Friday, December 31, 2010

My Best and Worst Restaurants of 2010

Happy New Year! New Years is a time to reflect on the last twelve months, and everyone seems to be doing best of lists, so I thought I would do the same. So without further ado, here are the worst and the best restaurants we have gone to in 2010.  Hope you enjoy the list, and I look forward to showing you more food adventures in 2011.

Worst Restaurants (in no particular order)

The Jolly Roger, in Dana Point harbor has been around forever, and on our visit it really seemed ready for an update. The food could be described as bad wedding reception food, and the service was not much better.

It is rare that a Mexican restaurant can not deliver flavor, but Carmelita's in Rancho Santa Margarita succeeded in doing just that. The bland food was over priced, and the food was under seasoned. Not a good combination.

It seems like just a few days ago that we went to Bubba Gumps Shrimp Co., maybe because it was only a few days ago, but we are still trying to get this place out of our heads. This tourist trap of a restaurant was the joint where our beloved Emily wanted to eat for her birthday. No worries Em, we do not hold it against you!

We tried to find a spot to go for happy hour, and we unfortunately found ourselves at Elephant Bar in Laguna Hills. The prices were good, but the food was not. Run around outside with your mouth open, and you will get more flavor than the food here at Elephant Bar. The many drinks we had could not make us forget the boring food.

The last of our worst restaurants of 2010 is Marmalade Cafe in Tustin. The food here was awful, and the menu did not give us much hope that future visits would be any better.

Best Restaurants (in no particular order)

Mr. Stox continues to be one of the best restaurants that Orange county has to offer, and our visit in May was not any different. This Anaheim institution has been around for over thirty years, and I am hoping for at least that many more.

Since we got back from Dallas, we have been trying to find great barbecue in the OC, and finally after some failures, we came across Blake's Place in Anaheim. This place had the trifecta of barbecue goodness; great meats, excellent sauce, and good side items.

We made it to Bungalow way back in January, and what brought us here? Of course it was the good food, but it was also the special that they were running on Sunday nights, all you can eat filet mignon! Yes you read that right. I ate four filet's and only spent $25, it was almost like I was making money eating here.

In August, Orange county welcomed Five Guys  to the city of Orange. We waited through the long lines and were rewarded with one of the best fast food burgers we have ever had. The lines have still not dwindled even late into this year, so I guess the word has gotten around.

The last of our best restaurants of 2010 is Heroes in Fullerton. This downtown bar and grill has big food, served by a cool staff, and at a decent price. I dare you to finish the Southwest Meatloaf dinner that I ate here. It was even too much for me!

Okay so there are the best and worst of the year that was 2010. I hope that you all have a great new year, and I would like to thank each and every one of you for reading my blog throughout this year. I am very humbled that you have taken the time to read what I write. I also am looking forward to many more dining adventures for 2011, and hope that you will read right along with me. Again, many thanks!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Colombian Food Has Arrived in the OC - CLOSED

Colombian Cuisine at Mitze's Kountry Kitchen
23381 Alicia Parkway
Laguna Hills, CA 92653

I was so excited to hear that we have a Colombian restaurant in the OC. Not because I have any knowledge about what Colombian food is, or have ever been to South America. My joy over Colombian food stems from my good friend Luis, who is Colombian, and when we were talking about the food of his homeland, his eyes lit up like mine after seeing Sofia Vergara, (come on, you knew I would throw a Sofia Vergara reference into my review of a Colombian place right?). So I told Luis about the place and we headed over within the week.

Colombian Cuisine is sharing space with Mitze's Kountry Kitchen. The small, strip mall eatery takes over Mitze's at 11 and stays open until 8. We showed up on a Saturday at 3, and we were the only ones in the place. Of course, that is an odd time to eat, and the waiter did say that they have been doing a good dinner business. Let's headway south of the border, and check out the food.

Our first foray into the food of Colombia was the Yuca Frita above. This was fried cassava but tasted more like a giant, starchy french fry. Surprisingly not greasy, and garnished with pieces of chicharron, this was an okay starter. Not too big on flavor.

Our next appetizer was the Bunelos, which is a fried cheese hushpuppy. We all thought that this was a little bland on its own, but was made better with what Luis called aji sauce. I would describe it as green salsa, and it gave the hushpuppies some much-needed moisture.

Here is a picture of Juan's dinner from two different angles. This mound of food is the Bandeja Paisa, which I guess translates to country dinner. I would call this a Denny's Grand Slam on steroids. This plate consisted of beans, chorizo, white rice, beef, plantains, an egg, pork, and an arepa. Juan felt that this plate was just average. He thought that the steak was a little tough, but he loved the chorizo. I would agree with him about this, but I thought that this was better than the average plate. The meat was not of the highest quality, it was a little chewy, but the seasonings tasted good to me. I also really liked the chicharron that was served with this. It was like really fatty bacon, very delicious.

Luis went with the Sobrebarriga en Salsa or Brisket in the sauce. This was also served with rice, cassava, green plantain, and a salad. Luis felt that this was a pretty good representation of Colombian food. He said that it is made differently, depending on what part of the country you are from.

I ordered one of the most interesting sounding things on the menu, the Bistec a Caballo. This translates to Steak on a Horseback. Top sirloin beef in a flavorful tomato and onion sauce, topped with an egg and served with rice, cassava, and plantains. Again the meat here was a little chewy, but I liked the sauce that came with this. The egg on top was cooked pretty well. The plantains are not my thing but the few bites that I had were good. By the time I got to this plate, I was over the cassava, so I did not even eat it.

Katie went on a different route for her entree and got a Tamale. Colombian tamales are made with cornmeal, and they contain chicken, pork, beef, vegetables, and are then wrapped in a banana leaf. This was bigger than any tamale I have ever seen. The cornmeal was sweeter than I am used to with other tamales, and I liked that. Katie had a few issues with this though. The tamale came out a little cold in the middle, and the bones inside of it were something she was not used to.

Katie also had the Empanada. This was made with ground beef, and a had a pretty good taste. This came out piping hot, and we had to let it cool off for a while. I would definitely get this next time for an appetizer.

We all liked our Colombian food experience but did not love it. I would go back for sure. The restaurant itself is a no-frills kind of place. The waiter was cool, there are no free refills on the drinks, and the decor is seriously drab. This is not the place to go to try to impress your date unless it is Sofia Vergara. The value here was good. The prices ranged from $8 to $10 dollars for an entree that came with a ton of food. Even with my serious appetite, I had trouble finishing my plate.

I thought Luis would be so excited to have Colombian food in the area where he lives, but he seemed only mildly excited. When I asked him how he would rate this place, he said it was average for Colombian food. Average or not, at least he does not have to go all the way to LA for Colombian food now.

Out of five Chivas, (buses that are recognized as a symbol of Colombian culture), five being best to zero being worst, Colombian Cuisine gets 2.5 Chivas.

Colombian Cuisine does not have a web site, but they do have a Facebook page, click here to see it:

Colombian Cuisine at Mitzi's Kountry Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sizing Up Cisco's CLOSED

Cisco Burger
620 W. Anaheim Street
Long Beach, CA 90813

My Dad had gotten a new job at the Port of Long Beach a few months back, and he wanted to show off his office, show his co-workers what a cool son he has, and also show us one of his favorite places to eat by his work, Cisco Burger.

Cisco Burger is the brainchild of owner Jesse James. If you have not kept up with your subscription to People magazine or US Weekly, he is the former husband of Sandra Bullock, a reality television star, and owner of West Coast Choppers, (a custom motorcycle company). West Coast Choppers used to be next door to Cisco Burger, but now James has packed up and headed to Austin to be closer to his kids. The only thing he has left behind is Cisco Burger, and that is where we headed.

Cisco Burger is named after Jesse's pit bull. They have been open for four years now, and have a very loyal following at lunch time. They are open daily until four, and on Sundays until 2, so do not expect to go here for dinner. Cisco Burger is also very eco-friendly, they derive most of their electricity from solar panels, participate in local recycling programs, and use real plates and silverware for dine-in orders. Let's see how the food looks on those real plates.

Cisco's is more known for their breakfasts and burgers, but my Mom and her friend Sue split the Turkey Sandwich above. They both mentioned that they liked this sandwich, and felt that it was very filling. They do have very tiny appetites. They also liked the turkey on this sandwich, and felt that it tasted very fresh.

Here is what my Dad got, the Cisco Burger with Cheese. He called this, "a four napkin burger". I think that is just because he is a messy eater. The bite that I had was just okay. I did not get the juiciness of the burger that he got. I also was not too big of a fan of the wheat bun. I will trust his judgement on this burger though. The fries here were pretty good. They came out hot, and had a small amount of breading on them that made them extra crunchy.

Jarrod had a breakfast/lunch hybrid, the Breakfast Burger. This quarter pound burger was topped with an egg, hashbrowns, bacon, cheese, and mayo. The bite that I had was pretty good. I would have liked a little more mayonnaise on this, but all together this was a good breakfast burger. Jarrod had two complaints about this, he would have wanted the hashbrowns crispier, and the burger a little more moist.

I was in the mood for breakfast, so the Cisco's Pile was my pick. This mound of food consisted of eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, bell peppers, onion, garlic, mushrooms, and hashbrowns. As with many dishes that have lots of big flavors, this one was not all that it was cracked up to be. It was hearty, but I expected real big flavor with this, and it failed in that respect. This was made much better when I added hot sauce to it, it brought the flavors alive.

Cisco's is a very clean and sleek restaurant. The staff was all pretty cool, and they got the food out to us quick. By the time we left at 12:30, the place was starting to fill up. I am not sure that Cisco's would qualify for destination dining. If I were in the area, or worked in the area, I would pop in from time to to time, but living in the OC, I do not think it was worth the drive. They did have some interesting specials on their board that maybe I would try the next time I went to visit my Dad at his work.

Out of five routers, (because the Cisco Company was one of the first companies to successfully sell routers to the public), five being best to zero being worst, Cisco's gets 2.5 routers.

For more information on Cisco's click here:

Cisco Burger on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Birthday Bonanza at Bubba Gump's

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
321 West Katella Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92802

Another blog post, another birthday. This time it is Katie's sister Emily's turn to blow out the candles. Last year we went to the Loft at the Montage for her birthday, and this year we are headed to another of her favorite restaurants, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.

I have never been to a Bubba Gump restaurant before. They started in Monterey, California in March of 1996. Now in their fourteenth year, they operate 33 restaurants, including such exotic locales as, Malaysia, Japan and the Philippines. Bubba Gump's are usually located in high traffic, tourist areas. Another claim to fame for Bubba Gump's is that they are the only major restaurant chain to be based upon a motion picture, (Forrest Gump, for the two people left on earth that have not seen it).

For Emily's birthday we had a party of twelve, (she is a very popular girl). We arrived at about six on a rainy Sunday night. We had reservations but, I had heard that the wait was running about fifteen to thirty minutes, at this Garden Walk location.  All of us seated, this is what we got to eat.

We ordered the three appetizers above. None of these really impressed any of us. The Onion Rings were pretty pedestrian, and over-priced at $7.99. That worked out to just under eighty cents per onion ring, not worth the price, even if they were gold plated. The Mama Gump's Garlic Bread Basket was next.  Rachel put it best when she said, "The garlic bread had too much butter, and very little garlic". Lastly, we had the so-called Best Ever Popcorn Shrimp. This was heavily breaded, which really took away the shrimp flavor. The sauce served with this helped a little, but not enough.

Above is the All-American Burger and Fries, or as Kevin called it, "the best burger I have ever had!". I did not get to try this burger, but it did look juicy, and the cheese was perfectly melted. If I ever go back I will have to try this to see if it would be my best burger ever.

Here is something that I did try, my choice for dinner, the Shrimp New Orleans. I liked the spicy after taste of this dish, the shrimp however, did not stand out to me. I also would have liked more bread to sop up the sauce that came with this. A pretty average meal. I am also not a big fan of shrimp served with the tails on. I am sure this makes them seem fresher, but it is just a quirk I do not like.

Jimmy went south of the border for his choice of dinner with the Baja Shrimp Tacos. These three shrimp tacos are served with Mayan salsa, avocado tomatillo sauce, and Mexican crema. These condiments could not save this meal from Jimmy's wrath. He called this dish, "un-spectacular, and nothing he could not have made better at home".

The shrimp parade continues with Katie's, "I'm Stuffed!" Shrimp. These shrimp were stuffed with crab stuffing, then baked in garlic butter, and topped with jack cheese. Katie felt that this dish was very rich, and really salty. I tried one of the shrimp, and it was okay, it did not wow me.

Sara's choice for dinner was the, "Of Course We Have Scampi!". Here the shrimp were sauteed with capers in a lemon garlic sauce, and served over linguini. Sara claimed that this dish was very sour, and the lemon really took over the plate. I would just say that this dish matches her personality, sour. I am just kidding Sara, you know you are my favorite!

What we have here is Rachel's pick, the Dumb Luck Coconut Shrimp. Rachel felt that this should have been called the bad luck coconut shrimp. She did not feel very lucky to have picked this. I tried this and felt that the breading that was used on this was dry, and plain tasting. The coconut was not very prominent, and the shrimp was buried under the odd breading.

Marcy, the health nut amongst us, ordered the Pear & Berry Salad. This salad consisted of greens, chicken, strawberries, pears,  glazed pecans, feta cheese, and was served with raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing. Marcy felt that the berries in this were very fresh, and of a high quality. She also mentioned that she liked the dressing.

Katie's Mom, Lynn went with the Shrimp & Veggie Skewers. These large shrimp were surrounded on the skewers by red bell peppers, red onions, squash and zucchini. They were served with jasmine rice and lemon garlic sauce. Lynn was not a fan of this dish. She stated that she was, "very disappointed with this". She felt that this was very bland and lacking in taste.

