Carl’s Jr’s “grilled sandwich” burger

Even though I knew it may disappoint, I gave Carl’s Jr’s new Grilled Cheese Burger a try anyway.

There are four ways to get the sandwich – single burger, double burger, six-dollar burger size or vegetarian with no burger or bacon – starting at $2.49 and up.

I thought I would try it the way they advertised it – with a single burger patty. It was exactly what I thought it would be – see my rant here.

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It wasn’t horrible but it was definitely not a grilled cheese sandwich. Carl’s Jr. burger patties are generally good and the bacon is tasty, the cheese was plenty and tasty, but the sourdough bread was not the buttered and grilled toast we love about having a grill cheese sandwich. It didn’t even taste freshly grilled.

Again, it wasn’t a terrible burger or sandwich, but I don’t think it was anything spectacular and I definitely wouldn’t call it a grilled cheese.

HAVE YOU TRIED THE CARL’S GRILLED CHEESE BURGER?

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR FAVORITE GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH?

A grilled cheese burger? C’mon Carl’s Jr!

Of all the fast-food choices out there, Carl’s Jr. is one of my top choices if I want to grab something tasty to go.

But their new menu item had me excited and then disappointed all in one commercial.

I love grilled cheese sandwiches – they’re so tasty, buttery, and cheesy. Simple but they can hit the spot perfectly every time.

So when I saw the commercial about Carl’s new “grilled cheese,” I was ready to go out and try one until I realized their “grilled cheese” is just another big Carl cheese burger with bacon and extra cheese on sourdough bread.

Not to insult either fast-food chain restaurants but I would call it a Sourdough Jack with bacon and extra, extra cheese.

Saying they want to give their customers that comfort food they crave, the fast-food chain’s newest creation started out as a menu item for vegetarian customers but instead created Carl’s Jr. Grilled Cheese Bacon Burger – a charbroiled burger patty, bacon, four slices of melted American and Swiss cheeses in between grilled sourdough buns.

Though the vegetarian is also available, I wish they could have just given this new burger another name so as not to confuse (and excite) customers for no reason.

I have not tried the “grilled cheese” yet but not sure if I want to – I could just go order a grill cheese from my local Rick’s.

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE? REAL GRILLED CHEESE OR JUST ANOTHER CHEESY BURGER?

Dining on a budget: Cafe Verona in Diamond Bar

By Maritza Velazquez

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But for me, it’s almost nonexistent. I enjoy my sleep and I’m not willing to wake up even a few minutes earlier to prepare myself some eggs or even a piece of toast.

On weekdays, I let my stomach rumble for a while before I scurry off in pursuit of a meal. 

The weekends are the only exception, when I occasionally indulge in my favorite breakfast foods – French toast, pancakes or omelets. 

In lieu of the same old dishes at Denny’s or IHOP, I’ve recently opted for Cafe Verona, a quaint bagelry in Diamond Bar. The place is nothing spectacular but it has unique food offerings, as well as a wide selection of coffee and other beverages. 

On some Sunday mornings, I head to the cafe for the bagel omelets, which range from $4 to $5. They have a few choices, including my favorite, the veggie bagel omelet.

For $3.35, it comes with bell peppers, tomatoes, onions and cheese. The omelet is cooked and placed between the toasted bagel of your choice. For me, it was onion. 

 

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Other bagel options include spinach parmesean, jalapeno cheese, cranberry, chocolate chip sourdough and garlic.

If you want to take some bagels home with you, it’ll cost you $9.95 for a dozen. 

There’s also a special – for $3.95 you get a small coffee and choice of plain, veggie, ham or bacon bagel omelets. 

I also tried the strawbana smoothie for $3.95, made with real strawberries, bananas and vanilla yogurt. 

If you go for lunch, there’s a lunch special – a ham, turkey or tuna sandwich with potato salad and dill pickles for $4.25. 

For healthy alternatives, there are pocket sandwiches prepared in pita bread, as well as a good selection of salads. 

The cafe has a great patio with bistro tables and shaded by a verdana. Most times when I come here, I order a coffee and some breakfast and sit down with a newspaper. 

Others do the same and it’s a nice place to meet up with a small contingent of friends. 

Cafe Verona is located in the Ralph’s shopping center, 1138 S. Diamond Bar Blvd. in Diamond Bar. For more information, call (909) 860-2044.

Dining on a budget: Bean Sprouts Vegetarian in Arcadia

By Evelyn Barge

I’ve been known to develop strange food obsessions.

Jellied cranberry sauce, at any time of year. Cheetos-brand bacon-cheddar crackers, which are less about cheese and more about a cheddar-flavored paste substance. Cottage cheese and sliced black olives – together.

But I recently had a food re-awakening and started forming some dietary habits that are actually good for me. And guess what? Healthy food is addicting, too.

Now I feel deprived if I don’t start my day with a banana, or if I forget to add avocado to my sandwich at lunch.

My desire for a healthy menu that, most importantly, tastes good brought me to Bean Sprouts Vegetarian Restaurant in Arcadia. It’s one of a limited number of veggie-friendly eateries in the San Gabriel Valley, and a popular one no less.

I’ve had great success with West Covina’s One World Vegetarian Cuisine, from which I frequently order take-out, but it was time to expand my horizons.

The offerings at Bean Sprouts trend toward a variety of Asian dishes, all vegetarian, with lots of noodle and rice plates to choose from.

Sitting down in the dining area, which is immaculate and modern, a menu on the table was placed with the lunch specials facing up. After that, there was almost no reason to turn the page, save for curiosity.

The lunch-hour specials are all $5.99, for a generous helping that comes with soup and a cold appetizer. For $1.99, you can add a side dish; For another 99 cents, a glass of the winter melon tea, for which people would willingly pay three times as much at Coffee Bean.

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As my main dish, I ordered the noodles with fermented bean sauce. It was an oversized portion of an average entree, anchored by (thankfully) above-average sauce. I wanted to eat the sauce and bean curd off the top, and leave behind the rather bland-tasting noodles.

The servings of fresh-steamed veggies like cabbage, carrots and celery along with the small side of rainbow rolls – all come included with lunch specials – played a bigger role in filling my contented belly.

In the past, tasteless and dry vegan sushi has scared me off from the genre as a whole, but since the rainbow rolls came as a package deal, it was a good chance to jump back on the horse.

Now I know what I’ll order next time. With carrot, lettuce and peanut powder wrapped in seaweed and rice paper topped with vegan mayonnaise, the rolls were crunchy clusters packed with plenty of flavor. I might have ordered another round, if I wasn’t already stuffed to the brim.

The side dish of pan-fried radish patties – made of shredded radish, rice flour and oatmeal – was also a stellar addition with a really unique, mild flavor. The patties held a similar consistency to scallion pancakes, but with much less sodium and much less guilt.

Bean Sprouts has its storefront on Huntington Drive in an extremely walkable part of downtown Arcadia. Next time, I’ll take advantage of its close proximity to the Arboretum and create a custom picnic bento box to bring along.

Bean Sprouts is located at 103 E. Huntington Drive in Arcadia. For more information, call (626) 254-8708 or visit www.beansproutsrestaurant.com

Dining on a budget: Koba Tofu Grill in Diamond Bar

By Maritza Velazquez

Tofu. The first words that probably come to mind are bland and flavorless.  
 
But this healthy protein-packed food is not just for die-hard vegetarians. Nor does it have to be merely a meat substitute. 

At Koba Tofu Grill in Diamond Bar, you get both. 

This Korean eatery offers a dozen selections of soon, a type of Korean soup, which combines bold, spicy broth, soft tofu, and your choice of meat served in a boiling hot pot. 

I tried the Dumpling Soon Tofu, which features delicious beef dumplings and small slices of beef. Unlike many other soups I’ve tried, there’s no fishing through the broth to find the good stuff. It’s loaded with tofu.

My order came with six good-sized dumplings. Regularly $8.99, all of the soon varieties are now on special for just $6.99. To name a few, you have your choice of seafood, kimchi, seaweed, vegetable, curry, beef and octopus, or oyster soon tofu. 

28581-KOBATOFU_dining-thumb-300x225.jpgYou can order it mild, medium, spicy or very spicy, depending on your degree of chili tolerance. And I have to warn you, this stuff is hot!

The weather has been heating up too, so if you’re not willing to tolerate the spice amid 90-degree temperatures, you can also try some of the other dishes and specialties Koba has to offer.

The restaurant also offers dishes like tofu and vegetable salad, pork bulgogi, barbecue beef ribs and chicken teriyaki. 

All of the Korean soon come with a plethora of side dishes. When I ordered, I had no idea I would be getting a mini feast – bean sprouts in a sesame sauce, fried fish, kimchi, white rice, potato salad and garden salad were a few of the offerings. And for dessert, you get a tiny cup of tart frozen yogurt. 

I enjoyed most of the sides with a few exceptions – I hated the garden salad and spinach, and the kimchi definitely wasn’t up to par. 

The servers weren’t particularly friendly either, but they did bring out the food quickly, and kept it coming. Anything else I needed (like refills on water and the check) was promptly brought to my table after waving them down. 

All in all, I had a good experience at Koba, which also has locations in Irvine and Fullerton. For under $10, I got a huge meal, with more than enough food to spare. 

The decor is great, too. A very clean, modern restaurant with dark woods, soft lighting, and calming wall colors, this place was a great find. 

Koba Tofu Grill is at 2839 S. Diamond Bar Blvd. in Diamond Bar. For more information, call (909)839-2898.

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.