Ok, so I am really surprised that there are things that I like, even love, in the food world that I thought I would never like, accept, or do. And some things I’m surprised about in general, that’s here too. So let's roll it.
1. I do not like home fries at breakfast, or ever. The only potato I tend to eat at breakfast is the McDonald’s hash brown. Flavorless, oily home fries on my breakfast egg plate are always ignored. Not the same at The Red Lion in Silver Lake. Their home fries, listed on the menu as German potatoes, are a steaming, glistening pile of flavor: sliced potatoes sautéed in some magic fat with onions and bacon. What you say? Most home fries are sautéed in fat with onions? Pah! You have no idea what you're talking about. The flavor on these is stupendous. I highly recommend, along with a low cholesterol exercise and diet plan after.
And while on the subject of breakfast…
2. I thought arriving at a local cult breakfast spot when the doors opened would guarantee an empty restaurant. Not so at Griddle Café in Hollywood, home of the 10”-larger-than-the-plate-it’s-served-on pancake stack (yes I measured). Getting up early one Saturday and driving to the corner of Sunset & Fairfax by 8:45am still resulted in a PACKED restaurant. Sure I’d heard about weekend waits if you arrive after 9:30-10am, but 8:45am?? These people weren’t partiers who never slept, they had bedhead and sweatshirts on. This was very surprising. And more about those pancakes, they look like they come in a stack of five, sometimes filled with pumpkin pie filling (or butterscotch chip/coconut/oat/pecans filling, or strawberry and frosted flakes filling, or many others) and everyone, including macho men, get their uneaten pancakes to go. If you saw these frisbees you’d get it. Which is probably why my waiter gave ME a hard time for not finishing my delicious only-one-on-the-plate gingerbread waffle. So I didn't cut it like the resident lumberjacks, so what. I prefer sleeping in anyway.
3. I love beer, and have had exquisite brew sensations in various corners of Europe: Munich, Paris, Copenhagen, Belfast, Berlin (see delicious photo of such above). And my favorite beer on local soil is a Blue Moon on tap or the occasional Hitachino Nest White Ale from Japan. Though sometimes, I actually prefer a nice cold pint of Miller Lite. Not because Miller is my last name, and not because I am white trash like some of you judgers are thinkin'! It's because at a recent happy hour at the 901 on Fig they had a decent selection of 2-for-1 pints and for some reason I went with the path of least resistance, the Miller Lite. That’s right, 2 pints for $4 (plus tip, every day, 4-8pm, you heard it here). Drinking it was easygoing, light and refreshing. Yes I love good beer and especially love a swell Belgian white ale or Hef, but sometimes the non-gourmet choice wins. No, not if that beer is say, a non-alcoholic Bitburger that's been sitting in a basement at a Berlin McDonald's for eternity, but yes when you're talking about a good old pint o' swill, which sometimes is a-okay.
Also on the subject of imbibing…
4. For some reason I didn’t realize this til recently… Who knew that cheap wine by the glass at one place can be leaps and bounds better than at another place. It’s true. I had no idea. Let's just say that my Chardonnay at Honda-Ya was drivel (their thing in all fairness is sake and ice cold beer), while the Chardonnay at Golden Gopher consistently pleases. In addition, the recently sampled Chardonnay at the 901 Bar & Grill was even better than at the Gopher. So don't continue on thinking all cheap wine at non-wine-ish restaurants is bad (hmm, maybe you never thought this; maybe it's just me), because seriously, some of it is pretty good.
5. As much as I hate eating peppers, it has been recently discovered that when they are grilled I can and do enjoy them. I still hate them raw, or when still in every frozen entrée item you make Lean Cuisine! But now this “hold the peppers” person is reconsidering that closed-minded habit.
6. If you eat a dish one time at a restaurant and don’t like it at all, if you go there again and try something different you may become a raging fan! This happened to me at Chano’s. The first time there I had some steak thing with cubed meat and it was a straight-up “eh.” (Note: if you didn’t know this about me, my preferred style of Mexican cuisine meat is shredded, never cubed. This also holds true at Chinese restaurants, where I will never order Kung Pao chicken for this very reason, as well as for that dish's inclusion of, uh...peppers.)
Sure it’s possible the cubed meat wasn’t the only issue with my first Chano’s visit. Turns out I was also stone-cold sober. See Chano’s is the place every college town has, that late-night spot where the food becomes more delicious the later it is and the drunker you get. Well a few weeks ago Neil and I went back to Chano’s after I’d had two fat glasses of Chardonnay in me. I quickly declined ordering anything at the drive-thru, while Neil ordered his standard carne asada burrito. It smelled so good in the car and he offered me a taste. I took a bite and was wa-wowed with a capital W-W. Intrigued by this now, I started to peek inside the bitten burrito when Neil exclaimed, "Don't look! Don't look inside!" "Why not?" I asked. He wouldn't say, but later confessed he didn't want me to discover any fat on the meat, a highly probable thing in a Chano's burrito, and a known verboten thing on Planet Marly. It's true, seeing any fat in the burrito would have negated the whole damn experience. So I didn't look, and Neil took his late-night snack back and then for some silly reason (perhaps it’s called trust?) he left me in the car alone with the burrito for a moment and there I was sans witnesses with a miracle of shredded beef strips and cilantro and tomatoes. Yum! (My bites were small enough so he wouldn’t notice how much I ate, and then I sadly gave it back to him.) Was it the wine that changed my Chano’s tune or was it the menu item selected by a true Chano’s patron? Whatever the case, I’ll be going back, and if I get the carne asade burrito I will take Neil’s advice to never look inside it and just eat it.
7. Who doesn’t love brownies! Well I love them too, and making them, especially from scratch. So would you believe that Smart & Final, that mini-Costco marketplace around LA, sells a brownie tray that is very tasty. This shocked me last week, when I had a brownie at a meeting and thought someone in the room made it at home (from a box mix, but still). No, she said, it was from Smart & Final. Well mustn’t I take my brownie ego down a notch now!
8. On a similar note, I feared moving to LA would mean I could no longer eat a respectable Buffalo wing or Philly cheesesteak, due to my personal theory that regional foods taste best when eaten as close to that region as possible. With Buffalo, NY sitting 2540 miles away from Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, PA 2714 miles away, this had me justifiably worried. BUT... it turns out that passionate foodie ex-pats can be anywhere, and there are some great ones in this city. The best just-like-home traditional hot wings I’ve had here are at the Hot Wings Café. The best cheesesteak I’ve had is from either Phil’s at the Farmer’s Market or South Street in Burbank. Now I try not to eat these favorite snacks o' the east too often after Sunday brunches of German potatoes at the Red Lion, though it's still comforting to know they're around whenever I want them.
And speaking of wings, there are even more places out here to get great ones, including a place that is so surprising to me, I've tucked it down here at the end of the list since I still feel a little weird shouting its praises from the rafters...
9. As an egalitarian urban-raised woman, I am now a new shocked fan of...Hooters restaurants. You heard me. For my entire life I – and as I just found out, my Mom too – would not step into a Hooters for fear it was an objectifying place of business. Thing is, I love Buffalo wings right, and friends (Mark) have always insisted I give the place a try. My answer was always "No! Never!" Sure enough, a few months ago I went along with a group decision to go to the Pasadena location. And the wings were good! They weren't great but they were definitely good (specifically the "naked hot wings," in this case naked simply refers to an unbreaded chicken wing, so take your mind out of the gutter!). The Blue Moon on tap was a pleasure of course, and the football games on TV fun to watch, however the service was just ok. So I thought, it's just ok at Hooters, I'm not going to run back because it's just ok.
Then a few Sundays later Neil and I went to watch football in the Burbank location. This time the experience was excellent. The staff was friendly, and the waitresses took away all my preconceived notions by being really friendly and talking as much to me as to Neil. And the added bonus this time was in my trying the boneless hot wings, which were outta this world. I said outta this world! A group of us went again last weekend and there was even more magical food goodness! I can't stop thinking about it -- had to order those boneless hot wings again, and the table ordered a new special treat called Lots-a-Tots, an addictive pile of fresh fried tater tots topped like a baked potato with bacon, cheese, sour cream and chives. In addition the Blue Moon on tap kept on coming, and a newly tried item, the naked cajun wings, turned me into a practical wing werewolf. Those wings weren't what I ordered, so I am very thankful for Neil's wing magnanimity. Now not only do I like Hooters, I'm a fan! This is the biggest surprise of all.
All in all these are a bunch of things, pre-conceived food and drink notions really, that were toppled before my eyes. So I'm thinking the next time I'm about to form a closed-minded foodie opinion, it would be better to sit back and give the thing, the wing, or whatever it is, at least an open-minded try.
Until we eat again,