Ken’s House of Pancakes – Hilo, HI, United States

I had some time to kill before flying out of Hilo International Airport (ITO) and wanted to find a good local place to eat.  Taking advantage of my smartphone, I performed a local restaurant search for around Hilo.  When I travel and am looking for a restaurant, I tend to base my restaurant selection by the number of review stars on Google and of course, the style of restaurant that I am in the mood for.  Lo and behold, Ken’s House of Pancakes popped up with a respectable 4 stars.  Doing a quick search, this acclaimed diner seemed to fit my bill perfectly.  So I headed to Ken’s.

Ken’s House of Pancakes
1730 Kamehameha Ave.
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 935-8711

Ken's House of Pancakes

Ken’s was started in 1971 and has since received Reader’s Choice Awards for “Best Breakfast on the Big Island”, 14 years in a row, and “The Best Diner on the Big Island”.  So naturally I had to try their breakfast grub on my visit.  Onto the atmosphere, service and food…

Being a diner, the atmosphere is well, a diner.  Walking into the restaurant you are welcomed by the bright diner interior, large diner bar and many busy tables.  This place is busy, so get there early.  The good thing is, being a diner they can flip the tables fast so they keep customers moving through.  I lucked out as I was traveling alone and was able to snag an empty stool at the bar.  It’s worth noting that parking is very limited.  There are a good deal of spots out front, but not near enough for all of the customers.  Not to mention since the restaurant is on the corner of a busy intersection, getting in and out of the parking lot can be a pain.  Especially if you are like me and missed the restaurant as I couldn’t get over and make the turn in time off Kamehameha Ave.  I ended up parking behind Ken’s in the medium size business building just off Kanoelehua Ave.  It was quite and had a good deal of empty spots and just a short walk on the sidewalk down Kanoelehua Ave. to get to Ken’s.

Ken's House of Pancakes Restaurant

The service was great.  The waitress behind the bar was friendly, fast and kept my coffee full.  No complaints.

What a large menu!  I have to say, I like options but I felt like I could be there all day trying to decide what to order.  I was traveling by myself and couldn’t narrow my choices to just one from the menu.  Being a ‘House of Pancakes’, I had to try their pancakes.  And since I was just down from Mauna Loa, they had to be Macadamia Nut.  These buttermilk beauties were quite heavenly I got to say.  Especially when you combine these fluffy morsels with their kokonut, passion and guava flavored syrups.  To balance it out, I had to get some egg meal as well.  Alas, I settled on the very Hawaiian, and ‘Original’, Loco Moco.  How can you go wrong with 2 scoops of rice, 5oz lean beef patty, brown gravy and 2 over easy eggs?  Gravy was tasty and had good thickness.  Rice was the yummy sticky rice.  The beef was a bit dry, but hey, it’s a diner.  Other items that looked divine were their other Moco’s with Spam, pulled pork, chili, etc. and their ‘famous’ omelettes that can be filled with just about anything, like crab, Spam, Chinese sausage, shrimp, Portuguese sausage, etc.  Yes, I was a gluttonous fool.  But my belly was happy.

Macadamia Nut Pancakes


The 'Original' Loco Moco

Neal’s Ratings:

  • Atmosphere = B-   (local, limited parking, diner)
  • Service =  A+    (quick, friendly, kept my coffee full)
  • Food = A+    (great menu, lots of options, big servings, and tasted oh so good)

Rosine’s – Anaheim, CA, United States

This little gem of a restaurant is located off the beaten track in Anaheim, California.  Not really close to Disney or the Honda Center where the Anaheim Ducks play, one wouldn’t typically detour to the Yorba Linda, California area.  I on the other hand am here several times a year as that’s where our office is.  Rosine’s Mediterranean Cafe is a must stop on each trip.

Rosine’s Mediterranean Cafe
721 S Weir Canyon Rd
Suite 125
Anaheim, CA 92808
(714) 283-5141

Opened in 1995 by home trained chef Rosine Najarian, this restaurant specializes in her Syrian and Lebanese influenced home cooked food.  A splendid menu of broad, bold and rich items.  Ah the garlic, rosemary, thyme, pepper and spices!  A true party in your mouth for sure.  And then there’s the wine selection, a wide array of unique wines from around the world including the owner’s homeland of Lebanon.

Rosine’s Restaurant

Alright so let’s discuss the atmosphere, service and food….

The atmosphere is simple and quaint. A recent expansion into the building next door offers a good amount of seating and options for hosting functions.  With an open kitchen and most of the seating nearby, it provides an intimate environment for diners at this family run establishment.  It is located in a strip mall next to a Subway, with limited parking out front, but near unlimited parking behind the strip mall as it shares the parking lot with a grocery store and other stores and restaurants.  Walking in this dim lit restaurant, you are welcomed by one of their servers dressed in black where you’ll be sat at one of the small wood tables.  Usually there isn’t much of a wait, if any at all.  Typically most of the people waiting in the entrance are awaiting their to-go pickup orders.  They have a small stage in the dining area for someone to play some music.   Although that may add to the atmosphere of this culinary escape, I do enjoy the quite mood of the place when dining and having a glass of wine.

Inside Rosine’s Restaurant

Whether you eat in or order take out, the service is prompt and friendly.  They are happy to have you relax and enjoy your meal, wine or desert.  So the service is really good.  Maybe it’s because I eat alone usually, but when I go I really love their Muhammara, aka ‘Walnut Caviar’.  So I always order a side of it.  It’s happened a few times where one server will bring me the starter portion of it, which is a lot of food.  I’m not sure if it’s a nonchalant up sale or not since it’s a few bucks more, so just specify you want the side portion if you order that or any of the other yummy sides.  Still always good service though as they keep the glasses full and are timely in bringing the check.

The menu is very diverse and unique, with menu options that really do transport you to the Mediterranean.  Beginning with the starters, they have a wide selection of cold and hot starters that can suite any taste bud.  But if you aren’t alone, check out one of their cold and hot mezzeh’s for a good sample of their middle eastern tapas starters.  You have the Chilled Mezzeh containing hummus (chickpea dip, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil), tabbouleh (diced parsley salad, chopped tomato, green onion, bulgur, lemon dressing), baba ghannouj (fire-roasted eggplant dip with extra virgin olive oil), muhammara (walnuts, hot pepper paste, pomegranate molasses – my favorite), and sarma (stuffed rolled grape leaves, herbed rice, toasted onion) for $14.90.  Or the Hot Mezzeh  containing cheese böreg, meat böreg, kebbeh, and falafel for $16.90.  You also get pita bread to start, which is good, but it’s right out of the bag so nothing special.  You can see their famous rotisserie chickens in the window when you walk into the restaurant (half for $12.50).  Their chicken is very good, not too dry on the inside and full of seasonings on the outside from their proprietary rub.  Other menu items I really enjoy are the kababs, which you can get for chicken, lamb or beef.  Sometimes they can be a little overcooked though, which is easy to do when cooking kababs or if they sit too long under the heat lamp before serving, but still flavorful and divine with some garlic sauce on them.  I usually order either falafals or one of their two lamb menu options like the Grilled Lamb Chops with pomegranate and vegetable reduction or the Lamb Shank with juice of red wine, garlic rosemary.  Both for $23.95.  They are very good, with the shank as my favorite.  The chops tend to be medium-well by the time I get them, so a tad overcooked from how I like them, but still very good with their complex lamb rub.  Their ratatouille is very flavorful as well, so that makes a hearty, but extremely satisfying side.  They tend to put on the side of each plate a few slices of their pickled turnips, which strong bitter, sour taste but nicely contradicts the other flavors on the plate.  Combine any of the above hearty stomach fillers with a side of their garlic sauce, you’ve got a happy belly for sure.

The grilled lamb chops with pomegranate and vegetable reduction

The sides of muhammara (aka walnut caviar) on the left and their garlic sauce on the right

Neal’s Ratings:

  • Atmosphere = B    (local, in strip mall, lots of parking, stage for a band?)  Note:  Updated on 12/30/2012 because of increased seating.
  • Service =  B+    (quick, friendly unnecessary up-sale)
  • Food = A-    (good menu, tasty food, garlic sauce, bought pita bread and little overcooked food sometimes)


Note:  This article was updated on 12/30/2012


Pike Place Chowder – Seattle, WA, United States

A trip to Seattle isn’t complete without gorging yourself on the local delicious seafood.  And what would a gluttonous Seattle seafood fest be without slurping up some of Seattle’s best chowder?  The chowder journey to us to the Mecca of chowder in Seattle, Pike Place Chowder.  There are two locations, one at Pike Place Market 1530 Post Alley Seattle, WA 98101 206-267-2537 and the other larger restaurant at Pacific Place Center 600 Pine St Seattle, WA 98101 206-838-5680.

