Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pinocchio's Pizza & Deli, Pasadena

Pinocchio's Pizza & Deli
1427 N Lake Ave Pasadena, CA 91104

Yesterday I cruised around the world wide web for places in the San Gabriel Valley that serve buffalo (style) wings. I have had some pretty awful ones lately-- Pizza Hut's Wing Street and Papa John's, to name a couple. People on Yelp and Chowhound had their opinions and I always enjoy the really detailed reviews. Being that I wanted to try a Mom & Pop joint very close to home, we decided to try Pinocchio's on Lake. We could practically walk there. I'm just tired of driving to Monrovia or Arcadia to eat every Sunday.

Other reviewers were correct to say the service sucks here. The crappy thing is, there is absolutely no reason for it to suck. Our server only had one table: us. Yet she stayed behind the bar, head bent down, possibly using a calculator, I don't know. I am a great patron so when I have to stoop to the level of an annoying patron by raising my hand or staring at my server to get them to look at me, it is embarrassing. I would have liked a lot more attention but instead she acted like she just didn't care. I'm sure somebody who actually needs to earn a living would care and do the job right. That's another subject.

Pinocchio's has a great happy hour everyday before 7pm, in which we partook. It's a great deal. Each appetizer is only $4! We ordered the hot wings which are served with ranch and fries and we ordered the mozzarella chili cheese fries. The wings were good, or at least fit the bill of what my taste buds were craving. They were crisp on the outside and cooked perfectly. I would have rather had them tossed in wing sauce instead of served naked. I don't like having to dunk the wing in a little ramekin of wing sauce--it just isn't the same. The ranch was bland and the fries were good. The chili cheese fries were disappointing because the chili tasted canned. No thanks.

Hubby chose the seafood pesto pizza. It was OK. The crust looked pre-packaged. It definitely didn't taste handmade. The toppings were shrimp, red and yellow bell peppers and pesto sauce. The shrimp was not cooked all the way and was previously frozen (you can always tell by the lack of flavor). It wasn't a bad pizza but when I go to a place that has the word "Pizza" in the name, I expect the pizza to be good.

We waited for our bill. I stood up with my 1-year-old who was very ready to leave, which should have given the server the hint. She kept ignoring us so I approached the bar and asked her for the bill. I HATE having to get up and approach the server for these regular steps of service to be met. Hubby actually left her a very good tip, like, 25%. I would have left only 15% if it were my wallet but he said he felt bad for the restaurant because it was empty and he thinks this server just needs to be trained. He's super nice, isn't he?

$4 is a great price for appetizers. That would be the only thing for which I'd return. I would order the wings and if I do go again, I'd like to try the fried calamari, the bruschetta and the fried zucchini.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Conrad's in Pasadena

861 E Walnut St
Pasadena, CA 91101
(626) 577-7603‎

I am a sucker for diner coffee and great service. We took our two young daughters out for a late breakfast today (the one day a week I get to pig out). IHOP was the plan but there was no parking available and I didn't feel like waiting that long to eat so we drove over to Conrad's instead. Plenty of parking and we only had to wait 5 minutes. I was glad to be there as it was only my 2nd time and their menu has a wide variety to choose from. I like that.

During the 5-minute wait, Hubby asked the hostess for a cup of coffee (he just couldn't wait) and she was very gracious in giving it to him. Hubby wanted pancakes and a giant omelet from the moment he woke up this morning. As for me, I wanted something not-so-sweet, something kinda dinner-y but still found on the breakfast menu. Alas, they did not have biscuits and gravy on the menu so I settled for their Southern Fried "Steak", scrambled eggs, hashbrowns and an english muffin. And of course coffee. Can they please get bigger coffee mugs?

"Steak" is in quotations because that is what they choose to call it. Not I. What I got was a big slab of unseasoned ground beef coated blandly and weakly with Conrad's version of southern-ness and laid on a generous plank of thick southern gravy that looked appetizing It, too, was bland. Don't they taste this stuff before they decide on a recipe to serve the public? Hashbrowns were great. Eggs were great. Coffee was great. Hubby's International Omelet was a thing of greatness. My Southern Fried "Steak" should have never been allowed to see the light of day. How did I manage to eat almost the entire thing? Because I was hungry after a boozy Saturday night house-warming party and there was ketchup on the table. There ya go.
Our server was Isaac. He was accurate, cordial and attentive. It turns out he and Hubby know each other from a long time ago when they both worked at (the late, great) Old Town Bakery. Hubby knows someone at EVERY restaurant we've been to in the San Gabriel Valley.
Will I return to Conrad's? Yep. There is a lot more to dining out than the expectation of perfect food. You can eat at home if all you want is food. The service at Conrad's was comfortable and pleasing as well as genuine, from floor manager to cook to hostess to server to busser. We'll be back.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Souplantation, Pasadena

201 S Lake Ave Pasadena, CA
(626) 577-4797

Can I please get a plain baked potato, anyone? Yes, I can at Souplantation on South Lake in Pasadena. If you're on a weight loss diet like I am, you might agree that there aren't enough restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley that offer baked potatoes. Sheesh, you can't even get a simple baker at freakin' Dennys!
This month, Souplantation is having their "Potato Fest". They always have baked potatoes but now they also have baked sweet potatoes (in golden foil), roasted potatoe focaccia, potato leek soup and a few other potatoey recipes. My husband had several servings of the focaccia, which I think should actually be called "Potatoes Au Gratin Pizza"--it looked AMAZING but its not a food I allow myself to eat.
So I had my little baked potato and topped it with their good chili. The potato hit the spot. It was so hot and creamy inside. Why can't I make them that good at home??
There wasn't much to choose from in the fruit department as melons just aren't in season now. I think I saw mostly oranges and apples, so I didn't bother.
The soup selection today was more generous than usual and there were only two pasta selections, one being mac & cheese, to my 4-year-old's delight.
Service was excellent. We walked in carrying an infant in a bulky baby carrier so after we got our salads and paid, a floor person helped us carry our trays to a table in a quiet corner. He seemed like a manager type but I did not get a look at his name tag. Very friendly guy. The busser, Juan, kept our table clean the entire meal. I am always pleased with the service at this location.
Souplantation has good-tasting healthy food and if you gotta have a buffet feast, you really can't go wrong by limiting yourself to everything they have to offer. Just don't go crazy on the bread (my favorite and I didn't have any of it this time).

Friday, January 2, 2009

Carmine's Italian Restaurant & Bar South Pasadena

My husband and I eat here for birthdays, comfort food for a job well-done or just any old day. There is another location of this restaurant in Arcadia but we like the South Pasadena location better because it is open just about all the time (the other one is closed on certain days and hours) and the ambiance is more comfy and interesting.
Carmine's knows how to do pasta, that's for sure. And the portions are huge-you'll always need a box to go. The prices went up in the past couple of years but that goes for everywhere else, too. It's still a good value.
They serve a basket of hot crusty rolls and butter when you order your drinks. Very good bread, easy to get filled up if you're not careful.
If you order a meal that comes with soup or salad, get the caesar salad. It's unique and so good. This salad has the regular romaine hearts, croutons and parmesan but it also has olives, a little tomato and rainbow rotelle, a really nice touch. It's hard not to eat the whole thing but I don't in order to save room for the gnocchi, my favorite dish at Carmine's.
You can get the baked gnocchi or gnocchi Carmine. Either one is a great choice, so I toggle my decision each time I go. The baked gnocchi is served in a boat dish, topped with thick, bubbling, hot-as-hell mozzarella that has melted and browned to perfection. The gnocchi Carmine is served in a large pasta bowl and tossed in a red garlicky sauce, sprinkled with a little parsley and grated parmesan. I wish I knew what was in this sauce. I'm addicted to it.
Their dessert menu is full of beautiful choices--there is a picture of each confection. Too bad I've been too full after every meal there to even try to order any afters.
The service is hit or miss, unfortunately. The bussers are usually diligent and are the ones who bring your refills on soft drinks. The servers sometimes forget about you, especially when you sit in the back corner, like we have a few times. It's really annoying and a disappointment when you consider how great the food is--you want the place to be better. Even the servers who have been there a long time don't do a great job. One time our food took about 40 minutes and our server just ignored us the whole time, looking over once in a while but never in the eyes. Then when the food came out she acted like nothing happened, didn't apologize or anything. I thought that was strange and disrespectful. A lot of the servers we've had seem forgetful, stressed, or unhappy. But I have had worse service elsewhere. I just don't like being forgotten.
Carmine's also has a full bar with sports, karaoke and billiards. Great margaritas! I've been to a few parties there. It's a fun place. The restaurant area also accomodates large parties. I've been to a few of those, too.
The owner is often around, working, greeting and seating patrons. He's friendly and likes to chat with people. You'll know him when you see him.
So I say, eat here, enjoy the food and don't take the service personally.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Puebla Tacos No. 3 Pasadena

Puebla Tacos III‎
2057 N Los Robles Ave
Pasadena, CA‎
(626) 296-3390‎

I believe this is the closest restaurant to our house. We could probably walk there,eat and walk back home comfortably. We haven't done that yet. But we have gotten their food to go several times. It's good!
They make chicken similar to El Pollo Loco. It is as good if not better and to boot, it doesn't glow yellow-orange. It's regular chicken-colored chicken.
Even better is their fresh salsa. It is not too oniony, something I appreciate. It isn't pureed or mashed up in anyway. You can see every single ingredient and everything is FRESH. Lots of tomatoes and just enough cilantro. I believe they make a mild as well as spicy version.
So far, so good. Now to the best thing I've tasted ANYWHERE in a long time: The Torta de Milanesa. A torta is Mexico's version of a sandwich. The difference is, the bread is not sliced, it's on a large oblong roll that is slightly crusty on the outside and very soft on the inside. And milanesa is the same as chicken fried steak or breaded thin steak. Puebla lightly grills the bread with a little butter, then there is mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion and the meat. I ordered mine without onion and added avocado but the torta is SO good it doesn't need the extra flavor from the avocado.
I remember my husband bringing home lunch last week and opening the styrofoam box to find a giant sandwich wrapped in yellow paper and thinking, "this looks ok, I guess." Then I took my first bite and said, "Whoa, this is so good!" Ask my husband, it's true! He got himself the Torta de Al Pastor (not sure if I said that right). Al Pastor is marinated pork, so it's very juicy, kinda saucy, like bbq. He contends the Al Pastor is better than the Milanesa but I am sticking with the Milanesa. Oh yeah, he went back and brought home the same thing for lunch the next day. Needless to say, I was not on my diet for the week of Christmas. Boy was it fun.
About the service at Puebla, it is professional and surprisingly fast. The restaurant is small but has about 10 tables inside and its clean. The parking situation is kind of a doozy as there is only one in-or-out driveway and the parking lot gets very narrow in front of Puebla. Only confident, skilled parkers should park in that area. The prices are alright, not the cheapest, pretty mid-range. They can accomodate very large orders and catering.
Go there. Bring me some salsa on your way home.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Everest Burger in Altadena

Everest Burger
2314 Lake Ave
Altadena, CA 91001
(626) 797-820

My husband brought home Everest burgers today with some fries and fried zucchini. He got the pastrami burger and I got the cheeseburger. I was really in the mood for one and I hardly ever eat them anymore, which might be why I have such high expectations.
The cheeseburger looked pretty good, except for the patty which was sadly anorexic. I liked the thousand island dressing on it. That makes it taste like a real old-fashioned burger. The bun didn't taste fresh. The burger was O.K. but not the grand feast of juicy charbroiledness I was anticipating.
The biggest disappointment was the fries. They're really thin-cut, which wouldn't be a bad thing except I couldn't taste anything but oil. They were bubbly, too. Maybe they were left overs and they refried them? Not good. Actually pretty bad.
My husband always gets their fried zucchini and thinks it is delicious. I disagree. Thank goodness it comes with ranch dressing. The batter is crunchy, which is good, but haven't they ever heard of spices? It has no flavor at all.
I didn't get to taste the pastrami burger but it looked good. It had the same thin patty as the cheeseburger and a nice healthy pile of pastrami. Hubby said, "Mmm" at least twice whilst munching his lunch.
I'm new to this area and would be very grateful if someone could point me in the direction of a better burger than Everest.

photo from

Thursday, December 18, 2008

B-Man's Teriyaki & Burgers Pasadena

B-Man's Teriyaki & Burgers
(626) 568-0386
3007 Huntington Dr

Pasadena, CA 91107

Arriving at this restaurant on the Northeast corner of Huntington and San Gabriel you'd think you were actually in ritzy San Marino but you're not. Though you can see the Welcome to San Marino sign accross the intersection, you're not there. You're in East Pasadena. The edge.

B-Man's became familiar to me after working next door to the establishment for a couple of years. It is always busy. The owner is almost always there, cooking and expediting orders. And for such a typical-looking fast food joint its menu offers more variety than you might expect.
B-Man's is known for its teriyaki and burgers but they also have curry fries, spam musubi and tofu skewers to name a few unexpected selections.

My last visit was in November 2008. My daughter and I shared chili fries with cheese (costs extra) and a combo bowl of teriyaki beef and chicken with avocado on top (also costs extra but definitely worth it). The chili is made with big chunks of chicken, a welcome healthy alternative to your normal beef chili. It has some kind of sweetness to it, like it's laced with their teriyaki sauce. I asked the manager if that's what's in it but he said it wasn't. Whatever it is, it is delicious. Their fries are thick,top-notch and go best with just some salt. I would say ordering them with chili and cheese is just going overboard but sometimes ya gotta splurge, right?

The combo bowl is huge. The teriyaki sauce has the perfect flavor and thick consistency I look for in fast food teriyaki. The chicken and beef are good quality, meaning, they leave out the gristle. They really pile it on, too. I get mine with avocado on top. To me the creaminess of the avocado dovetails perfectly with the other flavors in the bowl and I aim to get "the perfect bite" with each fork-full.

I did something different this time. I ordered the bowl with brown rice. I had never noticed it on the menu before that day and I can't tell you how happy it made me! I no longer have to feel guilty and/or cheat on my diet when I go there. Brown rice is in my diet but white rice is not. I wish more rice-y restaurants would offer brown rice. Thank you, B-Man's!

On previous visits I have had the Avocado & Sprouts Sandwich. It rivals their teriyaki, it is so good. And I'm a self-proclaimed carnivore! Even a meat eater like myself cannot resist crispy fresh produce on a soft french roll. Try it and don't hold the onions.

The prices at B-Man's could be lower. That is my only little complaint. It's not a big enough gripe that I won't go back. I've been back again and again. But I keep ordering the same thing! When I find a good thing I stick to it. I haven't even scratched the surface at B-Man's!