Who: Family of Four from Arizona
What: Searching for Good Inexpensive Food!
Mar. 12. Ate dinner at 29 Palms Inn restaurant. Twentynine Palms, CA. Hubby had lamb chops, which were succulent and served with a citrus infused au jus, skins-on garlic mash, and braised spinach grown on-site in the organic garden. I had the New York strip, medium rare, a fine cut, grilled to perfection, buttery and tender inside but beautifully carmelized out. Salad greens grown on-site, earthy and fresh. Good wine selection, a romantic yet casual getaway. Gorgeous crowd.
Mar. 13. Lunch at the Crossroads Cafe. Joshua Tree. Coffee house officious attitudes among staff and pretentious funky decor in abundance make this a less than totally pleasureable dining experience, but the sandwiches and burgers are terrific, a great alternative to the chains whilst on the road. I had a grilled chicken sandwich with bacon, avocado, portobello mushroom served on whole wheat roll with a balsalmic and mayo dressing, lettuce and tomato. Accompanying blue corn chips and med. hot salsa are excellent. Husband loved his "fine" burger.
In Palm Springs: Outstanding coffee at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on Palm Canyon Drive. Dinner was wonderful at the California Pizza Kitchen. They have a terrific chicken chowder soup and also dinner salad with sugary walnuts, crispy pear slices, baby greens and gorgonzola dressing. The pizzas are really good, of course, but I still, to my detriment, measure my pizza to the Grimaldi's yardstick. Grimaldi's in Brooklyn, New York (formerly, Patsy's, or pizza nirvana).
Don't order mixed drinks at California Pizza Kitchen if you're not willing to be confrontational. The bartender waters them down or serves them teentsy tiny. The cosmopolitan was disgraceful, as potent as lemonade, as was the tiny vodka martini. Have wine or beer instead.
Mar. 13-18th in LA.
Kokomo for breakfast at the Farmer's Market. Best coffee of the trip, French style (a little smokey, winey, full bodied). The buttermilk pancakes are heaven. Bacon crisp, but still maintain full smoke flavor. Wonderfully big breakfasts, with scrambled eggs done to fluffy perfection and great seasoned potatoes. It was raining and cold, but the cafe has a plastic covering and heatlamps. We were quite comfortable.
Bob's glazed donuts at the Farmer's Market are SUPERB.
Yangzte, 3rd St. Promenade, Santa Monica. The delicate Won Ton soup is a must, as are the lettuce wraps (with chicken and hoisin sauce). Lo Mein is wonderful. Moo Goo Gai Pan will make you swoon. People watching is great here.
101 Cafe, Hollywood (Franklin Ave.) Great diner food. The breakfast burrito, with black beans, rice, cheese, wrapped in huge flour tortilla (more like a burro), topped with sour cream and salsa, will leave you satisfied for hours. Everything is good here, esp. the pearly oatmeal, breakfast parfait of plain yogurt and granola and fresh fruit. For lunch, have the French dip sandwich. Breakfasts tend to be better than the other meals. Great, hip ambience. Lots of industry talk, to the strains of the juke box spinning alternative/vintage cool tunes. If you have a cold coming on, try their comfort/antibiotic chicken and rice soup. They also serve a very decent flat iron steak for dinner, with garlic mash, large and tasty dinner salad, and they are open till 3 a.m. Things really get going after 9 p.m.
Cheesecake Factory, Beverly Hills. Service is impeccable, food is super-sized and on the whole tasty and affordable for the zip code -- if a little unimaginative. My sister in law had the madeira chicken with mushrooms. It was delicious. I had the huge BBQ chicken salad, it was pretty standard fare, with black beans and corn and little cubed tomatoes, along with grilled chicken bits flavored with a bottle BBQ sauce, and it just didn't quite work. My 13 year old son had the grilled pork chops, mashed potatoes, spinach, and he said it was "great". Three year old daughter had the pizza, sweet dough and sauce, not enough contrasting flavors to pass pizza muster, but swell for little kids. The nachos for appetizer are stellar, and will serve 6-8 people while you're waiting for main courses. Food is all very fresh. Wonderful people watching spot, saw a rich young buck taking his happy meds at the table along with his Jimmy Choo wearing blonde companion. See beautiful women here, post-op.
Duke's Coffee Shop was recommended as a venerable musician's hang out on the Sunset Strip. We are not at all easily offended by dirt, having grown up in New York City, and always love a deli and diner, but this place smelled like a sewer. The food looked bleached and tasteless. They offer standard coffee shop fare, egg breakfasts and double decker sandwiches for lunch (along with the Reubens and pastramis), but I figured I should get a dose of penicillin before I attempted it. Serice is friendly and laidback. We left and opted for the Baja Fresh on Sunset for a B- Mexican chain lunch. The enchiladas are decent, rice is a little dry, beans are underwhelming. Better than La Salsa, but it would do well to seek out one of the mom and pop taquerias instead (we were too hungry at this point to do so).
Along a similar vein, we did not stop to eat on the Beach Front Walk at Venice beach, everything looked overpriced or less than sanitary and it was rainy and debauched and depressing.
Saving the best for last...
The Ruenpair Thai restaurant on Hollywood Blvd. and Hobart. Thaitown. Small box shaped space with wood floors and pleasing decor. Dimly lit. We had the famed fried morning glory stems, with garlic, braised in chicken broth(?), then sauteed in oil just to doneness. Crispy, delicious, even my toddler ate them with gusto. Takes sauteed Asian greens to the next level. Simply amazing. Also amazing was the coconut chicken soup, a slow heat, hints of curry, green chilis, lemon grass, with the slightest trace of fish sauce. We had the Chinese broccoli with crispy pork, another mouth watering addition. All dishes boasted layers of tastes, various heats, very complex. Authentic (my sister in law who lived in Thailand proclaimed it to be). We also had the green curry chicken, a standby, but the best I've had. This was one of the best dining experiences I've ever had. I've eaten at some of the best restaurants in the country, and this feast ranks up with best. One of the best meals I've ever had. Period. My companions all agreed. We feasted for $41 dollars plus tip. Ruenpair is a must.