sweet shrimp.

The Roasted Baby Beet Salad is of the deconstructed type. Baby Bibb lettuce with a acidic balsamic vinegarette sits on one side of the plate, while roasted red and yellow baby beets provide contrast on the other side. Balsamic vinegar cuts through the richness of the blue cheese ranch dressing. An oozing block of blue cheese finishes the salad off.

A Lychee Sorbet is served as an intermezzo. The sorbet is light but is rather sweet. Although there is a hint of lemon in the sorbet it tastes like a light dessert instead of a palate cleanser.

The “Pulehu” Style Hawaiian Barbecued Sirloin is a very generous serving of sliced sirloin cooked to a perfect medium rare. The steak is glazed in a sake reduction and a green peppercorn sauce. The sweetness of the sake provides a nice contrast to the spiciness of the green peppercorns. The dish is served with a small stack of perfectly fried crunchy onion rings and potatoes au gratin. The onion rings are so crunchy that each bite reverberates inside of your skull like you were at a heavy metal concert. The potatoes au gratin are so rich, creamy and cheesy that a crash cart should be close at hand.

The signature Roy’s Hot Melting Chocolate Souffle is a rich dark chocolate flourless chocolate cake with a molten hot center. Breaking into the soufflé releases the sweet thick magma of dark chocolate within. The luscious soufflé is served a la mode with a scoop of vanilla ice cream that provides a nice temperature contrast as well as a raspberry coulis which helps to cut through the richness of the chocolate.

Although Roy describes his food as being Asian Fusion to make it more appealing to the masses, this is really Hawaii Regional Cuisine at its finest.

800 S. Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017
(213) 488-4994

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Porto's Bakery

Porto’s Bakery has been a part of the Glendale community for as long as I can remember. Over the years they have expanded into what is now a huge space that encompasses two dining areas along with limited outdoor seating. When you step into Porto’s you are greeted by organized chaos. Empty tables are hard to find and are at a premium on the weekends. As you walk towards the bakery section, there is a long line that snakes through a roped off section. They have recently done away with their “take a number” system, which I think is a mistake as it is much easier for people to cut in line now, and that could really result in a mob scene.

The Cheese Roll is everyone’s favorite. In fact, they are so popular that they were sold out of the regular size Cheese Roll’s on my visit. I had to settle for the “party size”, which is quite a steal when $10 gets you 25 of these delectable pastries. These croissant-like pastries are topped with large nuggets of sugar to give it some sweetness. Inside of its honeycomb structure of butter and flour is a thick stream of cream cheese. The super flaky pastry is like biting into a nice buttery sponge. And the interplay of the sugary top mixed in with the tanginess of the cream cheese will surely make your eyes roll to the back of your head.

The Chocolate Croissant is a gigantic pastry of rich buttery goodness that is dipped in sweet chocolate on both ends. The croissant is finished with an egg wash before being baked to give it a nice golden brown hue. Beneath its crunchy exterior lies a light and airy interior that is as soft as a baby’s bottom. Like fingers in a gold mine, two veins of chocolate run the length of the croissant.

Porto’s has much more than pastries and desserts to offer. They also have a wide selection of sandwiches to choose from. The ever popular potato balls are also a winner. If you have never visited Porto’s you are missing out on a great culinary adventure.

Porto’s Bakery
315 N. Brand Blvd.
Glendale, CA 91203

(818) 956-5996

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ

Okay, don’t shoot me. But I happen to like this place. Yes, I know it’s a chain, and along with that go the ever popular huge chain portions and prices. An offshoot of the Hof’s brand, Lucille’s does BBQ, which I think they do rather well. I have noticed a slight drop in quality over the years, but they are still among the top of my list of BBQ joints. Decorated in a somewhat Southern motif, Lucille’s offers live Blues music on the weekends.

Upon being seated, you are brought a basket of warm biscuits and apple butter. The biscuit is the size of a large rock, and has the heft of one as well. The biscuit is buttery and is more crumbly then it is flaky. Add the whipped apple butter, which has just a hint of sweetness, and this is a great way to begin any meal.

The Rib Tips are a generous portion of St. Louis Ribs. The ribs are marinated in their original BBQ sauce, which is a thick ketchup based sauce that is relatively sweet, then hickory smoked until tender. The ribs are then finished off on the grill to add a little char for another dimension of flavor. A nice pink smoke ring can be discerned on the ribs, which are very moist and tender. On their own, they are very good, but add some of the Hot & Spicy BBQ sauce for some added kick and this will certainly wake up your taste buds.

The Tri Tip Platter comes sliced and fanned out on the plate. As with the Rib Tips, the Tri Tip is slowly smoked over hickory. The Tri Tip is very lean, but has a little bit of a fat cap to give it some added moisture and flavor. The beef flavor sings in your mouth and is so tender hardly any chewing is needed. The corn on the cob is grilled and that added smoky flavor gets imparted into the corn. The corn is not overcooked and each niblet bursts with juice with each passing bite. The Macaroni and Cheese is drenched in a rich and thick cheese sauce. The elbow macaroni is tender but not overcooked. There is enough of a chew for any al dente pasta lover.

Although Lucille’s gets a lot of bad remarks, their food is consistent. The prices are steep for a BBQ place, but the end product will certainly satiate the inner caveman in anyone.

Lucille’s Smokehouse BBQ
1639 E, Imperial Highway
Brea, CA 92821
(714) 990-4944

Monday, September 17, 2007

Nick's Taste of Texas

Set in a spacious warehouse with exposed brick walls and all things Texas, Nick’s Taste of Texas is a favorite among locals. Looking at the menu, it’s hard to decipher which direction this restaurant is going. The overwhelming majority of the items are Mexican in nature, with Caldo (soup), Menudo, Fajitas, Tamales and Enchiladas adorning the menu, but peculiar items such as Chicken Fried Steak, Poorboys, Chili and BBQ can also be found. Nick’s prides themselves in being a “Tex/Mex” restaurant, and in that they succeed with the diversity of selections.

Nick’s is like an indoor picnic. After placing your order, you take a seat at one of the many picnic tables lined with butcher paper that are set up family style. When your order is ready, your number is called and your food is delivered to you.

The Brisket plate is a generous portion of sliced brisket that is topped with a slightly sweet and tangy BBQ sauce. The brisket is very tender and flavorful, but a smoke ring is absent and there isn’t that smoky taste one would expect. The brisket plate is served with a small salad of iceberg lettuce and red cabbage. A small bowl of pinto beans also comes as a side. The beans have a slight hint of cumin, which gives them an added spice dimension.

The Beef Ribs come three to an order, and are fairly big in size. The ribs are grilled, not barbecued. The grilling makes the meat a little tough and oily. With the amount of grease that the grilling renders, it’s hard to really discern how much flavor the ribs actually have. As with the brisket, the same BBQ sauce is served with the beef ribs. A small side salad and a bowl of beans are also served with the dish.

The meals are served with flour tortillas, which are the thickest I have ever seen in my life. They almost seem like flour pita bread. The tortillas are freshly made, pillowy soft and a little chewy. The tortillas are perfect for making your own tacos, depending on what you order, or for sopping up any leftover BBQ sauce.

Prices are very reasonable and portions are fairly large. Although the beef ribs were not successful, I would like to explore more of the menu.

The hours at Nick’s Taste of Texas are also somewhat of a deterrent. They close at 8 PM during the week, and 9 PM on Friday’s and Saturday’s. Perhaps there is an underground Hoe Down after hours???

Nick’s Taste of Texas
545 N. Citrus Avenue
Covina, CA 91723
(626) 331-2824

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana

This is the Build-A-Bear of pizzas.

First, you choose your size, either small or large.

Next you choose your sauce, of which there are six. Next you choose your type of cheese(s), of which there are seven. Finally, you choose your toppings, of which there are many meat and veggie options. Since this is Neapolitan pizza, which is very thin, almost cracker thin, it is recommended that you not have more than three toppings on your pizza because the crust may become soggy.

The pizzas are cooked in a wood fired oven, which is a sight to see as soon as you step inside. A fiery red glow shines brightly and temperatures reach in excess of 800 degrees. The pizza has a nice char to it and a smoky flavor is also imparted into the pizza. Toppings are rather scant, as the star of the show is the crust itself. The toppings are meant to heighten the flavor of the crust, not to be the main attraction.

The thing that surprised me the most, despite the fact that the pizza is so thin it is not very crunchy, but has a nice chew to it. You can't hold a piece up without it flopping over, so folding is almost a must. The very center of the pizza seemed to be a bit soggy, but the very outer crust was crispy and crunchy.

If you are expecting a Chicago deep dish type of pizza, this place is not for you. If you are expecting the run of the mill pizza from the likes of Pizza Hut, Round Table or the like, this pizza may also not be for you. But if you are looking for a hand crafted pizza, this place IS for you.

Sorry for not including any pics in this post, but I forgot my camera.

Bollini's Pizzeria Napolitana
2315 S. Garfield Ave.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(323) 722-7600

Sunday, September 9, 2007


All of the signs were there. New restaurant. Empty parking lot. Nearly empty restaurant. Yes, it was early, but none of that should have mattered. For a restaurant that claims to be “Accented with BBQ”, the smell of smoke was noticeably absent at Hermans.

The space is very clean and modern looking. Stainless steel shimmers throughout the kitchen, while granite countertops can be found at the bar and along the kitchen where barstools can be had for diners who want a close up view of the action. Red Naugahyde line the booths while stone tile line the walls. This mismatch in décor was only a preview of what was to come.

The Rib Tips came in an earthenware pot smothered in BBQ sauce, which was a little too sweet for my taste, but also had a little bit of spice which I liked. The pieces of pork were not very tender and somewhat chewy. There was a lot of fat to the rib tips as well.

The Beef Ribs were of Flinstonian proportion, but they were sorely lacking flavor. The ribs were very tough and fatty and there was no hint of any smoky flavor. The ribs tasted like they had been baked and then covered with sauce as an afterthought. One bite and you could tell that they had no idea of what “low and slow” means.

The Baby Back Ribs didn’t fare much better. Again, a fairly large portion was served, but the meat was very tough and in some places undercooked. Trying to find a smoke ring on these ribs was like searching for a Rolex in a box of Cracker Jack. Fat and gristle made up a large portion of the ribs.

The Garlic Mashed Potatoes were also uninspiring. At least these tasted like they were homemade with large chunks of garlic spread throughout the mix. Some large chunks of potatoes could be discerned but overall they were a little pasty.

The Green Beans were loaded with crushed garlic and butter, but it surprisingly didn’t have that distinct garlic kick to it. The beans were a mix of green beans and yellow and white wax beans. The beans were rather limp and tasted as if they were a mix of canned and frozen beans that had been boiled to death.

The Sweet Potato Fries were a very pleasant surprise. The fries were seasoned and had a pleasant crunch to them. They were served with two dipping sauces, one of them a very interesting selection. A honey mustard sauce tasted like your standard fare, however, the other sauce was a marshmallow sauce. Combined with the fries, this was a new take on the classic Thanksgiving dish of yams with marshmallows.

The French Fries were also seasoned with the same coating as the Sweet Potato Fries. These were nice and crunchy on the outside, and light and creamy on the inside.

Hermans does not BBQ in the traditional way. They use a piece of equipment that is called the BBQ MF2. This BBQ/oven unit is claimed to be able to BBQ with hickory wood smoke, cold smoke, bake, roast and broil. The unit also claims to be able to cook food faster and more consistently and that no BBQ or cooking experience is needed to use the oven. Based on this visit, I prefer BBQ the old fashioned way, LOW AND S-L-O-W!

50 Rio Rancho Road
, CA 91766

(909) 622-4999

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Frio Divino

This Mexican ice cream store has been around for a little over a year. I have always been curious about the place but never ventured in until this past heat wave struck. The sweltering heat and overbearing humidity veered me in the direction of Frio Divino to try some of their delectable treats.

The assortment of ice cream is rather limited, as the ice cream is made on the premises and they want to use the best available ingredients so production is made in small batches. I was expecting a wider assortment of "Mexican" flavors, but there was enough diversity to peak my interest and taste buds.

The Guanabana, or Soursop, (top scoop) has a very fresh and fruity flavor. The Guanabana tastes very much like guava with just a hint of melon, perhaps honeydew. The ice cream is very light and does not have a heavy mouth feel.

The Mamey (pink scoop) is an oblong melon with a reddish hue. The flavor has been said to be similar to pumpkin; a combination of pumpkin, chocolate and almond; or sweet potato, avocado and honey. The ice cream flavor profile of the Mamey tastes like a combination of strawberries and bananas, but has a slightly starchy mouth feel.

The Horchata ice cream has a strong cinnamon flavor. After a couple of bites, the subtlety of the rice begins to come through. A slightly starchy mouth feel can also be discerned with this ice cream, but does not get in the way of the enjoyment of the ice cream.

The Pistachio ice cream is topped with fresh crushed pistachio's. The ice cream is not sweet, like many store bought brands are. The distinct flavor of pistachio bursts through, with the sugary sweetness playing a supporting role. The only negative I had with this ice cream was that it was a little bit icy, which detracted from the expected creamy texture that the other scoops of ice cream had.

I would consider Frio Divino to be a boutique type of ice cream place. Small batches are made on the premises using only the freshest ingredients. For flavors that are normally hard to come by, Frio Divino is a nice choice.

Frio Divino
6200 Van Buren Blvd.
Riverside, CA 92503
(951) 689-1596