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.

The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013

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I’m always happy to see an independent bookstore but the Last Bookstore isn’t your average bookstore. It’s much quirkier, bringing together art with books. I love that the Last Bookstore has plenty of used books mixed in with new books. You can buy, sell or trade your books. They also have a good vinyl records section. It doesn’t have less mainstream goth/industrial titles but you can find punk and well known bands. The used records are also all alphabetized by artist, so that’s impressively organized.

The book selection is good but it’s not as comprehensive as a larger bookstore. I’ve been looking for a few books and they didn’t have those.

They have a cute separate area for comics and kids books. Upstairs you’ll find something called the Labyrinth which I think is all $1 books (over 100,000 books). I was confused by how books were organized. There were many that were organized by color. How does anyone find anything up there? They also have artist studios upstairs and a yarn store/gathering spot for knitters.

There are chairs and couches for hanging out and interesting pieces of art, including a tunnel made out of used books. The building once belonged to a bank and the grand marble columns and ornate ceiling remain. They have regular events like open mic nights, readings, concerts, etc.

4.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Urth Caffe, 594 E Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91101

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I’m not sure what the appeal is but Urth Caffe has become the place to be seen in Pasadena and they don’t even offer free wi-fi. Maybe it’s the allure of their organic, exclusive coffee and hand selected fine teas? Or the fancy foam art that they’re famous for? It always seems crowded and it takes awhile to get your drink.

Urth Caffe offers sandwiches, salads, breakfast items (omelets, waffles, etc.), desserts and pastries. The food it expensive – e.g., $9.50 for half a sandwich. Order at the counter, grab a number and someone will bring your food to you. Or if you just want a drink, they’ll call your name when it’s ready. They have some interesting drinks – fresh pressed juice, boba milk tea, tea lattes, Spanish lattes, etc.

The courtyard is a nice looking spot but the tables are super close together so I wouldn’t feel comfortable hanging out. They offer free delivery.

* Organic Earl grey boba ($3.95): Probably not the right thing to order here. I asked for the drink to be less sweet and it was still quite sweet but the tapioca pearls weren’t sweet enough. The pearls were fresh, chewy and bouncy. They didn’t add too much ice and the tea had a floral flavor that was pleasant. It was moderately creamy. The drink wasn’t chilled/cold at first but it was better once the ice melted and the drink was colder.

3.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Blissery Frozen Yogurt, 1727 E Washington Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91104

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Fro-yo girl here. Blissery’s predecessor at this location, Yoguroo, switched from a self-serve froyo format to a custom mix in froyo format. With Blissery, self-serve froyo is once again being offered. Blissery carries 10 flavors of YoCream froyo and the usual toppings (fresh fruit, mochi, nuts, candy, cereal, yogurt pretzels, syrups, sprinkles, popping boba, cookie dough, chocolate chips) for 39 cents an ounce. The chilled fruit looked particularly fresh. The frozen yogurt was icy.

I found sample cups at the toppings bar. They also had cones at the toppings bar.

Fro-yo flavors of the day:

  • Simply tart: pretty flavorful and pretty tart, on the icy side, light, refreshing
  • Blueberry NSA: I realized after sampling that this was a no sugar added flavor, yet it was still too sweet & syrupy tasting, plus it was on the icy side
  • Coffee: Nice real coffee flavor, sweeter, the texture was on the icy side
  • Georgia peach
  • Red velvet cake
  • Pomegranate raspberry
  • Dulce de leche
  • White vanilla
  • Pistachio
  • Chocolate classic

There must be many families in this part of town because the shop was filled with families with small, noisy kids. Blissery also carries cake slices.

Blissery redecorated the shop. It was serene before – mostly white with touches of light blue. The new look is more colorful with orange and green walls. Outdoor seating is available.

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

3 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Urban Radish, 661 Imperial St., Los Angeles, CA 90021

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A gourmet marketplace with the prices to match but filled with quality goods (some of which are hard to find elsewhere) and a standout deli. Urban Radish reminds me of Bi-Rite Market in SF. It’s the middle of a pretty grungy part of the arts/produce district which has surprisingly easy parking. Plus they have their own parking lot and electric car charging stations.

If it’s trendy and organic, chances are you can find it at Urban Radish. You can get $9 fresh pressed organic juices, $9 bottles of almond milk from Almond Milk LA, imported Italian candies, etc. You can buy cookbooks, dishes and cute things. Half an organic roast chicken is $6.95.

The building, a former glass factory, has an industrial warehouse look. It’s bright and airy inside. There’s a wine bar with small tables and picnic tables outside on the patio. The cheese and meat/charcuterie cases look impressive. The in-store café has baked goods, sandwiches and beverages (including an espresso bar). Help yourself to the fruit infused water (it’s really good).

My picks:

* Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams – frozen yogurt pints…utterly amazing

* Little Flower Candy Co. lemon caramels – my favorite

It’s not a huge market and the yogurt selection didn’t impress but the quality of their goods makes it worth checking out.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

Grand Central Market, 317 S Hill St., Los Angeles, CA 90013

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Part of LA history, the 30,000 sq. ft. Grand Central Market opened in 1917 and has been in operation ever since. At one time it had many more produce vendors than it does now. The current incarnation is mainly filled with prepared food vendors. About half of the vendors are Mexican. There are plenty of places to get a taco. You can also find good coffee at G&B Coffee, quality meat at Belcampo, quality cheese at DTLA Cheese, BBQ, bagels and Jewish deli food (Wexler’s), baked goods at Valerie, Japanese food, Hawaiian food, kababs, German currywurst, fresh pressed juices, kombucha on tap, etc. Oyster Gourmet will soon open. Belcampo and DTLA also offer prepared foods like grilled cheese sandwiches.

The newer vendors are similar to ones you’d find at the SF Ferry Building. Some of the older ones like China Café are also popular. The longest lines by far are for Eggslut, a place that specializes in what you would expect, eggs.

They will validate parking for 1 hour if you spend $10 and the parking lot is very close to the market. There are several dining areas and some eateries have counter seating (charming).

There’s a discount store in the basement that I need to check out next time and I also need to get some froyo at the Yogurt Factory.

4.5 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.

DTLA Cheese, 317 S Broadway, Ste 45, Los Angeles, CA 90013

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Grand Central Market’s full service cheese shop offers domestic and imported cheeses, crackers, condiments, grab & go sandwiches, salads, cheesey potatoes and griddled sandwiches. It’s not a huge space. They have 1 case of imported cheeses from Europe and 1 case of domestic cheeses.

* Grilled cheese sandwich ($7.50) served with mustard and housemade pickled veggies: The sandwich is made to order and it’s a classic grilled cheese cooked properly. The thin white bread was buttery and crisp on the outside. The cheese (cheddar and jack?) in the middle had melted and started oozing out – cheesy goodness. I found it odd that the mustard and pickles were served on the side. The crispy housemade pickles were really good. The cheese quality didn’t stand out.

4 out of 5 stars

By Lolia S.