L.A. Confidential

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Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/24 11:49:03
BB:  My deceased wife and I visited the Hearst Castle in 1989.  We drove the coast line from San Fran to Morro.  We spent the night close by and I had mussel's for the first time.  You brouight back some neat memories.  Super drive and super food.  I have read about the style of BBQ you enjoyed at about three different places..
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/24 14:17:14
Wednesday November 28, 2012 (cont.)
The drive back to Los Angeles was long, boring and uneventful.  Unlike yesterday when we had some great views to look at, the weather

on this day made that impossible.  Mariton even fell asleep for a couple of hours.  By the time we reached our dinner destination, Les Sisters Southern Kitchen

in Chatsworth, I was quite tired and glad to be out of the car.
Les Sisters is a soul food restaurant with a distinct New Orleans flare. 

Music is obviously a love of the owners, as you can tell by this mural

and the unusual rememberances on the wall. 

Before leaving on the trip, I received some excellent suggestions from Chris & Amy (ayersian) about where to eat.  The fact that they raved about the fried chicken at a Cajun restaurant in a Los Angeles suburb seemed like an odd choice, but I have learned to trust them in matters like this.  Here are a couple sections of the menu

and this was one of those restaurants where I could of ordered one of about 20 different things and would have been happy with the choice.
Our meal started off with an appetizer of Hot Links,

which came in a sweet, delicious barbecue sauce.  These sausages were fatty, juicy with a crispy skin and I loved them, although Mariton did not.  More for me!  Being a fried chicken lover, Mariton had the easy decision.  You can get the fried chicken regular or Cajun and she chose the all dark meat regular.

We both loved the heavily battered, brittle outside skin and the inside meat was wonderfully moist and juicy.  I thought this was clearly the best chicken of the trip, but Mariton still preferred what she had early at Pann's.  Her sides were the forgettable red beans and rice and collard greens. 

Mariton jazzed up the greens with the vinegar on the table, which really brought out the flavor.  We both raced to eat as much as we could.
Like I said, there was so much to like on the menu, but I could not pass up a chance to eat crawfish etoufee,

despite us being so far from Cajun country.  There was plenty of crawfish in the dish and the sauce was very good, but there was no heat to it at all.  The waiter warned that the dish can be very spicy hot, so I asked him if they could back it off a little bit.  So, I ended up with a version with no heat at all.  I guess that is what happens when you mess with a dish.  The side of macaroni and cheese

was dry and deserved no more than the bite or two it got.
To drink, I got the fresh squeezed lemonade,

that was delivered to my table with no sugar in it at all.  It was nothing but undrinkably tart.  After a couple of sips, I ended up putting some sugar in it, which is the first time I have ever done that.  As soon as I got the lemonade where I wanted it, the waiter came over and gave me a refill and I had to start over.  Dessert was a difficult decision between peach cobbler and buttermilk pie (I'm not much of a fan of bread pudding), eventually settling on the pie. 

They sure don't shortchange you with the whipped cream, do they?  The pie was soft, sweet, with a pleasant tang to it.  Very enjoyable!
Early on in our meal, the waiter found out we were not locals and when he found out I was from Pittsburgh, he said, "I really hate the Steelers."  Already knowing he was from Massachusetts, I replied with, "No problem, I really hate the Patriots."  It seems we had come to a mutual understanding and we received really good service.  Although I can't recommend all the food here, we did like most of it and would definitely return.
Les Sisters Southern Kitchen
21818 Devonshire Street
Chatsworth, CA
We drove a short distance down the street to find another restaurant reviewed here on Roadfood called Munch Box.  They were closed and there was a couple sitting on the picnic benches.  Knowing that their number was disconnected, I asked the couple if Munch Box was out of business, but they told me they just close for the Winter.
Our hotel for the night was the Staybridge Suites, right around the corner from Les Sisters.  While checking in, we found out our room would be on the second floor and there was no elevator.  The nice young lady at the desk offered to have someone carry our luggage up to our room.  Since I have foolish pride, I said no, I can carry it myself.  Just before we walked away, she matter of factly mentioned that they were doing construction on that building and there was currently no internet.  Nuh uh, no way, not going to happen.  She said I could always come use the business center in the lobby.  I told her unless she wants me in the business center in my pajamas (or worse), she better get us a room with working internet.  Not my proudest moment, but I was tired.  She then said we could switch to another building with working internet, but our room would now be on the third floor.  Fine.  She asked again if I wanted help with the luggage and this time pride went bye-bye.  As someone who is 6'2" and 280 lbs., it is a little embarrassing to have someone carry your luggage up the stairs for you, but I didn't really care at this point.
I was trying to remember if I have ever been on a trip before and only eaten two meals over the course of the day, but couldn't recall it happening before.  We both agreed that our best day of the vacation was followed by this, the worst day of the trip.         
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/12/24 14:24:03
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/24 20:12:17
I toured Hearst Castle in 1984.  I remember the year because it was the year of the Los Angeles Olympics.
There were several different tours when I did it.  What I remember was choosing the tour with the least amount of steps.  They made a definite difference by step number in the different tours.  I loved that. 
Sorry the weather didn't act in your favor.
Les Sisters!  I need to go there.  The chicken looks great, but for the price the etoufee looks meager.  All rice and no substance... But a beautiful picture.
I've never had etoufee that was spicy so I find that fact interesting.  In fact, everything under the Cajun and Creole listings are not usually spicy except for the jambalaya.  Hmmmm
I wonder if it's possible to get a sample of the sauce prior to ordering.  Does that seem out of line?  I'd hate to order a dish like that and not like it.
My first thoughts on the lemonade were Really?  Then I thought that maybe that saves them from making two types for those that want artificial sweetener.  I have no other answer for lemonade without sugar.  Never heard of that before.
I might have to go there just for the buttermilk pie!
LOVING all of your choices!
ann peeples
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/25 03:30:34
I am more than interested, as i am reading, about the beans!Sounds funny, but they appeal to me!
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/25 09:06:26
We made pretty much the same trip in December/January of 05 & 06.  Unfortunately, I didn't know then about Roadfood.com.
Next time, thanks to you and Mariton, we'll have an even better time!
And thanks to the Sterns, the technical folk, and the Moderators for producing this most enjoyable and informative site.
The Travelin Man
Filet Mignon
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/25 19:13:25
I am glad to see that you finally got in regionally appropriate meal at Les Sisters.
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/25 22:36:37
Thursday November 29, 2012
First stop this morning was Earl's Donuts in Chatsworth.  Located in a strip mall (isn't everything?), we were surprised by how many people were standing outside. 

