Somehow I managed to have three meals in succession at three entirely different places, ranging from the mediocre through the Pretty Damn Good to the Really, Really Good. The first one, yesterday's lunch at the Proud Bird, by LAX, was not of my choosing; an organization I belong to has a monthly luncheon meeting there, and it's part of my job to attend those. It's standard hotel buffet food, with the guy doing omelets and custom pasta plates over here, a fairly decent build-your-own taco bar over there (quite good carnitas), an elaborate salad bar with fresh greens and veges (but unfortunate caprese, plastic cheese on pale and flavor-free tomatoes), and some reasonably good steam-table Italian-ish things and an overblown dessert presentation. We pay $25 for it - don't know what the public rate is, but there's a pretty nice dining room for the civilians and it seems fairly popular. My strategy is to load up a plate with the better salad stuff and a smidge of dressing, then have steam-table stuff for dessert. Yesterday's choices of those were two thick slices of fried eggplant (yum!), a couple of good-sized slices of Italian sausage w/peppers (how can you go wrong with that), and a small scoop of penne in some sort of seafood-Newburg dish (yawn). And lots of very pleasant fruity iced tea. This got me fed without too much apologizing to my body...
Dinner was...better. MUCH better. Met up with some other 'Hounds at Noodle House in Monterey Park, and we proceeded to follow all the suggestions we'd read here from those who had gone before: double mushroom, pork-onion, pork-leek and beef-onion bao; shrimp-pumpkin, seafood, and another I don't remember in pot-stickers; a beef and onion and herbs rollup, stomach (shredded tripe) with hot oil, a scallion pancake, cold shredded tofu "noodles" with herbs and onion; and the best hot-and-sour soup ever made, I swear it. As many have noted, the pan-fried option is not an option here; the guy was quite upfront about it, nor did he make any lame excuses. That's OK - boiled or steamed was just fine. We ate enough to sink an army, at least one of everything, and this being the SGV we dropped in a very generous tip and still got out for exactly $10 apiece. And then what did we overstuffed, slightly food-drunk idiots do? Why, we went to Fosselman's for ice cream, of course!
As for today's lunch, some time ago I'd made a date with my old grade-school buddy from back in Illinois, a fellow retiree with some law-enforcement experience and the appetite to match. I'd stumbled across the Way Station Cafe out in Newhall one day a while back, and though I'd just gotten a burger that time had noted the Old-Fart-Magnet items on the breakfast (Served All Day!) menu, and decided me'n Dave needed to check those out. It's a bit of a schlepp, out to the wilds of Greater Santa Clarita, but as I'd offered to drive he was amenable. There's a kind of breakfast plate he's crazy about, and though it's never exactly on the menu he's good at getting it custom-built: eggs over easy, potatoes, sausage and bacon, with gravy poured over everything. The Way Station DOES have it on their menu; it's called "Kris's Special", and on Wednesdays you can get this artery-clogger for a mere six bucks. I indulged in a similar fantasy, only with chicken-fried steak, and the gravy came on the side in a bowl, so I had to pour it myself, which I managed without difficulty. The hash browns are somewhat famous here, being regular shredded ones that are somehow rendered soft and fluffy, and served in a huge pile. The eggs were eggs, just fine; the sourdough toast perfectly crisp and well-buttered; the gravy obviously institutional in nature but reasonably flavorful. The CFS, I regret to say, was a patty of prepackaged Mystery Meat, reminiscent of too many school cafeterias and military chow halls, and so will go quite unrecommended. It was better than no meat at all, but hardly worth the premium charged, I think around $9 with tax. I don't foresee my making any more trips out to Newhall just to get another meal, but if I'm in the neighborhood noonish I'll certainly drop in again. Very pleasant little joint.
The Proud Bird
11022 Aviation Blvd.
958 E. Garvey
24377 San Fernando Rd. (street sign says Main St.