Posted (Rick Lupert) in California, Faux Meat, Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, United States, Veggie Dog on March-26-2016

Build Your Own Veggie Dog
Excellent Veggie Dog in the Fashion Square Mall!

I’m always excited to see a veggie dog as an option and this one did not disappoint. Not at all like the smaller packaged vegetarian hot dogs you can get at the markets, but a nicely sized (ok, already this seems dirty…) weiner that tasted really good.

This is sort of the Chipotle of hot dog places. You place an order for a pre-configured hot dog or choose to build your own and follow the process down to the various toppings containers and direct the assembler to put on what you want. I “built my own” with a veggie dog, cheddar cheese, fresh onions, jalapeño peppers and their Dark Ale Mustard. Super tasty all around.

There are many many options…different kinds of buns, different kinds of cheeses, different kinds of mustards, different kinds of sour krauts…it goes on and on.

The presentation is really great too…AND the French Fries are also really good…hand cut style…skin on.

I’ve had veggie dogs at lots of places and this is definitely among the best…very hearty and tasty. Also my son, a very picky 7 year old also had a veggie dog…much simpler with just the dog and ketchup on a bun…and he loved it…that’s a triumph and a half
Quick service, excellent food with lots of vegetarian options and variations. Very excited to have this as a vegetarian option in the mall!

14006 Riverside Drive
(Inside the Westfield Fashion Square Mall
Sherman Oaks, CA 91406

Posted (Rick Lupert) in California, Raw, Tarzana, United States, Vegan on March-25-2016

We’ve eaten at raw restaurants a couple of times and we think it’s possible this style of cooking and presentation is not that much for us…so take our review with a grain of salt. (Raw salt…)

Overall we were disappointed with our experience here. Our first disappointment is with the “marketing” of the food in the form of what they call the items, and what they end up bringing you. Raw restaurants tend to call things by familiar names like “cheese” or “taco” and what ends up coming to the table are are only vague reflections of those references. Not that they offer a veggie burger here, but for example, if I’m going for a veggie burger, my preference is one in which they approximate the experience of eating a burger. In this case, we ordered the cheese and crackers plate. We’ve had really great vegan cheese…in this case the three little terrines came with fairly tasty “dips” but didn’t really get us anywhere near the concept of “cheese”. The “crackers” were mostly crumbles, like they were the bottom of the jar of whatever this came from. This was supposed to also come with “house bread” but we found, after we ordered, and as the dish was set on our table that they were out of the bread.

Also had the “Dos Tacos” as my main. This was supposed to come with “cilantro corn slaw”. I chose this over the “Trio of Enchiladas” as the corn element sounded like a nice addition. The food that was brought was fresh…fairly tasty…albeit not particularly filling. I noticed there was no corn slaw on the plate and was told by the server that they were out of corn. A legitimate explanation about how they weren’t able to get organic corn right then was offered. Okay, they have standards…no problem…but giving me a dish which didn’t have everything on it listed on the menu with no substitution offered until after I noticed that an item was missing felt a little shifty.

My wife ordered the special Ravioli…she was told after our server went into the kitchen that they were out of the ravioli. OK, I guess that’s better than just automatically bringing her a different dish with missing items, but now we’re at the point, on a Friday night (I don’t know about you but weekend evenings seem like the time to not be out of items) where three things we ordered were not available. (Bread with the “cheese”, corn slaw with the “tacos”, and the Seasonal Ravioli.

She eventually got the Coconut Curry Wraps…an aptly named dish which again was fresh and tasty enough, but did not inspire her to want to come back for more.

The food overall has a tendency to lean towards being spicy. Nothing wrong with that…but also not something that you’d necessarily be aware of by looking at the menu.

We were generally disappointed with the meal…we left feeling not necessarily hungry, but also not like we’d eat a hearty meal of any kind.

Also, storefront is wide open so there isn’t a lot of difference between sitting inside or outside…though there were a couple tiny little flea-like insects that I had to kept shooing away from the moment we sat down. That’s never fun.

Again as I said in the beginning the whole Raw style of restaurant may not be for us, but in the end we either enjoyed the meal or we didn’t…in this case, we didn’t.

118 Degrees
18636 Ventura Blvd.
Tarzana, CA 91356

Posted (Rick Lupert) in Maine, Portland, Tapas on July-26-2014

What brought us to Central Provisions was an earlier review which said “This place is f*king ridiculous. We weren’t sure if that meant you’d walk in and they’d punch you in the face and then spit on your genitals, or if the food was really good. Turns out it was the latter. We had the Roasted Radish Nori Emulsion which melded together so well…the seaweed in it made it feel like we were having a local seafood dish which was a nice experience to have as a vegetarian in a coastal Maine town. The Spicy Maine Potatoes were crispy and delicious with a nice lingering spice. Served with Heinz ketchup which on the surface seemed low-rent for an upscale small plates place but it actually paired perfectly. The Caramelized Sheep Cheese with onion and Beet and, well caramelized cheese which basically can be defined as “how can you go wrong.” The food and drinks were artisanal. We had plenty to eat as vegetarians and we enjoyed talking with the owner Paige who obviously took a lot of well deserved pride in what she was serving. (See the key lime tart which is her mother’s recipe.) This was one of the very best meals we’ve had, certainly on our 10 day trip around New England. Well worth a stop to anyone who is in Portland.

Central Provisions
414 Fore St
Portland, ME 04101

Caramelized Goat Cheese

Caramelized Goat Cheese

Spicy Maine Potatoes

Spicy Maine Potatoes

Momma's Key Lime Tart

Momma’s Key Lime Tart

Roasted Radish with Nori Emulsion

Roasted Radish with Nori Emulsion

Posted (Rick Lupert) in Brunch, California, Granada Hills, Los Angeles, United States on September-7-2013

Joe’s Cafe – Granada Hills, California


Once you get north of Burbank Boulevard in the Valley (and some would argue it stops at Ventura Boulevard) the San Fernando Valley can be a wasteland of interesting, good and unique places to eat…but if you brave it all the way to the wilds of “old” Granada Hills on Chatsworth Street, you’ll find a beacon of thoughtful foodie-ness at Joe’s Cafe. Now be warned…it’s a tiny place…if you’re a large man you might not even be able to fit in…(just kidding)…there are only a few seats inside which they supplement with some outside tables…so if you head there during a busy time…say Sunday brunch…you might have to wait for some place to sit…but you’ll be rewarded with top notch home made food. So do it!


Our first time eating there was actually our second time there…this was as a result of us being unaware of the limited hours for breakfast…This is actually our only complaint about the place…we often aren’t able to get to brunch until a little later so if we’re going on any day but Sunday, they stop serving the breakfast menu at 11:30 am…even on Saturdays…so we missed that window on our first trip there but headed back another day when we were able.  More breakfast time please Joe’s!


Everything about the place demonstrates attention to detail, the farm-sourced food, the staff and the restaurant is smartly designed with a modern sensibility


While we were waiting for our feed they brought an olive and pretzel bread which was served with grape and apple jam which was great!


Croissant Sandwich

We had ordered 2 croissant sandwiches with egg and smoked gouda. I subbed olives for the bacon and Addie subbed avocado for the bacon. The olives subbed the perfect amount of saltiness for the sandwich and Addie (who had sunny side over medium eggs on hers enjoyed it quite a bit.


Our 4 year old had greek yogurt with honey which kept him quite happy.


As potato fiends we do wish there was a potato option with their breakfast offerings…we’re sure they’d do a great job with potatoes!


We also saw an order of pancakes go by and they looked pretty darned good, coveed with fresh berries.


Although we didn’t eat lunch there were some drool-worthy items on the menu which would have satisfied our vegetarian needs including the “Extra Cheese Grilled Cheese” and the “Mac ‘N Bleu” Cheese” and a grilled mushroom sandwich.


The coffee was also good…self-serve Intelligentsia brand.


We were impressed with the chef’s attention to detail…making sure plates were perfectly presented and spotless on their way out. We also always appreciate a restaurant that makes a point of telling you that menu items are seasonal…let’s us know they put a lot of thought to what they serve.


The Valley needs more places like Joe’s Cafe…in the mean time, as they say, Eat at Joe’s.


Joe’s Cafe
17815 Chatsworth Street
Granada Hills, CA 91344

Posted (Rick Lupert) in Brunch, California, Coffee, Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, United States on September-7-2013

The Valley, Sherman Oaks even is exploding with great places for brunch, with the newly opened Blu Jam up the street, Sweet Butter Kitchen also up the street in the other direction, Nat’s Early Bite, etc…Crave has been on the seen for a couple of years now and is a great place to go for just about anything. It’s a coffee house, a waffle house, a lunch spot, a creperie, they’ve got a kids menu…often at a place that tries to be everything, they end up doing nothing particularly well. That is not the case here. Crave Cafe does just about everything well. Notably well!


The location is great too…right on Ventura Boulevard a door away from Van Nuys Boulevard in the heart of the Sherman Oaks “Village” area. (Seriously how many Southern Cal. towns are going to put up a sign declaring their main street a “village?” On top of all of this the place is open 24 hours (except between Sunday night at midnight and whenever it is they open on Monday morning…) so if you’ve got a “Crave”ing for something at just about anytime you’re all set.


We’ve been several times, always for brunch and have always been satisfied. The coffee is excellent. Super strong, served in large mugs, refills galore. I recommend if you’re eating there (and by the way it’s an order at the counter place) to order a small coffee as odds are they’ll bring it to you in a large mug and in any case the refills are free.


All they’re dishes are presented well…I made my own omelette once…(or, well, it says on the menu “make your own omelette” but really you choose the ingredients and they make it…)…egg whites, spinach, onions, mushrooms and swiss cheese.  The only issue here was the “swiss” cheese…some restaurants seem to use an american-like cheese which is not really swiss but it happens to be white and is labeled as “swiss.”  Otherwise it was presented well, the mushrooms were savory and the portion was generous.

I had a side of hashbrowns…served square, sort of reminiscent of what you’d get at McDonalds but not disgusting like you’d get at McDonalds. (Good hashbrowns just to be clear!)


A side of fruit also came which was strawberries and oranges…it’s always good when a side of fruit is thoughtful and fresh like this, as opposed to the typical melon based fruit sides where the melon is often not fresh and takes over the flavor of everything else.


On another visit I also noticed they had various quiches. As a vegetarian Francophile I can never turn down a good slice of quiche and they’ve got 3 options! A mushroom Spinach with Feta cheese, a sundried tomato and basil and a “Veggie” with zucchini, squash, onions, peppers and eggplant. I’ve had the first 2 on different occasions and they definitely satisfy my need for quiche.


There really is something everyone at Crave Cafe and we’ve never been disappointed with anything. This is a great casual place to eat.


Crave Cafe – Sherman Oaks
(There’s also a location in Studio City)
14504 Ventura Blvd
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403