Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ethnic Foods of the San Gabriel Valley: Say Goodbye to Europe

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, NepaleseLebanese, Thai, BasqueArgentinian, Cuban, VietnameseEnglish, Belgian, Spanish, JewishGreek, Greek Diner, Hawaiian, SalvadoranIranian, Armenian, AfghaniIndonesian, Korean, Cambodian, American, California Cuisine, Soul FoodJapanese, Filipino, Barbecue

This week, we're going to finish the European cuisines that can be found in the San Gabriel Valley. 

While there's not a real big representation of eastern Europe here in the valley, you can find an outpost of Polish Food and Hungarian Food at the European Deli in Glendora.

There, you'll find an array of exotic sausages along with goulash, pierogis, bigos (a stew), and flaczki (a tripe soup).  

It's a regular deli, too, so you can get an array of sandwiches and everything is served quick and cheap.

French cuisine is pretty easy to find here in the SGV. What's hard to find is reasonably priced French Food.  There are good and expensive French restaurants all over Pasadena like Maison Akira, Cheval Bistro, and the highly regarded but seldom patronized Devon in Monrovia.

While in France, you can find delicious and cheap French food on every corner, here not so much but with a little digging, you can find a bit.

Crepe shops have been popping up with regularity lately. There's the very good Crepes de Paris chain in Orange County and the Inland Empire, Old Town Bistro in Monrovia with some decent food but slow service, and the forgettable Cafe LuMar in Monrovia. 

The best Creperie that we've come across is Monsiuer Crepe French Cafe in Sierra Madre, run by a nice Parisian ex-pat and his American wife, with a nice array of savory crepes, sandwiches, croissants, and desserts but the best thing is their sweet crepes like their salted caramel crepe or their crepe la rouge with raspberries and Chantilly cream. Heavenly, not too sweet, and very reasonable in price.

For a sit down, waitered French place, your options are basically three places that I know of.  Cafe Massilia in Monrovia is not too expensive and has a dedicated fan base. They're OK but I have had better. Remembering that Vietnam was a French colony in the past, it makes sense that a Vietnamese family could run an excuisite, white-linen, French restaurant with fantastic food at reasonable find that at La Vie in Rosemead.

Our go-to French restaurant for great food without breaking the budget is Cafe Bizou in Pasadena. Steak au poivre, Nicoise salad, steak frites, and bouillabaisse are some of the great dishes they have here. Bring your own wine and they only charge a $2 corkage fee.

The last European cuisine we have to cover is Italian Food.  We are well represented here in the valley with the Bitonti family's Domenico's chain, Carmine's in both South Pasadena and Arcadia, Petrillo's in San Gabriel and Glendora, and Caffe Opera and Bella Sera in Monrovia 

There are many more including some big name chains with "olive" in the name but our favorites are listed above. Carmine's and Petrillo's are great examples of family style red-sauce restaurants while you can find more refined cuisines at the two restaurants in Monrovia.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Ethnic Foods of the San Gabriel Valley...What You Can't Find.

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, NepaleseLebanese, Thai, BasqueArgentinian, Cuban, VietnameseEnglish, Belgian, Spanish, JewishGreek, Greek Diner, Hawaiian, SalvadoranIranian, Armenian, AfghaniIndonesian, Korean, Cambodian, American, California Cuisine, Soul Food, Japanese, Filipino, Barbecue

I love a good chicken Kiev. It's one of my favorite dishes. It's also a dish you're not going to find here in the San Gabriel Valley.

This week, we're taking a little break before moving over the 30 culture mark in our list to note some ethnic foods you, unfortunately, will not be able to find in the SGV.

I'd hoped to highlight Roxilana in Pasadena, which served Ukrainian food specialties like the chicken Kiev you see above. Heck, they even had a $10 lunch version but, alas, they went out of business before I could list them.

Now, the closest place you'll find it is one of the many Russian restaurants in Hollywood like Robert's Russian Cuisine on La Brea but our favorite is on the water at Redondo Beach Pier, Gambrinus, pictured above.

Want a good Weinerschnitzel or sauerbraten? You'll have to travel down to Anaheim and visit one of our favorite places for German food, the Phoenix Club. It's a private German cultural club with a restaurant open to the public.

Looking for Portugeuse food? Not here but just over the line in Claremont is a fine, Portugeuse diner...the Euro Cafe in the Von's strip mall on the corner of Mills and Baseline.

Green wine, an extensive array of desserts, pastas and favorite is the bife a Pourtuguese, a juicy flank steak sitting on the bed of fries, with a fried egg, tomatoes, and a hearty sauce on top.

You won't find these cuisines in the San Gabriel Valley but at least you don't need to go that far.


Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ethnic Foods of the San Gabriel Valley - Grills, Fish, and More

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, NepaleseLebanese, Thai, BasqueArgentinian, Cuban, VietnameseEnglish, Belgian, Spanish, JewishGreek, Greek Diner, Hawaiian, SalvadoranIranian, Armenian, Afghani, Indonesian, Korean, Cambodian, American, California Cuisine, Soul Food

Japanese Food is well represented in our valley. Every city has at least a couple of Sushi bars. Teriyaki and tempura abound, and teppanyaki party spots can be found here and there.

From the quick, on-the-go, sushi kitchens like Rolling Rice and Sushi Spot, you can get your raw fish fix quick. For a more leisurely and artistic styling, try the sushi bars in Pasadena such as Sushi Roku or Osawa.

If you want to get some more substantial fare...such as steak, tempura or chicken...head to Hana Haru in Glendora or, our favorite, Little Tokyo in San Dimas.

There is a branch of Benihana in the City of Industry at Puente Hills but most people around here prefer the teppan chefs of Shogun in Pasadena or Tokyo Wako in Arcadia.

We had a brief flare of Filipino Food in the area a few years ago but we're down to one or two places where you can get Lechon, Adobo, Calos, or Kare Kare. I've got to be honest, I've tried a few of them but never could acquire the taste for this cuisine.

The only place I know that still exists in the SGV is Pinoy Kitchen in Duarte.

I really miss one of the best examples of Barbecue I've ever had, Brenda's Rib Crib in Pasadena. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious with such spicy barbecue sauce you risked spontaneous human combustion.

Nobody will confuse our local barbecue for the likes of Kansas City or Memphis but you can find decent barbecue at Robin's in Pasadena and much more mediocre examples at Jake's in Monrovia.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 25, 2013

HIDDEN GEMS - San Gabriel River Bike Trail and Natural Area

About 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles is the San Gabriel River. From its headwaters, high in the San Gabriel Mountains above the city of Azusa, the river runs...if it was allowed to the Pacific Ocean where it marks not only the boundary between Long Beach and Seal Beach, but Los Angeles County and Orange County.

Watch the Video!

A couple of miles up San Gabriel Canyon (known to locals as Azusa Canyon), the San Gabriel River Bike Trail begins. This paved lane, also accessible to walkers and wheelchairs, runs around 40 miles along the banks of the river all the way to the ocean.

This northern section is the most natural and wild section and includes great scrub and desert scenery for the first 10 miles or so, through the section behind Santa Fe Dam in Irwindale. If you've ever been to the Renaissance Fair in L.A., it's held behind the dam every spring.

In the video above, I take you along on my New Year's Eve bike ride from the top of the trail, down 5 miles to the century old Pacific Electric bridge connecting Azusa and the nearby city of Duarte. This bridge carried the famed Red Car trolleys that used to run all across the region.

Near the beginning of the ride, notice the housing development. Perhaps the most poorly placed housing development in the area, it is located not only next to a river that can flood but in an area where a huge wildfire was started a few years ago. 

There was also a gun range next door that had been there for 60 years when the new neighbors found that gunshots could be heard and demanded that it be shut down. It was.

The area traversed today is a birdwatcher's paradise with over 50 species flying overhead. Also look down to see some local roadrunners, bobcats, and coyotes.

