Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Bennigan's closed and the location became a BJ's about a decade ago. I had first eaten at a BJ's in Boulder, Colorado, shortly before the Aracdia opening. I liked their deep dish pizza, although I didn't love it. I went to the Arcadia BJ's on occasion, usually for their happy hour, which is a good deal. During the 2001 NBA playoffs, I grabbed the best table in the house several hours before one of the Lakers-Spurs games and waited for my friend Tom to show up. He eventually did, and we watched the Lakers destroy the Spurs by 39 points.
The other day I was trying to figure out where to go for lunch with an acquaintance. She was in the mood for a Cobb salad and I suggested BJ's, having not been there in years but remembering that they had a good selection on salads on their menu. Even though we got there early, about 11:15, the place already had lots of people there. We took a booth on the side of the restaurant. (The same booth I sat in when I was 15 and the first of my friends got his drivers license; we immediately came to Bennigan's to eat.)
There was a lunch special on the menu: a one-topping mini pizza and small salad for $7.95. That sounded like a good deal to me, so I ordered a meatball pizza and a wedge salad with a garlic-buttermilk dressing. Mindful of a few days earlier, when I had ordered a lunch special at Red Lobster and only received 6 small shrimp, I also ordered some shoestring fries as an appetizer. My dining companion got her Cobb salad.
It was when the fries and my wedge salad arrived that I realized there was going to be more food than I needed. They were a massive pile of fries, perfectly cooked, with a touch of garlic and parsley. The wedge was a good size, too. I loved the garlic dressing and we requested a side of it to eat with the fries. I knew as I was shovelling down the fries that I was going to fill up, but I didn't care. They were awesome. There was a time when I was younger that I would eat any fries that were put in front of me, but as I get older I get more and more snobby about fries, to the point that there are now very few restaurants whose fries I like. So when I get some like this, I make sure I eat them.
I am not sure if I have ever had a regular pizza from BJ's before. The only two I can remember having are the barbecue chicken and buffalo chicken, which are both very good. Of course, neither of those were available as part of the lunch special, understandably. The meatball pizza was good, but it was bland. The meatball was too dry, as if it had been left over from the day before. Still, I ate all of it. If it wasn't part of a special and I had just had it by itself, I would have been disappointed, but for such a good deal it was fine. The Cobb salad was described as "great," but I was too full to try it.
This was my first time at a BJ's in over 7 years. (My friend Taylor and I went to the BJ's in Westwood on his birthday and had a few beers for lunch that time; he went back to a law school class slightly buzzed.) And it wouldn't surprise me if it takes another 6 years to go back, if not longer. I like the place, but I don't really go out for happy hour anymore like I did when I was younger, and there is much better pizza around. And I liked Bennigan's much more. It was a nice lunch, though, and a great deal for the pizza and salad.
Monday, July 27, 2009
There used to be several more Crocodile Cafes. The Glendale location, which had been called the Crocodile Cantina (it had more of an emphasis on Mexican food) became a Crocodile Cafe for a few years. There was one in Old Pasadena on Colorado Blvd. and one in Santa Monica. Years ago I lived in Boulder, Colorado, and there was a Crocodile Cafe in Denver that I went to a couple times. They, along with a couple others, are all closed now, I believe.
As long as the patio at Crocodile Cafe exists, I will continue to go there. The acoustics inside - like Smitty's a couple doors down - are absolutely terrible and when it's crowded you have to yell at the person next to you just to be heard, especially if you're near the open kitchen. But the patio, sunken a couple feet below street level, is one of my favorite places to eat in Pasadena.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
But in the last couple years I have eaten at Arby's many times. A few months ago I tried one of their Roastburgers, and it was really good. I also tried their chicken roast club sandwich, and it was excelllent. So when I got a coupon for the new BBQ bacon cheddar Roastburger I was happy to try it.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
If I owned a restaurant, I would want it to be like Matt Denny's. It has the six key elements that I love:
Friday, July 17, 2009
We got on the elevator, each carrying two hot dogs slathered in all manner of condiments. There was a gorgeous girl in the elevator, probably 21 years old, and a guy in his 50s or so. He thought it would make him look cool in the eyes of the girl to start making fun of us. We did not care. We may have been drunk idiots, but at least we weren't pathetic 50 year old dudes trying to hit on a girl 30 years younger than we were.
I have never had the chili cheese fries at Carl's Jr. This isn't terribly surprising; I don't think very much of the place. I went to the Carl's Jr. in Hastings Ranch. I hadn't been there in a year. Last summer Elizabeth and I had gone to a nice restaurant in Old Town, and, after having sat at our table for 25 minutes and been ignored by every employee - they didn't even give us menus, but they sat people next to us after we had been there 15 minutes, and taken their drink orders - we decided just to get some fast food and watch a movie at my parents' house (my parents were on vacation and we were staying at their house to watch their dog.)
We went by Carl's Jr., and as we pulled away from the drive-through window, a little girl ran out in front of our car. I jammed on the brakes, and, despite nearly giving us both a heart attack, everything was fine. Her parents were eating burgers on the sidewalk 20 feet away and they thought it was acceptable to let the two little girls run around the driveway playing tag at 11:30 PM on a Saturday night. They didn't even seem to care that the girl had jumped in front of my car. Sometimes I really hate people.
So this time, I didn't go through the drive-through, I sat inside. I was not terribly impressed when the fries arrived. They were covered with inexpensive cheese and not very good. I didn't really have high expectations for $3 fries at Carl's Jr., though, so I'm not complaining. Especially because they were actually pretty good. Not great, but better than Wienerschnitzel or Hi Life. Eventually the cheese melted, and the chili was decent, certainly better than a watery chili sauce, which is what I had been expecting. I am sure I will never eat these again, but for what they were, they were okay.
Original TopsI've written about Tops chili cheese fries before. I do not like Tops fries at all, but I like their chil cheese fries. The fries by themselves taste like every other fried thing on their menu, a weird, cardboard-like taste. But the chili fries, drowning under a semi-solid pool of cheese, are delicious. I've never tried their chili by itself, but I should, because I really like it.
I went to the Del Taco on Lake to get some of their chili cheese fries. Wow. That was an experience. A lady sitting in front of the joint, wearing a faded Lakers t shirt, kept yelling out loud, repeating the phrase "Kobe is coming! Mmm hmm. You'll see." Inside, a woman who did not speak English very well was screaming at the manager because she thought an employee was giving her tacos to someone else. It didn't occur to her that there were about a dozen people waiting for food ahead of her and perhaps one of them had ordered tacos as well.
I took my chili fries to my car, made sure I hadn't been followed by anyone thinking I had taken their food or wanting to talk about the impending reduction in the NBA salary cap, and started eating. I have always liked Del Taco's fries but the thin chili sauce doesn't add anything to them. It's not terrible but all I could think as I was eating these was 'man, I wish I'd just gotten regular fries.'
Hi Life HamburgersI did not go to Lucky Boy because I think their fries are almost always undercooked and their chili is incredibly bland. So I went to Hi Life and got undercooked fries and bland chili. I know Hi Life has a devoted following but I imagine it has more to do with them having grown up on Hi Life than the actually quality of the food. These were not impressive at all.
Tommy's fries, although thick cut, which I don't usually like, are almost always fried perfectly. They hold up very well against the chili. The fries only cost $3 and there is a ton of chili and cheese - two layers that melt together into a brick that gives you heartburn after 2.5 bites. But totally worth it.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
There was a time, about a decade ago, when I went to Red Lobster frequently with my grandmother. Not surprisingly, she loved it. All old people love Red Lobster. But she passed away 7 years ago and, other than a couple of compulsory work dinners at Red Lobster, I have not been back. I don't think my life has been any poorer for that. (Once, I absolutely loved mahi mahi, it was my favorite fish. In my early 20s, my dad and I ate at a Red Lobster in Santa Maria and I had a mahi mahi so terrible that I have never been able to eat it again.)
We took a booth underneath a giant wooden lobster. Elizabeth worked at Red Lobster in the summers when she was in college, so I emailed her a picture of the lobster, asking "Can you guess where we are?" (She immediately replied "Yes. I can.") We were given the usual complimentary basket of cheddar biscuits. I have never liked these. Ever. But these were damn good, fresh out of the oven and not at all greasy, like every one I have ever had before.
"I usually don't like these at all," my mom said, "but these are really good." Hmm. It's like we're related or something.
She had the soup (clam chowder) and salad. She did not care for either. I tried some of the salad. It was decent, although the shrimp on it were lousy. I did not try the chowder.
I ordered the "beer battered shrimp & chips" off the lunch specials menu. It was only $6.99, so I knew it wouldn't be a huge portion, but I wasn't starving so I figured that would be OK. Curiously, the shrimp came with fries instead of chips. (And no, this was not a English-style shrimp & chips. It was supposed to come with homemade potato chips. Whatever.) The shrimp were very good, but there were only six of them. As I said, I wasn't expecting a massive portion, but I could have gone to the Popeye's a few blocks away and gotten a heaping plate of the exact same shrimp for the same price. (The lesson, as always: you can't beat Popeye's.) I was still a little hungry after I finished my plate, so I had another biscuit and some of my mom's garlic bread.
It wasn't a bad meal, and it was certainly affordable. But it wasn't good. I remembered that the reason I used to come here frequently was because my grandmother loved it, not because I enjoyed it. (The other place we used to go frequently was Sizzler.) So I don't know if I will ever eat at Red Lobster again. If I do, I will just stick with getting a whole lobster.