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Thanks to Yelp for the Elite invitation to try one of the poke bowls at Ali’i Fish Co in El Segundo gratis. Once I went in and tasted their poke, I went back with friends to taste some of their other choices. Their blackboard shows the extensive choices you have whether you stick to Hawaiian classics or want something a bit more Californian. If you prefer chicken to fish, they have options for that as well, and they have vegan options using tofu, so you may eat here with your non pescatarian friends.

 

They will give you samples if you are undecided about which poke flavor you want, but for me the classic onion lomi was an easy choice. I added seaweed for an extra $1, and was pleased with the flavors and freshness.

A non poke lover ordered the Huli Chicken for $11 that came with a choice of brown or white rice, as well as a salad. The char on the chicken was perfect, and it was so flavorful and moist that I stole a few bites.

For a return trip I ordered the blackened ahi salad for $15 that came with sides of soy and ponzu, but the fish was great with just a squeeze of lemon, and was such a large portion that I could have easily saved half for another meal, but I ate the whole thing 🙂

Whether you opt for the patio or inside, the service is friendly, the food is fresh and well prepared, and the prices are reasonable, so if you are passing by on your way to or from LAX, this is a great place to grab non airport food. They have a tiny lot that gets filled quickly, so park in the large lot across the street or on the street if you are going during popular meal times; for a new spot they are already on the local radar.

Almost every city has a local farmers market at least once a week, El Segundo‘s is every Thursday afternoon, from 3-7 pm and takes up the 400 block on Main Street in front of the Fire Department/Library/City Hall. There are stands that sell produce, prepared foods, and a few vendors who sell jewelry and clothes.

The biggest reason to shop at a farmers market is you are supporting the people who produce the products directly instead of a middle person who takes a cut for distribution. You may not find everything you may want here, but there are enough options to supplement your groceries from the big chains, and the quality is far superior while the prices are usually about equal. My favorite peaches came from the seasonal Summer stand who only comes when their fruit is in season.

Avocados are sold at several stands in varying sizes and varieties.

Mom’s Products sells spicy olives, hummus, marinated artichoke hearts, and spanikopita (spinach and feta pastry), offering increasing discounts as you purchase more.

 Gaytan Family Farm not only sells wonderful orange yolk eggs,

but their produce includes some of the best heirloom tomatoes, unrivaled by any you can buy in a chain supermarket.

I loved the harissa from the Parmigiano-Reggiano spread stand; I always keep some on hand to spice up anything that needs some zing, whether it’s scrambled eggs or fish.

The Chicken Guys sell parts or whole chickens for a great family take away option (there is also a Thai takeaway, tamale stand, pupusa stand, crepes, kettle corn, and swirling potato most weeks).

If you are in the area, it’s worth stopping by, especially since parking nearby is easy and free, and they even offer a shuttle so that you may leave your car at home!

Having good restaurants downtown makes a world of difference, especially when driving anywhere during rush hour traffic to get to dinner can be a nightmare (I actually had to change a dinner reservation twice because it took an hour to drive 5 miles)! Not wanting to subject non-Angelenos to the parking lots called freeways, the option of walking to a good meal made their visit much more pleasant.

I love living walking distance to downtown El Segundo. Even if I had to drive to get to the center of town, parking is easy and free for 2 hours on Main Street and for unlimited time on side streets. No, I don’t work for the city tourism board, I’m just a resident who loves this hidden mecca by the beach as much as the blue butterflies who call this city home.

Jame Enoteca now calls Main Street El Segundo home and I am very happy to have them in the neighborhood. Two veterans of the restaurant world own and operate this small space, focusing on quality ingredients and brilliant execution of classic techniques with a modern twist. My favorite places are those where the chef/owner is sur place because there is no quality control that is better than owner quality control.

Their specials change, but it’s a pretty solid bet to choose whatever strikes your fancy from the blackboard. Seeing a 36 hour tomato sauce combined with one of my favorite pastas was a no brainer choice for me.

It was as delicious as I imagined it would be, generously sauced, in a portion just right for my appetite, but also small enough for a bigger appetite to order a side or dessert.

Another blackboard special was the squid ink with rock shrimp, which was offered with cheese(!) which off course I declined, preferring to enjoy this perfect dish Italian style.

I am sure there will be future visits, so there might be a future post, but the lines are already forming as the seats are beginning to fill with local regulars, so go before getting a reservation becomes as rare as a blue butterfly sighting:)

Happy Hours are some of my favorite times of the day; in a Venn diagram it is the sweet center spot.

 

I’ve written about a few of my favorite places in previous posts, so today’s post is an addendum of some places where I have gone, but are not on my rotation of frequent visits, either because of location, or selections.

Salt Creek Grille has several locations scattered throughout Southern California, and they feature very comfortable and chic decor, with a varied menu Happy Hour is M-F in the bar and lounge from 4-6:30 pm. Choices range from $6 for chips to this $11 plate of mesquite grilled baby back ribs with cole slaw and Asiago garlic fries. The meat was tender and the BBQ sauce was sweet but not over done, and the fries were nicely done, although I could have done without the sprinkling of asiago.

It was a good deal for the food, but I didn’t care for the Paloma, a beautifully presented drink with a candied grapefruit rind, but so sweet it was like drinking dessert. I would have opted for a martini but they make theirs with Tito’s and it’s not a brand I like. Ah well, I think I will just have wine next time.

Local Kitchen in Torrance is a family friendly sports bar that delivers all that you would expect from a neighborhood place, including huge portions, and a large selection of beers. I love their yardbird salad, so I went in one day during happy hour, which is 3-6 pm everyday at the bar for their wings at $7.50. It was a HUGE portion, definitely enough to share with 2 or 3 people. They have a decent selection of wines, but go for one of their beers on draft here, like the Smog City IPA.

Abigaile in Hermosa serves some of the best bar food in the South Bay, and their happy hour M-F from 5-7 pm is their testing menu for food that may or may not make it to the main menu. The menu changes constantly, but if you see the French dip on their menu, it a worth ordering for the tender meat and rich dipping sauce that is perfectly dunkable with the pretzel bun.

Before dunking,

after dunking 🙂

The Whisper Lounge in the Grove, offers happy hour M-F 3- 6 pm, and all day on Sunday. The calamari was over fried and dry, but the short rib sliders for $8 were so good that we contemplated ordering another plate. Their wine selection has enough depth and quality to make a wine snob (like me) happy, and with happy prices $4 less than regular, my friend and I indulged in 2 glasses each:)

No matter where you are, there is bound to be an option (if not happy hour, maybe go to the gym, yoga studio, or a movie) that is better than sitting in freeway traffic for a few hours, and that alone should make you happy 🙂

I may not have posted last week, but I have been eating! Hopefully this week’s post will make up for skipping one 🙂

I took a friend to Kagura in El Segundo for lunch and she loved the calm minimalist decor while enjoying her bountiful lunch gozen. She was amazed by the quality and quantity of her sushi lunch with tempura and mini side dishes that were all contrasting textures and flavors for under $25.

I ordered the miso black cod because it is one of the few items I had not yet tried on their menu, and it was one of the best I’ve ever eaten! The side of sashimi was an added bonus since I got to enjoy both cooked and raw fish for the same meal.

I finally went to happy hour at Kagura, that is every Monday-Thursday from 5-6:30 PM when they offer a menu of drinks, rolls, and appetizers, all for $4 or less! An amazing deal, especially considering the quality of the drinks and food they offer, like this 16 oz draft Sapporo for $3!

The seaweed salad for $4 was much larger than I expected but a bit overdone with the dressing; it was very tasty nonetheless.

They offer several hand rolls for $3.75, including this yellowtail version which was chock full of yellowtail.

This was the negitoro (tuna with green onion) also $3.75.

I love fried smelt; they are the french fries of seafood and I have been known to make and eat an entire plateful (see my Instagram for proof), but to minimize the temptation to overdo it, I ordered them here for $4, and although there were only three, they were big enough to satiate my craving.

I was too tempted by the fried calamari legs to stop eating, so I ordered them for $4, which would have been enough for any normal person (but not a foodie intent on trying everything)! Next time I will order either the smelt or the calamari legs, but not both 🙂

Continuing the Japanese theme, Sushi Roku in Santa Monica ended up being my dinner destination, so I continued the Japanese food theme and I indulged in my favorite Spanish Mackerel sushi while watching as my dining companion ate the standard tempura and tuna rolls, which he remarked were boring compared to what I ordered.

My last plate of the night was the yellowtail with jalapeno and ponzu, which was a very fitting way to end a full day of Japanese food, lightly, purely, and deliciously 🙂

After watching the entire season of Samurai Gourmet on Netflix, I was craving Japanese food, but I did not want to deal with the jet lag of actually going to Japan 🙂
Luckily, Kagura is walking distance. Not only is their service and decor serene and welcoming, but their food is prepared with care and skill befitting the quality ingredients they serve. Even the salad served with the set gozen meals had a perfect dressing over fresh mixed baby greens that whet my appetite for the meal. Most lunch meals also include miso soup and your choice of white or brown rice for around $20, not including tax and tip.

Since they are famous for their Kurobuta pork tonkatsu, I ordered the loin and was so happy with my first bite of the crunchy exterior and moist interior that I used the sauce sparingly, savoring the pure flavor of quality meat. All the small side dishes enhanced the main attraction, and somehow I ate nearly the entire meal! I was pleasantly full but not stuffed with the various textures, tastes, and contrasts of the set meal.

A close up of the pork loin tonkatsu that was the most perfect I’ve ever eaten (disclaimer: I have never traveled to Japan so I can only compare to other restaurants in the US).

On a second visit, I ordered the mackerel and was thrilled to have it perfectly cooked, again with a nice assortment of side dishes that varied only slightly from my previous visit. They also serve black cod and hamachi collar options in their gozen choices.

On my most recent visit, I wanted tempura, so I ordered the hot buckwheat noodles combination for under $15. This set meal was so filling I could not finish it, but I did manage to eat about 80% of it 🙂 As with the pork tonkatsu, the tempura was so light and crisp while retaining the moist interior of the ingredients that it was nearly addictive #JustOneMoreBite…..

They have a happy hour with specials on their beer and rolls, which I will likely go to one day, if I can wait until after lunch to satisfy my Japanese food craving:)

When an Italian insists on taking you to coffee, please indulge them and let them pick the spot! My sweet 89 year old ex-neighbor from Palos Verdes drove me to Caffe Tre Venezie in Torrance and treated me to a cappuccino and hazelnut gelato as she recounted all the fun she had on her birthday with her daughters. She has become a regular at this small cafe and she conversed in Italian with the owner about the coffee they use in the cafe compared to the one she buys; in the end they both agreed that both brands were good choices:)

 

Regent Coffee in Glendale roasts their own beans, and they offer personal pour over coffee packets, as well as the usual assortment of espresso drinks.

Two Guns has opened up several locations around the South Bay, and luckily for me the one closest to me has a full menu and delicious bites like this one that may be my favorite cinnamon roll, with flakey exterior and croissant like interior wound around layers of cinnamon.

My favorite local coffee is the flat white with organic milk at Blue Butterfly, where I am now a regular, enjoying the art on the walls inside, as much as the perfect people watching front sidewalk, and the patio in the back with a tiny fountain. The day when they greet me by name, I know that I will have officially become a local 🙂

Walking around El Segundo, I saw a sign that said El Segundo Fish Co was celebrating 15 years, so I stopped in to taste what has kept them in business for 15 years! I am so glad I did 🙂 The extensive menu has everything from seafood to fish, prepared in all the ways you could probably imagine. It reminds me a bit of the Reel Inn along the Malibu coast, casual, local, and friendly.

They had wild sea bass from New Zealand, so I ordered it blackened with a side salad and black beans. The salad was nearly a meal by itself! I didn’t care for the balsamic dressing, so I just used salt and pepper on it. I understood why so many people were taking their orders to go once I got to the bottom of my salad, I was nearly full 🙂

The side of black beans was so good, I could have also made a meal of of them! Whoever cooked them, knows exactly how to season and simmer these legumes to perfection. After one bite of the fish, I knew I would be coming back. It was moist, perfectly seasoned, and just cooked through. It was also a huge filet, and I took my time eating one small bite at a time until I finished the entire thing (I hear that is also how you eat an elephant)! I didn’t use or care for the buttery sauce on the side, so I was very glad I had ordered it blackened. There are also plenty of table condiments so you may custom season your meal.

I came back to try the shrimp, with a side of asparagus and rice, totaling $21, which was a bargain considering the amount of shrimp, but although I loved the asparagus, I found the shrimp over cooked, and the rice had a butter like flavor that I did not enjoy.

I tried a glass of Pinot Grigio, and was pleasantly surprised by the generous serving for $6, even more of a bargain on Sundays when all wines by the glass are half off (I prefer the Sauvignon Blanc after tasting both).

Since I love fried calamari $10.95, I had to try theirs, and it did not disappoint, with crispy batter and tender squid, this was delicious with just lemon and salt, although they offer a trio of sauces if you prefer. Even the appetizer portion is easily enough for two or more, so share it.

I had to order my favorite side of asparagus for $2.50 to round out my meal before braving the long 3 block walk home 🙂

Sausal means Willow in old Spanish (before this area became part of the US, this was Alta California, as opposed to Baja California which is still part of Mexico). The old styles of ranch cooking over flames and wood are now used with fresh local ingredients to create the cuisine that epitomizes the best blending of the old and new world sensibilities.

Since The Yelp Elite event, Experience El Segundo, I’ve been wanting to come back and enjoy the small town hospitality and flavors. As fate would have it, I am moving here! I will now be a local in a town that is literally midway between my South Bay friends and my Valley friends! While I was sitting in both Sausal the the local cafe, Blue Butterfly, the people who walked in were ALL greeted by name (none of them were named Norm)! I am very much looking forward to becoming part of this community 🙂

Happy Hour at Sausal is EVERYDAY from 3-6pm and their margarita was one of the tastiest and strongest I’ve ever imbibed for only $6. It was brilliant to serve it with a half salt rim because drinking from the midway point gave me just enough salt!

One of the Happy Hour Specials was the batter fried shrimp taco for $4 that was piled high with crunchy slaw. I had to cut it in half to get a bite into my mouth!

Since I had not eaten lunch, I ordered the chorizo quesadilla for $7, that was big enough to share.

Did I mention, I had not eaten lunch? I also ordered the short rib empanada, perhaps my favorite $4 happy hour bite, filled with tender tasty beef, and surrounded by a perfect crunchy pastry.

My first Happy Hour experience was so good, I had to repeat it a week later, with a beef mole tostada, loaded with so much tender, delectable chunks of shredded beef that every mouthful made me smile:) Even more amazing than the flavor was the quality and quantity of the serving at Happy Hour of only $4.

I could have easily stopped eating after the beef tostada, but I wanted just one more bite, so I chose the wild caught crispy ling cod fish taco off the regular menu for $6.50. Served on a blue corn tortilla, with charred tomato crema, and lots of grape tomatoes, this may be one of be best fish tacos I’ve ever eaten!

For vegetarians or vegans they offer a cauliflower taco $6

The margarita was so strong, that I stopped by Blue Butterfly for an Americano before driving away. I think I’ve found two places where I will become one of the regulars they know by name:)

Paul Martin’s is about halfway between the South Bay and Los Angeles, so it was my last meal stop before returning home from my 3 day Beach Odyssey. It’s also very close to the airport (LAX), so it would be a great place to stop for a meal during a layover. I met my friend Shelly here and since she was pregnant with her second child, this was both a belated birthday and a prechild celebration.

Shelly had a cranberry and soda with lemon and said she was glad to get a different taste than her usual order of an Arnold Palmer (half iced tea and half lemonade). Shelly’s drink order made me want to try a Bistro “Champagne” lemonade made with house infused meyer lemon vodka, lemon juice and a touch of fresh basil topped with Piper Sonoma bubbles for $9. It was a refreshing balanced drink which had a nice minty taste (from the basil). Perfect for a hot day.

Shelly chose the soup and salad combo for $13 with the roasted tomato soup, cream finished with fresh basil pesto. It was so good, she literally pulled it away from the busboy who wanted to take it away with only a few spoonfuls left!

She also ordered a Caesar salad with chicken addition ($3). It had so much chicken compared to the romaine that it was more of a chicken breast with salad addition.

I chose the grilled prawn salad, with butter lettuce, pt. reyes blue cheese, candied walnuts, apples, maple vinaigrette for $16. This was a great combination, although I would have substituted goat cheese or feta for the blue cheese. The salad ingredients would have better suited red meat or even poultry, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The prawns were perfectly grilled and the dressing coated without overwhelming the salad.

It was great to see my friend and have a good meal. The only sad part was leaving the beach and saying goodbye to my friend, but that just means it’s time to plan another trip and another visit!
Paul Martin's American Grill on Urbanspoon

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