Monday, October 31, 2016

Sabor Mexicano -- 180 E 6th St. Pomona, CA 91766

My Meal Cost: $12.52 plus tip. Health Rating A. Yelp 4 stars

Backtracked this week back to downtown Pomona to pick up a spot that I missed. Driving up and down Garey I thought that there was a vacuum cleaner repair on that corner. Turns out, there's just a sign for a vacuum cleaner place and that Sabor Mexicano has actually taken over the entire building (although the restaurant doesn't actually extend back that far--I'm guessing they use it for storage or something). But it does qualify because its side does face onto Garey. AND it was highly recommended by a person with a downtown business and someone who spends a lot of time at the School District just down the street.

In addition, I had read a week ago in the Saturday LA Times restaurant section about Tlayuda, the Oaxacan pizza so was intrigued when I was told that this is the best Oaxacan restaurant around.

While this is what it looks like on Garey, the sixth street side makes it clear that this is a restaurant. The space is small with an unobtrusive door, but plenty of parking.

The interior is nice and clean. This is a sit-down place although they do have a menu board for those who want to order to-go. An unobtrusive television was at one end showing Spanish language programming (I was there for Halloween so got to see a talk show with costumed hosts and guests--I didn't understand a word but it was very interesting non-the-less).

There was a fair lunch crowd for a Monday with tables turning a couple of times while I was there. The waitress was extremely friendly and brought out a bowl of chips and a small bowl of salsa. The salsa was interesting. I usually like a thick salsa with my chips. This one was thin, but did have chunks of onion and tomato (or tomatillo?) and cilantro. Not too hot. I only wish it stuck to the chips better instead of dripping down the front of my shirt. But it was very tasty.

In looking over the extensive menu I wasn't sure what to order, so I asked the waitress what she considered the house specialty. While I was thinking of Tlayuda, her quick response that the chicken mole was probably their best (she did warn me that it was a little sweet) pushed me in that direction. The meal came with a drumstick and thigh of chicken in a dark mole sauce. The sauce was only a little bit sweet with a mild spiciness that snuck up on you. Not too hot, but it was there. I think it was mild enough to please the self described "ginga," the Lovely Mrs. C.

The chicken was very moist and tender and fell away from the bones. Mixed with the mole it was a delightful mouthful. It came with a side of Mexican rice with bits corn and peas, a little dry but very flavorful. In addition there were two very rustic tortillas for sopping up mole sauce or filling with the items. This was not a pressed flat store-bought tortilla but a fairly thick obviously hand made tortilla which was warm and browned. Fairly substantial so that it didn't flop around when you folded it to receive some of the chicken and rice.

Definitely a place I think I'll go back to.

Next week I'll be back up north to make a visit to a second rotisserie chicken location. Should have thought of that before I ordered chicken this week, especially since two weeks after that I'll be at KFC (cluck cluck cluck).

UP NEXT:  Juan Pollo

Monday, October 24, 2016

Taco Bell -- 2204 N Garey Pomona, CA 91767

My Meal Cost: $10.76. Health Rating A. Yelp 2.5 stars

Taco Bell is an old friend. I remember when the first one I was aware of opened in Glendora, where I lived, in the late '60s  and ALL items on the menu were 15 cents! Tacos, bean burritos (red or green), refried beans and cheese cup, and tostadas. Small menu but at 15 cents each well worth it. So now my trek up Garey Avenue has brought me back once again to a place that is as different as it is familiar.

This is the current look of Taco Bell, but back in my day it looked like this: 

A Mexican with a sombrero sitting on a bell. Almost as racist as when my friends would exclaim: "Notice you never see any cats around taco bell?"

Anyway, if it feels like I'm vamping to avoid getting into the actual review, yup. As with last week it's as hard to write about Taco Bell as it is to write about McDonald's. They're ubiquitous and everyone knows what they are and what they offer.

This location is a bright, clean location with plenty of both indoor and covered outdoor seating. Since all the furniture is bolted to the floor, there's not an opportunity to move back if you're a person of girth, but they seem to have taken that into account.

The staff behind the counter was friendly enough. The one draw back is that they seem to concentrate on the drive-thru and those of us who are inside get to wait an extraordinary amount of time to get our meals. My register receipt said that I ordered at 12:21 and they didn't call me with my order until 12:37. If you're only on a half hour lunch break you might want to skip this place as the fast food isn't very fast. 16 minutes is a long time for them to make my order.

I was feeling a little nostalgic (as you might be able to tell) so ordered something simple from a menu that has expanded to so many items that it takes quite a while to read through them all. Gorditas, soft tacos, Doritos tacos, quesadillas and doubledillas (cute), crunch wraps, rolled tacos, nachos, meximelts, chalupas, grillers, bowls, and lord knows what else. A looonnnggggg way from the original 4-5 menu items all for 15 cents.

My choice was a #1 combo which included a beef burrito supreme, a taco supreme, and a large drink (my only sugar free option was Diet Pepsi, sigh). To this I added one of my favorites, pintos and cheese (the original refried bean cup), as well as a new item that intrigued me, the chicken rolled tacos (2 to an order, with a choice of dipping sauce, I chose nacho cheese).

The pintos and cheese cup has gone down in size since I last ordered it by at least a quarter, and the price is $1.39, way more than that 15 cents I paid in the late '60s. Not sure why it couldn't have been included on their dollar menu which has the original taco and bean burritos. The burrito supreme was well made with plenty of ground beef, cheese, lettuce and sauce. A good filling burrito and what one would expect. The taco supreme was likewise what one would expect with a hard shell, ground meat, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and a bit of sour cream.

The new item for me was the chicken rolled tacos. I'm not quite sure what the difference is between a rolled taco and a taquito, but this one actually was better than any tacquito I've had. Chicken wrapped tightly in a corn tortilla, then deep fried, with the shell (tortilla) having a nice light crispness. If you use the dipping sauce, at least for me, you can't taste the chicken, but it is in there, I could see it.

All in all a normal trip to a fast-food joint that lives up to its roots and reputation.

UP NEXT:  Sabor Mexicano

Next week I double back to a site that a friend told me I missed. It was described to me as the best Oaxacan food they had ever tasted. And since the LA Times last Saturday did a big article on Tyaluda, I knew it was time to do a backtrack and pick up a missed opportunity.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

McDonald's -- 2200 N Garey Ave Pomona, CA 91767

My Meal Cost: $7.40. Health Rating A. Yelp 2 stars

I heard that a scary clown hung out at this place but only saw him on a TV monitor. However, be forwarned. :-)

Kind of hard to get too excited about going to McDonald's. The lovely Mrs. C had foot surgery a couple of weeks ago and we had a post surgery appointment with her surgeon in Baldwin Park. It was difficult to pass by the In-N-Out Corporate location, 5 Guys, and some of the other places where we could have stopped for lunch so that I could "get to McDonald's." Sigh.

This location is a Play Place location which means that it was originally set up mostly as a kid-friendly location. It has been updated since I used to take Number #1 daughter there to crawl in the kiddie hamster trail. That is no longer there and the main dining room has been given a facelift and has a clean/modern look with an etched glass brick water feature and digital menu board.

The main dining area is quite pleasant and there are plenty of seats where you're not faced with a TV showing McDonald's branded content (where I saw that damnable clown). Everything was clean, bright, and shiny. The play area is still there but it doesn't have any "physical" activities with playground style equipment being replaced by educational touch screen monitors and an area with a projector and sound system that I wasn't able to figure out (should have brought a kid).

As a result, the space is a little schizophrenic in that it tries to appeal to the kids and family while also trying to give the McCafe vibe.

The staff behind the counter was friendly and service was actually better than I've had from the drive-thru at this location. I had actually tried, in the past week, one of their new signature sandwich options, the sriracha burger on the artisan roll and was disappointed finding it dry and overcooked (which will always be a problem with a burger from frozen meat which needs to be cooked well done).

Now for this blog, I needed to try SOMETHING that I could write about that wasn't a Big Mac (what can one say about that?).

I opted for the signature crafted Pico Guacamole as a medium combo. 

I opted for the beef (you can get the same sandwich with chicken or beef) on a potato roll (other options are the artisan roll or sesame roll). It came with ranch dressing, a generous amount of guacamole, and a somewhat spicy pico de gallo, as well as lettuce and a slice of indeterminate white cheese (jack? cheddar? ??). The fries were fries, what can one say about Micky D's fries except that they are an addictive guilty pleasure. While this location doesn't have a Coca Cola Freestyle machine, it does have a large assortment of beverages in the fountain and I opted for diet Dr. Pepper (a nice change from Diet Coke or Pepsi).

The burger was actually very good. If the meat was dry, it was counteracted by the three different sauces that adorned it. I don't think this location is as bad as the majority of Yelp reviews make it out to be but, as always be warned, "your mileage may vary."

UP NEXT:  Taco Bell

Monday, October 10, 2016

Las Margaritas -- 2108 N Garey Ave Pomona, CA 91767

My Meal Cost: $20.70 plus tip. Health Rating A. Yelp 3.5 stars

Las Margaritas is on the corner of La Verne Ave. and Garey and was originally a Shakey's Pizza. After that it became a number of different Mexican (mostly seafood) restaurants including one with "Acapulco" in its name. It was during that incarnation that I was last there and it became the place that The Lovely Mrs. C refers to as "the garlic place" because of a cook with a heavy hand with the that particular pungent bulb. (The Lovely Mrs. C is not a big fan of Big Garlic although Number #1 daughter and I have been known to sneak off to Beverly Hills and indulge at The Stinking Rose on Cahuenga).

This iteration is also a seafood-centric full service restaurant with a walk-up window at the front for those who wish to order to-go. The interior still carries some of the Shakey's decor elements with pinatas and other flourishes giving it a Spanish Shakey's vibe. Having said that the booths are comfortable and the place is clean and inviting. There are televisions around the room, some with Spanish language stations and others showing local KCAL 9 news and programming. The sound was turned off so it was not really a problem. In the evenings they have karaoke.

The waitress was very quick to come to the table with chips and salsa (a runny style moderately spicy sauce--I still prefer a salsa that will stick to the chips, I ended up wearing some of my salsa home) and to take my drink order (I ended up having a diet coke although they have aquas frescas, Jarritos, and a wide selection of fountain drinks as well as Mexican Coke in bottles. They also have a good selection of beers and wines available (perhaps if I visit in the evening). 

The menu is extensive and there are photos of each dish. They serve breakfast and had a very big assortment of lunch specials. Their main menu has a huge selection of combo plates, seafood items, burritos, molcajetes, ceviche's, and soups. If it had not been near 90 degrees outside I would have been tempted by the soups, which looked excellent. They have albondigas, pollo, and several others, including a new one with strips of steak. I think when the weather changes I'll probably stop again as there is nothing better than a good soup on a cold day.

On these adventures it's always difficult to decide what to try, especially if I'm attempting to try something different. I was very tempted by their deluxe combo plate with enchilada, chile rellenos, and taco with beans and rice, but decided to get some help with my decision. I asked the waitress (who, while having an accent, had a very good command of English) what she would recommend. She pretty much recommended the standard fare so I asked her what she likes to eat. She immediately recommended one of the molcajete's which I then ordered.

A word of warning to those who might like to also try this. IT'S A LOT OF FOOD! I would be wary of filling up on the chips and salsa if this is the direction you want to go. For those who are not familiar with molcajete, it is the cooking vessel that is used (similar to the way you can order Skillet meals at a diner). The molcajete is an earthen mortar to which has been added, in this case, a thin sliced piece of steak, a thin sliced piece of chicken, a cactus paddle, about 6-8 shrimp, a large yellow pepper, a couple of green onions, and a salsa mixture. This is then baked. Some of the meat and items are above the liquid in the molcajete so are roasted and dry, while some of it is braising in the salsa, so you end up with a variety of textures and flavors, even on a single piece of steak or chicken. Also added after it comes out of the oven is a piece of cotillo cheese which doesn't really melt (much like feta) but can add a saltiness to items that you crumble it over. You also have a choice of flour or corn tortillas which are great for sopping up the sauce and making little tacos.

The salsa is spicy without being too mouth burning hot. It was the kind of spice that had my nose running, but I wasn't searching for something to quench the fire. A plate is provided so you can take things out of the molcajete and cut them and, I'm guessing, share them if you so desired. All of the elements here were excellent, well seasoned, and complemented each other.

This is also served with a side plate of refried pinto beans, rice, and salad. The rice was some of the best Spanish style rice I've had thus far. I'm not a fan of dry, plain rice, and this one was moist and didn't require the addition of salsa or anything. The beans were creamy and perfect. Not sure that the salad greens, tomato, onion, cucumber, and orange slice added anything, especially as they were piled on top of the beans, but they were refreshing.

As I said, it was a LOT of food but well worth it. I'll definitely be back.

UP NEXT:  McDonalds

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Alberto’s Mexican Food--2068 N Garey Ave Pomona, CA 91767

My Meal Cost: $9.79. Health Rating A. Yelp 3 stars

Albertos is a Mexican food chain that started in the San Diego area (the first ones were in Poway, and Escondido). They have three locations in Pomona on Garey, Holt, and Reservoir. This one is, of course, the Garey Avenue store. 

Driving there today was a LOAD of fun with the construction on Garey and the new housing development across the street making getting there a challenge.

The lovely Mrs. C and I have been using the Drive-Thru of this location for many years as a quick place to pick up Super Nachos (very filling and good with beans, asada, cheese, guacamole, and crema-- sour cream--over a heap of tortilla chips), Super Fries (the same over French Fries), or one of the largest and best breakfast burritos we've tried. But we rarely would even think about going inside as it's just a place for when we don't want to cook and don't want burgers but want to sit in front of the TV.

The dining room is compact with about 8 tables. There is a TV inside which was showing a TeleNovela when I was there. There is a patio outside with a couple of tables but you'd be looking at the end of the drive-thru and the traffic on Garey. Ahhh, the smells of exhaust.

The place is fairly clean, but the thick (bulletproof?) plexiglass barrier between the dining room and the cash register/kitchen area does not give one a sense of safety. You order at the counter and then wait for them to call you for your order. Because of the plexiglass enclosure, you really probably shouldn't go get a seat as you'll never hear when your order is called (I made this mistake) and they don't come out to find you.

Because I've had many items on their menu in the past, I decided to try something I'd not had before. And I've actually never had their tacos, and while I had this on Monday, Tuesday (today) is National Taco Day. So I got the number 5 combo which was a cheese enchilada and a taco with beans and rice, and a medium Diet Coke. Their meals come with both red and green hot sauce.

The beans and rice were good but nothing special. The cheese enchilada was drenched in red sauce (not spicy though) with a lot of cheese. The enchilada was a bit tough, especially trying to use a plastic fork and no knife to cut it, but was very tasty. The taco was a hard shell taco with shredded beef. I was concerned that it would be greasy but it was not. The shell was crispy and did not get soft during the time it took me to eat it unlike some other fast food tacos.

I'm sure we'll be going back to Alberto's and their drive-thru on those days when cooking is just too much.

UP NEXT:  Las Margaritas Restaurant