Sunday, February 28, 2021

A Subculture Everyone's Going to Want to Join


Subculture Sandwiches

7862 Warner Ave. 

Huntington Beach, CA 92647


One of the few good things about the last year is that there has been much less traffic on our freeways. Trips that used to take me up to an hour or more, now take me only 45 minutes or less most of the time. This has allowed me to try some places that I have put off just because I didn't want to sit in stop and go traffic. This means more trips past Irvine, and more specifically to this review, a visit to Huntington Beach, and a spot that has definitely peaked my interest from their delicious-looking Instagram page, Subculture Sandwiches. 

I did a little deep dive into the history of Subculture, and this is what I came up with. Pre-2013 this location used to be known as Mr. Pickles, which is a sandwich chain based out of Northern California. In 2013, looking to get out from under the franchise and doing things the way he wanted, the owner changed the name of his sandwich shop to Meat Headz. This name lasted until late in 2014, when they had to change their name again, this time due to a legal issue with that name. It's been Subculture since 2015. 

In those six years since they have amassed a huge following. On Yelp they possess a four-and-a-half star rating with close to 2,000 reviews, an almost unbelievable rating when you consider that most people post to Yelp just to air their grievances. Speaking of Yelp, back in 2015 they were named one of the top 100 restaurants in America by that review website. More recently, Subculture was also mentioned as having one of the top ten sandwiches in OC by the Orange County Register. 

Needless to say, I was very excited to give Subculture a try. I had read all the warnings on their IG stories about long waits during peak meal times, so Katie and I decided to avoid their crazy lunchtime rush, and order online at half-past one on a recent Saturday. With the lighter traffic up to Huntington Beach from South OC, we had it planned out perfectly to leave twenty-five minutes before our quoted pickup time. 

The timing was perfect. As we parked out in front of their storefront, I got a text that our order was ready. Pick up was easy-peasy, as I got our bag and was headed back down Warner Avenue towards the freeway in no time. After a few pictures to document our meal, we were enjoying our late lunch on our couch within 50 minutes of ordering. Not bad, so let's see if all the love for Subculture is indeed not just hype. 



This great-looking Tuna Salad ($12.45) just might look good enough to convert some of you from sandwiches to salads, but not me of course, I'm still very much on team sandwich. Katie's a convert, mostly because she's on the keto train, but she was incredibly happy with this salad. The base of this salad was arugula, with pockets of sprouts, red onion, pepper jack cubes, pepperoncini, tuna, and she added both the avocado and bacon for an additional $3. To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what she picked for her dressing, and she was too enamored with the freshness of everything here that she does not remember. She claimed this was as good as it looks and would not hesitate to get it again. 


The sandwich menu at Subculture features 13 sandwiches, plus a build-your-own version. I knew I'd be having two sandwiches this afternoon, but the decision on what two was tough. True to form though, if I see a Cuban sandwich on a menu, there's a 95 percent chance I'm going to try it. As you can see from above, I could not resist the allure of the Cubano ($11.95). This version is pretty true to a traditional version, with a few tweaks. The first, of course, is the bread, which is their very popular dutch crunch bread. This crisped, dense bread handles the insides of the sandwiches with ease, with a tinge of sweetness and crunch in each bite. The roasted pork, ham, mustard, swiss cheese, pickles, and garlic spread creates one of the most balanced sandwiches you can get. There's sweet, creamy, savory, tanginess, and sour in each bite. This version rivals my favorite at nearby Desimone's  Deli, which I did not expect to be writing before consuming this one. 


So I had one sandwich left to order, and 12 to pick from their menu. I did a little research of their Yelp page and went with the one that I felt was the most popular, the Culture Club ($14.95). This is basically a club sandwich with turkey, ham, bacon, melted cheddar cheese, avocado, red onion, and pow sauce, which I'd describe as a creamy chipotle ranch mixture. This was one of the better sandwiches I've had in a long while. It tasted like a better made, with better ingredients Wicked from Which Wich. The bread was again a nice vehicle for the insides of the sandwich, which were added in just the right increments to allow each flavor profile to shine through. Very well done. 

