Friday, April 29, 2011

10. Big Dean's Cafe

Sweet summertime. It's an amazing time of year where the beaches and full, the beer's are coozied, and you become painfully aware how fat you've become over the winter months.

I love Los Angeles summers, they remind me why I live in this godforsaken dump of a town. And like most people who live in LA, what better time than the middle of a Wednesday to grab some bikes, roll down to the beach with your friend Brian (we all have one), soak up some sun and grab some burgers and beers.

After getting our incredibly heterosexual all-male tan on, Brian and I went to Big Dean's Cafe, just at the base of the Santa Monica pier. Naturally one would figure that anything at the Santa Monica pier would cater purely to tourists, and charge exorbitant prices for mediocre food.  I was happy to say I was mistaken!

Because we were on bikes, parking was more than ample. Big Dean's has a front and back patio with picnic style seating which lends itself to shared, social drinking. The front area is great for people watching and apparently is great for the Thursday evening live music events at the pier, says Brian.

The skinny of it all is that Big Dean's should be a place that niches itself into mediocrity. Thankfully, it's stayed true to it's beach-bum style and won't look down on you for ordering "The biggest plastic cup of Bud Light you have available." The beers are cold, cheap, and a perfect compliment to finishing up a super heterosexual all-male tan sesh.

The pride and joy of the Big Dean's menu are the burgers. The menu itself is simple and you'll find that burgers are your best bet. The long and short of it is that the burgers are just damn good, plain and simple. There's lots of meat, price is right, and the meat-to-bun ratio is perfect. According to Brian, "If you want to write about this place in that gay ass blog of yours, make sure to mention that the fries are no good, stick with the burgers." So also make note - the fries are no good.

The waiters at Big Dean's taking a well-deserved break.
Another great part of Big Dean's is the waiters. There's plenty of uber-sexy bikini babes walking the strand, so you don't need a D-cupped first-time waitress in a bikini mucking up your order because her boobies (not experience) got her a job at a beachfront bar. Every single waiter here looks like a mix between between  Sammy Hagar, Spiccoli and Patrick Swayze in Point Break. And because I shamefully probably also fall into that stonery, brosef, white dude demographic, they knew exactly how to serve me - not pushy, made genuinely funny jokes, and knew exactly when I did or didn't need a beer refill.

If you're into lazy beach days complimented with just the right food and drink, the Big Dean's really is a gem. You wouldn't expect a place like this nestled in with company like Fuddruckers and the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. But thankfully, it is. Just don't order the fries, says Brian.

Name: Big Dean's Cafe
Genre: Burgers and Beer
Value: Good and fair.
What You'll Need to Enjoy Your Meal: Sunglasses, sandals, and in lieu of a six-pack, a tank top.
Rating: 5 / 5

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

9. Mr, Lunch

Mr. Lunch is a hole-in-the-wall dive that shares property with...wait for it...a puppy store! Yummy!! It claims to have "The Best Tortas in Town" and certainly have a large enough menu that everyone should find something to please their palette. The problem with this place is that, not unlike Justin Beiber, it piles so much shit onto itself that it doesn't really have a real identity anymore.

Let's start with the menu options. Outside of the Tortas, Mr. Lunch offers: Burritos, tacos, menudo, salads, breakfast sandwiches, juices, smoothies, milkshakes, hand scooped ice cream, coffee, bakery breads, sodas, random mexican groceries, french fries, a salsa bar, horchata, etc...

Then let's closely examine a random torta's ingredients: Bread, mayonnaise, avocado, refried beans, onions, chipotle dressing, pork leg, ham, beef steak, sausage, Manchego cheese, and Oaxaca cheese.

You see what I'm getting at here? There's too much stuff with too little real estate. Everything from the Kitchen Equipment down to the food is a veritable garage sale of crap.

Under normal circumstances one might think, "Well, I never have to eat anywhere else, this place has EVERYTHING!" and could on some levels be right. But so does the dump. Mr. Lunch offers poor quality everything and lots of it.
This pretty much sums up Mr. Lunch.

