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Giant Burger (San Leandro, CA)

I’ll have to say, there’s something I rather like about the particular style that California burgers have. It’s a bit of a particular style: a fairly thin and well-crisped burger patty, served up with generous layers of lettuce, onion, and tomato (I’ve been told that this is a throwback to the days when fresh tomatoes and lettuce weren’t a standard item in grocery stores), usually on a toasted bun. And, somewhat peculiar to the style (see my reviews of

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Ramen Parlor (San Mateo, CA)

After finishing up dinner at Kokko, all of the gnoshing on yakitori left us still a little hungry, and we decided that some ramen was in order. Luckily, San Mateo and the adjacent communities have no shortage of ramen joints; over a dozen of them in San Mateo alone. In fact, three of them are their own little empire, owned by Kazunori Kobayashi, a Japanese Chef who first started Santa Ramen, serving classic ramen. Then he opened Ramen Dojo, focusing on spicy, stamina-building ramen. And then he open Ramen Parlor as an option to serve up some alternative ramen with different ingredients, particularly seafood. Overall, I was probably most interested in Ramen Dojo, but that wasn’t in the cards: Ramen Dojo wasn’t open that night. So we wandered over to Ramen Parlor to check it out.

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Kokko (San Mateo, CA)

On my last trip to San Mateo, I met up with my former coworker Larry and his wife Yoko who took me out to for Yakitori. I’ve always loved the concept of Yakitori. Literally meaning “grilled chicken”, the concept started as street food (with fresh skewers of grilled chicken served up with a sauce), but, especially in the US, “yakitori” has grown to include a rather large variety of grilled meats and vegetables, usually served in a sit-down restaurant with a variety of Japanese sides. San Mateo has several well-regarded Yakitori places, and my hosts decided to take me out to try Kokko.

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The Counter (San Diego Airport)

While generally I’m a fan of air travel, one of the less fortunate aspects of the experience is that most food in airports, well, sucks. Oh, there are the exceptions (like my recent review of Sora in Detroit, or Legal Sea Food in Boston, or even the Milltowne Grille at my own Manchester airport, but generally you need to be setting your expectations rather low. So when I find a place that, well, doesn’t suck, I try to write it up for my readers. In this case, it was getting breakfast at The Counter at San Diego airport that actually started the day off on a good note.

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San Jorge Tortilleria & Market (Murrieta, CA)

An important agenda item for me any time I’m visiting an area with a substantial Hispanic population is scoring a good Mexican breakfast. While my home turf in New Hampshire has a few decent Mexican places, none of them currently offer breakfast, so when I’m in an area with some good Mexican breakfast options, I have a hard time resisting a trip for a good huevos ranchero or a well-performing breakfast burrito. But while visiting Carol’s relatives in Murrieta, CA last month, we had a free morning and a strong appetite, and ended up finding San Jorge Tortilleria and Market. Nestled in a strip mall behind a tire shop off of Madison Ave in a quieter part of Murriet, San Jorge is one of those quiet, un-assuming places. Walking inside, it’s also immediately obvious that San Jorge is putting most of the emphasis on the “Market” side of the operations (although they do a very impressive job with the “Tortilleria” part of things, with some rather impressive piles of fresh corn and flour tortillas all bagged up and ready to go). But amongst the various foods and sundries, San Jorge also has a nice food service counter, serving up Mexican breakfasts and lunches.

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Pho Lucky (San Diego, CA)

My recent travels through Southern California had us passing through San Diego several times, and that was particularly nice, since San Diego has one of the larger Vietnamese communities in the US, and thus has quite an assortment of good Vietnamese restaurants. We were particularly craving some Pho, and courtesy of my friend Dennis over at A Radiused Corner, I had rather a nice selection of reviews of local San Diego places, settling on Pho Lucky (you can read one of Dennis’ reviews here). Pho Lucky is located inside of Lucky Seafood, just off of I-15 in San Diego’s Mira Mesa neighborhood, a short drive from Los Peñasquitos Canyon, which is one of my favorite San Diego area hikes. You won’t see the place obviously advertised, since it is actually inside the Lucky Seafood Supermarket (although, looking at the front of the market, if you go in on the left side, those doors take you directly inside). Once inside, it’s actually one of the more pleasant Pho shops I’ve been in (most Pho places seem to have all the ambiance of an office supply store), with a nice clean interior and a pleasant decor.

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Rebel BBQ (Blythe, CA)

The first full day of our vacation involved waking up in El Segundo, having another trip down into Manhattan beach for a breakfast at Uncle Bill’s (you can read a previous review here), and then driving East to Phoenix. That’s not a short drive (it’s around 7 hours counting basic stops and the like), and that usually leaves one looking for lunch around Blythe, which is pretty much the only real “civilization” for about an hour in each direction. And I’ll be honest, most of the options in Blythe aren’t that great, mostly chains (Denny’s and Pizza Hut, for example), and a few local places (La Casita Dos is pretty good Mexican, and probably should get a review visit from me sometime). But there’s one place in town that does indeed serve up an excellent lunch, and that’s Rebel BBQ. I always have a bit of a hard time writing two types of reviews: Pizza places and BBQ places. The reason is that both of these types of food have both a substantial number of regional varieties, and both of these also have, in my opinion, a much wider spread of quality. There are a lot of mediocre pizza places, but there are a few places that are truly head and shoulders above the rest (like, say, Pepe’s Pizza in CT, or Pizzeria Bianco in AZ). The same goes for BBQ: there are a huge number of BBQ places out there, but the very best (like, say, Franklin) that are in a very different league than most, quality-wise, leading to a surprisingly large gap between “best” and “really good”. So, with that in mind, let’s talk about Rebel BBQ.

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Farm Stand (El Segundo, CA)

Farm Stand For the first night of our trip, we decided to stay near LAX and head east the next day. From many, many previous work trips to the area, I’m pretty familiar with the El Segundo area, and I rather like the area. Due to an odd historical/geographical quirk, El Segundo is somewhat isolated from the surrounding LA area (the Northern border is LAX, the Southern border is a giant Chevron refinery), and it still has a classic downtown that feels like it’s left over from a former era, with all sorts of small businesses, restaurants, and the like. Several of the restaurants are quite good, and this time we decided to check out Farm Stand. Farm Stand presents itself as serving up “Urban Country Food”, and that’s a pretty good overall description. Most of their dishes are rustic country dishes from a variety of cuisines ranging from American, to French, to Italian, and even Mediterranean, and most of the dishes are built around the farm to table concept using local (well, as local as one can get in El Segundo) produce and meats as much as possible. The result is a pretty varied menu, but with a lot of good items. Linguini Myself, I was drawn to their linguini with meatballs, which was some very nicely done homemade linguini served up with some very flavorful meatballs, served up in a flavorful ancho cream sauce. The dish had a rather nice fusion of Italian and Spanish flavors: the pasta was nicely made and slightly al-dente, the meatballs very pleasantly spiced, and the ancho cream sauce very bold and up front. The result was a dish that reminded me both of a nice linguini, and a nice Spanish albondigas. Lasagna Similarly, Carol did well with a rich and flavorful house lasagna, with flavorful layers of housemade pasta and a rich bolognese sauce, served up with a veritable mountain of fresh greens. We both agreed it was a particularly good lasagna that focused nicely on the meat sauce. Lamb Dip And Dan also had a pleasant looking lamb dip, which was the first time he’s had one of those (I’ve had several on the other side of LA at the famous Phillipe, which also does a great Lamb Dip), and this was a rather good rendition as well, served with an ample pile of nicely-crisped sweet potato fries. And Sophie had […]

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Nijiya Market (San Diego, CA)

On our third day in Southern California, we decided to take a morning and head down to San Diego and check out a few sights off the beaten path. We ended up hiking most of the length of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, which was a pleasantly quiet and nice canyon, considering that it’s nestled in between dense subdivisions to both the north and south. I still recommend it if you are looking for a nice urban-area hike. After our hike, however, we were a little hungry. We already had dinner plans back up in Temecula that involves copious amount of food and wine, so we were looking for something light. Luckily, I actually follow several other blogs that cover San Diego, including mmm-Yoso!!! (several contributors of which were my companions on the Yuma taco crawl a few years back) and A Radiused Corner (whose owner Dennis and I have been trading recommendations, and occasionally visiting the same places, for a few years now). Both blogs recommended stopping by Nijiya Market, one of San Diego’s best Japanese grocery stores, as a good place for both Japanese groceries and light meals.

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Nessy Burgers (Fallbrook, CA)

While we were in Southern California visiting Carol’s sister and brother-in-law, we took a day trip down to Palomar Mountain. The route we took there had us take I-15 down from the Temecula area to Highway 76 in Fallbrook, CA. I wouldn’t call Fallbrook the middle of nowhere (I’ve been to various places, even some on this blog, that were way more out of the way than Fallbrook, which is only ~15 miles away from SoCal suburban splendor), but it’s not exactly the most happening location either. But it was notable that when we got off the highway, a noticeable feature was a little trailer parked in a parking lot with a long line of people waiting for food. That trailer is Nessy Burgers…

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