More Mediterranean in Montebello

I know it’s been a while but I have finally ventured back out into my neighborhood to try more Mediterranean offerings in Montebello. Check out the first spot in this entry.

The next spot is Krazy Kabobs. From their website, Krazy Kabobs looks pretty nice and welcoming but my first impression was not the same.

I’ve noticed this spot before but it is so hidden and no one else mentions it that I forget it is even there. Krazy Kabobs sits at the end of a strip mall and is pretty much blocked from street view by Chela’s Tacos in front of it (the former Taco Bell on Beverly Boulevard).

I parked in front of the barbershop next door and went in through the first door I saw.

When I stepped inside I saw it was like a small market and deli. I didn’t see anyone inside, customer or employee, at first. Then a woman came out and asked what I wanted. (I’m sure her courtesy was lost in translation).

I asked her if they have food-to-go and she gave me a confused, bewildered look. Finally a younger man came out and I asked him the same thing. He said that they do and they serve it next door. 

I gave him a confused look. I hesitantly walked to my right towards where he pointed.

Apparently there was a separate entrance to the same building. But the other entrance leads you to some tables and chairs and to a counter with a menu of Mediterranean food complete with pictures. 

All the pictures looked delicious. They offer everything from salads and small lunch plates to dinner servings and family meals.

I went with the pork kabob plate – a skewer of tender pork marinated in a secret Armenian recipe, salad, basmati (armenian rice) or rice pilaf and a choice of one appetizer for $8.99.

Appetizer offerings were hummus, babaganoush, red kidney beans, tabouleh, shirazi salad, Mediterranean pasta, stuffed grape leaves and more.

I went with the basmati and the pasta – very tasty mixture of rainbow colored pasta and red onions in an olive oil mixture.

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I guess I was their only customer for hours, it took a little longer because they had to warm up the grill.

It was fine with me because I was entertained by the news on the flat-screen television in the dining area. The only thing bothering me was the big industrial fan blowing in my face and making my contacts dry out. It was hot and this helped keep the place cool but it was on the floor and right in my face as I watched the t.v.

I took a break from the television and the fan to peruse the little market offerings of the store. I saw some baked goods packaged and ready for sale. They reminded me of a little bakery I lived next to on San Fernando Road in Glendale.

I loved going to get some of those fresh baked goods about once a week. I can’t say if they were Armenian baked goods but they were tasty. Some flaky with white powdered sugar, others with a slightly sweet mixture with nuts rolled into a soft dough.

I was curious to see if they were anything like I remembered and grabbed a small container of the sweet nut filled dough when I paid for my meal.

When I did get around to having myself a serving of the baked goods I must admit they were a little dry and not what I remembered from the bakery in Glendale. I’ll keep trying.

After tasting the basmati at the Garden Grill down the street, Krazy Kabobs was more moist and flavorful. Definitely my favorite so far. I couldn’t stop scooping it up.

Even though it was quite a wait for my meal, in the end I was glad they took their time on the pork because it was perfectly cooked, tender and moist and the seasoning was delicious.

This is only my second stop on my Mediterranean dining train around Montebello but Krazy Kabobs gets my vote. Next time I’ll order over the phone though and I’ll go in through the second door.

Krazy Kabobs has an extensive menu available online and they do catering. They are open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Call (323) 725-2929 for more information and to order or visit www.krazykabobs.com

UPCOMING STOPS ON THIS MEDITERRANEAN TOUR OF MONTEBELLO: ANI’S CHICKEN and ZANKOU CHICKEN.

GOT ANY OTHER SUGGESTIONS? LET ME KNOW!

Dining on a budget: La Tropicana in West Covina

Enjoying the first full day of fall in triple-digit weather was not cool (pun intended).

Last week, I sought refuge from the heat with a tropical lunch at La Tropicana Fruits & Juices in West Covina.

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Aside from the various fruit smoothies, waters, tropical ices and other cool treats, they also serve sandwiches, salads and tortas.

The sandwiches start at $4.45 with options of chicken, pastrami, ham, turkey, tuna, avocado and a BLT. 

Each sandwich comes with lettuce, tomato, cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, bell pepper and jalapenos. Avocado, extra cheese and bacon cost an extra 50 cents each.

I went with the ham sandwich on a telera bread, a thinner Mexican bread. 

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I love these type of sandwiches because they taste homemade, like the ones my mom make. 

I liked that the ham was thinly sliced and everything else on the sandwich tasted fresh. There was a little more mayonnaise than I prefer and the bread wasn’t toasted the way I like.

Warning: If you can’t stand the heat of the jalapenos, order without or be sure to ask for only a few. In my sandwich, there was one in every bite.

It felt good having something light, but next time I’ll try a torta or salad and see if they have more flavor.

I also ordered an extra-large serving of freshly squeezed “agua de mamey,” or water-based juice of a tropical fruit that has a slight nutty taste to it.

The mamey really hit the spot – all fresh and cooled down with ice.

The prices for the “aguas frescas,” or fresh juices, are $1.95 for a medium, $2.45 for a large and only 50 cents more for an extra-large.

Tortas start at $5.45, green salads start at $2.45 and fruit salads start at $2.75. Fruit party trays are also available.

If this hot weather keeps up, I might have to return for a raspado (snow cone) or chamango (slushed ice mixed with small pieces of mango, chamoy, a sweet and spicy syrup, chili powder and lemon), all enjoyed with a spoon.

La Tropicana Fruits & Juices is at 1324 W. Francisquito Ave., Unit C5, at Sunset Ave. in West Covina. For more information, call (626) 919-1920.

Dining on a budget: Pitas To Go in Irwindale

By Amanda Newfield

Fresh, healthy Mediterranean food is hard to find, but Pitas To Go in Irwindale offers light choices that do not steer away from their Greek authenticity.

As we walked into this fast-food restaurant, the smell of fresh ingredients filled my nostrils and intrigued my appetite.

The menu was simple – offering pita wraps, pita pockets and Mediterranean salads. The prices were reasonable even for a poor college student like myself. Small salads start at $2.99, a falafel wrap is $3.99 and a side of hummus is $2.99. 

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But for those with more blessed bank accounts, there is the $7.99 beef shawerma with thin slices of beef marinated and seasoned with a special blend of spices and tahini sauce.

I was on a mission to see just how healthy I could be while still experiencing that Mediterranean taste, so I ordered the $5.59 falafel salad.

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One pleasant surprise was finding the Sobe Diet Cranberry Grapefruit option as a fountain drink. Not only was my meal healthy and tasty but so was my beverage.

I ordered my food to-go and it was ready faster than I could fill up my drink. The food tasted as good as it smelled. 

The salad was full of fresh tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, sliced radishes, crunchy lettuce and tasty falafel.

This was my first encounter with falafel and it was a good one. The bite-size pieces were each packed with flavor and still not overwhelming.

Overall, my meal was satisfying and not too filling. The nutritious food gave me enough energy to work and didn’t cause the usual lunch food coma.

I give Pitas To Go two thumbs up. I will definitely go back again.

Pitas To Go is at 15652 Arrow Hwy. in Irwindale. It is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and closed Sundays.

For more information, visit the website at www.pitastogo.com or call (626) 962-4111.

Nightlife dining

Sure it’s great to get out on the weekend with friends and loved ones and enjoy a few libations.

For me though, the night isn’t complete without at least a little nibble.

I love the new selection of bar food and snacks available now. Many locales that usually serve some kind of food or snack out there have definitely worked on raising the bar on what is offered.

Either by jazzing up the usual wings and nachos or adding something new like sweet potato fries, there is more out there than just peanuts to munch on while enjoying a nice beer or cool cocktail.

Check out my recent nightlife review on Alhambra’s 38 degrees Ale House & Grill where I fell in love with the appetizer menu.

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WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE BAR FOOD? 

Dining on a budget: Casa Blanca in Hacienda Heights

Craving something other than fast or frozen food for lunch, I thought I would search for something authentic.

I had tried food from Casa Blanca Mexican Restaurant in Hacienda Heights many years ago. Though I couldn’t remember what I had, I know I liked it for some reason.

I headed towards the restaurant on Gale Avenue just east of Hacienda Boulevard. Though the drive was long and hot, it was worth the trip.

The line in front of me ordered so fast that I didn’t have enough time to look through the entire menu posted above the cashier. (Even if you are eating there, you order before sitting down.)

The picture of the carne asada plate looked and sounded good, so I went with that and a small horchata for $1.65 to quench my thirst. The waitress also advised that it would be 75 cents for each refill.

The plate, at $9.75, came with rice, beans and cheese, fresh salsa complete with some jalapeno seeds still intact and fresh guacamole.

The waitress served me my drink with chips and salsa as soon as I sat down.

When I tried the chips and salsa, I remembered why I liked this place – everything is fresh. The chips looked and tasted like they were made that day. 

The salsa also tasted like it fresh and was just spicy enough.

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My carne asada (steak) plate came pretty quick. The size of the carne asada was not what I had imagined, it really was thick like a steak, not the thin slices I am used to barbecuing outside on a grill.

Though I didn’t specify, my steak was medium with a little rare inside. I usually order my steak rare, but if you don’t I would specify when ordering.

Nicely grilled on the outside, the steak was tender and juicy. I had only a few bites before I was full, so come with a big appetite.

The rice and beans tasted homemade like my mom’s. The guacamole and salsa were perfect.

If you can’t handle salsa that is too spicy be careful with this stuff. I caught a really strong seed on one of my last bites. 

I coughed a little and the hot taste stayed on the back of my tongue for a good while.

They serve breakfast all day with plates starting at $6.50. They had chilaquiles, cut tortilla strips cooked in a spicy sauce usually with meats and vegetables and eggs. I would definitely want to try that next time.

A variety of burritos start at $3.35, while tacos and tostadas begin at $2.25. They are also offered with appetizers, soups and a la carte items. Lunch is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Casa Blanca is at 15922 Gale Ave. in Hacienda Heights. For take-out orders and more information, call (626) 330-9549.  

Dining on a budget: Gyros King in Glendora

By Amanda Newfield, Correspondent

Gyros King in Glendora is an enjoyable Mediterranean restaurant if you can look past the interior decorations. 

The Greek theme was splattered throughout the entire restaurant with forest green drapery and fancy floral wallpaper that matched the fabric on the plastic-covered chairs. 

More than one decorative painting could be found on the walls of the room, depicting what seemed to be Greek goddesses. Gold statues are strategically placed throughout the somewhat empty parts of the room to add another color scheme to the decor.

The west wing of the restaurant gave me the sense I was about to be part of a Greek wedding. The setting was a bit awkward but the food made the experience worth my $8.50.

After asking the helpful cashier which plate he would suggest, I chose the most expensive meal offered, the Shish Kabob “Tri-Tip” plate.

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The food took a little more than 10 minutes, which seemed like a long wait for a fast-food type place. But once we had the plates in front of us, our surroundings were unimportant.

The meat was tender, juicy and flavorful, I savored every bite. The hummus, which had a hint of garlic and lime, was the perfect taste with the tomatoes and rice.

I also had a bite of the $4.95 chicken kabob sandwich, which was delightful. If I were in more of a rush, this would be a great option. 

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The sandwich contains the same ingredients as the plate, only in smaller amounts and wrapped up, which makes it easy to travel with if necessary.

The experience overall was satisfying. The food exceeded my expectations while the decorations provided entertainment.

Gyros King is at 338 E. Route 66 in Glendora and open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday. For information, call (626) 963-7270.