Monday, January 02, 2012

Denny's - Fort Bragg and Woodland Hills

Denny's Woodland Hills from Google Street View
901 N Main St Ft Bragg, CA 95437
20137 Ventura Blvd,Woodland Hills, CA 91364

August 2010

Traveling always makes you thirsty and hungry my son and I are no exception. After driving for several hours through a narrow, steep canyon on a winding, narrow two-lane roads we finally arrived at Ft. Bragg. Cresting a small hill, the first sight was a Denny’s Restaurant. I will be honest with you. I do not eat at the Denny’s in my home town. It is disgusting. I was not enthused about eating at this one either. But driven by hunger and thirst, and with an open mind we stopped and ventured inside. I was impressed. For being a coastal building it’s outside was remarkably clean and it’s interior was spotless. It was comfortably air conditioned and the tables and booths were clean and in good repair.

We were quickly seated by friendly staff, had piping hot coffee within a minute and quickly began to peruse the menu with anticipation. Perhaps this wouldn’t be so bad after all. The menu is like that of all the other Denny’s throughout the nation so I won’t bother you with this and that’s about its offerings. Our order arrived quickly. There were generous portions and was served hot. The food was cooked well and presented nicely and looked like the menu pictures.

I was impressed, first it was clean, the staff friendly, the food was good and fresh and finally it was an okay Denny’s. Perhaps another try later, elsewhere; that was soon to be the case.

Our hotel in Encino was adjacent to yet another Denny’s. This one was a tad bit smaller but nonetheless Denny’s. Traveling is an adventure and I guess so should dining out be adventurous as well. That considered, we decided to have breakfast at the Encino Denny’s.

This one is located on Ventura Blvd. in Woodland Hills, California. It is located just across the street from Taft High School. Its exterior is lush with plants, brick work and the facade of Spanish architecture. The inside was clean and air conditioned without any type of lingering smells. The staff members were all quite friendly although not quite as friendly as at Ft. Bragg. We were seated quickly and had coffee, water and orange juice in a matter of moments.

Breakfast was fast, hot and cooked well, and our waiter was prompt and came back several times to check on us. Perhaps my faith is restored somewhat with this chain, will I try my home town Denny’s? Perhaps, perhaps not. I will have to wait and see how adventurous I feel at the time. I guess it comes down to the owners of each franchise. If you watch that curious reality show, Restaurant Impossible, it does not matter where something is located. What matters is how it is ran and the attitudes of the owners and staff.

Rita’s Margaritas and Mexican Grill - Eureka, California

Rita’s Margaritas and Mexican Grill
Eureka, California


Having arrived in Eureka late afternoon after a long days drive from Oregon, both my son and I were tired and hungry. After a brief rest we decided to drive around the town to see what was available. We toured the beach historical area and found many bistro type establishments, some frilly fish types. On the main street we found the usual diner affairs and a couple of higher priced ones. We drove up and down the main street several times passing most until we settled for Rita’s. First it was around the corner from our hotel, second it looked nice and clean and afforded parking in front, so what’s not to like?

The store front impression is that of any other small town Mexican eatery, but upon entering you know immediately that this is a California Mexican Restaurant. There is something about the feel and way they furnish, richly colored ties, the tables and booths, the smell of the place. This is an experience that one must feel to tell the difference. Having g grown up in Southern California in the San Fernando Valley and a hop skip and jump from San Diego and Tijuana one might say it’s in the blood. Rita’s is a growing concern with three stores in Eureka and another in nearby Arcata, California.

Friendly staff greeted us immediately and we chose a booth, after a longs days travel it was nice to sit on something soft. What I noticed first was the hot sauce already on the table. It was like when you eat at the House of Pancakes and they have about 3-4 different syrups on the table, well here they have several hot sauces spanning the Scoville ratings. You can mix to your own taste preference and as much as you want.

The menu offers the usual assortment of Mexican dishes and they have a good sampling of beer, local and Mexican and a full bar. We ordered their signature Margarita and what we got was a giant sized, fully packed drink and for only $6.50. Chips and a regular bowl of salsa were brought to the table, here is where you can create your own signature salsa, mine was eating through the table and my sons just a tad behind.

Our dishes came with rice and beans of good proportion and the main entrees were large and fully satisfying. The seasonings were subtle but adequate to satisfy most devotees of Mexican cuisine. Taco’s were freshly prepared with shredded beef, lettuce and crumbled cheese. The enchiladas were full and bursting with cheese and covered with a delicious red sauce. If I find myself back in Eureka, California again I will be sure to have lunch or dinner at Rita’s, perhaps both.

Margaritas anyone?

Rusty's Surf Ranch - Santa Monia Pier

Rusty’s Surf Ranch
AKA Rusty’s
256 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, Ca

August 2011

I have always found that the smell of the ocean stimulates my appetite, or perhaps it was the double ride on the roller coaster. Just maybe it was just sitting on the world’s only solar powered Ferris wheel admiring the view from 150 feet above the pier. That’s not to mention we skipped breakfast we were just hungry and eager to eat. But after walking past all of the offerings on the pier we decided to stop and try Rusty’s. At first glance it appears to be a modest eatery but it spills over with the charm of the 60’s and surf boards and kids calling themselves Big Kahunas.

No need for air conditioning the front and back are open and the air flows freely through almost chilling but welcome from the searing sun’s rays. Small tables and chairs for the diners and a full bar in front, towards the rear are more tables and chairs and pool tables. They have happy hour drink specials as well as appetizers and cater events, parties etc.

Malibu Beach SandwichWe both picked the Malibu Beach sandwich, (Grilled chicken breast with sliced avaocado, melted Jack cheese and Rusty's sauce. Served with coleslaw. $9.95) served in a most peculiar bun. Slightly larger than a regular slice of bread it had the appearance of three small hot dog buns baked together. Thicker than bread but with a fluffy moist consistency and I must add that it added flavor to the sandwich. Served along with this is a nice bowl of Rusty’s Cole Slaw, which was flavorful, seasoned well and very scrumptious.

The menu offers something for just about everyone, from chicken sandwiches, homemade soups, a nice assortment of fresh salads, seafood sandwiches, shrimp, steak pasta and fajitas and tacos. You can get sides of fries, guacamole, onion strings, salads, bacon, garlic toast and even grilled chicken. They feature a kids menu of fish and chips, macaroni and cheese, chicken tenders to name a few. Soft drinks, wonderful coffee and a full bar are offered round out your options.

Prices are reasonable and they offer take out. The staff members are eager and friendly and make your dining enjoyable. If ever on the Santa Monica Pier do stop and try Rusty’s. Open daily at noon. I rate them a 10.
Here we are, at the Santa Monica Pier

Mother Hubbard's - Buellton, California

Mother Hubbard’s Restaurant
373 A Avenue of the Flags
Buellton, CA

August 2010

Having spent the night at Anderson’s Pea Soup Hotel and having had dinner at Anderson’s we were eager to sample other tastes. Just across the street from Anderson’s sits Mother Hubbard’s Restaurant, it seemed just right, not too far and the lot seemed to be loaded with cars, always a good sign.

The Californian OmeletOn first impression you are in someone’s home, one that is cluttered with knick knacks, pictures hung on every square inch of wall space. It has been a family run business for thirty years; a home that has seen hundreds of friends, family and neighborhood kids eat their fill and squeal with delight. It is furnished with small square tables with captain style chairs which have the patina worn from the back from all the hands scooting them in and out. There was just a tad bit of a stale smell perhaps from the throngs of patrons eating or perhaps because of the years of cooking and aromas stuck to those nick knack’s.

Quickly seated we got our coffee which was hot and not bad, water and menus in hand we quickly decided and ordered. I chose the Breakfast Wrap (Breakfast Wrap - Filled with spinach, Feta, and scrambled eggs with homemade creme fraiche, served with choice of tomatoes, fruit or cottage cheese) It was stuffed with feta cheese, scrambled eggs and accompanied with large slices of beef steak tomatoes.
The Breakfast WrapMy son ordered an omelet ( The Californian - Avocado, diced marinated chicken breast and Jack cheese. Made with three extra large eggs home fries or hash browns, two home-made buttermilk country biscuits or toast and jam or have two cakes instead of potatoes and toast. ). He ordered it with hash browns and pancakes, which I thought odd but he seemed to like the double carb feature.

On first appearance my dish was a brilliant green tortilla wrapper stuffed with eggs and cheese. Once past the “green” the wrap was delicious and extremely large. My son’s omelet was also of good proportion and prepared very well, the hash browns were crunch and he stated the pancakes were also of good texture and taste.

The staff members were friendly, you get big portions and the prices were modest. You do get a lot of food for your dollar. The only drawback was that it was crowded, noisy and again slightly off in the smell. The remedy would be to remove one table from the front dining area and a good spring cleaning to remedy the other, for the noise remind yourself that you are dining out and to talk softly.

La Pine Inn, La Pine, Oregon

LaPine Inn, La Paine OR from Google Street View La Pine Inn
51490 Hwy 97
La Pine, Oregon

August 2010

Our first stop on our trip found us at the Best Western Inn in La Pine on Sunday early evening. A small town mostly hinged around the main street we quickly noticed that most places were closed. Asking at the hotel we were told that there were a couple of restaurants open and headed out to locate them. One was about to close but we came upon another called the La Pine Inn and Lounge which was still open.

Rustic from the outside it resembled a modern day take on a log cabin, upon entering you encountered a western/oriental theme. Plank tables and booths with captain’s chairs, western d├ęcor on the walls shared space with the rich tapestry of the orient. At the cashiers station you can pay you bill and pick up oolong tea and perhaps a keepsake from Japan. We were quickly seated at a booth which I can only describe as the biggest booth I have even seen. The table spanned a good 4-feet in width and was not less than 5-feet in length. The tables and chairs seemed to share the same proportions, the area was clean and offered air conditioning.

They offered a fair selection of food items, from burgers, steaks, fries, chicken etc. to oriental dishes. They serve breakfast all day long and have a fully functional lounge. Of interesting note was that they brought us a condiment tray for our baked potatoes, containing sour cream, butter, chives and bacon bits. A nice touch I thought you can have as much or as little as you like.

My son ordered the pork chops which came slightly dry and overdone, accompanying them was the baked potato or medium size and some broccoli which had perhaps been sitting in the steam table since lunch service. Rounding off his plate was a small bowl containing about 2 tablespoons of applesauce. Let’s not forget the garlic bread which was butter with garlic salt and slightly browned.

I ordered the fish and chips, the fish was actually quite good, nicely fried and flakey however the French fries were overdone and it seemed they needed to change their oil. I also got a sampling of the soggy brown colored broccoli. We were both hungry and did manage to fill our belly’s despite the overdone, soggy and salty offerings presented to us.

Maybe it was due to being late on a Sunday I don’t know but I would rate the service at 6, the food at 5 and the overall would come in at 6. No I would not return if ever in La Pine again.

Perko's Fort Bragg, California

898 S. Main
Ft Bragg, CA

August 2010

Eggs over and crispy hash brownsArriving late to spend the night in Fort Bragg, we chose to eat our dinner from Safeway, a couple of pre-made sandwiches, chips and soda. As a result, we awoke in morning very hungry and I do think the ocean air helped that along. Adjacent to our hotel was a restaurant called Perko’s. It is part of a chain that covers most of the length of California. From all the cars in their lot it seemed to be a favorite morning gathering spot for the locals, usually a good sign. It certainly was more convenient for us because we didn’t have to drive; just walk down the stairs across the parking lot and presto, we were ready for breakfast.

Perko’s has the appearance of a Denny’s’ or Marie Callender’s or perhaps a Golden Skillet, it offered food and that’s what we were after. We were greeted by a hostess who seated us quickly in a booth and soon we had water, a menu and piping hot coffee in hand. I must add, delicious coffee.

Omelet and crispy hash brownsThe menus offers the diner a good assortment of breakfast items, from eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, omelets, cold cereal just about anything for anyone. The prices were reasonable and the portions good sized and very tasty and hot. We both got egg dishes with hash browns which were done to perfection. A good crust on the hash browns but not dried out. Eggs over easy were cooked but still provided enough yoke to dig your bread or hash browns in. Bacon was cooked, crisp yet still tender and juicy all together a very good breakfast for a very reasonable price.

The interior is that of most family style places, booths and tables and chairs, it was clean well-kept and the atmosphere was comfortable. The staff was eager and friendly, all in all a very good experience with very good food and service. I would give them a 10 and I would eat again if ever I find myself in Ft. Bragg.

Interior of typical Perko's - from Perko's website