If you couldn't tell by the glowing review from above, I was pretty smitten with Subculture Sandwiches. I definitely have my eye on other sandwiches to try on future visits. Even though they are quite a distance away from where I live, I'm looking forward to eating my way through their menu. The ordering process and pick-up were nice and easy. They mention that they frown upon modifications to their sandwiches, but when you order online, there are places where you can check off items that you don't want on your sandwich. Prices are a bit more than what you'd pay at your local Subway, but these are better sandwiches with way more heft to them than those inferior sandwiches. I am looking forward to things getting back to normal, but not the heavy traffic that comes along with it.  

Out of five encyclopedias, (because at one time if you bought a set of these books for $126, you also got a parcel of land in Huntington Beach), five being best to zero being worst, Subculture Sandwiches gets 4 encyclopedias. 

For more information about Subculture Sandwiches, head to their website here: http://www.subculturehb.com/

Monday, February 22, 2021

Urge Inducing Sandwiches at S'urge



S'urge Sandwiches

Delivery Through Doordash 

It's mid-February, and that means people will be looking to eat more seafood. It used to be that you'd only be able to get seafood at fine dining establishments, unless, you count the occasional Filet-O-Fish, or if you were like me growing up, we'd get to have frozen fish sticks when my parents were going out and left us with a babysitter. Throw in an occasional trip to either Long John Silvers or H. Salt Fish and Chips, and that was pretty much my seafood experience in my younger years. 

Nowadays there are plenty more options for people that want seafood, without the white table cloths and high prices. Casual fish places can be found pretty much wherever you happen to be. Slapfish, Rubio's, King's Fish House, Bear Flag Fish Company, and a ton of poke spots dot the landscape of almost every shopping plaza in OC. One of my favorite fast casual seafood restaurants, California Fish Grill has introduced a new concept, just in time for when so many people are looking for new seafood options, and I was lucky enough to be invited to try them out. 

Their new venture is S'urge Sandwiches, which is a virtual concept that you can access through the DoorDash delivery service. As of right now, S'urge Sandwiches is available in the DoorDash delivery range of Cerritos, Anaheim, Fountain Valley, Irvine, and Tustin. I was just outside that range, so I made my way up to Irvine to give their sandwiches a try. 

The menu at S'urge is nice and compact. They offer five unique sandwiches and four sides. These are not the same old boring, tartar sauce and a few leaves of lettuce fish sandwiches that you grew up with. S'urge Sandiwhces is going for big and bold flavor profiles, that will wake up your taste buds. There are five proteins to choose from; salmon, shrimp, swai, calamari, and for people that are not into fish, there is even a chicken option. The sides offered are a kaleslaw, tots, brussels sprouts, and a combination of the tots and sprouts, which got me intrigued. Let's take a closer look at the sandwiches I indulged in. 



Up first was the S'lammin Salmon ($12.50) with a side of Tots ($3.25). This salmon sandwich was seasoned perfectly with some cajun seasonings, and piled nicely with sliced tomatoes, pickled onions, arugula, and tartar sauce sandwiched between a well-baked brioche bun. Salmon can be hit or miss for me, and I honestly was a little nervous when they brought this one out for me. It turned out fine, as the salmon was cooked better than most others, and the cajun seasoning kicked up the flavor quotient. This was a good, straightforward fish sandwich which I can't imagine most fans of salmon would not like. The tots were just what you want in a tot, crunchy on the outside with creamy potato inside. These were dusted with a little bit of the cajun seasoning, which was a nice touch. 



Fish sandwich number two for me at S'urge was the S'Wai Not ($11.50) and Brussels Sprouts ($5.25). This sandwich came dressed with everything the salmon one did; tomato, baby arugula, tartar sauce, and pickled onions, but with this one, they added their guilty crispies, which not only added a crunchy texture to each bite, but they added bursts of flavor, kind of like the broken off parts of the outside of an onion ring, but a little more substantial. That's kind of the best way I can describe them. The first few bites of this I really enjoyed, and then it became a little too salty. I think this could have been helped with more tartar sauce to help balance things out. The swai was cooked nicely and was not too fishy. The sprouts were nice and crispy and came with a balsamic glaze, herbs, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese on top. Brussels sprouts have definitely evolved from the slimy things we had when I was younger, and these were mighty good. The balsamic could have been distributed a bit more, but definitely worth getting if you love sprouts.   



