Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is It All in the Name at Savannah Chop House?


Savannah Chop House
32441 Golden Lantern 
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677

You could probably put, "chop house", at the end of any restaurant and it would make me want to eat there. I envision great steaks and pork chops coming out of the kitchen at any place with this in its name. Even Del Taco Chop House makes me want to head over and get a steak taco.

Savannah Chop House had been on my list of places to try for sometime now. I had lost a golf bet to Katie's Dad, so this is where I chose to pay off the dinner bet. Our party of four arrived at six on a Sunday night and were sat immediately. The dining room has high ceilings, with a great view of the rolling foothills of southern Orange county. The restaurant, with its dark wood and dim lighting brought to mind what I would imagine it would be like to eat in a hunting lodge in Wyoming or Montana. Not bad ambiance for a chop house. Let's see if the food can match it.


Up first is a shot of the bread basket. Pretty standard fair here. In fact I did not even write anything down about this bread basket. I did like that the butter was served only slightly chilled, so you could spread it easily.


This bland looking dish was our appetizer for the evening, the Lobster Mac N Cheese. In this version of mac and cheese they use three kinds of cheese, Gruyere, white cheddar, and Parmesan. Along with the cheeses, the dish also featured lobster with bechamel sauce. I say that this dish had lobster, but only Katie and her Dad had a hunk of lobster, myself and Lynn got shut out of the lobster lottery. I expected this to be a rich dish, but the flavor was very mellow. I would probably skip this appetizer in the future.


Katie opted to get their Mixed Greens Salad. This salad featured blue cheese crumbles, apples, candied pecans, and a sherry vinaigrette. Surprisingly, this salad was not tangy. Very clean tasting, and very fresh ingredients. Katie, as well as myself really enjoyed this salad. I liked the different textures this salad offered, as well as the taste.


Now on to the entrees, and the first one will be Lynn's choice, the Honey and Buttermilk Fried Chicken. Lynn felt the flavor of this chicken was good, but the breading was a little too tough to cut through. The piece of chicken I had was a little on the dry side, but I did not try it with the thyme gravy that was served with this. The mashed potatoes did get good marks from Lynn.


Katie always seems to get shrimp and this night was no exception. Creole Shrimp Pasta was in her sights tonight. This plate combined four jumbo shrimp with a white wine cream sauce served over pasta. Katie summed up this plate by calling it well cooked. She liked the mild flavor of the sauce and felt that the pasta was well done.


The, "golf expert", also known as Dennis, tried the Filet Mignon Stroganoff. This stroganoff was a little different from traditional ones I have had before. Here they combined the meat with cremini mushrooms and a mustard sauce. Dennis liked that this did not have the traditional heavy sauce. He felt that steak was cooked and seasoned well. I felt the meat was a little on the tough side, but I am not much of a stroganoff guy.


Of course you know that I ordered a steak in a chop house. I went with my old reliable, the Bone In Rib-Eye.  This steak looked odd to me. I had ordered it medium rare, and it came out medium well. That contributed to this hunk of meat being a little tough. Not only was it hard to get through, but the flavor was off also. I know that this particular cut of meat is known for having a lot of fat, but this one had extra and it did not contribute any flavor here. As a last resort I was hoping that the jalapeno cheddar potatoes would help me out by waking up this dish, but they fell flat as well. Cooked well, but they did not pop like their name suggests.


When it was time for dessert I was really stuffed, so I let Katie and Lynn choose what we would have, and they went with Strawberry Cheesecake. I am not really into cheesecakes because I can find them to be very heavy. This one was heavy, but it was also delicious. The berries were very fresh, and the only complaint I could make about this dessert was that there could have been extra sauce served with this.

The four of us all had the same feeling about Savannah, it would not be at the top of our list of places to come again. The atmosphere and service were good, but the food was over priced for being mediocre. Most dinners are in the $20 range, but steaks and fish meals will set you back $25 to $34. My choice for the evening, the rib-eye was at the high end of this range. This would be a place we would come for a couple of drinks on their patio, and nothing more. So, I guess the lesson here is just because a place calls itself a, "chop house", it does not mean that it is automatically good.

Out of five steamships, (because the first steamship to cross the Atlantic ocean was the SS Savannah in 1818), five being best to zero being worst, Savannah Chop House gets 2 steamships.