There are parking areas at the top of the trail in the canyon, another along Foothill Blvd. in Azusa where it meets the river, and at Santa Fe Dam.  Across the river at the other end of the Pacific Electric Bridge in Duarte, parking is also available at Encanto Park. From there, you can access the trail by crossing the bridge. There is also a short nature trail on the west side of the river here.

Not well known to those who don't live here, the area around here is truly a great, natural hidden gem that will reward those who seek it out.

Copyright 2010 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ethnic Foods of the San Gabriel Valley - Coming to America

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, NepaleseLebanese, Thai, BasqueArgentinian, Cuban, VietnameseEnglish, Belgian, Spanish, JewishGreek, Greek Diner, Hawaiian, SalvadoranIranian, Armenian, Afghani, Indonesian, Korean, Cambodian

Well, what about good 'ol American Food? Yes we do have quite a sampling here in the San Gabriel Valley.

What's more American than a cheeseburger? Some say it was even invented right here, in 1924 at the Rite Spot, which was located at the Pasadena/Eagle Rock border.

I have my doubts but who knows?

What's more, some say the cheeseburger was perfected here by Harry and Esther Snyder at their tiny, little drive through in Baldwin Park at the corner of Francisquito and Garvey. 

The little drive through has been torn down, although the original sign remains, but fear not. The location's just been moved to the other side of the freeway with a modern dining room and even a gift shop.

No worries because you can get the Snyder's perfect cheeseburger at locations across the west. Dubbed the Double-Double, it's available at any of their family restaurants that you might know better as In 'n Out.

Craft burgers are all the rage now in the area and you can find them almost anywhere, especially along Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, but our current favorite lies just east of the SGV at Eureka! in Claremont.

Another great example of American cuisine is the good old steak and baked potato. While many like the bacon-wrapped filet mignon, we prefer a nice, grilled-to-perfection ribeye with great marbeling. 

Three of the best in the valley are Taylor's...way up in La Canada...the Derby in Arcadia, and the Golden Spur in Glendora.

California Cuisine is our state's style of cooking, using fresh, locally sourced food and mixing up different styles of cuisines from around the world. You can think of it as a celebration of diversity cuisine.

One of the best examples is the superb Parkway Grill in Pasadena, who grows their own produce on a small farm nearby.

We used to have better examples of Soul Food but we still have our fair share. Go north on Lake Avenue in Pasadena to find great examples such as Big Mama's Rib Shack, Bonnie B's Smokin', and...of course...the justly famous Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles.

You can also find another collection in Pomona at Cassie's Kitchen, Day Day's, and J & J's Barbecue and Fish.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ethnic Foods of The San Gabriel Valley: Representing the Far East

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, NepaleseLebanese, Thai, BasqueArgentinian, Cuban, VietnameseEnglish, Belgian, Spanish, JewishGreek, Greek Diner, Hawaiian, Salvadoran, Iranian, Armenian, Afghani

See that above? That's 20 different ethnic varieties of food. I'm guessing we just crossed over the half-way point of our survey.

Last time we were in the middle east and drifting farther east. Today, we'll be back to what the SGV is really know for...Asian.

Fried noodles, little tiny egg rolls, minty milkshakes...even durian, for Christsakes!  It's from that island archipelago and we've got it...Indonesian Food.

There is not a whole lot of Indonesian in the L.A. area but what we do have is mostly concentrated in the valley with an outlet in West Covina, two in Alhambra, and the one we sampled, Chicky BBQ and Grill in Duarte.

Just off the corner of Huntington and Buena Vista, behind the El Pollo Loco, lies a little bit of this Southeast Asian culture. In the strip mall, there is an Indonesian grocery store, beauty salon, an Indo TV studio, cultural club, and a motel...the Duarte Inn...where each Saturday, an Indonesian food fair sets up in the parking lot.

It's between the market and the TV studio that you'll find Chicky BBQ with just a few tables where large Indonesian families push together to enjoy weekend meals together.

