Archive for June, 2013

Best.Pastrami.Ever!

Posted in junkfoodie Hall of Fame, Road trip, SoCal, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 25, 2013 by junkfoodie

Now, I love New York delis as much as the next foodie, but for my money, the best pastrami sandwich lives in L.A….or at least it did until I ate it! The thankfully old-school Langer’s Delicatessen-Restaurant 704 S.Alvarado Street, Los Angeles builds the best Pastrami sandwich I’ve ever eaten. I’ve had pastrami sandwiches all over including at old school NYC delis like Katz’s, Carnegie and Lindy’s. I’ve had pastrami at LA fast food joints like Johnnie’s in Culver City, It’s Tops in Pasadena and various branches of the Hat. I’ve even had pastrami on a hot dog at Pink’s and stuffed into a tortilla with chili ,cheese and hot dogs at Oki Dog, but for my money, nothing touches Langer’s pastrami sandwiches. I’ve had it plain, on rye with a little deli mustard, and it was excellent. This last time, I had the #19, which is a pastrami and swiss cheese, Russian dressing and cole slaw on rye. Perfect! Get the pastrami hand cut! And not too lean. The extra fat is essential to the enjoyment of this sandwich. The unctuous, salty fat surrounded by the crusty edges of the pastrami topped by the gooey melted swiss and topped by the creamy cole slaw on their perfect corn rye is just right. The portion isn’t as huge as say, Carnegie in NYC, but it is better pastrami IMHO. What is the difference between pastrami and corned beef, you ask.? Pastrami is simply smoked corned beef. Why thanks junkfoodie! Anyway, the pickles in New York are better than Langer’s, if that makes you New Yorkers feel better. Junkfoodie says Langer’s pastrami sandwich is “Best In Class”, and in my top 5 sandwiches of all time. Junkfoodie says check it out! photo-4

Smoke Barbecue, Berkeley

Posted in about junkfoodie, Around the Bay Area, Uncategorized with tags , on June 24, 2013 by junkfoodie

What is it about car washes and cheap eats that I can’t resist? I’m not sure, but whether it’s tacos, hot dogs, sandwiches or whatever, whenever I see a food stand next to a car wash, I almost stop and check it out. I happened to be in Berkeley recently, and saw Smoke next door to the Solar Car Wash at 2434 San Pablo Avenue. They are in the space formerly occupied by a mediocre taqueria. I had read about Smoke,and I am a sucker for barbecue, so why not?

Now, my favorite Bay Area barbecue of all time used to be available about a mile-and-a-half down the road at Flint’s in West Oakland. I’ve searched high and low since they closed up a number of years ago, but every place has come up short. If you remember Flint’s,they were the epitome of old-school, no frills urban barbecue. The sides were simply potato salad and sliced, commercial white bread stuffed into a Glad sandwich bag. None of that mattered once you tasted their barbecue. The coarse ground hot links were excellent, but the ribs were the thing to order. Smoky, tender, just the right combination of atty and lean, lightly touched with their serviceable sauce. There was just enough chew where you had to work a bit to get them off the bone, but not too much. Always meaty, with a chewy, crusty tip, these were the best I’ve had in the Bay Area. The sauce is better at Everett & Jones and the sides more interesting at Doug’s ( barbecued spaghetti anyone?), but the ribs & links were better than those places, KC’s, Chef Edwards, Leon’ s, Big Nate’s, People’s Choice, Brother-In-Law’s and even Vic and Betty’s…….ahh the memories! But this is not about Flint’s, but about Smoke.

The ribs were smoky, and plenty meaty, but were not as juicy or succulent as they could be. They wphoto-7ere also surprisingly a bit bland, except for the smoke.

The sauce could use more punch, but that could have been because I took them to go. When I got home, I had to slather them with some sauce from Everett & Jones.

The collard greens were not bad after a few shots of hot sauce. They were less cophoto-6oked than you would normally find at a typical soul food joint, but they did have some nice bits of smoked pork ( ham hock?) And chopped onion. Nana’s potato salad was not bad, but nothing spectacular. The small rib plate ($12.95) included 4 ribs, a small side, and a square of jalapeno corn bread. I opted for the jalapeno mac & cheese, but couldn’t detect any jalapeno. The free pickles and onions are a nice touch. I wasn’t overly impressed, but I’ll try them again as many of the other items on the menu sounded great. Vegan sauteed brussel sprouts and the watermelon and feta salad sounded worthy of a second trip.

