Mexican food

Grand Central Market – Ana Maria’s

When you are in LA, you have to eat something there. You just have to! When I was there, I initially wanted to try EGGSLUT but the line was long and I was hungry! I was not so willing to eat there because of the wait. According to some friends who have been there before, they said that the line may look horrendous but apparently it goes by pretty quickly. Eggslut is located in Grand Central Market – Downtown LA.

Grand Central Market is in a huge warehouse kind of building with countless food vendors covering every corner imaginable. Another way to describe this place is that it’s like an indoors swap meet but for all sorts of cuisines ranging from Mexican to American to Asian food. They also have a juice stand, a fruit stand, and a little bakery. Anything you are craving for, it is certainly there!

Since Eggslut was out of the picture, I was left to pick only one amongst numerous food stands. I was pretty indecisive about where to eat so I circled around the market quite a few times. Two or three too many times. I knew I wanted Mexican food after seeing so much meat piled up but mind you that there were multiple taco stands here with the same price. I just didn’t know which one to pick specifically.

I ended up just going to the one with a decent amount of people standing in line. I went to Ana Maria’s and ordered a tostada and treated myself to a glass bottle of Mexican Coca-Cola. I rarely drink soda but I thought it would go well with my tostada and it sure did. The tostada and the drink together totaled up to $7.50. The drink was a little more expensive than expected.

I love tostadas. I remember the first time I tried one was at my friend Jessica’s house back in high school of our sophomore year. It was either a late night snack or an early breakfast where we just put beans over the tostada and sprinkled some cheese over it. It was so simple yet so perfect to munch on!

After that day, I begged my mom to get some beans, cheese, and tostadas. I tried to make it at home but it wasn’t the same for whatever reason and I had not tried one since then probably. The tostada from Ana Maria’s at Grand Central Market was a tad bit fancier compared to Jessica’s only because it had meat and some vegetables. It was basically like a burrito but on a flat taco shell. It was just the right amount to fill me up with my soda on the side.

If you’re curious about Ana Maria’s, check out their Yelp as they have plenty of positive reviews about the food and the quick quality service.Next time, I’m definitely getting Eggslut!

 

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Eat Pray Love Journey – The Bay

By the time I started looking into flights, I received an email from JetBlue that they were having a 20% discount on all domestic flights for a few days. I knew I had to take advantage of this deal! So on the last day of the deal, I bought a one-way flight from Long Beach Airport to Oakland International Airport for $42.02 including tax! What a steal, right? From SoCal to NorCal, it usually ranges from $60 to $100 for one-way! I tend to find good deals to NorCal through JetBlue.

Side note about myself. I love traveling but I don’t like the process of buying flight tickets or making big purchases on the spot. I’m sure no one really enjoys spending money to travel per se but I’m the type where I can’t buy the ticket right then and there even if it’s a really good deal. I need a lot of time to figure out if it’s worth it and try to figure out logistics, etc. Even if I think I’m ready to purchase it, I’ll look at the screen for awhile and contemplate whether or not to back out last minute before clicking the PAY NOW/SUBMIT/CONFIRM button. I’ll say to myself, “Ok, here I go! I’m going to buy it! I’m going to do it! Wait..should I really do this? Can I get a lifeline? I don’t know what I should do. Ok, no. Ok, wait, yes. I’m going to do it!” It’s quite of an online battle with myself when it comes to situations like these especially when you can’t return or cancel it without a charge.

With this JetBlue deal, I just had to purchase it without a thought. I actually wanted to ask my friends first in the Bay area to see if I can crash at their place before purchasing a ticket but there wasn’t enough time to get a prompt response from them. So I just had to buy the ticket and figure out the logistics later.

My friend, Derek, who is quite of a YOLO-ist recently bought a round trip ticket from LA to South Korea for $600-700. The deal was going on for one day and would be sold out immediately so he bought it right when the deal came out. I asked him, “Shouldn’t you figure out where are you going to stay before buying it? What are you going to do there? Who are you going with?” He just responded, “I’m going to just have to figure that out later!” Sometimes, you don’t need to know everything before you purchase a ticket. You can figure out the logistics afterwards and there’s plenty of ways to play around with your itinerary. In other words, YOLO.

