Posts in Category: Restaurants

Peggy Sue’s and The Patty Melt

  • Peggy Sue's Patty Melt

Peggy Sue’s is hard to miss.  Leading up to the diner on I-15 are more signs than you can count.  We took this as a sign and decided to get lunch.  Now, Peggy Sue’s is a tourist trap.  There are just no two buts about it.  Stocked to the brim with old movie memorabilia (the owners used to work in the industry as well as at Knott’s Berry Farm), a 5 and dime store, and a diner-saur park, this diner is most definitely a place to stop if you need to stretch your legs.

Now, apparently I had neglected to mention to the Love, the Bus boys that I was taking my blog on the road…or for that matter, that I write a sandwich blog to begin with.  So, they were rather excited when I started snapping pictures (some of their sandwiches will also be featured in due time).  For this first meal, I decided to get a patty melt.

I am a big fan of patty melts.  For me, they are the ultimate diner and truck stop sandwich.  A few years ago I was driving from Santa Cruz to LA with a friend and we stopped at a truck stop for lunch.  I ordered a patty melt, and it was most definitely one of the most flavorful, cheesy, meaty, greasily awesome sandwiches I’ve ever had.  Ever since then, patty melts have been my go to sandwich at any greasy spoon spot.  What better sandwich to start the road trip off with?

Supposedly, the patty melt appeared around the 1940s as a new incarnation of the cheeseburger.  And really, the patty melt takes pretty much everything great about a cheeseburger, removes all the healthy stuff (do you really need lettuce and tomato?), and adds caramelized onions and buttered rye bread, all fried up.  Though traditionally served with swiss cheese, Peggy Sue’s decides to do a combo with american cheese as well…which, of course, only makes it more fatty and delicious.  An interesting aspect of the patty melt is that unlike other sandwiches, it is served without any condiments.  I like to dip my patty melts in ketchup, but I do think that this sandwich can stand alone just fine.  Patty melts can also be made open faced with the use of a broiler.

Furthermore, patty melts are not the only melts out there.  I’ve featured a tuna melt before, though not in the context of melts, and crab melts are also popular.  Are there any other melts that you like?  Let me know and I’ll go search one out!

Sorrento’s and Pastrami

  • Sorrento's #1
  • Sorrento's #2

One beautiful winter day in Los Angeles, Chris and I decided that it was time for lunch, and, doggone it, we would find ourselves a delicious sandwich. One failed attempt later, Chris suggested that we check out an italian deli by his place that he had noticed.  Having already wasted quality eating time getting lost and being teased by unopened cafes, Chris and I were hungry enough to take down a zebra each by the time we parked.  And then we walked in.

It was the smell that hit us first.  You know that scene in Ratatouille, the one where the critic with no soul takes a bite and is transported back to his childhood in the French countryside?  That first aroma was just like that, except that it took me to an Italian childhood I never had (same for Chris, though that was actually his childhood).  But seriously, the smell hit us so hard that it stopped us just inside the doorway and held us there for a full thirty seconds, just breathing it in, until we looked at each other, grinning.

Our noses took us straight to the hot case, where a proud Italian matron was lording over the sandwich proceedings.  Above her, almost completely unnoticeable, was the sandwich menu.  A simple board with an even simpler list, it looks so old that our first impression was that it had been there since the deli opened fifty years ago.  What really confused us, you see, were the prices: this board proclaimed that the most expensive sandwich cost $5.50! After a good deal of questioning double takes, Chris and I decided to just go for it.

We immediately realized that ordering a sandwich can be quite an ordeal.  Though there is no hard and fast rule regarding what goes on one of these sandwiches, if the Italian mama doesn’t like your selection, she won’t hesitate to make her disapproval known.  On this first visit, Chris got a large, double meat pastrami, and I a large, combination sub.  And then I made a mistake — I asked for mayo.  Now you would think that by now, I would know to just take the food as it comes, but I am a sucker for mayonnaise.  Let me tell you, the look she gave me made me want to move to a place where they’d never heard of mayo.  After giving me a decisive “no” I decided that this was not a battle worth fighting, and took the footlong sandwich she handed me with all the gratitude and shame I could muster.

