M Café has carved itself an intelligent space. They create "macrobiotic" cuisine: food-concerned, locally sourced and healthy without being pretentious or exclusionist. The cuisine isn't quite fusion, isn't quite deli bar, nor quite vegetarian: soups, salads, rice bowls, sandwiches, sushi.
The counter of fascinatingly healthy delights has an even more alluring selection than Joan's on Third; the Scarlet Quinoa is a purple pile of puffy grains with a subdued tang of chopped beets; there are tiny shreds of rosemary but not enough to make me mad.* The Sesame Soba Noodles are a perfect midday salad, nutty and refreshing; the best parts are the bites of firm tofu hidden within.
There is sandwich & burger fare: a whole grain brown rice & veggie burger in a soft, dreamy bun, a grilled seitan sandwich with a Carolina-style barbeque sauce, a masala-baked tempeh and brown basmati rice wrap. The Melrose Muffaletta is served in two wedges of bread that's softer than it has a right to be; the tofu has almost a ricotta texture, the seitan "salami" is gentle and unspicy, and a slightly sour olive tang permeates throughout.
The M Café Iced Mocha is coffee-heavy and too slapdash with the chocolate syrup, so I may stick with their homemade citrus juice or the iced barley tea next time.
How good is it? Good enough so that I tried it for lunch, then took Bianca there the same day for dinner.
The hours are solid in both places, and they cater. There is parking at the Melrose location in front and back, away from the crowd lining up at Pink's around the corner.
* I have a bitter distaste for rosemary, ever since the lemon chicken salad at La Conversation on Doheny; they throw so much rosemary on it that it's like being stabbed in the mouth with pine needles. If I wanted this sensation I'd chew a holiday wreath.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Deli, Hollywood, Vegetarian/Vegan, Healthy/Organic, American, Coffee/Tea/Desserts )
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 )
The Corner Restaurant That Time Forgot
21150 Ventura Blvd. (east of Canoga)
Phone: 818-348-2020 | map
I haven't met the lucky soul whose brother this is, but you can imagine a triangle being clanged upon and the cowhands coming a-runnin'. It's not wholly Texas style, nor KC, and a distance from the Carolinas, but it's a kitschy collection of barbecue stylings.
Upon entering you tumble like Alice down the rabbit hole to a decor of several decades ago. There's brick, lacy curtains around the windows, worn wooden tables, seriously red vinyl booths, jars of BBQ sauce for sale, and customers who have been coming here since your mom and dad's high school days (on our first visit, we saw an awesomely rendered pair of sideburns framing a truly heroic moustache). The waitresses are friendly without the need for hollow smiles.
Sweet Lord o'Mercy, there's a lot of food here. Tri tip, bar-b-que chicken, beef ribs, baby back ribs, burgers, broasted chicken, smoked sausage, shrimp, beer-battered fish, even a Country Broccoli Salad for those of you who shy from the carbonized flesh of your yummy fellow mammalians. Starting with some side orders: the chili is Texas style, dark, moody, nearly beanless and kicks the back of your throat. The BBQ beans are stand-your-fork-up-in-it solid, and very tasty. The fist-sized block of garlic cheese bread, one of the very best things here, could double as a mattress if you didn't mind the crumbs and butter.
The BBQ sauce is just shy of too-sweet, so it isn't meant for slathering on top of things. The pork ribs are good, if not as revelation-spurring as Dr. Hogly Wogly's over on Sepulveda. The broasted chicken, however, is what My Brother's is famous for, somehow grease-rich without being greasy, and fantastically moist contrasted with crispy. Honey hush.
Is it the best BBQ in the Valley, let alone L.A.? I can't say until I've tried the tri-tip, the Litmus Test of BBQ eateries. Purists will understandably look to more authentic joints, but it's the home-kitchen ambience and a reliable post-meal stupor that includes this place on my list. They cater, too.
There's a parking lot in back, but not the first lot. It's the second lot. You'll get it.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), BBQ, American, The Valley )
It's still breakfast time (read: before three o' clock) and already sweltering. We hadn't been here for a few years, so after putting on our shades, finding a parking space a couple of blocks away*, and waiting for the sidewalk table most protected by small brown umbrellas, we sit among beautiful people and their dogs.
The iced mocha latte is the first order of business, not too heavily powdered; The blended version is thick and foamy. Either choice is consumed too fast. The coffee is honest and good enough for the Beverly Hills-adjacent crowd.
Kings Road is still here because it's consistently good. There's a bakery connected to it with some take-out items, but both breakfast and lunch are rewarding prospects here. For the former, the Whole Wheat Granola Pancakes (blueberry or banana pecan) are lovely and firm like some of the clientele, and taste healthy. The French Toast, accompanied by slivers of fresh strawberry, is flaky and perfect, not sodden or underdone in the middle. Order a side of Chicken Cilantro Sausage if you would like to know what happiness looks like, cut into bites and pan-sizzled into bursts of brilliance.
For later meals, pasta dishes are well-considered, such as the Shrimp and Scallop Linguini Pomodoro, with tomato, basil and garlic. I've yet to try the burgers, the paninis, or the Rosarito Beach Tacos; there's a lot of menu to go through here. Pair those with one of the dozen or so teas available.
After breakfast or lunch, walk around the corner to the newsstand and peruse their deliciously international collection.
* Off Beverly, one must park at least two streets away, in order to avoid the perilous "you can park here for a couple of minutes during business hours, but otherwise no parking at all times without an advanced degree in medieval metaphysics, permits excepted, so nyaah" signs.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), West Side/West Hollywood, Bakery/Patisserie, Healthy/Organic, American, Coffee/Tea/Desserts )
Saturdays are just impossible now around Sunset Junction. What with the new Westsidesque parking restrictions, the local farmer's market, and the still-spasming popularity of our town, one cannot find an eatery without a line or a place to fit one's Mini Cooper. I can't complain, though, for this is where we live, and wouldn't trade it for love or cookies.
So up Hyperion I go, thinking I'd hit Say Cheese. But, ah! I'd forgotten The Fix had opened up... and it has a parking lot in back. Inside, the colors seem better fitted for a frozen yogurt shop, all crisp aluminum, modernist white and orange sorbet facial powder. The menu is a dichromatic's nightmare to read, so you peruse one of the paper menus that you're going to take home anyway. The vibe, though, is very cool.
The paradigm that is hamburger has re-emerged as a respectably cool thing to pursue in Los Angeles. The old standbys like The Apple Pan, In-N-Out, and so forth have kept their unpretentious, high-speed charm, while there are (comparatively) newer joints that flaunt the gourmet touch like 8 oz. Burger Bar, Father's Office, 26 Beach, and The Counter. The Fix does a nice combination of the two, being casual, very caring with its preparation, and mindful of concepts like "free-range" and "certified humane."
So, my lunch. Ostrich burger with muenster on whole wheat, very nom-worthy. Ostrich is rather like turkey in color and flavor, but with the consistency of beef, if you can get what I mean. The cheese is nicely melted over the whole affair, and the bun has a bit of toastiness and tastes this-morning fresh. I combine that with garlic fries, and I mean garlic muh-fuggin' fries, herb-seasoned into submission with a heap of chopped, roasted garlic on top.
For other burger-related enjoyment here's buffalo (Bison, I say!), and beef, and mini versions of the burgers, and lettuce wraps, and other favorite things.
To drink? A chocolate Oreo shake, quite possibly the best I've ever had. I still dream of that shake.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Healthy/Organic, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, American, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs )
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 )