Langer’s Delicatessen Restaurant, 704S Alvarado St., Los Angeles, CA 90057

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The closest thing that LA has to a proper Jewish delicatessen restaurant, Langer’s opened in 1947 and it’s still family owned. Stepping inside is like stepping back in time. The lengthy menu is filled with classics and the star is the hot pastrami. The waitstaff wear white shirts and black bow ties. Cakes and pies are displayed in rotating cases. Expect a wait for a table or a counter seat. For to go orders, head to the takeout counter where you’ll spot pickles, salads, knishes and baked goods. Or opt for curbside pickup (they’ll bring your order to the curb).

The walls are covered with awards. Langer’s was awarded the James Beard Foundation Award. You can buy several kinds of pastrami shirts. Pastrami can also be delivered overnight.

The hot pastrami is a “select cut of beef, sugar-cured and seasoned as corned beef, then slowly smoked for tenderness and tantalizing taste and flavor, then covered in choice and costly spices.” The #19 hot pastrami sandwich is their most popular item.

The menu is so lengthy that it’s overwhelming: sandwiches, whitefish, grilled meat, corned beef, grilled liver and onions, chicken in the pot, egg creams, etc.

* #44 Hot pastrami, sauerkraut, and nippy American cheese grilled on rye ($15.95): This sandwich is expensive but it could be enough for two meals and the pastrami quality is extraordinary. The tender, hot pastrami has a thicker cut and a dark bark; it’s infused with a smoky flavor. The spices aren’t overwhelming. There are fatty bits…the pastrami is downright beautiful. I like sauerkraut but I found the amount of kraut to be overwhelming (almost ½ pastrami, ½ kraut). The cheese made it creamy and the rye bread was grilled till crunchy and dark brown – grilled to perfection. The sandwich came with three crunchy pickle halves and a peppermint candy.

Langer’s has its own parking lot on 7th and Westlake with 1 hour validation. It’s also close to the Westlake Metro station.

4.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Hui Tou Xiang Noodles House, 704 W Las Tunas Dr., Suite 5, San Gabriel, CA 91776

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HTXNH is right next door to one of my favorite places, Luscious Dumplings and the two places share some similarities: simple printed menu where you can write in your order, cash only, and a menu that emphasizes noodle soups and dumplings. Luscious has better dumplings and better noodles but HTXNH isn’t shabby either. There are some attractive pictures of their dishes posted outside.

Complimentary tea is provided and housemade kimchee. Their kimchee is fantastic – sweet, sour, crunchy, not too fermented tasting. Ask for a refill.

* Shanghai braised meatball noodle soup ($6.75): The light clear broth tasted shrimp based. The noodles were thin and soft (I prefer chewier noodles) which was disappointing. The veggies were still crisp. The bowl was big and filled with noodles plus two huge meatballs (like Lion’s Head meatballs). The meatballs were soft and tasted like good Lion’s Head meatballs with ginger and water chestnuts. The broth was plain but adding their kimchee made it really, really good.

* Three flavored boiled dumplings (10 pieces for $6.95): Thick chewy wrappers that were housemade, filled with pork, shrimp and Chinese leeks. The dumplings were homey and not juicy. They were good but didn’t impress.

The décor is simple and pleasant with a big picture of Shanghai, pale pink walls, booths and tables in the middle..

Cash only.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Bounce Boba Loft, 9545 Reseda Blvd., Unit 17, Northridge, CA 91324

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The drinks weren’t bad but the popcorn chicken was terrible…Bounce Boba Loft is close to CSUN and it has a typical boba place feel. They have free wi-fi and loud music. The A/C was nice and strong.

You can create your own drink (milk tea, snow bubble, slush, mar-tea-ni, frozen mar-tea-ni) or choose a classic milk tea or new flavors like brown sugar and milk candy. They also have popcorn chicken and paninis. Add ins are extra (25 cents a scoop) and they have a wide array of jellies, jello, popping boba and boba (mini, pink, regular, honey). Hot drinks are 25 cents extra.

* Earl grey milk tea ($2.95 regular, plus 25 cents for pearls). The drink wasn’t cold but at least it didn’t have much ice. It was creamier than usual. I asked for less sweet and it was still pretty sweet. The honey boba balls were a little gluey and some were stuck together. Not the freshest pearls.

* Popcorn chicken ($3.99): The pieces of chicken were small and there was too much crunchy batter. The chicken was dry, very dry. There wasn’t any basil and it didn’t have the really good popcorn chicken seasoning. You can specify how hot you want it. They add chili powder if you want it spicy.

3 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Pure Yum, 5625 Auto Mall Pkwy., Fremont, CA 94538

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Fro-yo girl here. Remember FreshBerry/SmallCakes? FB/SC is gone only to be replaced by a similar cupcake and self-serve froyo shop called Pure Yum. The froyo has improved…not sure about the cupcakes though because I didn’t try any. The interior hasn’t changed much. It’s on the plain side but clean.

There are 10 self-serve froyo flavors a day and a wide variety of fairly typical toppings (syrups, nuts, fruit, mochi, candy, cereal, sprinkles, brownies, cheesecake, coconut, popping boba, chocolate chips, whipped cream) for 40 cents an ounce. Ask for sample cups at the register.

Fro-yo flavors of the day:

  • Pineapple sorbet
  • Dreamy dark chocolate
  • California tart – icy, had a sour, citrusy taste, not as clean tasting as better plain tarts
  • Cookies and cream – nice because it wasn’t too chocolatey, also one of the creamier flavors
  • Vanilla frozen custard – sweet, creamy, rich, dense, recommended
  • Sea salt caramel pretzel – found it a bit too salty so somewhat strange, also icy
  • NSA Tahitian vanilla
  • Orange sorbet
  • Pistachio – too icy, slightly nutty flavor
  • Strawberry sensations

Cupcakes are baked on site and they had a wide variety including full size and mini cupcakes. The cupcakes are called LittleCakes now, which sounds an awful lot like SmallCakes. Free wi-fi.

You know you love me. X0 X0, fro-yo girl.

3.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Port Fest, Seaport Ct., Redwood City, CA 94063

Redwood City’s Port Fest is an annual festival that’s aimed at families with kids and at generating interest in sailing. The festival is free and includes a free shuttle from downtown Redwood City to the Port of Redwood City. There are various booths set up featuring businesses and organizations (banks, Jamba Juice, etc.), a live band, demonstrations, craft booth, two food trucks, and a beer garden. It’s a small festival and not crowded.

The fun part is that you have the chance to go on several boats. Some rides are free. The harbor cruise on the Marine Science Institute research vessel ($5) is educational and fun (it’s aimed at kids so it feels like going on a grade school field trip).

3 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

La Boulange du Dome, 845 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94103

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Laptop camper here. Located under the historic Dome inside Westfield SF shopping center, La Boulange du Dome has to be the best looking of the La Boulange locations. It feels like the centerpiece of the Dome level and looks like a spacious, elegant, and modern cafe. There are many small tables and some large communal tables with slick white chairs and some padded banquettes where you can linger over a pastry or a glass of wine.

The pastry, drink and food options are plentiful. There are freshly baked croissants, brioche, many flavors of macarons, danishes, cookies, canneles, tarts, soups, quiche, salads, sandwiches, etc.

* Brioche topped with sugar: Buttery, lightly sweet, not too dry, a good brioche

* Latte: Pretty foam art but the latte was quite bitter, would recommend getting the coffee instead

It’s not a bad camping spot in terms of comfort, food and drink, but there aren’t any outlets.

You know you love me. X0 X0, laptop camper.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Catch Isle, 845 Market St., San Francisco, CA 94103

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The pictures of fish and chips and steamed mussels definitely seemed enticing and it’s not often that I see freshly cooked seafood at the mall food court. Catch Isle’s menu includes reasonably priced seafood pastas, fish or shrimp tacos, fish & chips ($6.25), sandwiches, salads, soups, sides and more. They serve wine and beer. Once you order, they give up a beeper that goes off when your order is ready.

* Fish taco ($3.25) available grilled or fried, topped with salsa. It’s twice as large as the usual street food tacos. The grilled fish was in big hunks with firm flesh. It didn’t have much flavor and was also cold. The double corn tortillas were cold too.  The salsa made the taco far too watery. Disappointing.

* Grilled asparagus spears with parmesan and aioli ($4.75): Simple but very good and served hot (freshly grilled) with aioli on the side

3 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, 1570 Stockton St., San Francisco, CA 94133

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Tony must truly be the master of all pizzas. He has his school of pizza and the TPN menu features many styles of pizza including California pizza (with fancy toppings like kale, apricot cheese and honey), Detroit pizza, Neapolitan style, Classic American, St. Louis pizza (thin cracker crust) and gluten free pizza. He won the Best Pizza Margherita at the World Pizza Cup in Naples, Italy.

With so many styles of pizza to choose from, the menu is intimidating though well organized. Choose a pizza style first (the baking temperature and type of oven are listed). The Margherita pizza is limited to 73 a day so get there early if you want to try it. They also have housemade pasta, appetizers, calzones, Stromboli, sides, a kids menu and fancy cocktails. It looks like a dark sports bar with a long counter, booth seating and 2 TVs for sporting events.

* Complimentary bread with three dips: Foccacia was airy and chewy, dips were very good though the garlicky one was too sweet

* Detroit style red top pizza ($22): A square pizza cooked in a gas oven on special steel pans from Detroit, topped with Wisconsin brick mozzarella cheese, white cheddar, tomato sauce and garlic butter. It’s like French bread pizza meets garlic bread. The pizza features four big slices. The pizza is thick, spongy and doughy with a slightly crispy quality on the bottom and cheesy extra crispy sides. It’s mostly cheese and crust. Stripes of tasty tomato/pizza sauce are added on top of the cheese. It’s best eaten hot because it loses its crispiness when it gets cold. You can add extra toppings. This isn’t my favorite style of pizza but it was worth trying.

5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Garden Club Restaurant, 1144 Mission Rd., South San Francisco, CA 94080

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Old school good value and solid cooking…if you’re a long time San Franciscan over 70 who enjoys Italian food, chances are good that the Garden Club is one of your favorite places. It definitely looks like it’s been around for decades, cluttered with red & white checked tablecloths and a duck theme – what you can see of it that is. It’s dark inside in the bar area. If you’re a regular (and there are many of them), you’re likely to run into many people that you know. Show up late and you may have to wait for an hour or longer – but you can hit the bar and enjoy some generous pours. The servers look like they’ve been there for a long time.

The menu changes based on the day of the week. You’ll get a five course meal that includes bread, soup, salad, appetizer (e.g., ravioli, stuffed chicken breast), entrée with sides, and your choice of dessert for $18.95 - $25.95. Check the chalkboard for today’s specials. The server will also tell you the specials of the day. For dessert you can choose from tapioca pudding, sherbet, or an ice cream sundae.

* Basket of sourdough bread with pats of butter: The loaves of bread were served cold and sliced. Bread was tasty enough but the crust was very chewy. It could be challenging for someone without all their teeth.

* Manhattan clam chowder: Comes in a huge family size bowl. It’s a hearty soup with big chunks of potatoes, carrots, teeeny clams (hardly any), celery, and zucchini in a tomatoey broth. Cherylynn N. is right – it tastes more like minestrone (minus the pasta) than Manhattan clam chowder but it’s still good. You can add grated Parmesan to it (each table has a big bowl full)

* Shrimp salad: Served family style, a big pile of tender baby shrimp in a sweet dressing (Russian?) over mixed greens. I also spotted some imitation crab meat, garbanzo beans, and kidney beans – but it was 95% shrimp and lettuce. Not bad.

* Veal cutlet with country gravy ($18.95) with a scoop of mashed potatoes, Italian green beans and peas. Wow, the mashed potatoes were very smooth. I like mine with more texture/clumpier. The green beans were on the soft side. The country gravy, a white gravy, was more like cream gravy – very thick. The thin veal cutlet had a light, crispy fried breading – definitely tasty, like schnitzel. The cutlet was huge.

* Sundae with vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and whipped cream – reminded me of something you’d get a cafeteria somewhere, probably Dreyer’s ice cream, old school but charming.

Insider tips: Get there early and bring an extra container for your soup. They’re known for prime rib and they do run out. Reservations are accepted for parties of 5 or more people.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Turtle Tower, 5716 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94121

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Come here when you’re craving a big bowl of hot steaming chicken noodle soup (pho ga). The food comes quickly (5 minutes elapsed from the time we ordered to the time we received the pho). With Northern style pho, you don’t get bean sprouts, basil or hoisin sauce. The broth is simpler.

* Pho ga ($6.75 small, $8.25 large): There are a couple of simple things that make this bowl of noodle soup close to exceptional. It’s on the simple side but the clear clean tasting chicken broth is infused with chicken flavor. The free range chicken pieces aren’t the most tender but they are also more flavorful than average. I like the wider flat soft rice noodles and the abundance of finely chopped cilantro and scallions on top. You get a herbs in every spoonful. You can add hot sauce, fish sauce, lemon or jalapenos.

The large doesn’t seem as large as other pho restaurants. They have a loyalty card, 10% off during your birthday month and free noodle soup on your birthday.

I might try the beef pho later (the rare beef/pho tai variety looked particularly tasty) but it’s awfully hard not to get the Northern style pho ga that they’re known for. The menu is short. They have noodle soups, rice plates, sticky rice dishes and Vietnamese drinks.

Cash only.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.