Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Frankie's Bar & Cafe

Date Visited: Dinner on Saturday May 24, 2014
Company: Triple dinner date before seeing RENT at Lower Ossington Theatre

A group of 6 of us had tickets to see RENT in the Queen/Ossington area at 8PM and decided to meet up before hand to grab some dinner in the area. The theatre wasn't really in an area which we went to often so there were tons of new unfamiliar places to check out. We had originally planned to go to County General but it would have been a 2 hour wait, the place was very tiny! Closer to the intersection of the theatre, we saw Frankie's with a sign that claimed 'World's Best Burgers'. It didn't seem to be very full so we were seated immediately and got a large table in the back corner. 

We waited for the rest of the group to arrive while the waitress served us some waters. The place has a diner vibe but pretty modern decor. There aren't very many tables either but a few stools on the counter. They have a variety of beer on tap and seems like a decent not busy place to grab a drink. The waitress we had was very friendly but I spilled some of my water and asked for some napkins and she just wiped it away. There was so water on my pants I wanted to dry up but it wasn't much so I didn't ask again.
Their menu mostly focused on their Signature Burgers and had many different choices. I was debating between the Smokin' Hot Honey and the Aristotle Burger (like a Greek Burger) and I think I would have been happy with either as both were ordered at our table and looked great. I went for the Smokin' Hot Honey with Fries in the end. The burger had Jalapeno Havarti, Jalapenos, crunchy onions, bacon, letture, tomatoes, and smoked mayo. I actually didn't know that it had bacon as I usually never order burgers with bacon but it wasn't too overpowering. I also had to pick some of the Jalapenos off, a little too spicy for me but it was great once I did that. Their signature burgers are really well put together and creative. The patty very juicy and held really nicely together. The fries were pretty good but nothing too spectacular or memorable. Good place for a reasonably priced burger to fill you up!

They also had some board games behind the counter that you can play! We played some Connect Four to pass the time and didn't even notice how much time was passing by during our wait for food. 

Food: 3/5 - Not the best burgers ever but fresh ingredients, appealing meal, and reasonably priced.
Decor: 2/5 - Quite plain and not that much stands out.
Service: 2/5 - Nothing outstanding, she did her job.
Willingness to go back: 3.5/5 - If I was in the area I would definitely go again.
Overall: 2.5/5

Website: none

Frankie's Bar & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cali Eats: Panini Cafe

Date Visited: Lunch on Wednesday Apr 16, 2014
Company: Walk-in for 5

One of the fanciest places we got to check out in California was definitely Rodeo Drive in LA. The streets were so fancy and populated with brand name stores everywhere. We weren't sure exactly where we would find a place to eat but right by where we parked the car, we found a reasonably-priced restaurant, Panini Cafe. It looked very quaint on the outside with a large patio and very rustic furniture. We were seated rather quickly considering how busy it was and their inside didn't look very large.

Our waiter was pretty awesome, he was a large Italian man? We had a bit of a debate on what his background was, but I think he was the owner. He was quick with the jokes and really wanted us to try their specials. After checking out their menu, most of us went for a Greek plate rather than a Panini, much to our dismay considering the restaurant name. Everyone's orders coming out around us looked so incredibly delicious though, it was hard not to order a larger meal.

I went for the Charbroiled Chicken Shish Kabob served with Basmati Rice and Mediterranean Greek Salad. When my order came though, I got a Romaine Avocado Salad instead of what I ordered. There was a bit of confusion when we all got our plates because I didn't think any of them were mine, but luckily our waiter was overlooking us being served and he said that the plate was mine. I told him what I thought I ordered and he got me a side plate of Greek Salad on the side shortly thereafter :).

The plate was very colourful and had great appeal overall. The chicken looked slightly charred but I was impressed that it maintained its juiciness. The skewer had tomatoes and onions between the large pieces of chicken breast. The flavour was very mild and nice to add some lemon on it to complement the grilled taste. They must have used very small onions because there were so many layers to each piece. The Basmatic Rice was pretty plain, the top layer had yellow rice which I guessed just had some butter in it. Other than that, it was plain rice and a bit dry. I got to try both salads and I think I liked the Avocado Salad better. The Greek Salad had tons of feta and was topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, black olives and onions. I thought it could have used a bit more dressing as it was a bit plain. The Avocado Salad was mixed better with the dressing (maybe because it wasn't prepared in a rush?) and had tons of avocados which was the highlight. 

I was glad we had a somewhat healthy meal during our trip, all the ingredients were extremely fresh and they kept everything nice and simple. It was affordable but still had the appeal that it was an upscale restaurant you might see a celeb at.

Food: 3.5/5 - Amazingly filling and well-prepared meal, only complaint is that it could have used a bit of different seasonings to tingle the taste buds a bit.
Decor: 4.5/5 - So quaint and cute.
Service: 4.5/5 - Spectacular customer service!
Willingness to go back: 4/5 - Would definitely check out any of their many locations in California again.
Overall: 4/5 

Panini Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Cali Eats: El Toro Taqueria

Date Visited: Late Lunch on Sunday Apr 14, 2014 
Company: Walk-in for 5

After a long walk to Twin Peaks, we ventured back to the Mission District where we started to find a spot for an early afternoon lunch. There were tons of Mexican places we passed by when we were walking around the area so it wasn't difficult to find a place to eat. El Toro seemed like it was a fairly busy cafeteria style place right on the corner of Valencia and 17th, it was very welcoming with colourful signage and windows to look in. It looked like it wouldn't take us long to get food and had a table to sit, so it was exactly what we were looking for... and also some fish tacos for us to try!

Their menu was pretty simple but with lots of options, the foods are all there in front of you to awe at while the servers make your delicious plate of food. I decided to order a Super Prawn Taco Dinner, which ended up being around $8. The taco was only $3.50 itself but I wanted to add all the fixings! They also give you free nachos (which probably never get eaten after having that huge plate) and there's a salsa bar off to the side for you to try their different homemade salsas.

The plate looked delicious and packed with colourful foods, they let you choose the type of beans you want, either black or re-fried, I choose re-fried but I don't really like beans anyway. They topped it off with some shredded cheese and layer it a bit with your rice. There was nothing too special about the rice and beans, very average and just filled you up. There was a salad on the side with an excessive amount ranch dressing which was pretty okay, added some veggies to your meal. Now the taco on the other hand, was definitely the highlight of the meal... there were so many prawns, you could really taste a nice grilled, spiced flavour. They double tortilla'd it so it wouldn't fall apart which really helped but the tortilla was already pretty thick to begin with. It was a gloriously messy taco but was delicious with very fresh ingredients. Their guacamole was packed with zesty flavour and was nice to have with the nachos too. They also give you tortilla with the dinner meal but I didn't want mine.

Food: 3/5 - Prawn Taco was amazing, everything else was mediocre.
Decor: 3/5 - Quite clean and nice place to sit inside for a bit on a hot day and still enjoy the sun.
Service: 2.5/5 - Fast to clean tables, free ice water, few misunderstandings with my order, and busy line-up though.
Willingness to go back: 3/5 - Tons of taco joints to check out in the area, wouldn't necessarily go back to this one but I wouldn't complain either, cheap and easy.
Overall: 3/5

Website: http://eltorotaqueria.org/

El Toro Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 2, 2014

Cali Eats: Patxi's

Date Visited: Late Dinner on Sunday April 20, 2014
Company: Walk-in for 5

+Elliott was telling us about an awesome Deep Dish Pizza place in Palo Alto during our visit to San Francisco and luckily for us, we were going to pass by during our way out of the city. After our final stop of sight-seeing at Marin Headlands, we were heading out to get closer to Yosemite National Park for the next morning and it was just past dinner time, so we were all ready for some delicious pizza. We drove through a quaint neighbourhood which I guessed was downtown Palo Alto to find parking for the restaurant after a long drive out of San Francisco. Even though it was pretty late, the restaurant was still busy and we still had to wait for a table. 

The waiters let us know that if we were ordering the Chicago style pizza, it would take about 40 minutes so we could pre-order to minimize the wait when we got a table. We of course took him up on the offer as it probably would have taken a while to decide what we were getting anyways. There was 5 of us so we split off in 2 groups as we wanted different toppings. +Elliott and I went for a Small Authentic Chicago Stuffed Pizza with Pineapple, Spinach, and Garlic-Fennel Sausage pricing at $20.50. 

Shortly after, we were seated at table right in the middle of the fairly small restaurant. It looked more liked a bar with the TVs on the wall and the rustic wooden decor. The seating area wasn't that big and covered only about half the restaurant, the bar was situated near the front side going half-way back, the kitchen was in the back with a window looking in, and stairs going up to the very nice bathrooms. They had a nice selection of beers but I opted for a water since I was driving. 

Our wait seemed to take forever, especially because we were starving and it was pretty late already. We were seated after a few tables which didn't have their meals yet so I knew it would be a while. But finally, when our food arrived and it looked amazing and well worth the wait. That first slice from the pie was just oozing with cheese on all sides with a layers of toppings in there also. The small pie has 6 pieces and feeds 2-3 people. Both groups got the small so ours was a bit excessive since we had to have 3 slices each (but we did it). 

I have to say though... it was the best deep-dish pizza I've ever had, I haven't had much but this definitely sticks out in my mind. There was so much sauce and cheese, I felt like that was all I was eating... the sauce wasn't too extravagant and stuck to the simple but bold tomato flavour. The toppings we had were delicious and fresh, lots of spinach in there! 
They also had honey on the table for the crust (because we saw other people eating it this way!) and it was kind of interesting and tasty, it obviously added just a hint of sweetness to the crust and tomato sauce. I was thinking that it was pretty pricey for pizza, being about $15 each, but the quality was great and they really stuffed that pizza to the max... totally worth the splurge.

Food: 5/5 - Amazing! Been craving this ever since and looking for some deep dish places in Toronto to check out now!
Decor: 3/5 - Pretty small but very comfortable and roomy, they need more tables!
Service: 2.5/5 - Average service, at least they warn you about the wait time!
Willingness to go back: 4.5/5 - Yes, definitely would try to find one of their locations if I was nearby! Glad we made the trek to find this place!
Overall: 4/5

Patxi's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Cali Eats: O3 Bistro & Lounge

Date Visited: Late Dinner on Saturday Apr 12, 2014
Company: Walk-in for 5 

During our first night in San Francisco, we stayed at the HI near City Centre and decided to go to Smuggler's Cove, the famous rum bar which was just only about a 10 minute walk away. On our way, we decided to stop somewhere for a late dinner, a mission which seemed easier than it made out to be. After passing by a few restaurants, we finally decided to stop at O3 which situated at a busy intersection with very little people but a lot of traffic going by. We weren't looking for a nicer place like this but it was all that we found!

There was only about 2 other parties at the place as it was pretty late on Saturday for dinner. The place was very nicely decorated, clean, and modern. They had a variety of Thai cuisine on the menu from the classic pad thai to more authentic dishes. Their prices were all pretty reasonable, I guess which is standard for Thai food... $11 for Pad Thai is like every restaurant. I decided to be a bit adventurous as I wasn't extremely hungry and ordered a Pork Tom Kha Noodle Soup, which is Coconut milk soup, mushroom, tomatoes, bean sprouts, lemongrass, galangal, Kaffir lime leaves, green onion, and cilantro. I wasn't sure what exactly to expect but was pleasantly surprised with our meals. 

The presentation of all our dishes was very well done, I loved the huge soup bowl mine was in and all the colours present. The pork was very tender and went well with the broth... I was a bit unsure because the waitress seemed surprised
 I wanted pork with the Tom Kha and I wasn't sure how the pork pieces would be either. The overall flavour of the soup was very rich and milky, but not too salty. The spiciness was the perfect amount and really enhanced the flavours of all the unique vegetables. It was a great dish to warm your stomach and leave you pleasantly filled. I was pretty impressed with the portion sizes and prices because it seemed like a very classy restaurant which made me skeptical on going there with our budget.
Food: 4/5 - Was a bit adventurous with my choice and it paid off, all the other orders seemed delicious also.
Decor: 4/5 - Beautiful restaurant with dark wooded furniture and unique decor, seemed so fancy for how reasonable the prices were.
Service: 3/5 - Pretty typical for an Asian restaurant, wasn't too overbearing... actually quite friendly.
Willingness to go back: 3/5 - If I was passing by, I wouldn't object to eating here again!
Overall: 3.5/5

O3 Bistro & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 26, 2014

Cali Eats: Old Fisherman's Grotto

Date Visited: Lunch on Tuesday April 15, 2014
Company: Walk-in for 5

One of the most recommended stops people told me about for the drive along Hwy 1 in California was Monterey Bay. It's a small coastal city with tons of boats docked and a very popular pier, Fisherman's Warf. We parked by the Warf and decided to take a walk around and check out the views before grabbing lunch there. The day we went was pretty cloudy and a bit colder but there was still tons of people there. All the restaurants had displays of their seafood dishes outside and were giving out samples of clam chowder and yelling about their specials to compete with the other restaurants for patrons. It was kind of cool to get the first sample but literally every restaurant afterwards also had a sample, it was a bit unbelievable. Eventually we just picked a place to go into which happened to be Old Fisherman's Grotto which was a bit more of a up-scale place and even had a sign that no crying children were allowed.

There were tons of fresh seafood options, pastas, and meats alike. I ended up choosing one from the Daily Specials menu which had many variations of all their seafoods. I ordered the Seafood Combo because it had a variety of seafoods, and consisted of 1/2 Lobster Tail, Grilled Prawns, Glazed Salmon, Sweet Corn Risotto, and vegetables. While we waited, we got 2 types of bread to start one white and another sourdough.

The restaurant is very large with multiple rooms. We were seated in the one downstairs with a beautiful view over the Pacific ocean. The decor is very classy and chic, even upon entering you can tell it is a fancier restaurant compared to others on the pier. When our dishes came I thought the portion size was a bit small but expected I guess from this type of finer dining restaurant, beautiful presentation though. 

I wasn't blown away from my meal but it was definitely good still. It was the first time I had Risotto and I really enjoyed the texture and flavour of it. It was like mushy, creamy rice and full of flavour.  I thought that the Lobster tail was a bit hard and over-cooked, it was still easy to chew but grilled a bit too much. The Prawns were quite large and good. The Salmon filet was pretty small and I didn't think it was very fresh. 
There was a sweet sauce drizzled on half my plate which was extremely delicious paired with the salmon and vegetables.

2.5/5 - Overall not a bad plate but a few misses for the price I paid.
Decor: 3.5/5 - Beautiful view and classy decor.
Service: 3/5 - Very professional and decent wait time.
Willingness to go back: 1.5/5 - Would probably check out some other place on the pier unless we were looking for a fancy place to go to.
Overall: 2.5/5

Old Fisherman's Grotto on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cali Eats: James' Beach

Date Visited: Dinner on Wednesday Apr 16, 2014
Company: +Stuart+Alex, & +Laura 

During our day in Santa Monica/Venice Beach on our California road trip last month, +Laura wanted to check out the fish taco place from the movie I Love You Man. We had quite the walk from the Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach but was finally able to find it after asking for some directions from locals without knowing the restaurant name. It was very empty when we got there even though it was dinner time. They have a sheltered patio with heat lamps and another indoor section about the same size with a large bar centralized in between, catering to both sides.
We were seated on the patio, but it was still chilly enough outside that the heaters had to be turned on. I'm surprised how many restaurants in California do this as it seems so counterproductive to me, but I guess locals like to enjoy their outdoors. Our waiter was very friendly and started us off with a plate of raw veggies and dip. The veggies we got included snap peas, radish, and jicama which were very refreshing and a light starter while we waited. We also had a fun time trying to think of the name of the white vegetable we were eating, which we ended up asking the waiter who also forgot and had to ask and let us know it was Jicama! He also offered us a second plate while we were waiting. 

For drinks, we all split a pitcher of White Jose's Sangria at $33. The pitcher was more like a large mug or stein and filled about the four of our glasses evenly, it was topped with some cherries and orange slices. It was a refreshing drink with the slight taste of alcohol, not overpowering, and not too sweet either. 

So for our main dishes, everyone got their famous Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos but I wanted to try something different on their menu as I wasn't really feeling tacos. They all thought I was nuts as we came to this place specifically for the 'best fish tacos in Venice Beach' (according to I Love You Man). I instead, got their Turkey Burger, which made me the center of some teasing for the remainder of the meal. I must admit though, when their Tacos came, it looked incredibly delicious. It wasn't prepped for them and had all the sides on the plate with a whole piece of mahi mahi ready for them to create themselves, I loved that. The Turkey Burger however, wasn't a bad decision, but it probably wasn't the best turkey burger Venice beach had to offer. The patty was constructed nicely but I was expecting a thicker smaller burger which looked more home-made, and the flavour was average. The fries however were extremely delicious and so crisp. It was a pretty plain meal for me. Do I regret not getting the Fish Tacos? Probably... but I can't reaallly answer that until I try them.

Food: 2/5 - OK turkey burger, very fresh ingredients in all their dishes though.
Decor: 3.5/5 - Nice atmosphere, a bit classier but still relaxed environment. Got a bit busier by the time we were leaving.
Service: 4/5 - Great service, very friendly waiter.
Willingness to go back: 4/5 - Yes for sure I would try their Fish Tacos next time I was in Venice Beach :)
Overall: 3.5/5
Website: http://www.jamesbeach.com/

James' Beach on Urbanspoon