The shock that Chris and I received when we got to the register (a vintage metal till) and our two sandwiches and drinks cost about $12 was palpable. And though I must admit that the combo sub is not the best I’ve had, everything else is.  The pastrami is just outrageously tasty, the meatballs and Italian sausage both taste like your grandma just made them (and ohhh how I wish the sandwich matron was my grandmother), and the beef and peppers may even top the pastrami.  These days, I stick to a small sandwich (grand total with a drink is $4) because the bread is a little better and I can definitely take the whole thing down.  I also stick to the hot sandwiches because it’s all homemade and sitting right in front of you wafting its delicious aroma in your direction.

But regardless of what it is that you get, everything is delicious.  Coincidentally, we never would have found this place if our first choice hadn’t been deserted.  I suppose it just goes to show, having an open mind and trying new things really can lead to great places…and great sandwiches.

The Father’s Office Burger

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It really is quite embarrassing that I haven’t posted about this burger yet.  Aside from the fact that the Office Burger is touted as being one of the best burgers in Los Angeles (if not the best), I am about as regular as you can get at this bar.  Between the awesome selection of beers and the amazing menu, Father’s Office is definitely a great place to be.

Though the bar has been around for decades, it didn’t quite become the phenomenon it is today until Chef Sang Yoon bought it in 2000.  With Father’s Office, he pioneered the idea of “no substitutions, no modifications.” Everything comes as is, and if there’s something in a dish you can’t eat, too bad, order something else.  And most importantly, don’t ask for ketchup.  There isn’t any and you’ll be given a look like you just walked out of the loony bin in only a jockstrap and fedora (seriously).  These days, a lot of places have started to adopt this mentality…after all, it is their job to know how to do what they do better than the average joe customer.  And let me tell you, Sang Yoon really does know what he’s doing.

One bite of this burger will change you.  The next will convert you.  Pretty soon, you’re out of bites and all you want is one more.  Though this burger has a lot of hype surrounding it, I can promise you that it will be one you remember.  Sadly, great dishes that are touted as being the best are often a let down when you finally get around to trying them, because how can the reality ever live up to the praise?  But the Office Burger breaks this cycle.  Of the countless friends I have take to Father’s Office to try this burger, not one of them left without a) being blown away, and b) finishing every last bite.

From the French baguette bun to the dry-aged beef patty, the maytag and gruyere combination, fresh arugula, and the amazing gooey mixture of caramelized onions and applewood smoked bacon compote, I start salivating just thinking about it.  In fact, I’m salivating right now and thinking about running out and getting one.  Though there is a lot to say about the Office Burger, and believe me, I could talk forever about it, this is just one of those times that I must tell you…just go try it.  You’ll understand.

Five Guys

Since I’m on the topic of the East Coast, I thought this would be a good time for a post about Five Guys.  Though Five Fuys is now a burger franchise all over the world, it started out as a little, family-run burger joint in Arlington, VA.  My first experience with these delicious burgers was during my senior year of college.  Somehow, I had made it almost all the way through my entire college career before I had even heard of the place.  Then, one lucky day, one of my friends decided that we were having burgers for dinner.  Words like “handmade patties” and “just like in-n-out” were thrown about, and even though I was extremely skeptical, I went with it.

Now, I am a Southern California girl through and through, and you just don’t compare any fast food burger to In-N-Out.  Period.  And this was no Double Double.  But, Five Guys makes burgers that could fit the description of an East Coast In-N-Out.  Plus, they have toppings (pictured is lettuce, tomato, pickles, cheese, and grilled mushrooms).  These toppings range from the classic ketchup, onions, lettuce, etc, to the more exotic A1 sauce and green peppers.  Furthermore, and this is what totally sold me on Five Guys, they have really good fries.  As much as I love In-N-Out, I just really don’t like their fries.  And not only are the Five Guys fries amazing, but they also have cajun fries, which are pretty much to die for.

