Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Original Pancake House--Try the eggs!

You will notice a bit of up and down in the picture quality of this entry. This is because this review covers two trips to the Original Pancake House in Anaheim. The first visit was around Christmas and sadly was the last review Diner Photog Charlie Chu was able to attend before relocating to Portland. The second visit was just a week ago.

The Original Pancake House does honestly look like a house. It isn't much bigger than a regular house, either. During peak pancake times you can expect to wait and since they close at 2pm, it's all pretty much peak pancake time.

It can be surprisingly douchey at the Original Pancake House. I don't want to offend any of my Orange County readers but, y'all got some d-bags down there. But for every Ed Hardy dad and Zach Morris tween, there's a family out for Sunday brunch who are just regular folks. While we were waiting for a table, an older gentleman commented to a young woman who was carrying her baby, "My wife gave birth at the hospital not too far from here. When I was finally able to bring them home, on our way we stopped here for breakfast. My son's first restaurant experience was right here."

I love that the first page of the menu is basically a Wikipedia entry on "pancakes."

Now, no matter what you order at the Original Pancake House, you're going to be eating a pancake.

Maybe just one.

Maybe three.

Maybe six.

Maybe six of them made out of potatoes.

Even the non-pancakes kind of remind you of pancakes.

The coffee is really good. The waitresses are friendly and attentive. I hardly finished a cup before it was refilled.

On our first visit, I ordered the cottage cheese pancakes. They were all right. It was a pretty subtle flavor. On the second visit I ordered the Nebraska corn cakes. When the waitress told me "good choice, they taste just like cornbread," I was really excited. They were also just 'all right.' I've had better corn cakes at places that don't specialize in corn cakes.

I hate to say it, but the best thing I've tasted at the Original Pancake House was the beef scramble Charlie ordered. It was rich and cheesy and used a pretty great seasoning on the beef.

The runner-up was definitely the German pancake that #1 Diner Companion Antoinette got on our first visit. It's gigantic. It looks a deflated zeppelin laying lopsided on your plate. It's doughy and soft and delicious. She was smart enough to order it again on our second visit.

Overall, the Original Pancake House was just okay. I gave it two chances to impress and it didn't really do that. Faced with waiting twenty minutes for some only-decent pancakes, I may be tempted to go back to the Busy Apron just down the street and take my chances.

Food: Okay.
Service: Great.
Prices: $8-$11
Pie: None.

The Original Pancake House
1418 East Lincoln Avenue
Anaheim, California 92805

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bun n' Burger - Fun n' something that rhymes with "burger"

Bun n' Burger is a place I was really excited to try. It's right in my neighborhood and has a delightfully cute art-deco exterior.

I had read an article about this place in the Alhambra newspaper and the picture that was included only showed the main dining room. It's an all-around classic design with booths lining the storefront windows and an oval counter taking up the middle.

Until my folks and I walked in that morning, I had no idea that there was a full room just out of sight. A room that can only be described as...

...the most-insane-yet-somehow-adorable-dining-room-in-existence. It's like the world's coolest flea market threw up inside.

Not a lot of diners have firearms displayed. I don't even remember seeing one at Revolver, where it wouldn't have been at all out of place.

There's a series of these pictures hanging up on the wall. They have an R. Crumb meets Norman Rockwell quality that I really appreciated.

One of the things Bun n' Burger is well-known for is their menudo soup. It's only available on weekends so that makes it more special. If you haven't had menudo soup, it's a Mexican soup made from a tomato base with hominy and tripe. You can garnish it with onions and cilantro as they have done here. Menudo is my chicken noodle soup when I have a cold. I buy it in giant cans at the ethnic market. This would actually be my first time ordering it at a restaurant. Bun n' Burger's menudo was pretty good, but not spicy enough for me.

My dad ordered the ham, bell pepper and Monterrey jack cheese omelet. It was less omelet and more folded over scramble. It was also delicious. They use honey baked ham in it so it's unexpectedly sweet.
My mom ordered the waffle breakfast. It was a pretty standard waffle. Her eggs were good but the bacon was a little chewy for my taste. It was a good cut, but just needed to be crisped up a bit.

I regret that this is where the food portion of the review turns sour. I did not like my breakfast. Chilaquiles can go wrong. They can be mushy and bland and just outright gross. Sadly, these were the chilaquiles that I had this morning. The potatoes were no better; they were, in fact, worse. They were drenched in peanut oil and were equally mushy and bland. I barely touched them. My eggs were very good, though. They must have been cracked and poured simultaneously into a circular mold to get them to look like that and be cooked evenly.

Bun n' Burger was just so adorable and pleasant that I would go back again just to look at more of the weird stuff they have on the walls. Despite how disappointing my breakfast was, my folks' food was good enough. The staff was friendly and the coffee was good. Overall, it is definitely worth a visit.

Food: Okay* (see below)
Price: $5-$8. Cash only.
Service: Friendly.
Pie: Yes, several.

Bun n' Burger
1000 E. Main Street
Alhambra CA 91801
(626) 281-6777
Take a look at the menu:
*UPDATE 7-14-10: We have since been back to Bun n' Burger a few times now and our food has been either good or great, but oddly, I have yet to try the pie.
A word of warning though-- if you plan on going in the evening definitely call. They seem to be really inconsistent with their hours, which is not a good sign.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pop's Cafe

Lidia (who you've recently met in the Colonial Kitchen review) and I drove down the seedy streets of Bell Gardens, past the Bicycle Casino and graffiti covered industrial buildings. Soon that environ gave way to the less seedy and just normally depressing streets of Downey. We weren't 100% sure where the restaurant was, but when we saw a sign that said "Rives Sguare." We both were inclined to think that that might be where we would find our destination.

Inside the strip mall that is "Rives Sguare," (yep, that's an old engligh 'g' there and not a 'q.' I have no clue what a SGUARE is.) we found Pop's Cafe.

Our friend Amy (first time Dinerwooder but longtime Yelper) was already waiting for us. We in turn were now waiting for our other friends Andrew and Terri. The two of them are notoriously early for these kinds of things, so I knew right away why they were not there yet. This was Sunday the 14th, Day 1 of Daylight Savings Time. I left Andrew a message saying "Spring forward!"

Pop's Cafe is a decent-sized strip mall diner. There is the standard abundance of cheesy motel art on the walls, with the obligatory lack of a level having been used to hang them. Our waitress was very nice and brought Lidia and I our coffees (which were excellent) right away. Even though we were taking a up a lot of real estate with only three people sipping drinks at a table that could seat six, our waitress never made us feel guilty. The people standing outside waiting, however, did throw some glares our way.

While we waited, we took our time going over the menu. The clear focus at Pop's is the breakfasts. They cover the basics very well and I love that they offer three kinds of breakfast potatoes: Irish, Home Fries, and traditional hash browns. There are some dinner options and sandwiches, but they seem like an afterthought. We did note that all the food coming to the tables around us looked amazing. I had high hopes.

I was really tempted to order the Pop's Country Breakfast, but that price was pretty steep. Although, any place that is going to put a dish in that price bracket must know what they are doing and that must be the best damn breakfast in history. I just couldn't swing that much money.

Giving up on Andrew and Terri, we decided to go ahead and order.

Amy ordered the Belgian Waffle and the Irish potatoes. She was initially a little gun shy about ordering it, hoping that the "fruit topping" listed in the menu wasn't just strawberry compote. The waitress informed her that it was strawberries AND other berries, which sounded intriguing enough for Amy to try it. Unfortunately when it came out, the compote was still a bit frozen. The waitress gladly whisked it away and Amy decided to get one without the topping.

The Irish potatoes were a little bit different from what you usually get. Normally the potatoes and the onions and peppers are fried up all together and all the flavors mix which usually means, everything tastes like onions. These were clearly cooked separate and the potatoes are plated first and then the onions and peppers plopped on top.

Amy's new waffle looked like this and was satisfactory.

Lidia ordered the french toast with a side of eggs and bacon. At Pop's they give you the option of grilled or fried French toast. Lidia, sadly, went with grilled. I would have liked to have seen the fried version. The french toast consisted of thick slices of bread and a lot of powdered sugar and tasted good, but were not anything special. The bacon and eggs were pretty basic. The bacon was very crispy and it was cool that they give four decent sized slices of it. We had expected the standard two slices.

I asked my waitress which she would order giving the choice between "corned beef and eggs or the polish sausage and eggs." Without hesitation she said to get the polish sausage. I suspect that the corned beef at Pop's is probably going to be the canned variety, but I didn't see it firsthand.

The Polish Sausage and eggs were very good. My eggs were good--I ordered them over medium so I could sop up some yolk with the biscuit. I'm big into sopping right now. The polish sausage, very oddly, was 1 1/2 sausages. Somewhere in the back there was a lonely half of a sausage that had just been split in two, like a lover in Plato's, "The Origin of Love."

The home fries were the highlight for me. I have never seen them made this way at a restaurant. The potatoes were sliced, not shredded or cube or diced. Each piece was a golden brown on each side and were heavenly.

The biscuits were interesting. The had almost a steamed quality to them. They weren't crusty or dense, but had more to them than do dinner rolls. I liked them.

Of course just as our food Arrived, Andrew and Terri finally showed up, diminishing the wrinkled noses and ruffled feathers of the now several parties waiting outside.

They didn't take too long with the menu. Terri ordered the french toast also, sadly, not the fried version. Andrew was the big spender at the table.

He ordered the Pop's Country Breakfast.

He enjoyed it. The gravy wasn't too heavy and the biscuit and sausage sandwich that was smothered underneath it was good. Unfortunately, a few of his home fries were undercooked.

It took us a long time to actually pay our bill, which only became a problem when we started to feel extremely guilty about taking up the table space. Our waitress just never made it back over to us after she cleared our plates and dropped off the check. We were pleased that they actually took Amy's waffle off the bill entirely. The refill waitress coming by with more delicious coffee helped ease our wait.

The bathroom (there was only one as the men's room was out of order) was a little dark and kind of sketch with both the toilet paper dispenser and the paper towel dispenser being busted. I have seen worse, though.

So three negatives: frozen compote, underdone home fries, and less than stellar bathroom. Overall though, good food and nice service. There is also a disturbing lack of pie on the menu, but I will still recommend Pop's Cafe for providing a pleasant experience.

Food: Good.
Service: Good.
Price: $6.50-$650. (maybe it's a typo)
Pie: No pie!

Pop's Cafe
7840 Florence Ave.
Downey, CA 90240
(562) 927-0096

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Pie Day! Pie 'n Burger

Pie 'n Burger is probably one of my favorite diners. I have selfishly kept it to myself since before there even was a Dinerwood. #1Diner Companion Antoinette and I go there to celebrate; we first went for her birthday a few years ago, and have gone to celebrate new jobs and opportunities, projects getting the green light, etc. Pie n' Burger is also where I proposed to #1DC Antoinette. It's a very special place.

March 14th is unofficially "pie day" (pi =3.14) and I had to celebrate, so of course I dragged #1DC Antoinette to our special place to do a mini-review.

Pie 'n Burger is a very small restaurant. There are only about five small tables and a counter that seats about 20. That means it is almost always crowded. For some unknown reason, it seems like every time we are there there is also a single group of eight to ten people taking up most of the tables. Just plan to sit at the counter.

Why is Pie 'n Burger so beloved? It's not just us; it's a Pasadena institution. I will say unabashedly, for us it's not the food. The food is only okay and honestly limited in its offerings. Outside of their breakfast menu, it's just hamburgers and sandwiches. It's also overpriced. At $6.50 for an average sized burger with a moderate-sized side of fries for $3.55, you are paying over ten dollars for what you can get at any number of fine local burger stands for half the price.

The only reason to go to Pie 'n Burgers is the pie. The pie is damn amazing. I have tried almost all of their pies and have never been disappointed. They are either the best or the runner up. This is where I fell in love with ollallieberry (a hybrid of the blackberry) and butterscotch pie. Although I prefer House of Pies' peanut butter pie, the Pie 'n Burger version (meringue based versus HOP's cream base) is nearly as good.

Tonight, for Pie Day, I ordered the blueberry. This was after finding out rhubarb (one of the few I hadn't tried yet) was sold out and that they didn't have butterscotch (they alternate butterscotch days with peanut butter). The pie was amazing. The filling was sweet but not sugary and the tiny blueberries were all still individual and not completely mashed. The golden crust was thin and flaky. Probably the best blueberry pie I have had in recent memory.

Go for the pie, skip the burger.

Food: Okay
Service: Okay
Price: $6-$12 CASH ONLY
Pie: The best

Pie 'n Burger
913 E. California Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91106
(626) 795-1123 Located next door:

"Nippers.... It's a salon."