Category: Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock
This is the first review where my notes were taken at home, and the first review where we're busting out the larger photos. Because you need to see this pizza.
Because of its casual, kewl-dude-in-a-woodie logo, you do not suspect Cruzer of offering the first all-vegan pizza. Learning about it, and finally trying this "why hasn't anyone done this before?" fare, made us shriek and dance like we'd received a basket of puppies.
We start with having the Quarrygirl.com Pizza delivered. Olive oil, garlic and softly dense strips of portobello and button mushrooms make us forget that there's no red sauce on this pie. The sausage is that rare vegan entity that tastes closer to the real thing than it looks, instead of the other way around; it's zippy and spicy as real sausage, and I could totally go through a bag of it like a road trip jerky snack.
A thick paste of Daiya cheese is melted over everything, white and grainy with little yellowed oven marks. It feels more like ricotta or goat cheese in texture and tang, and once you make that mental transition, it's all good. Daiya will save us all. Beneath all of it is a just-plain-good dough, bready and bubbled and just this side of sweet.
The Vegan BBQ Chicken Pizza also has no red stuff, but the ruddy bbq sauce is like a sweet & sour glaze, rich with molasses and I daresay hickory; it complements the already-sweet tinge of the dough. You could serve this to friends and tell them it's BBQ Pork, even, and they'd nod with approval. The texture, the grain, the flavor, is all there, firm and cooked. It's not meat, I'm told, and I laugh it off. The daiya cheese is more settled and cooperative on this pizza.
Bianca, upon her first bite: Are you kidding me.
Cruzer has a Vegan Meat Pizza, which I am nervous about trying. I am of course a slave to meat pizzas when given the option, but I can't yet imagine how sausage, pepperoni, meatball, Canadian bacon, ham and salami could all be rendered convincingly and separately as vegan. I will just need to keep placing orders.
And: a vegan Chicken Cheese Steak? A vegan Chicken Parmigiana? I must know.
The pizzas are available in a whole wheat crust as well.
The Los Feliz location uses only 100% animal-free vegan ingredients, the first ever pizza joint in Los Angeles to do so, so much applause for them. They are also incredibly nice on the phone.
They're open until ten most days, eleven on Fridays and Saturdays.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Vegetarian/Vegan, Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, American, Pizza )
I'm a fan of shawerma and kebab and tabouleh and hummus anyway, but the Lebanese touch brings it closer to my heart. This miniature spit-roasted empire now has nearly a double handful of locations, but the original 1984 location is in East Hollywood*.
There is no decor in the Hollywood spot, really, not unless you count violently lemon-colored walls and aluminum, and not much atmosphere except for perpetually grumbling older men and angry conversations in Armenian. The Glendale location on Colorado is the second oldest, and is set up more like a Jack in the Box than a post-war lunch counter.
What Zankou is famous for are the chicken sandwiches, wrapped in a scuffed-up pita, with a thin plaster of highly opinionated garlic sauce. Even as the foil opens up, the scent of garlic wells up. It looks very spartan--shreds of roasted dark-meat chicken, pale squares of chopped tomato, and hints of the white spackle that is the potato-based garlic sauce of which so many poets have written**.
The chicken is usually splendidly done, moist and profound, and the bits of sauce will make you check yourself with a palm over your mouth for the remainder of the day. You get a little dish of carnation-colored pickled turnips and yellow peppers, which you can safely ignore unless you want some extra crunch and spicy hiss (which I do).
The Tarna chicken is marinated chicken shawerma, which is slightly crispier around the edges but not as lush as the roasted chicken. The Sujouk [sic] is dark and rugged and rosy inside like an Armenian/Lebanese sausage can be, but unless you're a big sujouk fan it's not necessary.
The Tri-Tip Shawerma, like the chicken, is infused with its own roasty flavor, dark and juicy. Slicing up the yellow peppers with this, then filling a pita with it, is good times.
The hummus is actually quite good, finely blended with big flakes of paprika. The tahini sauce is thick, sour and a little unfriendly.
