Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Los Angeles' Best Eats: Eastside Edition Part 6

A lot of American food businesses are the story of immigrants. Greeks came and opened diners...here in California, they went into the burger stand business although we still have a bunch of Greek diners, too.  Tommy's, Farmer Boys, Jim's...those are all classic Greek burger stands in our area.

Chinese restaurants, Italian restaurants and pizza parlors, the ubiquitous Mexican restaurants...the food business is a common stepping stone for immigrants into the United States economy.

When the Cambodians came after the Vietnam War, it was no different. Instead of bringing their homeland's cuisine, they went into the donut business.

Go into just about any donut shop in Southern California and you'll find a Cambodian...or sometimes Laotian...family running it.  They are also doing it very, very well.

(As an aside, the world famous and justly popular Donut Man in Glendora is owned by a Japanese American...it is also one of the best, especially their fresh strawberry and peach donuts served in their respective seasons but since it makes just about every other list, we'll just link to it and go on.)

The donuts in this area are superb. Here are some of our favorites.

Miss Donuts, on the corner of Bonita and D Street in La Verne is perfectly situated to give the students and professors of the University of La Verne a good sugar rush on those late nights in the study hall.

I'm not sure if they're a chain, but there are a few Miss Donuts around, including another one in this city up on Foothill Boulevard.  The one by the college is a cut above, though.

Cooking up fresh crullers, twists, raised, and plain donuts pretty much all day, you'll find the freshest donuts in their large display case.

Tim and I will usually go with a glazed twist and a chocolate bar but sometimes I'll shake it up with one of their delicious cinnamon rolls. Whatever we get, it'll be soft, like that kind of softness you get with a just-cooked donut. It'll have just the right amount of moistness...not dry but not the kind that makes the donut dissolve in your hand. And it will be sweet and tasty. Oh, so tasty!

While they would hold their own with any expensive gourmet donut out there, they're still under a dollar. What great cheap eats (and don't forget the donut holes)!

In addition to donuts, they bake bagels. No, they won't be as good at the bagels you'll get in Brooklyn but they're about the best you'll get on this coast. Their sourdough bagel, which they run out of very early each day, is a yeasty heaven. Slap a little cream cheese on a slightly toasted one and you'll be in sour, cheesy bagel heaven.

Speaking of cinnamon rolls, it'd be a shame to not mention Sweet Jill's in Seal Beach (there's another location in nearby Belmont Shore in Long Beach, too).  Just a few feet up Main Street from the Seal Beach pier, this bakery specializes in them and always has a tray of fresh baked rolls sitting right next to the cash register. Get 'em hot and have them pour that delicious glaze on it just before you take it outside to eat.

The thick squares of cinnamon flavored dough are in a big tray, just out of the oven, like your grandma would make. Pick the best looking square and dig in.

In addition, Sweet Jill's is a full-service (if tiny) bakery. You'll also see cookies, cupcakes, lemon bars, slices from a variety of delicious cakes. They're all very, very good.

We'll frequently eat dinner among the many fine restaurants here and pass on dessert so we can walk over to Jill's and take some sweet treats over to the pier for a waterfront happy ending.

If you live in the Los Angeles Area and haven't heard of Porto's Bakery, you're either a newcomer or living under a rock. Consider them the In 'n Out of baked goods. The Porto family immigrated from Cuba in 1960 after being thrown out of work for asking to immigrate. With nothing to their name, the mom started baking while the dad delivered the cakes at night after his daytime shift working as a mechanic.

The cakes became popular so the family opened up a small bakery and the rest is history. The main store in Glendale is huge. Still, block long lines form outside for people waiting to get in to buy some of their treats. And, oh, what treats they are.

Being a cinnamon roll lover, I love their weekday version (only available Monday through Friday) but will gladly take one of their tarts or lemon bars on the weekends.

My workday is made when a coworker puts a box with the Porto's logo on the lunchroom table for us to pick through. It's a vast baking empire inside each of the chain's three locations (Glendale, Burbank and Downey). Another long awaited location is to materialize on the location of a former strip club next to the West Covina mall.  We are drooling over the prospect.

Let's not forget those hot summer days. Forget the donuts, cakes, and rolls...you want an ice cream and while any local can rhapsodize about Thrifty's Ice Cream (now available at Rite Aid drugstores, soon to be a Walgreen's company), we head out to Claremont for our favorite.

On the corner of Yale and Bonita Avenue in the heart of the Claremont Village, you'll find Bert and Rocky's pumping out over two dozen flavors of ice cream everyday. Not to mention a healthy variety of sugar free ice cream, too.

We'll head here after a dinner of delicious burgers from Eureka! for dessert. A scoop of caramel pecan, mint 'n chip, cookies and cream along with their ever expanding custom flavors created in house.

It's delicious, cheap, and a fun way to end up not only dinner but this post.

While there are many worthy bakeries and donut shops in the region, these are the ones that stand out for us.  If you've got a couple of bucks and a sweet tooth, these stellar shops will fit the bill.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

ADVENTURES CLOSE TO HOME: In Search of the Mythical Good, Cheap, Steak Dinner

Went to a restaurant not so long ago and the steak entree's were well north of $50. While I admit, there are places where you get every penny's worth at those prices, a lot of times I just don't want to take the gamble.

A little while back, I saw an article looking for the best dollar slice of pizza in New York. With that inspiration, we're looking for the best steak dinner in our little area of Southern California (San Gabriel Valley/Pasadena area) for under $15.

For most people, Sizzler would be their first bet. Just a couple of their steaks come in under $15 and I am completely underwhelmed by their blandness. One side is included but if you want to take advantage of the one thing that really stands out at Sizzler, their soup, salad, and dessert bar, you're going to add $5 to that price and take it beyond our limit.

My friend Rudy Castrellon runs Rudy's Mexican Restaurant in Monrovia with lot's of good food under our limit but his ribeye steak dinner (called carne asada steak on the menu) is a generous cut of very good ribeye. Since it's a Mexican restaurant, it's served with rice, beans, and guacamole instead of potatoes but you can ask them to substitute potatoes for the beans. At $14.50, this delicious steak is a grand bargain. Oh, and it's also the home of one of the Top Three Margaritas in Southern California.

During my childhood, my parents would take us to a local chain called Steak Corral now and again. A western themed, budget steak house, I remember them being pretty good and looking forward to our visits. Recently, I found there was a lone survivor down in Whittier so my wife and I went to try it. The prices are very low...ribeye is $12.95...and you get a salad, cheese bread, and your choice of potato to go with it. The cheese bread was very good, can't say anywhere near the same for anything else but they do have an extensive condiment bar to add some taste to the lifeless slab of cow on your plate.

Speaking of cowboy themes, Steer 'n Ale...hard by the Rosemead Boulevard South exit of the 210 Freeway...looks like it could have been pulled directly out of Knott's Berry Farm. Come on a Tuesday and you can get their New York steak dinner with soup or salad, cheese bread, choice of potato, and dessert for $11.95. While they did go downhill for awhile with new owners, a new manager has brought the place back up to snuff and you get a very good cut of meat brought out sizzling on an extremely hot metal plate (the server really means it when she tells you the plate is hot, let it cool a few minutes first). Very good meal at an excellent price.

At the Monrovian in Monrovia (across the street from Rudy's, above), you'll be fine if you realize it's a spiffed up Greek diner and not a fancy dinner house. While most things on the menu are satisfactory, there are a few dishes that they excel in...anything Greek, their chicken fried steak, chile verde, and salmon for example. Come on Friday night for their prime rib dinner at $14.95 and you'll get a very juicy and tender slab along with a very good salad, potato, dinner roll, and dessert.

So, which are the best? First, let's eliminate two. Sizzler and Steak Corral. Love the atmosphere of Steak Corral but, let's face it, the namesake entree leaves a lot to be desired.

The remaining three are awfully close to each other in quality.

The Monrovian's prime rib is darn good and it's complete salad-to-dessert. Small substitutions are allowed (like veggies instead of potato) and you can take the dessert to go, if you wish.

Steer 'n Ale is also complete through dessert and is the cheapest of the three best at $11.95. Like Monrovian's prime rib, however, it's only available one night per week.

Rudy will serve you his outstanding ribeye anytime you want and the tasty beans and guacamole give it another leg up, as does one of their great margaritas on the side, so I'll give a slight edge to his version over the other two but you will not go wrong at any of the top three.

There are also several restaurants that take their steaks to an even higher plane for just a few dollars more. We'll cover them in a future post.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


As many of you may or may not know, one of the most important things to consider for any person like me who has a disability like Cerebral Palsy who has to live and go through life with it is the need to have a very dependable and very reliable set of caregivers to help take care of our daily living needs.

For me my primary caregivers right now are my dad Darryl and my mom Letty. Throughout my 30+ years of living, both of my parents have done a very good job of taking care of whatever care giving needs that I have faced on a daily basis throughout my life.

There are and have always been times though when both of my parents have needed a break for some time off from the daily grind of my own personal care giving needs. In an effort to come up with a solution for giving both of parents some time off throughout the years, we have been very fortunate and blessed that my grandmother on my dad's side of the family named Rosemary has been very able and very more than willing to take a few hours out of her day during every Tuesday night usually to watch over me and attend to any care giving needs I may have while my mom and dad get to go out for a weekly dinner by themselves and enjoy some well deserved time without me for a change!

These weekly couples only dinner gatherings have become such a big family tradition and staple in the Musick Family that my dad started referring to them by name officially as "Mom and Dad's Night Out" on his personal Facebook page with posts about where they go to dinner every week with pictures of whatever food item or dish offering they had at a given restaurant for that week.

This weekly respite time for my parents and I has been a part of our weekly routine for as long as I can remember and goes all the way back to when I was just a baby! As a matter of fact, my grandmother still lives at the same house that she rented out to my parents and I during the first eight years of my life. 

The main thing that I remember about living where we lived for the first few years of my life was that it was quite a rough neighborhood. Luckily for me and my family though from what I can remember, not a lot of bad stuff happened to us while we were living there other than one incident of a violent crime that happened at the house of the babysitter that I used to go to and a robbery that happened at our own house while my family and I were living there. 

For those of you who may be curious or want to know what the neighborhood is where my parents and I rented my grandmother's house for the first few years of my life, that would be the city of South El Monte in California.

I think that I've talked enough about some of the tough things that happened in my old neighborhood at this point. There really is no need to bore you with even more unnecessary details about what life was like for the three of us back when we lived there.

Getting back to describing in further detail what the Musick Family tradition of Mom And Dad's night out is all about these visits with my grandmother Rosemary and my grandfather Benny Joe (we called him Joe) took place a little more often during the week than they do now. Back when I was a kid, I used to go over to their house and visit with them for two days during the week for a few hours during each visit.

Unfortunately and on somewhat of a sad note, my grandfather Joe is no longer with us and hasn't been with us for the last 17 years or so.. He tragically passed away during Memorial Day weekend in 2000 after a lengthy battle with leukemia at the age of 71 just a couple months shy of what would have been his 72nd birthday in July of that year. It is somewhat hard to believe that if he were still alive today, he would be 89 years old and almost pushing 90!

That does not change the fact that in the many years that have come and now since his death, there is no doubt in my mind that he has been missed very much by everyone in my immediate family including myself. To that I say that I hope he is still resting in peace today and everyday! I hope that he might be still enjoying reading some of his favorite books or riding his favorite Indian or BMW brand name motorcycle! 

If he was still here with us, I am sure that he would also be more than happy to find out that in the years since his died, that I have not only graduated from both high school and college successfully, but I have also used what I have learned from both places to write many stories like this about traveling, family life, sports and other various subjects that I enjoy talking and reading about everyday.

Even though my grandfather Joe is no longer with us physically, I still consider myself to be very fortunate that my grandmother Rosemary is still alive and doing reasonably well in terms of her overall health for a woman of her age. In any case, in the days and years since my grandfather has passed away, the time that I get to spend with my grandmother has not only been a good source of rest and relaxation for my parents, but it has also been very beneficial to me in that I actually have someone else in my family who can come over to our house that I can talk too other than my parents for a couple hours each week. I don't really get out of the house all that often to begin with because of my disability and the fact that I don't work or have an actual paying job to go to everyday for working purposes. That aspect of my life is another long story that I might write about some other day but not right now.

As it has always been over the last several years of my life including now, my grandmother Rosemary has always been very nice and more than willing to bring me over some dinner on the days when she comes over to our house for a couple hours to watch and take care of me while my parents go out and enjoy their dinner and some much needed and well deserved quality time alone.

The weekly dinner portion of Mom And Dad's Night Out for me consists of placing a fast food order for my grandmother to pick up and bring over to my house where I live with my parents from a rotation of three or four fast food places. Those places are Wendy's, Wienerschnitzel, Burger King and sometimes McDonald's. The food orders from these four fast food places places usually consists of a double cheeseburger or a the Baconator burger with a side order of fries or a baked potato from Wendy's, an order of chicken nuggets and fries from Burger King, a polish sandwich or chicken schnitzel sandwich from Wienerschnitzel with fries and lastly a quarter pounder with cheese and fries from the restaurant with the golden arches that is McDonald's.

After I finish eating dinner from whatever fast food place that I have placed an order for in a given week from the places that I have mentioned up above, my grandmother Rosemary will then help me get set up to watch some TV in the front living room of my house by putting on the lap tray that my mom Letty made many years ago for as a place to put the various remote controls for the TV so that I would not have to hold them in my hands all the time. I should also mention that there are times where before my grandmother attaches the lap tray to my wheelchair, she will also set me up to go bathroom beforehand if I need to do so.

Once the lap tray has been put on my wheelchair and all my other care giving needs have been taken care and squared away, my grandmother will then sit down on the couch and relax as well and watch TV with me too until my parents come back home from their dinnertime out together. 

Since both of us are big baseball fans and fans of the Angels, we will try to watch whatever baseball game is going on at the time. Since we have the MLB Network channel at my house, I will usually turn it to that channel first to see if they are showing a game during that time of the night. If the Angels are playing a game while my grandmother is at our house, then I will put that game on especially because she does not get to see too many of their games anymore since she does not have any cable or satellite TV service at her house. 

When we do get the chance to watch an Angels game on TV together, things usually do take a not so funny turn at some point because if they are losing in a game, my grandmother Rosemary will usually start complaining about why Mike Scioscia does not go to the bullpen earlier than he does sometimes to replace a pitcher who might be struggling. For my grandmother, this kind of scenario can play out as early as the first or second inning of a game. 

Given that the Angels team has not been as good as it should or could have been over the last few years, both she and I have gotten very used to talking about why the team has not been that good for the last few years and the lack of moves made or not made by Mike Scioscia and the rest of the Angels team during a game.

If there are no baseball games going on during this time, then I will usually turn the channel to either one of our local news stations here in the Los Angeles area or to the FXX channel to watch a few repeat episodes of The Simpson's which she does not really care too much about. Other than those channels, there was a time when I would put it on the NBA TV or NHL Network channel but my grandmother is not a big fan of the sport of basketball and she also has a hard time keeping track of where the puck is while watching the action that is going on during a hockey game.

So there you have it. That is pretty much the whole story behind the Musick Family weekly tradition or ritual of Mom And Dad's Night Out! The last thing that I always do at the end of the night each week is to say goodbye to my grandmother before she goes back home to her house and wait until the following week for the fun to begin again at the same bat time and the same bat channel in the same bat location that is Casa de Musick or more simply put: my house!

Tim Musick
Copyright 2017
All Rights Reserved.