More on Food Trucks: Grill ‘Em All

GRILL 'EM ALL

We finally made it! After a year and a half of following them on Twitter, we were able to match up our schedules, location, and cash with the Grill ‘Em All Truck.

They were just in Northridge last week, so I hadn’t expected them to be nearby soon–but a tweet caught my attention, and I found out that they were planning a trip to Reseda. We bundled Baguette into the car and sped off to the intersection of Sherman and Lindley.

Imagine my amazement to find four food trucks (Grill ‘Em All, Coolhaus, Mandoline Grill, and Meet ‘n’Potatoes)–and not one of them had a line more than two or three people deep.

We focused entirely on Grill ‘Em All, and I have to say: it’s no surprise they won the first Great Food Truck Race. I ordered a Waste ‘Em All (green chiles, pepper jack, beer-soaked onion), and Mr. Sandwich ordered the Molly Hatchet (seared fennel sausage gravy, bacon, maple)–with a side of fries for Baguette, naturally.

First, the burgers. They were amazing. The Waste ‘Em All is the best burger I’ve had in a long time. Don’t get me wrong–there are plenty of burgers I like. But this one was noteworthy. And the Molly Hatchet was also excellent, with maple that we could still sense after we got home. These are two very different burgers, both executed magnificently.

Next, the fries. I don’t remember the last time I had fries this good. Crispy, flavorful, salty. I’ve previously mentioned my love of salt–well, these fries were wonderfully salty, which is a characteristic that too many people seem to be trying to ignore in the interest of health, or some such nonsense.

Seriously, the fries were so good I had to go up and ask about them. It turns out that they’re double-fried in vegetable oil–once at high heat, and then again on-site to ensure crispiness. And you also get your choice of dipping sauce. It turns out that Baguette is a fan of garlic aioli, which I can only see as a good sign for her eating future.

If you like burgers, you want to find Grill ‘Em All. You will not be sorry.

Photo by davecobb, via Flickr.

Five Guys Named Meh

So in the Burger Wars, Five Guys has mounted an assault on In-n-Out. In our part of town, that means that they opened a store on the opposite side of the Costco driveway from In-n-Out.

Five Guys is new to the area, but I know people are passionate about their burgers. And Mr. Sandwich and I are fond of a good burger, so last night we headed over to sample the offerings.

When we walked in the door, we noticed that the floor was covered in peanut shells. We have an appreciation for the peanut-shells-on-the-floor motif, but this didn’t work. There weren’t enough peanut shells. And the floor was tile, which is the wrong surface for peanut shells (better: concrete or wood). What each of us thought was, “It looks like a dirty In-n-Out.” Mind you, there was nothing about the restaurant that seemed dirty. It actually seemed quite clean. Except the peanut shells made it look like they just hadn’t bothered to sweep for, say, three days.

So we got in line to order our food. Each of us got a bacon cheeseburger–mine with mayo, lettuce, tomato, and grilled onion, and Mr. Sandwich’s with lettuce and BBQ sauce. Mr. Sandwich also ordered the bacon cheese dog, and we split an order of fries.

The food was served fairly quickly, but unfortunately that’s where the positives stop. Now, I like a well-done burger. I am opposed to E. coli. (Call me crazy.) But even for me, this burger went beyond “well done” and bordered on “hockey puck.” Two hockey pucks, actually; apparently Five Guys sells doubles by default. And it turned out that the counterperson heard “tomatoes” and typed in “pickles.” But even with pickles, nothing had much flavor–not the burger, not the bacon, not the fries.

And the fries are cooked in peanut oil. That means we can’t let Baguette have them, because she’s not supposed to eat peanuts for another couple of years, or something like that. Fortunately she slept through most of the visit (which was a little surprising, considering that they were blasting classic rock).

So our verdict? We don’t see what the big deal is. Where Five Guys is like In-n-Out, they’re not as good. Where they’re like The Habit, they’re not as good. If they’re trying to split the difference between those two, they haven’t done so in a way that is distinctive or particularly successful. And unlike either of those competitors, they don’t offer shakes.

It wasn’t bad. We just don’t see what the big deal is. Now, maybe if a Shake Shack comes to town…

Johnnie’s Pastrami

I love chili-cheese fries. There, I said it. Mind you, this won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, especially Madame Scandal. And, of course, Mr. Sandwich.

In our old neighborhood, we had easy access to a Los Angeles institution: Johnnie’s Pastrami. Sure, the pastrami’s so good they put it in the name–but for my money, give me their chili-cheese fries.

The crinkle-cut fries are thick and crispy, and the chili is spicy enough to be flavorful without later regrets. And the cheese? It’s actual cheese, grated over the chili-drenched fries.

Delicious.

Blue Dog Beer Tavern

My friend A and I took a lunchtime break from New Motherhood and stopped in at Blue Dog Beer Tavern. Since both of us were driving, neither one of us was drinking, but the beer selection does look interesting. Another time, perhaps, when the teetotaling Mr. Sandwich is with me.

The food, however, was ours for the asking. A ordered the fish and chips, and I ordered a burger. The Chi Chi Burger, to be exact–a 1/3 lb. patty, topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, hash browns, and a fried egg, on a maple-crusted bun. It’s a breakfast burger that works. Delicious–and it encourages me to try other items on the menu. The Maui Mama and the Texas Squealer caught my eye as well. Oh, and the fries were excellent.

Little Restaurant, Big Burger

Seriously, I couldn’t finish the burger. I blame pregnancy and the result that Mr. Sandwich calls “Tiny Stomach.”

The menu at King’s Burgers is varied and extensive; you can get sushi as well as breakfast (before 11) and burgers. I ordered one of the combos: bacon cheeseburger, small fries, small drink.

The burger and fries were cooked fresh, and to order. On the burger were bacon, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, and (I think) Thousand Island dressing. It was delicious, and yet somehow about twice as much as I could eat–I was so full for the rest of the day that dinner was just a bowl of Cheerios. The fries were crispy and hot; maybe not the most transcendent fries I’ve ever had, but quite good.

So what was the cost? $6.90. That’s right, $6.90.

Why, yes, I do expect to go back for more.

Food Truck Follies

Once upon a time, there was an empty lot in Santa Monica. Then, the owner of the lot thought, “Hey, what if–instead of selling the lot–I let food trucks park here and sell food?”

People loved it. All day.

Then, Santa Monica shut it down.

So what is a food truck to do? They scattered to the winds. Fortunately for me, two of them landed just a few bus stops away from my office. And also fortunately for me, one of them was posting on Twitter.

First up, Calbi BBQ. This truck serves Korean-style BBQ. I ordered two tacos: one beef, one shrimp. I got two tacos: one beef, one chicken (I think). Get the chicken–it was excellent, and I didn’t even get the spicy sauce. The shrimp might be great, but I don ‘t know. The beef was fine, but I liked the offerings at Kogi BBQ better.

A half block away was the truck I’d found via Twitter: Frysmith. As you might guess, they sell fries, topped with a range of multicultural offerings. I chose the Rajas fries, which come with shawarma-marinated steak, poblano peppers, caramelized onions, and jack cheese. This combination is delicious. It’s also a meal, which means that I would have been able to have more of it if I hadn’t eaten two tacos from the Calbi truck just moments before.

Between the two trucks, though, I’d had a fair amount of spice. What to do? Why, walk across the street to Baskin Robbins and have a scoop of New York Cheesecake, of course.

So what did this feast set me back? If you add in the water and don’t count the $2 in bus fare, about $13 for more food than I could (and probably should) eat.

Later, I thought, “Hmm. I probably didn’t need that mid-morning protein shake.”

Fab’s is Fab

I’ve heard a lot about Fab’s Hot Dogs. Allegedly, they have amazing hot dogs. Also, they have the L.A. Street Dog: hot dog wrapped in bacon and topped with mayo, mustard, ketchup, jalapenos, grilled onions and peppers, and tomatoes.

I had mine without ketchup and jalapenos, and it was delicious. Mr. Sandwich had a bacon-wrapped hot dog with chili and cheese, as well as a plain grilled dog.

As you’ve guessed, we’re health food nuts. That’s why he got a side of fries, and I got a side of tater tots. That’s right, I said tater tots. They were fried, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. In a word, delicious.

So Fab’s is fab, and I’m sure we’ll be back. The only downsides are that the place is tiny, and the parking lot is packed. But I can work with that.

Beep Beep

Beeps is one of many cooked-to-order fast food places, not just in the Valley but in L.A. generally. The menu is enormous, with everything from hot dogs to burritos.

With that many options, naturally Mr. Sandwich and I each had a chili cheese dog, and split a large order of fries. The verdict? The chili cheese dog was okay, but not amazing (it could have used more chili, which I almost never say), and we should have ordered a smaller portion of fries. Why? The fries were quite good, but a large is enormous. We could have been happy splitting a smaller order–and I say this as someone who loves potatoes so much that she once gave them up for Lent. Mr. Sandwich found his chocolate shake to be quite creamy, and I enjoyed my black cherry shake–although again, I would have been happy with a smaller size.

Beeps also serves breakfast. Since I have yet to find a good breakfast diner, I’d go back and see how the pancakes are. Hmm . . . there’s a three-day weekend coming up . . .

In-n-Out

I came home with a headache and didn’t feel like cooking, so we went to In-n-Out. There’s a lot of discussion about what In-n-Out does well, and generally I agree. However, there is one thing that–mystifyingly–they do badly.

The fries.

They’re so strange. Mushy and bland, and undercooked. You can order them well-done, but then they’re overcooked.

Plenty of people like them, so it’s entirely possible that it’s just me. And mind you, my dislike for them does not keep me from eating some of J’s when he orders them. But in general, I’ll stick to their burgers. Our sandwiches of choice? J likes the double-double with lettuce only, and I like the cheeseburger with grilled onions.

Since neither a nap nor the burger seemed to fix my headache, I’ve now resorted to Tylenol. In the meantime, we’re watching The Conversation. That will move one of the Netflix movies from the shelf. And it only took two months!