Monday, March 27, 2023

Some Food for the Road

 Carnitas Michoacan

1901 North Broadway

Los Angeles, CA 90031

We try to hit up as many restaurants as possible when we visit LA. We had just had a big barbecue lunch up the street but could not let the chance to try another spot pass us by. Since Katie and I were both full, we decided to take our food to go and eat it once we got home. We were facing an hour-and-a-half trip back to OC, so we'd have time to digest some of the excellent barbecued meats and sides we partook in at Moo's Craft BBQ. 

Less than a mile away, just west of the 5 Freeway, is the original Carnitas Michoacan. This 24-hour spot is a favorite of baseball fans before and after the games at nearby Dodger Stadium. Located on the corner of 19th Avenue and Broadway, the yellow building with red awnings is almost impossible to miss. Their sign states proudly that they have been in business since 1977, and their website is adamant that this is their only location, even though a quick Yelp search yields six other restaurants with their exact name spread far and wide through LA County. So, be aware of the copycats. 

There's a small parking lot behind the restaurant entrance off 19th Avenue. However, I'd imagine there is little chance of snagging one of the coveted 8 parking stalls in the cramped lot during mealtimes. So street parking might be your best bet. Ordering is done at the window alongside Broadway. Once you place your order, you pick up your food in the covered eating area to the right of where you placed your order. The lady who called the order numbers out was pretty quiet, so stay alert and close to the pickup window, so you don't miss getting your food. 

The menu at Carnitas Michoacan is straightforward. There are 11 kinds of tacos and a taco sampler that includes 5 of their most popular tacos for less than $9. Burritos, tortas, sopes, quesadillas, and nachos dot the rest of the menu. Numerous combination meals include the meat of your choice with beans and rice. Most combos are under $10, tacos will set you back on average $2, and only the lengua, tripas, and wet burritos will cost you more than $10. Grabbing our well-packaged food, we returned to OC during the afternoon rush hour.

Since Michoacan is the birthplace of carnitas, and this dish is in the name of this restaurant, it was a no-brainer that I'd be getting this Carnitas Combination  Plate ($8.50). First off, this to-go container was stuffed to the gills with food. Well worth the money for the amount of food that you get. The carnitas had a good flavor and were moist without being too wet. The drawback for me was that it was chopped too finely. I like variety in my carnitas, some big and little pieces and fatty and lean slivers. This was all chopped the same size and was mostly all lean pieces. Both the rice and refried beans were, and I enjoyed switching forkfuls with all the shredded pork.  

Taco Time! After eating up the street, I only ordered two tacos for later, which was a big mistake. I should have tried more than just their Pastor ($1.85) and Carne Asada ($1.85). These were bigger than regular street tacos and full of meat, like the carnitas plate above. The pastor taco was the better of the two. Little chunks of pineapple studded the delicious pork, while the faintly added red salsa added another layer to this taco. The double corn tortilla did an admirable job of keeping everything together. One of the better corn tortillas I have had in a while. The asada taco was decent too. The beef was nicely done and dressed simply with red salsa, onions, and cilantro. An excellent asada taco that has tempted me to try an asada burrito on my next visit. 

Even though we didn't get to enjoy our food from Carnitas Michoacan until we battled the freeway on our way home, I found their food to be quite good, especially when you factor in how little everything costs. It's not only their modest prices, but they also give you lots of food, and their meats are nicely done, especially their pastor and asada. Since they are so close to the freeway, I can see us stopping here frequently on our way home from LA. I'm glad we took the tie to stop on this trip, even though we were full from our meal up the street. 

Out of five avocados (because Michoacan is the only location in the world where avocados can bloom any day f the year, thus making Michoacan the avocado capital of the world), five being best to zero being worst, Carnitas Michoacan gets 3 avocados. 

For more information about Carnitas Michoacan, head to their website by clicking here:

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Another Awesome Barbecue Choice for Southern California

 Moo's Craft Barbecue and Taproom

2118 North Broadway

Los Angeles, CA 90031

Regarding barbecue, two spots are almost always mentioned among the best in Southern California, Heritage BBQ in San Juan Capistrano and Moo's Craft Barbecue in the Lincoln Heights area of Los Angeles. 

