El Jacalito (Lomita, CA)

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El Jacalito is a locally owned shop that provides authentic Mexican and Oaxacan food. This small hole in the wall seats 15-20 people comfortable. Unfortunately, the parking is a mess. Nothing but limited street parking available.  Never having had Oaxacan food before, I had to give the Tlayuda Tres Carnes a shot.  It came with pork, sausage, and beef? over a bed of cabbage, string goat cheese, and beans on a crispy tortilla.

The flavors, however, were a big miss.  The meats weren’t grilled and had a very funky taste to them.  I actually enjoyed the beans, cheese, and cabbage, but everything else was forgettable.  Even the delicious looking wet burrito was disappointing.  Tons of fatty, flavorless meat with questionable vegetables tossed in. (corn, green beans, wtf?)  If anyone has a legit burrito spot to suggest, I’m all ears as this was a big time let down.

24609 Narbonne Ave
Lomita, CA 90717
(310) 325-6429

2 stars

Sakae Sushi (Gardena, CA)

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Cash only, street parking, no drinks, no dine in.  With that said, this is some of the best take out sushi you could possibly get. I look for reasons or make up excuses to go to Gardena just so I can order some of their glorious inari.  I usually get a few California rolls (made with seasoned shrimp instead of imitation crab), saba, ebi, and inari. Their attention to detail and quality is very impressive. Since it’s take out, the expectations are low but that will thought will be quickly erased after the first bite.  Easily the best California rolls and inari you could get anywhere. The rice is seasoned and cooled to perfection. It’s so good I don’t even bother with soy sauce.

Although it’s cliche as hell to say, Sakae is the definition of a hidden gem. The ordering area is about the size of a bathroom and there’s no dining area, but that doesn’t stop the brilliance behind the counter.

1601 W Redondo Beach Blvd
Gardena, CA 90247
(310) 532-4550

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Recipe: Maryland Style crab

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For two servings:

  • 2-3 lbs Blue crab or Dungeness crab (dungeness crabs will have more meat)
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • Salted butter
  • Minimum 1 gallon cooking pot with lid
  • 1/2 cup vinegar & 1/2 cup water

I’ve been making this dish for years.  It always kills it at parties and people beg for the recipe.  It’s a simple, quick, and delicious dish that anyone can make.

  1. Using the cooking pot, bring a half cup of water and vinegar to a boil.
  2. Place the crabs into the pot and cover with lid.
  3. Leave on high heat for 10 minutes then turn off heat and leave covered for another 10 minutes.
  4. Remove crabs from pot.  Season the crap out of the crabs with the Old Bay.
  5. Serve with melted butter and you’re done!

Fishbar (Manhattan Beach, CA)

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Fishbar is a cozy restaurant that’s a quick stroll from the beach and offers an excellent happy hour menu.  There’s convenient meter parking and a parking lot across the street as well.  Majority of the dishes will run you from $10-$30, however, the happy hour offers a good selection of affordable dishes and drinks.

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The lobster mac and cheese ($6.99), garlic fries ($2.50), and oysters ($1.75) are happy hour gems.  On a recent trip, I got myself the grilled lobster.  Split, seasoned, and grilled to perfection.  They also offer king crab, clams, and other shellfish. It isn’t the best seafood around town, but it’s a great spot for a date or a few drinks and critters with friends.

3801 Highland Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 796-0200

4stars1

The Kroft (Anaheim, CA)

wpid-wp-1439141016723.jpgLocated in the ever so popular Anaheim Packing District is The Kroft.  They specialize in elegant sandwiches and poutines.  Poutine is a Canadian dish composed of fries, cheese curds, gravy, and some MEAT.  The line was long, but the people were enthusiastic.  The clamor all throughout the line was about the short rib poutine ($10).  I decided to be a sheep and ordered the short rib poutine with a cucumber mint lemonade ($3.50).

The first sip of the lemonade made me feel like there was a party in my mouth and everyone was invited.  Super sour, very cucumbery, and a hint of mint.  A bit of a small size for $4, but it’s worth a try.  The poutine was massive.  I was expecting a tiny box of fries but it’s big enough to share.  Within the tiny box lies a variety of flavors.  The slightly sour pickled unions, creamy cheese curds, rich gravy, and crispy fries were delicious.  However, the braised short rib was nothing to write home about.  The meat was stringy and a little too fatty for my taste.  The loco moco poutine sounded like a better idea in hindsight.  Could have been a 4/5 if the short rib was executed better.

440 S Anaheim Blvd
Anaheim, CA 92805
(714) 635-5900

3-star

Cali Comfort BBQ (San Diego, CA)

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BBQ combo; tritip, 1/2 rack pork ribs, cornbread, beans, and fries. ($20.99)

Since Phil’s BBQ is already so well reviewed I decided to hit up Cali Comfort BBQ for some ribs and fights. UFC 190 was going down and I felt like having some USA chants while destroying some ribs with my bare hands like a savage. They charge a $5 cover for the fights and the crowd seems a bit more sketchy than I’m used to but I had no problems.

Parking was insane because of UFC 190, but the staff got us a spot in no time. The tritip was beautiful.  Smokey, juicy, delicious, and tender.  Everything a smoked tritip should be.  The ribs, however, were a bit disappointing. It fell off the bone nicely and was not dry, but the BBQ sauce was lacking and the flavor didn’t amaze.  For the value, you get a lot of food and a good atmosphere to enjoy with friends.  Although, it’s not the best BBQ in the city.  3.5/5

8910 Troy St
San Diego, CA 91977
(619) 337-0670

4stars1

Tita’s Kitchenette (San Diego, CA)

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BBQ chicken, pancit, and rice combo. ($7.50)

Talk about bang for your buck.  On a recent trip to San Diego, a buddy of mine recommended Tita’s for some legit Filipino food.  Upon arriving, it seems like your typical turo-turo style restaurant, nothing fancy or visually stimulating. However, it became the game changer once I took my first bite.  The BBQ chicken and pork here is absolutely phenomenal.  It’s lathered in the delicious marinate, skewered, grilled, and charred to perfection. Easily some of the best BBQ you can get around. I’ll be daydreaming about these BBQ sticks when I’m back home in LA. Their pork adobo was also an absolute winner. The perfect tenderness of the pork and the ubiquitous adobo sauce slathered over white rice is something special.  Amazing flavors for even the uninitiated.

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Pork adobo combo ($6.50)

For $7.50 you get a 2 item combo, and at most places that’s usually enough for myself.  At Tita’s, a 2 item combo is enough for 2 people and you’ll have left overs. In other words, they hook it up FAT.  I ended up coming back here the next day for food for the trip back. They also cater for big parties and even do the whole roast pig.  Definitely check out Tita’s for some cheap delicious food that will hit you right in the dick.  And no, they aren’t family of some kind. wpid-wp-1438536303346.jpg

2720 E Plaza Blvd
National City, CA 91950
(619) 434-3879

4stars1

New Orleans Cajun & Creole Cuisine (Hermosa Beach, CA)

wpid-wp-1438411921740.jpgEvery time I go to Hermosa Beach, I stroll past the beautifully lit New Orleans Cajun and tell myself, “When you sober up, you should go here and eat some gumbo.” It took years for this to happen. Fortunately, tonight was the night I took on the challenge and decided to demolish the ultimate seafood gumbo. This bad bowl contains king crab, shrimp, sausage, chicken, and a scoop of white rice with green onions.

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Ultimate seafood gumbo ($31)

The broth has the flavor of all the seafood and some of that classic Louisiana gumbo stock. Absolutely delicious with the rice and a few splashes of their hot sauce. It came loaded with tons of shrimp, sausage, and chicken. However, there was only 4 small cut pieces of king crab. It’s also a bit salty and doesn’t have enough white rice for my Asian-ass. With that said, it’s not the best gumbo around town. New Orleans has the best gumbo on Earth, but there’s a Louisiana Fried Chicken joint in Compton equipped with bulletproof glass like a bank and has the best gumbo outside of The Big Easy (serious). On one hand you’ve gotta dodge crackheads and panhandlers, on the other you’ve got shitty beach parking and douche bags. Pick your poison.

140 Pier Ave
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
(310) 372-8970

4stars1

Sushi Damu (West Covina, CA)

wpid-20150829_212354_hdr.jpgAll-you-can-eat sushi?  With uni?!?!
Needless to say, this sounds like premeditated volcano ass in the making, but luckily my intestines were in tact after consuming the food. Parking was easy and free since it’s located in some kind of plaza/mall.

How it works; they give you a piece of paper that has three rounds. Each round you check off what you would like to have made and sent to your table. After your third round, they give you another paper to continue the madness. Unfortunately, they limit the uni to 2 pieces per person so I wasn’t able to uni the fuck out. Figured there would be some limit as uni is a premium sushi.

Besides the uni, which was fantastic, the fish quality was better than most other AYCE sushi joints. Although, that’s not really saying much as most AYCE sushi restaurants tend to have terrible to mediocre quality. wpid-20150829_214739_hdr.jpgThe ikura was a bit too salty for my taste but the salmon, yellowtail, and tuna were on point. No amaebi or toro but it’s somewhat expect for only $24.99 per person.
Overall, I’d give it a 3.5/5. The price is great for the amount of sushi you get, but it won’t keep you away from your favorite sushi spot.

1230 Lakes Dr, Ste 101
West Covina, CA 91790
(626) 699-1046

4stars1

Japonica (Redondo Beach, CA)

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Hamachi collar

Japonica provides an interesting modern take on Japanese food.  While it’s not exactly authentic, it’s got some creative fusions to make it stand out from the rest.  The interior is low lit and mellow.  Feels like a classy winebar in LAX or something.

The food itself ranges from $10-$30 a dish.  Majority of the food is Japanese style tapas.  Which means small, but delicious eats.  I usually get the hamachi collar and karage chicken. Their sushi/sashimi isn’t bad either, but it also isn’t going to amaze you. The atmosphere is more of a date environment than a stuff yourself silly type of establishment.  Parking is in the back and shared with the liquor store/bar. Cool place for a date, but definitely other places around for more bang for your buck.

1304 1/2 S Pacific Coast Hwy
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
(310) 316-9477

3-star