For more information on Savannah Chop House, click here: http://savannahchophouse.net/index.shtml

Savannah Chop House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Becky's Birthday Brunch at The Alley


The Alley Restaurant
4501 W. Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92663

Brunch is so much better at the beach. Don't get me wrong, I love brunch no matter where it is, but mixed with the sea air and sun, it becomes magical. Our friend Becky and her friends do brunch in Newport almost every Sunday. It was her birthday, so we decided to join her this time. 

The Alley is one of those places I used to frequent when I was down in Newport carousing it up. It seems that they stay open later than almost every other bar in Newport, so this was almost always one of our last stops. Known by the locals as the place that has the, "best pour by the shore", the Alley has been in business for well over twenty-five years. I have eaten here a half dozen times, but never for brunch, so let's check it out.




Much like the classic bread basket served at dinner time, the brunch version is filled with biscuits. Unfortunately these biscuits photographed better than they tasted. The inside was a little to dry, and rather flavorless. Not sure what the pink butter was all about. I forgot to ask the waitress what it was supposed to be. It really just tasted like regular whipped butter with red food coloring. 


It is brunch time, so of course a Bloody Mary was called for. I ordered this Bloody Mary spicy, and it did have a nice kick to it. These were very affordable at $6. They also offer the option of bottomless champagne for $10 with the purchase of a brunch entree. 


For Katie's brunch entree she went with the Breakfast Sandwich. This is not the same kind of breakfast sandwich you can get at McDonald's. Here they use Gruyere cheese, avocado, tomato, egg, and Canadian bacon. Katie felt that this was a good breakfast sandwich with very fresh ingredients. Her one negative comment about this plate was about the temperature of the cheesy potatoes that came this brunch entree. She found them to be cold, and would have liked more cheese on them. After trying these, I would have to agree with her. 


Stephanie had the brunch classic, the Eggs Benedict. She was also generous enough to give me half of it. She claimed the reason was because she has to fit into a wedding dress in a couple weeks, but I like to think it was just because she reads my food blog and wanted to know my thoughts on her food. Okay, the first reason is probably correct, but I can dream, can't I? Plus, she already looks fine enough to fit in her wedding dress, so there is going to be no problem with that. Anyways, we both agreed that this was an average Benedict. She did like that this was not super rich. I always feel that if I order this dish, I want it to be super rich. No one is ordering this to be healthy, so go decadent. The hollandaise sauce was okay, but the highlight of this plate for me was that the egg was cooked well. The runny yolk always goes good with a Benedict. 



It is not everyday that you see a Breakfast Burrito on a brunch menu, and since I am on my quest to find the best one in the OC, I had to get one here. For the breakfast burrito at The Alley you are allowed four fillers to add to your burrito. Out of the twenty-two choices I went with cheddar cheese, avocado, bacon and sausage. Having both bacon and sausage sounded like a great idea at the time, but these two big flavored breakfast meats kind of canceled each other out. Next time I would just choose one, and add some onions. The burrito was still good, but not great. The rice served with this was average. Lacking in big flavor.


The birthday girl went the traditional route with her brunch when she ordered the Classic Breakfast. This included  three eggs, bacon, sausage, toast and cheesy potatoes. Pretty standard fair here, but not a bad amount of food for $11.


Since it was Becky's birthday she received a free dessert, the Fudge Cake. This dark chocolate cake was served with vanilla bean gelato. I did not try this dessert, but it did get very good raves from the people that did have some.

The brunch at The Alley was decent. I am not going to lie to you. I really like brunches that are served buffet style better. I definitely get my money's worth at buffets, but I am flexible and can do both. The service for our party of fifteen was very good. The menu here is limited, they have eight items to choose from. The atmosphere was beach casual, with a very young crowd. We were just happy we could celebrate Becky's birthday with her.

So out of five laneways, (because that is the term Australians use instead of alleys), five being best to zero being worst, The Alley gets 2.5 laneways.

For more information on The Alley, click here: http://thealleynewportbeach.com/

Alley Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Family Favorite of Anaheim Mexi-Casa!


Mexi-Casa Restaurant
1778 W. Lincoln Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92801

While growing up my family went to the same restaurants over and over, because we loved them. Some of these included Reuben's, Flaky Jake's, Swenson's, and MacArthur's. All of these places have long been replaced by other restaurants, but it doesn't make me miss them any less. Some people are lucky because their childhood favorites are still around. My friends Sabrina and Anthony are two such lucky people, because their favorite restaurant is still in business. So we went with them to one of their childhood favorites, Mexi-Casa.

Mexi-Casa has been operating since 1965. They have been in this current location for a good many years and it shows. Wood panelled walls, worn carpet, and popcorn ceilings add to the ambiance of this local institution. Mexi-Casa has some major supporters behind them. The band No Doubt has dubbed this their favorite Mexican food place, and anyone who grew up in Anaheim has a soft spot for this little hole in the wall. So enough talk, let's check out the food.


First up is a quick look at the chips and salsa. At Mexi-Casa they serve two types of salsa, a mild version and then another that has a slightly more spicy flavor. Neither salsa really jumped out at me. The mild salsa was very watery, and the spicier one was a little more chunky, but still not as chunky as I would have liked. The chips were average.


Up first will be Sabrina's choice for the evening, the #1 with a Cheese Enchilada and Beef Taco. She really enjoys the enchilada sauce here, as well as the refried beans. She did not eat the taco, because she donated it to her husband Anthony.  What a giving wife!


Katie opted to get the #4 with a Chili Relleno and a Beef Taco. She felt that the taco was very solid, especially the crispness of the tortilla. The relleno was not as spicy as she would have liked, but she did enjoy the cheesiness of this dish. She definitely liked the rice better than the beans, but felt neither one was exceptional.



Yes, all of the food above was mine. Not only did I get the #18, the Machaca, but I also tried the Cheese Enchilada and a Beef Taco, just for good measure. See, I do go the extra mile for you by eating as much as I can. The machaca had a good flavor, but it was subtle. The meat was tender, but the eggs got lost here. I liked the beans, and felt that they left the rice standing at the altar, (get it? Because you throw rice at a wedding? Okay, sorry about that!). Anyways, Sabrina was right about the enchilada sauce, it was good, but I would have liked more cheese on the inside of the enchilada. The taco was in fact crispy, but lacking in the meat department. This meal definitely filled me up.


Last, but not least was the #3 Cheese Enchilada and Chili Relleno, belonging to Anthony.  He loved this plate, and I am sure he has gotten this many times before. He was very happy with the flavor of the chili relleno, and liked all of the cheese that came with it.

So, are you ready for a shock? All of the food above, plus four drinks cost an unbelievable $29! Yes, not only has the decor of Mexi-Casa been trapped in the 70's, but the menu prices have been trapped in the decade where disco was king. In fact no combination plate is priced over $5.25, and all of the ala carte items are under the $3.50 mark.

The value here is undeniable. Special note, Mexi-Casa is cash only, and they do charge for refills of soda, but they are only seventy cents. The food is pretty standard Mexican grub. The meals at Mexi-Casa do not pop with lots of flavor, so definitely ask for some Tapitio, or your favorite hot sauce when eating here. We arrived at  6:30, and were sat right away, but I have heard that there is sometimes a wait during peak dinner hours. The service the night we were here was okay. The waitress had a large area to cover, but did her best to make her rounds. The vibe here is a local place, with a very loyal following. Glad some peoples childhood favorites are still around for them to enjoy.

So out of five grapes, (because the city of Anaheim was started by grape farmers in the 1850's), five being best to zero being worst, Mexi Casa gets 2.5 grapes.

Mexi-Casa does not have a web site, but you can find info about them here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/mexi-casa-mexican-food-anaheim

Mexi-Casa Mexican Food on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Burger Business Continues to Bulge at OC Burger Co.


OC Burger Co.
22205 El Paseo, Ste. A
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

Burgers are invading the OC! Everywhere you look there is a new burger place opening up. Burgers seem to be this years frozen yogurt. Remember two years ago when there seemed to be a new frozen yogurt place in every strip mall from San Clemente to Placentia? Unlike the frozen yogurt fad, this is a trend that I really enjoy. I love a good burger. For me there is a certain nirvana that happens when a good burger has been eaten. Okay, I might have gotten a little carried away, let's just say that I like burgers.