If you're going to eat here you'd be a fool not to try a torta, just be ready to make your second stop be the hospital for triple coronary bypass surgery. Your average torta here comes with the ingredients listed above and then possibly more. Maybe instead of three types of pork you could be adventurous and try two types of pork and friend chicken? Don't forget the double helping of mayo they slather on. Also, anything that says 'sausage' on the menu is actually a hot dog, which I find just insulting. Also, every torta comes with a side of fries, in case you were worried that your 3 cheeses, 4 meats, and mayonnaise sandwich wouldn't be greasy enough.

Worse still...why the hell do you serve fries but offer a free salsa bar? They don't serve chips here, at all!! I'f you've ever thought of trying salsa verde on top of french fries, don't. It's disgusting. But that's Mr. Lunch in a nutshell, a lot of crap inside of one building and none of it fits together.

The service is also ridiculously slow. I guess after months of eating pure friend cuisine has made everyone sluggish.

PS: While there I DID learn that 'tuna' ice cream is actually a sweet cactus derivative, and not fish. I vomited pure cholesterol in amazement and passed out on the floor in a pile of my own diarrhea. (This is what I feel like right now, thanks to Mr. Lunch.)

Name: Mr. Lunch
Genre: Mexican/Everything Under the Sun 
Value: Small prices get you terrible quality.
What You'll Need to Enjoy Your Meal:  No self-respect
Rating: 1.5/5

Thursday, April 21, 2011

8. Chen's Chinese Restaurant

Jack Burton: [looking at kung pao chicken from Chen's] Two, three feet thick, I'll bet. Probably welded shut from the outside, and covered with brick by now!
Wang Chi: Don't give up, Jack!
Jack Burton: Oh, okay, I won't, Wang! Let's just *chew* our way outta here!

Located somewhere down in Long Beach, this is a small little Chinese food place known mostly to just the local riff-raff.

The decor is nothing to write home about, though ironically here I am, writing to everyone about it. Just standard tables and booths all being pandered to by nondescript waiters in white. If you've seen Big Trouble in Little China, think Lo Pan's mansion, but without the sculptures, magic, thrones, whores, Kurt Russell, monsters, true love, and dagger-throwing. So basically, it's a just a carpeted room with tables.  But you know, like, Chinese.

Where Chen's DOES become quite Lo Pan-esque is when the food arrives. The basic premise of Big Trouble in Little China is that an ancient sorcerer named Lo-Pan needs to find and marry a rare Chinese girl with even rarer green eyes in order to regain his phsysical form. Well, finishing even one entree at Chen's carries about the same odds as finding a magical Chinese Girl with Green eyes. Each entree is about a fishing bucket's worth of food. We ordered Kung-Pao chicken and there had to be at least 2-3 chicken's worth of meat on the plate.

Chefs at  Chen's, getting ready to make one dish.

The quality of the food was good. And at a price point of around $10.95 for basic entrees and about 13.95 for seafood, the prices weren't bad. The food was flavorful and I especially suggest the Hunan spicy beef. When I first tried it, it reminded me of Jack Burton. You see, Jack Burton is a tough-talking, wisecracking truck driver whose hum-drum life on the road takes a sudden supernatural tailspin when his best friend's fiancee is kidnapped. Speeding to the rescue, Jack finds himself deep beneath San Francisco's Chinatown, in a murky, creature-filled world ruled by Lo Pan, a 2000-year-old magician who mercilessly presides over an empire of spirits. Dodging demons and facing baffling terrors, Jack battles his way through Lo Pan's dark domain in a full-throttle, action-riddled ride to rescue the girl. The Hunan spicy beef, too, took a full-throttle action-riddled ride, but into my digestive tract.

Also it's important to note something I have never seen in a Chinese restaurant before. Rice is FREE. You heard right, folks. I don't know what stroke of Genius Chen was imbued with when he came up with this idea. But it struck him like lightning, probably from one of the Chinese Storm Warriors featured in John Carpenter's film Big Trouble in Little China. It's always bothered me that rice isn't free at Chinese food places. Well done, Chen.

So if for some reason you're stuck out in Long Beach, and want a hassle free dinner with plenty of leftovers, this place takes the cake. I also suggest renting a copy of Captain Ron, it's Kurt Russell's best movie.

