To me, The Hat is that place that I remember most. As I mentioned in my blog about The Hat in Monterey Park, it is one of the first food items I remember as a child. Stuff like that is powerful. I’m not talking about remembering my first happy meal or cheeseburger from Mc Donald’s. I’m talking about my first real burger, or real pastrami. For all I knew, the Hat in Monterey Park was the first. Growing up, I realized the OG, the orignal Hat was in Alhambra. A small stand on the north west corner of Valley and Garfield, The Hat is a classic. Started in 1951, Southern California residents have been enjoying their World Famous Pastrami since then.
Your with your friends? Get the chili cheese fries and pastrami dip. Your with a few of your friends? Get the chili cheese fries, wet fries (gravy on the side), pastrami dip, and pastrami burger. And do share a bag of large onion rings. Your by yourself, home alone after a long/bad day? Get the chili cheese fries with pickles and pastrami on top. Just make sure to take a hot shower right after. Whatever the occasion, The Hat is a stop you must take. If you want the OG, the Original, head to Garfield and Valley.
It all started in 1947, with just 12 seats. It survived through the recession and survived the rough neighborhood of Westlake on the corner of 7th and Alvorado. With the subway station and Mac Arthur Park just adjacent to it, the restaurant get all kinds of customers. Today, this restaurant is a Los Angeles destitantion for those wanting the best pastrami in the world. No, I have no tried Kat’s deli in New York, nor have I tried every pastrami in the world. How can I claim this to be the best pastrami? I will tell you at the end.
The Westlake area in and around Alvorado can get a bit rowdy, but to me, this is what Los Angeles is all about. When you walk in though, you get a sense of that history. The dark wooden booths and old pictures on the wall really take you back. You kind of forget where you are — there’s nothing dangerous about this place. The mild wooden everything and casual people dining away brings you to a state of comfort.
A lot of people get here for breakfast or maybe a nice bowl of matzo ball soup, but I come here for one thing — the Langer’s #19 Hot Pastrami Sandwich. Of course, the pastrami makes the sandwich. The beef is so succulent and juicy. Each tender bite is made possible by the perfect balance of meat and fat. The dark crust around the meat packs such complex amounts of flavor. The rye bread is perfect with flourescent caraway seeds. The inner is soft and the outter crust is crunchy. The combination of cole slaw, swiss, russian dressing help everything stay moist. The Russian dressing is zesty and flavorful. Each element from the bread, to the pastrami, and to the sauces and cheese make a perfect balance of taste and texture. A bite of the pickle spear to “reset” your taste buds, and you are ready for another bite. This might be the best sandwich ever made.
If you came to Langer’s, and you don’t order the pastrami sandwich, I don’t know why you went. The sandwich is delicious to the exact definition. I remember going to Langer’s for the first time with a friend who also never went. We split the #19, because, well, we were’t ballin’ back then. We aren’t ballin’ now either, but that is besised the point. As soon as I took my first bite, we just looked at eachother with smiles of satisfaction. At that momen, I didn’t know if this was real life or not. It was that good! I don’t ask for this sandwich to be on a pedastal, nor do I expect the chefs to win some kind of James Beard award — though the restaurant did win The Bertolli America’s Classics Award noted for the their history and appeal to the city of Los Angeles. The sandwich is amazing. Anyone who says otherwise is either a pastrami snob or from New York. I never tried Kat’s in New York, and I really cannot wait try their pastrami sandwich. That is definately on my bucket list. Who knows? Maybe my biased self might think it’s better than Langer’s. At the end of it all, it is a pride thing. I love Los Angeles, and I think it’s the best city in the world. Hence, Langer’s has the best hot pastrami sandwich in the world. It’s simple logic, right?
Nate’s Korner is small, hidden, and though closer to Irvine than anything, it is in Santa Ana. It’s in the middle of nowhere, and that is what I like about it. It all started with Qwik Korner, a nice little convenience store. They then ventured out next door and made Nate’s Korner. Popular for their breakfast sandwiches and burritos, I was excited to try it. Entering the small establishment, I ordered my sandwich and burrito and went next door. There, I bought some drinks and snacks, and I was on my way.
The sandwich was impressive. The bread was soft and cut thick. It had a crusty, but not too hard crust, and the white was soft as clouds. The ham was fresh and and the egg was cooked nicely. The melted cheese was gooey and coated the eggs nicely. I know. I can whip this up at home in 5 mnutes. For some reason, theirs was just a tad tastier. It must have been that thick fluffy bread.
Nate’s Korner is a special place in Orange County. It’s a small little kitchen with a convenient store right next door. They specialize in breakfast sandwiches and burritos. Their breakfast burrito was amazing as well. Filled with bacon, potatoes, egg, and cheese, the burrito was hearty and delicious. Everything about it was filling. One thing that it did need was a little more seasining . Adding a little hot sauce did the trick. Though it isn’t a popular spot where lines go outside the door, the food is simple and filling. Yeah, stuff like this I can make at home, but any time you need your breakfast fix away from home, Nate’s got it for you.
Having lunch at The Penthouse at The Huntley was a no-brainer. Inside and out, the property is exquisite and fancy. Chic, modern, and clean, the food was almost out shined by the beauty of this property. Typically, I would not choose such a fancy, and such a far place. Fortunately, the Dine LA menu was hard to pass up. Once I entered the roof top property, which should be the “penthouse” of the hotel, I was shocked at the view. from almost every window, you can see the ocean or Los Angeles. Luckily, I was seated at the corner where I had views of Downtown Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean. It was such an amazing view as I enjoyed my lunch.
Even though we had reservations, we needed to wait for our table at the bar. It may all be part of the business, but I feel like restaurants make patrons wait at the bar so that we buy overprices drinks. Well, call me a sucker. I was bored and sat at a bar. Naturally, I ordered a cocktail. Not having breakfast made me yearn for some coffee. In hind sight, ordering the coffee liqueur cocktail was a mistake. The coffee taste was there, but the aftertaste of the sour alcohol was not pleasant. I love coffee in the morning, but I like it rich and full bodied with no signs of sourness. To me, sour coffee is a sign of spoilage, and this cocktail being sour was not for me.
We started things off with the young romaine. Chopped romaine dressed with a lemon caper dressing was topped with shaved Parmesan and sourdough crouton. The salad was nothing special, but the lemon caper dressing was better than expected. A bit on the boring side, I was left wanting some color and vibrance from the dish.
The crab cake here is not traditional, only because it is amazing. Most crab cakes are mostly filler — eggs, bread crumbs, veggies, etc. Their was nearly 100% crab meat. Cutting it with the fork, all that was inside was crab meat — no bread crumbs or filler, and not even mayonnaise. Though the breading on the outside didn’t have much of a crunch, the celery salad and remoulade sauce made up for it. Only if all crab cakes had all crab in it, I would order it more often. Theirs was surprisingly as advertised — all crab meat.
For the entree, my choice was the grilled cheese with short rib. This sandwich was full of flavor. The short rib was juicy and flavorful from braising in red wine. The sourdough was toasted to a crisp and a perfect bread choice. The choice of cheese was the best and spoiled me. The chimay grand cru was delicious and creamy, almost a perfect cheese for a sandwich like this.
The fennel sausage pizza was also a favorite. Topped with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and housemade fennel sausage, the pizza was surprisingly good. The crust to me is the most important factor of a pizza, and theirs was quite nice. Not necessarily the best, but it had a nice chew and aroma. My favorite part of the pizza was the housemade fennel sausage. It wasn’t too salty or oily. It had a nice meety flavor with a lot of aromatic fennel.
Dine LA is all about 3 courses or more. That meant, dessert was part of the plan. I opted for the profiteroles, though I wish I had great remorse. It’s not that it didn’t taste good, it was just that it was uninteresting and the other chocolate sweet savory dessert would have excited me a little more. The profiteroles were filled with a delicious vanilla bean ice cream though, which kind of saved the dish. The best part was the hot fudge sauce drizzle. It all came together to make a tasty dessert.
Their vanilla creme brulee was good, but again, boring. I don’t know how many times I order the creme brulee for dessert, but I always have it. Maybe its the creamy custardy inside or the burnt sugar candy topper. The fruit in their creme brulee was a nice touch. This dessert was boring, and not of any fault of their own. My over stimulated taste buds yearned for something different — I just didn’t order it. Overall though, I was happy with our dessert choices.
Lunch at The Penthouse was a fun experience. Not only was the property amazing, the food was impressive as well. Hanging out at 3rd Street Promenade was a must after lunch. The beach and sun was all an acompaniment to our full bellies. Below is a short video of the elevator ride down. I don’t know what it is about elevator rides, but if it’s got an awesome view, I have to capture it on video. Anytime you are in Santa Monica, you must make a stop at The Huntley. The near 360 degrees of ocean, beach and Los Angeles is hard to pass up.
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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