Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Dungeons of Downtown Los Angeles

Here are some L.A. landmarks you'll probably not want to seek out next time you're in town. Trust me, you'll get all the experience you need from this report.

Jail, as opposed to prison, is where you'll be incarcerated while waiting for trial if you can't make or are not granted bail.  Convicted prisoners who are given short sentences also do time there.  Downtown L.A. has four jail facilities.

As Baretta used to say, "don't do the crime if you can't do the time." But if for some reason you do find yourself on the wrong side of a set of handcuffs, here are your probable lodging options while you're in the City of Angels.

THE MEN'S CENTRAL JAIL, run by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department might be your home if you're arrested in L.A. County but not by the LAPD.  An outdated and truly scary place, it's jailer staff is currently being investigated for abuse.  Just the possibility that you might end up in this dank, depressing, and dangerous place should be all the deterent you need to not misbehave while you're here.

TWIN TOWERS is across the street from the Men's Central Jail. I don't know that it'd be any better to be incarcerated here but it is a newer facility than it's neighbor.

Here is the entrance you'll be taken through if you're booked there.

THE LOS ANGELES METROPOLITAN DETENTION CENTER is the newest facility and is run by the Los Angeles Police Department. You would probably end up here if arrested by the LAPD in the central city area.

It replaces this facility (located directly behind the new jail), which...according to inmates and jailers alike...was truly a dungeon with faulty plumbing and no air conditioning.

THE METROPOLITAN DETENTION CENTER (not to be confused with the similarly named LAPD facility nearby) is where you'll end up if your crime is a federal offense.

Run by the U.S. Marshal's Service and the Bureau of Prisons, it is located at the Federal Complex at Alameda and Aliso Streets.

There you have it, a selection of the city's worst lodging options. Be sure to avoid them when you're visiting Los Angeles.

One last bit, you'll find this contraption at the entrance of the Federal Jail. It's called a barrel cleaner. Cops, agents, and guards are not to enter with loaded weapons. After they unload, they have to stick their gun in this and pull the trigger. If a bullet happened to still be in the chamber, it would fire and this barrel cleaner would capture it safely.

NOTE: While taking pictures for this post, I was briefly detained by a security officer at one of the facilities above. He said I wasn't allowed to take pictures. I very politely asked him why and what law I was breaking (I was on the public sidewalk). He then admitted there was actually no law but that they were instructed to "request" that people not take pictures. I told him that if I was breaking no law, I'd be on my way...I'd already taken my photos...and left.  Bloggers that take pictures frequently find themselves in this position, please take a look at the Photographers Bill of Rights so you will know what you can...and cannot do...when taking pictures. It came in very handy for me in preparing this post.

Copyright2011 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Motherlode Revisited: Amador County, California - Part 3

Our last day in Jackson dawns wet. It’s drizzly when we start out for the day. The clerk at our inn who helped fix our room issues tells us that another great place for breakfast is Thomi’s, just a short block past the Waffle Shop.

We get in, find a table, and order coffee. Soon, we notice that although the restaurant is half full, there is but one server. Another employee can be seen on the phone in the back and as I go to the restroom, it’s apparent that he’s calling anyone else he can to come in to help with the crowd.

Uh, oh.

Watch the Video!

It’s worrying for naught, though, as the one server…occasionally helped by the kitchen guy I saw on the phone…masterfully serves everybody quickly, competently, and with a friendly smile at each table.

We complement her professionalism and hard work when she brings our check and make sure we leave an extra dollar on top of the normal tip for a job very well done in a very stressful situation.

On top of that, our omelets, yogurts, muffin, and pancakes are nothing short of delicious.

We’re looking to get out for a little walk. Coloma…where the gold rush started…is a 2 hour drive up 49 so we stick a little closer and go to Indian Grinding Rock State Park, just east of Jackson.

Still a bit early, we’re the only car in the parking lot but the visitor’s center has a sign that says “Open” on it. I walk up to the door, the handle turns, it starts to open but stops short because there’s a chain and padlock on the other side. I guess whoever was the last to leave last night forgot to change the sign.

Not a big deal except…

As I walk away, a loud alarm goes off. This must be the burglar alarm and I must have set it off when I tried to open the door.  No one is around, so we go down into the park but the alarm continues (you can hear it very clearly in the video for this story).

What would normally be a very peaceful place to enjoy history becomes a scene from some jailbreak movie as the claxon wails over and over.

Trying to ignore it, we look over the large rocks covered in indentations from where Native Americans have ground acorns for hundreds of years.  The alarm continues as we see the large roundhouse and La Crosse field (still used by the tribe to this day).

Putting some distance between us and the visitor’s center, the alarm starts to fade as we visit a recreated village and head into forest towards the campground.

Finally, the alarm stops as we look up and see a Highway Patrol cruiser looking around. Being hidden in the trees, the officer doesn’t see us, which might be a good thing since I won’t have to explain my actions.

As we make our way back towards the car, we see another car pull into the lot.  A few minutes later, the alarm resumes…

Tomorrow will be Thanksgiving and we’ll be driving home. Thinking that not much in the way of restaurants will be open, we take a drive over to nearby Amador City, next to Sutter Creek.

It’s still fairly early as we reach Andrae’s Bakery but the crowd is already there. I wait ten deep in line, eventually getting some of their fantastic sandwiches, tightly wrapped in plastic, that are destined to be our Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.

Back in Jackson, I take a little breather to catch this scene of the giant and old Kennedy Mine, one of the riches of the Gold Rush era, before we hit the shops of downtown.

Last time we were here, at the height of the recession, downtown Jackson looked like it was on the verge of ghost town status. Many shops were closed…only the small liquor store and pawn shop were doing steady business to the down-and-out as the closed historic National Hotel looked out over the sorry scene.

I’m glad to report that things are turning around. The National has a new deep-pocketed owner…who has even made it accessible with a new elevator shaft added to the side…the liquor store is but a sad memory, and the shops and restaurants were doing booming business during our visit. The pawn shop is still there and has some fantastic buys but the many antique shops could use a reality check with their pricing and my wife’s favorite shop, Home and Farm Store (the Biggest Little Kitchen Store in the Motherlode) almost has to turn away the crowd trying to get in.

It’s very nice to see one of our favorite destinations rebounding from hard times.  We’ll drop down the hill to Lockeford to buy some sausage at the world-famous Lockeford Meat Company, visit some of their great pawn shops, wineries, and farm stands, then we’ll call it a day.

It’s one more night at the Best Western, then an easy and quick drive home on Thanksgiving, my new favorite travel day of the year.

Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Motherlode Revisited - Amador County, California - Part 2

There’s a smell when you enter a winery. You don’t find it in the tasting room but wander around back to the shed where they actually juice the grapes, ferment it into wine, and more than a few gallons have splashed on the ground over the years.

Watch the Video!

Even new wineries have this sweet and slightly vinegary aroma to them. Add age and then an element of must creeps in. The older the winery, the mustier the smell that combines with the bouquet of winemaking.

Perhaps the pinnacle of this smell is surrounding us in this room, carved into the hillside underneath the pretty but unassuming house above.  Grape juice has been aging in this dusty room for over a hundred and fifty years…longer than any other winery in California.

History will note that Adam Uhlinger carved this room out in 1856 and planted some of the first vines of what we now call Zinfandel in the yard outside. Some of those vines are still producing today.

The Sobon Winery, at the eastern edge of Amador County’s Shenandoah Valley, is the current custodian of this historic land. 

Outside, the cool fall winter has played havoc on the colors of the fields where the chill air is warmed up by the yellows, oranges, and reds of the grape leaves, punctuated by the walnut trees.  The warm tasting room welcomes us with the wall of ribbons garnered by the awards the wine here has received.

Shirley Sobon mans the tasting counter as the three of us are the only customers here. Tasting is free, as it is at most of the area’s wineries, and the mood relaxed.  The wines are good and we’re offered tastes of the more expensive library wines. Although there is a fee, Mrs. Sobon must be feeling generous because she waves it for us.

I want to buy some wine and notice the discount schedule…10% for 6, 15% for a case…when I hear Mrs. Sobon say, “we can get you a better discount than what’s listed.”

Uh, oh…I know where this is going. Most, if not all, California wineries now have “wine clubs” where you sign up for regular deliveries and you can get an extra discount on the wine.

“I already belong to a wine club and I’m not interested in joining another,” I tell here.

She explains that this wine club collects your e-mail address and nothing more. No wine to buy, no deliveries, just an occasional missive on sales and other winery news. Give an e-mail address and your case discount is now 20%.

I can live with those terms and Mrs. Sobon proceeds to help me craft a delicious case of Old Vine Zinfandel, Sangiovese, and Syrah priced at about $9 per bottle.

Welcome to wine tasting, touring, and buying Amador style.

Over the hill on highway 49, you can sometimes find winemaker Allen Kreutzer manning the tiny tasting bar at Drytown Cellars. You can always find their friendly dogs welcoming you inside.

When we say we’re from the Los Angeles area, they note that it’s near Temecula. “Can you believe they charge for tasting down there?” I’m asked.

Just a week before, we were in the Temecula area and had the distinct displeasure of finding $12 tasting fees that could not be applied to your purchase.  The wine was muddy and not that good either.  Yeah, it’s pretty unbelievable.

While the friendly folks at Drytown are not in quite the dealing mood that Sobon was, we still walk away with a half case of Barbera, Zinfandel, and Tempranillo which I was able to get a 5% discount on.

Back up in Shenandoah Valley, just east of the historic town of Plymouth, we order a pizza to be cooked while we taste in the adjacent tasting room of Villa Toscano Winery.  The sign at the parking lot says beware of rattlesnake and lawyers.

Maybe the warning is appropriate because I’m trying to buy a case of old vine zin priced for wine club members at $99. It takes some serious negotiating as I try to convince the fellow behind the bar that I’m a friend of a club member (see our last visit here to see how that happened) and he’s not buying what I’m selling.

No dice, only for members. Can I sign up and immediately cancel? After much hemming and hawing, I learn that technically I can but now that I’ve let him know my devious plan, he won’t do it.

Finally, we reach an agreement that I’ll take at least three deliveries as a wine club member, show up anytime I want for the free Friday pasta buffet, before I decide to cancel and he’ll sell me that bargain priced case…oh, and I can take my first club delivery with me, saving me the price of shipping.

Not quite what I came looking for but it’ll do and if I can time my return visits properly (because I know I’ll be back up here again soon), maybe I can pick them up instead of paying for shipping.

It’s just like court…we’re fighting for our positions, state our cases, come to a settlement, shake on it, and we’re friends again.  No wonder they warn you about the lawyers along with the rattlesnakes.

Wheeling and dealing over with, my case and two bottles are loaded into our car while we pick up our pizza and head to the last stop of the day.

My favorite winery in the world requires that you turn off of highway 49 in Plymouth, find your way to Shenandoah Valley, turn left at Old Schoolhouse road, watch the small signs carefully, turn up a poorly signed rutted road, go to the end, turn left at the old farm machinery workhouse, carefully watch for the right driveway, and…finally…turn into the large parking lot next to the woodpecker-hole filled Gold Rush era miner’s shack on the edge of the Consumnes River Canyon.

Beyond another sign warning us of rattlers (it’s true too…I saw one), that old perforated miner’s shack serves as the tasting room of the great Story Winery.

We taste, looking for a good wine to go with our pizza, and decide on a nice Hilltop Old Vine Zinfandel to drink outside in the world’s prettiest picnic area with our pizza.  I ask if there are any deals that we can partake of.

The girl at the counter says that we can come back Friday for their Black Friday special (it’s a couple of days before Thanksgiving) where, for two hours in the morning, the very strong and delicious Hilltop Zin we’ll be drinking will be on sale for $70 a case. 

I can’t come back Friday; I tell her…can you give me the deal today?  We’re the last customers of the day, here all by ourselves; why not close out the day with a big case sale?

No, she can’t do that, she tells us. I thank her and tell her we’ll be sitting outside with our picnic if she changes her mind…

We’re enjoying a fantastic meal, with great wine, overlooking one of the prettiest views you’ll ever see.  Our girl, Wendy (the tasting room server), comes out to join us.

“I was just talking to the owner and I’ve got a proposal for you,” she says. “If you give me your credit card information and address now, we’ll process a sale Friday morning and ship you a case of wine at the sale price.”

Why do you think this is my favorite winery in the world?

Our total haul for this day is 4 cases…2 full cases at Sobon and Villa Toscano, several bottles from Drytown, Renwood, and our first 2 bottle for the Toscano wine club, and a case that arrived after we got home from Story…at an average price of about $9 per bottle of the best reds in the world.

The trip’s not over yet…we still have some sightseeing to do. That will be in part 3, coming very soon.

Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 20, 2016

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Chilled Chardonnay

With temperatures in the 90s this week, something cool and nice would be more appropriate for today’s Cocktail Hour.  This morning, I put this bottle of Story Chardonnay on ice so it would be really cold this afternoon.

This particular chardonnay is not really a Story wine.  It is actually made by Weibel Vineyards in Lodi, California.  The reason this is done is because of where Story is located and the habits of wine drinkers.

Story is located in Plymouth, California in Amador County.  This is Gold Country and the Sierra Nevada foothills.  It is very hot and dry here in the summer.  Perfect for growing big, bold, red grapes like zinfandel, barbera, and sangiovese.  Not so great for more delicate white grapes like chardonnay.

Wine drinkers tend to want white wines too, to go along with the reds they taste so wineries in this area need to have some available.  It’s just common sense and supply and demand.  If you customers want to buy white wine, have some available.

In this area, the wineries have two options.  Buy the grapes from other areas…like Lodi or the Central Coast…have them shipped up and make them into wine, or have another winery make it and slap your label on it.  The second option is the one Story takes.  They, and several other wineries in the state, also do this with Weibel’s excellent almond champagne.

I don’t have any problem with them doing this as long as they are up front about it, and Story is.  The label on the back of the bottle explicitly says it’s a Weibel product and the prices are the same with either label.

So, how is the wine?  Very good.  Nice, smooth and a slight buttery flavor.  Just a hint of fresh fruit flavors such as watermelon and kiwi.  A lot of chardonnays are described as clean and fruity when they just taste tart, and maybe a little soury.  Not this one.  Fresh fruit flavor, smoothed with a slight buttery finish.

Delicious on a hot patio day like today.

So how does it do on our new healthy themed Cocktail Hour season?  It depends on where you check, but the average number of calories is 500 per bottle.  We share between two people and get 6 glasses total for 250 calories per person (1/2 bottle) or around 84 calories per glass.  You will also consume around 8 grams of carbohydrates but no fat and no protein.

It’s a good chardonnay, probably around the 2nd or 3rd best we’ve had in the last year (Santa Alicia from Chile is the best we’ve had recently).  If you can’t find Story at your local wine shop, look for Weibel.  If you can’t find either, you can order online at Story ( or at Weibel (


Friday, March 18, 2016

The Motherlode Revisited: Amador County, California - Part 1

It’s got magnetism to it. Drawing seekers to its precious metals…keeping them there with awe-inspiring vistas, perfect wine climate, and exquisite historic towns…California’s Motherlode also has a pull on us.

We keep visiting this notable core of the state not looking for gold, as those forty-niners did, at least not the metallic kind. We are in search of something precious and we keep finding it here. Glorious scenery, unparalleled history, some of the world’s best red wine, and very few others to get in our way.

Watch The Video!

Welcome to another Gold Country trip here on The World on Wheels. We’re back in Amador County.

It would be a trip we take even more often if it was just a little bit closer to home. Six hours is about what we can count on, starting with the often nerve-wracking drive up Interstate 5 over the Grapevine, then several more hours through the endless oil and farm fields of highway 99, until we reach the Love’s truck stop in Ripon, just south of Lodi and Stockton.

Turning right, we know we’re within an hour of our destination as we pass through the fun little town of Lockeford and head up into the hills, just past the chile farm we’d love to stop at if they were only open whenever we drive through.

While many think of the towering trees and massive peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains when thinking of California gold, the truth is a little less dramatic. Once you hit the foothills on the eastern edge of the San Joaquin Valley, you’re there. Think rolling hills, golden grass, and oak trees instead of tall pines and massive granite peaks.

Forty five minutes after gassing up and using the facilities at Love’s, we’re pulling into our hotel for the trip, the Best Western Amador Inn in Jackson, California…Amador County’s county seat.

Check in is quick but something is not right…there is no roll-in shower. I had confirmed a roll-in when booking the room. I went to the front desk and the night clerk was pretty much saying “someone booked it before you, they’re still there, you can’t have it.”

I’m just tired right now, a little miffed, but I just don’t have it in me to fight right now. Tim doesn’t need a bath tonight, I’ll visit with the manager in the morning.

To be sure, we don’t desperately need a roll-in but sometimes I want to give my back a little break from lifting a 160 pound man into a bathtub chair. This is one of those times.

Other than that, the room is decent, clean, and functional. It can’t be called fancy but two nice queen size beds will be more than enough.

In the morning, I print out my confirmation e-mail, tell Tim to come to the front office with me to “have my back,” and steel myself to hash this out.

There’s a different staff here in the morning, more conciliatory, friendlier, and…it seems to me…smarter (but maybe that’s my bias speaking).

I show the clerk my confirmation after she tells me the manager won’t be in for another hour or so. She immediately accepts my offer of adding 1,000 points to my rewards account but says we can only be moved into a smoking room with a single king size bed. I decline but she says she’ll bring it up with the manager when she gets in.

Later, the manager calls me and says she’ll knock my rate down to $50 per night. The regular rate is $90, I had a discounted AAA rate of $70, so this will make my three night stay $150 along with an extra 1,000 points.  It’s a deal I will accept so I must say that the management of this particular Best Western should be noted as being very willing to work with you when a problem arises.

(NOTE: I don’t know where our reservation went wrong, it could have been the national reservation center not passing on the information to the local hotel, so I can’t say they really messed anything up locally)

With our room issues resolved, we head out for breakfast. The hotel has a decent continental breakfast where you can also make your own waffles. There’s a Dennys on the property that gives hotel guests a 15% discount, but we’re not doing either of those today.

We’re in Jackson, which has a branch of the wonderful local Waffle Shop chain just up the street.  As an American Legion meeting is just adjourning, we take an adjacent table by the window.

Our breakfast includes a spinach and bacon omelet, a Belgian waffle, and my new favorite…a bacon infused waffle!

It’s all very delicious, inexpensive, and filling.

Carb loaded, ready to take on the world, we’re heading north on highway 49 to see if we can find some bargains on some of the best, bold red wines made anywhere…along the rolling hills of California’s stunning Shenandoah Valley.

That’s coming up next, don’t miss part 2…

Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

ACCESSIBLE ATTRACTIONS: California's Motherlode

Our ratings are...

Fully Accessible - You can access all of the attraction, with no problem, in any type of wheelchair.

Mostly Accessible - You can access most of the attraction, and all of the important parts of it, with your wheelchair.

Partially Accessible - You can access a good deal of the attraction but some parts are inaccessible and some important parts you'll miss.

Inaccessible - Kind of speaks for itself, avoid if you're in a wheelchair.

Here's California's historic Gold Rush country...

Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park - Mostly Accessible. In the little town of Coloma, James Marshall discovered gold along the American River while working for John Sutter. This is where it all began. You can check out John Sutter's replica sawmill and stroll over to where Marshall found the gold. The last eight feet or so is a steep, sandy slope so you can get close but not quite all the way.

Pan for Gold - Fully Accessible. Mine tours are pretty much out for wheelchair users but many operators have accessible sluices where a wheelchair user can pan for their own gold. Pan for Gold operators

Hiking - Fully Accessible. The Independence Trail near Nevada City offers miles of wheelchair accessible hiking through what used to be water flumes used by Gold Rush miners. Independence Trail

Wine Tasting - Fully Accessible. The new fortunes being made up here are not via a rock in the ground but a berry on a vine. Outstanding heavy reds like Barbera, Temperanillo, and Zinfandel are what's up in them 'thar hills today. Many small wineries in the area still offer free wine tasting, too, especially in Amador County. Try Story, Sobon, Shenandoah for starters and hit Amador 360 where $5 (applicable towards purchase) gets you tastes of many more in one location.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 14, 2016

LOS ANGELES: Three Meals a Day, All Across L.A.

Here's the second chapter of our book, pick up your copy here: Golden State Eating, Nine Tales of California Food Destinations. Enjoy!

Our hometown of Los Angeles is a foodie’s paradise.  Thousands of restaurants of almost every variety and ethnic persuasion you can think of.  We often like to go out and explore the region, looking for new places to eat.
Eating is a huge part of a vacation for us and for most travelers.  One of the big questions we get from visitors to our city is, where should we eat? 

Watch the Video!
OK, we’re going to give you just a few places you should eat at.  In the video above, we give you a representative look at three of our favorite places to eat.  Two are in locations well known to most tourists, the third not so much but they’re all great places to eat.  As a bonus, none of them are what I’d call expensive.
To go along with the video, we’ll give you a few more places you should try in L.A. below…
BREAKFAST – Our video pick is Charlie’s, located in the west patio of the Original Farmer’s Market at 3rd and Fairfax.  It’s just east of downtown and on the southern edge of Hollywood.  The Farmer’s Market is a unique  and historical place all its own…see our previous report on it…but it also has its share of good places to eat.
Charlie’s is a counter where you can get different foods all day long and eat at one of the nearby open air tables.  It’s a great, relaxing way to start your day.  We like to get here before most of the market opens, around 8:30 in the morning, to start a day long adventure.
What I really like about Charlie’s is their French toast.  It’s not fancy…no cinnamon roll bread, challah, or any fancy bread.  Just egg bread, dipped in batter and cooked.  What Charlie’s does is after cooking, they put butter on it and melt it in thoroughly throughout the bread before serving it to you.  It takes a few minutes extra to get but, boy, is it good.

In addition to Charlie’s, we like to go to the Original Pancake House with locations in Redondo Beach and Orange County, Philippe’s serves a great breakfast, The Monrovian in Old Town Monrovia serves some of the best chicken fried steak and eggs you’ll have, and the Gaffey Street Diner in San Pedro had a large and delicious breakfast menu.
LUNCH – Speaking of Philippe’s, this is our pick on the video for lunch.  Turning 103 years old this year, Philippe’s is old school…and proud of it.  There is a bit of controversy in their claim, but they say they invented the French dip sandwich.  Legend has it that a policeman came in for a beef sandwich.  The carver at the counter accidentally dropped the bun in the beef drippings.  The cop was in a hurry and took the sandwich as is.  The next day, he brought in several of his friends and asked that they make them sandwiches the same way…thus, the French dip sandwich was born.
You can get your choice of meats…beef, lamb, pork, turkey…add cheese, if you like, and the sandwich on the dipped bread is served plain.  We ask for beef, with jack cheese, double-dipped (where they dip both sides of the bread).  At the table, you can add Philippe’s own hot mustard…sparingly…for quite a flavor kick to your sandwich.
The extensive menu also includes such items as pickled eggs, pig’s feet, and beets.  I like to get a slice of cheesecake with mine.  If you’d like a cup of coffee to go with it, it’s only 9 cents.  An entire meal here can be had for less than $10.
Did I say controversy?  Another downtown restaurant, Cole’s…about 10 blocks south at the corner of Main and 5th Streets…also claims to have invented the French dip sandwich.  Also started in 1908, this is more of a sit-down restaurant with waiter service and a full bar.  The dips here are more traditional with the meat sandwich served with a cup of au jus to dip it in.
We tried it recently, for the sake of fairness, and found the sandwich good but not quite as good as Philippe’s.  It’s also a few dollars more expensive.
Other places we like to visit for lunch include two of the area’s best pizza restaurants…Tony’s Little Italy in Placentia and Joey’s Red Devil in La Verne, the tiny Market Grill sandwich shop in Monrovia (great for a picnic), Zankou Chicken with locations across L.A., the Shaky Alibi for authentic Liege waffles in Hollywood, Carney’s and Skooby’s for hot dogs also in Hollywood.  For burgers, In ‘n Out is so good and such a Southern California icon that we have to recommend them for your burger fix while you’re in town.

DINNER – Picked for the video is one of two really great restaurants located at the fun and lively Redondo Beach Pier.  Usually, restaurants with great ocean views don’t go together with good food but there are at least two of them here.  For the video, we went with Kincaid’s on the pier who is known for some of the most succulent and juicy prime rib around.
What is also good here are their Southern dishes.  A heaping plate of chicken and waffles, better than Roscoe’s, is available for only $21.  That’s comparable with Roscoe’s prices too, if you consider that Roscoe’s charges extra for everything. 
The seafood √©touffe√© is, according to my wife, among the best she’s ever had.  The clam chowder is finished tableside, and there is a large list of wines available by the glass at normal prices, or by the bottle for $25 each.
This is all done with great service, right over the water, with incredible views.
The other restaurant here that didn’t make the video is Gambrinus, a Russian restaurant at the edge of the marina.  Service is a little slower here, it’s a hole in the wall, and not quite as fancy as Kincaid’s so it’s our video runner-up. 
The food and beer here is excellent.  The fish and chips is the only version I’ve ever found that I like.  The Russian raviolis, the pirozkis, and the ice cold Czech beer on tap are wonderful and the prices are very reasonable.  We’ll usually each get a dish and share, kind of like a Russian version of tapas.

Other great places for dinner in L.A. include a third great pizza place, Casa Bianca in Eagle Rock, that is only open for dinner, O’Malley’s Irish Pub in Seal Beach, Russo’s Italian restaurant in Naples (Long Beach), Aruffo’s Italian in Claremont, Carolina’s Italian restaurant in Garden Grove, Red Lion in Silverlake and the Phoenix Club in Anaheim for German food, Din Tai Fung for juicy pork dumplings in Arcadia, El Picoso in Azusa for tacos, and Rudy’s in Monrovia for sit-down Mexican with full bar.  An honorable mention goes here for La Paloma in La Verne strictly for their powerful and tasty margaritas in the bar.
There you have it, a selection of restaurants from our list of favorites.  True, this is only a sampling of the great variety of eateries we have in the area, but there are plenty here…all very good…for your next trip to Southern California
Copyright 2011 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 11, 2016

Riding the Rails in the SGV: What to do Along the new Gold Line Foothill Extention

Residents along the foothills in the eastern end of the San Gabriel Valley have been waiting decades for this day. The Gold Line extension has finally opened, bringing light rail east from Pasadena to the edge of Glendora.

As the traffic woes of Route 66 and the 210 Freeway continue to build, this will provide just a bit of relief valve for those crowded roads as workers can now commute easier to jobs in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and beyond without having to drive.

This also opens up many more opportunities to get out and enjoy our region without the hassles of traffic, worrying about having too many drinks or finding a place to park. You can find dozens of articles this week about what there is to do near the new Gold Line stations but a problem I've found with them is that nothing they list is remotely within walking distance...Din Tai Fung is great but it's two miles from the Arcadia station and the Santa Anita Racetrack is almost as far; we love Old Town Monrovia but that's another mile hike and uphill at that; Slaw Dogs is one of the few good places to eat in Duarte but be prepared for another two mile jaunt.

With that in mind, here are our suggestions of attractions, sights, and places to eat and drink within walking distance (our limit is two blocks) of the new stations (follow the links for more information)...

Arcadia - Going east from the former eastern terminus of the line, the first station is in the town that Lucky Baldwin built.  Santa Anita Racetrack is here but that's about a mile slog from the station.  Nearer is Arcadia Regional Park (formerly known as Santa Anita County Park, two blocks south on Santa Anita Avenue) where you can picnic, climb trees (really, a place you can still do that!), lawn bowl, and even golf 18 holes.

Outdoorsy types can hit up the REI store, right next to the station, for all their equipment needs.

I'm Hungry, Where Can I Eat? - Nearer the station, you can grab some Mexican food and a margarita at Villa Catrina, just west of the station, across Santa Anita Avenue.  Of course, Arcadia is known for Chinese restaurants but the pickings are slim around the station. Asian food fans will love the Korean barbecue at Young Dong Garden, on Huntington Drive just west of Santa Anita. There's an old-fashioned, double-drive thru In 'n Out just northwest of the station at Santa Anita and Colorado Boulevard.  You can pick up sandwiches at Claro's Italian Market and Deli and have a picnic across the street in the park. Don't forget to have an incredibly good Liege waffle, some ice cream, and a great cup of joe at Taza, just west of Santa Anita on Huntington next to the Jiffy Lube on the corner.

A block or two to the east, on Huntington Drive, a lot of people like the beer and sandwiches of Matt Denny's Ale House (I'm not one of them) and there are a number of chain restaurants like BJ's Brewhouse, Claim Jumper, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, plus a very solid Chinese restaurant...Gold Dragon.

Monrovia - The city has big plans for it's station and will eventually develop the entire stretch on Myrtle to connect it to Old Town Monrovia about a 1/2 mile north.  For now, a new park and plaza at the station provides occasional entertainment at the attached amphitheater and kids can burn off energy at the new playground.

The old train station is yet to be developed but it should be a very nice place to stop in a few years.  Bill Monroe (the town's namesake) and other names from local history are buried at Live Oak Cemetery, one block west on Duarte Road.

I'm Hungry, Where Can I Eat? - For now, places to eat are very limited within walking distance. Aside from the Jack in the Box, across the street, there's a taco stand next to the adjacent car wash; a donut shop and burger stand a block south, and a dive bar that serves a better than expected breakfast (Tall Pines) a block north, near the 210 Freeway.

More is planned.  Expect to see food trucks take up the slack soon and Paul Kalemkiarian, owner of the Wine of the Month Club, has secured the right to develop the area around the station parking lot.  Expect a wine bar and cafe in the near future.

One block south, just past the donut shop, is Pacific Plate Brewery, a small purveyor of some mighty fine craft beer to wet your whistle.

Continuing on from Monrovia, be sure to look on the left side of the train before it gets to the next station to get a glimpse of the massive train yard for the Gold Line trains.

Duarte - This is a 'waiting for future development' station but there's still a little bit here.  Directly across the street is the City of Hope, one of the worlds premiere cancer research and treatment hospitals.  Between the station and the hospital itself is an outstanding rose garden to wander through.

I'm Hungry, Where Can I Eat? - Not too much around here but there are a couple of Mexican restaurants and a decent burger stand a couple of blocks west at the corner of Duarte Road and Buena Vista Avenue. On the other side of the 210 Freeway at Buena Vista is an outlet of the Old Spaghetti Factory housed in an historic Duarte schoolhouse.

Irwindale - This is mostly just a commuter stop and start point. Thousands of workers are expected to commute to jobs at the adjacent Miller Brewery (no tours, sorry) and the large Southern California Edison complex. The giant parking structure is in hopes that a lot of other workers will start their commutes to Pasadena and Los Angeles from here as well.  It would do well to get those cars off the 210 before clogging up the choking points at the San Gabriel River.

I'm Hungry, Where Can I Eat? - You're in a decidedly blue collar neighborhood here but that doesn't mean there's nothing to eat. McDonald's and Farmer Boys sit next to each other across the freeway. Callahan's is a decent watering hole with decent food, as well, a couple of blocks south. Picasso's server some more upscale food at it's deli one block south but closes before dinnertime as does Chica's Place across the street.

Azusa - Humble Azusa is primed to give the other stations on this segment a run for it's money in the dining and drinking sweepstakes.  Just a few blocks south of the entrance to the new San Gabriel Mountains National Monument (or Azusa Canyon, as it's known to locals), the train lets you out at the entrance to a monumental sized Target store and a block east of the pretty, old City Hall and Civic Center.

I'm Hungry, Where Can I Eat? - Right now, Azusa probably has the best and most varied selection of great places to eat within walking distance of the station.  A block south on Azusa Avenue is a burgeoning restaraunt row featuring City Cafe, Congregation Ale House, Bambino's Pizza, and Max's Mexican Cuisine who also serves one of the best margaritas in Southern California.  On the other side, a very short block west, you have Canyon City Barbecue, a donut shop, Cocinero's Express (for tacos and such), and Flo's Coffee Shop for breakfast and lunch.  On the other side of City Hall is California excellent slightly above fast food place with beer and wine on tap...Taco King, and Tom's Burgers. Adjacent to the station is Tardino's Italian Deli and Kanpai Sushi.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Simon Sheck under CC BY 2.0 license

Azusa/Glendora - Won't anyone think of the kids? Well, Metro did here by putting the last station on the line here, across the street from two colleges. Students of Citrus College and Azusa Pacific University can now take the train to classes helping to ease up congestion in their massive parking lots.

I'm Hungry, Where Can I Eat? - Other than college cafeterias and snack bars, there's really nothing adjacent to the station. A burger shack sits two blocks east on Foothill Boulevard and you can walk two long blocks south to Citrus and Alosta where you can find many chain outlets like Chick Fil A, McDonalds, and Applebees.

There you go, all the good places you can hit with your $1.75 basic fare.  If you've got more time and a thirst for more, you can go beyond to Pasadena, downtown L.A., Long Beach, Hollywood, and beyond.

Copyright 2016 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved