Restaurant Review #250: Howie's Grill & Bar, Simi Valley

Grilled Portobello Mushroom - $10.95
Howie's opened in January 2011 on the corner of Cochran and Madera, a location that's very convenient to the freeway if you happen to be at the far west end of Simi Valley just before you get to Moorpark. Howie's occupies a former Applebees, and the dining room hasn't changed much. The cuisine is also somewhat similar--what I'd call suburban American--but with just enough creativity to capture your interest. The beer selections are also slightly less boring than usual.

Meat is a major feature on the menu, but they also have a portobello mushroom cap, grilled and served with swiss cheese, caramelized onions, and a balsamic glaze, that was enormous (I only ate half) and delicious. As for the side of sweet potato fries, I'll take them over regular fries anyway, but these fries weren't really seasoned and didn't taste as good as any frozen grocery store sweet potato fries--not worth the deep-fried calories at all.

Skillet Mac ‘n’ Cheese - $6.95
We're very picky about mac and cheese because we have a homemade recipe that we're very fond of. Howie's kicked up mac ‘n’ cheese with 4 kinds of cheese, topped with a jalapeƱo bacon, panko, and parmesan crust sounded very promising and looked delicious, but didn't have as much flavor as you'd expect. I started to suspect that our cook was too careful with the salt.

Kobe Beef Sliders - $9.95
I know what Tony Bourdain says about kobe burgers duping the masses out of their hard-earned money for what are essentially ordinary burgers, but I love them anyway. Howie's3 mini kobe burgers topped with cheddar cheese and sweet caramelized onions were the highlight of the meal. Please don't tell me how many calories are in these things--you can see the fat glistening even on the buns.

BBQ Bacon Burger - $10.95

The bbq bacon burger is a basic burger with applewood smoked bacon, bbq sauce, and your choice of jack, swiss or cheddar cheese. It was as good as any restaurant burger and served horror-movie style with a giant knife plunged into the center.

Chocolate Fudge Cake - $6.45 plus $3.95 for ice cream

As if we weren't already so stuffed that we needed to be rolled out of the restaurant, we splurged on dessert. There was no way I was missing the chance to try a dessert that combines two of my favorite things--beer and ice cream. We paired the ice cream with a side of chocolate cake. The cake was pretty much what you'd expect it to be, but the Drunken Udder Guinness chocolate stout ice cream was a disappointment. I couldn't taste the stout at all. The ice cream is expensive, too--$3.95 for an a la mode scoop, and even more if you order it alone.  But with the exception of the ice cream, the prices are very reasonable, especially for the portions you get.

Nice view from a booth by the window
Howie's has a patio, but it's somewhat noisy since it's adjacent to a busy street and not far from the freeway. Still, it's nice to have the option to dine outdoors. We enjoyed our window booth with a nice view of the surrounding mountains and Simi Valley's immaculate landscaping.

For the most part, I liked my meal a lot. I haven't been back, but that has less to do with Howie's and more to do with my aversion to eating enormous, heavy meals.

Howie's Grill and Bar
109 West Cochran Street
Simi Valley, CA 93065
(805) 520-3000
Open daily 9am-11pm
Howie's website
Howie's menu


Restaurant Review #249: Ladyface Alehouse and Brasserie

Patio dining, complete with heaters and umbrellas
It's rare for a restaurant in LA to focus on beer. Or at least, it used to be before beer got trendy. But as luck would have it, I was driving, so I didn't get to sample any ales at Ladyface Alehouse and Brasserie, a Conejo Valley microbrewery whose beers are served around town at places like Father's Office, Boneyard Bistro and Library Alehouse. Fortunately, the restaurant has a lot of other things going for it. It has a parking lot, it's immaculately clean, the bathroom is spacious, the service is attentive, it's practically always open and the menu has some less-common items on it.


We started with the gougeres, popovers with a touch of gruyere cheese. I love the moist, airy interior of popovers and it was difficult to stop eating them and save room for the rest of my food. The gruyere wasn't that noticeable, thought.

French onion soup

Salad of spinach, chicken, and red bell peppers
Pommes frites

As you can see, we made it a light lunch so we could sample several items. Ladyface Alehouse made the french fries sound incredibly enticing by calling them fresh, hand cut classic Belgian fries and offering them with a choice of seasonings and dips. While the presentation in a spiral holder was creative, there was nothing special about the flavor or texture of the fries. They were too soft. The blue cheese fondue and curry mustard dipping sauces were tasty, but didn't make up for the unexciting potatoes.

The view of the surrounding hills from the outdoor patio is beautiful. We ate mid-afternoon on a weekday and almost had the patio to ourselves, so it was very quiet. The indoor space seemed like it could easily get very noisy and crowded. The restaurant, and especially the place where you pull in to park, are hard to spot, so don't be surprised if you have to double back.

I didn't really get the full experience of this restaurant, but I enjoyed my meal enough that I'd like to go back and try the beer and the dinner menu.

Ladyface Alehouse and Brasserie
29281 Agoura Road
Agoura Hills, CA 91301

Ladyface Alehouse website
Ladyface Alehouse menu


Restaurant Review #248: Elysee Bakery, Westwood

 A spacious sandwich shop with a relaxed atmosphere, Elysee would seem to be one of the few places to eat in Westwood where you could enjoy a somewhat peaceful meal.

Located on a busy street corner with pedestrians constantly streaming by, Elysee also winds up being a wonderful place to people watch and a good place to eat.

The sandwiches at Elysee are not what I’d describe as cheap, but they are very tasty and rather filling, so you’ll feel like you got your money’s worth. The sandwiches are rather creative—there is a menu of several different sandwiches, often with combinations of ingredients that you’d think shouldn’t go together and yet somehow wind up being complementary. Speaking of complimentary, the staff deserves recognition for being rather friendly and attentive—something noteworthy in the Westwood area.

Flickr photo by madaroni

Elysee Bakery
1099 Gayley
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Elysee Bakery website


Restaurant Review #247: Loteria! Grill, LA Farmer's Market, La Brea

The first time I went to the LA Farmer's Market, I didn't try Loteria! Grill. $3 for a taco? Give me a break!

It's true--I have been spoiled by $1 tacos at cheap San Fernando Valley taquerias. But I regretted skipping the opportunity to try a restaurant I've repeatedly heard good things about. So on my second visit to the LA Farmer's Market, Loteria! was my first stop.

Nothing excites me more than new flavors, and the more things I can sample in one restaurant meal, the better. It's not just because I have a food blog that I regularly order too much food at restaurants so I can try multiple dishes.  At least, I do when I'm not feeling cheap.

With that in mind, there was no way I could pass up Loteria's taco sampler platter--the chance to sample miniature portions of 12 different taco flavors:

Nopalitos - Fresh Cactus Salad. Served with Salsa Verde and Queso Fresco.
Calabacitas - Zucchini and Roasted Corn Succotash Served with Salsa Verde, Finely Chopped Onion and Cilantro, and Queso Fresco.
ChampiƱones con Epazote - Mushrooms with Epazote Served with Finely Chopped Onion and Cilantro, Queso Fresco, and Salsa Verde.
Papa con Rajas - Potatoes with Roasted Poblano Peppers Served with Finely Chopped Onion and Cilantro, Queso Fresco, and Salsa Verde.
Mole Poblano con Pollo - Chicken in Mole Poblano Served with Sesame Seeds, Finely Chopped Onion, and Queso Fresco.
Tinga de Pollo - Chicken, Stewed with Chipotle Peppers and our home-made Chorizo Served with Salsa Roja de Chipotle.
Pollo en Pipian Rojo - Chicken in a Spicy Pumpkin-Seed and Peanut Sauce Served with Finely Chopped Onion.
Carne deshebrada - Shredded Beef Served with Fresh Guacamole, Salsa Chipotle, and Finely Chopped Onion and Cilantro.
Albondigas en Chipotle - Meatballs in a Tomato and Chipotle Sauce Served with Finely Chopped Onion and Cilantro.
Cochinita Pibil- Pork, Slowly Roasted in Banana Leaf Served with Citrus-Pickled Red Onion and Chile Habanero.
Chicharron en Salsa Verde - Pork Rinds in a Spicy Tomatillo Sauce Served With Finely Chopped Onion and Cilantro and Queso Fresco.
Carnitas en salsa Morita - In a Spicy Chile Morita Sauce Served with slices of Fresh Avocado and Finely Chopped Onion and Cilantro.

Each taco is teeny tiny--the tortillas must have been 2" in diameter. One person could eat the whole plate and still be hungry. And if one person shared this plate with three people, as I did, they would have plenty of room left to eat at at least two more Farmer's Market restaurants. I also had a canteloupe flavored agua fresca.

My favorite was the papa con rajas. I never would have thought a potato taco could have so much flavor. It's also rather unusual to find multiple vegetarian options at a taco stand. Most of the other flavors were not nearly as memorable, but I frequently think about returning to the market for a plate of full-sized potato tacos. Judging by the crowds at this place, I'm clearly not the only one who craves Loteria's unique flavors.

Loteria! Grill 
6333 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90036-3109
(323) 930-2211
Loteria! Grill website
Loteria! Grill menu


Restaurant Review #246: Bob's Donuts, LA Farmer's Market

Located at the LA Farmer's Market at Third and Fairfax, Bob's Donuts is an institution. I noticed it because of its vintage storefront and couldn't resist the promise of the best donut in LA.

I ordered a glazed donut because a) it's my favorite and b) the glazed donut should be the litmus test for any donut shop.

While my glazed donut was good, it wasn't any better than the donuts I can get at the shop down the street from my house. (Granted, the shop down the street from me has some pretty delicious donuts.) I wouldn't call Bob's Donuts a must-stop experience at the Farmer's Market, especially when there are so many other delicious and more unique options to choose from at Third and Fairfax. But if you're craving a donut or just something sweet, you won't go wrong with Bob's, either.

Bob's Donuts
6333 W 3rd St Ste 450
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 933-8929