The menu has a large range of products...glazed shrimp that look like little glazed donuts; soto ayam (a chicken stew); nasi timbel (fried chicken and tofu)...and much more...but their specialty here is satay, skewers of grilled meat (chicken, pork, or lamb) cooked over an open flame.

This little combo of chicken satay, rice, salad, and egg rolls with peanut sauce and sweet chili is not only very juicy and delicious, it's only $6.50.

Going west on Huntington, it won't be long until you get to one of the jewels of the valley, Santa Anita Racetrack. Just before you get there, however, you may notice a funny named restaurant, Young Dong Garden.

Korean Food is making a big splash in the Los Angeles area these days. You can find all you want in Koreatown, just west of downtown L.A. and centered at Wilshire and Vermont, but we have quite a representation here in the valley as well.

At Young Dong, it's Korean barbecue. You pay one price and get all you can eat.

A propane grill is built into each table and a waitress brings you plates of meat and some pork fat. You coat the grill with the fat and cook the meat as you go on your personal hot plate.

Besides the meat, there is an awesomely huge array of condiments and side dishes to choose from, all set on your table. Kimchi, onions, garlic, several sauces, chiles...

It's a different way for us to barbecue. The meats are good, the selection vast, and you get to choose how much taste you want on it.

Did you know that when you go to our local donut shops, more than likely you're enjoying Cambodian Food? That's because it has become a traditional business for Cambodian immigrants to get into. They are very good at it, too (our favorite is run by a very nice family just outside of the SGV, Miss Donuts in La Verne).

Beyond that, though, there is one traditional Cambodian restaurant that I could find in the San Gabriel Valley. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to try it but will include it here for reference. 

It's Battambang Seafood Restaurant in San Gabriel. It looks real good and we hope to try it out soon.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ethnic Foods of The San Gabriel Valley: A Middle Eastern Tour

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, NepaleseLebanese, Thai, BasqueArgentinian, Cuban, VietnameseEnglish, Belgian, Spanish, Jewish, Greek, Greek Diner, Hawaiian, Salvadoran

This week we'll concentrate on the food of the Middle East, or as more commonly called around here, Mediterranean Cuisine.

To tell you the truth, it's hard for someone like me to separate the different ethnic foods of the region. It all seems like kebabs, pita bread, and hummus a lot of the time but there can be subtle difference.

Along Washington Boulevard in North Pasadena is an Armenian Food enclave, such as Garni's. Lentils and zucchini help it stand out from the rest.  

Along some stretches of Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena or on Live Oak in Arcadia, you can find the occasionally find an Iranian Food outpost such as Famous Shish Kabob in Pasadena or Tehran Market in Arcadia. We have the Persians to thank for rice pilaf.

Afghanistan may be a war-torn area but our local purveyors of Afghan Cuisine will make you a peaceful meal. Try Azeen's in Pasadena for this cuisine which branches out from the usual Med food with more Afghani foodtuffs like mantu, which is a pasta dumpling, or Smarooq Challaw, a type of chicken stew.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ethnic Food of the San Gabriel Valley: From the Greek Islands to the Hawaiian Islands

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, NepaleseLebanese, Thai, BasqueArgentinian, Cuban, Vietnamese, English, Belgian, Spanish, Jewish

What about Greek Food? Well, we do have some strictly Greek restaurants, such as Corfu in Sierra Madre, most of the Hellenic immigrants around here...and we have quite a few...are more in the line of the Greek diner, like you'd find in New Jersey.

Greek Diner/Burger Stand cuisine is like the John Belushi sketch on SNL. We have a ton of great places that make decent, hearty food like steaks, traditional breakfasts, and...yes...burgers run by proud Greek families.

The most famous is probably Tommy's Original. The "Original" is put on there because Tommy's has many imitators using the same or very similar names. We also have the Jim's chain, Angelo's, Kosmo's, and Grand Burger.  

Greek diners include Costa's, Palms, and...our favorite...the Monrovian.

While you might not think "Greek" when you go there with all the burgers, steaks, chicken, eggs, pancakes, and sandwiches on the menu, look closer and you'll see gyros, Greek salads, feta omelets, souvlaki, and more. 

Here's where you'll get the "Greek" in Greek Diner.  Above, you'll see one of my favorites, the gyro at the Monrovian, with their outstanding zucchini fries.

Hawaiian Food made some inroads here in the last few years, mainly with the Hawaiian barbecued chicken chains like L&L, which has branches in Pasadena and West Covina.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Christian Razukas under CC BY-SA2.0 License

It's good, but try to Spam dishes like Moco Loco for a more authentic flair. Also Hawaiian tinged burger and bowl fast food joints Spike's and B' Man's make great teriyaki and pineapple burgers, just like you'd find at Duane's Ono burgers on Kauai.  Well, maybe not quiet that good but still pretty decent.

Salvadoran Food is represented by the two outlets of El Salvadoreno in Duarte and El Monte. Pupusas, plantains, and Salvadoran tamales are the big items here. Although good, I've never thought it rises to how good some of our Mexican food around here can be.

And that brings us up to 18 different types of ethnic cuisines in our little valley. 20 more to go...

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, October 25, 2013

Palm Springs: A Melancholy Trip to Say Goodbye

It was daybreak as Tim and I loaded up the van and headed east. Luckily for us, we were driving against traffic as evidenced by the twenty-plus mile traffic jam on the other side of the 210 freeway.

We’re heading to one of the world’s premiere vacation destinations full of pools, restaurants, bars, and sun but we’re not having any of that today.

Palm Springs would make a great destination for a trip but today is melancholy. Tim and I are headed out to a happy place for a sad reason…to say goodbye to my aunt as we attend her funeral there.

Brilliant sun lights us up as we drive. Tim complains that the very early morning sun is in his eyes. I’ve got the visor down as far as it will go and have my darkest sunglasses on.  The San Gabriel Mountains form a visually stunning barrier on our left as we move on into the Inland Empire of Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana. Traffic on the other side finally eases up as we get into the RC. Those drivers will soon be stuck in the worst of it.

My mom’s sister, Phyllis, was born in the fall of 1934 in the little community of Highland Park, wedged in with Eagle Rock between Pasadena and Glendale.

Babies of the depression, my mom and aunt would tell us tales of the striking poverty of those times. No matter how bad it got for us, they would remind us that it was nothing like the absolute bottom of that era.

Tim and I are flying along handily as our L.A. radio stations give out around Rialto, just before San Bernardino. I flip the car stereo over to the CD mode and Vince Gill serenades us.

I finally hit a bit of traffic as the 210 bottle-necks down to two lanes after the town of Highland and turns south for a couple of mile before ending at interstate 10 in Loma Linda.  It was here that my aunt spent the last days of her fight for life in Loma Linda hospital nearby before moving on to a nursing facility to rest until the end.

It was several years into my childhood, extending to my early teens, that I finally learned my uncle’s name. We’d always call him Man…It wasn’t until his death a decade ago that I learned this should be spelled ‘Mann’…but that wasn’t his name. Even my close childhood cousin, Jesse, didn’t fill me in but I finally figured out he was named after his dad. Uncle Mann’s real name was Jesse. I still don’t know why everybody called him ‘Mann.’

He was Phyllis’ husband, another hard-working depression-era family member who I remember as always taking odd jobs to support the family.

They lived not too far from us in South El Monte for several years in the sixties before leaving, moving ever eastward through Riverside County before finally settling down just east of Desert Hot Springs, just across the valley from our current destination.

Since we live in L.A., we know to build in extra driving time to wherever we go. Not a lot of traffic on this Tuesday morning so we get to the Indian casino at Cabazon about two hours before the funeral.

The tribe has had good fortune in the last few decades, going from a small bingo parlor, to one of the largest Casinos around. In addition, there’s a large outlet mall and the tribe owns a few gas stations and restaurants.

We decide to get a quick breakfast at the tribe’s McDonalds, then gas up and get the car washed. I don’t want to disrespect my aunt with a dirty van.

You know you’re getting to Palm Springs when you see the hundreds of large windmills sprouting up in the windy Cabazon pass. They make a lot of kilowatts for the local power grid.

The family was a musical one. My uncle and their friend, Roland, made their own guitars. Any time they’d visit, it would turn into an impromptu concert and singalong. Sometimes difficult on school nights when I’d want to sleep, nevertheless, the group was always into the music.

They formed their band, soon to be called the Range Riders, and played gigs across the country.

Gene Autry Trail comes up on you quick on Interstate 10. The signage is for Palm Drive…the same road heading north…it’s not until you’re right on top of the exit that you see the small sign for Autry too. We just make it…it time to get caught in the jam of a major injury accident blocking our way into Palm Springs.

The Hanna’s also were a church. Located in the desert, they took in lots of strays, both of the animal and human variety.  My aunt and her family spread their love and shared their meager resources with whoever would need them.

Jesse, the most driven of them, would go to Nashville, hook up with other musicians, and organize entertainment for the tourists in town.

Being a professional band on the road, of course they needed a bus. A big one.  Those who knew them also new the Range Riders’ bus.

Due to the accident, Tim and I barely make it to the mortuary near the airport about 5 minutes before the service is scheduled to begin. It’s a crisp, dry, sunny day…the kind that make the winter tourists flock here…as we park under the gaze of Mt. San Jacinto, home of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

We won’t be taking part in the activities of this city today, though.

My aunt fainted in her bathroom. It turned out she had a tear in her aorta. Taken to Eisenhower Medical Center, it was eventually determined that she needed to be in a better hospital. Taken by ambulance to USC Keck Medical Center, it was the start of eight months of hospitals, surgeries, rehab facilites, hopes, and mistakes.
She was a strong, determined lady, but in the end, even her strength could not carry her over these mountains of trouble. After one more stay, this time at Loma Linda, she passed on in a nearby rehab facility.

The packed chapel is full of singers, parishioners  and family here to send my aunt on to her reward. There’s singing, praying, and preaching.

After some time to talk and catch up with family and friends, it’s time for Tim and I to make that long trek home. 

We’ll stop for burgers at Bob’s Big Boy at the edge of the desert in Calimesa before getting back into the hectic Inland Empire.

It’s not the Palm Springs we come on vacation for but it leaves us with a warm glow anyway.

Goodbye, aunt Phyllis. We'll miss you but we also know you're where you spent your whole life preparing for.

Copyright 2013 – Darryl Musick

All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ethnic Foods of the San Gabriel Valley: Going Continental

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, Nepalese, Lebanese, Thai, Basque, Argentinian, Cuban, Vietnamese

We'll travel to the European continent for this week's installment.

English food doesn't have a great reputation but, if it's made well, it can be pretty tasty. It's also pretty filling. 

I love a traditional English breakfast of eggs, ham, beans, and toast but it can also be pretty greasy at times.  Bangers and mash, along with meat pies, are also great for lunch or dinner.

We don't have a big presence of British food here in the valley but we do have the three locations of Lucky Baldwin's pubs...two in Pasadena and the third in Sierra Madre (pictured above)...that make quite decent versions of the above foods.

Their pigs in a blanket also make for a filling and cheap meal when you're a bit light in the wallet.

We get a two-for-one with Lucky Baldwin's. In addition to English ales and food, they also specialize in Belgian brews and chews. My wife loves the stewed mussels here.

While we can get some good, savory Belgian food at Lucky B's, some say the pinnacle of Belgian cuisine is the Liege waffle that is so hard to find in this area. You can get a very good rendition at the Shaky Alibi in Hollywood or a more mediocre version at the locations of the Bruxie down in Orange County but...hold your horses...the best local Liege waffle is right here in the valley.

