Mama's Comfort Food and Cocktails
11122 Los Alamitos Blvd.
Los Alamitos, CA 90720
It used to be that after graduation from high school, friends you had been with for all those years would scatter, and most you wouldn't hear from again. If you were lucky you'd maybe see one of your childhood friends by chance at the mall, or maybe every ten years at high school reunions. Now with social media, for better or worse, we are now more connected to the people we grew up with more than ever. It was through social media that I ended up reconnecting with a childhood friend and trying a restaurant that I've wanted to go to for a while now.
It had been about thirty years since I had last seen Steve. He went to my elementary school from third grade on and we worked together at the supermarket during our high school years. He, fortunately, was smart enough to get out, while I am stuck there at least for another four years before retirement calls my name. Steve went on to college in Ohio, became a doctor, got married, and has two kids. He lives in the South Bay area and works in Los Alamitos, an area we do not frequent nearly enough, so when he reached out for a long overdue meetup, I knew I wanted to meet at Mama's Comfort Food and Cocktails.
If this place sounds a little familiar, it's because this is the sister restaurant to Mamas on 39 in Huntington Beach. Opened in late June, this outpost of Mama's was not situated on Highway 39, also known as Beach Boulevard, so they had to rename this Los Alamitos location Mama's Comfort Food and Cocktails. Even though I have not been to the Huntington Beach spot, from what I can ascertain, the menus at the two sister restaurants are similar, with both serving Thrifty brand ice cream, but more on that later.
This location has had a recent string of failed restaurants, most recently Spin Pizza and Mighty Kitchen. If the overflow crowd on this Thursday evening we were here is any indication, that streak of failed restaurants will be halted by Mama's Comfort Food. This restaurant features large garage-style windows on each wall providing plenty of natural light, a U shaped bar in the center of the restaurant, and TVs festooned to every corner of the place.
The menu at Mama's is as big and vibrant as the dining room. Plenty of starters, burgers, sandwiches, and entrees to choose from. Pretty much any item that comes to your mind when you hear diner food is available here. Another perk is that you can get breakfast any time of the day here, and the breakfast items I have seen online look pretty stellar. After catching up with Steve for a half hour or so, we made our selections, and this is how everything came out for us.
I've really become a big fan of cauliflower after many years of avoiding it on veggie trays and salads. Now when I see it on menus, I gravitate towards it, like we did by ordering this Buffalo Cauliflower ($9.99). This generous portion was lightly fried and tossed with a slightly spicy buffalo sauce and came with a side of ranch dressing for dipping. Just like buffalo wings, but without the messiness and the bones. Some of the pieces could have been cut up a little smaller, but a very satisfying start to our meal.
I could tell that Katie was really contemplating what to get off the rather large menu at Mamas. She finally went with the Mama Maria's Tuna Melt ($14.99 with avocado added) and could not have been happier. She threw out words like, "best ever", "delicious", and "excellent comfort food" to describe this tuna melt. She loved the addition of the creamy avocado to the well-done tuna salad and the crunchy toasted bread. If she had to pick out a weakness with this it would be her fries, which she claimed were just okay. Still, she would have a hard time passing this sandwich up on her future visits to Mamas.
I did not know this going in, but Steve is a practicing vegetarian. I guess I'll still keep him as a friend after finding this out. He's pretty much a regular here, as he knew a couple of the staff and ran into other patients, even though he was trying to stay incognito. For his meal, he got the Cayla's Vegan Sam-Wich ($12.99). This veggie lovers sandwich included marinated tomatoes, arugula, red onions, avocado, basil aioli, and a balsamic vinaigrette reduction on a ciabatta roll. He also went for the dollar upgrade here and got the tater tots, which they topped with cheese. No complaint from the good doctor, as it appears that this is his go-to order when having lunch at Mamas. He had no problem putting this sandwich away but left half of the tater tots.
So many good choices to choose from here, but if I'm eating in a restaurant that specializes in diner food, I almost always veer towards a patty melt, so that lead me to this All-American Beach Melt ($15.99). This double-decker patty melt came with plenty of melted American cheese, onions, pickles, and Mama's sauce, which was a thinner thousand island dressing. The good toasting of the bread along with the insides of this sandwich made this one of the better patty melt I have had. I might next time go even crazier and add bacon to this to bring it up to an even better level. Unlike Katie, I liked the fries here, which had a good amount of garlic and parmesan flavor to them, and they were bottomless, but I only went through one serving. I know, I've turned into a lightweight.
When you walk in a joint and they have a Thrifty ice cream stand right next to the hostess desk, you know you are definitely going to save room for dessert. They offer eight flavors for you to choose from at Mamas, and you can get your ice cream in a cone, cup, milkshake, or as we got ours, in a Toasty Hot Giant Waffle ($10.99). This folded over waffle was filled with Nutella, sliced bananas, and candied pecans and then topped with a classic barrel-shaped scoop of vanilla ice cream in a cone. Of course, I liked this dessert, but I would have liked it better if the ice cream was inside the waffle and if the waffle was a little softer. It was kind of hard getting our forks through it. We ended up cutting this up with a knife. I'd probably get a Chocolate Malted Crunch milkshake next time. Man, that sounds good right about now.
It's no secret that diner fare is one of my favorite genres of food, and Mama's Comfort Food and Cocktails is an excellent choice for this. The things we had on this evening with our good friend Steve were all pretty stellar, and my only wish was that they were closer to where I live so I could try more of their menu, including their breakfasts and their more substantial dinner entrees like their meatloaf and the beer can chicken. Service was warm and friendly, even when they were busy earlier in the evening. Prices were a tad on the high side, but portions are big, and you can stretch your meal to have half for lunch the next day, which is what I ended up doing. Mamas was a great meetup spot for us catching up with Steve. This dinner proves that Facebook and other social media can be useful for more than arguing about politics, posting memes, and trying to entice your friends to join your pyramid scheme. It can also help you stay friends with great people that you grew up with, that you might otherwise have lost touch with.
Out of five cottonwoods, (because in Spanish Los Alamitos translates to little cottonwood trees, of which there are numerous in the city), five being best to zero being worst, Mama's Comfort Food and Cocktails gets 3.5 cottonwoods.
For more information about Mama's Comfort Food and Cocktails, head to their website here: http://www.mamason39.com/