Name: Chen's Chinese Restaurant
Genre: Chinese
Value: Amazing!
What You'll Need to Enjoy Your Meal: Weed, two stomachs.
Rating: 4.5 / 5

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Moment for Reflection...

Sometimes we need to stop and think about where we'd be if we didn't have food. This poor guy lost his delicious hamburger in a tornado. And I guess everyone else lots their home and family members, or something.

7. El Cholo Spanish Cafe

El Cholo is a Mexican restaurant that has been around since something like 1923 and has, what I've heard, the second oldest liquor license in Los Angeles. 

Located on Western ave. smack in the middle of Korea Town, you can tell everything else grew around this place, and you gain a rich sense of history walking through it's aged wooden doors. I went to dinner here last night with my friend Mark. Parking sucks in K-town and you should invest the $4 to valet your car, even though all they do is park it literally right in front of you with a stupid, shit-eating grin on their faces.

You're immediately reminded of the age of this place when you're sat down at a booth and realize its simply 90 degree planks of wood with fabric on top. You feel your spine, tailbone, and glutes all contort in unison into an unparalleled position of pain you've never felt before. The seats suck, but it's not my major complaint about this place, that esteemed honor goes to our waiter.

"Hi guys! Welcome to El Cholo!!" he burst in to greet us. "Can I get this party started with some Margaritas?!?"

First off, waiter, we're sitting at the worlds smallest and uncomfortable booth in a quiet, family restaurant. No, we don't want to "Get the party started" when there are no girls here and we're dressed like Softball coaches. We just want a drink and some food. We placed our orders.

"AWESOME CHOICES, DUDES!!!" our waiter chortled." I can't wait until you try them!!"

I ordered three tacos. Really, waiter? You assume I've never tried three tacos before? Also, I seriously hope you don't expect to watch me eat and subsequently enjoy the food I ordered, do you?

Seriously every time our waiter came by he had some stupid, hokey shit to say. He had clearly seen too many movies with waiters in it. A good waiter is, yes, attentive and nice, but also understands the patron-waiter dynamic. They are there to bring out food and retrieve a new fork if you drop yours. Honestly, it was more humorous than annoying but he's going to lip off to the wrong, drunken stepdad one day and get his head run upside on.

The food and drinks were AMAZING. The margaritas were huge, served topped off in pint glasses. The free bottomless chips and salsa are also really good, but you need to exercise self control because the entrees are massive.  Mark got beef marinated in a mole sauce and I got "Tres Tacos al Carbon" which were topped with chunks of bacon and served with beans/rice/guacamole/cotija cheese/pico de gallo. It sounds like standard fare, but believe me, it's much better than your standard taqueria. Marks stuff was good, too.

Everything on the menu has a date next to it indicating when it made it on the menu. Kind of cool. This is a good place to go with some friends for a good meal. I wouldn't go here on a first date as you'll have trouble "sealing the deal" later on when your body is too busy trying to digest a gallon of free salsa. Also, don't go here before going out for drinks with your buddy Mark if you're planning on doing that, too. Because you'll just end up bloated and pained with regret from your unscrupulous gluttony.

Overall, this is a great place to go if you love eating good food. It doesn't get a 5-star rating because of its uncomfortable seats, required valet, and oft-annoying waiter, but the food is truly the cat's pajamas.

Name: El Cholo Spanish Cafe
Genre: Mexican
Value: Two people can get drinks and entree's and be stuffed for about $40.
What You'll Need to Enjoy Your Meal: Restraint from free chips and salsa.
Rating: 4 / 5

Sunday, April 17, 2011

6. A Bowl of Cheerios

In life it's important to remember the little things.

Sometimes the right food at the right time can hit just the right spot. Case in point - a heaping bowl of Cheerios. General Mills has been delivering the same superior product since what I believe to be 1862 or so. I've loved Cheerios as a child and still to this day will often eat a bowl in place of a meal. There's nothing splashy or abrasive about eating Cheerios, it's pure whole grain, straight to your gut...POW! Throw some milk in there and you've got calcium in your stomach-piece too, muchacho. I'm no doctor, but I'm pretty sure the human body can sustain itself purely on whole grain and calcium. So basically what I'm getting at here is that Cheerios are the perfect food for both a meal and a snack. Next time thanksgiving dinner rolls around, offer up some cheerios instead of a Turkey. Everyone will thank you and probably pay you money.

Christie Kerr, age 3.
Christie Kerr, age 26.

Babies especially love Cheerios, I'm pretty sure every person has a picture of them as a baby with Cheerios  all over the floor, their face, and in their pants. Babies to Cheerios are like cookie monster to cookies, they love it so much that they don't care about decency anymore. The only thing important to a baby is how to get more Cheerios inside of them before they swallow the Cheerios they're already eating. As an adult you need to worry a bit more about showing your love for Cheerios, but you can still enjoy them, tactfully.

Name: Cheerios
Genre: Breakfast Cereal
Value: A bit more expensive than a knockoff O, but worth the extra 70 cents.
What You'll Need to Enjoy Your Meal: A non-abusive childhood.
Rating: 5 / 5

Friday, April 15, 2011

5. The Novel Cafe

The first thing you realize when you enter the Novel cafe is "Shit!" That's because you're more than likely to run into a jamboree of overly attractive hostesses and waitresses. And there you are, in stained sweats, a dirty shirt, and dry flakes of mustard stuck in your beard. Immediately you consider cutting your losses, flipping a bitch and running home to change and shower the smell of last night's eggs off of you. This very occurrence has happened to me 8 out of 8 times so far when visiting the Novel Cafe.

Did I mention how hot the waitresses are? The playboy mansion it's not. But at least 79% of waitresses there are worth doubling the tip for. I've found their actual service to be quite poor, but its amazing what a pretty face will do to one's judgement.

The bottomless house blend coffee is a big plus to this place. I don't understand what happened to make the cup of coffee not bottomless nowadays, but I find it so hard to find a place that hooks up the Joe nonstop anymore. The Novel cafe's hot waitresses have seen to that and make sure I'm plenty caffeinated. The food ain't half bad either. If you ask a waitress her particular opinion on a dish she'll usually give you an honest response, but don't expect her to volunteer that information freely - that would be good service and they don't do that at the ol' Novel. Nonetheless the food is pretty spot on when it comes to decent portions, good flavor, and pleasing presentation.

The decor is nice, not too flashy but not too sparse. They have these big ass chairs you can sit in which all have power outlets near them. This is nice if you're bringing your laptop in to use their free wi-fi.

The only real complaint I have, like I said, is with the service. The hostesses are typically quite bad at seating you timely, and you can't seat yourself because your entry is blocked by a massive sign that says "Please wait here to be seated." Also, it's hit and miss whether they will check on you mid-meal, or bring your check. But if you've got at least half a testicle, your libido will let all this slide and you'll find yourself talking about the excellent service.

If this place were in the restaurant Olympics it would definitely get a silver medal. Good enough to beat out lots of other losers, but still not the best. Do you remember figure skater Scott Hamilton? Or maybe Brian Boitano? Of course, that's because they won gold medals. Now do you remember Brian Orser from Canada? You don't. And that's because that loser lost to BOTH Scott Hamilton and Brian Boitano in the 1994 and 1998 Winter Olympics. That's what the Novel cafe would be if it was a person - Brian Orser.

Name: The Novel Cafe
Genre: Contemporary
Value: Good
What You'll Need to Enjoy Your Meal: A penis.
Rating: 4 / 5 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

4. Fogo de Chao

Holy Fucking Shit!

I first tried Fogo de Chao when my friend Kevin took me here for my birthday. I unwittingly made the mistake of eating lunch 6 hours prior, and I soon learned why I should have fasted about a week prior and purged any excess bile that might be floating around in my stomach instead.

Fogo de Chao is an upscale Brazilian BBQ restaurant that serves unlimited portions of meat followed by a complimentary orders of meat. It's truly heaven. (except for all the dead animals, I suppose.) Like most Brazilian BBQ places in the USA, you simply sit your fat ass down at the table and waiters with large skewers come by offering you various succulent BBQ meats. You then proceed to bust your gut for the next 3 hours, literally forcing food into your body because its so damn delicious.

You are presented with the option of enjoying the complimentary salad bar before you begin your main course. DO NOT FALL FOR IT!! They do this because they save money if you fill up on salad first. But you're smarter than that, aren't you, Stupid? Don't get me wrong, the salad bar is actually quite delightful, and you'll thoroughly enjoy your salad, but you'll be wasting both time and money nibbling on arugula. Trust me, wait for the meat.

Because a meal is quite expensive, you see a lot of dates, businessmen, and WASPy families as patrons. That's kind of a disappointment because I feel they don't appreciate the food the way its supposed to be enjoyed - en masse. But don't feel you need to accommodate yourself to them, rather, keeps it real and get your gorge on. Don't worry about messing yourself, napkins are free and ample.

They also have a full bar, albeit expensive. I would definitely spring for one or two drinks though to compliment the meat. Piece of advice: Do not drink beer. I know that nothing compliments a good steak like a cold, crisp beer, but you're going to fill up far too fast, and like I've mentioned  seventeen million of times in this post, save room for meat.

Also, as a friendly head's up - You'll be lucky if you shit in the next three days.

- Come hungry
- Valet your car (You'll NOT want to walk to it after eating)
- Wear elastic pants
- Keeps it real

- Eat salad
- Have beer
- Be modest about your gluttony

Name: Fogo de Chao
Genre: Brazilian BBQ
Value: Expensive but worth the price (except drinks)
What You'll Need to Enjoy Your Meal: The company of a know-it-all vegetarian
Rating: 4.5 / 5

3. You & Me Cuisine

The thing that first struck me about this far east bodega is the unautographed headshot of Stevie Wonder on the wall.

I've been to this place probably about 6 times. Odds are you'll never stumble across it  unless you're drunk or high - in which case you're already off to a good start., and you'll probably also enjoy the picture of Stevie that much more.

The place is in the middle of a plaza, sharing  illustrious real estate with a liquor store, a donut house, and a Vietnamese place, so you already know you're about to get some exquisite freakin' Chinese food the moment you walk into the garbage-riddled parking lot.

The place has decent seating, but a couple of the tables have been utilized as storage and office space for the owners. The first thing I noticed is a lot of Chinese people eating here, which means this place is either really hip or really cheap.

Surprise! It's really cheap. The food is pretty much what you'd expect, poor quality but good portions. It's run by two wacky little asian women who bicker the whole time, which is great if you're into dinner theater.

I'd steer clear of the sweet and sour chicken...too much sauce and the chicken wasn't crispy. Also, they will try and hustle extra money from you if you don't pay attention to the prices on the menu.

If you want a place to sit in private and stuff your face with unhealthy food, odds are you won't run into your boss or anyone of importance here, unless you happen to work for Stevie Wonder.

Name: You & Me Cuisine
Genre: Chinese/Asian
Value: Good
What You'll Need to Enjoy Your Meal: Stevie Wonder fan club membership.
Rating: 2.5 / 5 

2. Corner Cottage

Corner Cottage has probably the fattest clientele in Burbank. Their breakfast burritos certainly facilitate these people's voracious appetites with greasy, uninspired oil-socks they pass off as breakfast.

All my fat friends seem to rave about this place. I decided to give it a go after crashing at one of my fat friends houses one night who lives nearby. She LOVES Corner Cottage and their breakfast burritos. I'll digress for a moment in saying that she didn't used to be incredibly fat, but I'm sure Corner Cottage saw to that problem.

Anyway, I tried the steak breakfast burrito.  I waited for a good 30 minutes watching the crew of 6 (mind you, this place is small with a viewable kitchen) take forever to even separate two tortillas from one another, which turned out to be okay, because I was absolutely mesmerized at the amount of fat people were eating there. I thought I was magically transported to the soda aisle of a Detroit supermarket.

When my burrito (and coffee) arrived, I sat at the counter next to a big fat guy and besides another big fat guy. The burrito was, to put it nicely, mediocre at best. It tastes like something your frat-guy roommate whips up at 9am the morning after a rager with leftover kitchen supplies. Tasteless, uninspired, and the only saving grace was dousing it with gallons of Pico de Gallo that they only serve one-at-a-time in little urine sample sized cups. Which SUCKS because they place is so busy with fat people buying extra large, extra bacon burritos that they never check on you.

I simply don't understand what the hype is about this place. The food was seriously boring, the service terrible, and the coffee tastes like brown and water. I suspect this is another case of LA-hype and people just doing what they think others think is cool. It's not faux-camp to eat a greasy burrito and pretend like  you're "slumming". You can actually feel the grease and oil ooze out of the eggs and hashbrowns when you bite in, it's godawful. They don't try to make good food and people seem to lap it up if only because their fat gullets subconsciously demand it.  Steer clear of Corner Cottage, unless you're into poorly made food or you like getting really fat off food you won't actually enjoy eating.

PS: The only reason it gets two stars instead of one is that I support locally-owned businesses.

Name: Corner Cottage
Genre: Greasy Spoon 
Value: Reasonable
What You'll Need to Enjoy Your Meal: A massive hangover, 75+lbs of excess weight, and an insatiable desire to kill yourself.
Rating: 2 / 5

1. La Salsa Restaurant

Surprise, they actually sell burritos! I went here because I was in Brentwood and hungry, and my buddy Brian suggested we walk here because he had a coupon for a free taco. Fair enough. Right from the get-go I could tell that even in whitebread ass Brentwood, I was in store for some Gringo-fied shit. La Salsa did not disappoint.

For those of you less cultural than me, "La Salsa" is Spanish for "The Salsa." The sell Mexican fare at what I deemed to be relatively expensive prices. (I feel a burrito should average around $5, not $8.) I ordered a Grilled Chicken burrito and a large drink to go.

While my burrito was being cooked I decided to stock up on every type of salsa they had here. At face value, you should be pretty stoked with this many salsas to choose from. They even have that carrot and jalepeno mix there with all the jalpenos removed...classy! Lawsuit, consider yourself avoided!

The problem is that every one, yes, EVERY one, tastes like distilled horse urine. Seriously, I feel like I could make better, more flavorful salsa out of a homeless man's shoe, some Sprite, and almonds. The very thing La Salsa prides itself on turned out to be the thing most lacking. Also, La Salsa, most people like their salsa spicy.

Their burritos weren't much better. Utterly flavorless and (I take great stock in this) poorly wrapped. Mexican restaurants should wrap their burritos the same way Cubans roll cigars - with pride. You should be able to cut the burrito in half still wrapped and the foil should follow suit. Instead, my foil hung loosely off my burrito like a silvery metal foreskin.

La Salsa offers you limitless salsa, but gives you roughly 7.5 chips in a to-go order. Bitter irony. But it's okay since you'll probably only eat here under the most dire of circumstances or out of sheer ignorance.

My food was mediocre and overpriced and I left pretty disappointed. Take my advice and steer clear of this place, even if you're stuck in Brentwood and craving Mexican. You're better off enjoying the fantasy then tasting the bland, flavorless reality.

At least Brian enjoyed his free taco.

Name: La Salsa
Genre: Mexican
Value: Overpriced
What You'll Need to Enjoy Your Meal: Be from a place that doesn't have Mexican Food.
Rating: 1.5 / 5

Here's the skinny, Fatty.

If you're like me, you eat food. If you share any other qualities with me, then perhaps you'll find these postings useful. I'm going to attempt write fair, unbiased reviews of various restaurants I visit. I'll do my best to run the gamete of upscale eateries all the way down to strip-club wing bars, all the way back up again.

If you're sick of hoity-toity food critics telling YOU how to enjoy YOUR meal, then listen to ME instead. Why is my opinion better then everyone elses? Because I don't get paid to do it, in fact, it's my own hard earned money going into my meals. I'm not rich, I'm not classy, I'm just an average guy who likes food and thinks he has a right to say something about it.

I suppose there's only two words left to say before we get started:

Screw Flanders.