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Pioneer fried chicken! Get it while you can…

Posted in junkfoodie Hall of Fame, Road trip, SoCal on June 20, 2013 by junkfoodie

Anyone remember Pioneer Chicken? Growing up in the Bay Area, I remember eating at Pioneer locations in Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco. The chain was started in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1961. By the time the original owner sold the business, he had franchised over 270 locations. There are currently only 3 locations left in the US, all in the LA area. Sadly, the original location in Echo Park clphoto-3osed in 2009. I used to like this location best., but now I prefer the location in East LA at 904 South Soto Street. There is a location in Bell Gardens and one on Olympic, but I haven’t heard good things about them from my Socal Junkfoodie friends. The East LA location sells “BBQ” riblets., fried fish, sandwiches and other stuff, but I’ve never tried them. I stick to the fried chicken and always leave happy. There are always specials painted on the windows outside to catch the attention of the passers by. This time we got the 10 piece leg & thighs for $10.99, an order of fries, mashed potatoes, potato salad and and Orange Bang and we were all set.

It’s all about the chicken here. The chicken is dipped in batter before frying in a pressure cooker (I’m guessing) which causes the skin to puff up into a crispy,salty, slightly greasy layer over succulent and juicy meat….perfect. Just the right amount of crunch, moist enough to cause the combination of juice and grease to run down your chin on your first bite.

This is old school fried chicken at it’s best. IMHO, much more flavor than KFC, juicier than Popeye’s and crispier than Church’s. Junkfoodie says get some before the last locations are gone!

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Baja style Fish Tacos! Junkfoodie is back…

Posted in Mexican, Road trip, SoCal on June 15, 2013 by junkfoodie

Sorry for not posting in so long, but Junkfoodie is alive and well, if a little busy. Let me start this post by saying the best Baja style fish tacos I’ve ever had were in Ensenada, at a little stand way off the tourist beaten path, not far from “La Bufadora” or the “Blowhole”. This was about 20 miles from the center of Ensenada, and the shack, or tent really, had an old American man and his Mexican wife making tacos on what looked to be a couple of old metal road signs over a gas fire. On one old sign, he had hammered an indentation large enough to hold maybe a half cupful of oil, which he used to fry up the fish tacos. He hand dipped the fish, which he claimed was right from the waters which his stand overlooked,  to order in his wife’s recipe batter, and carefully placed it into the hot oil. After turning it a few times, he laid the fish onto two corn tortillas along with shredded lettuce and cabbage, and drizzled the whole thing with homemade crema sauce. A spoonful of fresh pico de gallo, and for $1 US, you had a perfect 3 bite fish taco while overlooking the Pacific ocean. I guess this would be the topic of another post, so let me get to the point of this post.

The closest thing I’ve found so far since then is at Taconazo in the Los Angeles area. Taconazo is a mini-chain started in La Puente, CA back in 1978. Since then, they’ve grown to like 8-9 locateions, and the one I went to was located in South El Monte at 9516 South Garvey Ave.

I ordered the fish taco plate with rice and beans ($7.97 for 3 or $6.38 for 2), the fish ceviche tostada ($3.19) and the small shrimp cocktail ($6.99).taconazo

The comblo plates all come with their signature fried peppers, which are chiles rolled in salt& pepper, then quickly deep fried. The fish tacos were indeed Baja style, with nice, firm fillets of whitefish, battered and fried to order. Eat these quickly as the batter is best wile still hot. The cabbage and sauce need a little help, and the salsa bar is just so-so, but the star of the taco is really the fish fillet. Flaky and moist, it was as close as i could find to those in Ensenada.

ceviche tostada

ceviche tostada

The ceviche tostada ($3.19) was just okay. I had to try it in case I missed out on the next great bite, but the fish was a little tougher than I would have liked, probably because it was marinating too long since it was near closing time. The portion size was pretty decent, and the fresh avocado was a nice, creamy complement. One good thing was that the ceviche was not too watery, so the tostada remained crunchy. I did add a little hot salsa, and it was passable, if not perfect.

coctel de camarones

coctel de camarones

The shrimp cocktail was very good. The shrimp were large, clean and not too tough. The sauce was nicely balanced, not too sweet, with a little tang like I like. The other bits in the cocktail included large chunks of avocado, cilantro,  and shredded onion. I would have liked the cilantro to be chopped, and the onion bits to be larger, but I guess that is nitpicking. The small size cocktail ($6.99) was generous, especially when eaten with the combo plate and tostada. all in all, worth a slight detour if you are near one of the Taconazo locations in Socal. You could certainly do a lot worse for fish tacos.