It’s like buying a dress or whatever piece of clothing item. You see a beautiful dress on sale but you don’t know when you’ll wear it. In cases like these, sometimes it’s best to take advantage of the sale and buy the dress because you can always figure out later when you’ll need to wear it. It’ll just come in handy down the line. Hope that made sense. If you’re a guy, replace dress with a necktie…

Ok, so I bought my one-way ticket and it was a huge sigh of relief to get that out of the way. I was messaging a handful of people to see if they could pick me up from the airport and/or if I could crash at their place. This part was the hardest to plan. I wasn’t getting positive responses from my friends because the timing was bad when I was landing there. One thing I figured out was that I spending the night at Yesie’s!

The only question left to answer was, “How am I getting to Yesie’s?” Answer. Michelle! Yay! By the way, Michelle is a great singer, dancer, funny and loving friend. Check out one of her Youtube videos covering one of my favorite songs Giving Up by Ingrid Michaelson:

During my one hour flight from Long Beach to Oakland, I was able to surf the web thanks to JetBlue providing free wifi! I was so surprised by the free wifi that I had to tweet them about it 30,000 feet in the air! They responded to my tweet humorously with a giff!

Here’s the picture that I sent to Jetblue of my surprised look. I need to mention that I was not listening to any music. It looked appropriate to have headphones on for this picture.

 Once I landed in Oakland, I had to meet up with Michelle in Millbrae which was south east of the Bay from where I was. So I took the AirBART which was a $3 bus ride from the airport to the actual BART station in Oakland.

BART stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit aka the train for the Bay area. When the bus dropped us off at the station, you knew you were in Oakland. If you’re ever there, you might see people standing on a bench and dancing to their music or people asking everyone for money. The culture in Oakland is different and can be unsafe especially at night. Luckily, I was there when the sun was still out.

For $5.25, I was on the BART for an hour and a half. It was empty at first and slowly got packed as people were getting off from work. There was a different group of people at each stop on the BART so it was fun to just people watch in that way. Oh but it was also kind of scary. You may encounter a homeless person on the bart where they are talking to themselves in a foul language. You might think that they’re talking to you because you feel so out of place but don’t worry, they’re really just talking to themselves. (That happened to me.)

At one point, I had to transfer to a different bart. As I was waiting for the next bart, I just stood there with my luggage and waited. I scanned around the station to know my surrounding because you know, safety is important. I scanned the area quite a few times that I probably looked a little suspicious. I tried to play it cool but I don’t think it worked because I had this luggage with me. The station was pretty bare. You could probably count that there were less than ten people waiting for the next bart. For some creepy reason, one guy just had to walk so closely next to me! There was plenty of space at the station for him to walk around. He didn’t steal anything from me but I think he was trying to scare me since I just gave off the shady vibe for looking out of place.

Finally when I got to Millbrae, I saw Michelle! She was the first friend I saw on my EPLJ!

We went over to El Palenque Taqueria in San Mateo for some homey Mexican food. They have 4.5 out of 5 stars with 120 reviews on Yelp.

For the past month, I’ve been eating pretty healthy. When I got to El Palenque Taqueria, I told myself, “Ok, I’m going to pick something healthy!” So I got a huge breakfast burrito that had sausage with eggs and salsa. I obviously failed immediately at being healthy but it was worth my $4.64.

I really don’t think you can go wrong with a breakfast burrito. It was so hot and fresh from the grill that I had to wait until it cooled down to eat it. That burrito was so big that I was only able to eat half of it and saved the other half for the next day.

I have no idea why I didn’t think about getting two or three tacos since it’s more proportional to eat but I somehow just thought about getting a burrito or a bigger burrito.

Michelle and I spent a few hours eating and catching up there. We had some real talk at that taqueria! Good times laughing and crying with this girl!

Afterwards, we looked into taking a dance class together. When she used to live in SoCal, she was my dance buddy. She is definitely a better dancer than me! She’s got swag!

For some odd reason, dance classes in NorCal are expensive even for drop-ins! One studio was $25 for a one hour class. After much research, we decided to not take a jazz or hip-hop class. Instead, we listened to Sam Smith’s I’m Not The Only One on repeat:

Then we finally went over to Yesie’s place to spend the night! Whee!

Huge thanks to Michelle for picking me up from the bart station! Also, big thank you to Yesie for opening up your house!

Goodbye and Happy Birthday!

As I’m getting older, I’ve realized how much harder it is to gather friends together in comparison to when we were in college or even before then. Briana, Hannah, and I are hours and hours apart from each other. We are all spread throughout California! Luckily, during the summer we were able to get together for the first time in a long time. We did a “Goodbye Briana” and “Happy Early Birthday (to me)” get together with some friends.

Friday night, we first met up at my favorite taco truck in LA, El Chato. We got there early to beat the crowd! We were the second ones in line.

Note to everyone: Get there at 8:45PM and you will definitely beat the crowd. El Chato never disappointments me with their juicy meat and fresh salsa.

We continued the night at Soop Sok Karaoke in K-town where we sang our hearts out. I have to say that I was surprised how some of my friends were some secret rappers. I’ve got some talented friends who can really rap in English and in Korean! (Derek and Josephine! I’m talking about you guys!)


For about eight people singing for a few hours, it wasn’t too expensive at Soop Sok Karaoke. We each probably paid about $10 max per person. Yelp shows a lot of positive reviews on Soop Sok Karaoke. There’s a large selection of songs to pick from, spacious rooms for large groups, and decent service. With all of that, Yelp gives them 4 out of 5 stars with more than 100 reviews.

Briana, Hannah and I spent the night in LA so we can explore the city more the next day. For brunch, we went over to Grub, a comfort food restaurant hidden in the neighborhoods of Los Angeles. On a Saturday morning or afternoon, this place does get busy. So make sure to give yourself ample amount of time to find parking and to be seated.

Side note: Got that red printed dress from H&M for $10!

We parked in a residential street right behind the restaurant and got seated in approximately 20 minutes. They first served us some cereal as a complimentary starter. Ain’t that funny? It was pretty funny and cute to see something new like tho at a restaurant.

The three of us decided that we were going to share everything! From the brunch menu, Briana chose the “Friggin’ Amazin’ French Toast”.

This wasn’t just an ordinary French Toast. They were buttery croissants cover in cinnamon vanilla batter which gave that French Toast taste. It was topped with maple syrup, pecans and homemade raspberry butter. ($10.99)

Hannerz got the “Ooh La La! Egg Sandwich”.

This breakfast sandwich was like the high class version of McDonald’s McMuffin. Side note, I love McDonald’s breakfast menu and so does everyone else! This Egg Sandwich had fluffy scrambled eggs, melted cheddar cheese, and two slices of bacon strips, all sandwiched in their special croissant French toast.  ($15.25)

 I got the “Hooked!” which was a tuna melt.

LA Magazine voted Hooked! as the best tuna melt in LA! It’s a secret recipe to make that tuna salad. So no wonder that tuna melt was indescribable!

After several bites of our first plate, we rotated them clockwise to try the next one. I think my favorite would have been….all of them! They were all so good in it’s unique way. I would recommend getting all three if you’re with a group of friends. Who knew you could make french toast with croissants? The Grub really knew how to turn traditional homey food into something more unconventional! That’s why it has 1,200+ reviews on Yelp with 4 out of 5 stars!

Before heading back home, we decided to pick up some coffee for the road! We were all pretty tired from a long night and from the food! We found a hipster coffee shop down the street from the Grub called Cafe Americano.

