Dining on a budget: Flame Broiler in Hacienda Heights, Industry

By Eric Terrazas

I have made a recent addition to my list of most visited fast-food eateries.

Earlier this year I decided to sample the Flame Broiler, which had recently opened in my hometown of Whittier.

I ordered the rib plate, which featured two beef short ribs served over steamed rice. The meal also came with fresh green salad and orange slices. The tender ribs, topped by a helping of green onions, satisfied my taste buds. I also thought the salad, served with Oriental Sesame Supreme dressing, enhanced my meal.

After finishing off my ribs and salad, I wrapped up my dinner by eating my orange, which nicely completes the meal.

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On a recent Saturday, I elected to spend my lunch at the Flame Broiler’s location in Hacienda Heights. I once again went with my favorite selection, the Rib Plate, which costs $7.39. Granted it’s a little on the pricey side, but overall it’s still not a bad deal since you receive a healthy portion of food.  

Four other plates are available: chicken, beef, chicken and beef and The Works. All of those choices include the steamed rice, salad and the orange.

The chicken plate costs $6.99 while the beef, along with the chicken and beef, both cost $7.09. Those with more hearty appetites might be interested in ordering The Works plate, which carries a $7.39 price tag. The Works consists of chicken and beef that is served over steamed rice and steamed vegetables. It sounds like I might have to try The Works on my next visit.

If you happen to have a tighter budget, the Flame Broiler also offers several bowls, which are all served with steamed rice. At $4.99, the chicken bowl sounds especially good. The beef bowl costs $5.09. If you happen to be craving both beef and chicken, a half and half bowl is also offered for $5.09.

Vegetable lovers might want to try the chicken veggie or beef veggie bowl, which both cost $5.29. Both selections come with steamed rice and steamed vegetables. And if you want a meal without the meat, you can order the veggie bowl for $3.99. The Works bowl, which includes chicken, beef, rice and vegetables, costs $5.39.

The Flame Broiler has two locations in the San Gabriel Valley: 17110 Colima Road in Hacienda Heights, and 21750 Valley Blvd. in Industry. For information, call (626) 964-7041 for the Hacienda Heights location or (909) 598-5777 for the Industry location.

Dining on a budget: NY’s Finest Bakery & Cafe in West Covina

By Evelyn Barge

I’m not a big fan of restaurants with gimmicky food names; even less so, nightclubs with lame drink labels.

It’s an allergy I developed after ordering, with head hanging in shame, the embarrassing “Jenny’s Favorite” smoothie at a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Monterey many moons ago. I still haven’t figured out just why Jenny – an abused child, turned counterculture hippie, turned druggie, turned baby mama, who finally gets sick, settles down and then immediately dies – would have a predilection for strawberries, cranberry juice and non-fat raspberry frozen yogurt. (Send me a memo if you know more than I do.)

At any rate, New York’s Finest Bakery and Cafe proprietor Salvatore Mangiafreno obviously disagrees with me. 

Every sandwich on the West Covina eatery’s menu is named for a New York City attraction or borough – The Bronx, The Staten Island, The Yankee Stadium, The Shea Stadium, The Park Ave., and on and on.

I find this a little too cutesy for my taste. But, let’s be honest, a good taste – the kind that really counts at a restaurant – can overpower all sorts of cornball phrases.

That’s how I felt ordering “The NYPD” sandwich ($5.50) at New York’s Finest. Yes, the sandwich is really called that, and just speaking the name aloud gave me low expectations for it. 

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But I was won over by the force – or, more specifically, the ingredients, which piqued my interest from their place on the menu.

Hot capicola, prosciutto, provolone cheese, pepperoncini, lettuce, oil and vinegar. Simple, spicy; I’ll take it. I picked the round roll, which is really more of a giant oval, but the sandwiches are also available on 12-inch hero subs.

The pepperoncinis really steal the show here, acting en masse to overpower thick layers of meat with a mild, pleasing, pickled heat.

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The New York Style salad ($5.00) with lettuce, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, olives, olive oil and balsamic vinegar glaze was beyond basic but comprised of fresh ingredients and quite satisfying. It reminded me of something I’d whip up at home to take on a picnic.

New York’s Finest has an interesting kind of appeal for a city like West Covina. It’s Italian-American deli fare through-and-through, with fresh bread, cookies and pastries baked daily on the premises.

It’s the kind of place you stop on the way to work to get a baker’s dozen of cannolis for the office.

It’s refreshing, light, healthy fare – just don’t forget something to satisfy your sweet tooth.

New York’s Finest Bakery and Cafe is located at 648 S. Sunset Ave. in West Covina. (626) 814-9900. www.nyfinestbakery.com

My Torrance lunch adventure

A few weeks ago, I was sent out to work out of one of our other sister papers’ office in Torrance and while I was only there for a couple days, I thought I would venture out for lunch and see what the city had to offer.

The first day, on my way into the office I passed by a sushi place that caught my eye and I knew I had to try it for lunch – Sushi Boy.

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From the outside it looked like a fast-food type of sushi bar and even though that didn’t sound too appealing, I was intrigued.

As I walked in, it was just what I thought – fast food. They did add some cool Japanese art throughout the dining area to get a more authentic Japanese restaurant feel to it.

The menu featured a variety of sushi rolls, sashimi and sushi, as well as combo meals with salad noodles and bowls offered.

Wanting to try a little of everything I ordered the Takumi value meal for $6.80 which came with four pieces of california roll, one salmon and one shrimp sushi serving, three pieces of tekka maki and kappa maki each (tuna and cucumber, respectively) and a spicy tuna hand roll.

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Each value meal comes with a serving of miso soup, or get a fountain drink instead for a few cents more.

My order came out pretty quick – ten minutes or less – and with the price, I was a little hesitant.

Everything looked surprisingly fresh for how quick it was served. The soup was okay but there wasn’t much, if any, tofu which I’m used to having in my miso soup.

I dug into the Califoria rolls first – they were average, nothing special but pretty good for fast food. I don’t know what type of wasabi they served but it didn’t taste like wasabi I’ve had before and it wasn’t necessarily good.

The cucumber and tuna tasted fresh but the seaweed was sometimes a bit too chewy. The salmon and shrimp tasted pretty fresh and not fishy. I wish I had better wasabi to serve it with.

The best item by far was the spicy tuna hand roll. Not only did the spicy tuna have the right amount of heat but there was plenty in there and it all fit perfectly with the cucumber and rice. 

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When I first spotted Sushi Boy I never seen anything like it and I thought maybe I was trying something that could only be found in Torrance but as I perused the to-go menu I discovered there is a Sushi Boy in the San Gabriel Valley!

Or at least a version of what seems like a franchise. The company has 12 California locations in all including one in West Covina – Marukai West Covina at 1420 Azusa Ave. 

I will definitely have to try Marukai in West Covina one day but I may still call it Sushi Boy because it sounds cooler. For the other locations, visit www.sushiboy.net .

For the variety and price, I was happy with the quality of my lunch at Sushi Boy.

SECOND DAY

For lunch on my second day in Torrance I thought I would entrust my new Blackberry to help me find something I hoped would be different and unique.

Craving noodles, I was torn between a Thai restaurant and a curry one.

Since I don’t have too much experience with curry I thought I would give the Curry House a try and it was only across the street from the office.

When I stepped in it was a nice sit-down restaurant. I was seated by a hostess and soon visited by my waitress. She sensed I was new there and gave me more time to look over the menu.

I don’t know much about what exactly is normal for a curry restaurant menu but there I knew it didn’t seem normal to have jambalaya on the menu.

The jambalaya entree was special to Curry House because it also included curry sauces. 

I really wanted to try something with a good curry sauce but the Jambalaya-style curry meal came with rice and I was still craving pasta or noodles so I went with something else.

The Seafood Tofu Shirataki Fettuccine ($10.05), featured shrimp, white fish, baby clams, squid, onion and bell pepper in a curry cream sauce – perfect! Pasta and curry all in one.

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I ordered hot tea and water but there was a wide variety of beverage options with tropical iced tea, iced oolong and green teas, shirley temple, iced cafe au lait and more.

And if you have a reason to celebrate or feel like a little libation they also serve alcoholic beverages such as plum wine and Kirin Ichiban, a Japanese beer, on tap.

The table settings and the atmosphere of the restaurant was nice but it didn’t seem too busy at the time but I was having a late lunch so I hope, for their sake, there was more customers there a little earlier.

Despite not having too many customers, my meal took a little while but that only made me believe it was freshly made to order by real cooks in the kitchen.

By the time I did get my plate, I was pretty hungry. It was hot but luckily for me not too hot (I can’t stand extreme temperatures in my mouth).

I dug right into the squid and the fettucine, swirling it around in the curry sauce to get a nice taste of it.

The squid wasn’t too chewy but it did have a bit of a fishy taste and after having some bites of the perfectly tender and flaky white fish I knew it wasn’t that. Maybe it was the baby clams.

It was pretty easy to scoop them out of their little shells but they also had more of a fish taste than clam flavor. The fettucine was nicely cooked and the curry sauce was tasty but I was expecting it to be spicy and it wasn’t.

Overall for a seafood dish it was tasty but I would skip the clams next time and maybe ask for some spicier sauce on the side or instead of.

Now, it being my second and last day in Torrance I thought I was having lunch at a restaurant that again, is exclusive to Torrance but once again I was mistaken.

Curry House is a small chain of restaurants with 11 California locations, (one being take-out only), including one near the Puente Hills mall in the City of Industry.

There is such a variety of food on their menu that it’s a good thing there is one closer to me so I can try other offerings.

There is everything from salads to curry rice dishes to spaghetti dishes and even kid’s meals.

Curry House in Puente Hills is at 17865 Colima Road in the City of Industry. For more information on other locations or menus, visit www.house-foods.com/CurryHouse.

So much for adventure dining in new cities…. At least I don’t have to drive to Torrance to try these places again.

Dining on a budget: L.A. County Fair food

By Amanda Newfield

We all know that there is no way to dine on a budget at the L.A. County Fair, but the experience and variety are worth paying for.

Deciding what to eat can take all day. And with the usual cotton candy, corn dogs and funnel cakes, the fair offers an overwhelming amount of choices. It’s the perfect place to ditch the diet and pig out.

Fish ‘n’ chips booths are scattered throughout the fairgrounds and the smell of the freshly fried seafood and veggies is alluring.  

On my recent visit, I went for the fish, fries and zucchini plate for $10.50.

The batter was light and not at all overwhelming, while the veggies were fresh and tasty. What surprised me was the large portion I was served. I was able to share the meal and still feel that sense of satisfaction. Those 10 bucks went a long way. 

Another place that offers the fried selections the Fair is famous for is Chicken Charlie’s Broasted Chicken.

Also, try the “Totally Fried Veggies,” featuring zucchini curls, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and onion strings, for $7.75. The appetizing chicken kabob is $9.75. If you want fries with it, the cost is $12.75.

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But those are just the usual menu items.

Last year, Charlie Boghosian, known as “Chicken Charlie,” debuted his Krispy Kreme chicken sandwich.

His creation this year is the “Meat Lover’s Ice Cream,” featuring soft serve ice cream with chocolate-covered bacon bits.

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Also new additions this year are the deep-fried frog legs and the deep-fried peanut butter, honey and banana sandwiches. 

Which dessert to try at the Fair is also a difficult decision to make, especially since Colossal Gelato, a gelato ice cream in a 16-inch waffle cone, is new to the Fair this year.

I decided on the $3.75 Fried Twinkie with strawberry syrup drizzled on top from Chicken Charlie.

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This selection was definitely one for those who have a strong sweet tooth. I enjoyed the crispy texture on the outside with the warm, creamy filling on the inside.

No one can miss Juicy’s BBQ, which offers whole turkey legs, giant western sausage, burgers and chicken.

The Fair also has fun, reasonably priced meals for kids, and some come with a toy in a Fair collector’s box.

For those looking for an elegant air-conditioned dining venue, the Top of The Park restaurant located atop the horse racing grandstand offers a more upscale dining experience.

Enjoy your meal with a view of the Fair; indoor or outdoor seating is available. Top of The Park is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. To view the menu or make a reservation call (909) 865-4120.

Any food selection made at the Fair will be a good one. But don’t get distracted or overwhelmed, and try as many different foods as possible.

For more information about food at the Fair, visit the Web site at www.lacountyfair.com/2009/attractionscompetitions/fairfood.