December 2012

You pull up into Alicia’s parking lot and you immediately as yourself, “there’s a restaurant here”? I know it seems like the last place for a restaurant. Among some random businesses and factories sits a quaint restaurant serving up some great breakfast items and sandwiches. Alicia’s is a down to earth restaurant cafe. More along the lines of Panera Bread, the feeling you get inside the place is “Grandma’s Kitchen”. Whatever you order, it makes you feel good inside — it just tastes fresh and delicious and you don’t feel guilty afterwards.

Their signature sandwich, and one of my favorites is the pink cloud. It is a turkey sandwich that is whiped up with a mix of cream cheese and cranberry. The cream cheese and cranberry mix makes a pink like shmeer, thus forming, pink cloud. The taste is so familiar and clean — the turkey is of the highest quality, and mixed in the the cream cheese and cranberries give it that Thanksgiving essence. Every turkey sandwich should have this concoction of cream cheese and cranberry mix — a perfect turkey sandwich.

I typically do not enjoy tuna sandwiches. Tuna should always be eaten as a steak or better yet, raw. The tuna sandwich to me is a bit boring, and actually, a bit too fishy for me. Alicia’s though, it wasn’t fishy at all. The tuna was clean tasting and wasn’t mayo heavy — a good thing! My favorite topping of all time on a sandwich is sprouts. The sprouts went well with the tuna salad and the addition of pickles was a life saver. As far as tuna sandwiches go, it was decent — decent enough for a tuna sandwich hater like me to enjoy.

I had a walnut strawberry salad with vinaigrette to share. There’s nothing tastier and of course healthier than having a fresh salad with your sandwich. Potato chips are boring and greasy — salads are the way to go. Their walnut strawberry salad was refreshing and perfectly balanced. The vinaigrette wasn’t too sweet, but had the perfect acidity. The red onions and walnuts with the strawberry made for a nice complex flavor and texture — delicious!

The best part about ordering a sandwich at Alicia’s is that you get free treats! For dessert, you don’t get to pick and choose, but we got a whole variety of cookies and tarts. Not a fan a lemon anything in desserts, their lemon tart might have been my favorite. The brownie was chocolaty and addicting and their while chocolate macadamia cookie was near perfect. My all time favorite cookie, the snicker doodle was definitely my favorite. It was chewy and butter and of course, sugary. Alicia’s could might as well be a bakery of desserts, and business would be booming.

Alicia’s is a bit hard to find. Hidden in the “business” center, blended with all of the offices nearby, Alicia’s is definitely a gem. Most of their items are simple and healthy with an affordable feel. The service is friendly and down to earth. Nothing about Alicia’s is pretentious. I always come back when I want something down to earth that’s a little different — and by different, I mean something you wouldn’t expect. They pack the perfect to-go sandwich sack lunches. In the brown back, you get your pink cloud, an apple for health, and cookies like mom makes. This is definitely the sack lunch you wish you had as a kid. Whoever you are Alicia, your kids are lucky.

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The hot dog — it is such a simple thing, and everyone loves them. For me, I always liked it simple. A nice steamed bun, good quality all beef dog, and a little bit of mustard and onions – simple and delicious is all I needed. No ketchup please. Once I met Dog Haus in Alhambra, it all changed. I realized, new waves are coming through and my old school classic hot dog combination was no longer king. Dog Haus makes some crazy creations with both their hot dogs and burgers. Burgers being a close cousin to the hot dog, it was naturally an item on their menu. The best part about Dog haus is that their hot dog and hamburger buns are all made from King’s Hawaiian bread. Genius! The familiar bread rolls mixed with awesome ingredients make for good eats.

My whole life, all I knew was mustard and onions. Dog Hauses Old Town Dog changed my life and it changed the way I see hot dogs. This massive thing had a bacon wrapped 1/4 lb. dog, caramelized onions, sautéed spicy peppers, chipotle mayo, cotija cheese. Not only was it large in size, it was huge in flavor. The bacon wrapped hot dog was so LA, and so delicious. Smothered in caramelized onions, and spicy peppers, it had a nice crunch and bite to it. The chiopotle mayo gave it a nice smokey flavor and the cotija cheese was a nice touch in my opinion — it gave it that nice salty flavor and made everything perfect.

Put blue cheese on a burger, and call me happy. Add bacon on top of that, and you own me. The Blutarsky hands down has to be the best burger they offer. It’s not on their regular menu yet but I hope they put it on the menu permanently — this burger is bomb, my favorite Dog Haus burger hands down. I’m just a sucker for blue cheese, maybe that’s why. But this burger, with the patty, bacon, bleu cheese, and arugula, it has a great flavor. DO TRY. Blutarsky from Animal House, John Belushi’s character had a lot to do with this thing I suppose. Nonetheless, if you are a blue cheese fan, and a bacon lover, and just a fan of a good burger, get this one.

At Dog Haus, you can kind of guess that they like to do things a little different. They have fries, but why get regular fries when you can get tater tots! Yeah. Remember those yummy little nuggets of crunchy, greasy potato clusters? They got those! You can even put them in your pocket and eat them later (Napoleon Dynomite). All kidding aside, the tots were too reminiscent of elementary cafeteria days that they were impossible to dismiss. They were crunchy and crispy. I even dipped it in ketchup, and I’m not even a fan of ketchup. I guess holding onto that memory as a kid was more important.

Dog Haus is an awesome spot. Their food is familiar done in a radical and new way. I mean, the King’s Hawaiian buns are amazing in it of itself. The flavors are on point and the price is just right. Come here for exactly that — the Blutarsky, Old Town Dog, and tots. What more can you ask for?

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Driving to the back parking lot of Santa Monica Seafood, I wasn’t expecting much. The rear parking lot and subtle entrance had be fooled. I mean, that’s where the dumpster and all the fish guts are. If I had only just walked to the street entrance, I would have realized how judgmental I was being. Once I entered the market/restaurant, I was excited for the food — Center stage was a massive fish market. To one side you have every condiment under the sun for fish and seafood. On the other, you had a pretty legit oyster bar and dining area. Surrounded by seafood, I was hungry for something special.


We started off with clam chowder. It wasn’t a killer clam chowder — don’t let the “seafood market” thing fool you. It was a good bowl, creamy and thick, but the clams were a bit lacking. Also, the ingredients were different as well. It wasn’t just purely cream, oysters and potatoes. It also contained carrots and peppers which I didn’t really appreciate. I am a purist when it comes to clam chowder — the less the amount of added ingredients, the better.

I never really order salmon at restaurants (I have my reasons). The spicy salmon burger looked appetizing enough for me to order it. With a sesame roll holding everything together, the salmon burger tasty. With cucumber, organic greens, and tomato, the healthy part was taken care of. What really saved the sandwich was the gremolata mayonnaise. Packed with zesty flavors from the lemon and garlic, I wish I had a lot more of it. The balance of meat and bread was a bit off — the help of more sauce would have been better. The side salad sunflourseeds on top was a perfect companion to this sandwich.

When I saw lobster roll on the menu, I was full of high spirits. I came for seafood, and it looked like I was going to get it! The Maine lobster roll had fresh lobster meat with lemon aioli and chives. Everything was perfect until everything wasn’t. I was bummed that they used a hot dog bun. No buttered and toasted split top buns here. The toasted hot dog bun just made it into a stale and hard state — it was all downhill from here. The lobster wasn’t seasoned or salted, and the lemon aioli taste more mayonnaise-y than anything. The french fries were decent, but nothing special. I guess for the price though, it was comparable. A lobster roll is still a lobster roll, right?


At the end of the day, I can appreciate Santa Monica Seafood. The market selections are unique and the fish market aspect is amazing. Though the fresh fish are a bit pricey, the food items are somewhat affordable. Looking at interesting seafood condiments and possibly sucking down a few oysters isn’t a bad way to wait for a table. All in all, it was a positive experiance, as far as seafood goes.

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Historically, Olvera Street is in the oldest part of Downtown Los Angeles. Founded by Spanish settlers, Olvera Street was part of the early stages of the development of Los Angeles. Ironically, Olvera Street is located in Chinatown. We are talking pre Mexican American War and Gold Rush days. That is a lot of history that belongs to this little street. With the Latino centered community came a great number of restaurants. One restaurant I visited while checking out Olvera Street was La Golondrina Mexicana Cafe. Built around 1857, La Golondrina is the oldest firebrick building in Los Angeles! Originally intended as a house, in 1930, it became the first Mexican restaurant in Los Angels and possibly America. With this much history, I was excited to give it a try.

The chips and salsa were plenty. They kept adding more and more as we devoured the chips. In hind sight, we probably shouldn’t have eaten so many chips because we were so full before our entrees came out. They weren’t the best chips or the freshest salsa, but they were addicting. If you want the good stuff, order their freshly made guacamole — it was as simple and authentic as you can get it. I realized that my guacamole has too much lime juice in it. All in all though, it wasn’t a bad start.

I was really disappointed at the chicken flautas. I once ordered chicken flautas at a random Mexican restaurant and thought those were really authentic. It had a crispy exterior with good chunks of chicken inside. The flautas at La Golondrina really upset me. I was expecting the real deal, and why wouldn’t I? Literally, the flautas looked and tasted like the taquitos from 7-11. They came out all fanicly cut in half, but they easily could have been from Costco. The exterior wasn’t crunchy, nor was it even corn tortilla. It was just a doughy exterior with some kind of seasoned chicken filling. Sorry to say, but these were not flautas.

I did enjoy the chicken enchilada de mole. There were two chicken enchiladas drenched in a pool of mole. The mole was sweeter than most, but the flavors were rich and complex. At first bite, it was hot and burned my tongue. As the mole cooled off, the flavors were quiet nice. The side of rice helped neutralize the flavors. If the mole was less sweet and more earthy, it would have been a perfect sauce. Nonetheless, La Golondrina is known for their mole and is a good dish to try. If you are a fan of mole, you must order a dish with it.

It was a fun experience. Sitting outside in the middle of Olvera Street and in the oldest building in Los Angeles, it was a great historical outing. What can be better than hanging out with friends and family, drinking margaritas and sangria, and eating great Mexican food? Nothing. The experience was wonderful. Even the singers came around our table and serenaded us with his guitar. The experience was as authentic as can be and we owe it all to the historical genuineness of it all. With history and old buildings also come myths and stories. I was told during my dinner conversation that the building is supposedly haunted. I am sure it is all a myth, but there have been sightings of a lady in white on the second floor window. It did used to be a house, and the old bedrooms are now offices. There has to be some kind of creepy factor when you are talking about the oldest building in Los Angeles. Creeped out only slightly, I was still glad it was daylight out. Sunset hit, and we all went home.

La Golondrina Mexican Cafe on Urbanspoon

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