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Los Angeles is infamous for its traffic, and sometimes it just is not worth getting on any freeway or surface street until it’s a bit less clogged. Notice I said “a bit”…lately it seems there is no “off peak” time anymore, but unless you are masochistic or have the patience of a saint, avoiding anytime between 4-6 pm might save a life (your own if you have high blood pressure). Happy hours are a great invention to get some food and calming liquid into your system. Please don’t over indulge and drive drunk, but if you have some time and eat something, one drink might mellow you out for your 2-3 hour commute. I take the metro more  often than I drive, so not only do I get to indulge in adult beverages, but I also watch the cars on the freeway from my perch on the rails 🙂

I took the metro Expo line to the terminus at Santa Monica and discovered the Independence about a block away. Weekdays from 3-6pm they offer a selection of $5 drinks and bites. I had my first Paloma here and loved it! It was nice and tart and strong enough that even though I was walking, I only had one 🙂

I couldn’t resist the oysters, but I wouldn’t choose them again….the lack of expert shucking left bits of shell and they were not the freshest. Neighboring patrons had the mussels and meatballs that smelled wonderful, but I didn’t want to ruin my appetite for dinner.

I was out in Claremont and happened to be in time for Bardot’s Happy Hour from 3-6pm on weekdays. They have special promos most evenings and Wednesday is Whiskey night with $7 cocktails and delicious $3 bites like crab cake sliders. I had a food issue which was resolved so quickly and professionally that I went back the next week.

The drink and food specials change depending on the day of the week for happy hour, so when I went back it was Martini Monday night; $7 for top shelf brands like Ketel One, Grey Goose, or Bombay Sapphire. I chose a “hot and dirty”, basically a dirty martini with a splash of tabasco 🙂

The $5 tuna tartare was fantastic with a bit of seaweed, guacamole, mango, and micro greens to complement the very fresh and excellent ahi. The crispy fried and salted wonton chips were so good that I defy you to have just one!

I already love Red Herring for brunch, but after trying their happy hour, I also love them for later in the day. Their Happy Hour is Tuesday-Friday from 5-7pm when you can get wine or cava for $7 and duroc pork belly bacon BLT sliders for $5 on a parker house roll (you get TWO for that price).

Frida is a popular place for Mexican drinks and bites, but I’d never tried them until recently. They have Happy Hour everyday from 3-7pm, with additional late night Happy Hour Sunday-Thursday from 9-10pm and Friday-Saturday from 10-11pm. Well drinks are $5 and margaritas are $6 (add $2 for Cadillac or Agave). I chose the spicy and was very pleasantly surprised by the level of spice 🙂 

I didn’t want to drink on an empty stomach, so I ordered a veggie taco with portobello, zucchini, bell peppers, and tomato for $4. It was just enough to absorb some alcohol without filling me up too much to eat dinner.

When two friends braved the freeways to come see me, we stopped by for a quick drink and bite at Eden on Brand before a show. The space is modern, light, and airy, with the bar as the central focal point underneath a light sculpture.

One of my friends craved mac and cheese so we ordered it off the regular menu for $12. The pasta was a bit dense and thick for the lightly creamy sauce, but she enjoyed the flavors nonetheless.

Besides our drinks being discounted, their shrimp ceviche, with avocado cream, radish, and yuzu, was only $7 instead of $12. We all enjoyed this so much we would have ordered another if we had not been running late to the show. My friends loved their mojito, and when I told the bartender I preferred my paloma less sweet, he adjusted it perfectly 🙂

I think that happy hour doesn’t have to involve alcohol or savory food, and it can be anytime you want something to make you happy!

Three Twins organic ice cream makes me happy and if you don’t live near a location, you can buy their products in many markets nationwide. My cone of mint confetti in a teensy size was the perfect portion for me after a big lunch.

My other friends combined scoops of cardamom, strawberry, and Mexican chocolate to create their own bowl of joy:)

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Chang’an‘s casually chic space will soothe the frazzled nerves of anyone who abhors the frenetic atmosphere in many Chinese restaurants. Smooth jazz, attentive service, and a decent wine list befitting their perch atop the Hilton Plaza. If you time your visit to coincide with their daily Happy Hour, you can enjoy some of their specials at discounted prices, including their cold sake for $10 instead of $15 per 400 ml.

Their Kumamoto oysters were $3 during Happy Hour instead of $3.80, and I got the last 4! If you allow the chef to choose your oysters, they are only $1.50 each during happy hour.

Every table seemed to have the lamb skewers, so we ordered two at $4 each during happy hour, not realizing how big they were; we could have easily split one skewer. They were so heavily cumin flavored that we would not order these again, but for sheer quantity of meat and tenderness, they are a bargain.

My friend ordered steamed scallops at $4 each and enjoyed the delicate touch on the scallop atop the glass noodles.

I went for the steamed oysters at $3 each; they were identically prepared and the addition of the glass noodles made each one a heartier appetizer.

We needed a vegetable dish to round out our meal, so we got the broccoli, beef tendon, bacon, and shrimp stir fry for $12. This was probably our favorite dish because it combined all the textures and flavors of land, sea, and garden.

To end our evening we had the Chinese sausage fried rice for $11 that was served with shrimp chips! The rice had distinctly sweet and silky sausage bits throughout and is a good choice for those who are meat and rice lovers. We ended up taking half of it in a doggie bag because as usual our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.

Another benefit of eating here is that they source their products from organic vendors, and they include a service charge with every bill to help with the pay disparity between the back of the house kitchen staff and the front of the house waitstaff.

President Thai was recommended by two unrelated food lovers, so I went to to lunches 🙂 The immense building, menu, and long lines, could have been overwhelming, but the service was so kind, patient, efficient, and happy, that I felt as if I was their honored guest. If you are ever in the neighborhood, or simply want to be in a place where you are surrounded by genuine smiles, head over to president Thai.

They start off all lunch specials with either a bowl of delectable soup or a small salad.

The first time I tried their beef because this was their most popular dish. The meat was tender, the flavors were balanced, and the portion was huge! Even as a lunch special for around $10, this was easily enough for two meals; the picture is a bit deceiving because the layers of meat are a bit hidden under the garnish.

I chose the chicken with rice noodles for another lunch and was happy

to add any variety of spice I wanted to my dish. The portion was again very generous and I ate two meals from the one order.

Sushi Roku has many locations, and I have eaten there several times, but I had never tried their Happy Hour until recently. Served only in the bar area (inside or outside), the selections are varied enough for those who like cooked and raw choices. I began with a $5 beer since it was so hot.

A yellow tail and scallion cut roll and a salmon skin hand roll (not crisp) at $5 each started things off,

segued into $5 tempura green beans and another order of the yellow tail cut roll.

The Albacore tacos for $6 were a good choice for those who like fusion.

The hit of the happy hour was the $5 popcorn shrimp with jalapeno cut roll.

At the Thursday night South Pasadena Farmers Market, the longest line is always at Mama Musubi. I braved the wait one day and got three, the beef, the tuna, and the seaweed; my favorite was the seaweed, seen at the right edge of the photo, and apparently it’s also the most popular one:)

There are a few general rules to follow when trying to trying to decide if a place will be good:

1) Is there a line when nearby places have none?

2) If it is an ethnic cuisine, are there people of that ethnicity eating there?

3) Has a friend with a discerning palate eaten there and liked it?

Mama Lu’s answered all these questions yes, but aside from one dish out of four, I can not say it was good.

They are known for their dumplings, so we ordered some to test out their signature dish. They were surprisingly bland with a heavily cilantro based filling and even with some doctoring with tableside black vinegar and chili oil, the three of us only ate one and left the rest.

I am still on my quest for great beef chow fun. The presentation made me hopeful, because it was not greasy, but once again it required doctoring with several of the tableside condiments to flavor these noodles. Again we left half food on the plate.

The clear winner of the evening were the pea sprouts sautéed in garlic, which we all loved and which needed no doctoring of any kind! This was the only plate we finished completely.

The clear loser of the evening were the clams in black bean sauce which were cloyingly sweet and which none of us wanted to eat after a few bites. We were amazed at how full the restaurant was and how disappointing the dishes were, especially since two of my friends had eaten there before and enjoyed their previous meal. It may have been a change of chefs that night, but I am not keen to venture for another try with their poor batting average on flavors.

A better choice for Chinese is Phoenix Food Boutique, a small outpost of a small chain, catering mostly to take out customers. Their $7.95 shrimp and pork wonton noodle soup was a hearty bowl with wonderful wontons and fresh bok choy. I found the soup itself lacking in depth of flavor, but the ingredients were tender and tasty enough to merit ordering this bowl.

The $8.50 beef chow fun was big enough for 2 people, and chock full of tender slices of beef, crunchy bean sprouts, and tender spring onions. If it were less greasy, this would have been perfect!

Seoul Sausage has been one of my favorite spots ever since they opened a brick and mortar shop near Sawtelle. I’ve been to their Little Tokyo location before, but this time I brought friends for Happy Hour. Since my friends are adept beer drinkers, our wonderful waiter provided us with tastes of several before we placed our order. We shared the Sausage Party platter and all agreed that the sweet and spicy chicken and the kalbi pork were our favorites,

so we followed up with two full sized sausages of both.

One of my friends ordered the Da Rapokki, pork belly spicy ramen, but didn’t like the lack of liquid, but I loved the spicy noodles and pork belly.

I couldn’t come to Seoul Sausage without making my friends try Korean Fried Chicken aka KFC, which was the hit of the evening 🙂

Meeting someone in Los Angeles can be a daunting task, especially when you must drive across town to do it. Even choosing to meet halfway in the middle of the day can still lead to chaos. People say there are no accidents or coincidences, so when I was supposed to meet a friend at noon at the Hotel Angeleno, traffic and rain conspired to have me enjoy the views and food alone.

It was my first time in this circular building, although I’ve driven past it numerous times on the 405 going in and out of the San Fernando Valley. I will definitely stop by the next time traffic is crawling and I want to be above the mess rather than in it. If you stop by during Happy Hour, they have nice bites and drinks with the view and a $7 parking fee.

Since I was there in the afternoon, after the normal lunch hour, there weren’t many people and I had a choice of seats with a view. I chose the ones with cushions a bit further away from the windows, but there were hotel guests who chose otherwise. I had a glass of Pinot Grigio as I waited for my friend, but as I got updates that the trek from the airport was going to take at least 90 minutes, I decided to order lunch.

It’s been awhile since I’ve had the classic salad Crab Louie, and I was happy to see the large portion of crab and vegetables arrive. For a hotel, this was a very correct dish, with real crab (canned), and local vegetables, including heirloom cherry tomatoes. The dressing was a green goddess instead of the traditional Louie, but it was tasty enough for me to use it all with some additional salt and pepper to perk it up. Lunch was fairly priced for a hotel with a view; with my wine and tax, my total was $38; this is a non tipping hotel, so everyone is paid a living wage by the hotel from the maids to the waiters and bartenders.

By the time my friend finally arrived, it was time for Happy Hour and since I had only eaten a salad, I got the ceviche. It was a bargain for the ingredients and the unusual green chips made me think it was St Patrick’s Day, but it could have used some tapatio or zesty spice.

I got to see my friend’s room that had a view overlooking the condos on the other side of the freeway.

The bed looked comfy with modern touches like a lit headboard and USB plug in ports.

The desk area carried on the same modern theme and included numerous ports built into the wall. There was a safe and mini fridge hidden behind the placards, water and snacks at reasonable for hotel prices. There was even a little coffee/tea maker with Wolfgang Puck coffee and Numi organic green tea.

 

The bathroom had several nice amenities, including a robe, toiletries, and three sets of towels for one person!

 

 

I think the coolest part of the hotel is the emphasis on them doing things a bit differently, from the non tipping policy to the unusual shape of the building; they definitely are not square 🙂

Sometimes an intention is all that is needed when you head towards a goal. My intention was to eat lunch at a nearby place which served local or organic ingredients in creative and tasty combinations. I’ve been meaning to try Gratitude Cafe and Superba Snack Bar for quite awhile, so I simply parked on Rose and walked around figuring I would choose a place to eat lunch once I got to the area. Superba was closed and Gratitude was just a block too far to walk to in the 90 degree heat.

Serendipitiously, I ended up at Cerveteca. They have a large enclosed patio, so you can enjoy sunny Southern California beach weather even when the beach (six blocks away) is overcast.

This marvelous place serves some of the best Latin inspired food I’ve ever eaten. They use free range chicken, wild caught salmon, and organic mixed greens for their salads, so quality is paramount. The fact that they use handmade tortillas speaks volumes about how much they care about their food. It’s the equivalent of using bakery bread rather than using cellophane wrapped supermarket bread when you are making a sandwich.

Since their Happy Hour lasts from 3-7pm, you can get here earlier for drinks and appetizers before your dinner, or make your dinner from the Happy Hour menu which offers smaller bites of the menu items.

Mama’s ceviche, made with lime cured fish, tomato, cilantro, radish, jicama, mango, and cucumber for $9 at Happy Hour ($16 regularly) is a fresh citrusly medley of ingredients. We added some of the pickled relish from the table to perk it up with some jalapeno, but for those who want no heat, it is good by itself. The accompanying chips are made from the handmade tortillas, so they can be addictive.

Since we couldn’t decide whether to get the barbacoa beef or pulled pork slider, so we got one of each for $6 at Happy Hour ($14 regular). The five spiced beef was the clear winner of the two with a marvelously subtly smokey spice (but not hot) flavor.

The Baja taco was the best fish tacos I’ve ever eaten. Period. For $4 at Happy Hour or $12 (for three) on the regular menu, the beer batter dipped and fried cod with slaw, crema, salsa, and aji sauce was the perfect combination of soft, crunchy, warm, creamy, and  spicy (if you add the sauce served on the side). If anyone you know does not like fish or tacos, I would bet that after a bite of this taco they would change their minds (and I’m not a gambler).

The special of the night was seared Diver scallops on a bed of Romesco sauce with grilled and raw asparagus. The scallops were perfectly seared and slightly under done, so it was almost sashimi. The Romesco sauce added a nice flavor with a counterpoint of creamy texture to the scallops and asparagus. If this is on special when you go and you like scallops, make sure you save room for this dish.

I chose the Herb and Garlic Basted Game Hen for $18, made with achiote, tomato, thyme, rosemary,  arroz ajillo, with a side (I chose the brussel sprouts with bacon), and tortilla. This game hen was one of the best versions I have ever eaten, with the skin and meat both infused with achiote and perfectly roasted. The brussel sprouts had incredible chunks of thick bacon, but it was a bit overwhelmed by the cider finish. The Arroz Ajillo was delightful, with just a hint of flavor that complimented the game hen perfectly.

Serendipity is defined as a “lucky coincidence”; I’m glad my luck was good enough to end up at Cerveteca.

Oscar's Cerveteca on Urbanspoon

I was invited to try 31 Ten Lounge, so this is one of those rare posts where everything I ate and drank was provided by the management and delivered to me by the chef. More than 95% of what I write here is based on experiences where the owners, managers, and chefs do not know that I write a blog. On the rare occasions when that is not the case I will always let you know, and I promise that regardless of whether or not I paid for my meal and drinks, my comments will always be honest.

31 Ten Lounge becomes a club later at night, but if you go earlier than 10 pm, you can enjoy a few drinks and bar bites in their beautiful patio.

The open kitchen and bar.

The creator of all the tasty bites, the chef, Michael Wilson.

I asked the chef what he recommended to drink with the assortment of bites I would be tasting and he suggested the Diablo Margarita made with jalapenos, cucumber, and a nice blanco tequila. It was supposed to be spicy, but since they use fresh jalapenos, the heat varies and mine was not hot at all and overly sweet. When I told Joseph, the manager, he promptly replaced it and the second version was much better. Since I don’t like sweet drinks, I’m looking forward to their new martini menu debuting Thursday, April 18 with drinks like the Poison Ivy, made with Finlandia Grapefruit Vodka, Grand Marnier, Pomegranate Juice and a Rosemary infused Simple Syrup, and the Remedy, made with Jameson Irish Whisky, Honey & Ginger Infused Simple Syrup & Lemon Juice ($14-$16).

One of my favorite items was the grilled and raw asparagus with fennel, button mushrooms, and grana padana cheese for $13. The contrasting textures and tastes of raw and grilled worked well with just enough cheese to add a slightly salty richness. I would gladly order this as an appetizer again.

One advantage to being invited is that I got to chat with the chef about his creations. An intriguing menu item is the tempura avocado taco which is a perfect choice for vegetarians and all the Californians who love this local fruit. They make their own tortillas and the usual serving is two for $8, but since I was tasting, I asked the chef to make mini portions so I could taste more dishes. I loved the crisp batter and the soft texture of the avocado with the cabbage, salsa and sour cream, but I found the tortilla underwhelming. It may have been made in house but the texture was heavy and it was oily.

They serve two kinds of ceviche ($13 each), so I got mini tastes of both the diver scallop and calamari (on the right) and the shrimp (on the left). I definitely preferred the diver scallop and calamari for its wonderfully light ocean flavor, but if you are not adventurous, you have a tamer choice available. If you go to sushi bars and order California Rolls, order the shrimp ceviche. If you order sashimi, get the diver scallop and calamari ceviche.

The grilled romaine with seared Hamachi in a yuzu Caesar dressing (regular portion size is $17) was another one of my favorite bites. The slightly tangy yuzu with the creamy Caesar married the grilled fish and warm romaine like a Unitarian preacher joining a Northern and Southern Irish couple together.

When I saw smelt fries on the menu, it was the first thing I wanted to try. Served with a sriracha mayo and lime, these tasty bites are great finger food for any fish lovers. If you want some creamy spice, dip them in the sriracha mayonnaise which adds just a bit of heat. A normal size portion is $13 and if it was available all year round I would always order it.

I thought I was done with the fish and vegetable tastes when chef Michael brought out this seared diver scallop in a taleggio cheese sauce. I would never have put a cheese sauce with a seared scallop, but that is why chefs are truly artists at heart (as you can see from the plating, food can be art). The scallop was perfectly seared and not overly cooked (think of seared ahi tuna), not cooked through, not raw. I was undecided about whether the taleggio sauce worked with the scallop because I thought the richness of the cheese and scallop combination was a bit too much together, but I loved the scallop by itself.

The chorizo Bilbao and fingerling potatoes was one of the chef’s recommendations and I LOVED the chorizo Bilbao! I gave the chef a card for Lindy & Grundy so he could taste their handmade chorizo; maybe the chef will create a chorizo flight!

Since I couldn’t decide between the wild boar meatball with creamy cheesy polenta or the wild boar slider, the chef made me a mini plate of both 🙂 My favorite was the wild boar meatball (normal portion is $15) because the tomato sauce perked up my palate, but since they grind all their own meat, the texture in both offerings was perfect.

If you have never tasted wild boar before I would recommend you try the slider, made with oven tomato, taleggio, and arugula for $7. You will never want a boring beef slider again.

Even though I am not a big dessert eater, I know many of you are, so I tried the molten chocolate cake with gold leaf and an orange blossom cream. As a non dessert eater, anytime I eat more than one bite of a dessert, it is a great sign. I ate nearly all of this (even after all the other bites I tasted)! The warm molten center of the cake was addictive, and because none of the components were overly sweet or rich, this was a satisfying way to end my meal and evening. The edible gold was a beautiful touch and fresh berries with the fresh cream gave the dessert a lighter mouth feel.

Thank-you Joseph and Michael for providing me with a varied tasting of your menu 🙂

31Ten Lounge on Urbanspoon

Sunny Spot is an aptly named eatery in Marina Del Rey with an expansive enclosed patio which allows glimpses of blue skies even during the grayest of Southern California days. Our weather this week has been overcast skies with temperatures that have hovered in the 60-70 Fahrenheit range. Fortunately the smiles and the Caribbean ambiance here would brighten even rainy days, and they have indoor seating if the rumor is true that it truly rains in Southern California.

I am always impressed when the service team works together, but I am absolutely astounded when a manager steps in to take orders and clear plates. Matt, the manager during a prime time Sunday brunch came to take my order, gave it to my waitress, came back, cleared my plate, and asked how everything was, all with the grace of a symphony conductor who was filling in for one of the musicians in his orchestra, never missing a note.

I learned that one reason that brunch is so popular is that they offer bottomless mix and match cocktails like Mimosas and Bloody Marys for $10, so people come and stay all afternoon. I tried a Bloody Mary and it was delicious, with enough spice and kick to rival another brunch hot spot, Joe’s, in nearby Venice. Although it was VERY loud, several people came with children in strollers, so this place is a kid friendly for brunch. Hopefully the kids in the strollers all had a sober driver to get them home…..

My waitress recommended the “Cash Money Calamari” for $9 ($6 during happy hour) and when it arrived I was disappointed with the color, which made it look undercooked. It was perfectly tender and lightly salted, but for aesthetics I would have preferred a more golden appearance. The spicy cocktail sauce and lemon helped, but it lacked flavor that would have made it special.

Since I wanted something spicy, and they are known for their wings marinated in habanero for $9 ($5 during happy hour), I segued on to their jerk wings. At first bite, I didn’t feel any spice, but as I kept eating the warmth glowed like an ember, a bit stronger with every bite. If you are in the least bit sensitive to heat, do NOT get these because although I loved the flavor, by the end of my second wing I was looking for some milk. If you love heat, go for these. They are not super crispy even though they are double fried, but they are not mushy or greasy either.

The “one fisted” slider was adorable, about 3″ in diameter, on a brioche bun with tomato jam, arugula, cheddar, herb mayo, and the perfect bar bite at $3 during happy hour or you can get the “two fisted” burger for $13 which is “normal” sized.

The brunch menu had a “Sunfire chicken salad” which is their Sunfire Salad, made butter lettuce, radicchio, arugula, cauliflower, grapefruit, goat cheese, a chili lime vinaigrette, made with the addition of jerk chicken for $13. This was my least favorite item because the jerk chicken was barely spiced, the greens were overly dressed, and it was not tossed well, with nearly all of the ingredients at the bottom of the plate under the lettuce. Because I ordered this during their Brunch and they were literally jam packed, I might try this again when the kitchen isn’t slammed.

When the hostess, wait staff, bus staff, and manager all work together as a team during the height of a holiday brunch and manage to stay upbeat as they do their work, they bring a bright Sunny Spot to the gloomiest days in Marina Del Rey.

Sunny Spot on Urbanspoon

Sourdough Pizza? Yes, you read that correctly. Wildcraft has combined a Neapolitan style pizza place with gastropub ingredients to create a hybrid that works. With a wood oven that heats to 900 degrees Farenheit, the pizzas are literally made to order and delivered to you in minutes. For those die hard fans of authentic Napoli or New York style pizza, this is neither, but it is a nice fusion stepchild of both. This is the latest venture by the people who created Abigaile in Hermosa Beach, so it’s nice that I get the same food talent now closer to home.

Located in the heart of Culver City, it is easy to access with two free parking structures and is walking distance to both the movie theater and Sony studios. Whether you are watching a movie or making one nearby, this is a convenient place for lunch, happy hour, or dinner.

I could make a meal out of the appetizers here. The fried green olives wrapped in fennel sausage, topped with grated parmesan and almonds for $8 ($5 during happy hour) are the perfect small bites to share for those who want a bit of meaty substance to a bar bite.

When I ordered these I thought the olives were stuffed WITH the fennel sausage, but the olives are stuffed IN the fennel sausage. It actually tastes better this way because it tastes more like meat with a surprise filling, and how often do you find that?

For vegetarians, there are several pizzas and menu items like the baby spinach salad with salt roasted beets, walnuts, goat cheese, and avocado in a balsamic dressing for $9-14 depending on the size. You can add chicken to this and make it a heartier dish if you wish for $3.25. The one pictured is the large size and I recommend this only for a full meal unless you are a a large rabbit! The flavors were superb, but the dressing was a bit excessive, so if you like your greens lightly dressed, ask for your dressing on the side.

Another one of the appetizers I could eat as a meal by itself is the tuna crudo with veggie couscous, pistachios, and pea tendrils for $14 ($10 during happy hour). This is a light and filling dish that would please any pescatarian. What other pizza place would have this on their menu?

I had to try one of their pizzas, so I went with the white pizza with pork belly, fresh Manila clams, oregano, and red onions for $17 (I could not find nor taste any of the chilies nor fried sage that was supposed to have been on this pizza). I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I liked the slightly sourdough crust and that the toppings worked well together. I would have liked more toppings and the missing chilies and fried sage would have added a nice complexity that I found lacking in this pizza, but I enjoyed it enough to take half of the 12″ pie home.

Go for their “Rest & Relaxation” happy hour from 4-7pm when you can get a Cabernet or Pinot Gris for $5, or one of their micro brew ales for $4. They offer complimentary flat or sparkling filtered water, and if you want a full meal with dessert, they also have espresso and tea.

Sometimes Californian hybrids work, and they do in this case.

Wildcraft Sourdough Pizza on Urbanspoon

Plan Check celebrated their first year in business last week, and after tasting several of their dishes, it looks like they will be around for many years to come.

The table seated next to me lived in the neighborhood and as regulars, they insisted that I try the sweet potato fries with peach ketchup, and after one bite, I was glad that they were seated next to me. These were the best sweet potato fries I have ever eaten! A perfectly crispy exterior with soft centers and perfect salt, they were good by themselves, but a dip in the peach ketchup made this a hot, sweet, salty, tangy combination that was addictive. Available for only $6 a plate, this is an affordable addiction.

The exotic vegetable chips were the fresh version of the chips you can buy in a bag at the supermarket, but just as fresh popcorn tastes completely different from bagged, these were an elevated snack which came with an avocado dip. This was also $6 and a great crunchy munch.

The fries come fried in beef tallow (yes, beef fat), but you can opt for vegetable if you prefer. I did opt for the vegetable oil with my sweet potato fries, but for the regular fries my friend wanted the full beef fat flavor. They came with freshly made ketchup and smoked salt. She liked them, but loved my sweet potato fries.

The neighboring table had ordered the Caesar Kale salad and it looked so good I had to get one. For $8, this was a great light meal combining two of my favorite flavors, and I was glad to find a pronounced garlic taste in the Caesar dressing.

The dish that made me come to try this place was the fried jidori chicken thighs with sweet potato jam, smoked milk gravy and pickled okra for $13. It is a greasy, creamy, sweet combo which was not at all my preference for fried chicken, but I can see how it would appeal to those who like their fried foods with a sweet and creamy accompaniment. My favorite part of the dish was the pickled okra because it cut through all the grease. The chicken was very moist and had a nice flavor but as Roux said in “Chocolat” to the various chocolates offered, “Not my favorite”.

The freshly made crullers with freshly whipped cream and sliced bananas ended the meal on a wonderfully sweet note for $6. If you love churros, imagine 3 huge round cinnamon sugar churros on a pile of cream. These crullers were actually the reason I tasted the sweet potato fries because I swapped with the neighboring table since there is no way to eat more than one unless you either eat nothing else or have a huge capacity for sweets!

Since one of the partners of Plan Check created Umami Burger, there are of course numerous burgers on the menu ranging from the pastrami burger with swiss cheese, kimchi mustard, pickles and sunny side up fried egg, to the blueprint burger with smoked blue cheese, pig candy, fried onions, roasted garlic steak sauce, and peppercress. All burgers are less than $13, and beers, wines and whiskeys range from $6-$50 a glass.

They have flights of whiskeys starting at $20 and going to $100, so this can be a pure bar experience after a meal elsewhere, or the place to come before heading home if you can get here for Happy Hour between 3-6 for a bite and some drinks. I would recommend coming for a bite with your drinks since it’s never a good idea to drink without food 🙂

Plan Check Kitchen + Bar on Urbanspoon

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