The winning sandwich on this afternoon for me was The Louie ($12.50). This shrimp sandwich was the best tasting of all the patties. The texture was very pleasing, and the seasoning was the most balanced on this one, maybe because it had a little more tartar sauce on it. This was paired with the Kalesslaw ($3.25) which, along with the kale, was also made up of red and green cabbage and a creamy dressing. If you've been a reader of this blog for a while, you know that I'm pretty vocal about my dislike for kale, but this version was manageable enough as to where I did not mind it too much. This did not kale my vibe about S'urge at all. Sorry, for the awful pun. 


I was definitely intrigued by the Half Tots/Brussels ($5.25) and how they'd go together. They worked wonderfully together, although as you can see from the picture above they were segregated, with the tots on the bottom and the sprouts on top. The tots stayed mostly crispy, which was nice and the balsamic from the sprouts went well with them. A nice combination that I never would have thought of putting together. 

S'urge Sandwiches should definitely be in your rotation if you are looking for a new seafood option to keep things interesting during this time of year, or anytime really. I don't live in their delivery area as of yet, but I would totally order these big flavored sandwiches if I did. Fingers crossed that they expand deeper into South OC soon. S'urge Sandwiches is another great addition to the ever-expanding seafood offerings that have sprung up in recent years. 

For more information about S'urge Sandwiches, head to their website here: https://surgesandwiches.com/

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Starting off the Year at Basil Mediterranean Grill


Basil Mediterranean Grill

1907 Harbor Blvd. 

Costa Mesa, CA 92627


On the first day of the year, it has become our tradition to sleep in a bit from the previous night's festivities, ( which is basically me barely making it to 9pm for east coast new years), going for a walk of about two miles, and then crossing a restaurant off of my restaurant wishlist. This year we slept in until 8, walked the Newport Back Bay trail on New Years Day, and then went to a spot that I heard about from the OC Weekly a few years ago, Basil Mediterranean Grill.   

It was in November of 2017 when one of my favorite OC food writers, Edwin Goei, formerly of OC Weekly and now of the Los Angeles Times, reviewed Basil Mediterranian. In that article, he made mention of the blink and you'd miss its location and tiny parking lot. He also raved about the food, and the modest price of everything compared to other Persian spots. The prices have crept up a bit from when he visited three years ago, but that's to be expected with all that's been going on with restaurants these last 11 months. 

Edwin was not kidding when he mentioned the hidden location of Basil. It's close to the corner of 19th Street and Harbor, set back from Harbor Boulevard just enough that it might require a few times around the block to finally make it in one of the four parking spots in front of the restaurant. We had called in our order after finishing our strenuous walk, and it was ready at our quoted 20 minute wait time. 

The menu at Basil, like a lot of other Persian restaurants, is kabab focused, with beef, lamb, chicken, salmon, veggies, falafel, and even cornish hen skewered and ready to go. There are some stew plates for the more adventurous, and specialty rice dishes, appetizers, and salads round things out here. Prices for entrees hover right around the $14 mark, with the most expensive being a combination beef plate, which you will see in a moment. With the aroma of our first meal of the year wafting in the neatly packaged bag from the backseat of our car, I could not make it home quickly enough to eat. 


First up was Katie's selection for this early afternoon. The Boneless Chicken ($12) is made up of marinated thigh meat, and the bite I had was crazy flavorful and very juicy, which is not always the case when eating chicken. Katie also chose to get an extra side of their Yogurt Shallot Sauce ($1.50), which was better than their very good tzatziki sauce that comes with each meal. She requested no rice, as she's deep into the keto thing, and it seemed that they gave her extra of the greek salad, as it was bigger than my salad, which I forgot to take a photo of. This greek salad came with mixed greens, olives, feta cheese, shredded carrots, tomato, cucumber, and a balsamic dressing to go over it. The salad was good, but she did not even come close to finishing it and she wished there were some onions included to wake it up a bit.  

