The Taco Stand

The Taco Stand

Review #31

Ahh, New Year’s Resolutions.  Plenty of people will be setting themselves up for failure by making unrealistic resolutions for the coming year.  They set these grand, high goals, which are rarely met, which leads them down a road of depression, worthlessness and despair.  My plan is to set small, very attainable goals, setting myself up for success and joy.  I’ll call each one a “Mini-rez”.  The point is to not set too many, or make them too difficult.  For instance, I am going to make a mini-rez to not smoke this year.  No, I don’t smoke, but I could.  And if I did, I would definitely want to quit. If I can just still not smoke, I will feel successful.  I can do this.

I ran into Debbie this morning and she told me her New Year’s resolution is to eat more Italian food.  She made a lasagna last night and is having pizza for lunch.  This is exactly my point…a perfect mini-rez.  The big stuff in my life will improve or it won’t, believe me, the list is long, but putting all of that stress on myself starting January 1st seems cruel.  I need to give myself a well deserved break this year.  Wait…is that a resolution?

Many people plan big things for New Year’s Eve.  They get dressed up, buy tickets to a fancy event, and have reservations for a 5 course prix-fixe meal somewhere fabulous.  They drink champagne, stay up past midnight, kiss loved ones (or sometimes strangers depending on that champagne) and spend New Year’s day nursing their hang-overs.

We can’t let a little thing like New Year’s Eve slow down this blog.  We’re dedicated!  So, we spent our New Year’s Eve eating dinner at The Taco Stand.  If you have driven by, you will agree that there is almost always a huge line that goes down the block.  But not on New Year’s Eve.   It was the perfect time to go!

There are four Taco Stands in San Diego but for some reason, our Encinitas location can’t get the fresh, hot churros.  That makes my friend Jennifer and her family very sad.Taco Stand churro

The Taco Stand sees large, ugly pipes on the ceiling as a canvas for opportunity, decorating them with classic pictures.  Nice touch!

Taco Stand ceiling

Their menu is simple, and very affordable. Most tacos (which are substantial is size) cost $3-$4.

Taco Stand menu

Take advantage of their beautiful outdoor patio.

The Taco Stand patio

After you order,  visit this fantastic salsa bar.  Unlike all of the other places we have been, they label which ones are spicy!  No more guessing wrong while your tongue is on fire.  Their marinated red onions and cilantro cream are delicious.  Actually, everything at the salsa bar is really great!

Taco Stand salsa bar

Every corner of every table comes with this handy drink holder.  Who invented something so simple yet so useful?  They are genius!

Our youngest ordered a carne asada burrito WITH NOTHING ELSE ON IT.  It was hefty in size, with tons of meat and a perfectly crisp tortilla.  All of the condiments were on the side, placed safely in their own containers with no danger of contaminating the quesadilla.

Taco Stand quesedillacarne asada quesadilla

The rest of us ordered tacos and beer.

Taco Stand tacos

And tacos.  And beer.

Taco Stand pork and shrimp

And more tacos.

Taco Stand fish tacosgrilled fish tacos

Hannah was brave and ordered the Nopal tacos.  The green things are cactus! (Not the avocado, the other green things)  To make these tacos more appealing, they melt and crisp a layer of cheese against the tortilla.  By the time that is done, and they throw some of their wonderful, creamy sauce inside, you could put anything else in there and it would taste great.  Even cactus!

Taco Stand Nepalese

It was recommended by a friend to order an Al Pastor taco.  When I saw this fine gentleman proudly slicing the marinated pork off the rotisserie, I was pretty sure it would be good.  It wasn’t just good.  It ROCKED!

Taco Stand pork

And these are the carne asada fries.  It’s like getting steak nachos with fries instead of tortilla chips.  Which is kind of ironic since The Taco Stand claims to be a traditional Tijuana-style taco stand.  Whatever, I’m sure they were delicious and they disappeared quickly.

Taco Stand friescarne asada fries

And now we must discuss the Corn on the Cob.  This corn is covered in a mixture of mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese and chili powder.  Being more of a purist when it comes to corn, this one isn’t for me.  But when I tell you that Tracy LOVES this corn, I mean her eyes glaze over, she hums romantic melodies and she is filled with complete euphoria as it lay before her. Hannah, who has had Mexican corn numerous times, said this one isn’t quite as decadent or as spicy as other ones she has had, but she loved it all the same.

Taco Stand corn

 

Later, the place had cleared out but we were still having fun.  One of the servers came by and asked those of us seated against this wall to lean forward.  “Excuse me?” we asked.  “Please just lean FORWARD”.  So we did, and she quickly plucked all of the pillows out from behind us!  Clearly they were ready to close, even if were weren’t ready to leave. Ok, ok, we get the hint!  And honestly, we did feel pretty cool, closing a joint down on New Year’s Eve at our age.  Even if it was only 8:30 pm.

The Taco Stand Seating

With so many taco shops here in Encinitas, what really makes the Taco Stand shine above the others?  Is it their homemade tortillas?  Is it the high quality meat they use?  Maybe it’s their awesome salsa bar.  But if you ask Hubby, the main reason to eat here is this:  Why would you eat tacos at a regular place when you can eat tacos whilst looking at a half naked woman being groped by a snake and octopus?

Taco Stand mural

 

Bottom Line:

Go for the tacos, not the burritos.  It’s called THE TACO STAND.  Listen to them!  All of the corn tortillas used in the tacos are made fresh from scratch.  My three favorite tacos in order are: Al Pastor (pork), Camaron (spicy shrimp),  Nopal (cactus).  I have referred to other taco shops in the past as CTS (crap taco shops) due to the lower quality of  ingredients and the fact that they all taste the same to me.  They are a dime a dozen and I can’t really tell one from the next.  The Taco Stand is not a CTS.  They are unique in many ways, all good ones.

Instead of lobster and caviar, we sent off 2017 with cheap, delicious tacos.  Eaten with cold beer and warm friends.  Perfect.


Next week’s blog will be at Urbn on Sunday, January 7th at 5:30pm

764 S Coast Hwy 101

http://www.urbnencinitas.com/

Honey’s Bistro & Bakery

Honeys sign

Review #30

Our oldest son, Griffin, is 16, so he’s basically never around.  But our youngest has a friend who often fills in for him. For this reason, we have given him the nickname of G2.  G2 is, in many ways, a better version of G1.  Where G1 can be ornery and argumentative, G2 is easy-going and flexible.  If I call the family down for dinner, G1 often can’t get off his phone, but G2 takes his place at the table, quick-as-can-be.  When I need help unloading groceries, there is G2 unloading pronto!  And if it’s family photo time, and G1 is nowhere to be found, well, there’s G2, happy to take his place.  Today at Honey’s, it was just our family of four, with G2 filling in as G1.

One of the worst things about going out to breakfast is the time it takes to get a cup of coffee, am I right?  I remember back in the days when I was a user, I clearly recall the anxiety I would get over going out to breakfast because of my delayed fix.  When you go out, there are showers that need to happen first, kids to wait for, the drive there, parking the car, waiting in line to order, then waiting for someone to bring you that first cup.  It can be harrowing!  Honey’s Bistro & Bakery understands.  They have addressed this problem beautifully.   As soon as you walk in the door, even if there is a line, you can help yourself to a cup of coffee!  Even before you order food!  This actually might be the very best reason to come here. There is a wide variety to choose from.

Honeys coffee

This is just brilliant!  And by the time you get to the register to order, you are the most polite, pleasant and loveliest version of yourself!

Once you’ve started caffeinating, you can appreciate the cuteness of this Bistro.  And if you don’t get a table outside, you can sit inside with the murals giving you the feeling of being right outside!

Honeys decor 1

Honeys decor 2

It’s always best to start with a “calorie-free” baked good to share while you wait for your real food.  (Remember from previous blogs, calories don’t count when it’s a shared table pastry.)  Plus this place isn’t called Honey’s Bistro.  It is called Honey’s Bistro and Bakery.  It would be doing a disservice to this nice establishment if we were not to do our due diligence in trying what they are all about.

Wanting to skip the breakfast crowds we have seen hanging out the door on other weekends, we chose to come at lunchtime today.  The bakery display case had been hit hard, but there were still some enticing goodies to choose from.

Honeys goodies

Although their homemade donuts were recommended to us, we decided for something a bit less sweet and chose a blueberry bran muffin, warmed up of course.  It was great!

Honeys bran muffinBlueberry Bran Muffin warmed up- always warm it up!

Let me explain something…The last time I went out with some friends we went to one of those, cough, cough, chain restaurants. I ordered the grilled Mahi Mahi fish tacos.  When I peaked inside the tortilla I was horrified!  There must have been less than an ounce of fish per taco!  That’s right, less than a single ounce of fish!  It was covered in cabbage and salsa, but to pay $12 for this plate was a sham!  So I have been scarred.  From that time on, any time either Hubby or I order fish tacos, I always inspect the amount of fish inside the tortilla.  Be careful if you dine with us and order fish tacos.  It has become habit and I will most likely inspect yours too.

For his meal, Hubby ordered the Mahi Mahi fish tacos.  If you are an avid Dining on the 101 reader, you might see that he orders fish tacos often, whenever they are offered.  So I would say he is an expert fish taco eater.

Honeys tacoMahi Mahi Fish Tacos

 To my absolute delight, the amount of Mahi Mahi on Hubby’s fish tacos today was impressive, if not downright abundant!  There was a generous amount of guacamole, cabbage and tomatoes, with the perfect amount of heat from the white sauce.  Hubby gave Honey’s fish tacos a 9.5/10, losing only half a point for the single tortilla vessel that fell apart.  But otherwise, outstanding tacos!

Our youngest ordered a bison burger with a side of fruit.

Honeys bison KellBison Burger

2 thick slices of properly cooked, crunchy bacon, cheese and a perfect fried egg topped this monster burger.  Even the side of fruit was better than average.  The burger stood no chance against the carnivorous jaws of our youngest.  It was inhaled.

G2, being his cooperative self, ordered the same, but with fries. Both boys loved these burgers.

Honeys bison G2

I ordered a Turkey, Feta, Spinach burger with a side salad.

Honeys turkey burgerTurkey, Feta, Spinach burger

Will you look at this thing?  Perfectly wilted spinach, heavenly grilled onions, and so much feta it can’t even be contained on the burger! And this side salad tastes as good as it looks.

Bottom Line:

Encinitas is filled with delicious breakfast nooks, and Honey’s Bistro & Bakery is one of them.   If you can steer yourself away from the cheesy, eggy, carbohydrate-rich breakfast items, you will find a menu filled with healthy, unique, homemade lunches that will pleasantly surprise you. The portions are large, and the prices are reasonable.  There is something for your whole family to love, but if you have an older PITA teenager, just leave him at home and bring a fill in.  If you don’t have one, we can loan you G2.  Honey’s Bistro & Bakery, we will be back for sure!


Next week’s blog will be on New Year’s Eve at

The Taco Stand at 6:00pm

642 S Coast Hwy 101

http://letstaco.com/

East Village Asian Diner

EV sign

Review #29

East Village is a trendy, quirky, Asian-fusion style restaurant in the heart of downtown Encinitas.  It gets crowded quickly, so be prepared to come early, or you will wait. We came on a Sunday at 5:30 pm, got a table for 10 and felt very lucky.  By 6:00 pm, it was packed.

East Village has a welcoming committee ready to greet you as you walk in:

EV figures

Strange Anime cartoons are playing for your enjoyment:

EV tv

We shared a few appetizers to whet our palates. The fried spring rolls came hot, crispy, and filled with vegetables.  Wait a sec.  What is the difference between a fried spring roll and an egg roll?  I thought spring rolls are rolled in rice paper and left uncooked, and egg rolls are fried.  But if these are fried spring rolls, doesn’t that just make them egg rolls?  Or are egg rolls considered Chinese, while spring rolls are Vietnamese? And clearly we can’t have Chinese or Vietnamese food at a Korean inspired restaurant, hence these are fried spring rolls. Not egg rolls.  Thank’s for letting me work that one out.

EV Spring rollsFried Spring Rolls (that look and taste just like egg rolls)

Step out of your comfort zone and try the Kimchi-Chive Street-Cart Pancakes.  They are fried, so obviously they’re not going to suck. They taste slightly tangy and very good.  The dipping sauce is great.

EV kimchi pancakesKimchi-Chive Street-Cart Pancakes

The Crispy Coconut Shrimp are delicious, but nothing unique.  Pounded out flat, they are fun to eat. We had to order a second basket because no one wanted to cut these in half to share.

EV shrimpCrispy Coconut Shrimp

They have soups, salads and noodle dishes on the menu.  One person from our group ordered Beef and Broccoli Noodles, and one of the kids ordered from the kid’s menu.

EV beef & Broccoli Beef & Broccoli Noodles

EV kids mealKid’s Chicken Teriyaki Rice Plate

But the main shtick here is the Monk’s Stone Pot. You choose white or brown rice for the first layer in the pot, then it’s filled with fresh vegetables, and finally you pick your protein to add in.  It’s all topped off with a perfectly cooked egg.  The best part is that it comes to your table in a sizzling-hot-burn-the-skin-off-your-fingers stone pot that you do NOT want to touch!  This amazing vessel keeps your meal piping hot from beginning to end. The rest of us ordered different forms of the Monk’s Stone Pot.  And if you, a monk or anyone else was stoned on pot, you would love to mack out on this stone pot even more!

Tracy is queen of pulled pork.  I’ve never met anyone who loves it more than she.  If it is offered on a menu, any menu, that’s it for her.  She even had “tabooed” pulled pork sandwiches served at her son’s bar mitzvah!  She’s that dedicated to the swine. Tonight, she ordered right.  This pulled pork is loaded with flavor and is down right delectable!

EV Monk Bowl porkTracy’s Monk’s Stone Pot with Pulled Pork, hold the egg

EV Monk bowl shrimpMonk’s Stone Pot with Brown Rice and Shrimp

I ordered mine with shrimp.  First you break the egg, and let all of the rich yolk melt into the bowl.  Then you wait a few minutes to let the rice sizzle and get crispy at the bottom before you dive in.  (The white rice crisps better than the brown.) The fresh vegetables cook as you eat your way through this large bowl of steaming food.  Two sauces are offered at the table.  Both are great.  Neither too spicy, just add them into your bowl and go for it. The portion of food is generous, and you will likely take left overs home.