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This place is a small shop that carries a lot of drinks on their chalkboard menu!

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There’s not a lot of space in this coffee shop but they do have a room next door where people perform throughout the week!

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Cafe Americano is more of a place where you pick up a drink and go. Because it’s a little cramped, it’s definitely not a great place for groups. Parking is also a challenge since the lot can hold less than a dozen spots for a plaza that has about a dozen stores.

Some of their popular drinks include Honey Vanilla latte or the Spanish latte which Briana and Hannah both liked!

We weren’t at Cafe Americano for too long because we were ready to head back home! I had a lot of fun with these girls! I’m so glad we were able to get together before the summer ended! I can’t wait for all of us to meet again soon!

Taqueria De Anda

I’ve been going to Taqueria De Anda since high school thanks to my friend, Daniel Torres, for introducing me to it. There are seven locations spread throughout Orange County. So don’t worry Orange County residents, there’s plenty of taqueria love to go around. One of the best things about this place is that it’s opened 24/7!

Majority of the times that I’ve been to Taqueria De Anda, it’s always been at night. Late at night that is. Somehow, Mexican food is best eaten when it’s late. There’s no other type of food that I can really think of that satisfies the hunger past 11PM. Perhaps it’s the fact that when you realize you’re hungry late at night, you want to get something that is cheap, good, and that can be served immediately. Taqueria De Anda meets all of those three requirements easily. With that said, how could you say no to Taqueria De Anda?

So I went there with some of my friends after midnight (of course) and ordered a little bit of everything from the menu. As we ordered in line, they made it right in front of us. So everything was fresh from the grill. We first got the Carne Asada Quesadilla.

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We also got the Al Pastor Quesadilla. The cheese was oozing out of the quesadillas and the meat was so tender that it melted well within the cheese.

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When it comes to their tacos, they’re a different story compared to the quesadillas. They really know how to stuff a 3inch in diameter tortilla with a lot of meat. When you eat these tacos, it gets a little messy just from the meat and the salsa but you have to add salsa to your tacos! The meat itself is juicy enough without the salsa but that salsa gives the tacos a fresh feel to the whole taco experience. 20140705-022602-8762433.jpg

If you need rice with your meat, then go for the burrito. If you want to go big, then definitely go for the burrito. If you are starving, then the burrito will bring justice to your hunger. 

Anything you get from here will not disappointment you. The quality of their meat has remained consistent from the many times that I’ve been here.

Check out my Tastemade appisode on Taqueria De Anda when I went there with Briana, Derek, Doug, Eric, and Phil. Thanks friends for the late night foodie adventure!

El Chato Wins!

I’ve been wanting to check out POT in LA because it opened pretty recently and I heard great reviews about it. It’s a Korean restaurant with a modernized twist to traditional food. I thought it’d be fun to try out something new for Derek’s birthday with some friends. We had a rough start for this occasion though. Of course, because we were in LA, parking was hard to find. We didn’t want to pay for valet at the restaurant. So we drove around the location few times and luckily found a spot a few blocks away from restaurant. We got there after a little after 8PM and found that it was a TWO HOUR wait to get seated. Extremely disappointed by the wait time, we had to walk away.

Diagonally across the street was an all you can eat Korean BBQ called Castle 2 for $10! We walk over there and the wait was about 40 minutes long. Still a little disappointed by the wait time, we decided to stick it out. After five minutes of waiting, someone somehow mentioned El Chato. El Chato is a food truck that has one of the best burritos, tacos, and quesadillas at a very affordable price! According to Yelp, it has 4.5 stars with more than 600 reviews.

General downside of El Chato is that it opens at 9PM on the corner of Wilshire and Redondo Boulevard. So we were contemplating whether or not to stick with Korean food. Going for KBBQ meant that it was going to be all you can eat at a decent price but the wait was going to take awhile. On the other hand, there was El Chato where it’s cheap and good, but we would also have to wait for at least 30 minutes until they start serving.  The four of us were going back and forth a lot, not knowing how to decide.

