Thursday, November 11, 2010

Slaw Dogs- a dog

He of the extra extra extra large shirt had been doing lots and lots of food reading. Everyone, The Pasadena Weekly, the LA Weekly, the LA Times were proclaiming a local place to be a food miracle. The Fat Man wanted too believe so. The new place, the SLAW DOGS was located where the one of multiple chins once enjoyed the best Philadelphia Cheesesteaks to ever hit California. That great place was gone. The Fat Man hoped SLAW DOGS was a worthy successor. The Fat Man hopes for world peace also. It's about the same.

I have no idea what SLAW DOGS the various food critics went to. They have raved page after page about plebean food revelations, explosions of flavor on the tongue, surperlative declarations on and on and on.

Perhaps the one of the fully stuffed sweater was oversold. In any case, he was underwhelmed. The first time. So the chubby One figured it was an off day, and went back again. And again. And again. There were no revelations. There were no fabulous anythings to revel in. Yes the dogs are stuffed to the point of being too messy to eat without a fork.

Frankly, the one of spare tire girth wanted to love this place and found it over priced, over sold, and way way way over hyped. The Picnic lunch was ...OK. The Bar B Que dog with onions again was OK. The Asian dog- not a revelation akin to meeting the Buddha. OK, fresh food, but not great and pricey for what you got.

Want a really GREAT dog at a fair price that is a Hot Dog Classic? Try Scooby's on Hollywood Boulevard, don't bother with Slaw Dogs.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Big Boy in Pasadena, the American Dream

He of the double chins has not written much about food recently. Fear not! He has been plowing his way through many a feed lot, he just sadly has not found much worthy of filling his pen with ink in the local Pasadena area. His jolly roundness has been celebrating many a fine old LA diner through the facebook group CLASSIC L.A. DINING. Clifton's, Phillipe's, Chili John's and Canters have so far delighted he of triple extra large girth.

It is a visit to a classic yet new place today that causes his tubbyness to write. Long long ago, when the Chunky One was a wee willowy lad, the first restaurant he ever went to was the famous East Pasadena Bob's memorialized in Sam Shephard's play TRUE WEST. The Fat man's father had been the bouncer of that particular Bob's Big Boy's infamously rowdy car hop service. Stories of baaaad ass car and motorcycle club members learning to fly were often told to a spell bound boy by Bob's Big Boy employees.

Both the Bob's on foothill in East Pas and the one next to PCC closed in that dark era of shoulder padded women in neon colored jackets called the early 1980's. Everybody was SO busy being upscale and pretending to be "European" that no one wanted to be caught dead in Bobs Big Boy, it was so so ah EGALITARIAN, so AMERICAN, so lacking in that most important attribute of the YUPPIE "mind": pretension.

He of the rolls over the belt longed for the sacred space of the Wayne McAllister designed hallowed halls of American dining. Those Wrightian Usonian open cantilever roof openings, the large glazed areas, the lawyers, bankers, plumbers, cops, gang members, judges, office workers all dining next to each other, chatting easily together on the field of equality: The worlds best Blue Cheese dressing and a double decker slathered in a sweet sharply tangy hamburger relish. Bob's Big Boy was a embodyment of something more than commerce, it embodied a equality that was achieved in America in the post war era through high quality, fair prices and unbelievably excellent service.

The Fat Man has long made trecks to Toluca Lake where the Mc Donnald brothers retain a original more or less unmolested Wayne McAllister designed Bob's Big Boy. It's a time machine to better designed restaurants, excellent service and the highest quality simple fair at a fair price. At hte end of every trek a letter is written on the back of the bill: "Call me, I have a perfect site in the Pasadena Area for you, a huge market waiting." They never called.

The McDonnald brothers did have a Pasadena franchise that wasn't doing so great a Baja Fresh in a almost invisible location. With hundreds of local Mexican places to frequent, no one was finding their way to Baja Fresh. They knew there was a longing in the SGV for a Bob's, so they have just opened a Bob's big Boy in that location. Jeanette and I went there at 3 in the afternoon on a Monday- the place in this down economy was 3/4 full. A good sign!

The food was wonderful. If you knew Bob's in the 50's, 60's, 70's or 80's, all I can say is the beef is perfectly fresh, the hamburger relish has that slight bite of sharp tart sweetness you remember, the fries were perfect, the salad is better and where else in town can you get a vanilla root beer?

The interior is a stripped down more plain less detailed McCallister Bob's, it honors the designs you knew, while not slavishly aping them. It's a pleasant place to be, especially considering the lack of available exterior wall in a center building location.

While I was there, a corporate Lawyer I know in his Coutroom dark blues was having Pappy Parker's Fried Chicken, some college students were eating dessert, construction workers stopped in for a burger. Amazingly enough, the high quality food and excellent service with fair prices were already weaving the magic of a democratized egalitarian environment.

Jeanette and I each had a Big boy combination, each of us ordering the burger in the peculiar ways we prefer it, Jeanette HEAVY on the relish, me add tomato center out. They were EXCELLENT, the fries perfect, you could close your eyes and find yourself back way way back to Saturday lunch as a child, dates after the football game as a teen, and comfort food as a young business owner and newlywed whose world was exciting, but swirling with change and pressure.
Open your eyes, and you are in a place that is recognizable as Bob's and happily, now Bob's is back in Pasadena!

It's a real American Dream.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Re Enter the Crocodille...

He of the Triple Chins was too hot to cook. The lovely Jeanette had worked a twelve hour shift and was hungry when His Chubbyness picked her up from work in the gold PT Convertable...What to do? It was Thursday and we knew that April Free, daughter of great Altadena Artist Gary Thomas, kick ass singer along the lines of Janis Joplin (no Lie) , world class massuse and relaxing efficient waitress would be working at Crocodille. Crocodille was a old favorite. the food wasn't really ever anything to write home about, except for the Oakwwod burger and the portabello mushroom sandwich, it was just well prepared straight on American comfort food and it never really pretended otherwise. We were in the mood for being treated well and relaxing, so off we went.

Arriving at the door, we noted a sign of potential dining danger, the room had been redecorated. Crocodille has gone now through three interiors, each less to the Fat Man's liking, this one the least welcoming and interesting so far. Worse was the thought that a remodel generally signals a price uptick. There was a second bit of trouble, as we had to negotiate with the hostess to sit outside in April's section. That FINALLY done, the Fat Man and his lovely Golden Bride Jeanette, were seated on the patio, a very faint breeze cooled us to just comfortable in the warm summer evening.

The Multi page plastic encased menu had been replaced with a simple xeroxed large single sheet.
The one of the Quad Extra Large Shirt looked upon the menu with trepidation, expecting blisteringly high prices. He saw that the Oakwood burger was priced more or less as it was the last time he was here. The Chunky One was all ready to order that classic Crocodille rendition of a So Cal Back yard Bar B Que burger when April announced that there were several new menu creations we REALLY should try. April likes good food. If she insists that she likes a dish, you know it's going to be YUMMY. Trust her, she's not a skinny rail. April suggested the Thai Chicken Salad and the Flat Iron Steak. Jeanette and I ordered those and agreed to split them.

This was the BEST MEAL the Fat Man has had since he was last at Dianne's in Silver City New Mexico. That means, friends, this meal was the BOMB!

The Thai Salad was composed of cool vermicelli noodles, cubed cooked cooled grilled chicken, peanuts, green onion, basil, mint,and cabbage all diced into itsy bitsy pieces and tossed in a vinegrette. Normally it also has mango in it, but the One of Many Chins is allergic to Mang, and they gladly made it for me without. The salad looked O.K. when it arrived, and I noted that while it wasn't any more expensive that any other salad at Crocodille had been, the portion was now reduced to a reasonable one. No anger here over that, it really is an improvement.

We split up our orders and I took a bite of this salad. The flavors exploded in my mouth each singing solo and blending together. What a absolute delight this salad was! Each bite a joy of flavor anmd texture blending together across my very happy taste buds. The One of Double Extra Wide Girth was instantly regretful he had agreed to split it with Jeanette in trade for half of her order of Flat Iron Steak. The Fat Man wanted his half salad back. He was scheming on how to get it too, something about his need to drop tonnage, be healthy and so on, certainly aguments the lovely and sweet Jeanette would be sympathetic towards. Then the Chubby Rascal took a bite of his portion of the Flat Iron Steak! A very Big grin, that Ernest Hemmingway "I just caught the Marlin" shit eating ear to ear grin. The steak was not like the many tough over salted steaks the Chunky One has downed attempting to understand why so many places now list them on the menu.. No Sir! This steak was smooth to chew, yielding, but well textured and full of a grassy earthy excellent beef flavor. The Fat Man was happy, with half his salad and half of Jeanettes flat iron steak. Little Italian Putti were singing in the Fat Man's ears and playing sweet Scarlotti violins....Along with the Steak itself was a perfectly aldente clump of fresh broccoli, it was nice, and the most wonderful au Grotten potatoes, sliced as thin as a business card, layered in sauce, baked like a lasagna, crusty on top, delightfully clashing the range of potato textures. they should sell that as a whole plate. people would buy it.

The dinner was so perfect, everything was well prepared, tasty, made of ultra fresh stuff there on the terrace looking at the world go by under the stars, having April tend to ones every lawful whim and desire. Friends does it get any better than this? Well, yes it does, April stops by to suggest a new dessert! (You have to adore that woman!)

We took her suggestion, Lime Champagne Sorbet. Ooooh This was Excellent. The one of way wide girth got brain freeze about eight times, trying to eat his while it was still in prime condition not wanting it to melt. It was a perfect blend and a perfect end to this meal. The lime flavor subtly improving the champagne, sharpening slightly and deepening it's flavor. OH MAN! he of the extra chins was literally moaning in pleasure all through dinner. This is the best meal the Fat Man has ever had in Pasadena! He would suggest, in fact, that Crocodille make a half order of Thai Salad and Flat Iron Steak a regular offering.

It doesn't get better than this anyplace for less than twice the price. Thanks, April!

Crocodille Cafe
140 S. Lake Ave.
Pasadena Ca.
626 449 9900

Cash and AMEX, MASTER CARD, VISA accepted

Friday, May 15, 2009

Things change

He of the Quad Extra Large shirt has long desired a choice of decent small locally owned, non chain, places to buy a meal. Shouldn't be a great deal to ask for. For a time there was Hawkins Burger, excellent food, if the wait was from here to eternity. Of course, there is Jim's Burger on Lincoln. One of the best burgers in the world, but even lobster ,if eaten every night, eventually gets boring, and while Jim's is the best of the grease burgers, how many can one eat a year and not need an unplanned visit with a cardiologist?.

A long time ago, back when he of the multi chins only had one and a half of them, he and Josephine went to Fair Oaks Burger. The Fat man was impressed with Fair Oaks Burger some twenty one years ago on that visit, but not in a positive way. The food was, on that visit, salty enough to cross ones eyes, and even that could not distract from how dirty with deep ancient gritty grime the place was. The fat man didn't get sick that night, but this was evidence of favor with a merciful God.

There is nothing that makes his chubbyness more dizzy with disgust than a absolutely filthy diner. For the last twenty years he drove past on his way home or his way to and from East Altadena and his bones shivered with the thought of the massive armies of microbes billeted at the place.

A few months ago Fair Oaks Burger went up for sale. His chunkyness thought "Who in their right mind would buy this run down ptomaine tank?" He also wondered how it ever survived, the Fat Man never saw a single person patronizing the joint. What could the books possibly look like? No chance of any "blue sky" there. Some brave courageous soul did buy it. They cleaned it up. You can see through the windows now. The kitchen is bright and sparkly. The sign is even new and un yellowed.

The lovely Jeanette kept attempting to get the Rotund One to give Fair Oaks Burger a try. He didn't, the memories of the filthy kitchen were strong. One night Jeanette said she was going to go get us dinner at a new place she knew about. She went to the drive thru and arrived at home with two Fair Oaks Burger combinations. She didn't tell the Fat Man what it was. He was hungry having spent the day building driveway gates for a client in his studio.

The burger was a nice earthy thick coarse ground beef patty cooked to just this side of well done, a lovely fresh bakery bun, fresh lettuce, a tomato bursting with redness and a rich acidic flavor, a sharp slice of onion, avacado, American cheese, secret sauce, and jalipenos. It was some SERIOUS GOOD EATING. She had he of the extra heft at the fries though. They were steak fries. Large rectangular in section, crispy at the edges and dreamy soft in the interior. Perfect fries. The Fat man was happy and demanded to know where this new place was. Jeanette being ever the Imp, waited a nano second and a half and with a big sparkle in her eye said "Fair Oaks Burger".

So over the next couple weeks The Fat Man went through the menu, American food, Mexican food, Chinese food. Friends, it's hard to believe, but Fair Oaks Burger makes each and all of these well. The combination bowl of beef, chicken, shrimp, carrots, broccoli, bean sprouts, mushrooms and steamed rice is fresh a symphony of flavors that sing seperately and together, and as good as any Chinese food you nwill find for less than twenty bucks a plate. Good stuff.

The Chicken Taco plate is two tacos literally so full of chicken, lettuce and tomato that its work to keep it all together and in the soft shell as one attempts to enjoy the flavors and textures.

The Carne Asada burrito could give lessons to many a sit down Mexican place, many with long standing pedigees and reputations. It's just a hefty excellent combination of well marinated beef cooked to jucy on the inside, ccrispy on teh edges, fluffly brown rice, well seasoned tender beans, cheese, onions, tomato and cilantro in a flour tortillia whose structural integrety is strained by this filling. And its good so so so very good.

Jeanette and the Fat Man even had a salad one evening. He had a excellent Cobb Salad, she had a Chinese Chicken Salad. Both were the equal of any salad they have ever had at a price that these days seems like stealing.

It's true, the drive through is a bit slow. That's because the food is made to order, so drive up order, turn off your engine, listen to the radio and get a good fresh meal!

The Fat man has a new haunt near his own house, If you see a Black 1938 Buick stop by and say hi.

Fair Oaks Burger
2560 N. Fair Oaks (the north east corner of Fair Oaks and Calaveras)
Cash and plastic accepted.
Monday - Saturday 7 am- 8 pm
Closed Sunday.

Phone orders 398 3630

Smoke smoke smoke

Josephine the 1938 Buick has been at Ronnie's for weeks with mysterious electric female problems. The generator charging at times like a racehorse, and at others not at all. We tried everything except the simple stuff. After cleaning the contacts on the generator she is back to her perfect self. Its the little things you know.

In the excitement of having a running 1938 Buick again, I deceided to celebrate by going to one of our favorite places, Robin's down in Pasadena. Robin's as you probably know by now is a great Bar B Que joint, good food, fair prices, excellent staff. As I entered I was met by the Q master Robin Salzer his own self. Robin's face was lit up like Hasting's Ranch on a December night. "What's up Robin?" Before he could answer a waitress said while rolling her big brown eyes "Robin has a new smoker, he's like a eight year old with a new bike on Christmas." He did, I had to admit, look about that happy.

"You wanna see it?" Robin asked. While I wasn't quite as eager as he was, I hadn't ever seen a genuine modern day industrial smoker, so yeah, I followed Robin back behiend the counter, into the baking areas of the kitchen and into a room of white enameled metal walls that would shame most hospital operating rooms.

At the West end of the room was a box big enough to put a 1913 Model T touring car in. When I say it was one BIG piece of kitchen equipment, I'm not telling half. Robin said it was time to empty the ribs and he opened a big heavily insulated door. There in all the glory one could imagine were racks and racks of suculent lovely looking ribs. Amazingly enough, there was only the faintest smell of cooked meat. This smoker has filters, scrubbers, fans and even a grease evacuation system that constantly drains the fat out of the machine as the ribs rotate in hot smoke. Wow! Smoking juicy meat with a reduced fat content. Tasty and better for your diet than anything you could cook at home. The moral high ground of Bar B Que....

We chatted about Altadena and Pasadena politics for quite a time and then I mentioned to Robin that I was here for some meat. I had a rib combination and as excellent as Robin's Q has been for many years, now it is smokier, more excellent, perfection. I get mine without the sauce, and enjoy the natural meat and smoke flavor.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gladstone indeed!

O.K. I admit it. The Double Extra Portly One was seeking emotional refuge. After 100,000 miles the water pump on Josephine, his beloved 1938 Buick had given up the ghost. The Tripple Chinned One is awaiting a new pump from Bob's Automobilia in Sacramento, and is thus temporarily 1938 Buick deprived. It's a terrible privation.

He of Much Extra Girth sought to drown his sadness in a new joint. A new joint where he could enjoy the forbidden fruit of donuts. There are in life few things worse for the body and better for the soul, than a couple of donuts and a cup of strong Joe.

So, with some hope the Fat Man entered Gladstones donuts at the south east corner of Lake and Washington. First bit of bad news: no french crulliers. The maple ones are the way to the Fat Man's heart, at least according to the repeated warnings of his doctor....

Next try, two other favorites, a glazed buttermilk, and a chocolate with chocolate frosting. He of Many Extra Xes tried the chocolate with chocolate frosting first. It was flavorless. It had a dry uncomfortable texture. The Fat Man tried, but couldn't eat more than two bites. The glazed buttermilk was no better. The Fat Man braved one bite and put them both back in the bag and into the trash.

As to the coffee, when The Fat Man was a young boy if he said bad things anywhere near his Grandmother she would wash his mouth out with brown soap. Grandmother's brown soap water was better than this joints coffee.


Yo Ho Yo Ho a Clearmans Boat for me.........

It was a rainy afternoon. Cold and rainy. He of the triple extra large shirt was in the mood for seafood. So was his wife, the brilliant Jeanette. Agreement on the little things, like what to eat when, is the stuff that really makes a marriage work, no matter what Dr. Phil has to say.

The Fat Man had recently eaten the delectable fish and chips at Brits, and he felt it was too soon for a return. Besides, the waitress there is always in a foul mood and his heavyness wasn't up for working to not notice. He also wasn't up to be forever 86'ed for noticing and commenting, so Brits was out. Barney's LTD, an old favorite, would involve sacrifice to the Pasadena Parking god, and as the PPG had already been paid twice in the last month this was TOTALLY out of the question.

He of the overly stuffed extra bodily insulation was ruminating....No NOT McCormick, No the Seafood Tavern is but a very happy distant memory..Neptune's Net up on the LA/Ventura County border, nah its raining and who wants to drive that far in the rain with all those folks who came from elsewhere to SO CAL and havn't figured out how to drive in our rain? Hmmm Malibu, the Chubby One was tempted to visit the Reel Inn, one of his favorite places and one he believes the Boat was loosely based on. THE BOAT!!!

The Great Altadena Artist Gary Thomas had mentioned that the Boat had reopened and the food was great. We ran out between the raindrops and into Goldie the PT Convertable and down way way down into the depths of the local landscape all the way down to Rosemead and Huntington, just half a block south turn right into the parking lot and park in the Northwoods Inn lot. Try to not see the big ugly unimaginative eyesore that is the Khols department store on the corner where the boat used to and still should be. Baaaad Architect! BAD!

From the parking lot on the East one sees a "sort of" New England village facade, at least it's clear this is what the designer intended to remind one of. Once inside the space soars to a sky lit three story high space framed in gigantic laminated fir beams resting on what look like they are brick ,but are probably concrete under a brick veneer, plinths. An Architecturally exciting and interesting space! This is a huge dining room, much larger than the old boat facility with a fantastically modern clean stainless steel open kitchen. The Architect and Contractor did a Museum quality job here and from the front entry to the case with ships models to the kitchen and ordering area everything here is well thought out and very well executed. The public must really be pleased too, since at 2 in the afternoon on a rainy midweek day the joint was 3/4 full.

We ordered a Cod dinner (two pieces of cod, fries, garlic bread, and a red cabbage salad) and waited. While we were waiting we each went and found the Boat, no longer used as a part of the facility, but on Rosemead as a sign a beacon and a cultural tie to the past.

Our Cod dinner came. IT WAS HUGE. More than He of Tripple Chins could eat in one sitting and more than the lovely Jeanette could manage, but it was so good we ate up until we were stuffed to the gills. each of us was served two GIGANTIC cod fillets that had been battered and fried so the batter was hard and crunchy, but the cod flesh was firm, light sweet and perfect. yes, perfect. The fries were generous cut steak fries. They were soft and slightly geasy on the insides and dry at the edges- purrrrrrfect. His chubbyness was delighted. The garlic bread was so sumptous, so delicious. such a pure sensual delight that it should probably be illegal. It was moist but not mushy, oily but not too saturated, bursting with parmasian and garlic flavor. The little Italian Putti in my tongue were singing arias. Jeanette seemed to be enjoying herself too form the warm cooing noises I was hearing across the table and the grin affixed between bites on her face.

Then there is the marvel of marvels, the perfect tart slightly salty just a wee bit fermented red cabbage salad. It was so good I may just order that for lunch someday.

So the Cod dinner will set you back about $11 BUT you can either split it or take half home for dinner. Its the least expensive quality dining experience in the area.

the Boat is back and its better than ever.

Clearmans Galley/the Boat
7215 N. Rosemead, San Gabriel
1/2 block South of the intersection of Rosemead and Huntington on Rosemead

11 A.M.-9P.M.

Major plastic and cash accepted