Being the carnivore that I am, I went with the Beef Combination Plate ($23). This included one strip of ground beef sirloin and another of filet mignon, a big mound of white basmati rice, and a roasted tomato. The ground beef skewer was big on flavor but lacked the tenderness that I was looking for. It was like a very sturdy meatloaf in texture. The winner on this plate was definitely the filet. It was melt in your mouth medium rare and went well with the provided tzatziki sauce and spicy hummus that you will see coming up next. Even though this was the most expensive item on the Basil menu, this steak made it worth it. I could not include all of the rice that they gave me on this plate, so imagine this picture with about three times what is shown here. 

Our meal was tied together with this appetizer-sized Spicy Hummus ($6.25). When they say spicy, they meant spicy. I can tolerate spicy things, but this bordered on almost being too spicy for me. This chickpea puree came with an abundance of cayenne that kept Katie from hogging it all, which she usually does when we order hummus from other places. The pita bread was a sturdy, yet unmemorable vehicle for dipping. I'd get this version again, but maybe just the two-ounce side of it. 

Basil Mediterranian was a good spot to open our year of eating. The proteins here are the rightful stars of the show. I really enjoyed the steak and the chicken, and look forward to trying the lamb and salmon on future visits. I did not really think the prices were too crazy outrageous, as a lot of other Persian restaurants are easily at least a couple of dollars or more than what Basil charges. Even after our twenty-minute ride home, the food was still warm and fresh. Glad we have this tradition of walking two miles and crossing restaurants off of my wishlist on new years day. Now if we can just be as productive the other 364 days of the year.   

Out of five pom-poms, (because singer Toni Basil played a cheerleader in her video for her one and only hit, Mickey, and cheerleaders always have pom-poms), five being best to zero being worst, Basil Mediterranean Grill gets 3 pom poms. 

For more information about Basil Mediterranean Grill, head to their website by clicking here: https://www.basilmediterraneangrill.com/

Friday, February 5, 2021

Dave's Hot Chicken Moving Into the Crowded OC Chicken Market


 Dave's Hot Chicken

10832 Warner Avenue 

Fountain Valley, CA 92708


The 1920s were all about flappers, raccoon coats, jazz bands, and bootleggers. When we look back on the 20202s, these years will be remembered for the pandemic, hoarding of toilet paper, sports with no fans, bread making, and chicken. Yes, this feels like the 23rd straight review that I've written about chicken in various forms over the last year. 

There's a reason for all the chicken posts. Chicken is hot right now. Whether it is fried, wings, hot chicken, sandwiches, or tenders, it seems like there is an endless amount of chicken restaurants opening up in OC. I have not eaten at all of them, but as of now my Mount Rushmore of chicken spots in OC are Crack Shack, Cluck Kitchen, Gus's World Famous Chicken, and Buttermilk Fried Chicken. 

I was recently invited to try out a new competitor to the OC chicken market, Dave's Hot Chicken, which opened their first location in Orange County right across from Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley. Dave's started out at a pop-up spot in East Hollywood four years ago, opened their first restaurant a year later, and now they are operating eight spots, including one north of the border in Toronto, Canada. 

The menu at Dave's Hot Chicken is pretty straight forward. They offer chicken in the form of tenders and sliders. They have three combo meals available to go along with their four sides; mac and cheese, fries, cheese fries, and kale slaw. There are seven heat levels to the chicken ranging from no spice to reaper, which requires a waiver for the brave souls who like things crazy spicy. I was not that brave but was excited to give Dave's Hot Chicken a try. Let's see how it all worked out for me. 


