Our second trip to Los Angeles started from San Diego and we pulled into Fountain Valley for some food at Paul’s Coffee Shop. It was late morning and we didn’t know if we’d rather have breakfast or lunch. Given that the vibe of the place reminded me of Hawaii, I decided to order the loco moco which is a hamburger patty over rice topped with gravy and fried eggs. We shared.
I went back to wash my hands. I had to wait for the bathroom, which gave me the time to read some humorous Marine Corps Rules which were interesting. Rule 5: Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet. Rule 6: Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun whose caliber does not start with a “4”. Fun stuff.
To make a long story short. The food wasn’t very good and the service was even worse, bordering on rudeness. I guess it’s a great spot for regulars, but no one else. Who knows?
Following that, we drove around the harbor to San Pedro and settled into a nice booth at the Gaffey Street Diner. The owners were not in at the moment, but the staff was very friendly and attentive. We ordered a stack of buttermilk pancakes and shared them. They were just as good as any we’ve had anywhere. The owner was due back any time and we waited for a while. We really wanted to meet her and tell her how impressed we were that they work so hard. Maybe we’ll get another chance one of these days.
We knocked around Ranchos Palos Verdes, and then spent some time at Hermosa Beach. After working up an appetite, we headed over for a snack at Jay Bee’s BBQ. We split a BBQ sausage sandwich. It seemed like a real popular place. The owner wasn’t in.
Our last stop for the day was a much anticipated diner, At Last Café. We arrived right before the dinner rush, and were lucky to get a table without a reservation. We asked to meet the chef/owner, John, who was gracious enough to come out and meet us. We told him that we enjoyed watching him on DDD and were looking forward to the fancy food (which is relatively rare for us).
We started with an order of the sauteed mushrooms with fried polenta that was featured on the show. Anna ordered the brick chicken and I ordered the French pot roast. The food was exceptionally good. My pot roast came out on a bed of pasta, which I didn’t care for. I asked to have it substituted for mashed potatoes and they were happy to oblige me. The potatoes were perfect. Anna’s chicken was completely de-boned (which I have never seen done before) and was some of the best chicken I have ever tasted. A symphony of flavors, and cooked to perfection with moist and juicy meat and crisp skin. Guy commented on how low the prices were, and I have to agree. I hope I get another chance to go back because everything on the menu looked great. We were very lucky to get a table without a reservation. Five or ten minutes later and we would have been turned away. It’s a small place, but every seat was full before we finished our dinner.
We started the next morning with yet another highly anticipated place, Schooner or Later. The weather was gorgeous and we got a table out on the front patio.
We already knew that we were ordering right out of the DDD episode. Anna ordered the Belgian waffle with fruit and whipped cream and I ordered a full-size order of Schultzy’s Mess (a blend of fried hash browns, bell peppers, onions, chopped ham, eggs, topped with cheese and served with toast. Both dishes were just as good as we expected them to be and we enjoyed every bite. The food was even better than it looks in the pictures.
Afterwards, the co-owner, Denise, came out to meet us and we chatted with her about how much we liked the place and enjoyed watching it on DDD. We sure got the feeling that her and her brother really loved running the place, and I figured at least one of them would be there. He made a comment on the show that if they won the lottery, they’d still be there doing the same thing. I think that’s great, and I’d like to see more people have the opportunity to do what they love.
We did some running around and then made our way over to Randy’s Donuts (the landmark with the giant donut on the roof). Fortunately the line was short. When we got to the window, I ordered a bismark, a vanilla cream filled donut topped with chocolate. The guy looked at me, and said, “I’ve got a special one for you in the back.” He brought the donut and we ate it right there. It was the best donut I could ever remember having. We were talking to some of the other people and it turns out that the guy at the window was the owner! Wow. We were going to leave and our new friend mentioned that his favorite donut is the apple fritter. Well… that’s one of my favorites too and I thought it would be a sin to leave without trying one. I got back in line. Just like the bismark, that apple fritter was one of the best I think I’ve ever had. For donuts that good, you’d think that you would have heard about it. It’s a good thing I live so far away, because I don’t have much will power when it comes to great donuts.
If you’re landing at LAX, you can probably spot this donut from the right side of the plane. If you need more time, ask the pilot to slow down. Oh… My team of crack lawyers inform me that I have to tell you I’m kidding. Don’t ask the pilot to slow down. Jeez, have you ever noticed that those air travel people don’t have any sense of humor? They should replace them all with robots, but they haven’t yet figured out how to program robots to be bloated with self-importance and drunk on power.
Whenever I think about apple fritters, I always remember back to the years when I used to live in Hawaii. I had a favorite coffee shop, Kelly’s Restaurant, down by the airport. I used to go there all the time and order the Chow Mien so I could learn how to eat with chop sticks. Kelly’s has a bakery, and I could never resist having the apple fritter for dessert. They always served it warm with melted butter, and it was as big as the platter they served it on. It was Texas-sized (and scrumptious). Those were some fun times with my Cincinnati friend Arthur. It’s easy to burn those carbs when you spend all day at the beach (more fun times with my Dallas buddy Kenny). It also helps if you’re only about 19 or 20. And now back to our story in progress…
We tooled around some more and ended up for lunch at Gloria’s Café. As it turned out, we picked the wrong day and the wrong time to stop for some bad food. I think I must have watched her segment at least half a dozen times, and I couldn’t wait to have the Carne Adovada. I felt pretty sure that I was going to fall in love with the flavor of all the chiles. We pulled in and parked in line with a row of cars (without thinking anything of it). There were no parking meters on the street. We went in and noticed two things right away. Gloria wasn’t there. And, they charge (I think it was four bucks) for split plates or even just sharing a plate; which is exactly what we were planning to do. We asked our server if they would wave the four dollar charge because we had a full tasting menu day planned and just wanted to sample/review the one dish. Besides, there were plenty of empty tables. He disappeared to the back to check.
He came back out and said that they had to add the extra charge. Under the circumstances, I would have left. But, I had my heart set on trying the Carne Adovada. We ordered a couple of tamales al a carte which saved us the extra charge. Sadly, the food was a major disappointment. The meat was dry, overcooked, and it didn’t have anywhere near the flavor I was anticipating. I don’t know what went wrong. I’ve noticed that as much as I love Mexican food, I usually don’t care for the Central American/Caribbean variations. Of course, that’s just me personally. The service was good. We paid the check and left. We probably weren’t there maybe 25 minutes total.
While we were inside, one of L.A.’s finest came along a gave everyone parking tickets, including us. The fine? Would you believe 64 dollars? I don’t recall that I’ve ever gotten a parking ticket, but it was the lesser of two evils to give in to the extortion than to fight the ticket. What a racket. The manager of the tire shop next door said that people have been parking like that for years, and all of the sudden out of the blue, they picked that day and time to come through and do their handy work.
Despite the parking ticket and the outrageous fine, we managed to have a nice afternoon. We were hungry by the time dinner rolled around and we headed over to Mambo’s Café for some Cuban food.
Mambo’s is a great little Café with great food, great staff, and a great décor (and a bar). We sat at the bar and the owner himself took great care of us. We got to watch all the food come out through the window. The head chef was so laid back I was just amazed. I mentioned that to the owner and he said, “Yeah, he’s so chill.” I think he said that guy had been working there for like 15 years. They treated us to some bread with a killer dipping sauce. We ordered a Cubano sandwich and some empanadas. The food was delicious and satisfying. I would have loved to stay and party, but we still had some driving to do.
Our last stop for the day was Polka. We intended to stop in and have the flaming dessert which was made on the show. Polka is definitely a funky little place. We were offered a booth, and menus. We couldn’t find the desserts, nor could we make heads of tails out of the menu. Before long, a gentleman approached our table with a couple of bowls of soup.
We told him that we didn’t want the soup, and he proceeded to explain to us that soup comes with every dinner. We finally managed to explain to him that we just wanted dessert, but couldn’t find it on the menu. I’m pretty sure we hurt his feelings about not having dinner (and refusing the soup). So, he pointed to a place on the menu that may have had something to do with dessert, and if it did, it was way too expensive for our taste. So, we quit while we were behind and left. I don’t mean to say anything bad about the place, it was just an awkward situation. If it was good enough to get on the show, I’m sure it’s a great place to go for Polish ethnic food.
I just watched the segment and remembered that I liked watching Katherine, the owner, and the food looks great. Everything they made looks delicious and it’s too bad we weren’t there for dinner. Maybe next time. I’ve not had authentic goulash yet, and Guy sure seemed to like it. Good pierogies are hard to come by, and theirs looked righteous.
We started our last day in L.A. with a drive out to Santa Monica for breakfast at Patrick’s Road House. We got a great parking spot and a nice table outside with a view of the pacific coast highway and the ocean beyond. It was another beautiful day in sunny southern California and we were looking forward to getting in some time at the beach. We were ready for a hearty breakfast.
Of course I had to try the Bauernfruhstuck, which I think they had changed the name on the menu to the “Governator Special”. Our server hadn’t seen the show and it was her first week there. She made a few mistakes, but gets high praise for trying hard and having a good attitude. The owner was not in. Anna ordered the Eggs Florentinovitch, with jack cheese, spinach and sauteed mushrooms (no meat). The food was okay. I enjoyed mine more than Anna enjoyed hers. The place itself is fun to explore and look at. Lot’s of neat stuff. They said it was okay to leave our car there while we walked on the beach for a while (via a tunnel under the highway). We took a nice long stroll and decided to drive the car up to Malibu and check out the sights. Who knows, maybe we’d run into Charlize Theron or Jennifer Aniston.
We drove up quite a ways and found a nice park along the cliffs. We threw the Frisbee for a while and took in some sun. I don’t remember the name of the park, but it had a baseball diamond and a nature trail. It sure was beautiful.
Our next stop was to meet up with the Don Chow Taco truck. I ordered a carne asada burrito and some tacos (the Korean BBQ pork and al pastor). We still had dinner plans so we shared the food at a nearby park. I liked the BBQ pork the best. The other food was different from what I’m used to at my home truck, but I enjoyed eating it anyway.
Our last stop for the trip was at Brats Brothers, a great little spot on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. I really liked the décor and they had plenty of seating as well as a bar along the back. We ordered three brats to go; Black Forest, Frankfurter, and the Texan (which was my favorite). We had a nice chat with Terry while we waited for our order to come out. Too bad we didn’t have time to stay for a beer. Brats Brothers is a great place to hang out, but if you can’t make it in, they deliver. They sell their brats vacuum packed six to a bag and you can have them shipped. All the brats were great and I hope to make it back again and try some of the others.
There are still many places in Los Angeles that we haven’t been to yet, and others that we can’t wait to visit again. It’s just a few hours away, and so it’s great for little two or three day juants. That’s about all we can stand the traffic for anyway. You won’t want to miss that write up because I’ve already got several burgers, dogs, tacos, sandwiches, and other tasty treats lined up. Stay tuned…
Next DDD Destination: Salt Lake City (DDD Count: 158)