Thank you! Come again!

First of all, if you’re reading this, thank you for visiting our little food blog.

I, Claudia Palma, was handed over the reins when our online editor Esther Chou moved on to greener pastures. And unfortunately, I have not been as good with keeping up with this blog as she was.

I am learning and working to improve, but I, like many other people nowadays are trying to save money and eat in or brown bag our lunch. (Maybe I’ll write soon about good homemade food? Suggestions anyone?)

If not for the inclusion of our weekly contributors from our Highlanders community newspaper section writing a dining review for print, ‘Dining on a budget’, I would have nothing much to add here.

The ‘Dining on a budget’ review is shared among a good handful of staff writers here, and the occasional lucky intern. The idea is to find small, hole-in-the-wall type of restaurants to dine at for under $10 (per person).

Thank you to those who have visited before and I apologize for the comment errors, that unfortunately went unnoticed for probably months. Apparently there was a problem with readers posting comments and the comments not appearing.

The problem is fixed now and we welcome you to leave comments and suggestions, and we will try to bring you more local restaurants to check out, food to rant or rave about, and more.

Thanks again for visiting. Please come again!

 

Dining on a budget: Orean’s Health Express in Pasadena

By Stacey Wang, Correspondent

I attempted a vegetarian diet once. 

I, equipped with an arsenal of fork and asparagus, battled against the meat-packed artillery of Chinese cuisine. 

The struggle lasted five months before I realized that meat and I had a special bond. I loved it too much to part ways. And yes, the pork steamed buns won.

Ever since, I have sought vegetarian dishes, looking for foods that could pry me from my meat dependence. 

That’s when I came across Orean’s Health Express, a vegetarian fast-food and drive-through, on 817 N. Lake Ave. in Pasadena.

Orean’s is quaint, and almost buried by surrounding restaurants like Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Burger King and Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles.

With only a few outside seating areas, it is a casual eatery where you can gather with a few friends.

The eatery prides itself on being a healthy fast-food establishment. Its menu has been approved by the American Heart Association with an extensive list of options.

Although some items such as the teriyaki chicken burrito have “meat” in the name, the entire menu is meat-free. 

My first hesitant visit resulted in staring at the menu for 15 minutes with occasional glances at the burger banner across the street at McDonald’s.

I resisted my urge to run across and buy a Filet-O-Fish. Instead, I ordered an Orean Salad Burger, the menu’s “ultimate veggie burger,” and a cappuccino Super Shake.

The Salad Burger, at $4.29 plus tax, had a veggie-friendly patty, organic sprouts, tomatoes onions and a special sauce on a whole wheat bun. The slightly sweet sauce melded well with the patty, which was a mix of veggies, sunflower seeds and black beans.

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Finishing my burger, I was a little proud that I picked such a tasty one. It hit all of the points a burger should and has sparked my quest to find veggie burgers up to par.

My shake, priced at $2.85 plus tax, was a thick and creamy cappuccino soymilk shake. It was as filling and scrumptious as a milk shake, but left me feeling guilt-free about finishing it.

Orean’s may not seem like the ideal lunch for the average meat-loving, greasy burger-eater. But it does have satisfying menu items.

To complete a meal, Air Fries can be added for $2.79 plus tax or a Peach Cranberry Honey Granola Cobbler for the same price.

Every item on the menu is priced under $6, and portions keep the average person content for under $10.

However, not every item appeals to everyone. Depending on the individual, these veggie alternatives can be a gratifying hit or a taste bud-thrashing miss.

Dining on a budget: 1+1 Dumpling House in WC

By Evelyn Barge

Maybe it’s the dreary weather. Maybe it’s the even-drearier economy.

Whatever the reason, I can’t stop these comfort-food cravings for dumplings. Thus, I decided to extend my search for the perfect Chinese dumpling in the San Gabriel Valley.

The quest brought me to 1+1 Dumpling House, one of the many Asian restaurants packed into Hong Kong Plaza. The plaza – and its endless supply of options – comes about as close to my idea of supreme cuisine heaven as it gets.

I’d heard rumors that 1+1 was a less-expensive, nearly-as-good alternative to Arcadia’s beloved Din Tai Fung. And as I sat down to dine at the West Covina dumpling house on a recent weekday, I hoped I would find evidence to substantiate the claims.

Right off the bat, I noticed the reasonable prices that set 1+1 apart. The menu is much more wallet-friendly than Din Tai Fung, where I can easily blow $30-plus, even dining solo.

I ordered the juicy pork steam dumplings (eight pieces, $5.95) and the juicy pork and crab steam dumplings (eight pieces, $6.95).

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Curious to get a broader sampling, I quickly tacked on an order for a green onion pancake ($2.95). To my delight, the server said the restaurant is currently offering a special: Get a free green onion pancake with any order over $10. And orders over $20 receive a free order of juicy pork dumplings.

Now, that’s my kind of recession special.

My visit fell during a very quiet, post-lunch hour lull, so it wasn’t long before the food arrived at my table, still steaming and – literally – too hot to handle.

I got a bit of a confidence boost when the server didn’t automatically assume I would want to eat with a fork. (Although my chopsticks skills are pitiful, I prefer to get the full experience when eating cultural cuisine.)

First, I dug into the green onion pancake, which was warm and doughy. It had a mild flavor, lighter on the sodium than I’ve come to expect from this kind of dish. (For this, my heart gave thanks.) The serving was quite large, so I stopped halfway through the pie-sized slices to save room for the main event: dumplings!

My first bite of juicy pork dumpling was so hot, I almost burned my tongue and could barely taste the flavors. You might say I get a bit over-zealous when it comes to dumplings.

Tapping into my scarce reserves of patience, I nibbled a tiny hole in the skin of the next dumpling and watched the steam rush out, before I popped the rest straight into my mouth.

The flavor was delightfully tangy, a humbling mix of meat, spices and soupy goodness. And while I still prefer a bit more of the liquid in my dumplings (a la the Gold Standard of Din Tai Fung), I liked the simplicity of the 1+1 approach.

I couldn’t taste any tremendous difference between the pork-only and the pork-and-crab dumplings, which made me wonder why I’d paid an extra buck for the latter. But both rounds of dumplings were delicious and hearty.

1+1 Dumpling House is located at 1017 S. Glendora Ave., West Covina, (626) 338-6868.

Dining on a budget: Bob’s Big Boy in WC

By Eric Terrazas

When I first heard the news that Bob’s Big Boy was going to open a restaurant in West Covina, I couldn’t help but smile.

I haven’t visited a Bob’s Big Boy in many years. The last time I tasted a delicious Bob’s burger was in the early 1980s.

On a recent afternoon, I decided to check out the new Bob’s Big Boy in West Covina. I ordered the Big Boy Combination, a burger that consists of two patties, American cheese, lettuce and red relish sauce.

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The meal also comes with French fries and cole slaw. For $1.99 more, you can substitute the fries for onion rings. I decided to order the onion rings even though it cost me the extra cash.

When my food arrived, the burger did not disappoint. The burger tasted delicious, just like I remembered it. Adding to the burger’s scrumptious taste was the red relish sauce.

The onion rings, which are hand-breaded, and cole slaw also tempted my taste buds. Overall, it made for a good meal.

On my next visit to Bob’s Big Boy, I plan to come with a bigger appetite. That way I could try their dessert menu.

Bob’s dessert offerings look rather tasty. The selections that most caught my eye were the hot fudge ice cream cake, the banana split and the Big Boy Super Shakes.

The dessert menu also includes pies and pastries. I received a good look at some of Bob’s pies while waiting in the cashier’s line. I wouldn’t mind trying their pies as well.

I’m also curious about Bob’s half-pound burgers. As a longtime bacon burger aficionado, the Big Cheese and Bacon burger is something I especially want to try.

If you’re a morning person, you would be happy to know that Bob’s also offers a nice-sized breakfast menu that includes pancakes, eggs, waffles and French toast.

As a longtime fan of hamburgers, I’m happy to see that Bob’s Big Boy has opened in West Covina. I plan to take my family there one of these days. I think they will be happy customers.

Bob’s Big Boy is located at 100A S. California Ave., West Covina. For information, call (626) 851-2627.

A million Quizno subs, but none for me

What’s 24386-reg_left_top-thumb-400x191.jpgthe deal with Quizno’s Million Sub giveaway. The popular sandwich shop says it’s giving away a million subs.

Of course, you have to sign up at millionsubs.com where they require you to give them your e-mail address as well as your zip code and birthdate. What’s that all about.

And you only get the free coupon when they email you back. I couldn’t find mine until I looked in my junk file, guess my filters thought it was spam. Then when I tried to print it out, my printer shut down.

So I never got my coupon and they got the marketing info they wanted. You can’t try to print out a coupon more than once.

My friend filled out the form and never even got an email back. We stopped by the local Quizno shop and the line doubled back out the door. Everyone looked like they had a free coupon in their hands so I guess it works for some.

I especially liked the disclaimers at the bottom. By completing the form, entrants will automatically be entered into the
Quiznos Q-Club marketing database (Entrants may opt-out of the Quiznos Q-Club at any time by visiting the opt-out page located at: www.quiznos.com/offers/Optout.aspx.)

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Valentine’s Day dinner

As much as I love the romance of a dinner date, I personally would not venture out to a restaurant or theater this coming Saturday – Valentine’s Day – I know better.

For those of you who are, I hope you’ve already made your reservations. If you haven’t – good luck!

Most all restaurants, fancy or not, are usually packed on this occassion of flowers, candy and teddy bears.

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Maybe it’s because I’ve been in a long committed relationship, or the fact that I don’t like to wait in overcrowded restaurants for my food, but I am happy celebrating love or like, (whichever your case may be), on any other day.

But for those who have no other choice but to celebrate Saturday, I offer some suggestions:

- Make it a Valentine’s Day lunch instead. You may be able to score a better table and price for a lunch or early dinner.

- Make it a late dinner. Check which restaurants are offering reservations after 9 p.m. and you’ll avoid most of the dinner crowd by then.

- Cozy up at the bar. Lots of restaurant bars serve the same food here than if you waited for a table. Plus, you don’t have to wait so long for your drinks – the bartender’s right there.

- Get home already. Why not light your own candles and play your own romantic music at home. Order ahead from you and your sweetie’s favorite place and pick it up. You won’t have to worry about who’s the designated driver.

Send us your suggestions, ideas, or locations of your favorite way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your loved one.

 And don’t forget the sweets!

Dining on a budget: One World Vegetarian in WC

By Emma Gallegos

One World Vegetarian Cuisine wants you to stop eating meat, and it has effectively staged a one-restaurant, multipronged campaign to that end.

You’ve been warned.

One World is a surprisingly serene sit-down restaurant tucked away in a West Covina strip mall next to a barbecue place selling “broasted” chicken. 

A hedge in front of a small outdoor patio blocks out the view of the bustling Westfield complex across the street. A water fountain and piped-in music from Enya drowns out ambient noise. The bright-eyed waitstaff doesn’t look like any of them has ever shown up to work with a hangover.

Above the bamboo-lined booths inside, a hallowed pantheon of vegetarian saints – Alicia Silverstone, Paul McCartney, Leonardo da Vinci, Christy Turlington – watches over. The campaign sort of sneaks up on you like that: These smart, beautiful, insanely talented people are vegetarians – why aren’t you?

In one corner, a waitress explains to an already-converted patron how to make pancakes without eggs. The food here, after all, is not only vegetarian, but vegan. The Heaven on Earth Latte ($2.75) was made with a fluffy, slightly sweet soy cream, the heaven that tops the earthly, bitter coffee, all in a delicate wine glass.

No detail is spared in this campaign, whose most convincing tactic is, of course, the food itself.

 

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The Indian curry ($5.50), with cubes of tofu, was made creamy and spicy with an emphasis on fresh, crisp vegetables rather than something that had been stewing in a pot all day. The curried and crisp bell peppers, zucchini, potatoes and scallions were served with brown rice as a part of the combo, preceded by a bowl of vegetable soup made with equally crisp ingredients in a clear, spicy broth. It was simple, crisp, healthy and not a bad deal, either.

Because the waitstaff brings out complimentary, freshly roasted warm peanuts, I could have done without an appetizer. But I sprang for the spring rolls ($3.75) served with the usual peanut sauce and the less usual meat substitute. The rolls tasted like almost anything else I’ve had and I almost didn’t notice the substitute, which was mild, had a hint of barbeque and might have been broasted.

At the end was the hard-sell. In my bill, I received an insert from Supreme Master Ching Hai that urged the halt of meat-eating to save the ice caps.

Scores of meat-eating commenters on the Web site Yelp – who sound like they’ve been tricked into eating a bad cut of tofurky one too many times – swear that, no, this vegetarian place is actually good.

I was less surprised that a vegan restaurant managed to make something appetizing – restaurants like this and even vegetarian icons like Alicia Silverstone are more common west of the 605 Freeway. I was just pleased to find a healthy, reasonable lunch in an unassuming strip mall just a hedge away from food court fare.

And who knows? One World might be a great place to nurse a hangover.

One World Vegetarian Cuisine, 178 S. Glendora Ave., West Covina, (626) 917-2727.

Taco Nachos from Jack

On a recent trip to a nearby Jack in the Box here in Irwindale, I was tempted by a new offering.

Originally there to order up a teriyaki bowl that I like (and had a coupon for), I saw a sign that read “Taco Nachos.”

Being a fan of cheese, especially nacho cheese, I decided to give in to the temptation and give them a try.

According to Jack’s website, “Taco Nachos feature the chain’s famous crunchy tacos topped with cheddar cheese sauce, melted pepper jack cheese and jalapeno slices served with a side of fire-roasted salsa.”

They are actually cut-up pieces of their tacos and all of this sits on a bed of shredded lettuce.

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For $1.99 plus tax, these taco nachos were actually decent, the cheese wasn’t the spicy nacho cheese I was expecting and love, but there was enough to cover most of the pieced tacos and topped with enough jalapenos.

I didn’t touch the fire roasted salsa, because personally I prefer my nachos with just jalapenos.

Jack’s tacos are always a favorite, so smothering pieces of them with cheese is brilliant.

I really hope they stick around for a while and they don’t raise the price – I could get nachos with spicy nacho cheese for $1. I’m sure some of you know from where.

Dining on a budget: Carnaby St. Fish & Chips in La Puente

I’m going to assume Carnaby St. Fish and Chips in La Puente was inspired by the street in the state of Washington rather than the infamous street in London.

It’s nowhere near any of those streets, of course, and it is not like the shopping mecca in London. It’s location is hidden by a 99 Cents store at Southill Square shopping center off of Hacienda Boulevard.

As I was looking for something new and tasty for lunch driving down Hacienda Boulevard, this little shop caught my eye when I saw the words Fish and Chips.

The restaurant is small inside, but it’s popular with some locals and regulars. I waited outside for my order and ate at a small outdoor dining area in an alleyway of the shopping center.

I’ve never had fish and chips and I can’t recall the last time I had a fish stick (probably middle school), so I thought I’d take a chance.

Just in case I wasn’t crazy about the fish, I ordered the Shrimp Combo, which came with two pieces each of fried shrimp and fish, and chips or fries for $6.60 plus tax.

When I received my order, I asked for hot sauce or chili sauce but got ketchup and tartar sauce instead. I looked around at the small tables inside the restaurant and found the other condiments being used by the other patrons, so I settled with what I got.

 

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I should have known that if a combo came with just four pieces of something that they weren’t exactly popcorn-size.

The shrimp were large and split in the middle to look like a ring, then fried. The fish were long, wide pieces as well.

I tried the shrimp first, without any sauce, and was pleasantly surprised how light the batter tasted. It was not the typical fried food batter and was not dripping with grease either.

The shrimp inside was plump as well. The fish was all white with no bones and very moist.

I usually don’t like adding salt to anything but the fries needed a little sprinkling. They were still a good complement to the rest of the meal.

Carnaby St. also offers fish and shrimp by the piece, lunch specials, clam, oyster and scallops, and side orders like fried rice, cole slaw and zucchini.

I think I’ll try the shrimp and fish tacos they also offer next time.

I would suggest take-out. It was a little strange having people walk right by you, on their way to get a haircut at a nearby salon or after shopping at the 99 Cents store, while you’re trying to enjoy some fried goodness.

Carnaby St. Fish and Chips is open 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Saturday and until 9 p.m. Friday, closed Sunday. It is located at 1627Y2 N. Hacienda Blvd., La Puente, (626) 918-9223.

Dining on a budget: Yoko Yoko in Diamond Bar

By Maritza Velazquez

I love a good Japanese restaurant.

And in Diamond Bar, there are more than a couple great spots. One of my favorites has to be Yoko Yoko Sushi & Rolls.

A Japanese fusion restaurant, this place offers a little more variety than your traditional Japanese selections. I’ve been here a few times and have never been disappointed by the food. 

I try to seek out something new each time I go there.

On a recent visit it was the Green Salmon appetizer for $6.95. Baked salmon surrounds chopped green mussel, onion, avocado and tomato. The dish is smothered in a delicious sesame-based sauce that really compliments the salmon. 

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I also ordered the Dynamite Roll, which is a California Roll, topped with bay scallops baked with mayonnaise and masago. Although this is probably my favorite dish at Yoko Yoko, this time the scallops didn’t have their usual freshness. I was surprised because everything I’ve tried here, including the sashimi, has proved to be really fresh.

 

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If you’re a spicy food lover, you can also order the Volcano Roll, which is the same as the Dynamite Roll except it has a little bit of a kick to it. There’s a great selection of baked rolls, fresh rolls and tempura rolls. Whatever your choice, all the specialty rolls are $10.95.

Yoko Yoko opened last year and replaced the old Rendino’s Pizza.

Beautifully remodeled, it boasts a more modern look and fun atmosphere. If you decide to sit at the sushi bar, the chefs are really friendly and more than willing to explain any of the dishes to you.

But if you opt to sit at one of the booths, beware – many of the servers don’t regularly make their rounds to check on their customers. Most likely, you’ll have to catch their attention. More than once, I’ve had to go up to the register to pay for my own bill after waiting 10 minutes or more.

This is something I’ve heard from many people in the area who enjoy Yoko Yoko’s food. They say the fare is great, but the service is not satisfactory. 

I have to admit though, my most recent visit on a Friday afternoon was much more pleasant than in the past. My acquaintance and I had a seat on the patio and our server (whom I had never seen there before) was very attentive.

Despite the sometimes questionable service, I always return to Yoko Yoko for the great food. I always have a good time, whether I visit for lunch or dinner. They’ve also got a few flatscreens, too, so it’s a great place for all you sports fans. And while you’re watching, you can enjoy a glass of Bud Light on draft for just $0.99.

Yoko Yoko Sushi & Roll is located at 2161 S. Diamond Bar Blvd., in Diamond Bar. For more information, call (909) 860-4000.