The Pasadena location of Roscoe's is situated in an old Pizza Hut that has been painted white but retains its unmistakable architecture. Inside, Roscoe's also appears to have retained Pizza Hut's decor of exposed brick and wooden curlicue chairs. Directly next door is a relatively new KFC. The smells from the dueling fried chicken establishments intermingle outside, and the two buildings are separated only by their cramped parking lots and a low masonry wall. Yes, Roscoe's has its own, free parking lot! Since it's not in trendy Old Town, patrons don't have to worry about parking garages or street parking.
The main draw, of course, is the food, not the ambiance. Roscoe's serves fried chicken and waffles--a combination that originated in Harlem--and a variety of Southern side dishes, including mac and cheese, collard greens, cornbread, and red beans and rice. Everything can be ordered a la carte, but each side costs around $3 or $4, so you can rack up a bill pretty quickly ordering this way. You can also order a variety of preselected combinations of chicken, waffles, and side dishes from the main menu.
The delectable waffles are made fresh from a house batter and served with a generous dollop of whipped butter. The fried chicken breast was crispy and perfectly good, but not so amazing that I would need to eat it again (be aware that the breast is neither boneless nor skinless). It wasn't dry, but it wasn't juicy, either. I confess that the thrill of eating fried chicken and waffles together seems to be lost on me, except that it creates a great excuse to dip salty chicken into sweet maple syrup. If I went back, I might try a wing or a thigh and/or the gravy-smothered chicken.
Collard greens are one of my favorite vegetables, but Scoe's greens were disappointing. For the price, I expected more than a watery, overly stewed, small bowl of plain greens. They were a little more interesting after adding hot sauce, but nothing like the collard greens at the Gumbo Pot at the LA Farmer's Market, or even like the ones I make myself. The cornbread was similarly lackluster. The baked mac and cheese was pleasantly tangy and salty and tasted like it was made from at least two different cheeses. The off-white plastic plates and bowls reminded me of those old-school cafeteria-style restaurants like Picadilly and Luby's that are scattered across the South.
Overall, I enjoyed my meal, especially my waffle, though I felt that my meal cost a few more dollars than it probably should have. Even average quality comfort food is still comforting. I would gladly eat at Roscoe's again, but I would probably not specifically seek it out unless I had a waffle craving. If I had a particular craving for Southern food, I would go somewhere else.
Roscoe's House of Chicken'n Waffles
830 N Lake Ave
Pasadena, CA 91104
Golden Tiger is an unmemorable Chinese restaurant in Simi Valley. We tried two dishes: the Mongolian beef and kung pao chicken. The beef was fatty and unflavorful, and the dish had lots of of green and white onions--filler that goes straight to the trash can, since we don't like to eat onions. The kung pao chicken fared slightly better since it was heavy on the meat and used the green onions very sparingly, but it still was just average at best.
Kung pao chicken
As much as I like the idea of supporting restaurants that are independent and unique, Panda Express and Pickup Stix are both much better than this place. Golden Tiger is one of the few restaurants in the area that offers delivery, but I'd rather get in my car and grab some better food for takeout. If you live in the area and really want some food delivered, a better option is Thai Kitchen.
Golden Tiger Chinese Restaurant1494 Madera Road
Simi Valley, CA 9306
Golden Tiger website
Golden Tiger menu
I love Blue Table. It's so pristine that if it weren't for the constant stream of customers, I'd gladly eat off the burgundy-stained concrete floor. Everything, from the gourmet dry goods to the display-case salads to the plated sandwiches, is gorgeous to look at.
In total, there are 16 varieties of sandwiches (two of which are vegetarian). We tried the Italian sub, which has salami, prosciutto cotto, mortadella, provolone, dijon aioli, lettuce, tomato, and Italian “salsa”. Mortadella, in case you were wondering, is kind of like baloney. Since we weren't sure what it was and didn't know if we would like it, they kindly put it on the side. The sandwich was pretty filling--you could get by on half if you weren't too hungry. We also tried the Ellen's Special, a hot panini with turkey, ham, goat cheese, fig-onion jam, and garlic aioli--a unique and delicious combination of ingredients that I should really try to recreate at home. Both sandwiches came with a small side salad of high-quality, super-fresh greens.
In addition to sandwiches, the deli serves a variety of soups, salads, pizzas, and sweets. The chewy, freshly baked cookies ($1.50 each) taste even better than homemade ones and make a great dessert option. To drink, there are a variety of artisan juices, sodas, teas, and waters in the cooler, but you can also get a can of Diet Coke or glass of tap water if you want.
Ellen's Special - $7.99
Order at the counter and someone will bring your food to your table, if you can get one. At noon on a Tuesday, we were lucky to get one of the few indoor tables (they're painted blue, naturally). There are only four--a secluded table for two, two four-tops, and a long communal table. There's patio seating, too, but the view of the vast parking lot isn't exactly ambient. If I went back, I'd prefer to do takeout.
If the sandwiches, salads, and sweets weren't enough to drool over, Blue Table sells an assortment of dry and frozen gourmet foods like pasta, pickles, fruit spreads, gelato, sorbet, and pasta sauce.
Whizin's shopping center
One minor note of caution: the Google Maps directions to Blue Table are not entirely accurate. If you follow them, you'll end up on the backside of Canyon Club. Drive around to the front entrance of Canyon Club to find Blue Table, past The Latigo Kid and before all the antique stores. The shopping center appears eerily dated but is backdropped by Agoura's beautiful golden and tree-studded hills.
Blue Table is a delicious find with interesting choices, fresh ingredients and top-notch service, even during the peak of the lunch rush. I recommend it highly.
Blue Table28912 Roadside Drive
Agoura Hills, CA 91301-3304
Hours: Mon-Sat 10am - 6pm
Also located in Calabasas
Blue Table website
Blue Table menu
Bread Basket is known in particular for its fresh fruit cakes that use blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries in the middle layer of filling and on top of the cake. Their fruit basket cake is especially popular, though personally I don't care much for fresh fruit in or on my cake.
It seems like the store is always very busy and crowded. Each of the five or so times we've been, there have been a steady stream of customers, no matter the time of day or day of the week. Part of the reason the store always feels crowded though is because it is so small. Besides having a small space, the store has placed large baskets of bread on the floor, making it difficult to walk all the way up to the counter. Bread Basket also has devoted a corner of the store to selling shelf-stable gourmet foods, which further clutters the space. If you want to enjoy your food there, the only tables are outdoors, facing the parking lot.
All of these things are annoyances, but the cake is so good that they're worth putting up with.
If it's a wedding cake you're looking for, Bread Basket's selection of cake fillings is smaller than most wedding cake vendors. Here are their choices:
Cake flavors: white, chocolate, lemon, carrot, red velvet, banana
Fillings: fruit basket (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, french whipped cream), fresh raspberries and raspberry cream, fresh strawberries and french whipped cream, fresh banana and banana cream, lemon cream, mocha cream, hazelnut cream, german chocolate, vanilla mousse (with optional raspberry puree), chocolate mousse (with optional raspberry puree), amaretto and french whipped cream, Bailey's Irish cream and chocolate mousse, Kahlua with chocolate mousse or mocha cream, dark Myer's rum with choice of french whipped cream or banana and banana cream
They also have cheesecakes, but we didn't try them.
My absolute favorite is the chocolate mousse filling with raspberry puree (photo below). The chocolate mousse filling is has delicate shavings of chocolate that give it some texture and combine a deeper, more bitter chocolate taste with a lighter, creamier chocolate taste. The cake itself doesn't offer anything special in terms of flavor, but it is very moist, unlike many other wedding cakes we sampled.
Chocolate cake with chocolate mousse and raspberry puree filling and buttercream frosting with a white chocolate wrap
The banana cream filling (we opted to leave out the fresh bananas it normally comes with) with dark Meyer's rum it also delicious, but unfortunately it's only available for wedding cakes.
The cakes Bread Basket offers on a daily basis are essentially the same as their wedding cakes. The differences are that there are a few more flavor options for wedding cakes, the wedding cakes have two layers of filling and three layers of cake instead of one layer of filling and two layers of cake, and the wedding cakes must have a special outer coating to keep the cake fresh and intact while it's on display for hours during the wedding reception.
For the outer layer, you can choose fondant (which I didn't like, but then, I never do) or a chocolate or white chocolate wrap. The white chocolate wrap can be made in either ivory or white. Whatever design you want can be piped onto the outside (and yes, it will stick to the chocolate wraps without sliding off). Underneath the outer layer, which only coats the vertical surfaces of the cake, not the horizontal ones, is a thin layer of buttercream frosting. They say that the ivory and white buttercream taste the same, but to me the ivory buttercream had more of a true butter-based buttercream flavor and the white had a more sugary, fake butter flavor. Both were good, but since I don't like super-sweet things, I preferred the ivory buttercream. In fact, one of the selling points of Bread Basket for me was that their cakes aren't super sweet.
At our initial consultation we received, for free, four generous full-sized pieces of cake to taste (which would have cost $20 if we had walked in to buy them). These were the four flavors that they normally carry and sell out of the display case daily--if you want something special from their wedding cake flavor list, you'll need to place a special order well ahead of your consultation. We did feel rushed on the two times we went to Bread Basket to discuss our wedding cake with them--the store is always so busy that it seems like the employees don't have the time to really sit down and discuss cakes with you. After we got a quote for our wedding cake, we surreptitiously ordered a small sample cake a few days later. We wanted to make sure they could get our order right before we committed to a wedding cake.
Bread Basket did get our small order correct. (The two other places we tested made significant mistakes, which was a deal killer.) After a second consultation and lots of questions, we decided to order our wedding cake from them. You don't have to commit until two weeks before the wedding date, and full payment is due at that time. Also, unlike other bakeries, there didn't seem to be any issue with our wedding date filling up with too many orders, so there was no pressure to make a decision quickly.
The wedding cake itself was prepared and delivered according to our order. It ended up costing about $6 per person, which seems to be a pretty average price for the area. We felt that it was a good value for the price because the cake was so good and the serving sizes were generous. We had quite a bit of leftover cake, which we happily took home and ate over the next week. We received numerous compliments from our guests on how good the cake was, including one from our friend's wife who months later got pregnant and said she was craving our wedding cake.
In addition to their generous tasting samples and reasonable prices, if you bring them a photo of your wedding cake on your first anniversary, they will give you a small cake, worth about $30, for free. This means that you don't have to freeze the top layer of your cake if you want to eat your wedding cake on your one-year anniversary--you can get a nice, fresh cake instead.
Bread Basket has an excellent reputation and is always busy for a reason. Their cake is my favorite cake anywhere. It's probably a good thing that I don't live closer to the store or I'd be eating cake every day.
Bread Basket83 E Daily Dr.
Camarillo, CA 93010
Closed Sunday and Monday
Bread Basket website
Thai Kitchen has some pretty great Thai food, and not just for Simi Valley standards (North Hollywood isn't that far away, after all). I tried my three favorite Thai dishes--papaya salad, pad kee maw with beef, and pad Thai with tofu to see how they measured up.
The papaya salad was the one dish that didn't impress me--for the price, I felt that it wasn't a lot of food. The tomatoes were of the mealy, refrigerated variety--which is usually the case with restaurant tomatoes--and, for my taste, there were too many different veggies and not enough papaya. Also, while I appreciate the use of fresh rather than dried shrimp, and I know that shrimp aren't cheap, it would have been nice to get more than one shrimp in my salad.
Pad Kee Maw
The pad kee maw was not quite as spicy or as flavorful as the one from Krua Thai--I don't think any pad kee maw will ever beat Krua's. And I like mine with mint, which this version didn't have. I also thought it could use more meat and red bell peppers, but overall, it was still a tasty dish that I would order again.
The pad Thai was really spectacular--totally comparable with Krua Thai (my standard of Thai food, in case you hadn't noticed). Best of all, you have the option to order it spicy--and they will actually make it lip-tinglingly spicy if you ask. I also thought this dish was a good value for the price--I could easily make two meals out of it for $8.
However, it was only totally spectacular on my first visit. On my second visit, I guess another cook was in the kitchen, and the dish wasn't as good as the first time. I still plan to go back, though, in the hope that my third experience will match my first.
Thai Kitchen doesn't offer much in the way of ambiance. It's located in an unattractive shopping center and the interior is pretty blah. This restaurant appears to do mostly takeout and delivery business. Thankfully, they are very quick to prepare meals for takeout and they have a low delivery minimum--just $15.
Overall, I think the service, food, and prices are all better than average and I would recommend Thai Kitchen.
Thai Kitchen995 East Los Angeles Avenue
Simi Valley, CA 93065-1879
Thai Kitchen menu