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L.A. and Santa Barbara Report (long)

L.A. and Santa Barbara Report (long)
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  • L.A. and Santa Barbara Report (long)

    Post #1 - June 16th, 2004, 6:28 pm
    Post #1 - June 16th, 2004, 6:28 pm Post #1 - June 16th, 2004, 6:28 pm
    Just got back from a trip to L.A. and Santa Barbara I know some folks on the board rave about the food scene in LA. I enjoyed our meals quite a bit. However we were staying up in Santa Clarita, so our mobility was limited (we spent a lot of time in the car). We tried to hit some LA and Santa Barbara institutions, but were also compelled by geography to sample some local chains. Anyway, here's a quick overview of where we ate:

    Thai Dishes - This appears to be a small chain of Thai places in the L.A area. We ate at the Santa Monica location. We didn't spend a lot of quality time in Santa Monica, but a few minutes on the Third Street Promenade was enough. Yuck. I'm sure the rest of Santa Monica is more interesting, but we were a bit pressed for time. Anyway, Thai Dishes offered good Thai for reasonable prices. Most entrees, including fish, were below $10. A bottle of Singha was $3.50.

    Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles - My friend who was showing us around raved about Roscoe's, and I must agree that this is an "L.A." place. We went to Roscoe's Hollywood location. It was quite crowded at 2:00 PM on a Thursday. We had to wait for about 30 minutes. The room was small with a mix of middle class black folks and hipster white kids. I don't think we have a chicken and waffle house in Chicago, so this was new to me. Picture a plate with a fresh waffle and three fried chicken wings. Spread some butter and pour some syrup on your waffle, dump some hot sauce on your wings. Let the spill-off butter, syrup, and hot sauce mingle on your plate and dip a wing or waffle in it. Quite a combination of sweet and hot flavors. The mac n' cheese was bland, the greens OK. I suppose you don't go to Roscoe's for the sides though.

    Soot Bull Jeep - A very spare Koreatown BBQ. The room was unadorned, with a number of formica-topped tables with grills crammed into a small space. They don't lay out a ton of sides, just a few quality basics (the kimchi was perhaps the best I've had). The focus here is meat. We had the marinated spare rib and the squid. Both were first rate, particularly the beef. The service was pretty good. We had a few BBQ etiquette misfires, but that was on us.

    Prince - A Koreatown restaurant/bar that we just drank at (a lot). This is a pretty cool place. The kind of place I think of when I think LA. Where rapid neighborhood change produces odd juxtapositions of culture. Prince is a well-preserved, old school British-style pub/restaurant from the 60s with red vinyl booths and decorations ranging from miniature suits of armor to statues of lords of the manor to a lamp with the light coming out of a British colonial general's (redcoat) head. The catch is that it's a Korean bar playing 80s pop hits serving a full Korean menu. And chips and salsa. We drank a lot of Hite and a lot of soju. It was a good time. For L.A. Koreatown drinking, Prince is recommended.

    Pink's - This place is an L.A. institution, but I've heard mixed reports. We stopped by for a couple chili dogs. They were OK, but not transcendent. Or even great. Just OK. Perhaps the bacon wrapped chili cheese dog would have been the way to go. Maybe next time.

    Philippe - Home of the French dip. I've been on a bit of a French dip kick lately, and since it was near Union Station, we dropped by. The beef sandwich was ok. Being a first-timer, I got it plain, but double dipped with cheese might have spiced things up. Someone else's pork sandwich looked really good though. Again, maybe next time. BTW, I feel compelled to note that my wife raved about Philippe's pickled beets. I can't stand the stuff myself, but she ate a big ol' plate. I must say the sight made me a bit queasy.

    Angel's Stadium - We headed to the Cubs - Angels game. A tip for those unaccustomed to LA geography (like I was): Anaheim is far from Santa Clarita. Really, really, really far. Especially in Friday afternoon traffic. Ticket prices in Anaheim are cheaper than at Wrigley (who isn't), but concession prices are actually higher. A beer in Anaheim will run you $6.25 compared to $5.25 at Wrigley. Also, Anaheim concessions seem to be dominated by chains. Even the sausages were presented by Weinerschnitzel. My friend and I got the 'Grand Slam Dog.' $5 for a 1/3 lb dog. Not a terrible deal, and the dog was OK. My wife tried to $7 Italian sausage. It was OK too, but I like Wrigley's overpriced food better. The Angels have a nice stadium and good fans (surprisingly), but the experience was quite bland. So very Anaheim.

    In-N-Out Burger - I was disappointed in this LA institution. I ordered a cheeseburger 'animal-style.' For those unaware, animal-style is In-N-Out slang for a burger that has extra pickles and grilled onions topped with a secret sauce (thousand island I believe). All served on a mustard-grilled bun. I probably should have taken my friend's advice and ordered a double because all the toppings on the single overwhelmed the rather small meat patty. The burger was good, but the meat to topping ratio was way off.

    Pollo Loco - Another LA chain, this one specializing in rotisserie chicken. Not a bad place. I think we need something like this in Chicago.

    Winchell's Donuts - Bad coffee

    La Super Rica - Super cheap Mexican in Santa Barbara. We didn't eat much Mexican in California given that we get plenty in Chicago, but this place came recommended. Not exactly sure what Cal-Mex is, but I don't think this is it. Very casual place that had a very long line and a fairly informal outdoor covered dining area. To be honest, I forget what we had other than I had a something with steak, onions, and peppers and my wife had something with pork, peppers, and melted cheese. Both were good, but we agree that mine was better. We also had a side of beans mixed with bacon, chorizo, and pork that were surprisingly bland. All that and a couple beers for less than $20 in Santa Barbara. Not too bad.

    Palace Grill - Our final meal was at the Palace Grill in downtown Santa Barbara. The Palace serves Cajun food. It may seem odd eating Cajun food in Santa Barbara, but I liked this place quite a bit. The service was quite good. I had their Cajun martini which used vodka marinated overnight with jalapenos garnished with cherry peppers. Nice flavor. Their crawfish crabcakes were very good. I'm not a big crabcake fan, but the addition of crawfish tails added an interesting texture and their jalapeno beurre blanc sauce added a nice subtle kick. My main course was their blackened stuffed filet mignon. The steak was good, but it was stuffed with smoked crawfish tails, which detracted from the flavor of the meat. My wife had the blackened tuna steak which was very good. For dessert we had their 'famous' bread pudding. Not impressed, but I've never been a bread pudding fan.

    All in all, we liked SoCal a lot. Priced seemed comparable to Chicago with a very diverse food scene. I look forward to going back.

    Also, on a completely unrelated side note, LAX sucks.
  • Post #2 - June 16th, 2004, 6:50 pm
    Post #2 - June 16th, 2004, 6:50 pm Post #2 - June 16th, 2004, 6:50 pm
    Thanks for the report. I adore Roscoe's as well and wish one would open here (moreso than, say In n' Out Burger...) The Hollywood branch is really tiny. I've been also to the Pico branch, which is a bit larger. On the other hand, if you can combine Sunday brunch at the Hollywood Roscoe's with the nearby Sunday Hollywood farmer's market, you have one of the best LA chow experiences.

    I like Phillippes better than you but agree on Pinks. It was the only famous LA place I did not like. 6 zillion great donut shops though, and you choose Witchells?

  • Post #3 - June 16th, 2004, 7:50 pm
    Post #3 - June 16th, 2004, 7:50 pm Post #3 - June 16th, 2004, 7:50 pm
    It's probably ten years now but I didn't think much of Pink's either. Typical orange-gravy chili on undistinguished dogs. Not worth the heartburn...

    There is one cool thing in Santa Monica if you ever go back-- cross the street to the beach and there's a senior center with a somewhat cryptic sign announcing "Camera Obscura." Talk your way in (the seniors may try to chase you off, but they're not fast) and you can visit an authentic 19th century camera obscura, which is, basically a big camera lens and you're the film, it "projects" the outside world onto a white surface. Very cool.

    And of course, not far away is the coolest place on earth.
  • Post #4 - June 16th, 2004, 7:58 pm
    Post #4 - June 16th, 2004, 7:58 pm Post #4 - June 16th, 2004, 7:58 pm
    Barry's Pizza, at 5759 N. Broadway, now advertises "Chicken and Waffles." I haven't tried it. Having had both the pizza and the ribs, well, I can't be bothered with any more disappointment.

    FWIW, the Hollywood location of Roscoe's is on Gower. Two blocks from my brother's gym. ;)

    Erik M.
  • Post #5 - June 16th, 2004, 8:45 pm
    Post #5 - June 16th, 2004, 8:45 pm Post #5 - June 16th, 2004, 8:45 pm
    Vital Information wrote:6 zillion great donut shops though, and you choose Witchells?

    Too true. It happened to be convienent, and I'd never been to Winchell's. Donuts were so-so. The coffee was really bad.
  • Post #6 - June 17th, 2004, 10:12 am
    Post #6 - June 17th, 2004, 10:12 am Post #6 - June 17th, 2004, 10:12 am
    Giallo, thanks for the report. For an out of towner in LA, going to Orange County is sort of like going to Naperville. Lesson learned, I guess.

    Next time post a query on the board, I know that you'll get lots of good leads. I for one, would urge you to try Langer's, places in Thai Town, Little Armenia, and Silver Lake/Los Feiz, which are all fairly close together.

    Santa Barbara is a nice place, huh. I went to the over-hyped Super Rica last year. You might know that Julia Child put it on the map some time back. Good, but not that good, I agree.

    Pollo Loco, the chain that started in Mexico, is lost on me (I much prefer the Cuban Pollo Tropical, which had outposts here for a short while on Ashland and on Irving, now a Boston Chicken and a Chinese buffet). However, you might be glad to know that their web site has Chicago slated for a new place this year. Pollo Loco and Fatburger -- what's next, Yoshinoya Beef Bowl??
  • Post #7 - June 17th, 2004, 10:48 am
    Post #7 - June 17th, 2004, 10:48 am Post #7 - June 17th, 2004, 10:48 am
    JeffB wrote:what's next, Yoshinoya Beef Bowl??

    And french dipped pastrami sammy's
  • Post #8 - June 17th, 2004, 11:02 am
    Post #8 - June 17th, 2004, 11:02 am Post #8 - June 17th, 2004, 11:02 am
    JeffB wrote:Giallo, thanks for the report. For an out of towner in LA, going to Orange County is sort of like going to Naperville. Lesson learned, I guess.

    I had to spend a couple of days in Orange County last week and stumbled into a Chinese enclave...sort of a Chinatown, but not really. Anyway, I had some pretty good Dim Sum at Sam Woo's Seafood and BBQ. Sorry, I don't have the address, and there are many Sam Woo BBQs, but this particular one was larger and significantly better than the rest with a bunch of live seafood in tanks and a made to order dim sum menu that was available at all hours. I went by myself at 4:30 in the afternoon and was the only person in the place at the time, so all I got to see what the few orders of dim sum that I ordered. It looked like a pretty popular place with the locals, thuough; judging by the size and the number of staff standing by for the rush that was to come.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven