Salerno's, Toluca Lake

A welcoming cafeteria style restaurant where you order at the counter with a wide variety of numerous salads and sandwiches listed on the board behind the register. The interior seating is plentiful but the patio is much more inviting. The patio is covered allowing for shade a nice cool breeze and is surrounded by lush trees removing you from the high volume of traffic. Sitting out there, I thuroughly enjoy my Arnold Palmer as i wait for my number to be called over the loud speaker.

Keeping with the cafeteria motiff, my plastic tray is adorned with a plastic plate piled high with a mixed greens salad and a mouth watering Ruban, plastic utensil and a styrafoam bowl filled with piping hot cream of broccoli soup. The mixed greens salad has a dollop of creamy balsamic vinegarette that at first appears sparse but is bolder than anticipated. The cream of broccoli soup has great consistency and flavor, full of soft broccoli and rich cream. Unlike most soups, this needs no additives which says alot because I think everything needs more pepper. The soup also holds it's consistency throughout the meal. As for the meat of my lunch, if you will, the Corned-beef was stuffed between slices of rye toasted to perfection. Upon diving in, I find the Corned-beef is tough and fatty but the kraut, 1000 Island and toasted rye bread are full of flavor.
I look forward to my next visit and exploring the plethora of options.

A healthy take on the Food Truck craze

If you've been out and about during lunch you've tasted, smelled, or at least seen the food trucks.  They are no longer nondescript silver behemoths that scare away the faint of heart who suffer from a weak stomach.  No, these vessels of culinary delight are distinguishably bright and waiting for you to find them as they maneuver around town; most using Twitter to help you locate your favorite truck.

While wandering around Downtown, I stumbled upon a lunch encampment of trucks ready to serve those that work in walking distance of the 7th and Fig Plaza.  I had a hankering for something healthy and to my surprise was greeted by the sparkling, Greenz on Wheelz truck; with the slogan, "Lettuce Serve You" welcoming me right on up.  The truck offers numerous options including wrap versions of the numerous salads as well as sandwich melts.  As I hoped they offered a steak salad which happened to be the most expensive option at a mere $9. Luckily they accept credit cards as I was out of cash.

It took longer than I anticipated for them to call my name, but it was well worth the wait.  Inside by disposable container was a huge salad of mixed greens, cucumbers and juicy tomatoes, all tossed with a delightful balsamic vinaigrette and rich blue cheese, topped with chopped pieces of steak.  The fresh vegetables, steak, cheese and dressing complimented each other perfectly.  Before I opened the box I was concerned I would have to battle with large pieces of steak but the individual ingredients were so well prepared that they filled the fork to perfection, enabling a little bit of everything on each forkful.

I was utterly surprised by how tasty and fresh a food truck salad could be!

Castle, Korean BBQ

Within the confines of the city of Los Angeles there are numerous ethnic subcultures: Little Ethiopia, Thaitown, Historic Filipinotown, the largest of these loosely defined areas is Koreatown.  These sections of Los Angeles are represented by a large concentration of natives from the various regions of the world.  Along with cultural centers and block parties to celebrate the holidays and heritage, there is a plethora restaurants serving authentic cuisine.
Korean Barbeque is one of the most recognizable of these ethnic cuisines. Hungry patrons are surrounded by an abundant amount of banchan (side dishes) and they grill the meat themselves at a barbeque on the table.  The fare ranges from exotic seafood like conch and squid, to staples such as bulgogi (marinated beef) and kimchi (spicy cabbage).  There are Korean BBQ places peppered throughout town, but the best are found in the heart of Koreatown.  Through numerous excursions to Koreantown, Castle on Western has become a stand out.  Castle is an all you can eat BBQ where the 3 tiered pricing determines the varietal selection.  Usually, the all you can eat joints are poor quality but Castle has fantastic flavor, high quality meats and the price is great!
The banchan is a little light as far as selection is concerned, but what they do serve is done to perfection.  The Kimchi is spicy and crisp while the tofu soup is the right mixture of soybean and broth.  As far as the meat is concerned, Castle is top notch.  The bulgogi rivals the best in town as does the bone in pork chop.  The Galbi falls into the top tier price, and though not that much more expensive, it is not worth the additional money as it is only fair in comparison to other options.  The only problem with Castle is the service.  Though very nice, they are not very attentive.  I've never been to a Korean restaurant and not had the staff response to the table bell, until Castle that is.  That said, if you go in knowing that you will receive a great meal at a great price and are not in any sort of hurry to leave, why not stay?  After all, it is all you can eat!

Duke's on Sunday

Southern California conjures up thoughts of sun-drenched beaches, palm trees and surfers in search of the perfect wave.  There is also the promise of the good life, lived at your own pace, surrounded by good friends, good food and great stories.  Duke’s may be a Hawaiian based restaurant, but Duke’s Malibu encompasses this California dreaming.
Duke’s is nestled along the PCH and the ocean, with spectacular views from Point Dume down to Palos Verdes.  There is street parking along the PCH but why bother when you can valet.   Once inside, the smells from the kitchen floated on the breeze as we walked past a thatched roof decor on our way to the table.  The place was full but it was easy to accommodate the 15 of us who traveled to Malibu to celebrate Greg, a fellow foodie’s, birthday.
Birthday Boy

Even though we were there for the brunch buffet the service was impeccable, coffee was always being filled and the mimosas and bloody marys continuously flowed to our table by a genuinely happy wait staff, who can blame them considering their office.  Between trips to the buffet we watched dolphins leap out of the water and surfers clad in wetsuits catch waves.  Along with the typical brunch fare of scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes, the buffet offered the freshest fruit along with authentic Hawaiian cuisine.  The Tahitian Ceviche and Hawaiian Poke made for a great first pass.

The second trip required a stop at the omelet station where choices included shrimp and crab among your usual favorites.  The savory omelet contrasted well with the sweet waffle covered in amoretto, coconut cream and blueberries.  Although completely full, a final trip through the line was needed to have some more of the Kalua Pork, a traditional dish of smoked meat and cabbage.  As we shared stories about our first encounter with the birthday boy we were graced with a huge slice of macadamia nut ice cream, on top of a chocolate cookie crust, smothered in chocolate fudge and whipped cream, known as Hula Pie. It's actually better than it sounds, much like the California Life we Live.

Clam Chowder Cook-Off

When it comes to signature dishes, there are no stand alones that are purely Los Angeles; nothing namesake, like Chicago Style Pizza or Memphis Ribs. That gives us the opportunity to perfect the dishes that make their way here. Since there are so many transplants in Los Angeles, there is always discussion as to what city has the best this or the best that. New England Clam Chowder is no exception, and what better way to decide who has the best than with a Chowder Cook-Off?

Sponsored by the King Harbor Association, Redondo Beach Pier Association and Quality Seafood, the 3rd annual Clam Chowder Cook-Off held on Redondo Beach Pier, hosted a dozen local establishments who competed to be crowned Best Clam Chowder. For the $7 entry fee (all proceed going to The Wellness Community) you received everything you needed to judge for yourself the various vendors, including a golden ticket that you awarded your favorite chowder. So Shara, Robyn, Sheena, and I made our way to Redondo Beach Pier to judge the best clam chowder for ourselves.  I felt a little bit like Goldilocks as I tasted my way through the decorative booths: too thin, not enough clams, too many potatoes… All contestants had fantastic chowder, and after a filling afternoon I had it narrowed down to two restaurants, Quality Seafood and Alpine Village. The consistency and flavor of Quality Seafood’s was superb, each creamy bite was as tasty as the last, full of moist potatoes and tender clams, but it lacked the punch needed to receive my Golden Ticket. So alas, the German’s of Alpine Village all the way from Torrance got my ticket. Their chowder, though not as thick as Quality Seafood’s, was outstanding! The rich, creamy broth with chunks of red skin potatoes and tender clams stood out amongst the crowd of award worthy competitors.  Shara's vote went to Quality Seafood's while both Robyn and Sheena voted for Fat Face Fenner's Fishshack.

Shara and I were not alone in our vote either, Quality Seafood and Alpine Village tied for the best Clam Chowder. The debate may rage from the Pacific North West to the East Coast but the people of Los Angeles have spoken and crowned a pair of local champions the Best Clam Chowder in Town.

After we had our fill and cast our votes, we made our way over to Tony's on the Pier, who also competed  in the clam chowder cook-off but didn't take home any of our tickets, for a couple of drinks.  Tony's has a circular crow's nest bar atop a restaurant bar with an entrance from the pier and view of the ocean.  The Mai Thai's are great and for the same price as the clam chowder tasting who could argue with a 2nd round.

New Mediterranean in Los Feliz

The Sidewalk Grill is the newest addition to a Los Angeles staple. This family owned and operated establishment has been serving skewered meats and vegetables to Los Angeles for nearly thirty years, and are now bringing their award winning dishes to Los Feliz. The menu at the Sidewalk grill is limited compared to the other locations with promise of growth. The kitchen is small and inviting as you can watch the skewers of chicken and filet roast over the open flame. Pair your favorite kabob with some of the traditional Mediterranean side dishes and you've got a great meal to rouse the palette.

Both the chicken kabob and filet mignon kabob were very tender and moist. There was nothing masking the quality of the meat whose flavors were highlighted by the open flame grilling. For being a nonchalant grill, the presentation on the plate was superb as the grilled vegetables, rice, skewered meat and individual side dishes gracefully filled the plate. The garlic sauce that accompanied the dish was full of flavor while the hummus was overshadowed.

As with all good meals, a final sweets course is required to fully appreciate the experience. The baklava did not disappoint! You could feel the individual layers break away, emphasizing the individual flavors, as you bit through the delicate dessert. After dining at The Sidewalk Grill, it's no wonder they have been in business for thirty years.


Exploring Los Angeles from the sandy coastline, to Hollywood, Downtown and everywhere in-between through locally inspired recipes, travel in and around town and of course dining.

Here you'll find a collection of what Los Angeles looks like through my eyes, a Hollywood type with my feet in the sand.  For more pictures follow me on Instagram

The Mercantile on Sunset

In a stand alone building on Sunset with floor to ceiling windows and glass doors that slide open to connect the indoors with the out-of-doors resides a pair of restaurants that belong in the Bowery Street Enterprise family. They share a kitchen run by Kris Morningstar while exhibiting different fare. The restaurant to the east, The Mercantile, is an open air restaurant and gourmet market with high ceilings that transplants you from the streets of Los Angeles to an old-time European cafĂ©. There are a dozen or so tables inside with mix-‘n-match chairs that rest invitingly well amongst the mason jar water glasses and friendly staff.

The artisanal menu at The Mercantile is full of salty meats and full-bodied cheeses that pair nicely with the wine list. 

The Cuban layers: spicy pork, hot Coppa, melted Gruyere cheese and pickled relish for a delectable sandwich. While the pale yellow Sottocenere truffle cheese and roasted onions put a delicate twist on the classic grilled cheese. Another American favorite turned on its side is the rich and creamy macaroni and cheese. The macaroni noodles swim in a thick Gruyere, Gouda and White Cheddar melody.
True to form, the desserts did not disappoint either. The homemade ice cream pushed the boundaries of flavors including an interesting take on a breakfast staple, the French toast and bacon ice cream. It was tasty but too much as a full helping. The Lemon & Rose Water ice cream was fabulous as it opened with the lemon zest and finished with the savory rose water, while the Vanilla Bourbon Malt ice cream was all around smooth and refreshing.
Days later, I find myself craving another meal from The Mercantile. Since the price is right as most dishes are around $15 a plate I will revisit the eclectic menu and wine list time and again.

Hollywood's newest burger joint

The gourmet burger crazy has taken Los Angeles by storm. You want a made-to-order burger with arugula, guacamole, and a house-made spicy ketchup? There is probably a place in your neighborhood. Hollywood's newest burger joint, Juicy Burger is located on the corner of Hollywood and Ivar. The dining area is a long narrow stretch of tables opposite the open kitchen situated behind the quick-service counter. There is a row of stools that line a large bay window, perfect for people watching. Since Juicy Burger stays open until 3am to cater to the late night crowd, the people watching becomes quite interesting (I watch two ladies passionately undress each other).

Juicy Burger offers a half dozen "classic burgers" to choose from or for the more adventurous types, a five step menu from which you can choose various toppings to put upon your chosen patty and accompanying bun. Toppings range from free to $1 a piece and vary from your basic lettuce and ketchup to chipotle mayo and green chilies or grilled pineapple.

The fries are house cut and tasty and the toppings are fresh, even though they have been out of at least one topping each time I've gone. The burger is nice and juicy, as the name on the door suggest, but a bit lackluster. Luckily the premium sauces enhance the Juicy Burger experience; the garlic mayo and Tabasco ketchup add a titillating flair to an otherwise banal burger.

Overall, it's a fine burger and a great option if there are no other options. However, this is Hollywood and there are always options.