Category: Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock
I imagine the interior has not budged since 1954, a fact of which I approve: grand golden-framed paintings and iron chandeliers; dark wood paneling and a grumpy old piano; a long bar separated from the main room, and a side banquet room hung with Lions Club documents. All the booths are magnificent bastards of diamond-pattern red vinyl.
Even the basket of bread brings back memories: toasted sesame loaf, ruddy with butter underneath. That, and your main dish, are likely all you'll need. The corn chowder and beef barley soups are shrugworthy, thick but low on personality, so go for the pastas.
Sam and Ann Colombo's family-owned restaurant does sauces nicely, as my friend Dennis and I discovered. "Sam's Recipe" spaghetti & meatballs is robust, tomatoey and mightily seasoned. The Chicken Marsala strips with Penne and Mushrooms has a sweet and sour tang. They do tube pastas a little past done in the American style, so if that sort of thing bothers you, stick with the fettucines and the spaghettis.
Colombo's kitsch factor is not dissimilar to Scarantino's Inn, but the elegance is more pronounced; you'd take an Italian friend here a little sooner.
At night something magical happens. There is entertainment, mostly in the form of jazz nights with a few old-school artists. Wednesday nights are our favorite, as Jimmie Spencer flexes his like-Nat-King-Cole-but-deeper voice and Karen Hernandez flies her fingers over the piano keys. It becomes an experience that takes you back before there were cell phones, computers and televisions on bar walls*.
There's an alleged parking lot which looks basically like the restaurant leaned over and shoved all the cars up against the wall, but it serves.
Thanks to Dennis for accompanying me on my first Colombo's visit.
* Ignore the fact that there are televisions on the bar wall.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Italian, Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock )
The interior belongs to Granny, though: the walls are peppered with paintings of pomeranians, pugs, pastoral scenes, and other p-related alliteration. There's a long brown counter, brown vinyl booths, and faded carpet of indeterminate brown color.
Shakers has all the things you'd expect to see in a cozy coffee shop/diner, with some different things on the menu to, um, shake things up*. There is a widely varied coffee and beverage menu; the iced cafe mocha is fair enough with a meringue-y foam atop, but the Cappuccino milkshake is one of those I-drank-it-all-before-lunch-arrived issues.
The Roasted Pork Panini Melt is a prime example of alternate fare, with not-quite-shredded pork wedges embedded with mayo and a Jack/Parmesan mix. Butter-pickle relish brings a sour spark to the affair, if not an illusion of Cuban cuisine. Shiny sweet-potato chips are showered atop. There's also a Baked Chicken Teriyaki dish with sesame seeds and onions and the expected glazed pineapple ring.
The Chicken Quesadilla Olé is a whole lotta quesadilla, with white cheese and bits of parsley sneaked in. What prompts the "olé"? Is it authentic? Is it even symmetrical? Don't concern yourself with such questions. It's griddled crisp and melty, a handy stomach-warmer for overcast days.
There's breakfast all day, of course... and, hmm! New York Cheese Blintzes.
For dessert there's a lot of things too, but my eye goes straight toward boysenberry pie, which isn't often found in any decent quantity unless you hover around Knott's on Beach Blvd. in Orange County.
The Pasadena location is a little bigger but more likely to have rich children whining in it. Granny does come to both, though. So does Gramps. And they've been coming here longer than you, so show some respect, youngster.
* I apologize.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, Diner, American, Pasadena/San Gabriel/Alhambra )
I kept driving by because I figured this to be some kind of potato-skins-and-hot-wings sports bar, or a halfhearted assembly line of supermarket-bought ingredients.
But the title is perfectly descriptive, less pedestrian-sounding than "Dave's Smoothies & Sandwiches". That's what Dave and his cadre of young people, all dressed perhaps for a chapter meeting of the Sandwich Freedom People's Front, do: create alliances of bread and cheese and meat, and accompany them with frozen revelations.
The interior vibe is just shy of "Local Coffee House," without the gargling hiccups of espresso machines and hipster exasperation. Offbeat artwork adorns the mustard-colored walls (you see selections from nearby Bug House in this photo); a scattering of event flyers carpet one counter. Whatever is playing on the speakers is likely to be of punk rock lineage and very cool.
There's hot and cold subs, grilled sandwiches, and wraps. I haven't tried the controversially awesome pastrami, but I dig heavily on the Turkey Melt: a honking big square of sourdough with burn marks, light on the mayo with the mustard dripping from half-molten white cheese. Napkins are needed, so pull many from the little tin dispenser. The chocolate shake is thick enough for mouth feel, thin enough to draw through a straw without imploding your blood vessels, and real. The smoothies are large and tart and sassy.
And hello, true believers: a pulled pork with bourbon BBQ sauce? A meatball and sausage with onions, pepper spread and provolone? Commence long dramatic sigh and loosening of the belt buckle.
Dude. It's just a sandwich. It's assembled and thrown onto hot metal. But it's made with love, maybe, and that's the difference. Whoever's behind the counter will probably round down your order, to an even ten bucks. That's love.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, American, Coffee/Tea/Desserts, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs )
More Peruvian Coma Inducement
714 S. Brand Blvd.
Phone: 818-243-5121 | map
So in my "go get gastronomically stoned and then try to return to work" wisdom, I decide to squeeze between the grey Mercedes-Benz and BMW dealerships on Brand and enter Mamita. It's not quite tiny, but it feels like it, its stuccoed plaster interrupted by photo murals-cum-travel brochures of Peru.