And every seat inside was taken up, too. 

This is a really popular place!  
The donuts in the case looked great. 

Knowing this was going to be a very heavy restaurant day for us, we decided to get a half dozen only.  After we ordered our six, the very friendly Asian couple who own Earl's told us we get another one for free.  We asked them if they were always this crowded and they told us there is a car cruise club that meets every Thursday morning, only it was too rainy out to bring the cars.  But, they still get together for coffee and doughnuts anyway!  The owner then pointed out their photo in front of what I think he told me was a 1934 Ford. 

He told me it was his car, but the way he laughed made me think he was joking around.
Since there were no inside seats, we took our pink box

of donuts to the car.  Is there some kind of law nowadays that every box of donuts has to be pink?  I swear, the last three or four times I have ordered donuts in a non-chain, the box has been pink.  Here is our haul,

which included a glazed, chocolate glazed, sugar twist, long john, custard filled, chocolate old fashioned and an apple fritter.  This chocolate

was the standout for me.  It was still warm, incredibly light and melted in your mouth.  I could have eaten quite a few more of these.  Mariton fell in love with the apple fritter

and surprisingly told me this is the first time she has ever had one of these.  Truthfully, we enjoyed everything we ate from Earl's and nibbled on these for the rest of the day.
Earl's Donuts
20429 Devonshire Street
Chatsworth, CA
We purposely did not get up too early because we had no desire to deal with the rush hour traffic heading into the city.  But even at 9:30AM, the traffic was fairly heavy. 

If it wasn't for the left lane for two or more drivers (in Pittsburgh we call it the HOV lane, but they call it something different in Los Angeles), we might still be sitting there.  If you can't tell by now, I REALLY hate traffic.  
Next up was Marty's Hamburger Stand

which has been here on busy W. Pico Blvd since 1959.  This is just a tiny walk-up stand with a few seats on the sides.  The menu

is almost all hamburgers and hot dogs, which is perfect since I was here to order what they call the combo.  The combo puts the hamburger patty and the hot dog on one bun and I let the young man taking the order talk me into adding cheese and chili.  How is that for a healthy breakfast?
The grill is directly in front of the window and that makes it easy to watch it being prepared and to take photos. 

The finished product is a thing of beauty!  

According to the menu, they grind their own meat fresh daily, which is the only way you are going to get a hamburger that tastes this good.  And the hot dog, with a wonderful snap when you bit into it, was obviously a high quality wiener.  If I had it to do over again, I would have ordered it without the chili.  Though there was nothing wrong with the chili, it was more of a distraction from the other great flavors.  And despite everything that was on this burger, it was still an easily manageable size

and I had no trouble finishing the whole thing.
As much as we liked the burger, our favorite thing here was the onion rings,

which were some of the darkest rings I have ever seen, with a seriously wicked crunch.  If you go to Marty's, do not miss out on these beauties!  To drink, we couldn't resist ordering something called an orange bang. 

From what they described to me, I was expecting it to be like the frosted orange they serve at the Varsity in Atlanta, but it was more like an orangade.  Very refreshing and a nice change of pace.
In between dodging the rain drops, we had a good time chatting with the two young men standing and eating by the front of the stand.  The one guy told us how he had been eating at Marty's for a long time, but he never had the combo burger until his friend introduced him to it.  Now he orders it all the time!  If I lived here, I would too.
Marty's Hamburger Stand
10558 W. Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA
Next up, we finally go to a Mariton kind of restaurant.           
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/12/25 22:45:25
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 00:40:19
I was lucky to have a gift of Earl's Doughnuts when the Ayersian Duo were visiting.  They are quite good.
(Hoping you also went to Stan's Donuts in Westwood.  Your bar would be raised. 
(That's 2 doughnut puns for those that didn't notice!  Woot!)
Did you know about Marty's or did you see it when you were driving between Johnny O'Groats and Apple Pan?
Seems funny reading about my stomping grounds. 
Orange Bang came about when they added those whirling, blending devises on drink machines.  There are a few other Bang flavors.  Wonder if it's a west coast drink.
I'm trying to figure out where you're going from here!
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 07:34:28
I learned about Marty's from the Hamburger America book.  Other Los Angeles places in the book are Apple Pan, Pie 'N Burger, Irv's, In-N-Out and Cassell's.  Unfortunately, I had never heard of Stan's before, which is a shame, because we were in Westwood twice. 
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 09:08:52
Thursday November 29, 2012 (cont.)
I think I have had sushi three times in my life and although it wasn't bad, it is so far down the list of foods I like, I would never go eat it on my own.  Now Mariton, she loves sushi.  And since my friend wanderingjew has reviewed two sushi places in Los Angeles, the least we could could do is go visit one of them and Mariton could do most of the eating.
But, which one should we go to, Ugly Roll Sushi or California Roll Factory?  We arrived outside of Ugly Roll Sushi just before 11:00AM and were disappointed to see they don't open for lunch until 11:30.  No big deal, that means we will go to the other place instead.  But, before we left, I asked Mariton to look at the menu on the door to see what she thinks.  When she got back in the car, she expressed surprise at how cheap the food was and that made her leery of the quality.  California Roll Factory was a mere two miles away and we were dismayed to find out that they don't open until 11:30, either.  Now, we are back to square one.  Mariton got out to look at the California Roll Factory menu and she also mentioned how low the prices were.  I reread the Roadfood reviews to her and asked her which one she preferred and she chose Ugly Sushi Roll.  So it was back to the other restaurant, where we still had to wait a few more minutes for them to open.
Ugly Sushi Roll

is located in, you got it, a small strip mall.  I told her the ordering here was all her.  After studying the menu board,

she surprised me by getting two entrees.  I reminded her that I was already fairly full and that I would be doing very little eating, but she said no problem.  I remained skeptical, because there was no way she was going to be able to eat all that food.
The first dish she attacked was the Ugly Combo

with eel and spicy salmon being her roll choices, plus the tempura shrimp. 