* The Sunset location is not part of the website, possibly because of the drama--legal and lethal drama--that occurred with the family. You can look it up if you like. Zankou is quite the L.A. institution.
** Not really. But it's been blogged about a lot.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Hollywood, Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, Pasadena/San Gabriel/Alhambra, Armenian, Lebanese )
You might not expect the grandmotherly explosion of decor inside this corner-mall eatery, but it's entirely possible that your babcia's entire living room has taken up residence inside Polka. Books and murals and bottles and little pink wedding tables and crystal and stickers crowd under ceiling panels of every Partridge Familial color. Gentle big-band crooner music weaves between the knicknacks.
This colorful space is hosted by the Dabrowskis, a delightful pair, almost painfully charming in a way that makes you review your own sins and wonder whether you deserve this homemade meal. And why don't you ever call your poor mother?
Cabbage soup is not something I'd normally consider, sounding fairly grim to a spicehound like me, but it's lemony and wraps your tongue in a tart embrace. Spoonful after spoonful is downed, and I appreciate its unprepossessing nature. With it is a crispy salad with Polka's prized Sesame Delight dressing (you can buy this, by the way). Both make for a pleasant expectation of what is to come.
The pierogi are famous at Mrs. Dabrowski's kitchen; Since Bianca's eating them, you see here the Potatoes & Cheese, and Seasoned Sauerkraut with Stewed Mushroom versions instead of the pork-and-chicken. The potato pierogi have the consistency of the twice-baked potatoes I loved as a child, stuffed in great raviolian pillowcases of excellent springiness; they are just plain tasty and honest, homelike even if Poland is not your home. The sauerkraut takes some getting used to, but still elicits a nod of approval.
For the more creophagous of us, there is gulasz, gently stewed cubes of beef in a brown gravy, flanked by hot vegetables cooked to perfect texture. You have a choice of mashed potatoes, but you will of course choose the potato dumplings, with an initial texture of gnocchi but dissolving into a spongy whipped consistency.
I have a weakness for klopsy, which despite the uncertain name are riveting examples of ground-meat delivery. A loosely packed partnership of beef, pork and chicken, they have almost a pan-fried skin, like Salisbury steak ascended to godhood. All this luxuriates in an onion-infused, fork-clinging brown gravy. Put your fork down occasionally if you can.
At the moment Polka is scurrying under its newfound publicity via various Food Channels and review sites, but you can usually get in for lunch more easily than dinner. Polka is open from Wednesday to Sunday.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, Polish )
Bring dollars. Leave sleepy
4432 San Fernando Rd. (@ Chevy Chase, in Glendale)
Phone: 818-246-9701 | map
I had no suspicion of the fact that the area up and to the right of Atwater was once called the Tropico District, founded in 1887 and incorporated as an independent municipality in 1911. I personally like the sound of it: "I'm taking Rico and the girls over to the Tropico District, you want any orchids, bamboo furniture or catamaran parts while I'm out?"
This is what you might ponder as you inhale the food from this most enthusiastically lauded Mexican stand.
El Sauz is a colorful but decidedly un-climate-controlled box of wood paneling and orange brick, the no-frills tables and chairs making it seem smaller. People crowd around the tiny pair of order/pickup windows. Speaking Spanish is a bonus, but the menu is brief: five dollar burritos, tacos a little over a buck twenty.
So, wow. The two or three people working behind the windows are very skilled at drawing maximum essence from cooked meat. My carne asada taco was gone in seconds, but I remember there being some really savory beef in there, humming in harmony with the cilantro and onion and dripping nectar onto my paper plate. The pollo taco, too, is miles ahead of average, chopped fine and layered with a vibrant green salsa.
I always try an al pastor burrito where one is available, and this one needs its own paper towel rack. The thin-skinned tortilla is bunched up, showing patches of orange. The al pastor is very similar to the asada, being sleepy with juices and more concerned with the soul of the meat than its seasoning. There is a strong presence of pinto beans, big shards of white onion, and a shrug of cheese.
Putting down this burrito runs great risk of sudden disassembly (such as if one is writing notes), as the bottom end collects a ruddy pool of saturated peril. Not finishing the last five bites is probably wise, but I am not wise.