The first of my plates was Combo #2, which featured 2 Sliders and Fries ($12.99). My first impression of this was that these were bigger than what I envisioned when I heard they were sliders. They were full-sized sandwiches that came dressed with kale slaw, pickles, and their signature Dave's sauce. The chicken was moist and juicy, and the sauce and kale slaw was a good companion to the chicken. I went with the hot heat level for these, which is fifth out of seven on their heat scale. It had a good amount of spice to it but did not overpower the chicken. I took the pickle off after my initial bite, as I'm not a really big fan of pickles on sandwiches, opting to eat them on their own instead. The sauce was reminiscent of the one from Raising Cane's but less peppery. It had a good balance to it with tangy and sweet notes being prevalent in most bites. They also give you plenty of sauce, which is a nice departure from other chicken spots that charge extra for sauces. The bun was good, soft, and pliable and did its job of keeping everything together. I'm always partial to crinkle-cut fries, and these were good, with a little of their seasoning sprinkled on top to give them a tinge of flavor.   



Combo #1 ($10.99) came next. This is comprised of two tenders, fries, sliced bread, and pickles. The tenders were also good-sized, did not come overly breaded, and were just as well done as the chicken used on the sliders. I went up a heat level with these to extra hot, which had a good amount of heat. It was just at the point where the heat kind of overpowered, so I'd probably say the hot level is the right choice for me at Dave's. The fries in this combo meal seemed to get hit with their seasoning a bit more, which I kind of like better. I discarded the sliced white bread, but for those of you that want to make sandwiches, I guess it could work.  

I finished off my meal with a side of their Mac and Cheese ($3.50). The first few bites I liked, but then I grew bored with it. It needed something to keep me interested, like maybe some of their fry seasoning or some breadcrumbs on top to change up the texture in some forkfuls. Not awful, but I'd skip it next time. 

All in all, it was a good trip to Dave's Hot Chicken, but I'd have to rank them outside of my Mount Rushmore of OC chicken spots that I've been to so far. With that said, I'd definitely recommend Dave's if you are in the area, or are at Mile Square Park and are craving hot chicken while picnicking. I felt the chicken here was good and I liked the sauce, but it just did not have that wow factor that blew me away. I felt the prices for the combo meals were more than fair, and the portion size of the chicken was generous. With all that's gone on in the world lately, it could never hurt having another chicken spot to choose from. Welcome to OC Dave.  

I'd like to thank everyone at Dave's Hot Chicken for the opportunity to try their chicken during this special preview before they opened up right before Christmas. Also, special thanks to Josh Levitt for reaching out with this invite, it's much appreciated. 

For more information about Dave's Hot Chicken, head to their website here: https://www.daveshotchicken.com/

Catching Fire in Brea


 Fire Wings

985 East Birch St. Suite D

Brea, CA 92821


Due to the pandemic, we have only seen my family a handful of times. Mostly for holidays for a brief time, a few meals at restaurants when outside dining was permitted, and this trip to see them was for a long-overdue family picture. I have not aged much since our last picture over a decade ago, but my three nieces have all grown into beautiful young women, and we definitely needed a new picture to document their transformation. 

As usual, it was my job to come up with a place for the nine of us to eat after a hard afternoon of modeling. It's pretty challenging to come up with a spot that everyone will like. My nieces are pretty picky eaters, my parents like modest prices, my sister really just wants a place that she can enjoy a beer with her meal, and I always want to find the best food possible. I ended up going with Fire Wings in Brea because everyone seems to be on a chicken kick these days. 

Fire Wings is a chain from up in Northern California. They are planning a significant expansion in our area, with their website stating that they have spots opening soon in Irvine and Fountain Valley, but this Brea location is their first in OC. It's located across the street from the Brea Mall in the Brea Marketplace Shopping Center, which also includes Sprouts, Stonefire Grill, and CVS Pharmacy. 

Now that you have the lay of the land, let's focus on the menu at this chicken-centric establishment. Fire Wings features 21 different wing flavors, they offer bone-in and boneless, and you have the option of getting your chicken as part of a combo meal or by the piece in increments of 10, 20, 40, or more. Prefer your chicken in the form of a sandwich? They have three types for you to choose from. There's also a quartet of salads and fifteen sides to pick from to accompany your meal. With so many choices I was a little overwhelmed but I eventually managed to pull it together and select a good deal of food to try. Let's take a look at it. 