Alright so let’s discuss the atmosphere, service and food….

Atmosphere, we went to the restaurant located at Pike Place Market.  The restaurant was small, had limited seating and located within a shopping building in a narrow alley off Pike’s Market.  The seating inside was only a few tables, seating maybe 20+ people.  There was much more seating outside though, both next to the restaurant and across the alley in the covered seating area which I would recommend if you couldn’t get any seating indoors because you’ll be dry if it’s raining.  People watching isn’t the greatest either as you are in an alley, but it does get quite a bit of traffic anyway.  It is convenient to Pike Place Market and with the outside seating, it would make a great lunch spot on a wonderful day.  It does tend to be busy, at least the restaurant off of Pike Place Market, so allocate enough time.  Dining here is hard to beat on a cool, Seattle day.

Pike Place Chowder is an award winning chowder restaurant and a must on any visitors list to Seattle, Washington. As a result, it tends to be busy especially on beautiful days like this one. So be mindful of the lunch rush and keep you eye out for seats outside or in if they are available.

The wait in line went pretty quick, but watch for seating when you can get it.  Again, there isn’t much!  Thankfully the wait gives you time to pick what you want from the scrumptious menu.  The servers where friendly and the food delivery was quick.  They have all of the chowders ready to go and an apparent endless supply of sour dough bread for the yummy bread bowls should you want your chowder in those instead of the paper cups.  Food comes quick, grab a seat and eat!  When we were leaving, we were looking for a place to drop our tray off.  A really nice lady who works there told us just to leave our stuff and that they would take care of it.  So really good service we thought, quick to get the food and they clean up after you.  Can’t argue with that.

All of the scrumptious chowders ready to serve at Pike Place Chowder near Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington.

Now onto the food.  First let me say, it’s award winning.  Their New England clam chowder has won first-place awards everywhere in the country.  Quoting their webpage, “[a]fter winning the Newport, Rhode Island “Great-Chowder-Cook-Off” for three years running, our chowder recipe earned membership in the Hall of Fame.” How can you possibly go wrong eating this flavorful, artery clogging, belly warming entree?  At the time of writing, I have been there twice and have sampled 7 different chowders and can honestly say, I loved all of them and never left hungry.  Just to tease your senses, their menu consists of their famous New England clam chowder, Manhattan clam chowder, smoked salmon chowder, seafood bisque, seared scallop chowder, southwestern chicken & corn chowder and occasional specialties like seafood chili and the ‘Cascadia’ which is a fresh from the sea shell fish chowder full of fresh mussels and clams.  You can get a sampler of any 4 chowders for $10.95 which comes with a side of a few pieces of sourdough bread.  Or you can have them put it in their fresh sourdough bread bowls for $9.45 and making it a big taste of heaven.  All of their chowders are very unique in their taste and texture.  The salmon has dill and the seafood chowder has capers for instance.  The consistency of the chowders are not too thick or thin, just right.  In addition, they are all full of hearty, fresh ingredients which makes a huge difference.  You can see the chucks of salmon, clams, potatoes, chicken, etc.  Really impressive to have such a diverse, consistent and flavorful menu.

This is the award winning New England Chowder at Pike Place Chowder in Seattle, Washington. You can see the large morsals of clams and potatoes within their perfect consistency of this chowders cream base. Then put that in their fresh sourdough bowls, man do you have a big taste of heaven. It's tough to beat on a cool afternoon in Seattle.

Since I couldn't make up my mind, I got the sampler of their chowders. And am I glad that I did! This smorgasbord of big flavor contains the Smoked Salmon Chowder (top left), Seafood Chowder (top right), Manhattan (bottom right) and Seared Scallop (bottom left). All are surprisingly very unique and so big on flavor.

Neal’s Ratings:

  • Atmosphere = B+    (local, close to Pike Place Market, limited seating)
  • Service =  A    (quick and friendly)
  • Food = A+    (hearty, many options and amazingly good)

Social Distortion at the Denver Ogden Theater

Social Distortion, one of the godfather’s of punk rock, is a must see if you have a chance. So when the opportunity presented itself, why wouldn’t you see them?  They finished their 2011 tour in Denver, Colorado with three back-to-back shows from Friday to Sunday starting on December 2nd at the Ogden Theater.  We ended up going to the Saturday, December 3rd show.  This blog entry describes and rates the nearby points of interest around the Ogden Theater, the venue of Ogden Theater and the bands Suedehead, Chuck Ragan and of course, the great Social Distortion.  Included are videos to help share the concert with you.

Nearby Points of Interest

When you go out to a movie or concert you may want to get something to eat or drink before or after the event.  So I wanted to capture a bit of the surroundings to assist you with your choices.

Now the Ogden is located off of Colfax Avenue.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this “longest, wickedest street in America,” picture a road where hookers and shady folk roam, several liquor stores and poor lighting.  So well known for the debauchery that South Park has referenced it several times and who can forget Jack Kerouac’s On the Road references.  Yup, that’s Colfax.  Although in fairness, there are some nice spots I’m sure somewhere along this longest street of America and there are many local establishments still worth visiting.  One being The Irish Snug a few blocks from the Ogden.  They have a decent happy hour 7 days a week and big servings of their really tasty food.  This gets my vote for before/after dining and drinks.  Besides this restaurant/bar, there really isn’t much else around within walking distance if you want a drink.  Food wise, there’s a Wendy’s, Pita Grill and a Good Times but it’s pretty slim on options.

Surrounding Restaurants/Bars = D+  Because of the lack of options, but it would have been worse if we didn’t enjoy the Irish Snug so much.


The historic Ogden Theater in Denver Colorado.  Located at 935 East Colfax Avenue, Denver, Colorado.

It’s a small venue, but it provides a very intimate setting for seeing live bands with sloped standing room on the main floor and lots of standing, sitting room on the balcony.  So unless you’re in the very back or really short and stuck in between the folks piled in at the front of the stage, you should really be able to see the band.  We arrived 45 minutes before the 7pm start of Social Distortion concert and was able to get two stools in the middle of the second row of the balcony.  So if you get there a little early, you should have a great spot for any show.

Cold beverages are available from numerous bars located throughout the theater, so getting a beverage is quick and easy.  Two draft Miller Lite’s were $11, so not cheap, but hey, you’re at a concert.

If you’ve read other reviews on Google or other online sites, you may have read that the sound is loud.  It is.  We sat in the middle, second row of the balcony and it was loud, but tolerable.  Our ears weren’t really ringing when we left.  Now with that being said, the sound clarity was good for the acoustic band Chuck Ragan, but the vocals really weren’t discernible when Suedehead and Social Distortion were playing.

Views = A
Drinks = A
Sound = C-


Opening Band #1Suedehead  = ‘A’ for stage presence and catchy tunes

We really enjoyed the stage presence and energetic rock rhythm of this California based British band.  Their style of music is hard to categorize, other than to describe it as positive, uplifting, dance pub music.  Similar to a 1950’s rock, but with a modern twist that really gets you out of your seat.  They were brand new to us, so not knowing the words to their songs and because of the crappy vocals at the Ogden, it was tough to understand the lyrics.  However, their catchy riffs and vocals was a great way to open a show.

This is a short video of Suedehead at the Ogden Theater in Denver, Colorado when they opened for Social Distortion.  The video captures the lead singer Davey Warsop talking to the crowd and the band starting their song “Trevor”.  Check them out though, they have some really ‘get out of your seat and dance’ music which is great for running, driving or anything else other than sitting on your duff.  Completely unrelated, but the lead singer Davey Warsop totally reminded me of Ewen Bremner ‘Spud’ from Trainspotting.

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Opening Band #2: Chuck Ragan = ‘A’ for unique sound and great songs

Following Suedehead’s energetic performance, Chuck Ragan came out with a long introduction before playing the energetic It’s What You Will song.  Chuck Ragan was the second opening band for Social Distortion at the Ogden Theater in Denver, Colorado.  They reminded me of Mumford & Sons, but this trio really rocked it out with their acoustic guitar and lead singer Chuck Ragan, fiddle player Jon Gaunt and standup bassist Joe Ginsberg.  A really unique sound from a unique band.  It was a great opening act as they made a fan out of me.  Check them out at  This video captures their introduction at the Ogden Theater and their lively opening song “It’s What You Will”.

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HeadlinerSocial Distortion = ‘A+’ because they are Social Distortion, would you expect less?

Social Distortion has been around since 1978 and rocking it ever since.  Their concert at the Ogden was no exception with the first set of a little over an hour and their encore performance roughly 20-30 minutes.  I will say that it’s a bit shorter of a set than what I expected, but every song was played hard and well received.  They played the popular songs like Prison Break, Ring of Fire, Ball and Chain, Story of My Life, etc. in addition to some new ones from their latest album Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes.  You can find more about them on the Wikipedia page.

Below is a video from their opening where the band came out, Mike Ness took the trench coat off, grabbed his guitar and tore into an instrument ballad before starting the opening song “Bad Luck”.

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After playing for an hour, they left the stage and a few minutes later they came back out with a few additional singers for “California (Hustle and Flow)” from their new album.

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Finally, the much anticipated “Prison Bound”.

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You can find more videos on You Tube as you’d expect, but it was a fantastic show and hopefully this helps with your next visit to the Ogden.

Batman Noël

Lee Bermejo take’s a unique and entertaining approach with his new representation of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol.  With Batman as Scrooge, this graphic novel puts a fun twist on this holiday classic for the holidays.

Now I don’t think I have read a graphic novel since I would venture to say, The Death of Superman by Dan Jurgens & Brett Breeding.  But sitting on a plane in October traveling back to Colorado, I was reading the Life section of USA Today and read an article on this graphic novel to be released in November about taking a unique perspective of A Christmas Carol by replacing Scrooge with Batman.  I thought it was such a clever concept and was really excited to check it out.  And I’m glad that I did…

Cover of Lee Bermejo’s Batman Noël

The artist and author of Batman Noël was Lee Bermejo who masterfully ties Batman with Scrooge for this holiday remake. Jim Lee wrote a wonderful introduction to this twisted holiday classic praising Lee Bermejo’s growth and ingenuity.  I haven’t heard of Jim Lee since his Wildcats days at Image Comics, so it was a welcomed blast to the past.  I always enjoyed his work.

Visited by his late partner Robin, in place of Jacob Marley, Batman is told that he will have three “visitors”.  The Ghost of Christmas Past takes the lovely form of Catwoman, reminding Batman of the good o’l days of playing cat and mouse.  Superman then visits Batman as the Ghost of Christmas Present showing him that there are more to people than just pawns in his game to capture the Joker and that Batman isn’t as beloved as he thought because of the person he has become. Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Future, the Joker, visits Batman and shows him that life could and will go on without him..  I got to say, Lee did an amazing job using the symbolism of the Ghost of Christmas Future for the Joker.

Inside Lee Bermejo’s Batman Noël

Lettering by the best in the business Todd Klein and the wonderful, dark, rich coloring by fellow Italian Barbara Ciardo, Lee Bermejo surrounded himself by a fantastic team for his first solo project.  I got to say, it was a really fun read and one that will make a great Christmas gift for my nephew.

For a preview of the graphic novel, check out DC Comics.  For more thorough reviews, check out USA TodayIGN and fellow WordPress blog Dark Media City.

Voodoo Doughnut – Portland, OR, United States

Traveling and experiencing the local restaurants in search of fantastic local food is a must for any traveler.  Especially when those restaurants are so unique that anything else like it would be plagiarized imitation.  Voodoo Doughnut epitomizes that place.  Voodoo Doughnut is characteristic Portland, Oregon.  Visited by Adam Richman and Anthony Bourdain from The Travel Channel, it’s a popular spot to say the least.  And the long lines at all times of the day (they are open 24 hours) is a testament to that.  There are three locations, but the newly remodeled original is located at 22 SW 3rd Avenue Portland, Oregon.  Right across from an unofficial Portland slogan, “Keep Portland Weird.”  So let’s look at their atmosphere, service and food shall we?

Open 24 hours

The original Voodoo Doughnut entrance.

"Keep Portland Weird" across from Voodoo Doughnut which Portland is living up to.

Voodoo Doughnut has one of the most original atmospheres.  They love pink, and not that sissy Mary Kay pink, full up Dennis Rodman loud in your face pink.  Their restaurants are pink inside.  The to-go boxes that you carry these sugar coated fat pills in is even pink.  Did I feel manly eating my doughnut’s from a pink box, no.  But let me tell you how much attention that pink box draws, holy crap.  It’s like a bug zapper to flies.  Walking through the Portland Saturday Market behind Voodoo Doughnut, I can’t tell you how many times I had to answer “Where did you get those doughnuts?”  Don’t even think about taking that pink love box through the airport, which I did to bring them home to my friends and family during one trip.  Of course there are the envious travelers making comments as I passed, but that was nothing to how the TSA treated me.  I swear the TSA was going to probe me just to confiscate them.  Knowing the 3oz liquid rule, they even threatened me with the whole “you don’t have jelly filled doughnuts in there do you?”  🙂  To their credit, the TSA were friendly and professional, but holy crap I wasn’t prepared for the reactions from people.  Back to the atmosphere.  The restaurants are all populated with their doughnuts, paraphernalia and various other goth and Halloween-ish decorations, such as the coffin that you can buy filled with doughnuts.  The staff is also major part of the atmosphere because they are all very friendly and colorful with most of them having unique tattoos, piercings and singing skills as you could here them singing in the back room making doughnuts.  Heck, I probably would be to if I was making these lovely morsels of goodness.  Oh and of course lots of pink.  The restaurants are truly full of a ton of eye entertainment as they are really fun restaurants to take in the sights as you wait in line for your joy buns.

Inside the original Voodoo Doughnut

Voodoo Doughnut To-Go Box - "Good Things Come In Pink Boxes"

While waiting in line outside, there's a glimpse of the magic that happens in the back.

Portland is notorious for homeless teenagers, which is really a shame because it is a cool city. This kid was sitting right next to Voodoo Doughnut where the long line of people were waiting outside.

So let’s discuss their service.  The wait is long, but worth it.  The place is cash only, which sucks when you want to buy a box of doughnuts and maybe a shirt or pair of panties.  Yup they sell them.  After all, their slogan is “The Magic is in the Hole”.  Quite fitting I thought.  🙂  The cashiers/servers are quick and I thought patient as it does take a little time to circumnavigate the menu.  I recommend trying to borrow the laminated menu so you are prepared for when you’re next in the queue.

Now the food.  Okay, a doughnut is still a doughnut.  It’s tough to rival Krispy Kreme’s “Hot Doughnuts Now” in the melt in your mouth doughnut texture and taste, but these are some tasty doughnuts.  However the creativity and convolution of textures and flavors of their doughnuts really sets the bar to the upper echelon of doughnut greatness.  Here are a few examples of their clever and outlandish varieties.  You have the Tex-Ass that has the diameter of a human head, the Voodoo Doll filled with raspberry jelly and a stake in the heart, the famous Maple Bacon Bar (which the sweet and salty truly is fabulous!), doughnuts covered in fruit loops, coco-puffs and captain krunch, Gay Bar with rainbow fruit loops on top, Cock-N-Balls (you get the picture on that one), the Maple Blazer Blunt that looks like a blunt, Marshal Matters covered in…M&M’s (surprised?), Dirty Snowballs, etc.  The list goes on and on with those creative nuggets.  The prices are around $1-2 for ‘normal’ sized and $4-5 for ‘special’ ones like the fritters and Tex-Ass, etc.  But make sure you bring cash!  Definitely check out their website though or just click on the pics below for more details.

Voodoo Doughnut - "Voodoo Doll" doughnut raspberry filled and pretzel stabbed

Voodoo Doughnut - "Maple Bacon Bar" doughnut (awesome..)

Voodoo Doughnut - "Diablos Rex" doughnut

Voodoo Doughnut - "Butterfingering" doughnut covered in Butterfingers

Voodoo Doughnut - "Arnold Palmer" doughnut covered in powdered ice tea and lemonade

Voodoo Doughnut - "Memphis Mafia" fritter fried dough with banana chunks and cinnamon sugar covered in a glaze with chocolate frosting, peanut butter, peanuts and chocolate chips on top.

Voodoo Doughnut - Old Dirty Bastard (O.D.B.) doughnut covered in chocolate frosting, crumbled Oreo’s and peanut butter drizzle.

Voodoo Doughnut - "Dirt Doughnut" covered in crumbled Oreo's and vanilla frosting.

Neal’s Ratings:

  • Atmosphere = A    (local, full of character)
  • Service =  A    (patient, everything ready and fresh.  Cash only though)
  • Food = A    (fantastic, outlandish doughnuts)

Now just a minor segue since Voodoo Doughnut is so close to it, if you hit up the downtown store on Saturday, you definitely need to meander behind it and visit the famous Portland Saturday Market.  It’s a really fun outdoor activity, full of local food, local music, local arts and crafts and some strange people.  Oh and they sell beer.  So definitely check it out.

The entrance to Portland Saturday Market

Portland Saturday Market and some locals

Portland Saturday Market - Another guy helping to keep Portland weird. We saw this guy all around downtown Portland, but here he is on the river walk at the Portland Saturday Market. Yes, your eyes don't deceive you, that's a stereo bungee tied to his handlebars. Oh wait, are those fake flowers and pink scarves tied to his hat? Why yes it is! What I want to know is, who is he talking to?!?! Now what is not captured in this captivating picture of Portland's finest, was the 'I'm high as a kite and I want to dance like I'm participating in a drum circle' gyrations that was was doing prior to this important phone call. Seriously, no joke.

Portland Saturday Market - Rogue Beer Karma

Portland Saturday Market - A Rogue Toast

Acosta Taco – Lennox, CA, United States

As anyone knows who travels a lot for work, eating at the chain restaurants gets old after awhile.  Thus when I travel, I first check to see if Anthony Bourdain, host of No Reservations and Adam Richman, host of Man v. Food on the Travel Channel feasted on any local delicacies from the town that I’ll be visiting.  Plugging Los Angeles into the Travel Channel’s website from my Droid, (yes I still have an original Droid) I searched for the closest place to El Segundo, California that Adam or Tony consumed some local cuisine.  So what gem did I find?…  Acosta Tacos located at 4539 W Imperial Hwy, Lennox, CA 90304.

This little staple of the local community was exhibited in the No Reservations episode where Tony ate carne asada tacos with some of the local LA gang unit police officers.  I didn’t have the entourage that Tony had, but instead a colleague where we decided to get a late lunch before attending another local meeting.  As with all restaurants I focus on three things, appearance, service and quality of the food.  So let’s begin..

Cruising down Imperial Highway searching for this local establishment, we drove right past it.  Pulling a u-turn we pulled into the empty parking lot in the rear of the shack…I mean restaurant.  I would have sworn it was closed since no one was around, but the wide open windows and doors and the ‘Yes, we’re open’ sign convinced us otherwise.  So the place wasn’t full of eye candy, but that means either the food is really good or really poor.  Since it was on T.V., the odds are in favor of the former.  It did have character though being a small, older local place characteristic of that area.

Walking up to the window in the front we studied the diverse menu full of various beef (beef tongue anyone?), pork, chicken and fish options while we waited for someone to show up from the back.  The gentleman was friendly and politely said “Don’t have any” to the first two things I tried to order, the barboboas and fish tacos.  Call me crazy, but if it’s on the menu I expected it to be available?  Maybe he just didn’t want to make any since we were after the lunch crowd, but not the best start.  So my colleague just ordered 12 tacos (at $1.28 each), 4 carne asada, 4 carnitas and 4 al pastor for the two of us.  The kind gentleman got right on our feast of these little munchkins and 5 minutes later or so, we got our little foil wrapped delights.  It’s important to note, and I do mean important, that this place is CASH ONLY.  Thankfully between the two of us, we just had enough.

Partaking of these morsals ontop of our red Chevrolet Traverse hood was a great change of pace from the subpar airport food we have been eating as of late.  The tacos were small, ~5″, with the standard double layer corn tortillas containing the taco goodness.   The tortillas were really good though, soft and newly steamed for sure.  All of the meats were well marinated and full of flavor.  In addition, all of the tacos were topped off with a mild tasty fresh tomato, cilantro, onion salsa.  I felt that the carnitas were my favorite with the carne asada being a bit chewy from possibly being cooked too long.  My colleague was the complete opposite as he liked the carne asada the best.  Everyone is different, so I’ll let you decide.  You can’t go wrong with any though from our experience.

Neal’s Ratings:

  • Atmosphere = B    (local, old building, nice change of pace)
  • Service =  C    (food was prepared good, but cash only and not having menu items was a downer)
  • Food = A    (good tasty food with soft tortillas and flavorful meat)