A must try: Dino’s chicken dish

A lunch-time staple of the newsroom people is Dino’s Burgers on Arrow Highway in Azusa. If you haven’t heard, they make this incredible grilled chicken dish. The secret marinade is what makes it special. It’s so top secret that they won’t give you any of it to go or even put it on the side. (Of course, if you go there every day, they might make an exception.) The chicken sits on bed of greasy fries, a perfect way to soak up all the tasty juices.

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Here’s reporter Dan Abendschein at Dino’s. I think he goes there about once or twice a week.
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There’s been a lot of press about Dino’s chicken:

  • Broowaha think’s it’s amazing.
  • Night City Editor Phil Drake went to Dino’s when messed up the recipe and survived the hottest chicken ever.
  • The original Dino’s Burgers is in downtown LA.
  • LA Weekly’s Jonathan Gold writes that the best part is the “dense stratum of French fries” underneath the chicken.

If you aren’t in the mood for chicken, they also have sandwiches, burgers, salads and Mexican food.

Dino’s Burgers
843 W Arrow Hwy
Azusa, CA 91702

Sam Woo

Whenever I crave cheap Cantonese food, I think of noodle soup with roast duck.

Sam Woo Barbecue Restaurant
140 W Valley Blvd # 107
San Gabriel, CA

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What’s not to love? Roasty duck, egg noodles, sodium-high broth and a few vegetables. Cheap, simple food. The other dishes are clams with black bean sauce and beef chow fun.

Caffe Notrellis

What you have for lunch today? I had a quesadilla and side salad at Caffe Notrellis. The entire dish cost about $7.
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Caffe Notrellis has great sandwiches, pastas, soups and salads. They also have a great selection of cookies and baked treats. The people are very friendly, and the food is consistently good! However, service can get very slow when the restaurant is busy.

Caffe Notrellis
4918 Irwindale Ave
Irwindale, CA 91706
(626) 813-1690

Togo’s

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In my world of sandwiches, I place Togo’s just slightly above Quizno’s. They use lots of greens, and it’s not as expensive. The downside? Some sandwiches are too salty, and their selection of side dishes could be expanded.

This week, I tried out their new Santa Fe Chicken salad wrap. It’s basically a salad wrapped into a tortilla. I suppose it’s for customers who eat on the go, and who are counting carbs and/or calories. I have to say that I wasn’t too impressed with this wrap. The ingredients were choppy and uneven. It didn’t blend nicely into a wrap. Also, my wrap didn’t have enough sauce, and the tortilla was dry and hard to chew.

The highlights: Lots of fresh vegetables. Lots of chicken. The tortilla strips were nice and crunchy.

This is what I think. If you’re craving a salad, get a salad. If you want a sandwich, buy a sandwich. If you want something wrapped in a tortilla, go to Taco Nazo.

Go China

Go China restaurant in Glendora has exactly the nondescript strip-mall exterior that so often hides real gems. Unfortunately, while Go China offers tasty BBQ-pork fried rice and a wide range of generously portioned $5-$6 lunch options, calling it a gem would be too kind.
The $5 BBQ-pork fried rice, which is all I must have from a Chinese restaurant, passes the taste test deliciously. Too many restaurants fill their fried rice with peas and carrots flavored by freezer burn, so it was good to find an inexpensive place where the rice dish tasted fresh and they don’t skimp on the egg. The slices of barbecued pork can be forgiven for being fatty, and given credit for flavoring the rice. The ample portion makes at least two meals all on its own.
But the inexpensive lunch specials, though also two-fers, seem less promising.
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Today’s lunch: Rosie Thai

Rosie Thai is one of my favorite local Thai restaurants. It’s close. It’s cheap. And it’s not bad. Recently, I’ve noticed the quality of the food has gone downhill, especially in their curries and pad thai. The prices have also gone up. I used to go to Rosie’s about once every two weeks, sometimes once a week. Now, I go there about once or twice a month. It’s the food. If the food is bad, people won’t come back, no matter how great it was in the past.

Today, I had the BBQ chicken. It was OK.
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My friend had the ginger chicken:
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Rosie Thai
474 E San Bernardino Rd
Covina, CA 91723
(626) 339-1547
(626) 339-4935

What did you have for lunch today?

Sandwich City

Have you ever been to Sandwich City in downtown Covina? The idea is simple: homemade sandwiches made with with good ingredients. Today, I had an egg salad sandwich on squaw bread. It comes with a pickle spear and a side of potato salad (although you can ask for macaroni salad or coleslaw instead). My total? About $5.

Sandwich City
117 N Citrus Ave
Covina, CA 91723
(626) 966-7363

That’s two Fs in cafe

Caffe Notrellis

Judging from the wistful gleams in my colleagues’ eyes when I tell them I went to lunch at Caffe Notrellis, this little lunch counter is much-loved around the Tribune newsroom, despite being a little more expensive than we poor reporters prefer to pay for lunch.
The Irwindale cafe has a surprising amount of charm for being in an office park. Petite cafe tables, cheery yellow walls and pink bougainvillea over the front patio help the lunchtime business crowd forget their mundane surroundings. The food is good, but still feels overpriced at nearly $7 for a sandwich.
The ingredients in the cafe’s paninis, pastas and salads hint at either appreciation of foodie ingredients or perhaps just copy-cat pretension: blue cheese and brie, curried chicken salad, jasmine rice, peanut sauce. Perhaps that’s why the Basil Pesto Pasta With Chicken comes to about $9, with tax.

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At what point is it not Chinese food?

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I tried out A&A Express on a whim today. The focus of this Chinese restaurant is steam plate lunches, although you they have a special order menu. I ordered the House Special Rice Noodle, which comes wth chicken, beef and shrimp.

Unfortunately, it did not taste like Chinese food. I should have known better when I first walked in. Chinese restaurants have a certain smell about them — garlic, ginger, carmelized sugar, hot oil, savory meats, vinegar and tasty sauces. But this place smelled of stale medicines. My dish wasn’t much better. Sure, it had all the main ingredients — rice noodles, cabbage, onions and meat — but it didn’t have any of the flavor, aroma or satisfaction that I was expecting.

A&A Express
519 N Azusa Ave
Covina, CA 91722
(626) 332-1398

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In search of good, cheap food

Now that Esther has introduced herself, I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Alison, and I’m one of the reporters here at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Like Esther, I’m a bit of a foodie. I’m a particular fan of those ever-elusive hole-in-the-wall gems where great food, good prices and short lines all come together in one glorious restaurant. I’ll be doing my best to find these, for my sake and yours, in my posts on Bentorama with a little help from you! Tell us if you know of a place we should try in the San Gabriel Valley: alison.hewitt@sgvn.com. ‘Till then, ciao!