Monday, May 28, 2012

Just Finding Out About Original Pizza - CLOSED

Original Pizza
2121 W. Balboa Blvd.
Newport Beach, CA 92663

I have lived in OC all of my life. I feel I have a pretty good grasp on some of the best eats around our great county. I have to admit I did not know about this pizza place until a truck driver from my work, who lives in the Inland Empire told me about Original Pizza in Newport. I even lived in Newport for ten years and had never been here before. Maybe besides the pizza I am about to eat, I should order a slice of humble pie.

The truck driver at work told me that he drives the 50 miles from Riverside to come here, and this is a guy that drives for a living. That would be like an accountant getting off of work, then doing all his neighbors taxes, just for the fun of it. I am sure this guy is not getting back on the roads for just any old pizza, so needless to say, I was really looking forward to seeing what Original Pizza had in store for us.

Original Pizza has been located near the pier in Newport since 1963. I must have passed this place about a hundred times in various forms of sobriety over the years. Inside the restaurant, there is not much to look at. If you are into decor, go elsewhere. There are eight tables, stark white walls, and enough room for about ten tables. The menu is not going to blow you away with its diversity. This is simply a pizza place. They have ten specialty pizzas offered, along with one or two salads, and during lunch hours they offer pizza by the slice. Let's see how everything came out for us.

After ordering at the counter the girl brought out our drinks. We were talking about the kind of ice we like in restaurants at poker the other night, and this kind of ice was the clear favorite. Small little pellets that are like snow always seem to make drinks taste better and colder. Just wanted to share this little trivial tidbit with you.

Katie and I split this Tossed Dinner Salad ($3.50). This salad featured lettuce, pepperoni, red cabbage, mozzarella cheese, carrots, cucumbers, and pepperoncini's. We got this salad with blue cheese dressing. The salad was average, but we were not expecting more than that. The produce was fresh, the dressing was passable, and the mozzarella was thickly grated, which added more flavor here. We have had much worse salads.

Here is the reason that we came in, the Meat Lover's Medium Pizza ($17.25). This fourteen-inch pizza included pepperoni, sausage, and Canadian bacon. Even though you can see grease on the pan above, I was surprised by the lack of grease on this. There was plenty of cheese and toppings here, which were solid. The crust had a great chew to it but did not get in the way of the toppings. This really did remind me of an East Coast pizza, to a lesser degree. We made very quick work of this very good pizza.

Original Pizza is a very solid pizza joint. Best in OC? Probably not, but definitely in the top echelon of traditional pizzas we have had so far. The pizza did not blow me away, but when I am back in the area and craving pizza, we will not overlook this tiny pizzeria anymore. Some people might feel that the prices were a little on the high side for pizza, but to feed two people for $8.50 a piece is kind of a bargain, especially in this neighborhood. Service on the Friday night we were here was very good, even with a very loud youth church group in attendance. Special note, this place is cash only, so be advised of that. Glad my coworker from the Inland Empire could turn me on to a place that has been under my nose my whole life.

Out of five Neapolitans, (no not the three striped ice cream, but people from the city of Naples, the city that is the originator of the modern day pizza), five being best to zero being worst, Original Pizza gets 3 Neapolitans.

Original Pizza does not have a website, but you can find information about them here:

Original Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gratifying Grub at Gabbi's

Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen
141 S. Glassell St.
Orange, CA 92866

I am probably the last blogger to visit Gabbi's. It is not like we haven't tried to make it up to this Orange eatery before. A few times we came up here, and the wait was over an hour, so we went to other restaurants. It always seems that whenever we walk by here they always have a lot of people milling around their hostess stand waiting for a table. So, I really had high hopes that this was going to be a great place.

I was meeting my cousin Daryl up here for dinner. He recently graduated from art school, and this is where he picked to eat. After having a few cocktails over at Haven Gastropub, we walked across the street to eat at Gabbi's. At seven o'clock we were told it was going to be a forty-five minute wait, but there were seats open at the bar. I don't even think she finished that sentence before we made a beeline to the bar and found two empty seats.

Gabbi's is a long, narrow restaurant framed by red brick walls. There are some big pieces of art along the walls, to help break up the pattern of the bricks. The lighting is darkened, to lend to the hip vibe of this restaurant. You would never know that this building is over a hundred years old. With all of the activity in the restaurant it really makes the place feel so much younger.

Gabbi's has been in this location since July of 2006. In that time, Gabbi's has really had great buzz associated with it. Most of that is due to Gabriela Patrick-Salazar, and the food that has come out of her kitchen. She has been in the restaurant business for a long while. Helping manage her parents two LA restaurants, earning her culinary degree at UCLA, opening her own successful Costa Mesa catering company, and finally fulfilling her dream of opening Gabbi's, with her husband Ed. I was finally ready to see if this food would match my anticipation for it. Let's find out.

As with most Mexican restaurants, we will show you the Chips and Salsa first. The chips were fresh, and had a decent flavor to them. The salsa really over shadowed the chips here. It had a good kick to it, but I would have liked it to be a little more chunky.

I may have a problem. About two months ago I had my first queso fundido, and now I have to try it whenever I see it on a menu. At Gabbi's it was no different. There version is called the Queso Fundido con Chorizo de Casa ($10). This rich appetizer is a baked cheese dish, with house made chorizo added. Talk about a heavy appetizer, but so addicting. At Gabbi's this is served with guacamole and some great flour tortillas. I knew I had a meal coming, and that the cheese would expand in my stomach, but I had to try to finish this. I paid for it later, but it was so worth it. The lesson I learned this night, order this with more than two people to avoid over stuffing yourself.

When we were ordering Daryl really wanted to have their fish special, but they were all out of it. He told me that he always gets side tracked by the specials, but this time he went with something off of the regular menu, the delicious sounding Tacos Puebla ($15). If this taco does not sound good to you, you might be reading the wrong blog. Grilled skirt steak, applewood smoked bacon, Portuguese sausage, grilled onions, and Oaxaca cheese were involved in the making of these tacos. Why isn't this on more menus? These were delicious. I mean, how could bacon and sausage not be good in a taco. These breakfast meats did overpower the skirt steak to a degree, but this is definitely a must get the next time we are here. This was served with beans and rice, which were okay, nothing that was out of the ordinary.

My dinner was a bit of a mystery to me. A lot of the time when I am eating in a new Mexican restaurant, I usually get a carnitas dish to christen the place. This was the case at Gabbi's with the Carnitas Nortenas ($15). I say this dish was a mystery to me because at times I was not so sold on the pork. It seemed like it could not stand on its own, but it must have been a bad piece, because other pieces I had really turned out well. I really liked combining the beans, rice, and pork in their very good flour tortillas. Decent plate, but there are lots of other options here that will tempt me on my next trip here.

Before I even made it to Gabbi's, I had heard about their churros. They have a chocolate churro, but we went with the Churros con Cajeta ($8). Writing this review I learned that cajeta is a thickened syrup of caramelized milk. This was served as one of the dipping sauces, and the other was a chocolate chile sauce. Our favorite was the cajeta sauce. It really went well with the churro. The chile sauce was fine, but we did not think it went well with the sugary churro. The churros also deserve some recognition. They were warm, had a good crunch, and were soft inside. Probably the best I have had in a restaurant. Do yourself a favor and get these when you come here, you can thank me later.

I am sure after reading this review you can tell that I was very pleased with this meal. This is not your typical Mexican food that you can get just anywhere. This is special occasion Mexican food. Everything was very flavorful, fresh, and made me want to come back here and try other things as well. I am not going to lie to you and tell you this place is a great value, because it is not. I do not think that the prices at Gabbi's match up with the amount of food you get, but the quality of the food almost makes up for that. This Mexican eatery is on par with some of the others of their genre, like Sol Cocina and Cha Cha's Latin Kitchen. Service was great the night we were here. The bartenders really took good care of us on this busy night. One other note, there is no sign for Gabbi's, so just look for all the people waiting on the sidewalk waiting to be seated. Really glad we made it up here finally.

Out of five panthers, (because this is the mascot of nearby Chapman University, and the night we were here their students were staging an undie run to mark the end of finals), five being best to zero being worst, Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen gets 3.5 panthers.

For more information about Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen, click here:

Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Another Stellar Night at Taste Of Anaheim

Taste of Anaheim 2012
321 W. Katella Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92802

I know I have said it before, and I will probably say it again, but one of my favorite times of the year is the Taste of Anaheim. It really feels like Christmas in May. I was lucky enough to be able to make it back again this year, which makes it three years in a row for me.

This was the 17th annual Taste of Anaheim, and it was held May 10th at the Garden Walk shopping center, right near Disneyland. This food festival features great restaurants from in and around Anaheim. What makes this one of my favorite food festivals, is that for one admission price you get to eat as much as you would like from almost 50 restaurants. No tickets to buy for food samples. You just wait in line, and get food from the numerous vendors. I have a big appetite, and I was full after making the rounds of almost all the vendors.

For those that were so inclined to dance off the food they just consumed, there were three bands that played throughout the evening. Other non-eating events included numerous community group tents, art exhibits from local artists, and a silent auction that included some really great items donated by members of the community. These were some great diversions, but let's be real, I was here for the food. So let's see what we ate.

