$3.99 Pizza Co. in West Covina

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Dining on a Budget:

With one of the most exciting weekends in football season coming up – Super Bowl XLII – many folks are thinking the same thing:What to eat during the big game?

For an inexpensive and quick meal to serve at your Super Bowl gathering, you can’t go wrong with the $3.99 Pizza Co. in West Covina, (bordering on Baldwin Park.)

The $3.99 Pizza Co. offers just that – a fresh-style cheese pizza for under $5.

When I first heard of this oddly named eatery, I thought like many of my colleagues: How good could it be? Now I say, “Hey, don’t judge a pizza by its price!”

The $3.99 Pizza Co. takes “dining on a budget” to a new level.

Not only can you get a large freshly-rolled-dough cheese pizza for $3.99, plus tax, but if you just scrounged under and between your car seats for some lunch change, you can get a 7″ personal cheese pizza for only $1.99.

On a recent lunch, a few colleagues and I shared a large mushroom and chicken pizza, as well as a side order of jalapeno poppers and seasoned fries.

Well, needless to say, our total was not $3.99, but split amongst two or three people the $13 and change bill didn’t put too much of a dent in my wallet. Toppings are extra, costing from 75 cents to $2.

The jalapeno poppers are made with cheddar cheese, instead of cream cheese (yuck) or monterey jack (best). They’re not as hot as other eateries may serve, but are still yummy.

The seasoned fries are the ones with the kick. These nice big wedges are perfectly sized and seasoned for my taste.

And if you need to feed the family, the eatery offers plenty of low-priced family-sized meals, as well as hot wings, pasta, salads, subs, and more.

Are you ready for some football?

New tostadas at Del Taco

On my way back to the office today, it was getting close to lunch time and I was coming up on the nearest Del Taco at the edge of Baldwin Park, off of Ramona Boulevard.
I decided to stop in and grab some lunch while I was there.
I forwent my usual Big Fat chicken tacos to satisfy my curiosity – Del Taco’s new tostadas at only 89 cents each.
Tostadas as I know them are beans, maybe some type of meat, lettuce, tomato, and cheese all on top of a round, hard (usually fried), corn tortilla. Salsa, sour cream and avocado is optional of course, depending on your preference.
Well, I went ahead and ordered the ‘New Tostada’ meal which came with one tostada, two regular beef crispy tacos, the crinkly-cut fries (one of my favorite kind of fries), and a drink for under $5.
Of course I should have known that at only 89 cents each, there wouldn’t be much to these “tostadas”. But I let the menu picture fool me.
First, this tostada version was the size of a taco-truck tortilla, alot smaller than tostadas as I know them. It did have refried beans, but my lettuce was more white than green, and the cheese, all melted now, was the size of a quarter on one side of my tostada.
And where’s the diced tomato?! I would’ve been happy with at least some white (preferably red of course, but see above) pieces of tomato.
Needless to say I was not too happy with my tostada.
I should know better and stick to my Big Fat chicken!

- Claudia

Flatbread Sammies from Quiznos

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I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen commercials for the two new Sammies from Quiznos, and this morning I knew I had to try one of these $2 sandwiches.

After tasting the balsamic chicken and the Angus steak sammies, I think the $2 price point was a shrewd move by Quiznos. A single Sammy is a decent snack but not substantial enough to constitute a meal. At $2, the Sammy is a little better than a bargain meal but not quite an overpriced snack. Having said that, I don’t think the Sammy was as tasty as it was advertised. (Has that ever been true?)

The flatbread is the best part of the sandwich. (And really, how much does bread really cost? 15 cents?) The balsamic chicken had a nice flavor and you could actually taste the tiny bits of chopped chicken. The Angus steak was a real disappointment. It lacked any substantial flavor, and the “steak” turned out to be thinly sliced shavings of meat, a garnish to the flatbread.

My friend Claudia suggested that I try two other Sammies next time — the Italiano and the Sonoma Turkey. She says the Italiano has full-flavored cold cuts and the Sonoma Turkey includes a chipotle mayo. Until next time!

Din Tai Fung Dumpling House in Arcadia

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Dining on a budget:
I’ve come to the realization that dining on a budget and local Chinese cuisine are often at odds with each other.
Take Din Tai Fung Dumpling House in Arcadia, which recently opened a second location on the same block of Baldwin Avenue because its popularity among its mostly Chinese patrons had created long lunchtime lines.
In the two years I spent teaching English to college students in Northeast China, it didn’t take long for it to become apparent that dumplings were the budget food of choice for anyone wanting to celebrate.
Several varieties of dumplings are staples served during most holidays, but particularly at Chinese New Year, Lantern Festival and Dragon Boat Festival.
Students explained that dumplings are the food of choice because they’re considered lucky, in part, because they resemble coins used in ancient China.
It didn’t hurt, either, that the price was right in China: One could buy a plateful of about two dozen dumplings for less than 50 cents.
So, when I made my first trip to the popular Din Tai Fung restaurant, I was a bit dismayed at the hit my wallet would take.
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DINING ON A BUDGET

As some of you have noticed, the recent postings here are of dining reviews. These reviews are from a rotating list of reporters from our weekly Highlanders, that we also put in print.
The Highlanders have decided to start this feature – DINING ON A BUDGET – that focuses on what dining out for lunch is like on a reporter’s budget.
We try to mix it up with different menus of the various cities we cover and roam about during our daily work here in the San Gabriel Valley, and are always on the lookout for a great deal.
We hope you find it helpful if you’re looking for a good lunch and have a small budget of $5-10, or at least somewhat amusing.
We also welcome your comments and suggestions for future reviews.
So if you see a review posted by me, but not written by me, then it is most likely a review by one of our esteemed reporters here at the Highlanders.
Thanks for reading and maybe we’ll see you at the corner taco stand :-P
- Claudia

Mr. Pollo in West Covina

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Through my most recent dining experience, it’s come to my attention that “Peruvian food” is synonymous with “a whole lot of chicken.”

The vessel for this realization was Mr. Pollo, a Peruvian restaurant in West Covina that does chicken in a wide variety of ways for a reasonable price.

And I have to say, a decidedly positive element to a particular culture’s tastes revolving around one central animal is that they know how to do it right.

Located in an unassuming strip mall off of Azusa Avenue, one might not expect greatness from such a bland locale. When I walked in, I was hit with the color brown: brown floors, brown tables, brown walls and even brown art on the walls.
The only thing missing was Bobby Brown, the Cleveland Browns and the local brownie troupe.

No matter, though. A certain postulate gaining more and more validity in my head lately is that the more unattractive the restaurant, the better the food.
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Sample the world’s cuisine in one city

I thought I’d post restaurant reviews that Lafayette Hight (staff writer and classic car aficionado) wrote for The Rose magazine.

An adventurous spirit is the only passport needed to experience the many cuisines of the world that can be found right here in Pasadena.

The options are endless. It’s entirely possible to, in a single day, have breakfast at the ever-popular Marston’s Restaurant, eat lunch at Robin’s Wood Fire BBQ & Grill, and then have the ultimate fondue dinner experience at The Melting Pot.

Here you can also hope and pray for a J-Lo sighting at Madre’s, or visit Bistro 561, where student chefs at the California School of Culinary Arts practice skills they hope to use in the future to tantalize the palettes of the masses.

Pasadena has both a Tommy’s World Famous Hamburgers location, and an In-N-Out Burger many, including myself, put these among the top Southern California burger joints Rick’s Drive-In, home to the Spuderito (that’s a burrito made from French Fries, in case you haven’t tried it), and finally, a place I call Conundrum Corner on North Lake Avenue, which has two fried chicken restaurants sitting next to each other and the only vegetarian drive-through restaurant I’ve ever run across is across the street.

I say again, the options are endless.

Let the restaurants that follow only serve as a beginning. These are far too few words about far too few experiences to be listed here. Let your taste buds be your guide as you make plans to eat, drink and be merry.

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La Tolteca in Azusa

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When it comes to dining on a budget, few segments of the population do it better than college students. But Affordable Eating 101 doesnt have to mean a menu of ramen noodles and stale cereal.

Just follow the traffic from local universities to Azusas popular La Tolteca, where diners of the collegiate variety or not can choose from an array of traditional Mexican meals that are both scrumptious and wallet-friendly.

At La Tolteca, its simple to put together a meal for under $10, and you dont have to limit yourself to one item. A la carte items range from about $2 to $6, and the combo plates range from about $5 to $8.

The portions, ordered and served cafeteria-style, are generous, so consider it an investment into tomorrows leftovers lunch as well.
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