And then there was a dish called Sushi II,

with salmon,tuna and shrimp.  I know that she ordered the shrimp because she knew that it was something that I would eat.  BTW, this might have been a special, because I don't see it on the menu board.  Anyway, she said everything was very fresh and much to my surprise, she easily ate everything on both plates.   I had one or two pieces here and there and while I am certainly not an expert, this was far superior to anything I have had back in Pittsburgh.  To drink, Mariton had a can of green tea,

while I stuck with water.
We had a pleasant surprise when we ran into wanderingjew outside of the restaurant,

but because he was working, he wasn't able to join us.
Ugly Roll Sushi
11128 Palms Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA
After three consecutive food stops, we were ready to do some sightseeing.  On previous visits to Los Angeles, one of my favorite places was The J. Paul Getty Museum, conveniently located on a high hill right next to I-405.  Interestingly, the museum itself is free, but it costs $15.00 to park in the garage.  From there, you catch a tram 

up to the museum.  Here is the attractive entrance to the visitor's center,

where we watched an introductory film.  It had been a dark dreary day already with off and on rain (whoever wrote that song It Never Rains in Southern California deserves a kick right where it hurts), but on this high hill, the fog was especially thick. 

If I remember correctly, you normally get a great view of the city, but there was no chance of that on this day.
There are either four or five big buildings that hold the permanent collection, plus another that is used for the current exhibition, which was Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance.  Having been to Florence just about a year earlier, this had special interest to Mariton.  Unlike the permanent collection, you are not allowed to take any photos, but we spent more time wandering around this exhibit than the others.
You are allowed to take photos of paintings in the permanent collection as long as you don't use a flash.  Among the many paintings we saw were from some of my favorite artists like Pierre-August Renoir, Eugene Delacroix, Jacques-Louis David, Jean Antoine Watteau, Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh.  Of all the artists we saw, Mariton seemed to be especially drawn to the work of Edgar Degas and not just the ballerina paintings.  But, there is so much more here to see that you would need a full day if not more.  And I don't want to make it seem like it is all paintings because there is gorgeous furniture,


tapestries and plenty of other priceless objects to be seen.
In all, we spent about three hours here.  But, we eventually got tired of running through the rain drops from building to building and were getting hungry again.
I should also mention that there is another arm of the Getty Museum in Malibu and from what they showed us in the film, it looks equally as spectacular.  This will be on my list of things to do on my next visit to Los Angeles.        
Double Cheeseburger
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 09:19:00
As always your posts are one of the highlights of coming to this site.  Having not been to the LA area in many many years now, I still see some things that bring back memories...my introduction to Santa Maria BBQ for one.  Your efforts are very much appreciated!
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 09:26:30

I had one or two pieces here and there and while I am certainly not an expert, this was far superior to anything I have had back in Pittsburgh.
It's amazing how much different something tastes without fries and slaw, isn't it?
Great report so far!
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 09:29:00
I'm about to leave for my morning after Christmas shopping but I had to first check in here to see if you'd added anything.
Regional food!  I don't realize that because it's all around me.  Nice picture of WJ and glad to see that he's working.
You had the pleasure of standing and eating right next to my elementary school.  I see it's trees next to the umbrellas!
I think I'll go to Ugly Sushi for lunch today. 
Thanks for the early morning smiles and suggestion.
(I hate The 405)
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 09:37:49


I had one or two pieces here and there and while I am certainly not an expert, this was far superior to anything I have had back in Pittsburgh.
It's amazing how much different something tastes without fries and slaw, isn't it?

Great report so far!
Now this made me laugh out loud! 

Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 11:12:40
BB: My brother and I visited the museum a few years ago when we were racing with NHRA in Pomona.  Awesome views, awesome architecture and a very nice presentation.
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 11:13:53
Thursday November 29, 2012 (cont.)
We made our back to West Hollywood to another burger stand from the Hamburger America book, Irv's Burgers

From what I had read in the book, this was a place I was really looking forward to visiting.  It is located on a corner of very busy Santa Monica Boulevard.  Irv's, which opened in 1948, is famous for several reasons.  It used to be a hangout for Jim Morrison, who lived around the corner.  The inner sleeve of Linda Ronstadt's 1978 album Living in the U.S.A. shows the band sitting down for a meal at Irv's, while Linda is reaching for a bag of chips.  And best of all, they are known for their excellent burgers and the friendliness of the Korean-American family who own Irv's.
There were no other customers when we walked up and we stood in the front checking out the menu board. 

Since she had such a big lunch, Mariton wanted to split a burger with me.  We walked over to the side of the building and placed our order with Sonja Hong.  When we mentioned this was our first time here, she became our new best friend.  Sonja owns the place along with her brother Sean and of course their mother, who is referred to as Mama.  Sonja is quick witted, with a smile and laugh that can light up a city block.  She told us to have a seat and the food would be delivered to us.  They do have a small dining area on the side and back of the building,

but we wanted to be at the cushy stools in front of the building so we could chat with Sonja and watch the food being prepared.
The first item brought to us was the large root beer we were sharing. 

Sonja then asked me if I wanted the pink straw or the blue straw.  When I replied that I better take the blue straw, she wiggled the pink one at me and asked "Are you suuuuuure?" and laughed again.  I think you had to be there to appreciate how funny she is.  Meanwhile, I had a great view of our double cheeseburger, with everything but tomato, being cooked on the grill. 

I had also noticed that Sonja was doing some writing in the kitchen. 

Knowing ahead of time that she sometimes writes messages on customer's plates, I figured that is what she was doing for us. 
When Sonja delivered the burger to us, we had a sweet message right on our paper plate. 

The reason for the WM was that I was wearing my green College of William & Mary t-shirt.  It is thought that she draws pictures of what people are wearing to remember what food they ordered.  I asked if she would pose with the burger,

which she was happy to do.  
This is a substantial burger

and we were thankful that it was already cut in half for us. 

Even then, it is a handful.  Once again, they use fresh, never frozen ground beef and the grill gives the outside of the meat a real nice crispiness.  Along with a ketchup, onions, mustard, pickles and lots of lettuce, all on a toasted bun, you have the recipe for a fine burger.  As a side, we got an order of the fresh cut fries,

which were pre-salted and delicious. Noticing that I was taking so many photos, Sonja teased me by asking if I wanted to take a photo or the salt and pepper shakers and laughed, so of course, I did!

For most of the time we were at Irv's, we were the only customers, so Sonja had plenty of time to chat with us.  She told us about them buying the place in 2000 from a man named Irv and that the Hongs were now the fifth owners.  She had some great stories passed down to her from the Jim Morrison days and had many more about the neighborhood.  I also asked about the attempt by Peet's Coffee to take over her little space in 2004 and how she was able, with lots of hard work and determination, plus the support from the community, to fight them off.  It is so nice to hear about the little guy winning one of these battles.  To help insure the future of the business, Irv's was declared a historical building.

Mariton surprised me by asking Sonja if she could recommend a good place to get her haircut.  Mariton doesn't like to get her haircut in Pittsburgh, because there are so few Asians here and she feels they don't know how to cut Asian hair properly.  She usually gets her hair cut on one of her trips back to the Philippines or visiting her aunt in Japan.  But, if she hasn't traveled for a while, we will drive down to northern Virginia and she has a favorite Korean salon near Falls Church.  We were supposed to go to Virginia the weekend before this vacation, but we had to cancel when I got tonsilitis.  Sonja said there were lots of choices in Koreatown and she even drew us a little map

to get there.
We had already spent a good hour and a half at Irv's and other customers had arrived, so we said our goodbyes.  Both Mariton and I loved our time at Irv's and this was my favorite Roadfood experience of the trip, if not the year.  Since I have been home, George Motz, who wrote the Hamburger America book, tweeted that he heard Irv's may be closing, but there were no other details.  Needless to say, this has me nervous and we certainly home it isn't true.
Irv's Burgers
8289 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA
We drove around Koreatown for a good bit, until Mariton found a place that looked good.  We stopped, I stayed in the car while she went in to ask them some questions, before waving me in.  Knowing that this was going to make her happy and that it was also preventing us from having to be in the after work rush hour traffic, I was quite content to relax at the salon.  And she was very happy with the finished product!
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/12/26 11:23:53
Filet Mignon
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 11:26:24
I just saw this report of a burger joint closing in L.A. early next year, but it wasn't Irv's.
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 11:30:03
Thanks for that link JRPfeff.  A burger stand is a public nuisance, huh?   
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 12:48:07
Thanks so much for the kind remarks!
You always amaze with the breadth of your knowledge and the extent of your travels.  It seems anyplace that we go, you have already beat me to it.  I am glad if some of these trip reports bring back fond memories for you and I am looking forward to seeing you and Roz again in Mobile.
At which place was I next to your elementary school?  If you do make it to Ugly Roll Sushi today, please report back and let us know what you think.
Double Cheeseburger
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 12:51:50
I know you go "After" Christmas bargain hunting every year the day after but you have more Chutzpah then I would ever thought of having!
2 days I NEVER go shopping and that's the day BEFORE Christmas and the day AFTER Christmas!
There is no amount of savings that would make me go anywhere near a Mall or shopping center on those days!
carolina bob
Filet Mignon
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 13:02:49
Thanks for posting about Tam's, JRPfeff. The way the owner was treated is typical government bullcrap... harass the little guy until he gives up and throws in the towel. Nonsense like this is why I've turned into such a cynic in my old age.
post edited by carolina bob - 2012/12/26 13:08:51
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 17:58:20
Back from shopping and lunch.  The day after Christmas is not crowded at all.  Just don't tell anyone.  The stores are practically empty...  at 7AM.
I had bluer skies for Ugly Roll Sushi which is next to my elementary school.

Gotta love the wall.  I looked for BB and Mariton but didn't find them.  WJ wasn't at work, either.

I ordered my standard, The Spider Roll which is soft shell crab.  But first I ate the $1.00 that's one dollar shrimp.  You can order one serving with a roll:

These are battered and fried after you order them.  Fresh and hot right out of the fryer.  They were delicious.  I could eat a meal just of the shrimp, but they don't serve that.
The Spider Roll:

This was also made to order.  I arrived there at 11:35AM so the rice was freshly made.  It's always been that way when there so they either have a great steamer or make only what they need at the time.
I wouldn't say this roll was the best I've ever had, but for $6.00 you sure can't beat it.
I like Ugly Roll Sushi!
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 18:06:20
Thanks so much for the report back mar52.  Great photos!  Even a sushi frowner like myself can agree that looks pretty good. 
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 18:07:01
I can't believe you still have your tonsils, BB. 
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 18:20:33
You'd think with all the free ice cream, I would have had them removed six or seven times by now!
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/26 19:26:14
Thursday November 29, 2012 (cont.)
It was now late enough so that we experienced very little traffic heading to our dinner destination, Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada

This is a mix of commercial and residential area and we had some trouble finding a parking spot.  It took several passes by the place, but we finally found one about a block away.  We took notice of the attractive outdoor seating area

on the way in, but it never did warm up on this day and Mariton wanted to eat inside.
You know how some restaurants have such a big menu that it makes it hard to decide what to order?  This is not that place.  Here is the entire menu. 

They did have a couple of specials going on,

but we were going to stick to the basics.  I ordered one fish taco and one shrimp taco for both of us and threw a couple of bucks into yet another distinctive tip jar shell.

The tacos come out plain

and then it is up to you to cover it with the condiments of your choice.  And what a condiment bar they have! 

They have six different salsas.  From left to right, they are radish relish, traditional,

mango less, mad mango,

pineapple kiss and avocado salsa. 

Notice that four of them warn you that they are hot.  And on the end is a larger dispenser simply labeled cream. 

The ingredients in these condiments is apparently a secret.  For instance, in the mango less, all they tell you is there is no mango.  This is most likely because you can buy jars of the salsa to take home.
Both Mariton and I enjoyed experimenting with the different toppings.  In this way, it reminded of us of another Chris & Amy recommendation we visited while in Connecticut, Chef's Dog House, with their relish bar.  While I was more conservative with them, just putting on small amounts

until I found out for sure that I enjoyed the flavor, Mariton went all out and really loaded her tacos up! 

Of all the salsas, we both agreed that the pineapple kiss had the best flavor, a flavor that really jumped out at you, even though it was borderline too hot for me.  Several other salsas were clearly above my heat tolerance level, but were child's play for Mariton.  The best topping though was the slightly sweet cream.  I don't know what was in it, but it really brought out the flavor of the fish and shrimp.  The one complaint I had was that the salsas were liquidy, which weakened the tortillas and made them real soft and if left sitting very long, made them break apart while trying to lift them to your mouth.
To drink, they have two of my favorites, jamaica and horchata. 

The inside of Best Fish Taco is small and there was a line most of the time we were here. 

There are a scattering of tables, with counter seats in the back,

facing the surfboards on the wall.
We give Best Fish Taco in Ensenada a very high recommendation!
Best Fish Taco in Ensanada
1650 N.Hillhurst Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
After the tacos, we were thinking some dessert would be the proper way to end our day.  We ended up at Fosselman's Ice Cream Company

in Alhambra.  It looked like the typical ice cream parlor

and the young guys working here were giving me strange looks for taking photos.  No big deal, I am used to that by now.  The available flavors of ice cream:

I ordered a hot fudge sundae.  Of course, they asked me if I wanted whipped cream, nuts and a cherry and I said no to them all.  I am tired of taking photos of ice cream sundaes and all you can see is a layer of whipped cream on top.  As it turns out, I could have gotten those toppings because instead of a typical cup, my sundae arrived in a banana split boat. 

Regardless, I did not like this sundae at all.  The vanilla ice cream was bland, while the hot fudge tasted old.  I threw away over half of it, which never happens to ice cream.
Mariton originally said that she would just share mine, but when I noticed a couple of her favorite flavors, I got her a couple of scoops. 

The banana walnut was very good, but it was the fresh mango that really made a big impression.  This had wonderfully fresh and intense mango flavor and we both really enjoyed it.  We gave thought to going back up and ordering another scoop, but we were tired at this point.
Fosselman's Ice Cream Parlor
1824 W. Main Street
Alhambra, CA
From there, it was an easy drive to our hotel for the night, the Hyatt Place near Ontario airport.            
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/12/26 19:32:43
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 07:57:55
Friday November 30, 2012
After Mariton had her usual breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, we headed east on I-10 towards the Coachella Valley. The scenery through here is very pretty,

with the mountains and the hundreds, if not thousands of wind turbines. 

Our first stop was a Roadfood classic, Wheel Inn in Cabazon.  This place is best known for the huge dinosaurs they have in a little park behind the building and this was even used in the 1985 movie Pee Wee's Big Adventure

I love the giant EAT sign out front, but the white banner Under New Management made me nervous. 
But before we could eat, first we had to take some tacky tourist photos. 

I particularly like this one,

which looks like a scene from prehistoric times.  And this one

has the Apatosaurus munching on a palm tree.  Anyway, we had a good time posing with the dinosaurs, but it was time to eat.
Wheel Inn is a 24 hour truck stop at heart, with a convenience store right inside the entrance.  Normally I would sit at the great looking counter,

but it doesn't have the best light, so we grabbed a booth right next to the window, underneath the tv.  Not really feeling hungry, Mariton said she would just share what I order.  The waitress did inform us that anything on the menu, including breakfast, lunch or dinner is always available.  On past visits, I have enjoyed the typical diner like foods, such as a meatloaf sandwich or a hot roast beef.  This day, I had a hot turkey on my mind, but the friendly waitress threw me a curve.  She told me that in her opinion, their two best dishes were the reuben and the Monte Cristo.  This really didn't seem like the right environment for a good reuben, so I ignored that advice.  But the idea of the Monte Cristo intrigued me.
First thing out was a hearty bowl of vegetable soup,

which was good, but had too much celery.  The Monte Cristo was a thing of beauty. 

For those that don't know, this is a ham and cheese sandwich that is dipped in egg and then fried.  This version also had turkey in it

and was sprinkled with powdered sugar.  It was wonderfully light and supremely eggy.  To my surprise, the waitress brought over some syrup and a container of homemade strawberry preserves to use on the sandwich. 

Trying to keep an open mind, I tried the syrup, but it was too sweet and it didn't work.  However, the strawberry preserves added to the flavor and this was the way that we ate the Monte Cristo.  Highly recommended! 
Wheel Inn is also known for their homemade pies.  Here is the list of desserts: 

The last time here, I had an excellent slice of banana cream, but wanted to try something different.  Once again, the waitress made a recommendation with the peanut butter pie.  She even made the remark that "I know that peanut butter in pie doesn't sound good, but it really is."  I didn't realize until later that she was maybe thinking we haven't ever had peanut butter pie before.  That seemed odd, because it is a very common pie.  

It was ultra-soft, creamy, with a strong peanut butter flavor.  Not as successful as the banana cream, but still quite good.
Wheel Inn
50900 Seminole Drive
Cabazon, CA
Our next destination was a mere two miles away.       
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/12/27 09:29:55
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 09:03:18
I do believe I'd enjoy spending some money at Best Fish Taco.  The Camarones Abrigados sound really good and your tacos look great!
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 09:20:25
Just because its around you doesn't mean it's unique elsewhere. I remember 3 summers ago when I was in South Dakota, folks there were shocked that Chislic wasn't a national dish. My friend Julianne from Milwaukee was astonished that no one knew what a fish fry was when she moved to Seattle nearly 20 years ago.
BTW, I saw plenty of places selling bagels in the Dakotas, so whats so unique about getting them in NYC? 
I agree, there is nothing like Ugly Roll Sushi or California Roll Factory that exists here in Rhode Island, I certainly can't get get anything nearly as good here. One of the girls at the Main Street Coffee near me who attends UCLA said the same thing.
Best Fish Tacos in Ensenada looks like my kind of place! Looking forward to more!
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 12:32:09
WJ and BB.... that's what I was trying to say.  I'm surrounded by sushi places so I don't notice them as being regional or different.
Double Cheeseburger
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 12:45:35
So besides wrapping paper what other Chatchaka's did you find that you absolutely could not live with out?  LOL
Suzy Gruyere
Junior Burger
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 13:18:59
I don't feel like clicking back through nine pages so if anyone has already pointed out that flautas are usually (but not always) flour tortillas and taquitos are usually (but not always) corn tortillas -- then forgive me for repeating.
I understand your reasoning, but I think you missed a good thing by eating the Santa Maria bbq separate from the offered salsa. It's really nice that way. Maybe next time, having experienced the meat on its own, you will try it.
The last time I ate at the Wheel Inn, the peanut butter pie was tasty but the stuff on top of it was not piped whipped cream, I'm pretty sure it was window caulk. Really gross and rubbery. It was a bummer, I must say.
Finally, I passed Hearst Castle three days before you did, when the weather was unbelievably spectacular, and I'm very sorry you missed the elephant seals because they were REALLY something to see... I am no expert in these matters, but I'm pretty sure the ones I witnessed were engaged in vigorous, glistening and extremely weird sounding elephant seal sexual congress. EXTREMELY WEIRD SOUNDING. And loud.
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 13:47:15
Suzy Gruyere ,
I love your nom de plume
Welcome to Roadfood!
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 14:06:26
Friday November 30, 2012 (cont.)
While we were in the Coachella Valley, we had to sample the unusual regional food that this area is known for and that is dates.  Hadley Fruit Orchards 

is a huge outfit just two miles away from Wheel Inn in Cabazon.  The Hadley family has been in the fruit orchard business since 1889! 

For a fruit orchard, the store is huge. 

They sell a wide array of dates

and food with dates in them,

along with other fruits and nuts. 

The variety of foods they have here is truly something to see.  If you have ever had a hankering for wasabi sunflower seeds,

this is the place to pick them up.  They also sell regular groceries and even have a section for wine. 

I should have checked to see if they have date flavored wine.
Off to the side, they have a little snack bar area

and the big seller is the famous date shake. 

I was tempted to go with the banana/date shake, but since this was Mariton's first date shake, I wanted her to taste the original.  Knowing we were going to hit several date shake places, I went with the small,

because these things really do pack a punch!  The shakes are thick, ultra-sweet with intense date flavor.  I had been wondering what date ice cream was like and today was the day we were going to find out.  While the ice cream

was not as sweet as the shake, it was very cold and hard and it took a while for it to thaw out.
Hadley Fruit Orchards
48-890 Seminole Drive
Cabazon, CA
It was another 45 minute drive further east to reach our next destination, another date orchard called Oasis Date Gardens

We had to drive through the small town of Thermal to get there and woo-wee, there is not much going on in Thermal.  Inside, there is a table set up for samples

and a pleasant little dining area.

While you can get a pure date shake, the idea of mixing another flavor into it was too intriguing to pass up. 

We did decide to go with the banana/date mix.  Although an interesting idea, we were not inrigued enough by the idea of a date bacon cheeseburger

to order it.  The shake

here a little thinner than at Hadley's and the banana made the shake less sweet and easier to enjoy.  In fact, the banana was the dominant flavor of the shake.
Our favorite thing about Oasis Date Gradens was the lovely picnic area

to the side of the building, where the employees were enjoying their lunch.
Oasis Date Gardens
59-111 Grapefruit Boulevard
Thermal, CA
We got back on the highway and headed west back towards Palm Springs.         
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/12/27 14:13:31
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 14:22:10
Suzy Gruyere 
I understand your reasoning, but I think you missed a good thing by eating the Santa Maria bbq separate from the offered salsa. It's really nice that way. Maybe next time, having experienced the meat on its own, you will try it. 
Thanks for posting Suzy, always great to hear from you.  I can certainly understand not wanting to flip back through nine (now ten) pages, but at the first Santa Maria bbq joint we visited, we did put the salsa directly on the tri-tip.  I enjoyed it both ways, but preferred it without.  As for the elephant seals, maybe it is better off we didn't get to see them! 

Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 16:43:00
When winter vacationing in Desert Hot Springs, I always went to Hadley's at least once for a date shake.  Yep, they are really sweet but soooooo good!
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 16:54:32
Friday November 30, 2012 (cont.)
Originally, I was thinking that we were going to skip Shields Date Garden, since we have just visited a couple of other date orchards, plus I have been here twice before.  But once I saw the sign on the highway for Indio, I couldn't help myself.  Besides, Mariton needed to see their movie!

in business since 1924, is another classic place that has been in the Roadfood books for many years.  Love the kitschy knight sign

out front!  The inside area is certainly smaller than Hadley's, but the variety of dates and other goodies they sell here is equally as impressive.

The movie they show on a continuous loop has the racy name of "The Romance and Sex Life of the Date". 

Truthfully, the movie is rather tame, as you can imagine and is actually very educational and we learned a lot.  Still, ducking into the dark room, behind the red curtain gives you the sense that you are doing something naughty!
Since we are here, we mind as well get something to eat.  They have a old fashioned lunch counter,

where you place your order.  Having already consumed two date shakes, there would be no third.  I ordered one scoop of date ice cream and the woman acted surprised that all I wanted was one scoop. 

Considering how sweet all the date products have been so far, I am amazed anyone could even think about eating more than one scoop.  Anyway, the date ice cream was fantastic.  Soft and smooth, with the best date flavor of the day, we were really glad we didn't miss out on this.
In the back of Shields is a nice little patio, where they serve regular meals and you can get a great view of the palm trees. 

In the two years since I have been here last, they have greatly expanded the patio to the point where they could easily seat a hundred people or more.
Shields Date Garden
80-225 US Highway 111
Indio, CA
Enough snacking, we were now ready to get some lunch!   
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/12/27 17:07:11
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 16:55:59

When winter vacationing in Desert Hot Springs, I always went to Hadley's at least once for a date shake.  Yep, they are really sweet but soooooo good!
Lisa, you know I was thinking about you when we were in Palm Springs.  It is easy to see why you like the area so much.

Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 17:01:21
BB:  The very next time we race in Pomona, I definately am going to Hadley's for dates and a date shake.  I passed by it before but did not stop.  I regreted it at the time and I regret it now.  Thanks for posting.  I want one now!!!
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 17:02:48
Paul, you will not regret it.  But, you may want to get that date/banana mix so that it won't be overwhelmingly sweet.
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 17:56:49


When winter vacationing in Desert Hot Springs, I always went to Hadley's at least once for a date shake.  Yep, they are really sweet but soooooo good!
Lisa, you know I was thinking about you when we were in Palm Springs.  It is easy to see why you like the area so much.

Believe me, it was NOT hard to leave cold, dark, snowy Alaska in January or February and spend two weeks in the Palm Springs area!!!
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 19:01:54
Lisa, have you been to Palm Springs in the Summer?
I've owned condos in there since 1978 and we only went in the summer because we rented out the condo during the winter.  The heat in the summer is absolutely stifling. 
For a Date Shake, Shield's is my favorite.  They'll split the shake between two cups if you let them know you'll be sharing them. They make them with their "Date Crystals" which they also sell.  I use them to make date nut squares. 
Sampling the different types of dates is also fun.  Medjool's have always been my favorite.
Hadley's is an easier stop in traveling on I10...  It's right there.  I always felt that the dates were an afterthought for their vanilla shakes.  Bothers me that you can now purchase Hadley's dried fruit at Costco for Christmas.  Takes a little something away from it for me.
All those palm trees you see in the pictures are date palms.  Love seeing the bundles of paper wrapped dates hanging from the trees.
It's always amazed me that a coconut comes from a palm tree and a date also comes from a palm tree. 
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 20:36:25
Friday November 30, 2012 (cont.)
We had read good things about a couple of burger joints, George's Bar & Grill in Cathedral City and Tyler's Burgers in Palm Springs, but at this point, we both both more than a little burgered out.  So our lunch ended up being at Roadfood reviewed El Gallito

in Cathedral City.  This place is easy to spot as it is one colorful restaurant.  Based on what a prominent role chickens play in the interior decorating,

I am guessing that gallito means rooster.  The wait staff is very friendly and most of the seating is at comfy red vinyl booths.  
Our meal started with the chips and salsa. 

The chips were thick and solid, while the salsa was thin and very hot!  Mariton ate more of this than I could.  Interestingly, they have a policy right on the menu

where they don't serve you the chips and salsa until after you order.  Apparently, they have had customers come in and eat these and then order very little or no food.  I had never seen this policy before.
Mariton was having a hard time deciding what to order, so I suggested the chicken mole,

which is their Friday special.  You get both white and dark meat.  Mariton picked clean the dark meat, but found the white meat dry.  We both loved the reddish brown mole sauce, which was a little sweet and a little bit more hot.  My entree was the El Gallito Especial,

which means you get a portion of both the Chile Verde (obviously, a green sauce) and the Chile Colorado (a red sauce).  In both dishes, the sauces come with some wonderfully tender beef.  The red sauce was clearly hotter, but I enjoyed the complex flavor of the green chile.  Both of our dishes came with tortillas.  We were asked if we wanted corn or flour tortillas.  I asked which one the waitress recommended and she told me that the flour ones were homemade.  Well, that makes it an easy decision.  The tortillas

were still warm and we used them to sop up the extra sauce.  Mariton started the meal just drinking water, but once she saw a Corona go by,

she ordered one for herself.
While we were eating, all the waitresses were sharing a cake, as one of them was having a birthday.  I found it funny that when they were speaking with each other, it was in Spanish, but they all sang Happy Birthday in English!
El Gallito
68820 Grove Street
Cathedral City, CA
It was finally time for us to head for our destination for the rest of the day, Palm Springs.  
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/12/27 20:40:10
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/27 21:04:13
Would you return to El Gallito?  Except for the mole sauces I call their food TV Dinner Food. 
I know it's been reviewed both in the Roadfood books and here but I just don't get the fascination.
Of course.. That's me.
I will admit that the building is cute.
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 04:17:55
I think with the amount of restaurants in the area, the next time through I would go somewhere else.  Probably one of those burger joints.  Although we certainly ate at better Mexican restaurants on the trip, it is sad but true that El Gallito was as good if not better than any we have here in Pittsburgh. 
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 10:04:39

Based on what a prominent role chickens play in the interior decorating, I am guessing that gallito means rooster.
"El Gallito" means "The Little Rooster".  Gallo is the Spanish word for rooster ("pico de gallo" is "rooster's beak") and when a noun ends in "o" or "a" changing it to "ito" or "ita" is like adding the adjective "little".  I don't know if that's always the case, but after 3 years of high school Spanish over 30 years ago I think I'm at least partially correct.
That's an interesting policy they have regarding the chips and salsa.  I'm a serial offender when it comes to dripping on the menu!
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 12:37:15
Thanks so much for the Spanish lesson Senor Olson!  Over 30 years ago and you still remember that?  Pretty impressive.  I knew pico de gallo meant "beak of the rooster", but I didn't make the connection with gallito.
Filet Mignon
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 12:59:43
That's some set of rules on El Gallito's menu.  With marginal food and a set of customer unfriendly rules, not sure why asnyone patronizes them. 
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 13:08:57
Friday November 30, 2012 (cont.)
The big touristy thing we wanted to do was ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.   I rode this two years ago and failed to take a jacket with me.  It was so cold at the top that I could barely stand outside to take photos of the view.  From what I was told, there can be as much as a 40 degree difference in temperatures from the base to the top.  This time, I was prepared and Mariton also dressed for the cold.
It is known as the largest rotating aerial tramway in the world.  What that means is that the center of the car stays still,

but the outside part of the floor is constantly rotating, which allows everyone to get the full view.  The inside of the car is surprisingly spacious

and could easily hold 30+ people.  The car climbs over a series of steel truss pylons,

while giving you a great view of the canyon below. 

The ride lasts just a little longer than 10 minutes before it arrives at the top, known as the mountain station. 

At the top of the mountain you will find Mount San Jacinto State Park,

with foot paths into the woods

and you can even ride a burro.  We did do a little bit of walking, just enough to encounter some wildlife. 

Fortunately, it was friendly.
The big reason to take the tramway is for the spectacular views of the city below and the entire valley beyond.  On a clear day, they say you can see as far as 200 miles!  Here are some photos of the view:

In that last photo, all of those white things visible on the valley floor are the wind turbines.
On the way down, the sun was starting to set, making the view even better!

We checked into our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Palm Springs, which is right on the main drag, N. Palm Canyon Drive.  Mariton went shopping in the boutique stores, while I did what I do best, take a long nap. 
post edited by buffetbuster - 2012/12/28 13:11:59
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 13:18:03
Due to our trip through the New Year, looks like this is as far as I will be able to take this report for now.   I hope to finish this by next weekend. 
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 13:20:20
Great views from the park!  Did you notice any difference in the atmosphere and your breathing when you reached it?
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 13:21:45
I agree with you about El Gallito, nothing special really.  One year we were in Desert Hot Springs from August to April and I worked at Mad French Lady Gourmet Foods (not there anymore) which was right next to El Gallito.  I thought it was just OK.
When we arrived in August that year it was 108 degrees.  Too hot to be tanning in the sun but not bad in the shade.
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 13:33:56

That's some set of rules on El Gallito's menu.  With marginal food and a set of customer unfriendly rules, not sure why asnyone patronizes them. 
Luckily, none of those rules really were a problem for us.  Under different circumstances, I might have a different opinion.  We did like the food better than mar52 and lleechef did, but it still isn't a place that I would go out of my way for again. 

Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 13:37:25
There was a noticeable difference in the atmosphere from the bottom to the top.  I did have to catch my breath a couple of times, which is something I don't remember having to do since a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park around ten years ago.
108?  I think we will stick to visiting Palm Springs in December.
mr chips
Filet Mignon
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 14:05:40
Trudy and I visited Shields Date Garden ,the Wheel inn and Hadley's 3 years ago in the summer. We were warned by nice people it was dangerous to walk around when it was 115 and indeed it was broiling when we bought gas and went to the bank. And the movie at Shields was not air conditioned so I watched it while sweating bullets. 
     Trudy and I are thinking of visiting Palm Springs during our trip to Socal in a couple of weeks. And we may be taking Sam's little brother with us. I want to take the tram but Trudy is afraid of heights so I don't know what will happen. I may just skip El Gallito. it does not sound all that good and the restrictions seem silly to me.
       One thing about Shields that is not obvious from the photos. It is smack in the middle of town across the street from several strip malls. It just is not very rural.
         Excellent report BB and it has certainly helped our planning for the social trip.
post edited by mr chips - 2013/03/18 05:39:00
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 14:09:18

Due to our trip through the New Year, looks like this is as far as I will be able to take this report for now.   I hope to finish this by next weekend. 

That's ok since it means another trip report on the horizon.  Where to this time?  And don't we still have a Vegas report to look forward to (he asked hopefully)?
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 14:17:12
We are headed for Charleston, SC for the New Year.  Sorry to tell you that there will not be a trip report for that or the Las Vegas trip.  At this point, I only have time to do them for week long trips.  I do know that several places we visited in Las Vegas will end up in my year in review and Charleston will probably be the same way.  Thanks for asking!
mr chips-
You are correct that Shields is no longer rural and it seems it has built up even more in the two years since my last visit.  I hope you get out to Palm Springs and the surrounding area during your trip.
Filet Mignon
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 14:24:38
Since you can't do reports on every trip, could you list your Roadfood excursions for 2012 (either here or in your end of year post)?  I think we will gasp in awe.
carolina jim
Fire Safety Admin
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 14:33:27
Yeah, we can do that.  I did make it to 32 states in 2012, which means that The Travelin Man kicked my a** this year.
Re:L.A. Confidential 2012/12/28 15:51:05
We  use a loss of 3 degrees per 1000 ft. when going up in the mountains, which means on a hot day on the valley floor
it's time to take off to the high country. 
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