I remember going to Islands as a kid. When I say kid, I mean a high school kid. I had a driver’s licence, I had a car (more like half a car), and that is all I needed to hang out with my friends at Islands with some burgers and fries. On my recent visit as an adult, not much has changed. That’s a good thing. The food was just as good as I remember, and chill and relaxed atmosphere made all the difference. Everything started with drinks. Every burger needs the company of a good shake. One of the hardest decisions is vanilla, chocolate or strawberry. I was feeling like strawberry, and I made a good choice. It was creamy and thick, and not too sweet. This was a good start to a great meal.

We started off with the nachos. These were pretty standard nachos. It had cheese, olives, guacamole, and sour cream. One thing I really want on nachos, and this is a personal preference, is nacho cheese. I know nacho cheese is a step down from the real stuff, but I need the fake ooey gooey. The melted cheese soon cooled off and web of chips stuck together. What I like to do is get a bunch of cheese in between two chips and make a little sandwich. The guacamole and sour cream did a good job in keeping everything creamy. I like the addition of the olives as it gave a nice salty flavor. Of course, the heat and acidity of the jalapenos cut the richness of the cheese. This was a standard plate of nachos and a perfect start.

The burger the restaurants main attraction, and the black pepper crusted Kilauea burger. The crust on the meat was so perfect. The meat was overcooked, but I really like my beef patty on the bloody side. The jalapeƱo in combination with the pepper jack cheese and chipotle aioli gave it a nice zesty flavor — not at all overly spicy. Topped with their signature Island Reds, it was a delicious burger. The crunch from the fried onion strings and the melted cheese made a great cheesy crispy mix. The best part of this burger really is the black pepper crusted patty. It is so in your face and full of flavor. I wish I could have this with a fried egg on top. Now that would be awesome. I had my burger with a side of sweet potato fries. Theirs was different that other places because it was more firm and crispy. Most places have sweet potato fries but are often limp. I liked how these spent a little more time in the fryer. Dipping these in their ranch, which by the way was salty, was so good. By the way, I love ranch that is salty and savory more than the creamy counterpart.

I wanted to for something not so heavy, so I opted for the fresh grilled mahi mahi tacos. Topped with chipotle-white sauce, cabbage, cilantro & diced tomatoes, the fish tacos were only healthy, but tasty too. I didn’t really care for the ranchero beans, but it was a good hearty condiment to the fish tacos. The start of course was the mahi mahi. It was grilled nicely and the flavors were in your face. I liked their corn tortillas too. I wouldn’t have expected a burger joint to take that much care in fish tacos. This would have been perfect with the appetizer nachos I had earlier. Only if I had waited.

To put an end to all the deliciousness, ordered dessert. The chocolate lava cake sounded too good to resist. It entailed a fudge brownie topped with vanilla ice cream. The whole thing was drizzled with chocolate syrup, topped with whipped cream, roasted almonds, and of course, a cherry on top. The fudge brownie itself was chocolate goodness. The ice cream helped balance out everything nicely. I mean, we are talking about brownies and ice cream here. With the crunch of toasted almonds, it can’t get any better.

Eating here really took me back to my adolescent years. The relaxed atmosphere and good food was really all I needed. I like how as I grew up, everything stayed the same. I guess you can say it got a lot more fresh and clean, but the whole beach side relaxing feeling is still there.

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Sushi Stop – Snack Time

by Franklin on April 9, 2014

You got to love the Sushi Stop for their logo. A spoof on the Game Stop stores, Sushi Stop’s signage really makes your do a double take. It looks like Game Stop, but it says sushi. Well the signage worked, and I did stop by for some sushi. The best part? Everything is $2.75. Score! I just stopped by to get a few cheap bites of sushi. I didn’t have much cash, as they are a cash only joint.

I ordered the spicy tuna roll, and yellowtail with truffle oil hand roll. Both were pretty decent for a quick and cheap sushi joint. The rice, the most important part of sushi in my opinion, was better than most. Still, it wasn’t the best tasting rice — it was a bit overcooked and had a sticky consistency. The fish was fresh and tasty though. Never have I ever had sushi with truffle oil. The yellow tail and hint of truffle taste was interesting. I didn’t necessarily think the flavors were needed, but interesting nonetheless. I did want to try mixing truffles and soy sauce. I think that will have an interesting body and taste. Something to consider for the future. If it starts getting popular, you heard it first here!

Sushi Stop was a fun experience. The food came out quickly, and the price was amazing. The little snack cost only about 6 bucks, cash only. Not bad at all. For a fast casual sushi joint, the quality of the fish was quite nice. Honestly, I tried this place only because the name intrigued me. I literally stopped for sushi, and it was good.

Sushi Stop on Urbanspoon

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On a recent trip to Vegas, one of the locals had a craving for Hot N Juicy. Already a Boiling Crab fan, I had little hopes for this place. The friend swears that “Hot N Juicy is better than Boiling Crab.” That is all I needed to hear, and I was on board. Before you read on, before you drop everything and head to your nearest Hot N Juicy, I will tell you right now. Go to Boiling Crab.

I won’t lie, I was a bit excited. To imagine something better than Boiling Crab was beyond me. Two things were telling of things otherwise. One, the wait was only 15 minutes, not 2 hours. Two, the smell inside was fragrant, but not in your face. These two minor details should have been telling enough. Still, I was hopeful, and hungry.



We ordered a bunch of stuff. The shrimp, clams, Dungeness crab, and sausage were all fresh and tasty. But honestly, we go to Boiling Crab for the whole shebang right? Theirs, named Hot N Juicy, was really tasty. It had a nice heat to it and the flavor was there. In the bag, it was more of a soupy sauce instead of a thick pasty sauce at Boiling Crab. This made little or less flavor to cling onto the shrimp and food. Even the corn just tasted like corn. None of the goodies really stuck to the corn. After, eating, my hands didn’t have any garlic stink, nor did my clothes. What was going on?

After the fact, I learned that Las Vegas has Boiling Crab, and that LA/OC has Hot N Juicy. There goes my eating in Vegas rule of never eating anything I can eat back home. I don’t know how deep the rivalry goes, but honestly, nothing can beat Boiling Crab. After coming back home, I had Boiling Crab after a week or so, and it was delicious. Yes, I waited over an hour, and yes I smelled like garlic and spices, but man was it delicious.

Hot N Juicy Crawfish on Urbanspoon

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When you mention Mendocino Farms, all I think about are sandwiches. Known for their fresh and farm to table ingredients, their sandwiches are some of the best in the business. You can bet that every ingredient in their sandwiches is organic and cultivated locally. This extra care and fresh ingredients do make a difference in the taste and quality of the food. Mendocino Farms is a nice and fresh lunch or dinner idea for something tasty and somewhat quick and affordable. Marina del Rey, lucky you for having a Mendocino Farms.

I go here for one thing and one thing only. It is their Kurabota Pork Belly Banh Mi. It is under their “Foodie Favorites” menu, and I can see why. Growing up in the SGV, I had some awesome Vietnamese sandwiches. Theirs was something new and fresh that was a good twist on the classic sandwich, but didn’t stray too far away from the original. The star of this sandwich is that beautiful kurobota pork belly. It is braised and caramelized — this created a nice sweet note. The fat and the meat were so tender — it just oozed off. The house made picked daikon and carrots helped in the crunch department. It also helped counterbalance the fatty pork belly. The cilantro, cucumbers, and jalapeno gave it a nice background flavor, giving this sandwich some depth. All between a panini pressed chiabata, and lathered on with chili aioli, the sandwich was spot on. The balance in flavors and textures really worked. This could be one of the best sandwiches in Los Angeles.

Mendocino Farms knows what they are doing. The fresh ingredients and quality meats really make a difference. Waiting for my sandwich, I was able to try some of their market items as well. Everything was fresh and delicious. That sandwich though, I can eat that all day. Why do I think every sandwich needs cheese? How can a sandwich with no cheese and no cured meats be delicious? Is it the pork belly? Before I just ramble on and start asking random questions (too late), I will just say this. The price is just right at Mendocino Farms, and you get much more than what you pay for. I know I paid just as much for a sandwich that was half as bad. There are many locations around Los Angeles. You can find them in Downtown, West Hollywood, West LA, and their new location in Sherman Oaks. I for sure will expect more shops to pop up elsewhere soon.

Mendocino Farms on Urbanspoon

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It had been quite hot these days. Spring is here, and it is making us forget all about the cold winter. Hot days means nice walks on the beach and sunsets. Corona del Mar is by far one of my favorite beaches in Orange County. You have nice homes to look at on one side, and a beautiful seaside sunset on the other. Stumbling across Side Door, the concept of it was what drew me to this place. Just adjacent to the uber expensive restaurant, Five Crowns, Side Door is literally a side entrance to the restaurant. They both share the same space. Side Door, being more relaxed, less expensive and less stuffy, it looked like a good fit. The English-style gastropub specializes in cheeses and charcuterie — just my kind of place.

We started off with the shishito peppers. Blistered, then topped with manchego, the peppers were a good start. It had a nice mild flavor, and the blanket of cheese just finished it off nicely. The peppers were kind of bitter and earthy. Thank goodness for the manchego.

Of course, we went for the charcuterie and cheese. For the meats, I had to go for the prosciutto. The flavor was delicate and buttery. One of the cheeses, La Tur from Italy, was a nice “funky” cheese. It was strong, creamy, and quite delicious. A little went a long way. Eating it all with the prosciutto and fruit preserves was a delight. I also had a sample of some cheese from Vermont, and that was quite good as well. I am a sucker for cheese and cured meats. The selection at Side Door was quite impressive.

When I saw avocado mash, I immediately thought guacamole. This was very much a guacamole, but very much not. Not tainted with any lime, cilantro, or other over bearing ingredients, this one allowed the avocado to shine. To me, this was nothing special. The baked pita chips were a good match with the avocado, but nothing was screaming deliciousness. A tasty and healthy snack — I’ll give it that.

This must have been my favorite item of the night. Ironic that it’s a salad. The combination of some of the best tomatoes ever and balsamic reduction wasn’t enough, they had a nice micro green salad to go with it. To top it all off, they put it besides some of creamiest and smoothest fresh mozzarella slices ever. Everything together, yes, I mean with the tomato, balsamic reduction, cheese, and even some of that prosciutto, each bite was fresh and fantastic.

Have you had really good prime rib? I mean the stuff from Lawry’s or Summit House. Now, slice that up, and put a heaping pile inside a French roll. That is what we have here at Side Door. The prime rib was cooked so perfectly medium rare, and each bite was easy to tear off. The meat was fatty, juicy, and delicious. Dipping it in the au jus and the horseradish made it even tastier. I wasn’t expecting much from this sandwich, but the simplicity of the ingredients and the legit prime rib was all it needed. This is a must order.

I dig the concept of this place. The back door from a more expensive restaurant is all I really need. Less expensive, more casual, and probably better tasting, the Side Door restaurant has it all — a nice beer selection for those coming for drinks, a nice selection of cheap eats for those who come for food. This little corner in the upscale part of Corona del Mar is indeed a gem.

SideDoor on Urbanspoon

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