Thursday, January 22, 2009

Impromptu L.A. Run - Part One (heading home..) - Taco Loco

It was about 4:30PM by the time I had decided to head back to San Diego. I actually tried stopping by Laguna on the way up but the traffic into the beach at the time was horrendous. To the enticement of having a couple of delicious tacos at sunset and figuring the crowd may have subsided by now I gave it another try..

Two Blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos ($3.80 ea.) and a Pacifico with lime. I might as well be in that other Mexican beer commercial.. :)

I always have the same tacos so I can't say much else about the menu except that they consist of a wide range of seafood and vegetarian offerings.

Fish always fresh and flavorful, what also makes it for me is the delicious salsa with large chunks of Avocado and fresh Cilantro. It's messy good.

Maybe just an excuse for not being a writer but some moments are hard to describe.. So I'll end with a small Taco Loco photo collage..

Just a few more..

Wish all my posts would be this easy.. :)

Taco Loco, 640 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651

You can read about Pink's Hot Dogs I had earlier the day here and the Japanese curry at Ducks Restaurant here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Impromptu L.A. Run - Part One (continued) - Ducks Restaurant

On my impromptu L.A. run last weekend I also found myself deep in the heart of San Gabriel Valley. Seemingly not to be a single freeway in a 15-minute drive radius in every which direction, I don't find myself in places like it by chance. No, I was inspired by Keizo of Go Ramen!'s post on Ducks Restaurant and have been wanting to check out my old dining haunt once again. Not sure if they offered Ramen back then but Ducks was my trusted (relatively) local destination for good Japanese Curry.

You can say this strip of East Las Tunas Drive isn't the most inspiring but it was still much less a Daniel Clowes novel feeling and very cleaned up than I had remembered.

Located not far off of the closest cross street Rosemead Blvd, I didn't have much trouble finding the place. Ordering was quick. Although I usually have the Katsu, this day I had the Beef Curry ($9.25). The full menu is posted on my menu vault here. I completely forgot about their starter of finely shredded cabbage with a tangy dressing which immediately brought back many memories..

The Curry, just as I remembered. I find the simple and unadorned look wonderfully attractive.

A velvety texture and medium rich flavor with in this case huge cubes of very tender beef. A very classic and comforting Japanese Curry taste with a hint of something recognizable as Ducks' that I can't seem put my finger on..

Honestly the curry this day was a tad less rich than I remembered having back in the day, but in a good way. I thought the very light vinegar finish also helped balance out the richness and it was something I now wouldn't mind having several times a week.

Of course this would be impossible for me. I also was very tempted to try the many great looking dishes of which photos were sandwiched in between the table glass. I would bet they make a mean Katsudon here.

Behind the counter you can peek at the admirable gleaming stainless steel kitchen.

In fact the entire place is Spotless and very refreshing. Reminds me of another Kamome Shokudo like place.. :)

I will be back!

Ducks Restaurant, 1381 East Las Tunas Dr - Ste 1, San Gabriel, CA 91776

(I wanted to conclude this series tonight but I'm getting over a cold and am very tired.. But next will be some yummy Blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos in Laguna Beach!)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Impromptu L.A. Run - Part One - Pink's

My weekend drives to L.A. are often decided last minute, without a shave, and without a plan. They also consist of a lot of driving (I like driving), some eating, and then more driving, usually to very personal なつかしい nostalgia-inducing places. One of them this time around was Pink's..

By chance I learned that they are celebrating their 70th Anniversary this year (been in business since 1939!). You can read more about Pink's and their history on Wiki here.

I had to do the Chili Dog (10" Stretched - $3.30) since it was what made Pink's famous but the choice for the second was tough.

Somehow after seeing all the Bacon, Cheese, and Onion Rings being prepared, the idea of one with Coleslaw and Chopped Tomatoes (Johnny Grant - $4.05) suddenly didn't sound like a bad idea.

You can see a brand new package of the Hoffy's above but like I mentioned it seemed there were as much bacon being consumed this day as hot dogs..

[A stop by the condiments station for some hot peppers.]

The Chili is smoooth and despite the looks amazingly will not cause any heartburn (unlike Tommy's?). The all-beef natural casing hot dog is a notable mention as well but because it is boiled and not grilled I find the snap quiet.

The one with coleslaw was a first and well.. very interesting. But it was what I was strangely in the mood for so you can say it hit the spot as well. I dined in this amazingly hot January weekend day. Must've hit the eighties at one point!

Were my Pink's hot dogs worth the 50-minute wait in line I had to endure??

I guess for me the meal and experience served its purpose..

But for what seemed like a majority of tourists I wasn't sure. Definitely was fun people watching.

Pink's Hot Dogs, 709 North La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Vallarta Express - Clairemont

I was surprised when I saw the Clairemont location of EZ Take Out Burger suddenly close last year. At least to me they didn't look as though they were doing that bad.. Anyhow, a few weekends back during a Home Depot run I noticed that the little drive thru hut was now occupied by a new Mexican eatery called Vallarta Express.

There is now a sun trellis outside with table and bar stools..

And while the inside hasn't changed a whole lot except for the now blue and white tile theme, there are some minimal seating along the window facing the street. (To the right is a photo of when it was EZ Take Out I managed to dig up.)

I'm guessing the menu will eventually be posted on their official website but it consists of a wide array of your classic and not so classic burritos, quesadillas, soft and hard shell tacos, torta sandwiches, and a few combo plates and bowls.

The crispy grilled cheese layer in my Quesataco ($3.25) was nice. The steak was well-seasoned and surprisingly tender but the salsa though fresh didn't seem to have much flavor. The Quesataco was a pretty filling meal in itself but overall felt a bit salty without anything really standing out to entice me in ordering it again. The shredded beef Hard Shell Taco ($2.85) was also pretty standard but nothing to complain about either.

Sadly no free chips and you'll have to also pay for those Hot Carrots ($0.85). Still with a 24/7 drive through I might find myself here again in a pinch to maybe try a Torta.. or the Philly Burrito.. or the Buffalo (sauce) Taco..

Vallarta Express, 4277 Genesee Ave, San Diego, CA 92117

A small collage tribute to the now gone EZ Take Out Burger - Clairemont..

A tad guiltier version of an In-N-Out and without the long lines..

How could have that been a bad thing? :)