Thursday, May 26, 2011

Filing My Report From Philippe's!

1001 North Alameda
Los Angeles, CA 90012

On the plane back from New York to LAX, my Mom had one of her best ideas in a long time. She said, "How about after we land we head over to Philippe's for a sandwich?" So instead of heading down the 405 freeway, after our five hour flight, we headed to the home of the French dip sandwich Philippe's.

I am not saying Philippe's is old, but their was a rumor that their first sandwich was made from dinosaur meat! Okay, that was a bad joke, but Philippe's has been around for a long time. 1908 to be exact. Their signature sandwich, the French dip has been around almost as long, 1918. The story goes that a police officer ordered a roast beef sandwich and the bread was inadvertently dropped into the pan drippings. The officer was in too much of a hurry to wait for a new sandwich, so he took the sandwich anyways. From that day on, the officer always ordered the sandwich like that and told his friends about it. Thus the French dip was born.

My parents were not around in 1918, (although some days they look like they were, just kidding Mom and Dad!), but they have been coming to Philippe's for as long as they can remember. Like their parents bringing them here, they passed down the tradition to my sister and I.  The restaurant has not appeared to have changed in the years that I have been coming here.

Ordering is done at the counter, where the carver creates your sandwich, and any other items that you may want. They only take cash, so remember to stop by an ATM before heading over to Philippe's. After receiving your meal, find a seat at one of the communal tables, and dig into the food.

At Philippe's they offer five versions of their famous dip sandwiches, beef, pork, lamb, turkey, and ham. The debate always rages which one is best. I am not going to get suckered into that debate, I will dodge the question by saying, whichever one you choose, you will not go wrong. The one above is pork. The bread is the first thing you notice when biting into the sandwich. Soft, but sturdy, it holds together nicely and soaks up the au jus nicely. The meats are all roasted on the premises, and are all very moist and have a great flavor.

Here is an inside view of the Lamb sandwich. Never gamey, with moist, flavorful pieces of lamb. The sandwich is not overly large, but there is a decent amount of meat on these.

Katie had the Beef French Dip with Swiss cheese added. I snuck a few bites of her sandwich as well.  At Philippe's you have the option of having a single dip, double dip, or having your sandwich wet. These sandwiches  are all just dipped, but next time I am going to be having mine wet.

I had never had their Potato Salad before, so we tried some this trip. This scoop of salad was topped with cayenne, but the potato salad was just average.

Another thing that makes the sandwiches here so legendary, is the hot mustard. This is not to be played with. I like heat, and this needs to be used in moderation. Not sure but I think this mustard is horseradish based, and if it catches you by surprise, you will be feeling it for awhile. It does go well with the sandwiches though.

Philippe's is not fancy, as you can see from the picture above. Appearing like it has for many years, sawdust on the floor, barren walls, and food served on stiff, brown paper plates, this restaurant has become part of Los Angeles culture. Southern California has so few food icons, let alone ones that have stayed the same for well over a century, that this one should be celebrated.

Out of five pigs feet, (because according to their web site, Philippe's sells 300 pounds of pigs feet a week), five being best to zero being worst, Philippe's gets 3.5 pigs feet.

For more information about Philippe's, click here:

Philippe, The Original on Urbanspoon

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Street Walking For Great Indian Food in the NYC

Biryani Cart
46th Street and 6th Avenue
New York, NY 10036

Eating street food is something everyone should do when visiting the city. Whether it is a hot dog in Battery Park, or a bag of nuts from any number places that sells them throughout the city, it is really part of the experience of being in New York.  I had a long list of restaurants to try while we were here, but I had no idea where to eat when it came to the food carts that were on every corner. Luckily for us we were staying on 46th street, which just happens to be the home of Biryani Cart.

The smell from the Biryani cart was the first thing to catch our attention. The smell of spices wafting through the air, along with the aroma of the meat got us to stop. Also, plastered all over their cart were reviews and accolades they had received. So we kind of ran into this place with some dumb luck.

I am not going to try and trick you into thinking I know a lot about cuisine from India. I don't know the difference between a Spicy Buradi and a Chennai Roll. In fact the first time we went to this cart I did not even look at the menu, and instead ordered the Spicy Gyro above. Not sure if this has a different name on the menu, but it was delicious. The meat had a great flavor, the bread a nice texture and it held up to the insides of the gyro nicely. The thing that popped out at me with this were the spices. Not just a spicy, big flavor, but savory at the same time.  On our second trip to the cart I had to get another one of these.

Our second trip, along with the gyro, we ordered the Kati Rolls. One with chicken and one with lamb. Picture a soft taco, with meat and seasoned very well and you basically have a Kati Roll in mind. Both of these were very good. We ordered ours spicy, and they were great. I would definitely get these again.

Eating at Biryani Cart really made me want to try some Indian/Middle Eastern cuisine when we got home. Katie felt that the food from the Biryani Cart was the best thing we ate on the trip. I will not go that far, but  it was in the upper echelon of foods that we had on our vacation.

So out of five Bengal tigers, (because that is the national animal for the country of Bangladesh, which is the home country of the owner and operator of the Biryani Cart), five being best to zero being worst, Biryani Cart gets 3.5 Bengal tigers.

Biryani Cart does not have a web site, but you can get reviews and info here:

Biryani Cart on Urbanspoon

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A Little Piece of Havana In Times Square

Margon Restaurant 
136 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036

I was pretty excited to hear that there was a Cuban restaurant across from our hotel in New York. I have been on a real Cuban sandwich kick lately. The reviews for Margon had all been pretty positive also. Most on-line posts  remarked that it was good food, for an even better price. Some have even called it the best food in Times Square. So with all this glowing praise I could not be any happier to try it.

Margon is a very narrow, counter style restaurant. Our first of two trips here was during the lunch rush, and organized chaos would be the way to describe what was going on here. The locals all had the system down, like ordering the Cuban sandwiches at the front part of the counter, and ordering all other items at the back counter. I could tell my parents were a little sheepish about this place, so I told them I would order the sandwiches and bring them back across the street to our hotel. They seemed cool with that, and after about a five minute wait we were tearing into our sandwiches. 

The Cuban sandwich here is a little different from what I am used to. At Margon the pressed sandwich comes with roasted pork, ham, salami, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles and cheese. The other Cuban sandwiches I have had contained all the same items, but no mayo or salami. The additional items did not make this sandwich worse, just a little different. I really liked the flavor of this sandwich. It was not the best Cuban sandwich I have had, but it was way better than most. Also the $6 I paid for this sandwich really filled me up until dinner, so it was definitely a bargain.

Our second trip to Margon was for breakfast. The breakfast crowd at Margon is a little more subdued, and we had no trouble finding a table. My parents both got the omelette's above. My Mom went with the Cheese Omelette served with home fries. My Dad settled on the Ham and Cheese Omelette. Both egg dishes came with their choice of American or Swiss cheese, not my favorite kinds of cheese to come on an omelette. Both of my parents thought the omelette's were okay, nothing special about them, except that they cost under $5, one of the cheapest items we had on this whole trip.

I went a different way for breakfast when I ordered the Media Noche Sandwich. This midnight sandwich was served on potato bread with ham, cheese, pickles and mustard. I liked this sandwich better than the Cuban sandwich. The bread was softer, and the ham had a nice grill to it. The price you ask? How does $4 sound. Cheaper than even Subway's five dollar foot long, and much better.

I was very happy eating at Margon. If we had been here longer I would have for sure had some of their more exotic sounding specials. The oxtail, lamb breast, and octopus salad all intrigued me, but those will have to wait for our next trip to the Big Apple. Also, next time I will try to avoid the lunchtime rush in this tiny restaurant.

Out of five yank tanks, (referring to big American cars of the 50's and 60's still in use in Cuba), five being best to zero being worst, Margon restaurant gets 2.5 yank tanks.  

Margon does not have a web site, but you can find information about them here:

Margon on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Eating a Blue Streak at Baby Blues

Baby Blues Bar-B-Q
444 Lincoln Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291

We stayed the night near LAX before our trip to New York. Not wanting to let this rare night in Los Angeles go to waste, I did a little research and found a highly rated restaurant, Baby Blues Bar-B-Q.

Baby Blues has been on TV shows, Diner's, Drive-Ins and Dives and Food Paradise.  Baby Blues has been open since 2004. It was started by two guys that describe their barbecue as a hybrid of barbecue from all across the US. The sauce is reminiscent of sauces from North Carolina, the rest of the menu draws on barbecue techniques from Kansas City, Memphis and Texas, among others. Needless to say I was pretty excited to try the food, so let's see how it turned out.

Starting us off was my Mom's choice for dinner, the Carolina Style Pulled Pork Sandwich. My Mom was pretty pleased with this dish. She found the meat was really moist and liked the Cole Slaw. Out of the five sauces that were on the table, she liked the sweet chili sauce the best with this.

My Dad is not a big rib guy, so he ordered the Beef Brisket Sandwich. On the positive side, my Dad felt that the meat was tender and moist, and he liked the BBQ sauce best on this. The only negative thing that my pops said about the sandwich was that the meat could have been cut thinner. My Dad also wanted to try a side item, so he got the Mashed Sweet Potatoes, which he called very good. I am not really a sweet potato fan, but I liked the smooth consistency of these and the flavor was pretty good as well. 

Our sandwich parade rolls on with Katie's option for dinner, the Shrimp Po Boy. Katie raved that this sandwich was delicious, with more than enough shrimp on it. She also wanted to try two sides, so she got the Mac N' Cheese and the Blues On the Cob. The mac n cheese was very good, with just the right amount of cheesy goodness. I did not try the corn, but Katie really liked the cheese that was on this. Not sure what kind it was, looked a little like Parmesan.

I was at a barbecue restaurant, so you know that I was definitely going to get some traditional barbecue items. I selected the Bones and No Bones Platter. This dish came with half a rack of Memphis ribs and a half a pound of pulled pork, served with two sides. The ribs were very good. Some of the best I have had in awhile. The pulled pork was equally good, because it was so moist. I experimented with the different sauces on the table. I believe that the regular barbecue sauce was my favorite, but it was also nice changing up the pace with some squirts from the hot barbecue sauce as well. The mashed potatoes were okay, but the collard greens stole the show for the side items. Served in a brown sauce, that I am not even sure what it was, but it really added to the collard greens. Very good plate of food here.

Baby Blues Bar-B-Q is a small, kitchy joint serving up big platters of barbecue favorites. The prices were decent. Sandwiches were in the $9 to $11 range, while the dinner platters were going for $18 to $25. The service matched the southern charm of this place. Our waitress was very sweet, even giving my Mom her cell phone number, so she could give us some restaurants to try in New York. Something unheard of in LA. I was also surprised there was no wait when we arrived at 5pm on a Saturday night. Guess we got lucky in more ways than one by coming to Baby Blues. 

Out of five police cars, (because for a short time in the late 70's/early 80's police cars in San Fransisco were painted baby blue for some reason), five being best to zero being worst, Baby Blues Bar-B-Q gets 4 police cars.

For more information on Baby Blues Bar-B-Q, click here:  

Baby Blues Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lima Tell You About Inka Mar! (sorry for the bad pun)

Inka Mar
25542 Jeronimo Rd. 
Mission Viejo, CA 92691

Lately I have heard a lot about Peruvian food. I remember eating Peruvian food a long time ago at a place in Costa Mesa called Inka Grill. I liked it the one time I went, but I never went back. Not sure why. I recently got an email asking me to try Inka Mar. Wanting to try something out of the norm for us, I enlisted  Katie and Richard to tag along with me.

Peruvian food has been influenced by many different cultures through the years. Italians, Asians, and Spanish, among others have left their marks on the food of Peru. The result is a menu which is unique and varied. Inka Mar recently turned from an Italian/Peruvian restaurant to Peruvian only in mid January. Let's see if the food here will have us craving the cuisine of Peru.

Above is the Bread and Aji sauce that is served before each meal. The bread was average, but the aji sauce was very good. Made of lettuce, jalapenos, and other spices, this really had a great spicy flavor. The spice did not over power the sauce, but you definitely knew it was there.

When I am trying a place for the first time, I like to get a sampler platter to judge more of the food. So that is what we did here. This appetizer platter consisted of three items, the Trio Criollo.

Going left to right on the plate, we have the Papa a la Huancaina. This is boiled potatoes served with a creamy cheese sauce, garnished with a hard boiled egg. I was not in love with this part of the dish. The potatoes surprised me by not being warm. They were served cold. The cheese sauce was just average to me also.

The middle portion of the plate was occupied by the Ceviche Mixto, which is fish, shrimp calamari and mussels mixed with lime juice. The fish did taste fresh, and the flavor was good, but the lime near the end of eating this really overpowered this part of the plate.

The last portion of this appetizer platter was the Choritos A La Chalaca. Here mussels are topped with tomatoes, peppers, onions, cilantro and lime juice. I found the seafood here fresh, and the topper for the mussel was very flavorful. This is kind of like an oyster shooter, just with a different shellfish. This was definitely my favorite part of this plate. Katie did not try this because she is not a fan of mussels, (that is why she dates me!).

Now on to the entrees. Up first is my Arroz Con Mariscos, or Peruvian Paella. This dish combined Peruvian rice with peas, onions, mussels, and other assorted seafood. I liked the flavor of this, and it came out steaming hot. The rice was very flavorful, but if there was one drawback about this dish, it was that there was not an abundance of seafood in this. A little more seafood would have made the $16 price tag for this a lot better.

Richard got the Bistec a lo Pobre, or poor man's steak. This charbroiled steak came with a fried egg, plantains, sweet potatoes, and rice. This was the kind of dish I had at a Colombian restaurant a few months back. The steak here was more tender though. Richard would have liked the steak to have more seasoning. He loved the rice, but felt the egg did not add anything to this plate. This was also Richard's first time having a plantain, and he was not so sure he liked it. I tried it and liked though.