If you've read my blog sporadically or know me personally, you know my love of Heritage BBQ, which is conveniently located mere miles away from where I live. I generally make four trips or more a year there, and I'm looking forward to trying their newly opened Oceanside restaurant very soon. They are serving the best barbecue I've tried in California, rivaling what I consumed in Dallas over 13 years ago. I wanted to see if the food at Moo's Craft could rival what I've experienced at Heritage. 

Moo's Craft is brought to us by the husband and wife duo Andrew and Michelle Munoz. They started their meteoric rise in 2018 while doing pop-ups in their backyard until they became too popular. They became one of the star attractions at Smorgasburg, a once-a-week food festival held just east of the Fashion District in LA. When COVID struck in early 2020, they pivoted to doing to-go orders out of a community kitchen. With the growing number of fans they had acquired, the next logical step was opening their restaurant. 

That dream was realized in June of 2021 in the Lincoln Heights area of LA, just a block from the 5 Freeway on Broadway. Since opening their doors, they have garnered even more praise. Numerous articles have been written about them and their delicious barbecue; they were named one of the best barbecue spots in all of California and listed amongst the best restaurants in all of LA. Andrew has even been nominated for Best Chef semifinalist by the James Beard Organization. Wow!

Enough build-up for you yet? Katie and I had a vacation day, so we decided to pilgrimage up the freeway to see what Moo's Craft was all about. After finding some parking nearby, we were met with about a 20-minute wait in line to order. This was at 1pm on a Thursday, so you can imagine how busy this place gets on weekends and during peak meal-eating hours. 

The menu above the register is straightforward, especially for barbecue veterans like ourselves. But, of course, it did not hurt that I had studied their menu before leaving home numerous times. They sell their meats, of which there were four the day we were visiting, by half and a full pound. The menu was rounded out by five sandwiches, six sides, and two trays that judging by their prices of $98 and $170, were probably meant for more than just two people. Also, be on the lookout for specials they offer, which could be a collaboration with other barbecue spots or just a chef's whim. Let's check out what we encountered this afternoon. 

Here's a quick overview of the meat tray we pieced together at Moo's Craft. There's always something so magical about walking that metal tray back to your table after picking up your order at the pickup window. It's probably the anticipation of eating after waiting nearly an hour after your arrival, or it's the natural beauty of how they place the items on the tray. It's like a work of art that you actually get to eat. Try to do that with the Mona Lisa. Not gonna happen. Let's take a closer look at what we had going on here. 

Katie is a creature of habit when eating in barbecue restaurants. She always gets the Pork Sandwich ($15) as her main course. The pulled pork was piled high on a brioche bun with vinegar-based slaw on top. The pork was moist but without that wet mop feel to it. The bun did a great job keeping the contents of the sandwich confined. One of the better-pulled pork sandwiches Kaite has had. 

The rest of the platter was all mine, but I did end up sharing some with Kaite and did take enough home for lunch the next day. The Brisket ($17 a pound) was a little leaner than I usually like, but it was still tender and tasted great. The Pork Ribs ($14 a pound) were full of meat, which came off with a slight tug and had a fantastic bark on it. The hype for the Poblano Queso Oaxaca Sausage ($7 each) is much warranted. It was delicious and full of big-time flavor. The casing might be a little tough for some of you, but I found this very enjoyable. Great meats here, not overly smoked, but just enough to notice. 

Lastly, we were here when Moo's Craft collaborated with Hoodoo Brown BBQ, which is out of Connecticut. They were doing a tour of the US and raising money for charity when you bought their Crispy Skin Pork Belly ($14 for a half pound). The pork belly was too fatty for Katie, but I found it nicely done. I enjoyed the contrast between the crispy crust and the rich pork pieces underneath. It was a pleasant surprise that we got to try this because who knows when we will make it to Connecticut. 