We were meeting one of my favorite couples, Kevin and Sara to see a movie in Rancho Santa Maragrita. So where to eat?  I had heard of OC Burger Co. before but had never been, so that is where we headed. They have been opened for a little over a year and a half now. Located right next to Kohl's, this place used to be home to a Tommy Pastrami.

When we arrived a big party, maybe a soccer or softball team, had taken a large majority of the small, fifteen or so tables inside. So after ordering from the counter, we were relegated to the outside patio. Luckily it was a nice night outside, and we were away from the screaming kids. After about ten minutes our food was brought out, and this is how it went down.




Before I get to the food, I just have to say that I love taking pictures of food outside. It really makes the food look better, and it is so much easier getting a good shot. Anyways, we will start with Katie's choice for dinner, the Sliders and Monster Fries. These three 2 ounce sliders were topped with muenster cheese and grilled onions. Katie liked the simpleness of these sliders. The monster fries contained fries of course, along with jalapenos, bacon, cheese, and cilantro. The fires were okay, but the toppings migrated to the bottom of the paper basket. They were also very stingy with the bacon on these. The fries themselves were okay, nothing great.



Kevin and I both had a Bacon Cheeseburger, confirming that great minds do in fact think alike. We both had the same feelings about these two burgers. I had the burger on the bottom, which is actually a half pound, compared to Kevin's one-third pound burger on top. While we were here they had a weekend special offering a half pound patty for fifty cents more. Kevin, unfortunately did not see the sign, and was not offered the deal. We both felt that the bun was good, but flaky. Both of us also felt that the burger itself was under seasoned, and the toppings were over shadowed by the amount of special sauce they put on the burgers. The special sauce here seemed to be a thousand island type sauce, minus the pickles. Kevin felt that this was not so much a gourmet burger, but more of a backyard burger, which I agree with.



No, Kevin and I did not get the same sides, he went with the standard French Fries. He was surprised by these fries because they ended up being better than they looked. I ordered the Crispy Zucchini Sticks, which had a decent taste, but did have temperature issues.

I would sum the burgers up here as in between a gourmet burger and a backyard burger. The prices are not as high as you would think for being right outside the gates of Coto De Caza. Burgers start at $4.95 and the most expensive burger on the menu is $6.45.  They also offer the option of building your own burger, but with each topping costing between fifty cents to a dollar, that can add up quickly. The way to go here is to try one of their 15 signature burgers, and omit any items you don't want. Side items were fair, nothing that blew us away.

We would come back to OC Burger Co. It will not blow you away like Slater's or the Habit, but it is definitely a step up from fast food burgers that dominate the landscape of RSM.

So out of five soccer balls, (because Rancho Santa Margarita is home to Joy Fawcett, member of three Olympic medal winning soccer teams), five being best to zero being worst, OC Burger Co. gets 3 soccer balls.

For more information on OC Burger Co., click here: http://www.ocburgerco.com/index.html

OC Burger Company on Urbanspoon

The Generous Pour Tasting Event


The Capital Grille
3333 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Recently Katie and I were graciously invited to a media/blogger event at Capital Grille in Costa Mesa. They were promoting their summer wine event and sampling some of their food to be paired with the wines. As an added bonus we were also treated to a speech by Master Sommelier George Miliotes.


The Generous Pour at Capital Grille is just that, generous. For $25 with dinner, you are invited to try as many of the nine wines featured in George Miliote's summertime collection as you would like. The list includes three white wines, three California Reds, two international reds, and one port. I am not too much of a wine guy, but even I know that this is a great deal.




Above are the three wines that stood out for us. Katie really enjoyed the Conte Brandolini, Vistorta Merlot, 2006. She felt that this Italian wine was rich with flavor, while still maintaining a refreshing tone. The second wine of note for us was the Byron Pinot Noir, 2009. This smooth wine from Santa Barbra had an underscore of fruit hidden within it, that made it less bitter to my novice wine tasting mouth. My favorite wine of the night was not a surprise to me, it was the port selection, RL Buller's, The Portly Gentleman. This port from down under was a perfect compliment to the chocolate truffles that you will see in a bit.


The wines were great, and the food was really good also. Here is a quick shot of the Miniature Lamb Lollipops. The flavor on these was very good, and there was no hint of gaminess. I could have eaten about ten of these real quick, but I was trying to be considerate of others. Maybe I am growing up a little? My Mom would be so proud!