My favorite item of the night was Katie's choice for dinner, the Saltado de Pollo. This unique dish combined chicken, tomatoes, onions and French fries, sauteed together, and served with white rice. These items all worked very well with each other. The chicken was flavorful and tender, the fries were not all soggy like you would expect. Katie was even excited by the rice.  I would gravitate towards this the next time I came here.

For dessert we were given some of their house made ice creams. The flavors of these were Lucuma (kind of like pumpkin), Maracuya (passion fruit), and Mango. All of these were very good, and you can definitely tell that they make these here. They had he texture of homemade ice cream that I had as a kid. The flavors were very unique.

Inka Mar has a good vibe to it. They have a very large menu, and it may take me some time to find my favorites on it. The food here was very fresh. The service was good, but there were only four other tables eating at the time we were here (7 pm on a Wed. night). Hopefully the word will get out about this place, and they can fill those tables.

Out of Machu Picchu's, (the most familiar icon of the Inca world, which is located in Peru), five being best to zero being worst, Inka Mar gets 2.5 Machu Picchu's.

For more information on Inka Mar, click here:

Inka Mar Peruvian Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fabtabulous Hot Dogs in the Valley!

Fab Hot Dogs
19417 Victory Blvd.
Reseda, CA 91335

Being a part of a couple really makes you busy. Katie has such a large family that it seems like every weekend we have some party, shower, or baptism to attend. This weekend it was the latter, and it was all the way in the Valley.

To my best recollection I had never been to the Valley before. This really freaked Katie and her family out, so before we left I looked on-line to see what the Valley has to offer in the way of restaurants that have been on TV. That is when I found out we would be driving by Fab Hot Dogs, which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Fab Hot Dogs is owned by New Jersey native Joe Fabrocini. After trying hot dogs in all areas of the US, he decided to open a spot where you could get all of the great hot dogs our country has to offer, under one roof.   With a heavy influence on east coast hot dogs, he has introduced the people of LA to a north New Jersey favorite, the Ripper, along with hot dogs that snap when you bite into them, like the dogs you can find in Manhattan. Enough talking about the hot dogs, let's take a look at what all the fuss is about.

Here are two looks at the Carolina Slaw Dog. Both Katie and I decided we would try all of the hot dogs that Guy Fieri tried when his show visited Fab's. This dog featured southern slaw, mustard, chili and a steamed all beef hot dog. I liked this hot dog. The coolness of the slaw, in comparison with the spicy chili really hit the mark for me. The hot dog definitely did have a great snap to it, and the bun stayed out of the way. Katie on the other hand was not so happy with this choice. She felt that the slaw was too sweet and overpowered the dog. I guess she does not agree with me all the time.

Next up is a Bald Eagle Ripper. A ripper is a deep fried hot dog, which has a great following in New Jersey, (and you thought the garden state only gave us bad reality TV stars!). Bald eagle sauce is a mixture of relish and mustard with a spicy twist. I liked the deep fried hot dog on this one, but the bald eagle sauce was too much for me. Not a big fan of the taste of it. Maybe it was a little too bitter for me.

Another hot dog that was featured on DDD, was the LA Street Dog. This bacon wrapped hot dog was topped with peppers, onion, mayo, ketchup, mustard, jalapenos, and tomato. This was easily Katie's favorite. She liked the sweet taste of the peppers. I liked this, even though there were so many big flavors on this. The bacon was kind of lost here, but I would get this again for sure.

Lastly, the famous Texas Burrito Dog. This fantastic creation was two all beef hot dogs, chili, cheese, onion, mustard, and Frito's, wrapped in a giant tortilla. The tortilla was then grilled and cut in two. The slight crisping of the tortilla was a nice touch, and all the ingredients in this worked so well with each other. The Frito's were not noticeable in this, but that was not a big deal. The chili was great, plenty of cheese and onion, it was a real pleasure eating this. Well worth the trip!

I guess by reading this far you can say that I was more than a little pleased with Fab Hot Dogs. This counter service restaurant has over twenty specialty hot dogs, along with over thirty toppings, so the combinations of what you would like on your hot dog are endless. I just wish I lived closer to Fab's, so I could satisfy my cravings for the Texas Burrito dog. I never thought I would want someone in Katie's family to throw another get together, just so we could head up to the Valley again, and definitely pass by Fab's.

Out of five Milli Vanilli Cd's, (because of course one of the supposed singers on their albums was named Fab), five being best to zero being worst, Fab Hot Dogs gets 4 Milli Vanilli Cd's.

For more information on Fab Hot Dogs click here:

Fab Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

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