On a lighter note, the Tostada de Camaron is a citrusy blast, the crisp corn tortilla getting deluged with the makings of ceviche. The tiny pink tails of shrimp are dusted with cilantro and basically need a fork.
El Sauz is cash-only, but there's a parking lot and plenty of seating, so it's a fair trade as you ponder where your upcoming nap is going to occur.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Mexican, Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock )
An almost literal agujero en la pared
3185 Glendale Blvd., Atwater
Phone: 323-661-3458 | map
Will I ever tire of finding taco- and burrito-centric holes in the wall? No. You know this.
Across the street is the healthier and pricier Hugo's Tacos, but this is Atwater's little treasure, squeezed between an exotic bird store and a narrow alleyway.
One or two tables pretend to provide seating on the sidewalk, because there is absolutely none inside. In fact, after you've ordered, have the courtesy to step back outside, because the tiny square kitchen takes up the entirety of this joint.
The menu items are brief and specialized: beef and chicken, and several vegetarian items that are mostly spinach or potatoes. However, TVC's dexterity with potatoes is where the magic lives. The Potato Taco has so much flavor in it that I am suspicious of cocaine having been dusted atop (there isn't). Sodden half-inch cubes of potato are striped with chopped bits of cilantro; a white mane of melted cheese keeps it all together in the two fragile corn tortillas.
The Steak and Potato burrito isn't large but nearly shouts its steakness, and has as much impact as the tacos. There's steak, potatoes, cilantro, cheese and a tiny bit of pico de gallo, and that's it. The burritos are moisture-heavy, so it's best to eat them over something else besides your lap. There are tiny tubs of salsa, dark and red and not terribly tongue-torturing. The salsa adds depth rather than heat.
The nachos are hearty, but quite wet, so the chips end up as a strainer more than food-support. The chicken is also savory--marinated and moist--but I've gotten bones in the burritos more than once, so don't eat too energetically.
Parking is metered along the street, or underneath tree-shaded lanes behind. I'm sure your parked car would look nicer with a "I (heart) Tacos Villa Corona" bumper sticker on it. They exist!
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Mexican, Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock )
The exterior is one of those overly designed corner malls, the interior a repurposed "it was also a sandwich shop before this" layout, but pray do not let that deter you. Every wall is pinned with photos of the Golden Gate Bridge and Lombard Street, in case you forget where you are. The room swelters from a bank of humming drink machines.
I do not know particularly what constitutes a "San Francisco" style submarine sandwich, but if this is representative of the Bay Area's Italian-American Juxtaposition Of Bread and Meat erudition, I'm down. The bread simply wins. A sheen from a light application of butter or oil transfers itself to the fingers. The bread itself is golden brown, a crispy armor that buckles into shards, collapsing into a nirvana of soft, warm contrast. How's that for a pretentious food review statement?
There are three sizes here: Mini, Center and Super. If they present a huge piece of wheat bread and ask if you want it cut, say yes, else they will charge for the brawny XL sandwich that will end up coming home with you.
The Atomic Sub is their specialty: sheets of hot lean pastrami, and roasted turkey breast, and corned beef, and is topped with what seems like pickle but turns out to be thinly cut hot pepper.
The Hot Smokie Link sandwich has lettuce, tomato, onion and provolone, embracing thin slices of adobe-red sausage with just a spark on the tongue. The mustard and mayo deliver flavor but are nicely unobtrusive. SF Sub has beef-and-lamb gyros as well, shaved off the vertical rotisserie: it's ominously hot with a slight crunch to the meat, and almost too thick to try to fold and eat. A meek yogurt sauce tries to calm it down.
Drinks are either "fill the cup with ice and hold it under here" or "refrigerated cabinet" fare. The choices range a little outside of typical: yogurt drinks, fizzy flavored waters, sexual-dynamo-energy-drinks, et cetera.
They do not bother with meatball subs, although I would be happy if they did. While Dave's Chillin-n-Grillin has my heart for melty grillwork on sliced bread, SF Sub is now among the ruling class in my submarine sandwich world.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, American, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs )