Feb
18
    
Posted (Rick Lupert) in California, Faux Meat, Los Angeles, Northridge, United States, Veggie Dog on February-18-2018

As a vegetarian who didn’t give up meat because I didn’t like it, I’m always thrilled to be treated like a “full citizen” at meat-centric restaurants, and I got that treatment here at The Dog Haus (Northridge, CA location) where they have a veggie hot dog, a veggie sausage, and a veggie burger all available to go on any of their menu items.

It’s an order at the counter, small-ish establishment with craft beers on top and a family friendly / bar environment.

I was glad I could order anything off the menu and specify the vegetarian protein I wanted in it, though I rolled-my own with the the vegan apple sage sausage with mustard, onions and sauerkraut and cheddar cheese. This was super yummy. The flavor and texture of the veggie sausage was spot-on…the bun was perfect and I would definitely eat this again!

Vegan Apple Sage Sausage with Onions, Kraut, Mustard and Cheddar

Vegan Apple Sage Sausage with Onions, Kraut, Mustard and Cheddar

I also had tots on the side…these were perfectly cooked, not over done, not underdone…just the right amount of crispy on the outside with the inside being as tender as it should be.

Fries and Tots Mix

Fries and Tots Mix

Pair that with the stout on draft beer and I felt like a full fledged human being eating at a meat restaurant despite my vegetarianism. It was all super-yummy!

Stout on Tap

Stout on Tap

My son had a veggie hot dog with ketchup. He didn’t love it but I think it’s because there was too much ketchup on it, but in my eyes the veggie dog itself on his sandwich looked pretty good, and large (unlike the small veggie dogs you see in packages in the market.)

Since I was dining in, I wish the beer had come in a real glass, even a reusable plastic stein instead of a throw away plastic cup. I saw someone drinking from a large stein and think if people are dining in they should automatically serve in reusable glasses instead of throw-awayables (or at least ask what you want there…better for the environment and “nices up” the experience a bit to not be drinking out of a plastic cup, but other than that I loved the meal there. The service was super-friendly and fast and I will definitely be back again!

The Dog Haus, Northridge, CA
8931 Reseda Blvd.
Northridge, CA 91324
http://www.doghaus.com/


 
Feb
16
    
Posted (Rick Lupert) in California, Lancaster, Los Angeles, Tea, United States on February-16-2018

The Modern Tea Room is a cute little place right in the middle of downtown Lancaster. Although not a vegetarian restaurant, they have an extensive vegan menu, and many options for dairy-eating vegetarians as well.

We came in in the middle of the afternoon just for a quick snack and drink and didn’t order much food, but everything we saw it coming out of the kitchen looked absolutely gorgeous. There is a cheese plate you can get. (There’s something about a restaurant that offers a cheese plate, that automatically gives it a couple extra stars in my book.)

My wife and I both enjoyed the drinks that we got. Of course the team menu here is quite extensive with many, many options for hot and iced teas, plus some more creative team-based beverages they offer.

In particular I enjoyed the Organic Monk’s blend iced tea that I got which I thought was steeped perfectly (I like a strong black tea and they serve it up just the way I wanted it) and not overly sweet. It was served in a pint glass, with a “head “which I made it look a lot like beer and reminded me of the time I was in Belgium and a tour guide at a bear brewery told us that no one should ever drink their beer before the head completely dissipates. I didn’t pay attention to that with my iced tea and allowed myself to get a tea mustache. It also came with an extra little carafe of even more tea that I could refresh my glass with when I was getting low. Over all of this gave the impression that this beverage was truly handcrafted, and it was quite impressive.

Organic Monks Blend Iced Tea

Organic Monks Blend Iced Tea

Our nine-year-old had the caramel vanilla candy kids tea, which he thought was OK. It’s cool that they do these special creative tea drinks for kids, but sometimes kids just want something pretty basic so this one wasn’t necessarily a win for him.

He did love the crumb cake though which is served with a side of sweet cream and drizzled with caramel. And it was a pretty impressive looking desserts!

Crumb Cake

Crumb Cake

We were just in Lancaster for the day, but if we lived in the area we would definitely come back for a meal because everything looked so good. This is a unique spot in the middle of downtown Lancaster that shouldn’t be missed.

The Modern Tea Room, Lancaster, CA
705 W Lancaster Blvd.
Lancaster, CA 93534
https://www.facebook.com/themoderntearoom/


 
Feb
10
    
Posted (Rick Lupert) in California, Italian, Los Angeles, Pizza, Sherman Oaks, United States on February-10-2018

Pizza:90 joins a thankfully crowded arena of artisan pizza makers in Southern California and the results are okay. This is a casual, order at the counter spot in the former location of Fuddruckers in the Sherman Oaks Galleria. The staff is super friendly, the food is decent though in our experience, not perfect.

I had the Margherita pizza. The crust here was the star…though overall the pie was slightly undercooked leaving the Fiora Latte (a type of mozzarella) not as satisfying as it could have been and the pizza crust, in the center in particular, not as crispy as I would have liked. The sauce was super-fresh tasting, but without a whole lot of flavor. I could tell there was a really good pizza in there that almost was able to come out…the crust on the rim was perfectly cooked and chewy…just got a little less cooked as I got to the center.

My wife had the vegan “Ortolana” pizza made with a gluten free crust. She’s tried a lot of gluten free crusts…some are really good, and then there’s this one which wasn’t. She thought it tasted like a typical premade (as opposed to house-made) crust…kind of card-board-y or cracker like versus what you really want a pizza crust to taste and feel like. (And which other similar restaurants have been able to achieve.) She also felt the pizza was underdone in the middle. Unevenly cooked like mine was. (Perhaps 90 seconds in their 900 degrees ovens isn’t quite the right formula?)

Kudos in general to Pizza:90 for at least having a gluten free crust option, a vegan pizza option, and even a vegan cheese option. There are also plenty of salads, a few pasta options and a couple of small plates, including deep fried “Brussel” Sprouts which we ordered, but I guess the person taking are order didn’t hear us so they never arrived. (And by the time we realized this it was too late for us to want them.)

Our kid had the “Bambino” pizza with mushrooms. Odd situation where, as we were waiting for our food, they came over to tell us they were out of the “smoked mozzarella” and wanted to know if it would be okay if they just put regular mozzarella on his pizza. Since we didn’t actually ask for the smoked mozzarella on his pizza it was kind of confusing. Of course our kid wants regular mozzarella on his pizza. So with this and the “Brussel” Sprouts situation, it seems like, as friendly as the staff is, they might need to do a better job focusing on order accuracy.

We’d probably try any of the other places in the area offering similar wood-fired / artisan pizzas before coming back here as nothing about Pizza:90’s food or experience put it ahead of the abundantly available competition.

Pizza:90, Sherman Oaks, CA
In the Sherman Oaks Galleria
15301 Ventura Blvd P-10
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403


 
Feb
07
    
Posted (Rick Lupert) in Brunch, California, Lancaster, Los Angeles, United States on February-7-2018

Crazy Otto’s is a small chain of diners serving standard American diner food, and honestly, nothing particularly crazy. They also have a “no substitutions” policy, which is tough enough at almost any other nicer restaurant where some thought and artistry goes into their foods, but pretty inexcusable when you’re really just serving standard diner food and patrons like us hope that we might be able to create a meal for ourselves, even if we are vegetarians, or people with gluten-free diets. For example my wife wanted an omelette with avocado and wanted no meat in it. They were happy to take the meat out but to add spinach it was $3.25, which seemed pretty ridiculous, or in the terminology of the restaurant “crazy”.

I had a cheese omelette made with egg whites. It was definitely large but nothing special. The egg whites were a little overcooked, the cheese didn’t have much flavor, and the hash-browns were really just a bunch of undercooked potatoes, with no discernible seasoning.

Egg White Cheese Omelet and Hashbrowns

Egg White Cheese Omelet and Hashbrowns

The food did come out insanely fast, so I guess kudos for the quick service, if only any of it was any good. Please restaurants, take your time with my food and make it right.

My wife also ordered her hash-browns well done. They came out essentially burned and inedible. Considering the ones I had on my omelette were undercooked and under-seasoned I’m wondering if Crazy Otto’s could find a crazy medium between not cooked enough and potatoes served directly out of the sun.

Avocado Omelet with Crispy Hashbrowns

Avocado Omelet with Crispy Hashbrowns

I had a biscuit as my bread choice. I love biscuits and I’ve had them with breakfast at restaurants all over our fine nation. This was probably the worst biscuit I’d ever had. It was terrible! It almost had the flavor of a biscuit but the texture was awful. It says right on their menu they have the “best biscuits in town.” Well to be fair this is the only biscuit I’ve had in Lancaster, and I’d say, compared to what I’ve had in the rest of the United States of America, Lancaster really needs to up their biscuit game if this is the best they have to offer.

Biscuits

Biscuits

My wife added tortillas to her meal so she could have a gluten-free bread choice. She did kind of enjoy the spinach and avocado that she pulled out of her eggs, wrapped in the tortillas (A sort of roll-your own breakfast quesadilla) There was of course an extra fee for the tortillas and no other gluten free bread options available.

On the positive side our son really enjoyed his french fries and sourdough toast. Well done Otto’s as for not stirring up french fries and toast. Perhaps this can be a building block for your future success.

I can’t speak much to the cleanliness of the restaurant either. The paper napkins they gave us actually stuck to the table. They were nice enough to come and clean it again and dry it off so that didn’t happen a second time. But not really great first impression on their regular table cleaning process.

They did offer half sizes on their insanely large omelettes for just a dollar less. Which is cool though considering the amount of food that they gave you perhaps more than a dollar off would be warranted for these fairly expensive omelettes.

If you’re considering eating at Otto’s, I’d suggest you’d be better off just mailing the $20 to Otto and then eating somewhere else.

Crazy Otto’s, Lancaster, CA
43528 20th St W
Lancaster, CA 93534
https://www.crazyottosdiners.com/


 
Feb
06
    
Posted (Rick Lupert) in California, Century City, Italian, Los Angeles, United States on February-6-2018

If it’s your desire to enter a crazy Italian food fantasy land, Eataly is the place to go. I’d like to tell you they have hot and cold running pasta, and it’s probably true, but there is so much Italian goodness going on in this place, you won’t have the chance to experience all of it in one visit. It’s like Disneyland, if Disneyland was Italian food themed. (And it’s free to get in, minus of course the inevitable amount you’ll spend on coffee, pastries, bread, cheese, Italian pantry goods, gelato, wine and at the restaurants.

This place indulge all of your senses and although it can be very crowded with very long lines (to be fair we were there on a Saturday night around dinner time…not exactly the most care-free non-busy time to go to a restaurant) going into it knowing that will allow you to enjoy everything. Go here. You don’t even need a passport.

After wandering like tourists through the aisle of Eataly, already on sensory overload, we got in the long line to eat at La Pizza & La Pasta, on the second floor at Eataly in the back. Lo and behold the line wanders by a stand selling wine by the glass. I can have a sample before decided to buy a glass? Oh Eataly, you’ve thought of everything. We waited about a half an hour for a table (Be prepared for this. They don’t take reservations.) But this did allow one of us to wait in line while the other explored the store more.

We really enjoyed the food! I had the Margherita Pizza. I would have liked it or have some of the parmesan cheese on it, but overall the crust, sauce, and cheese were amazing.

Margherita Pizza

Margherita Pizza

The gluten-free marinara pizza served without cheese had my wife questioning her very reality. The crust was so good that no-one at the table believed it was actually gluten-free.

Gluten Free Cheeseless Marinara Pizza

Gluten Free Cheeseless Marinara Pizza

Our son is a plain pasta kind of guy (sigh…we didn’t raise him right) So that’s what he got. At least it was made in house. I tried a noodle and the flavor was good but it was a little over cooked. (that perfect balance of cooked versus al dente not quite achieved for him.)

Plain Housemade Pasta

Plain Housemade Pasta

The bread started off the whole meal was great. It’s also made in house, and serves with a noticeably flavorful olive oil that kind of reinvented the idea of olive oil for me. We ended up buying a bottle of it.

We also had fresh mozzarella served with beets, pistachio pesto and squash (you get to pick any three items to accompany the burrata). This was also really really good.

Burrata with Beets, Pesto and Squash

Burrata with Beets, Pesto and Squash

The restaurant does have a “no substitutions” policy which always ding the overall rating of a place for us. (One of us is vegetarian and one is gluten free so sometimes we need to modify things a little just so we can eat at a place…when that’s not possible it limits our options. We did have plenty to eat here so it wasn’t really an issue, but still whenever we see “no substitutions” on a menu it bums us out a little.

Decaf Espresso

Decaf Espresso

La Pizza & La Pasta was definitely worth the wait. Eataly on its own is well worth a visit with its coffee stations, separate pizza restaurant, bread, cheeses, olive oil’s, gelato, pastries etc…We can’t wait to come back.

La Pizza & La Pasta at Eataly L.A., Century City, CA
In the Westfield Century City Mall

10250 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90067
https://www.eataly.com/