Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Annia's Kitchen -- El Monte

Remember when I said Dinerwood would change formats? We'll call this more of a new-format review. Enjoy the pictures.

I've tried several times to write a more thoughtful and expansive review of Annia's Kitchen. I even went here twice to try to absorb more of the feel of the place. It just never happened.

The dining room is small and not very well air-conditioned. It's uncomfortably warm inside. I recommend sitting on the patio, because not only is it cooler but on the patio you get to see these...

..Airplanes! Did I mention that Annia's Kitchen is at the El Monte Airport?

Annia's has a very extensive menu. Everything is a little bit more expensive than I'd like it to be.

I liked the biscuits and gravy, although the gravy was a little flour-y.

The pancakes were good, but really heavy. Pancakes like this usually are, but these felt even more so. The sausage was over cooked, but the bacon was done quite well.

The chorizo and eggs was decent.

The pot roast breakfast was really great at the time. It came back to haunt me in the afternoon. I'm not sure if it was the gravy or the eggs that did me in. I ordered both eggs over medium and one was cooked perfectly while the other was over hard.

I really wanted to like Annia's Kitchen, I gave it two chances after all. The most positive thing I can say is that I do really like their menu, I just haven't been wowed by their execution. If the idea of eating breakfast while watching small planes take off sounds awesome, then by all mean go for it.

Food: Decent
Price: $6-13
Service: Good
Pie: Yes

Annia's Kitchen
4233 Santa Anita Avenue # 18 (El Monte Airport)
El Monte, CA 91731

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Black Cow Cafe -- Damn Yuppies

I was in an odd mood. I wanted a frou frou breakfast. No greasy spoon would do, my friends.
Thus, we traveled to Montrose, just off the 210, to a cute neighborhood with little shops and restaurants. Our destination, which already had a throng of people out front, was the Black Cow Cafe.

It being only 9am and already oppressively hot and muggy outside, we opted to sit in the dining room. This place did look pretty fancy, but was much more than that. Nearly one wall of the restaurant was a pastry case, followed by a coffee bar and then an ice cream parlor. Along with the tables, there were lounge areas where people were just quietly sipping coffee and working on their laptops.

We were both surprised that considering the very mature ambiance of the cafe, there were a lot of families with young kids eating breakfast. Upwardly mobile, yuppie parents--easy to hate them but I'd rather see them feeding their kids actual food instead of Carl's Jr. or In-N-Out. Even if the food proved to be much less than impressive.


We were seated not far from the open the kitchen. We started with the house coffee, which required a lot of help to be palatable. It's La Mill coffee, which always tastes bad to us.

Our waiter started off very attentive and then it just dwindled away over time. We understand the breakfast rush had him going all over, but the table next to ours had a waiter who was johnny on the spot with refills and check-ins.

We hadn't turned completely against Black Cow Cafe at that point. There was a lot on the menu that looked interesting. It also looked a little pricey for breakfast, which again shocked us due to the number of families around. Damn yuppies.

The Bavarian Cream Strudel. This is where the corner was turned. It was not good. They heated it--I'm going to go ahead and say they microwaved it which completely destroyed the texture of the pastry (soggy one bite, rock hard another, chewy on the third) and the cream filling.

Our hopes were buttressed when our breakfasts came to the table and looked delicious on the plate.


I had the Cow Benedict. I love benedicts and the orange hollandaise sauce really sold me on it.
Orange hollandaise sauce is pretty damn frou frou, I have to say. Hollandaise sauce in-and-of-itself is pretty frou frou, really. It was good, but not great. I wanted a thicker cut of ham (this was not even back bacon thick, but more deli-cut) to counter the sweetness the orange added to the sauce. The eggs were nicely poached, I will give them that. I don't really care for croissants and in hindsight I wished I had asked to replace it with a biscuit or English muffin.

Let me go off on a tangent here for a moment and then I'm going to bring it back around. I don't usually order spaghetti when I go out to an Italian restaurant because I can make a pretty decent spaghetti at home. Straight spaghetti has pretty limited range of flavor to play with and I'd say a breakfast sandwich is pretty similar in that regard. Sometimes you just want spaghetti when you are out and sometimes Dinerwife Antoinette just wants a breakfast sandwich eventhough we can make a pretty decent one at home.

Black Cow Cafe's breakfast sandwich was all sorts of disappointment. The bread-- not actually toasted, was just touched briefly to the grill as to make the effort pointless--was very thin like the 99 cent loaf at the grocery store. The turkey was also too thin and the "melted cheese" was not melted at all. Looking at the menu online I see there is supposed to be some kind of "secret sauce" on it as well. "Disappointment" is not a sauce.

The fruit was under ripe and should not have been served. The pineapple was white and flavorless. Under ripe melons always taste like garbage to me.

The breakfast potatoes were fine. Just fine. Not really sure I'd even venture to call them breakfast potatoes. Halved small red potatoes tossed with some paprika and a minimal amount of red peppers and onions that were skitted across a griddle I guess counts, but I could easily see them served with a lunch or dinner.

We then waited far too long for our waiter to not only bring the check but to check in with us and ask us if we were ready for the check. The johnny on the spot waiter took pity on us a few times for refills. Eventually we tried to just go to the coffee bar counter to pay but that didn't work. It became a cluster.

I've read good reviews of Black Cow, Dinerfriend Amy K. even wrote a positive yelp about it. I cannot reconcile those reviews with our experience. The restaurant was packed and people seemed to be enjoying their meals. I'm told that Black Cow Cafe was for a long time the nicest restaurant in Montrose. If you wanted a nice dining experience, you had to go there; otherwise, it was fast food and take out. That probably accounts for it's continued popularity.

I just could not risk another trip there even though there's quite a bit on the menu that I'd like to try. It's not worth it.

Food: Not Good-Decent
Price: $9-$15
Service: Not good.
Pie: Tartlets

Black Cow Cafe
2219 Honolulu Ave.
Montrose, CA 91020

Friday, July 1, 2011

Dinerwood on the Road: Matt's Big Breakfast -- Phoenix Arizona

On a recent trip to Phoenix, I had the opportunity to try two local favorites. Both had been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, although I have never seen those episodes. The first place my friends and I went was Matt’s Big Breakfast located near the ASU campus in--what I have to assume--was once someone’s garage. This place is tiny--teeny tiny.

We rolled up on a Friday morning at 8 am and we still had to wait for nearly 45 minutes. I hate waiting, but I really wanted to try Matt’s. Disappointingly, they don’t allow you to order drinks for outside or have water available to keep you from wilting in the Arizona heat. They do, however, give you menus and actually have you order your food once you get close to being seated. The moment your name gets called for seating your order goes to the kitchen.

The menu for Matt's is very small. I guess it fits the size of the restaurant. There are about nine breakfast items, seven lunches, and that's it.

You may notice that they serve RC Cola. RC has a pretty loyal following. It has over 5000 fans on Facebook! Sadly, FANS of RC Cola Fans are far fewer.

The 5-Spot appears to be their signature breakfast-three out of five of us got it. It's a sandwich with egg and bacon. Why is it called a 5-Spot? Maybe because involves 5 things: two pieces of bread, one egg, two slices of bacon? We never saw the waiter for more than a few seconds at a time, so I never got the chance to ask him or her--we had two. She kept forgetting our drinks and refills that were requested, and he was running around turning over tables.

One in our party is a vegetarian and asked if she could hold the bacon and get hash browns instead. They assured her it was no problem...when we got the check we learned that they basically charged her for a side of hash browns. Lame.

The toast was really good.

The hash browns were interesting. They reminded us a lot more of latkes or potato pancakes than of hash browns.

The waffle was pretty good. It was soft and warm and the real maple syrup was appreciated.

The bacon was the star all-around--on the sandwich or next to the waffle--it was thick cut and peppery.

Once we were done, we were rushed out the door. With only ten maybe twelve tables, they need a high turnover. I have no problem with that--my problem was that none of this seemed worth it. Long wait, only adequate service and good-but-not-THAT-good food. I don't see what all the fuss is about.

Food: Good
Price $5-8
Service: Rushed.
Pie: No.

Matt's Big Breakfast
801 N. First St.
Phoenix, Arizona 85004