Sides are another big part of any barbecue restaurant experience, and these sides from Moo's Craft will definitely enhance your barbecue adventure. All four of these were top-notch. The Frito Pie ($8) was better than I had long ago at the now-closed Barrel and Ashes in Studio City. The Frito Scoops were topped with hearty chili, plenty of grated cheddar cheese, and a dollop of sour cream. I could not get enough. The Red Skin Potato Salad ($7) was chunky but had some creaminess with a slight hint of mustard. Next, I warmed up quickly to the Esquites Mexican Street Corn ($7). The sweet corn with the sprinkle of cotija cheese was addictive. Finally, the Mac and Cheese ($8) was a good size and went down very quickly. Katie and I were fork-fighting over bites of this near the end. 

I know it sounds like a cop-out, but the barbecue and sides at Heritage and Moo's Carft are equal in quality but slightly different. I'd say that the meats here at Moo's Craft are a little more on the mellower side, with a little less smokiness included in the meat, which allows the natural flavor of the meat to be more pronounced, which is something that I like from time to time with my barbecue. Also, the sides at Moo's Craft are more straightforward, while the sides at Heritage are more daring and bold. Nevertheless, both spots are worth trying, and it's easy to see why each gets so much love from barbecue fanatics in Southern California. 

Out of five alligators (because Lincoln Heights was home to the Los Angeles Alligator Farm, a major tourist attraction in the city until it moved to Buena Park in 1953), five being best to zero being worst, Moo's Craft BBQ gets 4.5 alligators. 

For more information about Moo's Craft Barbecue, head to their website by clicking here:

Sunday, February 26, 2023

A Terrific Taqueria in Tustin


Taco Chico Taqueria

17582 17th Street 

Tustin, CA 92780

This was another restaurant visit initially made because of where the restaurant is located. Since Katie and I live in South OC and my parents live in North OC, we generally meet in the middle when we make plans. This usually puts us in Irvine, Tustin, or Orange. I always feel like I will run out of restaurants to choose from in these cities, but that has yet to happen, as there are always new restaurants sprouting up. So the newish place we decided to meet for this dinner was Taco Chico Taqueria in Tustin. 

Taco Chico opened for business in May of last year. It's brought to us by the chef and owner of the critically acclaimed Amor y Tacos in Cerritos, Thomas Ortega. He also runs Playa Amor in Long Beach and Amorcito in Costa Mesa. Taco Chico is his version of a fast-casual concept that draws inspiration from parts of Puebla and Tijuana in a comfortable and clean space. His partner in this venture is his long-time cook, Abel Rios, who just happens to be a native of Puebla. 

For reference, this shopping center, which sits at the corner of 17th Street and Prospect, also features a CVS, Flame Broiler, Thai Chaiyo, and other smaller storefronts. Their menu is rather impressive in size. They offer ten kinds of meat options in tacos, burritos, loaded fries, quesadillas, taquitos, sopes, mulitas, tortas, and cemitas.  The combination options are endless, with many proteins and ways to eat them, but we tried our best to make a dent in their menu on our first visit. 

Starting things off is the trendiest taco of the moment, the Quesabirria Style Taco ($4.75). This taco comes with your choice of protein, and Katie naturally went with the beef birria. The taco is dressed with diced onion, cilantro, and a layer of fried cheese lining the double-layered corn tortilla. There are also some sauteed onions, providing a nice sweetness contrasting this savory taco. This birria was very good and a little less wet than most we have encountered. The fried cheese inside of this got a little lost but was present in a few bites that  I had. The tortilla did an admirable job of standing up to the taco's insides. 

Katie is a big fan of taquitos, and she wanted to try this Taquito Combo ($11) at Taco Chico. These taquitos were made by rolling up a large corn tortilla and filling them with shredded chicken, deep frying them, and topping them with cilantro, a sprinkling of cotija cheese, a cilantro crema, onions, pico de Gallo, and a dollop of guacamole on the side to go along with the rice and beans. They were lighter than most taquitos, as they were not oily like other versions. The chicken was pretty mellow, and they could have been helped with a little more of the delicious cilantro crema. The rice and beans were OK. 