Phil had a genius idea to resolve our contemplation. He yelled out excitedly, “Straw poll!” He sent us all a text of a poll.

Thanks to Phil, we were able to quickly decide on what to do. El Chato easily won all of our hearts according to the poll. It was logically the best decision because you can definitely get your money’s worth at El Chato and the wait was approximately going to be the same time as Castle 2.

We drove over to El Chato and waited in the empty lot for 15-20 minutes. We were the first ones there but slowly, other hungry eaters were trailing in. Keep in mind to get there early because the line can get long quickly!

Josephine and I decided to share the Carne Asada Burrito and the Al Pastor Quesadilla. 
Once we all ordered, it took about 15-20 minutes to receive our food.

We went over to Derek’s place to eat where we inhaled everything pretty quickly. We ate so fast that we wanted more. We thought we had ordered a lot but we realized, it’s never enough to have too much of El Chato.

El Chato’s meat is juicy and quite savory. The tender meat just melts in your mouth. Late night Mexican food always seals the deal somehow and El Chato is perfect for those late munchies. You won’t be disappointed with anything on the menu. It will easily satisfy your hunger.

We had to have dessert afterwards, so we headed to Ozero in Little Tokyo which is one of my favorite boba shops in LA. I got my favorite Brown Sugar Milk Tea for almost $4. The size of their drinks are huge so it’s best that you share. I on the other hand didn’t want to share because I love their milk tea that much! We all ended our night in Little Tokyo enjoying each other’s company!

Note to future self: Get to POT really early. Always buy more than you think you can eat at El Chato. When in doubt, use Straw poll!

Thank you, Phil, for the Straw Poll idea! Happy (belated) birthday Derek!

 

San Diego Adventure

Five of my friends and I drove down to San Diego for the weekend just to relax and enjoy each other’s company! We were supposed to leave in the morning to do the Potato Chip Hike in Poway but it ended up being an epic fail. One friend didn’t wake up on time and another lost their car keys. It was a rough start in the morning!

It was a little bittersweet to not have done the Potato Chip hike because I wanted to take an epic picture on that thin cliff like the one below:

On the other hand, it worked out that we didn’t hike because I’ve heard from others that it’s the most painful hike ever. It’s so painful that there is no way of making it fun because of the nasty uphill.

Since we didn’t hike, we all met up at Phil’s BBQ. I felt a little guilty eating there because I wish I could have rewarded myself with it after a good long hike. There’s always next time to genuinely reward myself for that.

So don’t hate me for what I’m about to say. I’m actually not a huge fan of Phil’s BBQ because I think it’s a little overrated. They have great food and service, but it’s not worth the one to two hour wait. Luckily, our wait was less than 30 minutes but I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat there. There’s nothing too memorable about the food where I have a go to entree that I always order. It all tastes the same as Lucille’s and Wood Ranch. There’s no special sauce that strikes me and makes me want more of. One thing that might set this place apart from Lucille’s and Wood Ranch is that it’s cheaper. It’s more on the casual side where they give you a buzzer for your order and they have bibs!

After eating, we went over to the beach house that we rented out from Air BnB. We hung out at the house and then headed over to the beach to play some volleyball. We somehow couldn’t find any volleyball courts at the beach. I think it was meant to be for us to not do any physical activity for the weekend. We were forced to relax as God was not giving us the opportunity to work out. So we came to a point where we hung out by the water and enjoyed the breeze while the waves were crashing.

We got the chance to watch the sun set! Oh man, it was beautiful! It was crazy how subtly yet quickly the sun went down.

For dinner that night we went to Cotixan Mexican & Seafood. I suggest that you don’t go there. The food was cheap and a-ok. They definitely give you a lot there but it doesn’t give you that feeling of “Oh-em-gee. I need to come back here again next time.” Apparently it’s the Mexican version of McDonald’s because there are so many chains of it.

That night after dinner, we all ended up being grannies. Josephine commented, “It looks like we’re at a retirement home!” After she said that, we looked at each other in the living room and noticed that we all had blankets on our lap and we were literally watching Betty White’s: Off The Rockers. It was pretty funny how ridiculous we were that night for not doing much on our weekend vacation. I think we were all pooped out from just a long day of being out and about.

The next day, we hung outside in the backyard and soaked in the sun. The guys were taking charge of the kitchen. They made us some good guacamole dip for our afternoon snack. Then they stepped up even more for our late lunch! They grilled vegetables and made chili to go with our smoke apple sausage hotdogs! Well done, boys. Well done! We were all definitely stuffed after lunch!

Later, we had a jam session. The guys brought a keyboard and guitar from home! We had some talented artists in the house. Derek was on the guitar, Jerry on the keyboard, and the lead singer was Cindy. Josephine and Phil were the backup singers. I was the manager and producer of the group, making sure that everyone was doing their thing.

At night, we went out to Classics Malt Shop for some ice cream. It’s a cute little mom and pop kind of shop. Then we headed out to Gas Lamp. We checked out a restaurant known for their Ryan Gosling restroom. Say what? Mhm…that’s what I said. There is one stall in the woman’s restroom where the walls are covered in Ryan Gosling’s face! Josephine, Cindy and I were in the Ryan Gosling stall for quite some time SnapChatting our experience there.

Rather than showing you pictures, I thought I would try something new and make a video. Here’s a clip from the trip:

In general, there’s not much to do in Gas Lamp but to walk around and check out some bars and restaurants. Though Gas Lamp wasn’t that exciting, it was still fun because of the people I was with! Thanks Cindy, Derek, Jerry, Josephine, and Phil for making our weekend trip short and sweet!

Anepalco’s Cafe

I met up with Christian for breakfast one last time before he had to go back to the east coast. We met up at Anepalco’s Cafe in Orange which is only a few minutes away from Mainplace Mall. We met up pretty early because I was afraid of the crowd. It seemed like a busy and popular place according to Yelp. Luckily, there wasn’t a crowd at 9AM so we got seated pretty quickly. It’s a small restaurant so it’s probably best to not come in with a big group. Max of going in a group of 4 is probably best.

Front of Anepalco's Cafe

Front of Anepalco’s Cafe

FYI. Parking is a little weird. There’s only one row of parking which is right in front of the restaurant.There’s not a lot of space to park unless you get there early. You can park in the back of the building but it only has a few spots or you can park across the street.

Christian and I both ordered Anepalco’s Chilaquiles. It’s the most popular item on the menu. I was really excited to try the chilaquiles because it’s one of my favorite kind of Mexican food. My best friend, Chelsea, introduced me to chilaquiles for the first time in 2007 when we went to Manzanillo in Mexico. That was when I fell in love with chilaquiles for the rest of my life. But ever since then, I wasn’t able to find anything exactly like the chilaquiles from Manzanillo here in California. I have to say that the Anepalco’s Chilaquiles was pretty close to that from Mexico.

When the waiter brought our food, it was love at first sight. I was amazed by the beauty of its presentation when the food was right in front of me.

Top view of Anepalco's Chilaquiles

Top view of Anepalco’s Chilaquiles

After one immediate bite of it, I felt like I was in love with chilaquiles once again just like back in 2007. The tortilla chips had the perfect texture of not being too crispy or too soft. The chilaquiles was surrounded by this sauce which was a flavorful addition to it, but even without the sauce, the chilaquiles was still so good. It was so good that Christian and I had a moment of silence to embrace the goodness of it.

This was worth my 9 bucks. If you ever crave for chilaquiles, this is the place to go to. If you’ve never tried chilaquiles before, then make sure you try it at Anepalco’s Cafe first, please. Pretty please. By the time we were done eating within an hour, the restaurant was starting to get busy as there was a wait to get seated.

Christian, when you’re back we’ll check this place out again! I’m glad we got to hang out one last time before you leave!