Naturally, I had to try their wings first, so I went with the 20 Piece Wings ($21.09). With this option, you can pick three different wing flavors to create your own personal sampler plate. With 21 different flavor profiles, it was a little tough to narrow it down. I eventually went with the mango habanero, garlic parmesan, and the unusual peanut butter. I was pretty pleased with the wings here. They had plenty of meat on them, they were fried well with a good crunch to them, and all the flavors I had were pretty stellar. I liked the mango habanero the best, with a slight heat to it, finished with a burst of sweetness coming through at the end of each bite. The dry rub garlic parmesan was another favorite, with plenty of flavors and it highlighted the crunchy exterior of each piece. The peanut butter was interesting, with most of the nuttiness coming from the sprinkling of crushed peanuts over the top of the wings, while the sauce kind of resembled the same one used for the mango habanero, minus the heat. Still good, and I'd actually get these three flavors again after trying different ones on future visits. I only used the provided ranch for the garlic parmesan wings, which shows that these wings could stand on their own. 


As if I did not have enough on my plate with the 20 wings, I also tried the Nashville Fire Sandwich ($8.99). This breaded chicken sandwich comes with coleslaw, pickles, and spicy sauce. The sandwich comes in four heat levels; hot, extra hot, super fire, and super hot fire. I went with the super fire heat level and it was very spicy even for me, who can tolerate spice pretty well. I'd go down to the extra hot heat level next time, so I could enjoy the sandwich a little more. The chicken itself had a nice crunchy breading to it, while the chicken inside was just juicy enough. I liked the coleslaw, but they could have used a bit more sauce on this, so I used my remaining ranch instead, which seemed to help with cooling this sandwich down a bit. I also have to point out that this picture doesn't really show it as well as the picture you will see below, but the buns they were using on this day were almost burnt on top, which kind of detracted from the insides of the sandwich. 




Katie has never been a big fan of wings because, like many others, she's not fond of eating off of the bones. She instead ordered the 4 Piece Boneless Chicken Mini Meal ($5.39). This meal also came with fries and a drink, a pretty good deal for lighter eaters. She picked the original buffalo sauce to coat her boneless wings. She liked the flavor of the traditional sauce and the chicken inside was pretty solid. Since she's doing the keto thing she left the fries to me, and they were fine, but nothing really made them stand out. She also selected this House Salad ($5.49) to round out her meal. This salad was made up of a romaine and spring mix, sliced red onion, cucumbers, tomatoes, and grated cheese. It usually comes with Italian dressing, but she opted for blue cheese dressing, which she loved. This salad did the trick, as it featured fresh veggies and was pretty good sized. 



My sister had the Mozzarella Sticks ($4.99) and the 6 Piece Salt and Pepper Boneless Chicken ($10.79). I tried one of the mozzarella sticks and they were pretty basic, and she agreed that they really did not wow her. She was, however, a fan of the chicken. The breading was crunchy and the salt and pepper flavor came out big time in this dry rub. It went well with the well-made ranch dressing. She ended up enjoying her meal very much, even as her daughters bickered at the table. Oh, the joys of motherhood. 



Here's a quick shot of my brother in law's meal, the Large Chili Cheese Fries ($5.99) and his Original Chicken Sandwich ($8.99). You can see from the above picture of the sandwich what I was talking about with the bun being baked a little too long. He liked this original chicken sandwich version, which comes with pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. The chili cheese fries failed to make much of an impression. The fries were topped with a meaty chili that resembled the one from Wienerschnitzel and liquid cheese. I'm always partial to grated cheese, so I did not try these, but he felt they were just okay, and nothing he would get on future visits to Fire Wings. . 

This was a good place for our afterparty for our family picture. The menu was diverse enough that it allowed even the pickiest eater in our group, (my niece Lillie), to find something to keep her happy. I'd sum up Fire Wings as a better version of Buffalo Wild Wings, as far as the wings go. I liked the chicken and flavors here better than at most wing spots, but the sides were just average, almost bordering on mediocre. It's probably best to focus mainly on the chicken here, which should keep you pretty happy. The prices were not too outrageous, and I liked that they offered plenty of options depending on how hungry you happen to be while visiting here. You can get anywhere from 4 to 100 wings, and if you can consume 100 wings in a single seating, my hat goes off to you. Our family picture turned out fine, and when placed side by side with the one we took ten years ago, we all seem to be aging like a fine wine. 