Our birthday girl went big with her choice for dinner, (actually she split this with her boyfriend). Emily got the Shrimper's Heaven. This had coconut shrimp, chilly shrimp, fried shrimp, tempura shrimp, and fries. Now Emily is not the worlds biggest eater, and she left most of this on her plate. I do not think it is because she didn't like this, but she was probably just excited about turning another year older.

So what were our general thoughts about Bubba Gump's? I thought that the place was trying to hard, the service and food were just about average, the prices were too high for what you got, and the whole atmosphere seemed hokey, even for the tourists.  I also found it odd that they chose to base a restaurant around Forrest Gump. Sure I liked the movie when it came out, but that was many years ago.

It has now become tradition that I include a picture of Emily on her birthday. So here she is showing off some of the bling that she received for her birthday. Happy birthday day Em, I can not wait to see where you pick to go for your birthday next year.

Out of five boxes of chocolates, (yes I took the easy way out here!), five being best to zero being worst, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company gets 1.5 boxes of chocolate.

For more information on Bubba Gump's, click here:

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Birthday Palooza at Polly's

Polly's Pies
18132 Imperial Highway
Yorba Linda, CA 92886

It's my Mom's birthday, and where does she want to go? Polly's Pies of course. This should be where I say something about Polly's being for old people, but hey it is her birthday and I will not take the easy shot here. She also had a coupon for a free piece of pie for the entire party, if she came in on her birthday, so with our family that comes out to nine free pieces of pie! A big bargain.

Polly's has been around since 1968. They have fifteen locations. I have always had a special fondness for Polly's. Every Friday night in the early eighties my parents would play tennis with the Booth's, then we would roll on over to Polly's in Orange for dinner, and then cap it off watching J.R. Ewing  wreak havoc on "Dallas". Ahhh, the memories!

Okay now back to the present. After an hour on the freeway from south county I made it to the Yorba Linda location. This Thursday night there was no wait, and for a majority of the night we had our big room all to ourselves. The Polly's menu has not seemed to change for some time now. Let's see what we got off of it.

My beautiful nieces made me promise that I would include their food and pictures on the blog, so here you go girls. The kids meals here are only $3.99. Choices include; a Kid's Pollyburger, Grilled Cheese, Corn Dog, Chicken Fingers, or Macaroni and Cheese. Gracie and Kaylie got the chicken fingers and thought that they were really good. Lillie, trying to be different from her sisters, ordered a corn dog and fruit cup, then was upset because she didn't get fries. Parenthood seems like such a good time!

Here is a quick shot of my salad that came with my dinner. The salad also came with the two dinner rolls above. The rolls are very soft, and are a staple at all of our family holiday dinners. They also make great mini sandwiches with leftover turkey.

My Dad ordered the Grilled Sourdough Burger. He woofed this thing down real quick. I snuck a bite, and it was pretty good. The bread was toasted perfectly, and had a nice crunch to it. The meat was average, but I liked the grilled onions on this.

My Mom has been raving about the tuna at Polly's for as long as I can remember. So it is without much surprise to anyone at our table that she chose to get the Famous Tuna Salad Sandwich. The tuna here is made with chopped eggs, sweet onions, celery, relish, mayo, and Polly's special seasonings. Katie, who also got the tuna, felt that the tuna here is one of the best she has had in any restaurant. I did not get a quote from my Mom, but I am sure she would second that opinion. I did try the tuna, and I thought it was good, there was more to it than your basic tuna, but I am not too much of a tuna kind of guy, so I do not see myself ordering this in my future.

Jarrod, my brother in law, ordered a California Tuna Melt. This was a little twist on the tuna sandwich, with avocado, and cheese added. I did not try this sandwich, but I would have liked to have had the cheese melted, because it is not a melt, unless it is hot, and this was not.

Looking for something a little different, I got the Best Salisbury Steak in the West. Was this really the best? No it was not. I found the meat, and the whole plate, tasted like a giant salt lick. The creamed spinach and mashed potatoes that came with this also failed to impress. It is a safe bet to say I would not get this again.

We did have pie, but my nieces were getting antsy, so we got the free pieces to go. I had the Chocolate Silk, and it was very good. Light and fluffy, with decent whipped cream on it also. My favorite pie at Polly's is the Banberry Pie. Part strawberry pie, part banana pie, and then a very good custard on the bottom of the pie, makes this pie a winner. Sorry I did not get any pictures of the pies.

What to make of the meal at Polly's? You have to know what you are getting into before you get to Polly's. Stick with the staples. Sandwiches, hamburgers and pie are the sure bets here. The breads are all very good, and you can tell that they are freshly baked. Comfort food is the way to go here. Once again, happy birthday Mom!

Out of five grits, (because my favorite Polly is Polly Holliday, who coined the phrase, "Kiss my grits"), five being best to zero being worst, Polly's gets 2.5 grits.

For more information on Polly's Pies, click here:

Polly's Pies on Urbanspoon