I must say that I was slightly devastated to move back to Los Angeles and realize that my Five Guys days were over.  But then…I discovered that the closest Ikea happens to share an address with the closest Five Guys.  And since I was moving and obviously needed an Ikea trip, what better time to hit up Five Guys?!  The best part was the first bite…until I took another…and another.

So who’s heading out to Carson with me for another Five Guys trip?

Fred’s Shanty Fish Sandwich

I semi-recently took a trip to New York to see my brother and my college friends.  Now for those of you who have been following along, you will have noticed that I frequent the East Coast, and that I continue my quest for awesome sandwiches on these little vacations.  While I did have some great sandwiches on this trip, you’ll have to wait for future blog posts.  This post is about a little seafood shack in Connecticut and a fish sandwich that signified the change of the seasons, the beginning and end of the school year, and the promise of fun with great friends.

Though there are two main seafood shacks in New London that have similar traditional menus, Fred’s Shanty is the place you go when you want a fish sandwich.  Simple, cheap, and fresh, there really isn’t much that’s better on a crisp fall day that’s reminiscent of summer.

In an earlier post, I touched on the idea of the connection between food and memory.  In the same way that a smell or sound can take you back to a previous moment in your life, food can also be associated with memory.  Just how I have many good feelings and memories associated with sea urchin, the Fred’s Shanty fish sandwich evokes visions of countless warm fall and spring college days spent outside – on the green, in the arboretum, at the beach – accented by trips to a small seafood shack on the Thames River.  And of course, these memories are attached to this sandwich not just because the consumption is recurring, but because of the strength of the emotions that the memories call up.  Yes, the fish sandwich from Fred’s Shanty is good, but it doesn’t stand out in a crowd of fish sandwiches.  In fact, the main reason to go to Fred’s Shanty instead of Captain Scott’s Lobster Dock (the other sea food shack in New London) is because it’s cheaper, not  because the food is better.  And though I have similar, and definitely more Lobster Dock memories, they involve a sandwich of a different sort.  It is this sandwich, the simple yet delicious fish sandwich, that carries ties to the lush life of college.

The Godmother

  • The Godmother #1
  • The Godmother #2

If you think about some of your favorite (or not so favorite) restaurants, chances are, they probably have some sort of signature dish, or at least something they’re known for.  Though you will, of course, see this happen at many food establishments (especially big chains), it seems to me that places that have a very serious following (sometimes even cult-like) often have a dish that they are famous for.  At Bay Cities, a deli that has an obsessive customer base, The Godmother is this dish.

A signature dish allows competing businesses to define and separate themselves by creating a food (like a sandwich) that will represent the whole of the establishment.  This is the dish that people will choose most often, most likely due to exposure and hype, and the dish that customers will equate with the restaurant.  For example, anyone who has been to Bay Cities will at least know of The Godmother even if they’ve never eaten it.  In fact, the entire front of the market is covered in a sign that says “Home of The Godmother.”  And though the sandwich is really just a glorified Italian sub, the role it plays to Bay Cities is what makes it so much more than that.  Not only is it the food item that Bay Cities puts its name and reputation behind, it is also the food that customers will choose in order to become a part of the phenomenon.  If you go to Bay Cities regularly, but have never had a Godmother, other regulars will not only be shocked, they’ll probably also judge you and your commitment to the deli (yep, even those of you who don’t eat meat…sidebar, I ate this sandwich for years and years before I began eating pig products, and people would give me looks of astonishment when I told them my favorite sandwich place was Bay Cities, but no, I’d never had a Godmother).

There are definitely places that have signature dishes that don’t have such social response, but I think these are places that aren’t “signature” themselves.  This is what makes The Godmother iconic instead of being just another signature sandwich at just another deli.  The fact is, Bay Cities itself is a cultural phenomenon.  It has become, for Santa Monica natives especially, the ideal of what a sandwich should be, and The Godmother is the best of what this amazing place can do.  The consumption of this sandwich grants you entrance into the exclusive culture of those who know and idolize Bay Cities for their sandwich prowess.

So yes, The Godmother is a delicious and perfectly executed sandwich that deserves attention for its sandwichness alone.  But the following that it creates takes both Bay Cities and The Godmother to iconic levels.

Fromin’s and Hot Pastrami

  • Fromin's #1
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I’ve known for a while that I wanted to do a post about Fromin’s because it’s one of those places that is the ultimate Jewish deli.  Growing up in Santa Monica, I think I ate Fromin’s almost every Sunday for about five years.

When I went to Fromin’s with Sara, I decided to get the hot pastrami sandwich (on rye of course) which comes with a lovely little bowl of au jus on the side (not pictured).  As far as this sandwich goes, I don’t have a whole lot to say – this sandwich was even more simple than my last post and about eight million times better.  Perfectly cooked pastrami that juicily melts in your mouth, some swiss cheese, a touch of dijon mustard, and fluffy rye bread. Dip an already great sandwich in au jus, and of course it only gets better.  Which all goes to show that if done right, simple can be awesome.

The other interesting thing about Fromin’s is that it is only about four blocks away from another well known Santa Monica Jewish deli called Izzy’s, and the community seems to be loyal to one deli or the other, but not both.  This may also stem from the fact that the clientele at each restaurant is very different. Izzy’s is open 24 hours and is the kind of place that has a million pictures of the owner with various celebrities…the demographic here is much more varied and includes tourists, hoodlums, and a spattering of 10-13 year olds from the middle school up the street (in addition to the diner loving Jews of Santa Monica).  Fromin’s, on the other hand, has pretty much one type of customer: the elderly Jewish couple.  In fact, when Sara and I went, we were the youngest customers by at least 40 years.

Now, you may be thinking, why are you a Fromin’s customer instead of an Izzy’s kind of girl?  Wouldn’t you rather be among people who are closer to your peers?  Well let me tell you.  The Jewish deli is a place that I feel has been robbed of its true nature, especially in Southern California.  Instead of feeling like local spots where everyone knows each other and the food is just like grandma used to make, they give off a very commercial vibe.  It always seems to me like I’m caught in a tourist trap: welcome to SoCal, the land of the Jews…you must be this tall to ride.  Look!  Real Jewish grandparents eating knishes and borscht!  Fromin’s feels real – no show, no gimmick, just the same people working and eating day after day.  THIS is why i love Fromin’s.  Every single person seems to have an emotional connection to this deli, whether you grew up having their chicken noodle soup when you were sick, or it’s the place your grandparents took you every Saturday after your soccer game.

Sweet Lady Jane and Roasted Turkey

This is, I believe, only the second negative post I have done so far.  In fact, I would hesitate to call this a sandwich, instead opting for a much more accurate term: the BLANDWICH.

Now, to give Sweet Lady Jane a little credit, they are known for their cakes much, much more than they are for their lunch.  Yet I’d heard great things about their non-dessert offerings, especially this turkey sandwich.  What appealed to me about this sandwich was its simplicity: each sandwich from Sweet Lady Jane comes with lettuce, tomato, dijon mustard, and mayo.  The roast turkey is “baked with our own blend of spices, fresh in our ovens.” The most complicated thing about this sandwich is deciding what kind of bread you want (I went with sourdough).  With a sandwich this simple, what could go wrong?

Apparently a lot.  The turkey looked great – thick cut slices with spice-reddened edges.  Unfortunately, the actual taste of the turkey did not live up to the description.  It was dry and had very little taste at all.  The lettuce and tomato were were good quality, but if your meat is no good, there’s very little that veggies can do.  Mayo and mustard were nothing special but also nothing awful.  The biggest problem (aside from the turkey) was what this sandwich was lacking: CHEESE.  Now, I’m not saying that any sandwich without cheese is incomplete – I’m just definitely a cheese person.  In this situation, I’m not sure if cheese would have made up for any lost ground, but its absence was made more clear by the subpar-ness of the rest of the sandwich.

This sandwich was so disappointing that not even the company made this lunch better.  My roommate Sara had just gotten back from India, and we went to Sweet Lady Jane with our moms to welcome her back.  While Sara was sharing stories and pictures from her three week trip, all I could think about was how much I hated the sandwich in front of me.  People often comment on the power of “good company” – the people who you eat with have a very significant impact on how you experience your meal.  Good company can make great food better, and bad company can make bad food worse.  In this case, the company was fantastic, but even that didn’t help.

Basically, I ended up going to have a second lunch after this because I really needed to counteract the disappointment.  If youre looking for a great cake, go to Sweet Lady Jane…if you’re looking for a great sandwich, go somewhere else.

FarmShop and the Fresh and Smoked Salmon Tartine

  • Salmon Tartine #1
  • Salmon Tartine #2

FarmShop is the newest establishment at the Brentwood Country Mart, following on the heels of City Bakery, a market/restaurant with both committed fans and haters.

I went to FarmShop one afternoon with my mom and my aunt.  At this point, they hadn’t yet started full meal service, and were just serving coffee, pastries, and three tartines (they now serve breakfast and lunch and will be opening their market in the spring).

My mom and my aunt had tried all three of the tartines, and recommended that I try the fresh and smoked salmon.  I have to say, it was fantastic.  The combination of the two different types of salmon created an interesting texture, and of course creme fraiche is just always great.  The best part, though, were the caper berries.  I had never seen or heard of caper berries before, and they blew my mind. I’m not generally one to seek out capers, but the caper berries were something else.  The pink color on the inside visually complemented the salmon, and though caper berries are bigger than their more common counterpart, I thought the flavor was milder and less overwhelming.

This tartine was fabulous, but also very expensive.  In fact, the whole of FarmShop is pretty overpriced, so be wary if you’re not looking to spend an entire paycheck on a meal.

The Bazaar and Uni Buns

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Thus far, this blog has (hopefully) demonstrated my love of sandwiches, and it should be apparent by now that I just love food in general.  The one thing that I don’t think is quite so obvious is how much I love to experiment with food; unfortunately, a sandwich blog can’t always illustrate this.  Therefore, I give you the first, of hopefully many, posts that involve stranger foods.

The Bazaar is a restaurant that is, well, bizarre.  Since this isn’t a restaurant review, but a sandwich blog, I’ll let you do your own research (just go there if you like awesome food in a unique setting).  This post is more about my love affair with sea urchin.

Growing up, my mom would always order sea urchin, known as uni, at sushi restaurants, and to be perfectly honest, it freaked me out.  I don’t really remember my first uni experience, but once I tried it, I never went back.  Now, if anything has sea urchin in it, chances are, I’m ordering it.  For me, sea urchin is a food that has more ties to memory and experience than most foods.  Most notably, diving for sea urchins in Santorini, then cracking them open on the red sand beach and eating them right then and there.  Though most people find sea urchin very off-putting, to me, it evokes the ocean and is unbelievably decadent and delicious.

THIS is why I will order sea urchin everywhere, and why I loved these uni buns so much.  Not only was the sea urchin itself awesome, but the combination of Asian flavors combined into a mini sandwich made this dish irresistible to me.  The soft doughiness of the brioche, the crunch of the tempura, the heat of the serrano, the hint of ginger, the cool creaminess of the avocado, the melt-in-your-mouth texture and saltiness of the sea urchin…now this is taking a sandwich to a whole new level.