Just head to the corner of Santa Anita and Huntington in Arcadia, about a block east of the race track. Between the Jiffy Lube and the donut shop sits one of the best coffee bars around, Taza, where you can get one of the most sublime Liege waffles, that the owner has flown in from Belgium, for only $4.50.

These are a little more savory that your usual waffle and have little balls of sugar in them that carmelize when cooked. Just eat them syrup, no a la mode...and what a treat you'll have. I like to wash it down with a Mexican Coke that you can also get here.

If you'd like the other Belgian specialty, frites (or fries), head west of Pasadena to Eagle Rock. Oinkster on Colorado Boulevard has the best.

For Spanish food, you mostly have to go to the numerous tapas bars located along the foothill regions.  Bar Celona, La Luna Negra, and Racion in Pasadena; and The Granada in Alhambra are your best bets.

We don't have the extensive Jewish food like you'd find in the great delis of L.A. like Langer's, Nate 'n Al's, or Pat's, but in Glendora, you'll find some great Matzo Ball soup, bagels and lox, kreplach, latkes, and other great deli specialties at Kara's Korner Deli on the corner of Glendora and Foothill in downtown Glendora.

It's one of my favorite comfort food spots in the valley.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ethnic Foods of the San Gabriel Valley: Flavors from the South...South America to Southeast Asia

Cuisines covered in previous posts: Mexican, Cajun, Nepalese; Lebanese, Thai, Basque

This week, we'll start south of the border. Way south. Farther south than that.

While there are a few places in the valley to get some good empanadas, for really great Argentinian Food, we like to go get those very meaty steaks and chimichurri sauce at Malbec on Green Street in Pasadena.

It's a steakhouse. A really nice steakhouse, on par with any good American steakhouse but this is the food of the gauchos.

We'll start with the setup pictured at the top of the page...a super-fresh garden salad, French bread with a garlicky, oily, chimichurri dipping sauce, and the bold Argentinian red wine that the restaurant is named after.

Since Argentina is South America's cow country, we have to go with a fork-tender, rib eye covered in savory mushroom sauce and a hearty seafood stew.

It's our pick for Argentinian but it your're looking for something a little more economical, the tortas at Tito's in El Monte give you another excellent choice for this country's cuisine that's much easier on the wallet.

Cuban Food finds it's home here in the valley too at places like Maringue in Monrovia, Mayumba in Rosemead, and Havana Express in El Monte, but it you want really, REALLY good Cuban food, there are two places you have to venture just a bit out of the SGV boundaries to try. 

Just over the line in Glendale is the absolutely legendary Porto's Bakery and Cafe (also with branches in Burbank and Downey) for their pressed sandwiches and desserts you just never knew could be so sweet and delicious. It's not a secret hideaway I'm telling you about, everybody here knows it and you will be hard pressed to find them without a hideously long line.

Down behind the Orange Curtain in the City of Orange lies the Felix Continental Cafe with stunning sidewalk dining around a 19th century traffic circle surrounding a fountain. The food is equally as good as the setting with entrees like paella and roasted Cuban chicken.  

It's delicious and most dinners are under $15.

It was tragic when the war in Vietnam ended and refugees flooded our shores but it was a blessing that we were gifted with the culture and cuisine  that makes up Vietnamese Food here in the SGV.

Now, you can go from end-to-end of the valley and sample some world-class banh mi and pho. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of shops ranging from hole-in-the-wall snack shacks to tony sit down establishments.

Take a drive along Garvey Avenue from San Gabriel to El Monte and you go through the heart of the Vietnamese community here and pass up scads of shops selling the great, slightly French influenced Banh Mi...a Vietnamese sandwich...for under $5.

On cold days, a big hearty bowl of pho (my favorite is the rare prime beef) with mint and spring rolls on the side chases away the bitterest of chills.  Don't forget to throw on some of the valley's best sauce, Sriracha Rooster Sauce...also a product of Vietnamese immigrants and made right here in the SGV...on your food, too.

Again, this is bargain food usually found quite a bit under $10 a meal. It's delicious too.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved