Category Archives: Sandwich

Casa Bianca, Eagle Rock

Pizza, pasta, and more. Casa Bianca prides itself with the best and freshest of ingredients handmade and always made to order. And so when given a few tips before I dared investigate, I went with much gusto to this location where the long line  have always tickled my curiosity. It must be that good, eh?

Italian food and chefs are sometimes defined by how good your red sauce is, but I went in with a better plan of attack: spaghetti carbonara with pancetta, eggplant parmigiana sandwich, cheese pizza with anchovies, and a side salad. WHEW! And only for two people. I called it in and opted for pick-up. After all, I want to experience the food and not the wait. Still, it would take them almost an hour because of the massive orders they have, and probably the reason why they only open at 4pm, and even closed Sundays and Mondays.


The spaghetti carbonara was (hold the boos and the hatred) “disappointing” (currently at my nicest). The pancetta was hard and dry, clearly overcooked. I missed the salty, fatty, yet ironically somewhat tender bite to it. There was salt, believe me, but the rest were simply on vacation. The spaghetti was al dente, hard to accomplish when it’s on a to-go container, steaming continuously until released from its vessel. There was absolutely no creamy aftertaste, which I was expecting from a carbonara. NO, not like an alfredo, but theirs tasted more like oil and rendered bacon grease than anything else. AND let us not forget the overly GENEROUS helping of basil. I know it is a staple Italian herb, but it was fresh and all from a former life. Laying on top of my pasta was a lifeless, limp, and almost BLACK shreds with absolutely nothing to add but an assault of basil taste that overpowered my tongue. It might be good, I guess, to hide the disappointments in the dish. But still, one hopes to turn this frown upside down.

From the confused to the aggressive we go. If my pasta didn’t know what it wanted to be (salty, bland, herbaceous), we come to the pizza: SALTY.  But I slightly understand, I do have a heart. Their regular style is thin crust, and with only salty cheese and salty anchovies as my toppings, of course the SALT ASSAULT was a given. But I did not expect it to be this much of a kidney battery. Thank you Casa Bianca for giving me so much anchovies, I appreciate the heavy hand but I am sure that my kidneys do not. Let us move on.

And so we come to the clear winner of the night: Joe’s eggplant parmigiana sandwich. A forgotten part of their menu, the lesser popular item, the unexpected order. The eggplant was breaded lightly but the batter clung to it like there’s no tomorrow. The cheese was melted and stringy, not wanting to let go of the rest of the team. It was really all for one and one for all, on flavor and texture. The bread held up well and so it was not hard to devour the savory and crunchy goodness.

Being my own critic, it might have been my fault having veered away from the spaghetti and meatballs, or the fettucine alfredo. But Italian food is more than the red, green, or white sauce. It should be made more famous to the masses for other dishes it can offer. But even the pizza was a “disappointment”, at a PIZZA PIE place. But I will not stop trying this place over and over again. So maybe I will a find a dish I would love to go back for, and maybe even wait in line for an hour.

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Filed under Italian Food, Pasta, Pizza, Sandwich

Carmen’s (A deconstruction of a Torta Cubana), Los Angeles

Not even back to Ktown and I already dreamt of which places I must go to before my deadline by end of May. Having stepped inside the hold, memories flood back as I remember the many months I stayed here, including the many places I go to for my fix. I must admit, Ktown is one of my favorite places to dine in LA. It is crawling in diversity, unabashed, hole-in-the-wall locations that are just simply put: delicious. Carmen’s taco truck is one of those places.

Nestled between Kingsley and Ardmore on 8th, Carmen’s shares the usual Mexican taco truck servings, including some “acquired tastes” of meat (cabeza, lengua)

But I do not go to Carmen’s for the tacos, burritos, or quesadillas. I go for the tortas. Not all taco trucks serving tortas are made the same. Some are just rolls and whatever meats they serve their tacos or burritos with, plus some salsa on top. But here at Carmen’s you actually get more than just chopped meat and bread. Expect to stay for more than a few minutes, because made-to-order goodness comes to those who wait.

The quesillo torta. First of all, the bread. They actually use a telera or a soft round bread, commonly used in tortas in Mexico. They grill the bread to a nice crust, with treasures of burnt parts on the outside. Whilst slightly crunchy on the outside, the inside is a soft, somewhat thin layer of bread that holds well against the heavy pounding of other ingredients. Lettuce, slices of a half of an avocado, and real queso oaxaca. Oaxacan cheese is similar to string cheese but sold in balls and very much used in a lot of Mexican dishes; with a very light taste such as mozzarella and even melts into an almost same consistency. Only $4, you really can’t go wrong with this torta if you’re looking for something simple and (almost) light to the belly.

But if your need is for weight and gain, then go for gusto and get the Torta Cubana.

There are no words big enough to describe this colossal monstrosity. It is MEAT in a sandwich, VS just a sandwich with meat, plain and simple. Five layers of one meat after another plus the addition of lettuce, quesillo, and half of an avocado.

This is only half of the torta (the rest lay peacefully inside my expanding stomach). Let’s have a closer look (from  LEFT clockwise):

-Salchicha: sausages. A whole sausage cut right down the middle and placed down on the grill to get those burnt, grill marks. It excretes necessary oils onto the grill to mingle with the rest of the meats. I don’t mind that their sausage is generic, I’ve had worse.

-Jamon: HAMMMM. Yes, let’s add pork to the equation. Salty, cured pork.

-Cecina: a type of jerky but not as salty as the one’s we’re used to here, comparable to Thai beef jerky or the Filipino tapa. It’s hard on the teeth and stringy, nevertheless one slice is NOT enough Carmen’s. Please make note of.

-Tasajo: a type of preparation of beef. It’s usually marinated in achiote which gives it that reddish or orange color, then it’s seared on the grill to an almost chewy consistency. But do not be deceived, it’s not one tough cookie.

-Milanesa: a breaded steak filet (think wiener schnitzel). Now this slice was the least on my list. It was a too thin that it almost had a mushy consistency. It would probably be a good thing compared to its chewy compadres, but it was a little off-putting.

Like any doubtful Thomas, I tried them individually. They actually tasted common; sausage and ham from any local supermarket. Two slices of hard, salted, and jerked beef. A mushy piece of breaded something. Combined, these slices of protein sing a song so dear to my heart (and my arteries). One bite gets the most out of everything. And with the bread as an envelope, the cheese as a coagulant, and the avocado as a salt buffer, they all make a wonderful, simple, and inexpensive symphony of flavors.

How can you go wrong??? Tell me. I dare you to tell me. You may have had better meats, a better Torta Cubana somewhere else; but given the location, the circumstances, and the SOURCE? A taco truck in Ktown? This is indeed the pinnacle, the culmination, if I may exaggerate. This is the best taco truck torta in LA. And now that I have had a chance to almost finish it, I am off to my next mission in Ktown. Manna Bakery? Mr Pizza Factory? Korean BBQ? Beverly Soon Tofu House? Bonchon? I can go on and on and on, but I will not. I’ll let you dream with me for now.

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Filed under Beef, Bread, Cheese, Mexican Food, Pork, Sandwich, Sausages, Street-food

The tale of two: Rick’s VS Oinkster

Yonder the green foliage and paved gray of 2S, tucked in a corner says “Voted the Best Food in LA“. O’er the bridge and a block beyond sees the blue sign and a drive-thru that entices the curiosity of any foodie alike. Rick’s, aren’t you famous for your pastrami? Oh, doubt was not in will and in mind when it was time to voice thy need. Pastrami sandwich and a veggie burger; please, oh please. Do add some zucchini and chili fries so mine heart and belly shall rise in adornment of thy morsels.

Oh let me SHUT UP! Let’s get down to business.

I was in need of a pastrami fix but I was still in my pajamas and over-sized shirt. What’s a girl to do? Dig into my foodie memory bank and be a blogger once again. Rick’s Drive In & Out? Yes! Let’s see if it’s really the best food in LA. Well, looking at the prices, it may be the best deal in LA but I need to taste it first before I even do my happy frugal dance.

This was a very simple, no-hype sandwich. There weren’t really any add-ons, it had pickles and mustard, and the rest was all meat. Beat that! The meat was a little tougher and saltier than I’m used to. I understand that I’m eating pastrami but I still have standards and preferences regardless. The bread was one tough carb though, it held up to all the juices and sauce, which was a plus for me. I want to hold my pastrami sandwich, not fork and knife it.

The veggie burger was a little dry, and the veggies were not as fresh. Maybe they didn’t have much need for it for days now? I do not know the answer, really. Honestly, I’ve had better. Blah, on to the next.

The zucchini was deep-fried to a golden crispy. Those I loved, but weren’t mine. Ugh. The chili fries were ok. It was a bad idea to do salt with salt. Salty pastrami, salty chili, salty cheese, and salty fries. No relief at all.

I had half my sandwich wasted  and was later given to my Aunt’s dogs. I felt bad, not only are they supposed to not have human food but this salty of a sandwich?  Sad, indeed. The chili fries are still in the fridge, I think? Oh well, woe is me. But I had hopes, I hoped that dinner would go ahead and redeem itself.

Lemongrass had no parking spot anywhere near it. So as we turned back, it hit us like a light bulb. Oinkster. I still had the taste of salty pastrami and chili cheese fries, so it was definitely genius that I now have the perfect opportunity to do a VS blog.

Having read many blogs about this place, I came in without expectations. Many opposing opinion from Wandering Chopsticks, Inuyaki, Sinosoul, and Burnt Lumpia, I had no choice but eat with no preconceived notions. And so we ordered.

The Oinkster pastrami had more complex flavor and additional ingredients than Rick’s pickle and mustard. Other than the tender, house-cured meat, it had a red cabbage slaw and caramelized onions that partnered well with the pastrami. The meat itself had obvious specks of black pepper and seasoning, not as salty as Rick’s. Poor bread, it could not hold up to the onslaught of meat and juices. At the second half, I had to eat the rest of my sandwich with a knife and fork, which is the opposite of what I want in my pastrami.

The veggie burger was the perfect size. Big enough for a big appetite. The vegetables were crispy and the sauce did not overpower the patty, which was not dry at all and packed with flavor. A good substitute for its meaty counterpart.

The piggy fries reminded me of In-N-Out’s animal style fries. I apologize, but it was a poor knock-off of the original. This came with caramelized onions (vs. the grilled onions), thousand island (vs. the spread), and shredded cheese (vs. the slices of cheese). It was good enough to take another bite, and another, and another. But after a few, the taste became too heavy to the tongue and overwhelming that after a while, it became untouched on the table. It didn’t help that the fries became too soggy to enjoy.

I needed reprieve from the oil and grease, so the ube shake was the right choice post pastrami and fries. It was good, with a great taste and chunks of the purple yam. But I will not give the credit to Oinkster, they use outside ice cream for their shakes (Fosselman’s).

The clear winner was Oinkster, only between these two. Ahead in taste and portion, but not by price. Compare $16 vs $33 (with tax and tip), I would be ok with a $16 lunch/dinner just to take the hunger away. Not to say that I won’t be back to either one. I love giving people and places a second chance. But a few more miles, I would’ve been at The Hat, devouring my pastrami and gravy fries with a vengeance.


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Filed under American Food, Bread, Burger, Comfort Food, Drinks, Fries, Ice Cream, Pork, Sandwich, Shake, Uncategorized

The Bucket, Eagle Rock

Since 1935 The Bucket in Eagle Rock has been serving humongous grilled burgers to LA fanatics. Burgers that are big and reasonably priced, therefore a review is but germane to the cause of keeping this old legend alive and kicking.

I was a customer a few times but was never really impressed. On its new owner, it is but time to give it another go and see if there’s an improvement that may assist to its waning viability. The 80’s music, high stools, wooden tables, surf boards, neon lights, and flat panel TVs looked like hybrid of a Manhattan Beach joint/a Rock and Roll club/a Sports Bar. Guard against the wooden tables and high stools, crossing your legs may leave you with a few scratches here and there. But then isn’t it all about the food? Let’s leave the facade behind and dig further inside The Bucket.


Burgers come in different styles (no veggie burgers here though). The Bucket Burger is a 1/2 lb. plain Jane, just with the usual lettuce, tomato, pickles, etc. There’s the mushroom burger with, well, grilled mushrooms. They also have a Freddy, their green chili burger. The Julio (name of former owner) comes with grilled onions, cheddar cheese, added with Julio’s sauce (a tangy cayenne, garlic, and mustard concoction) and it becomes dinner on your shirt. Then there’s the Mild Cardiac or Cardiac that is indeed heart attack waiting on a plate: two 1/2 lb patties, shaved ham, grilled onions, sauteed mushrooms, and the usual burger partners.

Their burgers have always been a dilemma. Sometimes dripping juicy, sometimes cardboard dry. Sometimes they go overboard with the seasoning, sometimes you need to ask for the salt and pepper shakers. Common ground though is that they’re all messy. Genius is the one that put rolled paper towels on each table.

The Julio sauce is always overly mustardy, if you can describe it as that.  I didn’t like the overuse of it on my burger, my fries, or my shrimp. Damn this Julio. The fries were reinvented from the usual strips to the potato chip topped with cabbage and smothered in Julio sauce, but also inconsistent. Soggy or crispy, I understand they’re hand-cut  and it takes a while to fry but if you make people wait then make sure you make the wait worth it. The fried shrimp were crispy, breaded lightly, but tiny (size and portion).

A little more consistency will definitely make this place live up to its legend again. Because during the times when they were good, they were really really good. Maybe the next few visits will be a different experience, and this place will lend itself a new reputation for good comfort burgers.

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Filed under Beef, Burger, Fries, Sandwich

Rambos Tacos, Eagle Rock

Yesterday was not a good day to cook. Plenty to do and so little time. We had cash and while we were driving back home we passed by 2 taco trucks and decided to go to Rambos.  Yes, we passed two (Leo’s and a new one) but Rambos will always be a personal favorite. It seems that Rambos brought many weird, painful, embarrassing, and drunken memories. But tonight was just dinner.


I love their cabeza (beef cheeks) so I went ahead with my cabeza torta (sandwich), carne asada and lengua (cow tongue) taco. We also ordered a BRC (bean, rice, and cheese burrito) with plenty of hot sauce plus a cheese quesadilla. The smell of grilled meat filled the car as we drove excitedly back to the house. I was a happy little kid. My beef cheek sandwich was a heart attack waiting to happen. It was soft, tender pieces of chopped meat that melts in your mouth with just the right amount of salsa verde dripping down the slightly grilled, oily bread. I was ready for some serious licking. My lengua taco was just okay with some salsa roja, this time it was slightly chewy, not like I am used to.  The carne asada was a little salty for me but the salsa did cut some of that taste. The quesadilla was really good. Laid on a bed of lettuce, it was warm and gooey inside, and the tortilla was perfectly cooked. Ugh, I would’ve been satisfied with that alone. Sadly,  I was too full to try the BRC but by the sound of it, it was promisingly good. I will have totake my friend’s word for it as another morsel would have pushed me to burst in the seams. Ayayayayay Rambo’s.

If you hate waiting an hour for a taco at Kogi’s or Leo’s is not as spicy as you hope it to be, try Rambos. They have not failed me so far. Quick, cheap, and good and you didn’t have to go to Sunset/Hollywood to get it (ooopppss).

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Filed under Acquired Taste, Burrito, Mexican Food, Sandwich, Taco