K'Ya Street Fare was passing out BBQ Meatballs at their booth. These had a real pleasant sauce. I could have eaten a lot more of these, but this was our first booth of the night. Too much to eat in too little of time.

OC Greek Fest was out to show how they do desserts, with this Baklava and Kataifi. Both were very rich and sweet.

Anaheim Regional Medical Center showed that they not only cure people, but they could also cure your sweet tooth, with these wonderful desserts.

I give Katie's sister a lot of grief about a bad dinner we had at Bubba Gump Shrimp awhile back. I was not expecting to like their offering at the Taste of Anaheim, but it was pretty good. They called these Seafood Hush Puppies. Fish and shrimp are fried, then served with a remoulade sauce. One of the better things I have had at Bubba Gump.

Ruth Chris offered up one of the bigger samples of the night, with their Prime Burger and Sweet Potato Casserole with a pecan crust. The burger was moist, and the sweet potato casserole was very sweet, and more of a dessert item. Very tasty.

Pepz Pizza had all you can eat pizza all night. I had a slice of their Pepperoni Pizza, and it was not too bad. Served hot, this had a good crust, and plenty of pepperoni.

Bowling alleys were well represented here, and 300 Anaheim was serving up their 300 Hot Wings. The mild were very bland, but the hot had a nice kick to them.

Anyone that has read my blog knows my love for Slater's 50/50 has no bounds. I was happy to see them on the list of participating restaurants, but was even happier to see them give out their Vampire Dip and Peanut Butter and Jealousy Sliders. Both were on point here. Well worth the price of ticket for just these two items.

Bar Louie, which is located at the Garden Walk was passing out their Bruschetta Pomodoro and Tabbouleh. I am not really a fan of either of these, so I left these for Katie to try.

The Honda Center is not just for mediocre hockey teams, they also feature at one of their concession stands, Outlaws Steakhouse. Here they were dishing out a mini version of their loaded potato and a pulled beef slider. Both had a very good sauce.

It was not time for dessert yet, but we could not resist the Melting Pot. They were sampling their Chocolate Fondue with Rice Krispies Treats, strawberries, and brownies. Very rich, but we could not stop at one plate.

I have not been to Joe's Crab Shack in years. They had Crab Dip that they were pedaling. Had a smooth flavor.

Here's another restaurant I have not been to in years, Alcatraz Brewing Company. Along with their Dark Ale Smoked Ribs, they were giving out samples of their hand crafted beers. Beer and ribs, the way into every man's heart.

Concourse Entertainment Center always provides an interesting offering, and this year was no different. This bowling alley was hawking their Carnitas and Chicken Tacos.

Not a restaurant, but Farm Fresh To You really had some of the best Caramel Covered Popcorn I have had recently. Every kernel was covered with sweet caramel. Really good.

One of Anaheim's stalwart restaurants, The Catch was giving out their Vera Cruz Chopped Salad, along with their Baked Peach Crostata. The salad had very fresh ingredients, and the crostata was not overly sweet.

If you have read my blog recently, you know that I was very impressed with The Ranch Restaurant. They did not disappoint this night either. They were very generous handing out Lamb Chops, which I greedily took three of. So good.

This was one of Katie's favorites of the night, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen. She really enjoyed the soft bread of the sandwich, and I was happy with the delicious sounding Bacon and Jalapeno Potato Salad.

It would not be a Taste of Anaheim experience if we did not go over and try one of Hooters Nearly Famous Wings and BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich. It was also really just a chance for me to talk to the pretty girls.

Catal Restaurant is located at Downtown Disney, and they supplied us with this Arroz Con Leche, in a waffle cup. I really liked the waffle part, and Katie was more partial to the fresh fruit here.

OC Brewhouse is a restaurant I had never heard of before. They are located in the Hyatt, and were serving up some of their beers and this BBQ Pulled Pork Slider. Not a bad slider at all. Good sauce on this one.

Cantina Lounge might be in Fullerton, but they have been at the Taste of Anaheim each year we have been here. They sampled their Steak Fajitas, Shrimp Ceviche, and Queso Fundido.

Ruby's Diner did something a little different, going after the breakfast angle. They passed out their delicious Cinnamon Roll French Toast. Tasted great, and makes me want to go to Ruby's for breakfast.

House of Blues has recently introduced some new items to their menu. This is the White Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding. Big on banana flavor here.

By this time of the night we were really full and could not eat much more. After listening to the music and checking out the art we called it a night. Another wonderful event put on by the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce. Special thanks go out to Russell Lahodny for providing us with press passes. Can not wait for the next one. May 2013 can not get here soon enough!

For more information about Taste of Anaheim, click here: