Monday, July 14, 2014

The Kettle - Manhattan Beach

It has been a long time since I've been out and about before the sun. A trip to the airport to drop off #1Dinerwife Antoinette at 5 am put me on the far westside before sunrise. Originally, I thought I'd grab breakfast at Pann's but then discovered that they don't open until 7. Then I thought about Chips, but they don't open until 6. A quick search later I found The Kettle in Manhattan Beach.


24 hour restaurants are a special breed. They are rare and have a unique gravitational pull during the night. Before fast food restaurants realized that drunks and stoners gotta eat, a 24 restaurant was really the only game in town.

Now at 5 am, when I came in, those "golden hours" of altered state eating are coming to an end. The bar crowd has stumbled away and the noble swing shift workers have wearily headed home, but it's a bit early even for the early risers. Who is out to eat at 5 am? 

The World's Best Husband, that's who! Oh and a middle-aged couple who were eating hamburgers and three teenagers who were dressed for a day at the beach. I suppose they were prepping for a full day at the beach--sun up to sunset. 

My waitress looked haggard, but I couldn't figure out if her shift was nearly ended or if she had just rolled out of bed. After needing more time with the menu, she disappeared for quite a bit. I then noticed her eating at the far end of the restaurant. Her shift was nearly done and she had no patience left.  

The Kettle's interior is woodsy, like a hunting lodge. For example, these European-style woodcuts of animals adorn all the booths.  

I think that's an interesting choice seeing as it's on the beach. "Oh man, I'm sick of this beach. I want to escape to the forest!" Boom--go to the Kettle.

The menu is extensive--covering just about everything you can imagine for an all-purpose restaurant like this. It has a full page dedicated to their wine and beer selection. The breakfasts have a few interesting items. The chocolate chip ricotta pancakes for instance, as well as the bacon fried rice (made with coconut milk), but one item stood out to me--the OEUFS PAIN PERDU. I couldn't even pronounce it. When my waitress returned from scarfing down her dinner/breakfast, I had to point to it on the menu. 

It's two eggs, bacon, and breakfast potatoes served with french toast stuffed with an orange marmalade cream cheese. What they don't tell you on the menu is that it's also served with a GIGANTIC bushel of parsley. Gigantic. 

It was a good breakfast. The french toast was verrryyyy fancy. It had no crusts! The bacon was perfect and my eggs were as close to over-medium as I usually can get anywhere I go (over-medium is really hard guys, but that's how I like them). The only negative was that the breakfast potatoes were underdone. 

Despite my lack-luster service and the kind of gross coffee (I got the first pour from a fresh pot and it was still not something I wanted to taste again), I enjoyed this place. The Kettle seems to be a safe bet, definitely when the moon is high and probably even when the sun is up. 
Food: Good.
Service: Decent - considering.
Price: 12-16 for breakfast.
Pie: Only cobbler.

The Kettle

1138 Highland Ave 
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Patio Cafe - Sportsmen's Lodge Hotel - Studio City

#1Dinerwife and I were married a few years ago at the Sportsmen's Lodge so it will always be a special place for us. The hotel recently went through a pretty substantial makeover and I was interested in checking it out. The lobby and grounds were a nice blend of 'old Hollywood' charm while the rooms were pretty standard. The remodel has kept a lot of the charm while also riffing on some mid-century colors and themes. A bit too many fake animal heads hung everywhere for my taste--sorry, no pictures of those.

But this isn't a review of the hotel....

The Patio Cafe coffee shop also received a complete makeover. Previously it had been almost "country quaint" with red gingham design motifs. Now we are treated to some vibrant oranges playing off the stark white of the floors and tables. Portraits of classic Hollywood stars, like a film reel, wind their way around the cafe.  

We walked in for lunch on a Sunday morning and were greeted and seated quickly. Our waiter, a nice older gentleman was by to take our drink orders within moments and then back again swiftly to take our order. Unfortunately, this would be the last time he'd be so prompt. Getting refills on our waters and my coffee proved to be difficult.

The menu for the Patio Cafe isn't large. It covers some basic breakfast fare, some sandwiches and burgers with the few requisite salads and wraps for good measure. Prices are a little higher than you'd expect, but food always is at a hotel. You're treated like a captive audience. They are counting on that you will be either too lazy or tired to travel for food. In the case of the Sportsmen's Lodge, there's probably a dozen restaurants of different type within walking distance. Our favorite is Twain's right across the street. 

One interesting thing is found on the dinner menu. They have their "TV Dinners" which are all dishes named after tv shows. For example, the "Gilligan's Island" is fish and chips. The interesting bit is that they are all served with peas and carrots and a tiny dessert--just like the foil-wrapped tv dinners of old. I don't know if they actually DO serve them in metal trays... but by god, I hope so. 

After a quick glance at the menu, I fixated on the the french toast--challah bread with sautéed apples and bourbon maple-pecan sauce. It was delicious. Probably one of the best french toasts I have had in a long time.

#1Dinerwife ordered The Lone Ranger-- basically a souped-up breakfast burrito. The menu promised scrambled eggs, chorizo, black beans, salsa fresca, and cotija cheese. It delivered eggs, chorizo and...potatoes. Basically a really disappointing breakfast burrito then. We would have said something to the waiter, but like I mentioned earlier... hard to get him back to us. The potatoes were also underdone, so no bueno

The Patio Cafe certainly looks fresher and more exciting than previously. The food was a mixed bag. I don't expect anyone to make a trip to the Sportsmen's Lodge FOR the Patio Cafe, but in a pinch it will work for you. Y'know.... if you're too lazy to walk across the street.

Food: Mixed bag, but probably edging over to good.
Service: Friendly but not that attentive.
Price: $12-15 for most dishes.

Pie: Only cupcakes and bundt cakes.

12825 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA 91604
(818) 769-4700

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dinerwood on the Road: Ellen's Pancake House, Buellton, CA

Quaint little roadside eatery.

Delicious biscuits and well-scrambled eggs. Hashbrowns were okay.

Tasty thin Danish pancakes. 

Add your own ham!

Food: Good
Service: Good
Price: Decent

Ellen's Pancake House
Dining Hours:
Monday 6 a.m.–2 p.m.,
Tuesday–Sunday 6 a.m.–8 p.m

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Honey Bee's House of Breakfast -

Honey Bee's House of Breakfast has a long name, a tiny dining room, and big menu. Seriously, there are only about 8 tables in the whole place. You know how some diners are converted houses or storefronts? I think Honey Bee's is a converted waiting room for a defunct auto-repair place.

Honey Bee's menu mixes Central American and North American cuisines. The menu looks like it has way too much to offer so my advice is to go with the basics.

I ordered the "El Clasico."
Rice and beans, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, plantains, avocado and two pupusas. It was delicious.  

#1Diner Companion Antoinette had the--well, if the Central American breakfast is the "El Clasico"--we'll call this "The Classic." Scrambled eggs, hash browns and sausage patties. This was also delicious.

Something that you absolutely must try at Honey Bees are the pancakes. You know those heavy, daunting pancakes you get at most places? The ones that you kind of regret ordering because they just sit like lumps in your stomach for what seems like a week. These LOOK just like those except they are the most perfect version of those pancakes. They have heft without giving you that sinking feeling and they have a sweetness that you can't place but you know has been missing from every other pancake you have eaten that has had that appearance. 

The coffee was also good--way better then you would expect. 

Food: Delicious
Service: Attentive
Price: $8-10
Pie: No.

Honey Bee's House of Breakfast
4715 W Adams Blvd
Los AngelesCA 90016

Monday, June 24, 2013

LA WEEKLY Blog post - Clifton's Mistress

Clifton's Cafeteria is set to reopen later this year after a massive overhaul and a new owner. Originally, I was less than enthused about this project but the more I hear about it, the more at ease I get.

Unrelated to the overhaul, the LA WEEKLY published a story about an interesting bit of history involving the original owner Clifford E. Clinton.

It's kind of sexy.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Not a diner, but still damn good- Top Round Roast Beef

Sup? Long time no see? That's pretty much the story of this blog for the last two years isn't it? Sorry, guys.
Writing about Top Round will provide the opportunity to write about something a little different. 

I have to thank Eater LA for this one. I read about it on Friday and knowing that #1Dinerwife and I were planning on being over on that side of town on Saturday, we decided to do lunch there. Now, if you read the Eater link you'll notice a detail that I had missed. Top Round technically opens... tomorrow.

#1Dinerwife Antoinette and I crashed the Top Round invitation only soft open.

It certainly looked open to us. There was a ton of people there. We parked in the lot, I snapped this picture and we walked up. It looked open and busy and except for a small sign on the order window there was no hint that it was by invite only. They certainly weren't hassling anyone, which makes me think it "was invitation only" in that if you knew to go, you were in the know.

The menu is small, but I prefer to call it direct. Top Round is about three basic things- roast beef, curly fries and frozen custard. The menu is just a few variations based around these items.
I went for the Beef on Weck, a traditional east coast beef sandwich served on a caraway and sea salt bun.  Antoinette ordered the Horse & Hole which came with provolone cheese and mushrooms with horseradish cream sauce. We also ordered two orders of curly fries, one plain and the other with gravy. 

The curly fries, which by the by, are fried in beef fat, were delicious. I don't think I've ever had fries done in beef fat and I was shocked by how not greasy they were.  

The Horse & Hole was a solid sandwich. The only negative was that the mushrooms seemed slap-dashed on which, you know, #firstworldproblems.

The Beef on Weck was simple. The roast beef  was so tender and light and tasty. I think I inhaled it in five bites.

We were too full to try the frozen custard, which means we'll be back. I think the nearest frozen custard place of note near here is Las Vegas.

So to sum up, starting tomorrow eat the holy hell out of some straight-up tasty roast beef sandwiches.

Food: Good.
Service: Friendly
Price: Cheap
Pie: No, but one of the custard combinations is "blueberry pie."

Top Round Roast Beef
1000 S La Brea Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 549-9445

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dinerwood on the Road? Kind of? Little Green Onions in Riverside

Riverside...exotic Riverside.

I always imagined Riverside as being a city too far out of the way for me to ever end up going there; “The Bakersfield of the East.” I had no idea that it’s really not that far from Los Angeles. #1DinerWife had to go to Riverside for a weekend for a work event and I decided to go with her to check it out. During this weekend, I was able to try a few different diner joints which I think gave me a pretty good sense of what old school eating is like in Riverside.  

The first place I went was the interestingly named place "Little Green Onions." That just sounds like an adorable place to go. After experiencing the cutesy downtown area of Riverside, I was half-expecting some tiny storefront conversion with mismatched table-clothes and a cook with a pixie haircut.   

As I drove out of that cutesy downtown, I soon discovered that Riverside is rundown. Almost as if the whole of the outer rings of the city were made up of extras on "Breaking Bad." Now, don't get me wrong, I like rundown things. I'm not slighting the city for being a ****hole. I just didn't know. 

I was surprised and happy that Little Green Onions was actually in an old school googie building. 

It was a hectic morning at Little Green Onions and the joint was jam-packed. There were waiting families crowding the entry and not an empty table in sight. I saw a very low counter with some open space and I took my liberty. (I don't really know what that means, but it sounded cool when I first typed it out)  

The seats at the counter...were office chairs. 

Office. Chairs.

I am so on board with that weirdness. 

The fun part of sitting at the counter is the ability to observe the staff prepping and dancing around each other. Little Green Onions seemed far more chaotic than any other place I have had the pleasure to observe. A lot of "where's the-" and "has anyone seen?" and even a few "no, they ordered that not this."

The menu at Little Green Onions is pretty standard for a family restaurant. There was more of an emphasis on Mexican dishes, but I expected that with most of the interior decor being sombreros and maracas. Like I've talked about before; some diners really wish they were some other ethnic food, but they know they'll do better casting a wide net. 

An older gentleman took the rolling office chair next to me and ordered an oatmeal. The waitress asked if he wanted it made with milk or just water. I thought that was pretty cool. Sure, I wouldn't be surprised if it was instant oatmeal, but that is a nice option to give.

I went with a nice sounding pork chop breakfast combo. 

It was overall decent...except for my pork was very under-cooked. The first bite I thought "Mmm, juicy" and then in subsequent bites I realized "oh, I'm going to die."   

I really wish I had liked Little Green Onions more. Rather, I wish there was more to like about Little Green Onions other than the classic building and office chairs. The yelp reviews are all over the place, but I would assume that since the place really wants to be a Mexican restaurant, that would be the way to go next time. Not that there would really be a next time for me. I don't think I'd go back there. 

Food: Decent, save for the under-cooked pork. 
Service: Friendly but scattered.
Price: Cheap.
Pie: I don't think so.

Little Green Onions
6723 Brockton Ave.
Riverside CA