Out of five dinosaur bones, (because brea in Spanish translates to tar, and dinosaur bones are found at the La Brea Tar Pits in LA), five being best to zero being worst, Fire Wings gets 3 dinosaur bones. 

For more information about Fire Wings, head to their website here: https://www.firewings.com/ 

Friday, January 29, 2021

Bringing Breakfast Burritos to All of OC


 Vatos Burritos

Orange County, CA

Even with all that's been thrown at us the last ten months, I'm still in awe of the way some people have been so resilient. People have had to overcome losing their jobs, suffering mental anguish, and forgoing things that they really enjoyed doing like concerts, sporting events, and traveling, to name a few. There have been some inspiring stories in these dark times though. People who have pivoted and started something of their own, like Christian Meza. 

Christian lost his job in March and decided to turn to his side hustle of Vatos Burritos, making it his full-time gig. He is a one-man operation, making the burritos, taking the orders, and then delivering them throughout OC. Pretty impressive, and just what we need right now to get us through these tough times, delicious breakfast burritos. 

All of this is done through the Vatos Burrito Instagram page, (the link will be below). You order the night before, settle on a time slot, and then Christian delivers your burrito to you at the agreed-upon time. There are four burrito choices of varying options and two bowl selections for your consideration. Burritos come with scrambled eggs and potatoes as a base, and then you have the choice of seven types of meat and three sides, (cheddar cheese, spinach, and avocado). There's also a special where if you buy 4 burritos, you get the fifth one free. 

I decided I'd treat a couple of my coworkers to breakfast to brighten up our dreary day at work. Ordering was quite simple. I contacted Christian through Instagram messenger, and he got back to me within minutes. We agreed upon a time that he would deliver the three burritos to my work, and he showed up right on time the next day. He accepts Venmo or cash, and then we were hoping to be on our way to breakfast burrito bliss. Let's see if that was the case. 


Before we get to the burritos, we should first let you know that they come with two types of sauce, a Picante red sauce, and their more popular green salsita, which they now have for sale in bottles. I actually liked alternating both the sauces while eating the burrito. I would not consider either as spicy, but more of a flavor enhancement to the burrito. 





As you can see from the above picture, the burritos from Vatos are pretty plump. We all got the Loco Burrito ($11) which comes with your choice of two kinds of meat and all of the sides. To make things easier, we all got the same two types of meat, bacon, and sausage, which there was plenty of. The scrambled eggs were light, while the cheddar cheese and avocado added a nice creaminess to things. I'd probably skip the spinach next time, as it really kind of detracted from the otherwise excellent burrito. I'd also try the spicy chorizo next time instead of the sausage, as I've heard some really positive things said about the chorizo that Christian uses. 

Not only was the whole process of ordering and delivery seamless, but the burritos we devoured on our lunch break were also an awesome change of pace from our usual midday meal rotation of nearby restaurants. These burritos actually made our day better, and that's not usually the case most days. It was also a real pleasure getting a chance to meet Christian before he had to dash off to deliver more burritos to the rest of OC. Even in those brief couple of minutes, it's easy to detect how proud he is of the product he is supplying to the hungry breakfast burrito consumers of Orange County, and after trying them, you will find out he has every right to be. 

Out of five gas pumps, (because I'm pretty sure that with all of his deliveries all over OC, Christian spends quite a lot of time at gas pumps filling up), five being best to zero being worst, Vatos Burritos gets 3.5 gas pumps. 

For more information about Vatos Burritos or to order some for yourself, follow this link to their Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/vatos__burritos__/?hl=en

Thursday, January 14, 2021

One Last Meal in Ventura Before Heading Home


Cafe Nouveau

1497 East Thompson Blvd. 

Ventura, CA 93001


Weekend getaways always seem to go by way too fast. We were at the end of our little three-day mini-vacay in Ventura, but we first needed to have one last meal before we attempted the 120-mile drive back to OC. We hurriedly packed up, checked out of our hotel room, and made a beeline for the much-acclaimed Cafe Nouveau. 

Cafe Nouveau is pretty much an institution in these parts. They are the third most reviewed restaurant on Yelp and have a very impressive 4 and a half stars with over 1,700 reviews and counting. They are also perenially on many best-of lists by the media of  Ventura County. All of this from a restaurant that is removed from the downtown zone plucked right in a residential area. 

I had a feeling we were in for a great Ventura sendoff because there was nearly a half an hour wait for a table at 9am on a Sunday morning. Cafe Nouveau is housed in a Spanish style converted home. The space kind of reminded me of Ramos House Cafe, which is back home in OC. Much like that spot, Cafe Nouveau has been around for going on almost two decades. As our quoted wait time was almost up, we were ushered inside the gate to a table nestled alongside the fence and the building, so I did not get the total lay of the land when it came to experiencing the space. I had a feeling the food was going to make up for that. 

This is primarily a breakfast and lunch spot, but they do offer dinner service Wednesday through Saturday. The four-page breakfast menu offers a full array of selections to choose from. The first page features specials and is followed by egg dishes, scrambles, pancakes, waffles, french toast, traditional breakfast plates, and omelets to round things out. It was difficult to narrow down my choices, but here's what we came up with before we tackled the freeways on the way home. 

All during our weekend, we asked our servers what we should get when visiting Cafe Nouveau, and it was unanimous that we should get the Maple Bacon Beignets ($6.99). Once again, restaurant workers did not lead us astray. These were delicious. I've had good, bad, and average beignets, and these were some of the best I've had. These puffy balls were placed in a shallow pool of maple syrup, and topped with real pieces of smoky bacon, and dusted with plenty of powdered sugar. They lacked any grease, so they were light and airy, while the sugar and syrup supplied a burst of sweetness which was tempered perfectly by the savory bacon. If you don't try these when you come here, we are not friends anymore. 



Next up is Katie's selection for her first meal of the day, the Bacon, Gorgonzola, and Caramelized Onion Frittata ($14.99). This is listed under their special section of the menu, so I'm not exactly sure how often that they have this, but Katie found this to be wonderful. The frittata was very creamy and the big flavors of the bacon, onions, and gorgonzola enhanced the well-crafted egg portion of the dish. This came with a bread item, and since Katie is doing the keto thing, I got to choose this Blueberry Corn Muffin. This was baked nicely, and because it had corn incorporated in it, it was a little less sweet than your typical blueberry muffin. They also served this with plenty of creamy butter, which always makes everything even better. 




Okay, I know it seems that we did not make it past the specials page of the menu, but I also picked from the specials. My pick was the Eggs Creole ($16.99). This twist on regular eggs benedict still used an English muffin as its base but was then layered with a shrimp, crab, and seafood cake, spicy tomato sauce, poached egg, and then finished off with hollandaise sauce. This had a lot going on, but each ingredient stayed in its lane. The seafood cake was delicious, with some pretty good-sized pieces of crab that I could detect. I was not sure how the tomato sauce would work here, but it was kind of like a cocktail sauce with more volume and a great deal of spice. The hollandaise and the poached egg rounded things out nicely. I found myself savoring each bite more and more as I ate this. I went with the scalloped potatoes for my potato choice, and they were nicely seasoned and tender. Way better than the boxed version that scarred me growing up. 

I was expecting good things from Cafe Nouveau, but the breakfast here even exceeded my expectations. Everything that we ordered was delicious and included big-time flavors. When we make it back to Ventura I look forward to coming back here for sure and exploring more of their menu. The Peanut Butter, Bacon, and Banana French Toast Sandwich, Oreo Cookie Pancakes, and scrambles will definitely entice my return. The service was warm and friendly, and I really enjoyed the homey vibe that was prevalent during our stay. A great way to close out our weekend getaway. 

Out of five poinsettias, (because this holiday flower is the official flower of the city of Ventura, and also appears on its city seal), five being best to zero being worst, Cafe Nouveau gets 4 poinsettias. 

For more information about Cafe Nouveau, head to their website here: http://www.cafenouveau.net/#