Las Vegas FlavorLog

Las Vegas FlavorLog

Las Vegas. My sister city.

A city full of excitement, wonder and intrigue. A city sensuous by design and cunning by nature. A city that is as seductive as it is sinister. A city with danger written all over it.

My happy place.

It is my happy place because it entices but does not lie and it lets me be who I truly am, but not built to be. She accepts my sinful nature and I accept hers. I understand her beauty and her foulness and she understands mine.

She is a wild, unpredictable, self-serving girl, that Vegas, and I enter her lair knowing she will raise my spirit to heights unknown then drop me plummeting through the clouds without a parachute.

And that’s ok. I’m not putting her in the “wife” category. She is my “part time lover” and that is what I want out of her.

I have been coming to Las Vegas ever since I moved to Los Angeles; I consider her my naughty shit-nuts neighbor in white satin lace.

Every time I pay her a visit it is a unique experience. There is always something new to check out whether it is a hotel, a restaurant or a bar and I am never disappointed. Las Vegas almost does too good of a job reinventing and improving on herself, and when I leave I vow not to return for at least six months as it takes that long for the scars of gluttony to heal.  God bless her tainted soul.

This was my third trip in the last two years with my one and only, Adeye, and we definitely did it up. It was Labor Day weekend, three days and three nights of testing our liver’s limits and our stomach’s capacities, but I start this FlavorLog of Las Vegas, NV with a little known fact about Barstow, CA.

Now a trip to Las Vegas usually means a road trip as we only live four and a half hours away and airfare, unless you book months in advance, is ridiculous high for a forty minute flight; which is fine by me because that means I get to visit… DEL TACO, in Barstow!!!

DEL TACO

Would I lie to you? Would I lie to you honey? Now would I say something that wasn't true? ... I'm asking you sugar. Would I lie to you?
Would I lie to you? Would I lie to you honey? Now would I say something that wasn’t true? … I’m asking you sugar. Would I lie to you?

Now, I know some of you are shaking your little judgmental heads at me right now, and go ahead. It’s fine. I’m enlightened. You are not.

There are three Del Tacos in the oh-so tiny Barstow area because this is the birthplace of the chain. I happen to go to the Del Taco on Lenwood Rd. just off the 15 freeway. Their “Barstow Taco”, which is their basic ground beef, lettuce and shredded cheese taco is absolutely, positively taco-tastic!

Normally, I am of the opinion that fast food is indeed chemically flavored fecal matter but not here, not in this coveted orb of Flavortown. I am by no means saying Del Taco is a cut above any other fast food chain. They are indeed just as horrible as the rest.

Just not in Barstow.

Their quality, quantity and presentation standards are way higher than anywhere else. It is the taco as it was intended to be before it got whored out, franchised and forgotten. I understand the original owner still comes by to make sure she isn’t put out on the street.

Two of these and I am good!
Two of these and I am good!

There is ample shredded cheddar, it is stuffed with rich, spicy ground beef. They sprinkle a little iceberg lettuce for texture, the cherry on the top is the slice of tomato. It’s a pretty cool little touch and only done in Barstow. I highly recommend you try it for yourself.

I usually hit it coming back from Vegas too. Once is never enough.

Honorable Mention: The ‘Bun Taco‘. It has the same ingredients as the taco but it’s in a bun. It’s a sloppy joe with Del Taco seasoning. Pretty money.

LAS VEGAS DINING AND QUICK EATS

Now onto Las Vegas. “Off-The-Strip” Las Vegas, first, because you can’t say you’ve truly dined or had proper booze unless you’ve ventured off the strip as well as along it.

There are local standouts, and then there are local stand outs that are no longer known just by locals. They have gone national, which brings me to Lotus of Siam, arguably one the finest Thai restaurants in the United States; my girl and I got good and wasted before this darling little treat.

Five hours at the video slots will do that to you.

You sons of b*tches!!!
You sons of b*tches!!!

Movie and television themed slot machines are dangerously addictive as is the recurring question from the roaming cocktail waitresses, “Beverage?” You just want to hear it again and again… and again.

(Serious Business: Look for the King of Dragons slot machine on the Mirage gaming floor – pictured above on the far right. Play it in Chinese. It will BLOW. YOUR. MIND.)

Star Wars and Clue can be found in Bally’s.

Wheel of Fortune and Deal or No Deal (not pictured) can be found just about anywhere.

LOTUS OF SIAM

Get ready my love, we got treats comin'!
Get ready my love, we got treats comin’!

Now, I have seen Bourdain eat here, I’ve read up on the joint from various food blogs and on-line culinary magazines, but other than remembering to order from the Northern Thai section of the menu all other specific knowledge went out the window because I was so god damn drunk! Apparently, I am told, I couldn’t even recall where the bathroom was despite the fact I had just relieved myself there only fifteen minutes prior.

F*cking Slot Waitresses. F.S.W.

But I did remember to take pictures dear readers and I can say everything we ordered was not only downright delectable but tasted just as good, if not better, than anything that I ate in the four weeks I spent in Thailand.

Yes. I said it. And I stand by it with my FlavorBoner held high.

Nam Prik Ong
Nam Prik Ong (Red Chili Dip w/ ground pork)

Nam Prik Ong, intended to be a starter to your meal, is not too spicy and has just the right amount of sweet from the ground pork. It is awesome with the crudités and chicharones served with it. The cool from the vegetables and the heat from the dip work really well together, even for a drunk ass like myself.

Hey. It was a long drive, all right, and I was on a mission. So… whatever.

Crispy Rice
Nam Kao Tod (Crispy Rice)

Nam Kao Tod. The center of the rice was perfectly moist and soft and the outside was sensationally crunchy. How they did that I have no idea. There was an overall wonderful ginger/lime flavor going on in this dish with flame coming from the green onion and fresh chilies.  Yum!

Sai Oua
Sai Oua (Northern Style Sausage)

Sai Oua. Fresh, house made, Thai spicy pork sausage. Enough said. Either you get it or you don’t. No need to sell it.

“A guy don’t walk on the lot lest he wants to buy!”

— Alec Baldwin, Glengarry Glen Ross

Garlic Prawn
Garlic Prawn

Garlic Prawn. Deep fried in their shell, this dish has a potato chip crunch to it and it’s so frickin’ garlicky. And I mean that in the best possible way. This is a not to be missed dish for those of you who do not dig anything with hoofs.

Crispy Duck Drunken Noodle
Crispy Duck Drunken Noodle

Then there was our little crispy drunken Daffy, the Crispy Duck Drunken Noodle. The skin on the bird was indeed crispy and salty. Her meat tender and juicy. The vegetables were cooked yet firm and the bird-based broth that the slippery, wide noodles bathed in was the perfect compliment to the other spicy dishes as it smoothed everything out.

Now not all of the dishes we ordered were from the Northern Thai portion of the menu that everyone recommended, some were chef’s choices others, like the drunken noodle, were personal favorites.

Just order what you want. It’s your meal. Everything here will be good. You are not going to go wrong.

STERLING BRUNCH

Brunch time b*tches!
Brunch time b*tches!

So brunch buffets are as synonymous with Las Vegas as Lebron is to basketball, and there is a whole lot of winning going on at the Sterling Brunch in the Bally’s Hotel and Casino. Tucked in the back of the ground floor of Bally’s in the BLT Steak restaurant rests one of the newest, and I will say it, finest brunch buffets in Las Vegas.

Now it isn’t called the “Sterling” Brunch for no reason, it costs, it costs big time.

Most of us are not willing to pay $90 per person for brunch, but because of the high quality of seafood, meats and champagne that they serve, I must admit, the price tag is justified. I usually avoid buffets in general as quantity is NOT what gets me hard, it’s the quality, and the Sterling Brunch has both.

When you are seated you are immediately served two Gruyere popovers. For those of you who are new to popovers, as I was, they are an American version of English Yorkshire pudding. They are baked custard in muffin tins, but the inside is not dense, it is very light and moist. It was pretty insane. It was as if the crispy shell was basted for hours with liquefied cheese as the flavor of the Gruyere was wonderfully powerful. Slather some sea-salted butter on the inside and you are ready to party.

As a start for brunch, or any meal for that matter, it doesn’t get better than this.

Gryuere Popover w/ salted butter...best opening to a meal ever!
Gruyere Popover w/ salted butter… best opening to a meal ever!

Next up was the buffet. On my first round I focused solely on seafood, the options were far and wide in this category alone. Baked lobster tail, King crab legs, crab claws, jumbo shrimp, oysters, and crab cakes.

Um, yes.

Out of all of them I recommend the baked lobster tail and the King crab legs the most, the quality of them were excellent and the flavors were good and rich. Skip the crab cake. It will take up too much valuable real estate; not to mention it kinda blows.

Love me two times baby. Love me twice today.
Love me two times baby. Love me twice today. Love me two times girl.

Now the offering of caviar is one of the major reasons this brunch stands out. That, and the unlimited Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut champagne (a $50/bottle value). Though the caviar is American Amia (bowfin roe from Louisiana), which, though quiet common and inexpensive, is still a buffet rarity and presented with blinis, crème fraiche, capers and finely diced red onion so you feel, well, spoiled. Regardless.

Egg me, baby.
Egg me, baby.

The caviar is just one of the many items offered on their menu outside of the buffet options. We ordered the Caesar salad, tuna tartar, the lobster eggs Benedict and the lobster bisque; the bisque was a bit more like a bouillabaisse but still yummy.

Adeye's honorable mentions
Adeye’s honorable mentions

Now, they also offer filet mignon, truffled mashed potatoes and creamed spinach as well as lamb chops so one can get their steakhouse on.

My desert
My dessert

I sampled them as a dessert substitute because, well, I’ve always been more of a salt guy than a sugar dude. But alas my stomach could hold no more, but if one were so inclined, and has a larger stomach muscle than my own, feel free to polish off those dishes as well because they are good times.

Adeye took the trip down Dessert Ave.  It’s one of the prettiest avenues I have seen and she seemed very pleased.

You have got to be kidding me?!
You have got to be kidding me?!

Sterling Brunch. You have raised the brunch bar so high we could barely get our legs and bellies over it. Congratulations for redefining the Vegas buffet for those of us who care about quality.

SECRET PIZZA

Though it is not much of a secret anymore, Secret Pizza is a darling little gem and not to be missed when visiting Las Vegas. On the third floor of the Cosmopolitan Hotel there is no sign for Secret Pizza, just a hallway lined with Italian-American singer’s LP’s that lead you to the pizza promise land.

It is the best pizza in Las Vegas and there is no debate about that. Dollar for dollar this is the best meal in town.

The pathway to pizza heaven!
The pathway to pizza heaven!

The space is small and there are only a few stools to sit at but this pizza was made for standing. They are constantly pulling out fresh pies to serve by the slice, or you can order your favorite toppings and they’ll whip it up for you.

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!
Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!

I got the sausage and pepperoncini, which was right out of the oven and then had them throw some meatball on an existing pepperoni slice to reheat.

This is a combo to remember sausage and pepperoncini
This is a combo to remember – sausage and pepperoncini

They were both outstanding but the sausage won out because of its freshness and spiciness. I will be getting that combo again.

Meatball and Pep...gimme
Meatball and Pep… gimme

When you come do what you will, just know that if you want to taste the true genius of this place get whatever is freshest out of the oven.

white sicillian
White Sicilian

Adeye got the white Sicilian square, and because she loves me so much she allowed me to sample. Pretty fantastic.

dig in and don't let go!
Dig in and don’t let go!

All in all this meal made me the happiest, only because it was so unexpected. I had heard, read and knew so much about Lotus of Siam before going, and with the Sterling Brunch it was a forgone conclusion that is was going to be a ‘winner winner chicken dinner’ type of experience but this… there was no way of knowing how good this pizza was going to be; and for pocket change to boot!

Secret Pizza you get the FlavorBoner trophy on this trip.

I’ll be wrapping my teeth around you soon, just not during nightclub hours as I have heard the line is way too insane.

BTW….

When at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, if it is a weekend or holiday, go to the Chandelier Lounge on the main floor. They have a band called MARK and The Martinis and they are excellent. The lead singer embodies all that is classic Las Vegas; he sings, he jokes, he interacts with the patrons. He does Sinatra, Dean and Sammy proud.

I want that jacket.
I want that jacket.
** Culinary Honorable Mention: Tom Colicchio’s Heritage Steak **

My girl is a coupon/Vegas points wizard and got us 30 bucks off at Tom Colicchio’s Heritage Steak so we popped in for a light lunch getting the King crab roll and lobster hush puppies. If you like King crab and chunks of lobster in your hush puppy, and let’s face it, who doesn’t? Then I highly suggest you pop in. Not to mention the service is incredibly friendly and professional.

You are just too cute!
You are just too cute!

The King crab roll was not too rich and it was surprisingly delicate with a good clump to shredded meat ratio. The sliced pickle and chive were a nice touch.

Aroma to die for!
Aroma to die for!

When the hushpuppies were delivered the aroma of the lobster and corn meal wafted majestically over us, and that is the part of an eating experience that is not talked about enough. The smell. It is such an important part of the dining experience and this dish reminded me of that fact.

It smelled almost better than it tasted.

Down these little bad boys fast though as the moisture/heat dies down quickly and when it does, then so does a lot of its flavor. And BTW, awesome tartar sauce!

LAS VEGAS DIVE BARS AND LOUNGES

So depending on who you are talking to drinking is just as important, if not more important, than eating when it comes to evaluating one’s time and experience in Las Vegas. Personally I don’t vacillate back and forth on that question, and fortunately I am not obligated to announce my answer. Lets just say as a matter of public record I abuse and appreciate both equally, which brings me to the gin joints that I ventured to on this particular trip, including one very good and dear friend I will introduce you to, at the end.

DINO’S

I sincerely doubt this was approved by 'Dino' himself
The sign sucks you in, the booze spits you right back out.

Located on Las Vegas Blvd near Sahara Ave rests Dino’s, a sprawling dive bar that boasts the slogan, “Getting Vegas Drunk Since 1962,” and it does exactly that. This a straight up liquor establishment for those not interested in mixology. Pool tables, karaoke, local drunks and off duty waiters and waitresses on a mission to get wasted is what you will find.  Service sucks, our drunk bartender couldn’t remember which glass had the scotch and which had the bourbon, but I give him points for being wasted.

Cool Pulp Novel Covers
Cool Pulp Novel Covers

The one touch of genuine cool in this place is all the pulp novel covers framed and posted on the back wall. It defines the vibe and makes you want to stick around awhile to check them all out. That and meeting Red, the sixty-two year old degenerate barfly who was always struggling to line up his shot at the pool table.

Friendly Neighborhood Drunks
Red, your friendly neighborhood drunk

I played two games with the man and I wish I understood half of what he was telling me because he sounded like he had some real stories to tell. This is definitely a worthy pit stop and solid alternative to your garden-variety hotel circle bar.

GAUDI BAR

The Gaudi Bar is a bit of a trek as it is in the Sunset Station Hotel in  Henderson, NV. Nine miles off the strip. The reason to go… The Gaudi Bar.

So random it is worth it.
So random it is worth it.

Inspired by the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, the Gaudi bar embraces the traditions of Catalan Modernism and it is an amazing surrealistic experience.

Goudi inspired stained glass
Gaudi inspired stained glass

This is unlike any bar you will find, not only in the Vegas area, but also in the US. The architecture goes beyond the circle bar and into the casino area. The color, lights, and molten cavernous ceilings draw you in and overwhelm you with curiosity and awe.

Goudi inspired design
Goudi inspired design

Rare is it that you get a cultural experience when hitting a bar. The owners of this hotel get points for inspiring me to re-educate myself on Antoni as I visited Barcelona in my late twenties and got to experience La Sagrada Famillia and Parc Guell first hand. Thumbs high!

VELVETEEN RABBIT

Velveteen Rabbit. The name alone should peek your curiosity. We all know the children’s book The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.  The story of a stuffed rabbit that becomes real through the love of his owner. It is one of my favorites and now this bar is one of mine.

Locals Hangout
Locals Hangout

It’s simple. It’s charming, and it’s a nice quiet quaint reprieve from the norm. It’s a locals’ hangout for locals who want a little modern sophistication with their liquor. The accent that places this joint into the four star category is the Mason jar chandeliers that delicately light up the space. It is truly wondrous just like the children’s book.

Mason jar chandiler
Mason jar chandelier

My lady and I ordered the ‘Whezzin’ the Juice’ which is an urban term meaning sticking your mouth underneath a beverage tap.

Wheezin' The Juice
Wheezin’ The Juice

It is a bourbon-based cocktail with root liquor, vanilla, angostura, mint and crushed ice. It was basically an awesome non-carbinated root beer soda. The cocktail menu changes seasonally so don’t be confused if you don’t see it.

Congrats to the owners, they loved their rabbit enough to see it turn real.

Throwback
Throwback

THE PARLOUR

When visiting downtown Las Vegas you cannot skip the historic El Cortez Hotel and Casino. It is an iconic institution, one worth stopping in and helping it remain relevant, and they’ve added a couple of cool things to help entice you.

1.)…. free White Castle Cheeseburgers to slots and table customers on Thursdays and holidays! F*ck yeah!

How awesome!
White Castle you take me back to the days when my body was young enough to digest you

How awesome is that!? They wheel these little fatty bitches in a steam cart to all of those numbed asses, sitting, smoking, pulling levers and pushing buttons… me being one of them.

Then there is the other, and more consistent reason to visit, The Parlour. This medium sized cocktail lounge nestled in the back of the hotel lobby has only been around a few years but it feels like it has been there since the beginning; and that is what the ownership was going for.

A taste of old Vegas in a fresh new space.

The finest hotel lounge in downtown Las Vegas
The finest hotel lounge in downtown Las Vegas

They have a piano area and on Wednesdays from 8pm – 12pm they have a crooner who sings Frank Sinatra, and on Saturdays from 6pm – 10 pm they have an Elvis Impersonator.

Time goes by dangerously fast here
Time goes by dangerously fast here

Scottie, quite possibly the nicest bartender I have ever met, makes a mean Bloody Mary and even though I normally don’t like them, I have to admit it’s one of the best I have ever tasted and a great hangover cure.  Our time here whizzed by and I could see myself spending an entire afternoon or early evening here. It is a great place to go after brunch or before dinner. I highly recommend.

It is also worth checking out El Cortez’ Cabana Suites across the street as a hotel option. If you are looking for just a downtown Las Vegas experience which, believe it or not, with all the new development going on there is an strong argument for that choice, I think it is a great option, one that I am considering for my next trip.

Now, for my last entry, I introduce you to…. (drum roll) The Double Down Saloon.

THE DOUBLE DOWN SALOON

I first discovered The Double Down Saloon over two years ago on my last trip to Las Vegas alone only days after I met my love. In the past I often had done this. Gone to Las Vegas alone. Why?

Because I always found the best kind of trouble when I was riding solo.

I had been walking the strip and popped into the Cosmopolitan Hotel to check it out for the first time. I sat at a bar, ordered a martini and ended up getting into a lengthy discussion about drugs with the mid-50’s divorced man sitting next to me. He was a successful lawyer, donned a sport coat and wore a Patek Philippe.

Normally I don’t go out of my way to talk to guys that fit that description but he was really into his drugs and spoke of them the way I do food.

And he confessed that he was currently “shrooming,” which made me like him a hell of a lot more. Given the glaze in his eyes and his merry, languid speech, I could tell he was on a happy ride.

Anyway, when he took his leave, he palmed me some narcotics in a sly way and told me to enjoy myself. I went to the bathroom to check out what type of drug he had so graciously bestowed upon me; mushrooms in chocolate edible form.

Magic mushroom treats!!

When I sat down on the stool at the Double Down Saloon one hour later I got on the happy ride too.

The heart of my happy
The heart of my happy

The bar was a suggestion from the kind gentlemen. It was his favorite bar in Las Vegas, and he could tell through our conversation that I liked my booze in the seedier of environments.

The bar was likened very much to one of NYC’s finer and forgotten institutions, the famed bar and music venue, CBGB‘s.

Television screens displayed violent, sexually perverse and exploitative cartoons that blew my mind. The walls were tagged with random drink offerings like Bacon Martinis and their famous ‘Ass Juice‘ cocktail. Artist renderings of a skeleton squeezing blood from its ass were everywhere.

Drinking here, well, being on drugs in here, was like spiking up with a punk rock chick with a Mohawk in a dingy alley… and there is something pretty awesome about that.

Part Vegas, Part CBGG
Part Vegas, Part CBGB

It dirty. It’s wrong and it’s right all at the same damn time. That night I think I sat for five hours, tripping, watching the belly of the walls swell and the cartoon images morph out of the circumference of the screen and stretch towards my face. Off duty strippers gave their boyfriends or whoever free lap dances. It was pure entertainment.  Hours went by like minutes and it was only because the clock struck six that I left; but by no means, never feel compelled to leave.

They never close.

A slogan I can get behind
A slogan I can get behind

Well, dear readers, that is the end of this entry, Flavor Log: Las Vegas but rest assured there will be further Vegas updates… In about six months.

Winning!
Winning!

Morton’s

Morton’s: You Never Forget Your First Love

Morton’s and I go way, way, way back. We are talking about fifteen -seventeen years.

My teacher awaits me.
My teacher awaits me.

When I first started making a little money in my mid-twenties ($800 a week, whoo hoo!), I knew basically nothing about food. All I knew was that I loved steak, I worshiped fried potato and mac and cheese made me horny. I was also drawn to that the steakhouse vibe of dark wood, leather booths and Rat Pack cool in the air. It made me feel like I had come into my own. A boy turned man. That’s where I chose to spend my precious few extra dollars.

When I could.

Morton’s, though she did not take my cherry, was my first love. (Gallahger’s in mid-town Manhattan has that honor. TMI?)

Admittedly, I dated The Palm for a little while and I did spend the night over at Ruth’s Chris once and ok yeah I fucked Fleming’s a couple of times, but I never cared for her. Not like Morton’s.

Morton’s was my first true teacher in the art of making moo, and she was the one who taught me what steak positions I enjoyed the most. I learned that I preferred the ‘Strip’ over the ‘Filet’. I realized I liked to hit the ‘Rib-Eye’ when I was feeling kinky and the ‘Porterhouse’ just did not get me off. And I always, always like to ‘bone-in’.

Yes, many life lessons were learned under her guidance. I cultivated an appreciation for wine and discovered that it not only got ya buzzed but it complimented your food. She taught me the soufflé for two was a panty dropper. And that a well crafted blue cheese olive martini does indeed solve most problems. She was gracious and charming and made me palate wiser, more curious, raising me into the steakhouse enthusiast that I am today.

Sadly, as the years went by, the curiosity that she bore grew beyond her control and I flew from her nest, seeing her less and less as I continued my journey of discovery.

In doing so, I have encountered much more exciting and exotic lovers from France, Japan and Argentina.

They lifted their skirt steaks in public and fucked the ever lovin’ Wagyu out of me, the crazy little frittes that they are, and my Morton’s slowly faded away into the distance.

But you cannot forget you first love.

As much as you would like to move on altogether your subconscious never let’s you forget how good she was to you and you know you will one day return, and when you do it’s in the hope that she is still able to arouse you like she did a hundred times before.

This was what went through my brain when I passed through those wooden doors.

Now, I’d like to say she did …get me off, that is. I want to tell you the spark was still there. That I felt butterflies in my stomach and a tingling sensation on my lips when we reunited, but alas it was just a really nice… talk?

So, want have you been up too?
So, what have you been up too?

She’s still smart. Still funny and charming. But her flame doesn’t burn as bright as it once did. Her scent, her essence, diluted just enough to notice.

I don’t know if it’s her new pimp and he’s got her shopping at cheaper stores, or worse got her hooked on bad product, but she isn’t the same girl I knew.

She’s hanging out with the wrong happy hour crowd and has gone from Sinatra to Bieber.

She was bragging to me about her “power hour” discounted items and her new seafood combinations when she never had to sell me on her goods before. The menu more likened to a Denny’s now than a matured, traditional steakhouse; which was her selling point back in the day.

It was a little sad, actually.

She still tastes good though in the area that matters the most, I will give her that, but she charges 15-20% more for her services than she did before and it’s not like she tastes better, so it was hard to even give her that.

The question is…

Will I return?

Yeah.

Why would I return, you ask?

Good question.

It won’t be tomorrow, and probably not any time soon as there are plenty of places that let me drop $200 on a meal, but I am a romantic.

She was really good to me once, and like the boy in The Giving Tree I suspect I will always come back.

La Caridad

La Caridad: Americans Welcome

CUBA.

You are in my top five places to travel. I’ve desired you practically since birth but our countries have kept us apart.

Opposing ideology. It is a bitch.

I am going to make it to you one day soon though. Our Landlords are talking out their issues and I will get to bask on your gorgeous shores, wander in your plush green valleys and party like nobody’s business in Havana. One day.

When I think of Cuba so many things come to mind. Mojitos. Che Guevara. Cohibas. The Cuban Revolution. Havana. Roast pork. The Godfather Part II. Cubano sandwiches. 50’s cars. Ropa Vieja.

At least those are some of the things that come to mind when I think of Cuba and now I will introduce you to La Caridad; where I satisfy some of my Cuban urges right here at home.

Located in the area of Los Angeles called Echo Park, La Caridad is  authentic, delicious Cuban fare. Owned by Cubans. Cooked by Cubans. Loved by Cubans. Just ask Dodger’s right fielder, Yasiel Puig, he is a regular.

Simple and Unassuming
Simple and Unassuming

It is a restaurant one probably would drive by and never notice as the outside is unassuming and it is in a small shopping plaza. The inside is just as unassuming, however it does have a very impressive mural of the Cuban countryside.

Charm and personality
Charm and personality

My girl and I went to La Caridad as an alternative to brunch last Sunday; lines can be ridiculous here in LA for traditional brunch spots and I am not locked in on eggs for brunch – just eating within a reasonable time frame. When we entered we were thrilled to discover that they served beer and Piña Coladas.

It’s not Sunday Brunch without alcohol. Not a real one anyway.

This made my girl's day!
This made my girl’s day!

Now Cubano sandwiches are one of my food fetishes and always have been. Don’t judge. Quentin Tarantino has a foot fetish, mine is a pork pressed sandwich.  And apparently it is a preoccupation for Jon Favreau as Cubano sandwiches play a large role in his recent film, “Chef“.  

Like the Beatles say, ‘Let it be’.

Take my home tonight. I don't want to let you go till you see the light.
Take me home tonight. I don’t want to let you go till you see the light.

It’s simple, but the flavors are powerful. There is a lot going on in between those two pieces of crunchy pressed Cuban bread. Lots of amazing things. Hot, moist and rich things.

Succulent Roast Pork. Juicy Ham. Melted Swiss Cheese. Salty Pickles. Spicy Mustard.

Feel the love, kids. Feel it.
Feel the love, kids. Feel it.

Basically there is a whole lot of love, lust and flavorboners happening in between the legs of this Cuban hottie and when she is in front of me I am paralyzed by her hot pressed, crispy, gooey powers.

But I can’t just leave it with a Cuban sandwich. No. This is brunch. It’s Sunday. National Gluttony Day, for f’s sakes.

So I order the ropa vieja as well. Why not? It’s not like you can go to the finest Cuban establishment in town and NOT get an entree too?! That’s just dead wrong on so many levels.

Edible Leggos for adults!
I want to rock with you (All Night). I want dance into day (Sunshine). I want to dance the night away.

First let’s talk about the fun of black beans and rice. It’s like Lego fun, right?! Or am I alone in this? They come sold separately. You put the pieces together and mix them around, making something new and awesome out of the sum of its parts.

There there is garlic yucca. What a tasty little root this is, huh? They boil it and bath the little bastard in minced garlic. Love. Just love.

Then there is the show stopper, the ropa vieja. Flank steak that has been cooking for four hours in a simmering pot of beef broth, tomato sauce, onion, peppers, garlic, cilantro, vinegar and cumin. Then it is taken out and shredded and placed on a plate for your viewing and eating pleasure.

Melt in your mouth godess!
Melt in your mouth Goddess!

Urgh!!!! So good!!!!!

What I love about La Caridad is that I feel like I am in someone’s kitchen and their mom prepared this meal. I feel like I could be in Cuba. They care about representing and preserving their culture and you can feel their integrity in every bite that you take.

La Caridad, when I close my eyes you take me to where I have never been and long to go.

You are my passport to Cuba.

Restaurant and Bar Reviews for the impure palate