I've trained myself that if I see a mulita on the menu anywhere, I need to get one. At Taco Chico, that meant I would be having this Pastor Mulita ($4.95). For those of you who are not sure what a mulita is, it's an unfolded quesadilla. Here they take two corn tortillas and create a sandwich-like concoction with cheese, onions, cilantro, avocado, and your choice of meat. You'd think that the contents of the mulita would spill out, but the cheese helps keep everything together. This was a nicely done version. The pastor meat had a tinge of pineapple, was tender, and paired well with the cheese and smear of avocado. Definitely worth getting. 

Nothing is more beautiful than a plate of tacos coming to your table, knowing that you will soon be consuming them after taking pictures. I tried four different tacos, Asada ($3.65), Saudero ($3.65), Pastor ($2.95), and Carnitas ($2.95). My favorite of this quartet was the Asada. It was dressed with onions, cilantro, and avocado. The asada was tender, and the mesquite-grilled steak left a pleasing tinge to the meat. I am trying to remember ever having saudero before, which is braised beef brisket. It was delicious and earned my second favorite taco on this plate. The pastor was just as good as it was in the mulita. The taco's pineapple was a bit more pronounced, and the marinated pork was tasty. I was also happy that they added the cilantro crema to this taco. The carnitas taco was alright, but it did not wow me like the other three. 

Definitely not the most authentic of Mexican dishes, but I'm always a sucker for Loaded Fries ($12.95). These crinkle-cut fries are piled high on a plate and then topped with melted cheese, pico de Gallo, cilantro crema, cheese sauce, avocado, cotija cheese, and your choice of meat. I went with the carnitas. If we had gotten the asada, these would have been better. Unfortunately, the carnitas did not pop on this, and the fries came out limp and underseasoned. Not my favorite version of loaded fries. 

I did want to include my mom's taco selection of the evening, the Carnitas Taco with cheese added ($3.45). She called this the best carnitas taco she had ever had. She loved the plentiful jack cheese and the shredded pork. She did request that this come without onions and cilantro, which they were happy to oblige. 

Last but not least, we also tried the Street Elote ($4.95). The corn was served on the cob with aioli, a chili lime tajin, cilantro, and a sprinkling of cotija cheese. The corn was sweet and contrasted nicely with the condiments on top of the corn. They added the perfect amount of toppings, so they did not overpower the corn. Very nicely done. 

This was an excellent initial visit to Taco Chico. We got a good cross-section of what they offer, and I look forward to getting more in-depth with their menu on future visits. The cemitas, super baked potato, and other protein options piqued my interest. With this location being so close to the freeway, I can see us stopping by on our trips to Ducks games and other meet-ups with my parents. Their service was quick, the restaurant was clean, and the dining area was well-lit and roomy. 

Out of five wildcats (because the mascot for the sports teams of Chico State is Willie the Wildcat), five being best to zero being worst, Taco Chico Taqueria gets 3.5 wildcats. 

For more information about Taco Chico Taqueria, head to their website by clicking here:

Friday, February 17, 2023

Crazy Good Katsu in Irvine

 J San Ramen

3972 Barranca Parkway

Irvine, CA 92606

As the calendar turned the page to another year, I decided to leave my comfort zone with my restaurant choices. This became clear to me as I was editing this blog recently. I had become predictable with the food I had been ordering. As a result, way too many caesar salads and burgers have been written about on this blog. I apologize for that, and I hope 2023 will start a more diverse restaurant blog.  

Japanese food is not something that I actively seek out. But, nevertheless, I fall into having it. Most of the time, Katie craves it, and I finally give in once she mentions it for the 500th time. However, at other times like this evening, my aunt Hiroko chooses a place that she finds very good. That's what led us to J San Ramen in Irvine. 

From what I've gleaned online, J San Ramen is a mini-chain. There are locations in Yorba Linda, Fullerton, Mission Viejo, and two spots in Irvine. This location in the Crossroads Shopping Center opened in late 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. For an exact location, they are situated in front of the LA Fitness but closer to Barranca in the grouping of stores that includes Pete's Coffee, Wingstop, and Cava.  

Our party of five arrived here at half past six on a Saturday evening. We were met with an almost empty restaurant. It was like this during our stay, although there was a trickle of takeout orders being picked up. The dining room was modestly decorated, and the lighting was pleasantly bright. We found a table and made our selections with a server. 

I've studied the menus at all the OC locations of J San, which are all slightly different. This Irvine location breaks down its menu into appetizers, ramen, katsu, and noodles. Prices for ramen hover around the $15 mark, while the katsu is the same, but combo meals go for $23 and include U-don, shrimp, and a croquette. From what I've seen, this is the only J-San offering this combo meal, which you will see below. 

Combo meals are the best way to try as many items as possible on an initial visit to a restaurant, so that's what I always steer towards. The Domkatsu Combo Meal ($23.95) includes a pork cutlet katsu, shrimp tempura, potato croquette, and a small bowl of udon. This meal's highlight was the pork cutlet, which featured a crunchy outer coating that contrasted nicely with the tender pork underneath. Well fried and not oily at all. The potato croquette reminded me of the hashbrowns you get at McDonald's, which is not a knock against them. I loved the crunchy outside of the patty and the fluffy potato underneath. The shrimp had the same flaky coating as the katsu and was nicely done. The plate was finished with some sort of salad with a tangy yellow dressing over plenty of shredded cabbage. It was okay. I mostly ate it to counteract all the fried food I had just consumed. 

I am by no means an expert on udon, but I liked this well enough. It had a pretty mellow flavor, and everything in the bowl complemented each other nicely. 

I did not partake in this Tonkotsu Miso Ramen ($15.95), but my aunt Hiroko did. She grew up in Japan, so I'd consider her a ramen expert. She enjoyed this very much and tries to visit J-San any chance she gets. This bowl included a creamy pork broth, egg, bean sprouts, seaweed, mushroom, green onion, sliced pork belly, and bamboo shoots. It looked good from across the table. I'd try the spicy version on my next visit. 

It has been a couple of months since this visit, and I still think about the crunchy katsu here. If you are a fan of katsu, J-San Ramen is the place for you. This trip has got me curious to see if the Mission Viejo location is as good as this Irvine one. I'll be finding out soon. The prices here were fair for the food you get. The service was friendly and efficient, and the food came out quickly. J-San has definitely piqued my interest in Japanese food. 

Out of five cherry blossoms (because they are the national flower of Japan), five being best to zero being worst, J-San Ramen gets 3 cherry blossoms. 

J-San Ramen does not have an accessible website, so click here to check out their Yelp reviews and other info:

Friday, February 3, 2023

Browsing at the Kebab Shop

 The Kebab Shop

8687 Irvine Center Drive

Irvine, CA 92618

As the holiday season drifts from memory and the world returns to whatever normal is, I look for foods I may have neglected in the last part of the year. I usually crave Italian and Mexican restaurants near my home to counteract the bland traditional foods we eat during the holidays. With the hustle and bustle of this part of the year, I quickly grab meals to decompress from the stress that comes with extra hours at work, shopping for gifts and family commitments. The new year means more diversity in the foods I eat, which has brought me to The Kebab Shop in Irvine. 

I have to admit that I just recently learned about The Kebab Shop. Yes, I need to catch up on the times. This San Dego based chain has been winning praise and awards for a while now. The Kebab Shop started in 2008 when Wally Sadat, his brother-in-law, and other family members bought a Mediterranean restaurant with little to no food industry experience. However, they were passionate about their doner kebabs and wanted to make them approachable to the people of San Diego. 

Mission accomplished. They have since expanded to 31 storefronts, with locations in San Diego, Los Angeles County, Northern California, Austin, Texas, and four spots in Orange County, with another one planned for Seal Beach very soon. I have now visited this Irvine location twice, and even though it's 15 minutes from our place, I can see The Kebab Shop becoming a regular stop for us for a quick dinner. 

Their menu is simple to navigate. They offer their kebabs in plates, wraps, or boxes. You pick your base and sides and go from there. They have carved chicken doner, carved beef-lamb doner, grilled chicken, grilled beef meatballs, and falafel to choose from. Sides include saffron rice, fries, hummus, and a trio of salads. Entrees hover right around the very affordable $14 mark. Let's see what we partook in on our two visits to The Kebab Shop. 

Loaded fries are my jam, so I knew I'd be getting these Doner Fries ($12.50). These fast food style fries are topped with pickled red onion, garlic yogurt sauce, crumbled feta cheese, and your choice of doner meat. With a suggestion from the guy at the counter, I went with the carved chicken. These were strangely addictive, even though I'm not the biggest fan of feta, and I sometimes find chicken to be a bit bland. That is not the case at The Kebab Shop. The chicken was moist and seasoned well, while the feta and pickled onions added a bit of tang to each bite. The fries did get a bit limp near the end of this, but that's to be expected with loaded fries. 

Not the most picturesque plating job, but I was pleased with this Carved Lamb-Beef Doner Plate ($15.50). The doner meat was shaved off the vertical spit and joined in the to-go container with my choice of two sides: falafel and hummus. The mixture of lamb and beef was nicely done. An excellent texture to it, and it was boosted flavorwise by adding the sauces that The Kebab Shop is famous for. My favorite was the Cilantro Jalapeno which possessed just a hint of spiciness. The Garlic Yogurt was on point flavorwise, but it would have been my favorite of the three if it was thicker. I was also a fan of the Fire Chili, which added just a tiny kick of spice. The hummus and pita tasted freshly made. I was not really into the falafel. They were too hard and bland. I'd probably swap them out for the saffron rice on my next visit. 

Katie's selection was this Carved Chicken Wrap ($14.00 with the dollar upcharge for saffron rice and feta cheese). This wrap was filled with greens, tomato, cucumber, and garlic yogurt sauce. The size of this wrap really took us both by surprise. Unfortunately, it was very long and it was hard to get a good shot of the whole thing with my camera. Even though she was a little overwhelmed with the size of this wrap, Katie enjoyed the mixture of the chicken, rice, and garlic yogurt sauce. She'd definitely get this again. 

On my second visit to The Kebab Shop, I got the Doner Fries ($12.50) with the carved lamb-beef instead of the chicken. This version was even better than the one from before. The beef and lamb stood out more than the chicken, and I used more of their sauces to achieve even greater satisfaction. The fries got a little soggy near the end, but that might be due to my 15-minute drive back home, taking my pictures, and finally getting down to eating. Again, I found these even more addictive than my previous version. 

I had planned on having this Grilled Chicken Doner Plate ($15.75) for dinner, but I ate half of it for lunch and let Katie have the other half for dinner. We both enjoyed the chicken, which was grilled expertly and went well with the saffron rice and spicy hummus. The hummus had an excellent texture to it and really provided more spiciness than I was expecting. Nicely done. 

The Kebab Shop really hit the spot after our hectic holiday season. I see this place becoming one of our usual spots when we are in the area and want a quick bite. Their food was freshly made and tasted great, and I enjoyed all the customization you could opt for. The Doner Fries are a must-get; for most people, they would be enough to fill you up. On my second visit, I used their website to order my food for pickup, and it was a seamless transaction. My food was waiting for me when I arrived, and I could feel the heat coming off the bag as I quickly made my way home to partake in it. I'm glad the holidays are over so I can get out and try more places that I have been putting off trying during the busy holiday season. 

Out of five gray wolves (because the kebab originated in Tukey, and the national animal of that country is the gray wolf), five being best to zero being worst, The Kebab Shop gets 3 gray wolves. 

For more information about The Kebab Shop, head to their website by clicking here:

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Something to Write Home About at Sandwich House

 Sandwich House

9187 Valley View St. 

Cypress, CA 90630

Yes, two reviews in a row for the city of Cypress. We were sitting at two restaurant reviews for 12 years, so we'd double that with this single trip to one of the most northern cities in our grand county. We had just had one of the better breakfast burritos in OC, and I was already thinking about lunch. Yes, I might have a problem. 

Right around the corner from where we had breakfast was Sandwich House. What drew me here was their impressive four-and-a-half-star rating on Yelp, with over 1,600 reviews. Another driving force for this visit was that I last had a Banh Mi sandwich in what seemed like forever. I'm a big fan of these Vietnamese sandwiches, but only a few places where I live have good ones. So, I was hoping that Sandwich House was going to be able to provide me a very good one. 

