Restaurant Review #245: The Counter, Pasadena

Veggie burger

I've been hearing about The Counter for years. It was the favorite joint of a hamburger-obsessed colleague of mine, and everyone seems to rave about it. But I was really underwhelmed. There was nothing special about the flavor of the meat. I could have made a comparable, if not better, burger at home.

Beef burger

The concept behind The Counter is to build your own burger using a cute clipboard checklist. You can choose your own meat (beef, turkey, chicken, veggie), the size (1/3, 2/3, 1 lb), and your bun (regular, multigrain, English muffin, onion bun). The restaurant offers several dozen interesting toppings. Some of the more unusual options include horseradish cheddar, herb goat cheese spread, grilled pineapple, roasted green chiles, fried egg, apricot sauce, and peanut sauce. If all the options are too overwhelming, you can choose one of their predesigned signature burgers.

Maybe I didn't choose the right toppings, but for me, it was just an overpriced burger.

Parmesan fries

We also tried a side of parmesan fries. Ever since the truffle fries we had at Josie a few years ago, we've been searching for something else that measured up. The Counter's fries looked delicious but weren't very memorable.

We went to the Pasadena restaurant, but there are quite a few  locations, including Hermosa Beach, Miracle Mile, Sunset Blvd., Santa Monica, Studio City, and others.

The Counter
140 Shoppers Lane
Pasadena, CA 91101-2618
Hours: Mon-Thu,Sun 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat 11am-11pm
The Counter website


Restaurant Review #244: Palermo Deli, Granada Hills

Tuna tart - $4.95

Palermo Deli, an Argentinian and European market and deli, doesn't look like much from the outside. It's in a questionable-looking shopping center with cramped parking in an iffy part of town. But on the inside, it's bright, clean and well-organized. Walk to the back to examine the goodies in the deli case or order something off the menu, then grab a table in the front and wait for your food.

I ordered the tuna tart, which is sort of like an empanada, but in pie form. The filling contains tuna, red peppers, slices of hard boiled egg and I'm not sure what else in a pie-like shell. While I do not like pie, tuna, or hard boiled eggs, I adore this dish. I'm sure it's because my host mother in Spain, who was an excellent cook, also made this dish, so there's a nostalgia factor involved. But I dare say that Palermo Deli's version was delicious in its own right. Make sure to have it heated up.

The vegetarian panini with eggplant, sweet roasted red peppers, and cheese ($7.99 ) is another delicious option. Much of the lunch menu consists of sandwiches, but there are also pastas, pizza, salads and hot plates. The menu is surprisingly extensive for such a small shop. They also serve breakfast, dessert, coffee, and pastries.

I couldn't help but order two more slices of tuna tart to go, plus some pastelitos con membrillo - mini turnovers stuffed with quince ($0.85 each) - and beef empanadas ($1.59 each). Good luck avoiding the temptation to pick up some groceries and pastries on your way out. You can also order their nonperishable Argentinian groceries online.

Palermo Deli
16137 Devonshire St.
Granada Hills, CA 91344
Mon.-Thur. 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Fri.-Sat. 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sun. 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Palermo website


Restaurant Review #243: Plusko's, Canoga Park

When we were in the market for a wedding cake, one of the names that kept coming up was Plusko's. Their prices are very reasonable, but unless the only other wedding cake you can afford is one from Albertson's, don't waste your time in this grungy, cramped bakery. (In fact, I think I would choose Albertson's). Plusko's display cakes look sloppy and dated; the real ones are too sweet. Also, they messed up our test order, so that ruled them out as a possible candidate for our wedding cake. We went with Bread Basket instead.

Plusko's Bakery
21013 Sherman Way
Canoga Park, CA 91301
Plusko's website


Restaurant Review #242, Little Spain Restaurant, LA Farmers Market, La Brea

Croquetas de Jamon

At Little Spain Restaurant, a stall at LA Farmer's Market, I enjoyed the best croquettes I've eaten since I lived in Spain. They were fried up to order, served hot enough to burn my mouth (which is how I like my food). Unlike most croquettes, the inside was actually moist, not dried out. The fries were soggy and unnecessary, however.

Little Spain Restaurant
6333 West Third St. #120
Los Angeles, CA 90036