sbritchky's Profile

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Peppers for Chicago Style Hot Dogs

There are two Portillo's in Southern California -- one in Buena Park and a newer one in Moreno Valley. In my experience, they offer the best Chicago dogs and beef outside the Chicago area, but having eaten at both numerous times, I'd bet that some of the California teenagers working there can't pronounce the name of Portillo's home state. Keep alert, because they also forget the gravy and the hot giardiniera on the beef occasionally, and I can't imagine that happening back in Illinoiz.

By the way, let me take this opportunity to correct a mistake I've been making ever since the first location opened out here a few years ago. Something, somewhere on the Web convinced me that Portillo's didn't use Vienna Beef hot dogs, and I was further encouraged in that belief by the fact that, unlike almost every other stand I know in Chicago (Superdawg being the major exception), the famous Vienna "V" sign (overlaid with a hot dog on a fork) is nowhere to be found at Portillo's. Why wouldn't you advertise your best and best-recognized product?

But a while back someone on this board with inside connections challenged my ignorance and said that Portillo's was indeed a V shop, so I started a correspondence with Portillo's and, separately, Vienna Beef. Each confirmed a proud association with the other, but neither would answer my question, "Why don't you shout that to the world?"

I still didn't want to believe it, but when I stopped in Buena Park a few days later for a hot dog, I thought it was really good. Then I noticed they had given me a jumbo dog by mistake, and now I know what to order for a genuine taste of Chicago street food. (I lived there for a dozen years, so the urge is frequently strong.)

Getting back to the OP, at their carryout counter, Portillo's sells everything but the chairs -- hot giardiniera, beef by the pound, etc. I'll bet you could purchase sport peppers, buns, and everything else in bulk. Alternatively, you can order everything direct at: http://viennabeef.com/ .

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Portillo's Hot Dogs
8390 La Palma Ave, Buena Park, CA 90620

Portillo's Hot Dogs
12840 Day St, Moreno Valley, CA 92553

Apr 22, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Pentecostal Church BBQ

I think you mean the Prayer Assembly Church of God in Christ at 442 E. El Segundo Blvd. I've had them on my list for some time, but, as you note, the weekly window of opportunity is small.

Apr 16, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Bread flour in San Diego

King Arthur is everywhere, as pickypicky notes, but what is it you don't like about Gold Medal? I don't know about their high-protein bread flour, but they sell a good lower-protein flour that Pann's in Los Angeles uses to make the best biscuits in Southern California.

Apr 11, 2009
sbritchky in San Diego

Best cheesesteak

I finally got to the Jolly Jug, and I enjoyed the beef sandwich, although it's far from my favorite. I didn't try the cheesesteak. The meat in the French Beef Dip was quite dry, but thin-sliced and tender, and the dipping gravy helped significantly. This place has the look and feel of an inexpensive bar and grill on the road back from Vegas, and I wish it were. The bar is obviously a major attraction -- all but one table of my fellow customers congregated there, and they sounded like they were having fun.

Apr 10, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Street Food Wedding!

Determine the current whereabouts of Fredo's former owner -- Dan -- and have him stop by to cook up his great cheesesteaks for everyone. He's a very friendly and sincere guy who would make your guests feel special. This would be more Pasadena street food than LA ;-), but Dan can communicate in both languages -- he's no Sy Stallone, you know wud I mean? It could get a bit expensive, however, because you'd have to hire security to keep out a large contingent of uninvited 'hounds from this board. ;-)

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Fredo's Phillys
720 N Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91104

Apr 10, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Porto's Cakes?

I haven't cared for the couple of cakes I've had at Porto's, but I think ninja has hit the nail on the head. Try the individual portions and choose accordingly. In fact, I'd be very happy if your Cuban husband told them the tres leches cake needs to ooze some of those leches, and they changed their recipe!

Apr 10, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Yxta Quickie

You're certainly right about Topolobampo and the Frontera Grill, SilverlakeGirl. I went to both quite often the last time I lived in Chicago (early Nineties), because they were almost exactly midway on the hike from my office in the Loop to my home on North State. Lots of imitators now, but back in the day, Rick Bayless was creating an unfamiliar and delicious alternative to the queso, arroz, y frijoles approach. Chicago has always had wonderful Mexican restaurants in the neighborhoods -- and not just tacos and burritos -- but this was the first where millions of tourists walked (and often kept walking because of the strange-sounding foods, but Bayless delivered a great product and is a fine showman, so he survived and prospered). I haven't been to Topolobampo in years and assume it's still as good.

Getting back to Yxta, you're partly right when you speculate that their chips are not homemade. As my waitress explained the other night after I objected to them -- and I gave details about the lousy texture, the stale flavor -- the tortillas for the chips, unlike the ones they use for soft tacos, come from elsewhere, but Yxta cuts them up and fries them in-house. When I heard that, I put my foot down (not too hard -- she was very cute) and insisted on new chips made from their own good tortillas. I paid a $1.50 surcharge, which I'm sure they invented on the spot, but these were infinitely better, as I said to this perplexed girl, who apparently had not received the overwhelming number of complaints the original chips deserved. I also got her to replace the rather ordinary table salsa with a nice mole and had many pleasant nibbles between courses.

P.S. You cooked with Diana Kennedy et al.? Very impressive -- what else could anyone need on a resume! Have you written about the experience for the chowhound topical boards?

Apr 09, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Road Construction Ahead - Uneven Pavement at Susan Feniger's STREET (or, A Great Concept Still Needing Some Polish) [Review] w/ Pics!

I'd say they have very banana-y banana-cream pie (and it's not bad at all), but the tres leches is their outstanding dessert, IMO, overflowing as it is with flavor and leches.

In a few days I'll report on my first BG visit in years.

Apr 08, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Where can I find good ceviche in LA county?

Babita has several ceviche-style dishes, and I've always loved the tequila-cilantro-cured salmon sope -- until yesterday, when it lacked the usual luscious taste and texture. That was the first time in my experience that this preparation was less than great, and I have every reason to believe it was just an off night.

Apr 08, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

What's the spiciest (yet still edible) Dish you've had in LA?

I don't know how anything could be hotter in its effect than Babita's full-force shrimp Topolobampo, sel, because most people with sensitive tastebuds reach sensory overload long before that last habanero kicks in. Lake Michigan may not have as much water as the ocean, but a man overboard wouldn't notice. (I wish the Lake had been standing by when I ordered that shrimp at Babita a few years ago!)

On a related note: I understand the appeal of spice -- in addition to taste, the health benefits, the endorphin rush, etc. -- but what is the attraction of *ueber*-spicey? As someone who grew up in California and Texas border towns, I love hot but reject hyper-hot, because I also want to taste the food.

I had dinner at Babita last night and should have asked Roberto Berrelleza his views on the subject, since he's the creator of one of the hottest dishes around. Next time I will.

Apr 08, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Yxta Quickie

"I have had better Mexican food in rural Iowa than I had at Mexicali Cantina."

I haven't been to Mexicali Cantina, but I once had outstanding Mexican food in rural Iowa while traveling cross-country on a bicycle. I happened upon a small town where several restaurants catered to migrant farm workers, and the Mexican food was simple, delicious, and very cheap. For those who won't be in Iowa anytime soon, try La Simpatia in Guadalupe (near Santa Maria) for a similar experience.

Apr 08, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Mantou bread near UCLA

Stephanie, if you can't find it at a suitable bakery, call any 99 Ranch Market -- it's probably in the freezer case.

Apr 08, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

BBQ at Atwater Village Farmer's Market

When you step up to the table, you'll be talking to the world's leading experts on the question of which Big Mista' items reheat best, and they're friendly folks. I'd bet serious money they can also tell you the right way to reheat whatever you buy for dinner.

That was just to stay on topic. You obviously haven't been to Big Mista' before. Otherwise, you'd know that you cannot possibly get home without devouring the BBQ in your car!

"Uh, Dear, uh, I'm not very hungry, but I got this really tasty TV dinner for you ...."

Apr 08, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Best Baguettes

Whoever makes the baguettes for Boneyard Bistro. Does anyone know who that is?

Apr 07, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

What's the spiciest (yet still edible) Dish you've had in LA?

As part of a small project (report coming within a week) visiting or revisiting several new or old-favorite "sophisticated" Mexican places, I decided to throw in the Border Grill, where I hadn't eaten in years, because of exilekiss' review of Susan Feniger's new place, Street. I found that the Two Hot Tamales compete on spice against Babita's shrimp Topolobampo -- the hottest dish I've ever had -- with their ono ceviche. It screams with heat but is still much-less hot than Babita's shrimp (which takes "over its victims‘ bodies like an ebola infection," in J. Gold's description) and is disappointing because the fire comes from a mound of serrano slices (with a few small pieces of rocoto), rather than from an interesting and carefully composed sauce. To my taste, both dishes are much too spicy for delicate seafood and remind me of extremely hot vegetarian dishes I had at an Indian restaurant in Singapore, in the sense that the underlying food wasn't aggressive or substantial enough to carry the heat.

Apr 07, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Who has the Best Pizza Margherita (Neapolitan Style)?

And at Bollini's you can watch your pizza bake in their Italian oven, where the wood fire burns brightly off to the side of the thin pies, adding smoky flavor and creating the intense heat required for pizza napoletana crust.

Apr 06, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

BBQ at Atwater Village Farmer's Market

I'm glad you liked it, maxzook, but must hasten to add, Heck! (Make that: Aw, Heck! ;-) I had forgotten a family obligation out in the desert and, once again, missed the mac and cheese. Top Five, huh? I've got to have that M&C. By the way, as much as I like Big Mista's brisket, I think his pork ribs are even better -- don't tell anyone down Texas way I said that -- so I recommend trying those (also) next time.

I'm with you on Goode Co. I work with Johnson Space Center and get to Houston fairly often. Alongside their beef, GC serves excellent pinto beans and jalapeño cheese bread in several nice sit-down restaurants, but they're so popular that the output can be a bit inconsistent. Sometimes the beef is exquisitely juicy and tender; occasionally it's a little dry, which I might react to more negatively than other BBQ fans. Of course, many Houstonians would say, "No, don't go to Goode's -- here's a map to a little shack that has no telephone or regular hours and they serve REAL Texas BBQ!"

Thanks for the fine report and for giving me even more motivation (if that's possible) to intersect with Big Mista's M&C as soon as I can.

Apr 06, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Where can I find some good southern/soul food?

JR's is one of those small chains where the individual locations seem to vary significantly in both food and service, Bellflower being my favorite, Victorville my least favorite. The last time I had the pork ribs (I forget which location -- probably Orange), they were chewy, gnarly, and grisly, but I do remember a pulled-pork plate a year ago that was good. The dark-meat chicken isn't bad -- moist + crisp -- if not drowned in that strong sauce. (Request it on the side.) For me, however, JR's is a place to go for whatever, as long as I can get their hushpuppies and greens. Hint: If the hushpuppies are cold, send them back. They make a phase-transition from glory to ball-bearing when allowed to sit around.

P.S. to JazzBeau down the thread: Yes, their sweet ham is good, but, darn it, I want country ham!

Apr 05, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Where can I find some good southern/soul food?

I saw some of those waffles go by with huge chicken wings on top (no biscuits, of course), and they looked great, but I've never had them at Pann's, for the same reason that I haven't tried the bouillabaisse w/garlic toast, their Friday night special. The thought of not having Pann's biscuits makes me shudder. In fact, I apologize for even mentioning the possibility.

Apr 04, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Baby's A LIttle Closer: Baby Blues BBQ in West Hollywood

Thanks, a_and_w. It's an extended, three-phase odyssey, each part lasting one or two centuries, or so my aching stomach believes.

I'm nearly done with the first phase -- visit 20-25 local places -- and will soon embark on the next one, a two-week driving trip around the Midwest, Texas, and the South. (I'm not going to directly compare Los Angeles to the stomping grounds of classic American BBQ, but I do want to check my memory of past greats.)

Then comes phase three, revisits to 10-12 local joints.

According to my BBQ attorneys, Grillburn, Rub & Sauceheimer, the U. S. Constitution requires all three parts. Obviously, I rejected the proffered alternative -- conduct the review in England, France, or Norway, instead, with their much-looser legal rules, although that Norwegian pulled lutefisk can be mighty tempting! ;-)

So the report is not yet "in the mail," but it's coming (and I have been noting intermediate results, here and there).

Apr 04, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Mushrooms in OC

I used to get fresh morels and porcini in the Bay Area quite regularly, and they made great eating. I'd be extremely interested to find either variety anywhere in Southern California.

Apr 04, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Baby's A LIttle Closer: Baby Blues BBQ in West Hollywood

That doesn't sound anything like the dinner I had at the Venice store recently. I'll have to try the new place soon -- thanks for the review!

Apr 04, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Where can I find some good southern/soul food?

Pann's is soulful, if not Southern. They have a large menu, including the OP's smothered pork chops, but last night I had fried chicken with mashed potatoes and brown gravy. Three of the four chicken pieces were outstanding -- fine crust (not as heavy as the Golden Bird I always enjoyed at the old Porky's) covering moist, tasty meat. The fourth piece -- the breast -- had the same crust, but the meat was not nearly as moist. Chicken breast always suffers when it isn't given special treatment by the kitchen.

The biscuit was wonderful (isn't it always?), but the real surprise was the New England clam chowder, often a dud at homey cafes, with oversized, overcooked vegetables suspended in library paste. At Pann's, the broth was flavorful and creamy, and it held nothing but a few potatoes and onions and lots of really good clams -- not a tough one in the bunch tonight. However they were obtained and prepared, the clams seemed to be absolutely fresh and were barely cooked to a tender turn.

As always, I had seriously friendly service from a very nice waitress. It was one of the best meals I've had at Pann's.

Apr 04, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Porto's Bakery - what kicks ass?

Will, take a look at the OP, and you'll see that Prof. Salt mentioned the sweet pastries while wondering what was good beyond the sandwich and potato balls he had for lunch. To summarize my answer: "A few things at Porto's are OK, but nothing that I've ever tried there is outstanding."

Apr 03, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Porto's Bakery - what kicks ass?

Forgot the links ...

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Jones Coffee Roasters
537 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

Porto's Bakery
315 N Brand Blvd, Glendale, CA 91203

AP-Petite
140 N Lake Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101

Apr 03, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Key Limes? Where?

Every little key lime I ever had in Miami was yellow, not green.

Apr 03, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Porto's Bakery - what kicks ass?

I've never understood the enthusiasm for Porto's pastries. As I said in an earlier thread, the guava and cheese strudel is good but has very little filling. (How else can you keep the price under 25-cents/10-lb. bag? ;-) The fruit Danish has a good and ample filling but terribly dull dough. Ditto on the dough for the cinnamon roll. When I described the dry, seemingly leche-free tres leches cake (a Nicaraguan specialty) to one of my former secretaries in Miami, this good Cuban cook was appalled. "It's supposed to ooze milk!" she said. (The fact that it comes in an individual tight-fitting tub is a warning not to expect any ooze.)

But these pork ribs vs. beef ribs arguments get us nowhere. I encourage you to try a direct comparison between Porto's and the outstanding European-style pastries at Ap-Petite. Some bright morning -- early enough so that everything is fresh -- pick up a few of your favorites at Porto's, then swing down to Ap-Petite in Pasadena for a box or bag of their tiny delicacies. For this comparison, I'd focus on the straightforward sweet pastries (pictured at http://www.ap-petite.com/pastriesando... ), not the cakes or tarts. It's important to make the trip in the suggested order, so you can have a Jones coffee at Ap-Petite with your pastries. Or just head over to the Jones roasting warehouse on Raymond -- it's not far away -- and have them make you a cup.

I did an unplanned version of this test a few weeks ago, and the direct comparison was highly revealing. Ap-Petite won going away, and I haven't returned to Porto's since.

Apr 03, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Big Mista's BBQ at your local farmer's markets

SLG, is there anyplace to sit down with your BBQ at the Atwater FM, or do you have to eat in the car?

Apr 02, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

Big Mista's BBQ at your local farmer's markets

Big Mista' BBQ is worthy of your attention, exilekiss. And, yes, Mrs. Mista' makes M&C only occasionally and it's reputed to be outstanding. (I haven't had the pleasure yet, unfortunately.) But get there early, if you're coming on Sunday -- they'll be serving 10a-2p -- because it doesn't last long. As you know, M&C is one of the most sought-after BBQ accompaniments, so excitement is already building around the city, babies are squealing with joy and delight, ...!

Apr 02, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area

CHOWHOUND LUNCH....PHILLIPS BBQ & UNCLE MOKI'S

If you were thinking of going all the way down to Dinah's on Sepulveda, you should have tried Pann's, instead. Superb crusty, moist fried chicken with the best biscuits around.

Apr 01, 2009
sbritchky in Los Angeles Area