Feuling my excitement about Sandwich House was some of the research I had done about this restaurant. Not only was their Yelp rating and reviews very promising, but in 2018 they were situated at number 53 on Yelp's top 100 places to eat in the US that year. That is very lofty praise. Other than that, I learned that they have been in business since 2011 and were an instant hit with the students from Cypress College, located right across the street. 

The menu at Sandwich House is pretty straightforward. They offer 14 sandwiches on french bread, ten on a croissant, and three entree items for those who are not fans of sandwiches. There are also hot and cold drinks, smoothies, and various coffee options are also available. Most sandwiches hover around the $10 price point and go up depending on any optional add-ons you may want. 

We arrived at Sandwich House just before the lunch rush at half past eleven. The inside of the shop is cluttered, with plenty of chips, snacks, and baked goods for sale. There was also a good-sized collection of chef figurines throughout the tiny space. Ordering was done at the counter, and then they asked us politely to wait in our car for our sandwiches. It could be a holdover from the pandemic days, or it's more convenient because the restaurant is so tiny. The nice man behind the counter brought two Jasmin iced teas to our car while we were waiting for our food. Very lovely and not unexpected, especially if you read their reviews on Yelp. Within ten minutes or so, we were headed back home with dinner. Let's see if my good feeling about Sandwich House came true.  

Here's a look at Katie's selection this afternoon, the Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($8.75). Each sandwich here comes with shredded carrots, cucumbers, a touch of mayo, cilantro, onion, jalapeno, a bit of soy sauce, and in this case, some chicken. The bread tasted freshly made, had a good texture, and held the contents of the sandwich admirably. Katie thought this might have been the best banh mi sandwich she had ever had. She loved the fresh veggies, the crunchy bread, and the savory tender chicken.  

On Yelp, this House Special Sandwich ($8.75 +$2 for extra meat) kept appearing in every positive review, so I decided to give it a shot. This came with all the same things as Katie's sandwich above, but instead of chicken, it came with pate, pork meatloaf, and french style ham. This was a little out of my usual comfort zone, but it was a good sandwich. The pate added a lovely richness, while the ham and pork worked well with the rest of the fillings. I would have liked a bit more mayo, but it was a nicely crafted sandwich and was one of the better banh mi sandwiches I have had. It was worth two dollars to get extra meat on this. 

My sandwich was a fantastic introduction to Sandwich House and whetted my appetite to try more of their sandwiches when we return to the area. It will be hard not to order the special house sandwich, but I have my eye on the grilled pork or one of their croissant sandwiches on future visits. Adding to the good vibes we have about this spot was the warm and inviting welcome we got from who I presume was the owner. We were two for two on this trip to Cypress, picking good places to eat. It makes me wonder what else this city has to offer. Stay tuned. 

Out of five electric outlets (because the sports teams of nearby Cypress College are the Chargers, and if you stick your finger in an outlet, it will definitely give you a charge), five being best to zero being worst, Sandwich House gets 3.5 electric outlets. 

For more information about Sandwich House, head to their website by clicking here:

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Building a Better Breakfast Burrito at the Home Depot?

 LJ's Lil Cafe

5800 Lincoln Avenue

Cypress, CA 90630

I know. This blog has gotten a little breakfast-heavy the last few weeks. Except for my year-end post, my previous three reviews have been about the day's first meal. I promise more diversity in the upcoming reviews, but this is a breakfast spot that I'm very passionate about. More specifically, I'm excited about the breakfast burritos LJ's Lil Cafe is churning out. 

LJ's is situated in a small space in front of the Home Depot on Lincoln Avenue in Cypress. They opened in September of 2021 by a couple who had met while working at Seasons 52 in Costa Mesa. When this place was available, they snatched it up rather quickly because of the heavy foot traffic in the area and the fact that Cypress College is right across the street. 

They are closed on Sundays and Mondays and are only open for business from 7:30 to 2pm the rest of the week. They start serving a lunch menu of sausages, hot dogs, a hamburger, and a foot-long queso cheesesteak after 11:30. Breakfast, which has gotten them the most press, consists of four breakfast burritos to choose from and a lone breakfast sandwich. 

We were meeting our good friends Melissa, Kyle, and Melissa's mom Irene here for a mid-week meetup at 10am, but Melissa was predictably late, even though she lives nearby in the beautiful city of Whittier. When they finally arrived, we quickly ordered and were met with a quoted time of half an hour for our food. No problem, as we had not seen each other for a while and spent the time chatting about things important to Melissa; her love of the city of Yorba Linda, how she believed that her beloved Rams were going to win the SuperBowl this year, (ha!), and her aquatic dog named Pugsley. 

There's only a little seating here, as there are a couple of picnic tables to the left of the ordering window. Unfortunately, these were occupied when we got here, so we improvised and sat at the picnic table, which was the display model for Home Depot. No one seemed to care, but we made sure to not make a big mess and cleaned up after ourselves once we were done with our meal. Speaking of the meal, let's see if the hype for the breakfast burritos at LJ's is warranted. 

Of course, with all this talk about breakfast burritos, Katie decided to try the LJ's Breakwich ($7.99 + $2 for both bacon and sausage + .75 for grilled onions). This comes with your choice of cheese, two eggs, bacon or sausage, LJ's sauce (a spicy mayo), and salsa, all on a brioche bun. The egg was nicely folded into the bun and had a good cohesion with the swiss cheese, the bacon, and the sausage, a Portuguese-Hawaiian sausage, which was a nice departure from the everyday breakfast sausage most places use. Even with the close to $11 charge for this sandwich, Katie felt it was well worth it. She loved the high-quality ingredients used and savored every bite. The Tater Tots ($4.49) had a good crunch and was an excellent side item for the sandwich. 

Here's what we drove nearly forty minutes for, the OG Breakfast Burrito ($11.25). I posted the first picture with the dollar bill so you could see what we are dealing with size-wise. Regarding breakfast burritos, this one falls right in the middle of the pack based on size. It's not going to overwhelm you and make you skip dinner, but it's also going to keep you completely satisfied through lunchtime. The OG is filled with three eggs, Portugese-Hawaiian sausage, bacon, cheese, tater tots, and LJ's sauce. I really enjoyed the inclusion of the crunchy tater tots, which kept their crispness remarkably well while I was eating this. The ratio of ingredients was also a bright spot for this breakfast burrito. There was plenty of cheese, and the eggs and cheese worked perfectly together. If I had to say one negative thing about this, the bacon could have been a bit more prominent, and a little more of the LJ's sauce wouldn't have hurt. 

Kyle, who had the nickname hot tamale in high school, lived up to his nickname by trying the OG Spicy Breakfast Burrito ($10.99). This differs from the burrito above by adding jalapenos, omitting the bacon, and substituting the Portuguese sausage for a hotlink. Not overly spicy, just enough to give it a slight kick. This will be the burrito I will get the next time I visit LJ's. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to try this, but Kyle enjoyed it. 

These burritos were both the OG burritos we had seen earlier. I am highlighting the excellent hand-modeling job done by Melissa and her mom. Great job, ladies, and consider a career change to hand modeling soon. 

The breakfast burritos at LJ's are worthy of all the hype they receive. These are one of the top three breakfast burritos in OC. Like my other two favorites, the ones from Nate's Korner and Ham N' Scram, I'm more than a little bummed that these spots are more than thirty minutes away from where I live, even with early morning light weekend freeway traffic. LJ's is worth a little extended drive time. I've also made a mental note to try their lunch very soon. Again, I'm sorry for all the breakfast reviews lately, but LJ's is one place you will definitely not want to miss, especially if you are a fan of breakfast burritos. 

Out of five centurions (because the mascot of Cypress High School is the Roman centurion), five being best to zero being worst, LJ's Lil Cafe gets 3.5 centurions. 

LJ's Lil Cafe does not have a website, but you can stay up to date with them by checking out their Yelp page by clicking here: