Monday, January 25, 2010

Goody's: The end...

I'm not a journalist. I'm a blogger. Even worse, I'm a FOOD blogger. I'm never in the position to really "report" anything...until today.

The sign was out. We didn't think much of it. Signs are often out at restaurants, although usually it's not the whole sign--just a letter or two or three (there's a "E Poll co" near where we live). The sign was out and the sign will be out forever. Last night was the last night at Goody's Restaurant.

We didn't know that when we walked into the beautiful wood paneled diner. A sweet looking, matronly waitress greeted us and told us to sit anywhere. We slid into a plush booth near the front, although just about anywhere would be "near the front" of Goody's. It's really not that big.

It was a quiet night at Goody's with more staff on-hand than there were patrons to serve when we first sat down. #1DC Antoinette and I were customers 4 and 5 at 7pm and it would max out at 10 while we were there. Business was slow.

I instantly fell in love with the mascot of Goody's. This beleaguered looking chef hanging on the wall and an even more down-trodden looking version adorning the menu.

I loved that the menu had almost a greeting card quality in its message to the patron. "To serve you is a real pleasure" may not be all that different from any other menu's promises, but the paragraph below it seemed sincere and noble. It reminded me of a Father's Day card I got my dad once. Its message was that, although I may have forgotten to say thank you all those times, know that I do. There's a kindness and familiarity in the message on that menu.

The menu itself is very small, only two pages. Slightly over 50 items if you count all the sides and drinks separately. They have a selection of a few hamburgers, a few sandwiches, a few salads, a few dinners, a few breakfasts, a hodge-podge of other items, just like a true diner. In some ways, a small menu may makes things harder because you are jumping to different categories. Do you want eggs or do you want a sandwich? They are nothing alike so you really have to weigh the differences. A more extensive menu will make you hone in by section. Do you want pancakes? What kind? Buttermilk, buckwheat, stuffed, strawberry, banana, silver dollar or flapjack, with whipped cream or not? It can be daunting.

We ordered coffee to start while we decided.

It was then that our waitress told us the news, which I am now passing on to you. Goody's was closing. After fifty years in this beautiful building, they were closing their doors. The landlord was raising the rent and the owner was moving on. And it was sad. Antoinette and I had stumbled into not just witnessing a bit of history, but being a part of it.

The neighborhood and the economy had changed. Was there no room for Goody's in San Gabriel? It is no doubt that in a few short months a new pho or dim sum place would open in this building. Now, I love pho and I love dim sum but you know what Las Tunas Avenue doesn't need? More pho and dim sum.

Goody's was winning us over already based on more than just sympathy. How would it fare with the coffee test though? Well, okay. It did poorly on that front. It was bitter and had clearly been sitting on the burner for too long. Antoinette traded hers in for tea. I soldiered on and I must say that after that initial cup, fresher coffee was made and was much better.

Antoinette ordered the Chicken Pot Pie with a salad and side of green beans. I ordered the "Dutch Treat" with spicy red cabbage.

The bread was a small, fresh baked loaf that tasted amazing. So good, in fact, we took three loaves home. The salad was simple bag salad.

This is my poor attempt at photog foodrotica close up.

The green beans were canned with some bacon and onions added. Now foodies, let me speak on this. Do not fault Goody's for using canned green beans. This place is a straight, traditional diner that uses short-cuts when necessary. It's like lambasting a ramen restaurant for having a "C" rating. It's doing it right by doing it "wrong."

The chicken pot pie plate looked amazing. The mashed potatoes were good and the gravy was probably some of the best brown gravy I have had in a very long time--salty and rich and perfect. The pie itself had a nice flaky crust and was also delightfully rich with large chunks of chicken.

The Dutch Treat was quite good. The sandwich was nice and thick with good quality ham sliced incredibly thin and layered with Swiss cheese. It could go toe-to-toe with any Canter's deli sandwich (although the pickle wasn't as good). The french fries were standard restaurant fries and therefore good. The "spicy" red cabbage was interesting. It wasn't "spicy" it just had a strong bite from the vinegar. It was also very good.

Goody's definitely won us over truly with the food. It was hearty American diner food that delivered comfort and deliciousness.

As we were eating, patron number 10 arrived: an older gentleman who sat down at a booth kitty corner to us. The waitress commented that she thought he hated that booth. He shrugged and said "Might as well." He ordered coffee and a slice of pie. I want to be that old man when I'm an old man.

Our pie options were limited to two by this time of night: chocolate cream and custard. We split a slice of chocolate. I have to say, chocolate cream pie is probably my least favorite pie. At its best, it tastes like really good Jell-O pudding on a flaky crust and at its worst, it tastes like off-brand pudding on a piece of crap. This was a good piece of pie.

Talking more with our waitress, we learned a bit more of the history of Goody's. The current owner, Salvador, started at Goody's as a busboy at the age of 14. He moved up to being a baker and then eventually bought the restaurant. It's the American dream. Sadly, he couldn't afford to buy the land and now Goody's was least at this location.

The owner is already hard at work building a new Goody's just down the road in El Monte. Next to the courthouse and the city hall, Goody's will live again. The story does have a happy ending, although I can't imagine what its like to look at the building you grew up in and have to walk away. I suppose, though, that someone else will be living their own version of the American Dream when the building reopens as a noodle bar or Vietnamese sandwich shop.

You have one last chance to see the original Goody's location in all its diner glory today, 1-26-2010. They will be serving breakfast and lunch and possibly even dinner for the last time. I would call ahead since our waitress said they will most likely close early today.

Food: Good.
Service: Friendly
Price: $6-10
Pie: Various.

For today only-
Goody's Restaurant
865 E. Las Tunas Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 286-3515

Opening in February

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Dinerwood on the Road: Hash House A No-No? San Diego and Las Vegas

I have mentioned on this blog sporadically that if I go to place to review it and what-whatever happens and I don't get to writing the review until much later, I will often just stash it away. The reviews tends to suffer with too much distance from the experience. I've been staring at this half-written review for a long time and I just recently found my notes again, so I'm going to give it a try.

A long, long time ago, I was in San Diego with #1DC Antoinette and her brother Alex. I had heard such great things about Hash House A Go Go, that I had to make a point of going there.

After a bit of a wait outside, we finally made it in. I was surprised at how upscale it seemed. I envisioned something more mod or flashy with a name that ended with "A Go Go." Art prints of tractors were not what I expected.

The menu offered a lot of intriguing options. Everything seemed to be trying too hard to get my attention. They were all yelling ,"pick me! pick me!" I did like that there was a lot of variety within the categories, like eleven different flavors of flapjacks or five different kinds of Benedicts. Nearly everything is served with mashed potatoes and a biscuit. I was trying to settle on one of the hashes or a pancake dish. I decided to go with whatever the waitress suggested.

She suggested the Sage Fried Chicken Benedict. I was surprised as that was not really at all close to either of the things I was considering. It did sound good, so I went with it.

#1DC Antoinette and Diner Lad Alex went for less frou-frou menu items. Or in #1DC Antoinette's case, what she THOUGHT was a less frou-frou item.

As soon as our food arrived, we learned that it was all about presentation at Hash House A Go Go.

It looks like someone has been watching too much "Dexter" on Showtime. This dish is a crazy mess. That's the simple sounding Granola with Milk and Fruit. Yes, that appears to be an whole unpeeled banana and a whole peeled banana. It looked pretty, but those splatters could prove disastrous for someones clothing.

(sorry for the blurry picture)

Diner Lad Alex ordered the Tractor Driver Combo. That's a big, big-ass pancake.

The first time they brought this out, I took a few bites and realized that the chicken was dangerously undercooked. Not quite squawking, but certainly kill-me-if-I-had-eaten-any-more-of-it level preparedness. The waitress took it away and soon returned with one that ended up not killing me.

Let me correct myself, at Hash House a Go Go, it's not all about presentation, it's also significantly about portion.

We couldn't finish any of our breakfasts.

I do wish that as much thought was put into the flavor of the food as was put into presentation. Part of why we didn't finish was that the food wasn't all that good. We could easily stop ourselves as there was no desire to get more of that flavor onto our tongues.

They very sweetly took my meal off the bill, which I did appreciate. If they hadn't the bill for the three of us would have been nearly fifty dollars. That's a bit pricey for the quality but not for the quantity. If you really want to go there, definitely order something to share.

Food: Not that good.
Service: Friendly.
Price: Expensive. 12.95-16.95
Pie: None.

Hash House A Go Go
3628 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
(619) 298-4646

While Las Vegas, I went with some friends to the Hash House A Go Go there. The food was only marginally better here.

I just really wanted to include the picture below since I find it hilarious and kind of gross.

This looks like a sombrero vomited up some scrambled eggs. Yum!

Twohey's--Home of the Stinko!

Moving into its 67th year, Twohey's is a San Gabriel Valley institution. Starting as a simple hamburger joint, it has grown into the massive family-style dining restaurant it is today. The cartoon figure with the tear drop and clothespin on the sign is a bit disconcerting if you don't know the story behind it (but you will by the end of this review). I didn't know the story the first time I saw the sign and it royally freaked me out. "What is wrong with Dan Castellenata? Did he just read the script for the next Simpson's movie?" Hey-ooo! #Longhangingfruit.

Since it shares a parking lot with the poster child for hideously over-hyped hamburgers--In-N-Out Burger-- parking at Twohey's can be a bit of a hassle. Twohey's looks like a building that put on an addition sometime in its lifetime, as it has basically two wings. A second dining room juts out to the side, making it a long 'L' shaped building. Perhaps the restaurant expanded and the parking lot did not?

The ample seating means that unless you arrive at peak dining times, you shouldn't have to wait for a table. And if you do arrive at the peak times, it shouldn't be that long of a wait.

If you do have to wait for a table, they provide you with free coffee. They also provide you with the eerie visage of a porcine chef carrying an end-times placard imploring you to "EAT MORE CHICKEN." I did wonder how unethical it would be if, after we were seated, I just kept going up to the front of the restaurant for coffee. My decision was that it was--IN FACT--unethical.

The walls of Twohey's are decorated in some downright fascinating collage work. There are also the usual bad restaurant paintings up in some places and a really perplexing maxi-print of a 5th grade class photo on one wall. The collage pieces feature actual antiques and, in a lot of cases ,give the year the item was made on a tiny placard next to the object. My antique dealer parents commented "There's a lot of money up on these walls."

Dolls are always creepy. Especially when pinned to the wall and watching you eat.

They may not have a plethora of pie (only apple) at Twohey's, but they really go all out with their other desserts. The display case at the front of the restaurant is filled with some outstanding looking cakes. Their chocolate chip cookies are large but still really soft and gooey. A full page of the menu is devoted to sundaes and soda fountain treats. They even sell their own brand of Hot Fudge.

It appears as though Twohey's has/had tried to do a bit of rebranding. Like James Cameron saw fit to chop "Terminator 2" down to just "T2" or how MC Hammer cut down "Too Legit, Too Legit To Quit" down to an overly complex series of hand gestures, Twohey's has "2EE's" on a lot of places and products. The above fudge for example.

And the posters advertising the imminent arrival of the "Live Maine Whole Lobsters." I understand that they may get tired of correcting people who pronounce it "two-heys" but the solution is not changing the name to "2EE's." Nobody is going to like that.

My first time in, I had to get the Stinko. I couldn't NOT order their signature dish. The Stinko, according to Twohey's legend, got its name from a female patron who upon smelling the pickle and onion-laden burger, responded with "Oh stink-o!" How charming! The onions make you cry and apparently pickles are smelly, hence the figure on the sign with the tear drop and clothespin holding closed his nose.

Truth be told, I am not a burger person. I rarely order them and when I do about half the time I regret it. This burger although rather unimpressive in size, was a pretty darn good burger stand burger. It was like how you hope the burgers at In-N-Out would be. It's not greasy. The bun is toasted and not just pressed onto a hot grill. The patty isn't too thick as to overwhelm the condiments. The pickles and onions make a great-- and in my opinion-- a not all that smelly combination.

#1DC Antoinette ordered the meatloaf sandwich. The meatloaf was really good. It was moist without being too wet. It was also very peppery. The homemade potato chips were only okay. It's hard to make them crunchy crunchy and their plate life is very short. Homemade chips just can't hold up over time. Soon they settle into sogginess.

On another visit, we brought my parents in for breakfast. I suspected they would love Twohey's and I was right. They actually went back later that day for dinner.

The Orange French Toast was pretty spectacular. The key was the orange zest in the batter. Some people think that using zest (the literal scrapings of the rind of a citrus fruit) is just a way of infusing pesticides into your food, but really the oils contained within bring a robust flavor to the dish. It is something of a culinary oddity that the part of the fruit we normally toss away has so much utility when it comes to cooking.

The pecan topping really didn't add anything to the dish. I would skip that addition unless you really like pecans. The french toast is fine as is.

My mom also ordered the Au Gratin potatoes and these were the first disappointing item we've had at Twohey's. They were mediocre.

I ordered the Roast Beef Hash. It included large tasty chunks of corned beef and roast beef. The eggs were simple but tasty.

My dad ordered the Center Cut Ham and Eggs. As always, he ordered his hash browns "extra, extra, extra crispy." The ham steaks were two nice sized cuts. The hash browns came out only "extra, extra" crispy but that was close enough for my dad.

#1DC Antoinette actually ordered off menu. She asked if she could just have scrambled eggs with diced ham. They accommodated her without any attitude, which is always nice. It's rare that a place won't do a special order (usually only chains will refuse because it throws off their stock tally for the bean-counters) but not every place is gracious about it.

With that whole page devoted to desserts. We had to order something. We got the Red Car Sundae. It was crazy good. Two scoops of ice cream in a chocolate coated waffle cone with generous helpings of strawberry sauce and marshmallow with a gang of whipped cream. It's no pie, but it was gooood.

Twohey's is by far my favorite place to eat in the greater Pasadena area. Its friendly staff, good food and cheery atmosphere makes for a excellent dining experience. I completely recommend it.
Food: Really good.
Service: Good.
Price: Reasonable, if not a little high.
Pie: Apple.

Twohey’s Restaurant
1224 N. Atlantic Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91801