I thought we were finished, but Jennifer, who frequents here, ordered us the Apple Wontons for dessert.  She did so without asking.  I was a little disappointed. First of all, I didn’t really want dessert tonight.  (You’re not buying that are you?  I heard what a liar I am while I was saying that.  I meant, I was going to use the ounce of willpower I could muster and not order a dessert tonight even though I desperately wanted to.) Second, she must not have seen that they had House Baked Brownie a la Mode on the menu!  (Because I saw it!  Even though I wasn’t really looking because I probably, most likely, maybe would not be ordering dessert tonight.) Apple Wontons, really?  OVER A FRIGGIN HOUSE BAKED CHOCOLATE BROWNIE WITH ICE CREAM? I’m not a fan of apple pie, so this would have been my last choice for a dessert.  But then it appeared….

EV dessertApple Wontons

Whoa.. this is definitely not just a take on apple pie!  This looks seriously worthwhile.  The ice cream served here has a purpose.  In fact, it would be dangerous to eat these wontons without it!  These sweet, appley, crunchy pillows of goodness smothered in caramel are piping hot inside.  You need to break one in half, scoop some ice cream onto your spoon, then put a piece of wonton on top.  The ice cream will cool it just enough to get it into your mouth safely.  With 10 people at our table, I only had one bite.  It was an awesome bite!  Thank you Jen!

East Village gets very crowded, and there isn’t a lot of room inside.  Those sitting in chairs along the aisle are constantly getting banged into by the wait staff.  Look at the narrow space between chairs the servers need to sqeeze through for carrying food back and forth to customers:

EVspace 2

To train for this position, men and women alike must wear body length girdles 24/7 until they are slim enough to pass through the smallest of spaces.  Sure, their faces, hands and feet are forced to unusually large sizes due to this sausage-like mechanism, but it works.

Bottom Line:

The fun-robot-toy-themed atmosphere works well for this hip, Californian-Asian fused  restaurant.  The appetizers are good, but not needed.  The Monk’s Pots are delicious, and  needed.  Get the Apple Wontons. The staff is super friendly, polite and attentive.  If you think you may want a job here, start training your body now in a full length girdle.  I’m sure they sell them on Amazon.


 

Next blog will be Sunday, December 24th at 11:30 am at:

Honey’s Bistro & Bakery

632 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas

 

 

Angelo’s Burgers

Angelos sign

Review #28

“You are one of the rare people who can separate your observation from your preconception. You see what is, where most people see what they expect.”
― John SteinbeckEast of Eden

I would like to dedicate this quote, to my hubby.  Actually, I would like to shove this quote down his throat with the chicken burger he ordered at Angelo’s last night.  He only saw what he expected to see.  But there was more.  Not a lot more, but a little more.


Angelo’s Burgers has been a part of the 101 in Encinitas since I was a wee lass.  Now that’s not to say we have ever actually set foot in this run-down drive-thru.  In fact, we have avoided it all cost.  Hubby tried to get out of going and our oldest said he refused to get what he called, guaranteed food poisoning.  What a bunch of whiners!  I tried to tell them not to judge a book by its cover.  Maybe this place is really great and we have been missing out!  Regardless, we needed to go with an open mind and a good attitude.  Hubby went, minus said good attitude, and Oldest stayed home.

Angelo's sign 2

The only way to describe the Angelo’s Burger’s building is…bizarre!  The restaurant is sort of sectioned off into four quadrants with the drive thru running through both the middle of it, and along the back side.  Not sure why they need two drive-thru lanes, does it really get that crowded?  You can eat in the area where you order food, or across the drive-thru in a separate building where the bathroom is.  Very strange set-up.

Angelo's drivein 1

It’s handy to have an indoor umbrella for back-up shade in case the ceiling stops working.  That’s just smart thinking.

Angelos inside

The menu is large.  They serve everything from breakfast food to burgers to Mexican to Greek.  Plus milkshakes and acai bowls.  They pretty much have everything covered.

Angelos menu

A woman eating dinner with her kids heard me mention my blog and came right over insisting I take pictures of her Greek salad with extra eggs.  She brings her kids here 2-3 nights a week and just loves this place.  She went on and on about how clean everything is.

Angelos saladGreek Salad with extra eggs

Then another woman, kind of assaulted me, telling me she has been coming here since 1978 and that I better write a good review.  I felt the “or else…”.  She proceeded to tell me how this is a family owned establishment and that the owners came to this country with just the shirts on their back and put every ounce of grit and sweat into this place to make it what it is.  It’s the American Dream, and don’t I like the American Dream?  She asked, not nicely.  Don’t I want to support the American Dream with a good review that can help not the owners, but now their kids who work here?  I politely thanked her and turned to the counter so we could order.  “WAIT!” she barked, not ready for me to turn away.  “They send out coupons!  All these coupons so everyone of all economic status can come to eat!  And if you don’t have enough money, they will still feed you!”  I was starting to get nervous.  There are some serious die-hard Angelo’s Burgers people here.  I felt very pressured to like this food.  Please let me like this food! And please let me order already!

Angelos coups

She wasn’t done.  “And you won’t find a cleaner kitchen or restaurant anywhere!” Now that’s two out of two strangers selling me on how clean this place is.  Did someone write a bad review on their cleanliness?  I guess I just expect food establishments to be clean, and wouldn’t really use that as a hard sell to someone coming for the first time.  I would say, ” you HAVE to try these burgers!”.  But now that “clean” has been brought up so much.  I looked deeper.  You can probably guess what’s coming next.  Not so clean!  I saw tons of dirty napkins on the floor in 3 out of the 4 quadrants we visited.  No, I didn’t get a tour of the kitchen (had they?) but I did see the girl wear a sanitation glove while handling our food which you might think is a good thing. Handling our food with two hands.  Wearing a sanitation glove.  One.  So close!

Our group ordered a variety of menu items and got back a variety of reviews.

Two boys ordered burgers.  Neither liked them much.  Christine ordered a double burger, Debbie a regular and both said they were good.  Tracy ordered a Monster Bacon Cheeseburger and liked it a lot.

Angelo burgerMonster Bacon Cheeseburger

Hubby, my lovable curmudgeon, was going to hate what he ordered no matter what, so in that sense, his chicken burger did not disappoint.

Angelos chickenChicken Burger on a wheat bun

Joyce liked her gyro with her only complaint being it had too much meat.  That’s a good problem to have!

Angelos gyroGyros

Upon recommendation, I ordered a club sandwich on wheat with a side salad instead of fries.

Angelos clubClub Sandwich on wheat

Angelos salad (2)Side Salad

The sandwich was huge, and pretty good.  The salad had a variety of vegetables, so above standard.  I did try the fries and found them to be bad.  Not hot or crunchy.

Bottom Line:

There’s a show on Food Network called Diners Drive-Ins and Dives.  Guy Fieri goes into local dumps and finds the most amazing food.  The front will look totally run down, but the woman cooking chili Rellenos in the back will be a freaking magician, using a 100 year old smoker on rare poblano chilies imported from the depths of her Mexico village.  Yah, not so much at Angelo’s.  What you see on the menu, is really what you are getting.  It’s not special, but it’s not bad either.  We came to Angelo’s Burgers with very low expectations.  Most of us left feeling that the food was better than expected.  One of us was going to hate his chicken burger no matter what, and he did.  The food is inexpensive and the staff is friendly. Don’t piss-off the regulars.  They have found something very special in this place that we must have missed.  We sure do love supporting a local mom-n-popper though.


We will be skipping a week of the blog.  We have holiday parties and will be shnockered most of the weekend!

Our next blog stop will be on Sunday, December 10th at 5:30 pm at

East Village Asian Diner

eateastvillage.com
(760) 753-8700

 

 

Better Buzz Coffee Roasters

Better Buzz sign

Review #27

Marketing meeting in the summer of 2002….

Manager:  Team, we are ready to leave the coffee carts behind and open up our first store!  But we need a catchy name.  Something people will remember.

Subordinate 1: Got coffee?

Manager: No, too tired

Subordinate 2: Perky Perculators!

Manager: You’re fired

Subordinate 3: How about, Get Buzzed or Better Buzz?

Manager: Buzz. Buzzed.  Great words.  Hey, I like that!  It’s catchy, it’s clever.  But where will we use that?

Subordinate 3: We will use it everywhere!

Manager: Will we use it as decor inside our stores?

Subordinate 3: Yes we will!

Better Buzz decor

Manager.  Where else can we use this logo?  Just in the decor?

Subordinate 3: Well, I’ve seen other places use their name on shirts, we could totally do that!

Manager: Just shirts, or tank tops too?

Subordinate 3: We are in San Diego, so tank tops too!

Better buzz shirts

Manager: Since we roast our own organic coffee, we should sell it and put this logo on our coffee bags!

Subordinate 3: In really big letters!

Better Buzz coffee

 

Manager:  Hey maybe we can put it on some mugs and people can drink our coffee from home with this slogan.

Subordinate 3:  Yes, definitely on mugs!

Better Buzz mugs

Manager: What if someone wants a bigger mug…and OH!  What if someone is wearing SHOES while drinking our coffee?

Subordinate 3: Well then we shall have it on even bigger mugs and on socks! Yes, we need it on socks!

Better buzz cups and socks

Manager: But if they have socks on, they must be leaving the house.  They can’t take their coffee to go in these large mugs.

Subordinate 3: But they can take it go in our insulated mugs with our logo!

Better Buzz insulated

Manager: Here’s a tough one.  If someone wants iced coffee….what can they drink it out of?

Subordinate 3: We will put the logo all over reusable cups with a straw!

Better Buzz cups

Manager: If they are drinking iced coffee, it’s probably quite warm out.  I wouldn’t want any of our customers to get sunburned.  And how will they keep their drinks cold?

Subordinate 3:  Hats!  They will have hats! And insulators!

Better Buzz hats

 

Manager: Now where does one store our coffee if they don’t want it in the resealable bag it comes in?  I’m stumped.

Subdominant 3:  I know!  Let’s also put the slogan on some jars!

Better buzz jars


Better Buzzed has multiple locations throughout San Diego, and the location on the 101 is delightful.  The large bar facing the sidewalk is usually packed with millennials staring at their laptops, coffee drink placed next to their smart phones.  But on this early morning, they were still in bed.

The decor is filled with Better Buzz paraphernalia.  The space has a large open concept with communal seating, that makes for a very sociable and friendly environment, unless you are sitting at the bar facing out.

Better Buzz plantIntentional crack in the wall or making lemonade out of lemons?

The large open window at the bar gives the place an indoor-outdoor feel.  It also means that a few pigeons like to hang out inside. And not just regular pigeons. These are very buzzed pigeons.  Pigeons who walk around at a speed of mach 5. One second they are at one end of the place, and then wham, they have just River-danced their way to the other side, feet moving like crazy, upper body barely moving at all.  It’s freaky. But the manager is quick on her feet to escort them right back outside.  This happens many times a day.  She said she was the manager, but I think she meant she was the pigeon manager, it’s a dedicated position that pays surprisingly well.

The menu on the wall isn’t big, but it has really great things on it.  They just need to raise it up a few feet higher so the people sitting at the table where it hangs don’t have to keep moving and ducking out of the way. First I asked them to move so I could read it.  Then I asked them to move so Hubby could read it.  Then I asked them to move so I could take this photo.  Then they flipped me off.

Better Buzz food

The staff at Better Buzz were beyond happy and helpful, obviously severely buzzed. I was told by my girl Gabi on Facebook to order the Avocado Toast, so asked the server which one they recommend.  “Get the 3 Seed Avo, add bacon and poached eggs medium” she quickly told me in one breath.  Not asked.  Hubby ordered something similar.  The server also told me to get the  Best Drink Ever. I said ok, what is it?  She said, “The Best Drink Ever”.  After a few rounds of “Who’s on First” she just rolled her eyes and pointed at the wall.  “It’s called the Best Drink Ever because we make our own vanilla powder and it’s really really really good. You will love it, just get it.”  Slow it down sister, I am a mug or two behind you!

Better Buzz coffees

Our mouths watered at the display case but decided to skip trying the goodies today.

Better buzz pastries

Luckily, when we got to our seats, we found that Christine couldn’t say no!

Better buzzed pastries

The bear-claw and almond croissant were both very flaky and delicious.

My Best Drink Ever arrived, but after one sip, it was clearly not my best drink ever!  It was soooo super sweet!  Especially after nibbling on the treats.  Way too sweet for me!  I brought it back to the counter and they quickly produced another one for me with a fraction of the sickly sweet vanilla.  Man, these buzzed girls work fast!  This version was way better and quite delicious!

Debbie, acai bowl expert, said this bowl was excellent, though next time she will remember to add almond butter to it, which is an option.

Better Buzzed Acai bowl

My avocado toast arrived and was terrific!  I love the beautiful and healthy micro-greens on top.

Better Buzzed avo toast

Three of us ordered dishes with 2-poached eggs done medium.  Only half of us got perfectly cooked eggs, the others were over.  Here is Hubby’s perfect egg cooked to medium.

Better Buzzed perfect egg

We ordered our boys some Ham Brioche sandwiches to-go since they slept in.  Again.  They were stoked and I got like 5 Good Mom points which I needed because I was in the hole for an incident that recently happened at Swami’s.  Nuff said on that one.

Better Buzzed briocheHam Brioche sandwich, bacon added because pig on pig

The only thing to really complain about this place are the stools.  The large wooden tables are nice to eat at, but the metal bars across the stools are at a really awkward height. It’s not something one really notices unless it’s wrong.  The first bar is placed way too high up, so when you rest your heals on it, you are bending your knees at a sharp and uncomfortable angle. Luckily we were there early enough so Debbie could rest her feet on the stool next to her. I chose to stand during our meal.

Better Buzzed stools

Bottom Line:

Better Buzz Coffee Roasters is really great!  We loved the food, the drinks, the staff, and the ambiance.  Dogs and pigeons are comfortable here.  And kids?  Yah, they’ve got them covered too.

Better Buzz kids

Better Buzzed kid sweatshirt


Dining on the 101 won’t be here next week-end but invite you to attend Angelo’s Burgers with us on Sunday, November 26th at 6:00 pm.

Angelo’s Burgers

 

 

 

 

Q’ero Restaurant

Q'ero sign

Review #26

If you have ever taken one of Steve N.’s spin classes at the Encinitas YMCA, then you know how brutal his workouts are.  Today’s class was especially horrible. During the last 5 minutes this morning, I was dying.  I wanted to quit.  I spat death rays from my eyes in Steve’s direction, hating him every time he joyfully told us to add gear.   Only one thing kept me going…Tres Leches.  Only one thing made me get up and push with every molecule in my being to finish strong.  Tres Leches. With sweat flying off me in every direction, legs burning with a raging fire, I glanced over at Joyce after that last minute and whispered with the last ounce of breath left in me, “We did it”.  We did it, for Tres Leches!

That same evening…

Something happens the minute you walk into Q’ero.  I don’t know if it’s the small tables positioned cozily, but not crowded, together.  Maybe it’s the authentic bottles of Peruvian wine on the shelves surrounded by South American art on the walls.  It could be the colorful table coverings, or the exotic spices wafting from the kitchen.  I suppose it’s the combination of it all.  But when you walk in Q’ero, you are transported to a small, romantic village nestled within the mountains of Peru.  I felt like we have eaten our way through all of the CTS’s along the 101 to finally arrive at the golden gates of Q’ero (Insert bright light and choir singing “Ahhhh”)

Let’s be honest.  This ain’t my first rodeo people.  We have been coming to Q’ero for special occasions since before it was even called Q’ero.  It used to be called “Amici” and they only had this one location, not two.  From the first time we came, we were in love.  I enjoy cooking, and I cook a lot.  So when I go out to eat, I want something special.  I want to enjoy a meal where I can say at the end, “Now that is something I can not replicate myself.”  That is what I get when I come to Q’ero.

Although I know about their delicious wines intimately, tonight was a sangria night.  We ordered a pitcher.

Q'ero wine

Q'ero sangriaOne pitcher of sangria

The sangria was slightly sweet and refreshing.  The fruit pieces were cut very small and we were all fishing through drained wine glasses with our forks to get to them.  Some say tacky, I say resourceful.

The 5 of us decided to share everything family style.  We ordered some of our go-to appetizers to start.  The Calamari a la Diablada is our favorite thing on the menu.  I crave this dish.  I dream of this dish.  No other calamari comes close.  It’s a nice portion to share, though I wouldn’t have a problem with finishing my very own order.  It’s that good.

Q'ero calamariCalamari a la Diablada

We also had to order the empenadas, duh. I told you we have been here before.  Empenadas are a South American version of a Polish perogie or an Indian samosa.  It’s a pastry filled with yummy stuff.  We got one order filled with chicken.

Q'ero empenadasEmpenadas Saltena de Pollo

As delicious as these empenadas are, you have to eat them with their signature spicy Aji Panka sauce.  It has a citrus flavor and is very hot. This sauce exudes greatness.

Q'eroAji Panka sauce

We got another order of empenadas filled with lentils.  We also ordered one Pappa Relenna which is a mashed potato and ground beef filled pastry.  All of these pastries paired perfectly with the Aji sauce.

Q'ero empenada

The pastry on the vegetarian empenadas was a but crunchier and sweeter than the ones on the chicken version.  Almost like a cookie.  I preferred the chicken ones, but both were great.  The morsels of beef inside the Pappa Relenna were very flavorful, but those chicken empenadas still ruled.

We asked our handsome server to please recommend some more food for us to share.  He crouched down to our table and started speaking in what I can only call… music.  His thick, Latin accent (I later learned it is Italian, but I don’t appreciate ruining my fantasy with details of reality) melted all three of us women at our table. I don’t even know what he was recommending.  “Yes” I murmured.  “Oh yes.” “Yes, YES!!” I heard in unison from both Joyce and Debbie.  I had no clue what was coming next for dinner.  Who cares.

Q'ero Antonio and CarmenAntonio (please say it slow, using the accent while reading His name) and Mama Carmen

Waiting for our meal, after a bit of sangria,  I came to appreciate the art piece placed at our table.  Seems nice.

Q'ero picture

But at eye level is this:

Q'ero toe

Mama needs a pedi!

The first thing we apparently agreed to, arrived at our table.

Q'ero chickenAjí de Gallina

One of the things I love about Peruvian food is how flavorful but still healthy it is.  Many dishes are served with quinoa and dark leafy greens.

We also seemed to have agreed to the Sudado de Pescado.

Q'ero fishSudado de Pescado

I know there is fish and plantains in there, but no clue what other magic goes in.  I was about to pour the quinoa and greens into the broth (seemed like a logical way to thicken it up before trying to split 5 ways) when out of nowhere, a hand slapped my hand!  It was connected to Carmen, ruler of the kitchen.  “No, no, no!  You place a bit of quinoa on your plate first, and then gently invite the sauce to follow!”.  So my clumsy American-esque way of dumping and scooping wasn’t appreciated here. We did it her way, and it was great!

Although we were getting full, we also seemed to have agreed on a final entree to share.  Lomo Saltado, flank steak with tomatoes and onions.

Q'ero steakLomo Saltado

This was just as delicious as everything else we ordered.  We wanted another opportunity to use the Aji Panka sauce with the meal, but everything had so much flavor and spice, it didn’t need it.

There was only a piece of onion or two left on the plate when Carmen came back to collect it.  Hubby wanted every last morsel, and literally reached out and smacked her hand!  There was a lot of slapping going on at this meal.  So far we have my hand getting slapped by Carmen, then Carmen getting slapped by Steve.  It’s my turn to slap someone!

“Would you like to order some dessert?” massaged the words of Antonio into our ears.

Q'ero cake 1Tres Leches Cake

Hubby was the only one who didn’t partake in this amazing end to our meal.  He can’t get over the spongy, milky texture of Tres Leches to unleash the decadence of this dessert.  As you can see, one piece is plenty to share for the 4 of us.  And I would like to tell you that’s what we did.  But I would be lying.

Q'ero cake 2

Here is the second piece of Tres Leches cake we ordered.  It’s the most comforting, pure, milky vanilla dessert I have ever had.  Topped to perfection with whipped cream and berries.  Worth every calorie.  You saw all the greens in the quinoa we had with dinner…so all of the calories cancelled out anyway.

We women weren’t the only ones smitten with Antonio.  As we were leaving I noticed he and Hubby in a deep man-brace saying good-bye.

Bottom Line:

Do: Go to Q’ero for a special occasion.  Hire a sitter, and have that needed romantic dinner.

Don’t: Go with a large crowd.  This location is quite small and they don’t take reservations.

Do: Start with the Calamari a la Diablada and finish with the Tres Leches Cake.  Anything you order in between will be great.

Don’t: Expect to get away cheap.  You and I can’t make at home what they are offering, so if you want it, you gotta pay for it.

Do: Get two bottles of Aji Panka sauce to go.  One for you, and one for the sitter.  There is always a jar in my fridge for frittatas, baked potatoes and soups.

Do: Come here for the servers.  Hubba-hubba.

 


Tomorrow’s blog will be postponed until I’m not sick and can taste again.

Next week’s blog will be on Sunday, November 12th, at Better Buzz Coffee, 8:00 am.  Please join us for coffee, breakfast and friendship!

Better Buzz Coffee

The 101 Diner

Review #25101 diner sign

Hubby and I decided to walk the mile and a half for breakfast at the 101 Diner.  We wanted to get there early on Sunday since we knew it would get crowded.  Our boys both gave us the bird when we gently woke them up and asked if they wanted to join us. Very well, just the two of us then!  We were happily greeted there by four other early morning blog followers.

The 101 Diner is a place I have walked or driven past many times, but have never gone in.  There is always a line out the door for breakfast, so my expectations were high.  Even at 8:30 am we had to wait a bit, but our waitress was very nice and it wasn’t long.

The indoor motif was that of a typical 50’s diner.  Booth and bar stool seating are available, with a very small back patio and some tables out front as well.

101 diner motif

The specials on the board read, “blah, blah, blah , Cardiff Crack Eggs Benedict, blah, blah, blah”.  Let’s back up for a minute.  If you don’t know what Cardiff Crack is, then you are a capitol “L” LOSER!  Seriously, stop reading this right now.  Go to Seaside Market in Cardiff, and get yourself hooked up.   But don’t sound like a total crack virgin asking for the “burgundy Tri-Tip”.  Just walk up to the counter and say, “Dude, slap me a couple pounds of crack.” Now, back to breakfast.

The Cardiff Crack Eggs Benedict comes with your standard hollandaise sauce, always delicious, but you can switch that out for the cilantro- jalapeno hollandaise sauce which you must do!  Even Joyce who hates cilantro was completely surprised at how good this was.

Our group plan of attack was to order two savory dishes, and two sweet, and the six of us would share everything.  (Well, one of us actually ordered his own Cardiff Crack Eggs Benedict, hording the plate, sharp knife pointed aggressively outward, sharing with no one.) The portions worked out perfect for the five of us to share four meals.

101 diner bendictCardiff Crack Eggs Benedict with cilantro-jalapeno hollandaise sauce

These hash browns must not be glossed over.  I am glad they didn’t ask me which way I wanted my potatoes, because hash browns would have been my last choice, and that would have been tragic! I am sure these hash browns are made with equal parts potatoes and butter, yet they are somehow not greasy.  Finally a place that knows how to crisp us their hash browns properly!

Kelly asked our waitress if he could switch out the ham in the Denver omelet for crack.  Good call my man, good call!

101 diner omletDenver omelet with Cardiff Crack, hold the ham

The Tropical Fruit Crepes came recommended from a friend, so we ordered them.  It was a fruity work of art!

101 diner crepesTropical Fruit Crepes

Someone else told me we had to order an Apple Pancake.  When a menu item is etched in glass, you must order it!

101Diner pancake sign

101 Diner apple pancakeApple Pancake

It was delicious with caramelized apples on top, and an eggy-custardy-cakey center.  Although yummy, it is not the best apple pancake I have ever had.  I think the apple pancake at The Original Pancake house is world rocking.  It brings me back many (many) years ago when I was training for marathons.  My reward after a 21 mile run was an apple pancake.  Apparently now, it is my reward after a 1.5 mile walk.

Bottom Line:

Go to The 101 Diner!  Although everything tasted great, we agreed that the savory dishes were a bit better than the sweet ones.  The hash browns are the best I have ever had.  The prices are surprisingly reasonable.  Yes, Cap’n Keno’s may have been cheaper, but I think the 101 Diner wins best value for what you get.  I recommend swapping anything meat-related for the Cardiff Crack.  Actually, just swap out anything for the Cardiff Crack.  “Hold the whip on my milkshake, but add the Crack please”…maybe.


There won’t be a blog next week, but in two weeks we go to:

Q’ero Restaurant

(760) 753-9050
Check back for date and time!