Your first encounter with the Mamita Effect is a crisp, hot roll that will anoint you with crumbs. There is butter, which is important, and that Squeeze Bottle of the Gods filled with creamy green aji sauce. Mamita's aji has that back-of-the-palate cough quality of heat that will keep reminding you of its presence like a guilt-prompting grandmother.
The deeply purple chicha morada, a corn beverage I've mentioned before, doesn't help much (a Cusque?a beer would probably fare better); it's tasty but a little more cloying than lola's.
So I settle into a plate of saltado de pollo, dark-meat chicken stir-fried with red onion, tomatoes, and french fries, juice-soaked from the skillet and dizzyingly hearty enough to make your eyes want to roll back in their sockets. My nose is running from the heat of it, but do I stop applying non-Newtonian liquid streaks of aji sauce? I do not, because I am foolish.
Are we sure that Peruvian food doesn't have traces of tetrahydrocannabinol in it? Anyone done any scientific research on that? Can I help?
The slowly-growing tally of Peruvian experiences:
Mario's: Best Chance for Being Carted Home in a Basket
Los Balcones del Perú: Classiest Place for Making Yourself Useless
Lola's: Best Chicha Morada
Mamita: Most tongue-spanking Aji sauce
Puro Sabor: Best Lomo Saltado
Choza Mama: Most comfortably home-style
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, Peruvian )
A sea of faux-pumpkins leered overhead when first brought here by our friend Francesca, but I imagine the interior is seasonal. Otherwise there's comfortably faded brick walls, vintage French or Italian prints of foods and wines, and what looks like shredded newspaper on the floor. It's a decor that's been attempted countless times by eateries desiring that "internationally local" feel.
Star Cafe causes a little head-scratching, especially since they're right next door to the Black Cow Cafe, and both are part of the What's Cookn Inc. family, that has kids all over Glendale (Clancy's Crab Broiler, Hamburger Central and even Jax). I suspect there's an alien mind-control cult going on here. If there is, it's fairly successful; Star Cafe has been around for almost a decade and a half, from the beginning of the whole foodie movement. You're initially hooked in by the seasoned puff of bread before you, drizzled with herbs, with a buttery stickiness to the fingertips. There is high-quality chocolate going on in the iced Caffe Mocha, all sweet and swirling strata.
Now, I hate squash and all its unevenly-shaped vegetal kin. I hate it. But the Butternut Squash soup is a tureen of deliciously spicy silk that really illustrates the "Autumnal seasonal foods" concept, and thus my alien mind-control cult theory gains evidential momentum. Bianca continued this newfound fetish with the Curry Butternut Squash Ravioli, a sunny yellow paradise contrasted with bright red chopped tomatoes, that perfectly mixes the "butter" and "nut" and "curry" flavors, and makes me--snarling, sniveling and with much hand-wringing before shrinking back into dark alleyways--admit that butternut squash can be pretty awesome, I guess.
I was a little less experimental; having heard people rave about the focaccia, I had a Chicken Dijonnaise sandwich on this pizza-style, herb-smothered bread. The chicken is breaded and moist and begs to be torn apart and eaten as is. The pasta salad had a few too many hidden green beans and peas attempting to contribute to the mind-control effect, but they didn't hurt at all and I said nay to them.
There's also a red-pepper fettuccine, with roasted garlic and shallots, in a parmesan cream sauce that I shall be returning to try, but of my own free will, not because my mind is in any way influenced. We shall also be sampling the Black Cow Cafe next door with Francesca, who is not sponsoring our entry into any cult in any manner.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Italian, Healthy/Organic, Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, American )
The Glendale location is a little hard to find, despite its commanding corner location on Chevy Chase and Verdugo, if you're coming from the wrong direction. The interior is stone-tiled floor and crisp modern walls. It looks like it's order-at-the-counter, but you're smiled at and told to sit. Right away you've got a good feeling, with a basket of warm, powdery pita and a bowl of possibly the best, most perfectly-consistencied* hommos in Glendale.
Order the kibbeh balls: at least one for you, one for anyone else at your table, and one for whoever's nearby if you're feeling gracious. Chopped beef, onions, pine nuts, fried into a lemon-shaped shell of burghul that needs no dipping sauce. Say wow. Realize your newfound addiction and continue.
The cabbage salad is a nice start for your lunch, loudly peppered with herbs in a vigorous dressing. That or the lentil soup with swiss chard. Check.
I'm eyeing the maanek (Sautéed Lebanese sausage) and shish tawook (garlic-marinated, skewered chicken breast) for next time, but for my first visit I try the Chicken Shawarma. Shaved off the vertical broiler, with seasoned onion slices, rice, tahineh seed paste and yogurt sauce, it's just really good chicken with no pretense.
Baklawa? There's no room for baklawa.
As I try not to appear too rude in my wolfing-down of the chicken shawarma, I pause to take sips of my Lebanese coffee, its steam roiling from its brass rakweh. Quite strong but not buzzy like Cuban coffee, it's more a force of personality. It's coffee with charisma, and Skaf's does it carefully and well, leaving the bottoms of the brass pot and my cup painted with black sediment.
I am typing right after lunch. That is my explanation for my choppy, blissed-out sentence structure, and I'm sticking to it. Maybe it's the coffee, but I think it's the kibbeh balls.
There's a decent parking lot in back. The North Hollywood location is the original, so it's a good candidate for stopping by on my way to Thursday class.
* I just made that a past-tense verb.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Glendale/Atwater/Eagle Rock, Lebanese )