Another station featured Sliced Kona Crusted Sirloin. This meat, cooked to medium rare perfection, almost melted in my mouth. I could not resist the urge to have three helpings of this. Red meat is the specialty of Capital Grille, and after trying this I can see why.


Katie's favorite portion of the food was the cheese plate and cold appetizers. The selection of cheeses were all really good, but the best cold appetizer was the Smoked Norwegian Salmon on Onion Pita Chips. This salmon was light and delicate, and disappeared quickly.


Here are the Truffles that went so perfectly with the port. These round balls of decadence were the perfect end to a very satisfying night at the Capital Grille.

As good as the food and wine were, the real treat of the evening for me was to be in the company of some the best bloggers and writers that this county has to offer. Starting off with our hostess's for the evening Anita Lau and Holly Wong. Thanks for the invite ladies, we look forward to many more food adventures with you. It was also a pleasure meeting and talking food with Dave Lieberman. He gave us some great tips that we will definitely go to in the future. I will also find a great place in Aliso Viejo for you Dave! It was also great meeting up with Michelle, who has so much knowledge about food trucks.

Lastly, a special thanks to the Capital Grille and Shannon Jones. The food and wine were wonderful. We have had the pleasure of meeting Master Sommelier George Miliotes once before at another event, and both meetings were a real treat. This man knows his wines, and his enthusiasm for them can even make a new wine drinker like myself, enthusiastic for the grape.

The Generous Pour is for a limited time only, so do not delay. For more information on the Generous Pour, click here: http://www.thecapitalgrille.com/videos/TheGenerousPour/main.asp

Monday, July 18, 2011

Breakfast Bonanza at Anita's? - CLOSED


Anita's Western Broiler
11045 Warner Ave.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

I am pretty passionate about breakfast burritos. So passionate in fact, that when I heard some of my coworkers talking about breakfast burritos at Anita's, I wrote down the info, and informed Katie that we were going to drive thirty minutes up the freeway to have breakfast. Katie, being the great girlfriend that she is was totally up for the idea. So we headed out at nine o'clock on Sunday morning, and headed to Fountain Valley.

Anita's is located on the corner of Warner and Edinger, right across from Mile Square Park. The menu is dotted with everything from hamburgers, gyros, Mexican specialties, and breakfast items. This is the kind of joint that is prevalent  in almost every city, and is usually run by Greeks. Ordering is done at the counter and then the food is brought to your table. Let's see if this will become part of our breakfast rotation.


Katie has been on a Huevos Rancheros kick lately, so that is what she went with here. She was surprised that she liked these as much as she did. The highlight of this dish for her was the ranchero sauce. She found this sauce to be flavorful. The potatoes were average, but were made much better when mixed with the ranchero sauce. She was also pleased that this was served with pinto beans, because they really rounded out the plate well. Katie claims that this was a very solid breakfast plate.




Now the reason I came here, the Breakfast Burrito. They feature three kinds of burritos here, bacon, sausage,  and egg and cheese. I of course went with the bacon burrito. The first thing I noticed about this burrito was that it was not as huge as the reviews online made it out to be. The burrito tasted good, but was overly stuffed with potatoes. The potatoes were creamy, but really there was too much of them, and they made the egg and bacon non-existent. What really made this burrito was the hot sauce that came with this. Distinctively yellow, and surprisingly it packed a punch. Very good accompaniment to a slightly above average breakfast burrito.


Just for good measure we also split an order of Pancakes. Sadly, these looked better than they tasted. Good texture, but lacking in flavor. No amount of syrup could help these burst through.

Anita's was an average breakfast spot. Not really worth the drive, but a decent choice if you happen to be in the area. The service was okay. It did seem to take awhile for our food to come out, and when it did, it came out a plate at a time. Anita's, like the rest of this shopping center, looks like it has seen better days, but if you can look past this, you can have a decent breakfast here. Their location is ideal if you want to take a walk through Mile Square Park to walk off the effects of the large breakfast you just ate.

So out of five artesian wells, (because these are what gave Fountain Valley its name), five being best to zero being worst, Anita's Western Broiler gets 2.5 artisan wells.

Anita's does not have web site, but you can find information about them here: http://www.yelp.com/biz/anitas-western-broiler-fountain-valley

Anita's Western Broiler on Urbanspoon