Category Archives: junk food
The trouble with franchise food is it is standardized to the average taste. To appeal to the largest number of people, it must be salty but not to salty, savory but not too savory, sweet but not too sweet.
In three words: bland, boring, blech.
And so I’m on the quest to try all non-franchise food in LA. My quest brought me to the heart of LA’s gangland, where your stomach needs to be a strong as your courage, to Dino’s Chicken & Burgers. This neighborhood is defined more by the Playboy gang that dominates here than by the cartographers, who have dubbed it Pico Union.
Pay no attention to the hyperbole: the danger is fake news. The real news is the unique zing of prison-jumpsuit-neon-orange sauce charbroiled onto chicken that makes almost everything else on the menu irrelevant. Called pollo maniaco (maniacal chicken), this is the one-of-a-kind concoction is the 1968 maniacal brainchild of Greek immigrant Demetrios Pantazis, which makes it at least partly Greek in origin.
As this was my first time to Dino’s, I was instructed what to do: get extra sauce on the fries. I watched from the window of this prodigious hole-in-the-wall wonder as they slopped two splashes of the chicken sauce on the fries (with a thick and wide paint brush from Home Depot) that made for the soggiest fries I’ve ever eaten. Normally, soggy fries are a disaster, but Dino’s has flouted conventional wisdom and conjured up one of the Seven Wonders of the Culinary World.
The portions are huge. The price is small. It’s served in foam boxes. The seats are hard. Who cares?
What more could you want?
But there is more. I had to try the DUI Fries. A plate of fries is covered in a layer of cheese, a layer of carne asada and a layer of pastrami. They christened this mouthwatering mess “Dino’s Ultimate Invention.” And I drove home under its influence, a tad of indigestion.
This is pure
madness manfood, as my buddies said. Sure girls are welcome, but be warned: this type of gluttony and sensory overload and gut-busting has a price tag. Entirely worth the pilgrimage.
Dino’s Chicken & Burgers
2575 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
[Advert: The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant.]
Special memories for my wife and me. The Cheesecake Factory is where I asked her to marry me — 29 years ago. Dianna and I went for our anniversary.
Don’t go to the Cheesecake Factory for Mexican Food. Or Chinese. Or Italian. Yeah, the food at the Cheesecake Factory is, at best, decent. But the ethnic food is meh.
Go to the Cheesecake Factory for cheesecake. Nobody does it better.
The great danger of the Cheesecake Factory is the calorie count. An entre usually is more than half you daily max, and the the cheesecake is at least half. If you order a soda and an appetizer, you blasting into the 4000 calorie range — IN JUST ONE MEAL! (The menu I saw said “2,000 calories is recommended daily, but intake may vary from person to person.” This is MISLEADING, meant to lull you into lowering your guard with the doubt that you might need more. If you play high school football, are a boy and a teenager, then you need more calories. If not, forget it.
Anyhow, you can splurge once in a while. I skipped the fries because they weren’t fresh, and I saved calories.
But Dianna and I did good with the cheesecake. We ordered the mango key lime. It was mid-range calories — 1280. And it was sensational! The graham-cracker pie crust was laced with coconut. The tart lime was counter-balanced perfectly by sweet and creamy with sweet mango.
I have tried almost every cheesecake they offer. My favorites are the chocolate and raspberry ones.
The author sells 10-inch bamboo steamers on Amazon to broaden your culinary cooking experience. They are great for vegetables, fish and especially Chinese buns and dumplings that can be picked up frozen in specialty food markets and warmed to perfection, almost as good as the restaurant
Crave Cafe –
14505 Ventura Blvd.
Does your husband want a burger and you want sushi? No worries. There’s a place that caters to both.
No, I’m not kidding.
Crave is definitely pushing the outer limits of the envelope of “eclectic.”
There are actually two Craves because the owner sold them to two different buyers. I’m talking about the one at Van Nuys Blvd. in Sherman Oaks is the one that has the Crave sushi house right next to and with a door between the two so that you can order from. So it’s easy to savor both sushi and hamburgers at the same table (not in a Food Court).
As a kicker, Crave has gourmet coffees and pastries. I’ve spent a nice evening spooning in a smooth and creamy cheesecake while watching American Ninja with my wife. The ironies were not lost on me.
And it’s open 24 hours, which is good to know because your options for a late, late dinner are few and far between in the Valley. Read the rest of Best Restaurants in the San Fernando Valley.
There’s a urban legend among the Chinese that the tea washes away all the excesses of Dim Sum. They call it a cleanse or a detergent.
The truth of the matter is that Dim Sum is a comfort food (Dim Sum means “touches your heart”), like seven-layer dip with potato chips or shoe fly pie. Indulging shouldn’t be a daily or even weekly experience.
Here are the three Dim Sum you should avoid — or if it’s absolutely you’re favorite, cut back on the intake per category on other baskets you order!
Three Dim Sum items to avoid:
- Chinese Pork Ribs: High calories
In terms of caloric intake for a single portion, nothing beats the Chinese pork ribs with sticky rice in black bean sauce. In 2005, the Public Health Branch of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department of Hong Kong analyzed 71 Dim Sum items and found that a portion of this tasty treat has a whopping 820 calories. And that was for a serving size of 100 grams — about half a cup (rice and beef). Who eats only a half a cup of this deliciousness?
The average adult needs between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day. One “portion” of this yummy food then is about one-third of your daily need for caloric energy. (If you don’t use up that energy, it gets stored as fat.)
2. Xiao Long Bao Soup: Too much fat
In the area of fat, there are many contenders. But the king is Xiao Long Bao Soup Dumpling with a staggering 80 grams of fat, according to My Fitness Pal’s ranking. These jellied meats inside of a flour dough wrapping are so bad that Men’s Health magazine in Singapore called on readers to “dump the dumpling.” Read the rest of unhealthiest dim sum.
I have a confession: I love junk food.
I would probably eat it everyday.
But I know that it will kill me. It’s loaded with calories, salt, fat, preservatives. It comes up short on nutrition. So I avoid it.
I’m not so much of a health freak to NEVER eat junk food. But I try to limit it to once a week. The rest of the time, I try to stay health.
Officially, weekends are “cheat days” to not live in dietary misery. I indulge an ice cream on Friday night. I don’t watch my calories.
But Monday through Friday lunch, I’m pretty good about being intelligent about food selection. My tongue doesn’t feel good; my body does. I enjoy the benefits of feeling healthy depriving my tongue of daily delights (those are saved for weekends).
And the benefits I feel in my body are great. I have energy. I don’t get sick. I go to the gym and have strength. I enjoy walking up stairs without struggling. I don’t go to the doctor or the hospital. I do my work with zest and passion and don’t have to lie down and recover. My body delights in health (though my tongue gets deprived of the rush of emotion over super tasty foods).
Here’s what’s amazing and possible: I actually enjoy the healthy food now. I savor the broccoli, the asparagus, the not-fried chicken, the salads, the food without heavy cream sauces and cooking without grease and fat.
Yes, it’s possible.
My experience is that you can literally retrain your taste buds.
I think it takes years. It has taken me years. Right now, I’m actually grossed out by soda if I drink it. As hard as that may to believe.
My journey towards healthful eating and healthfulness has led me to selling bamboo steamers on Amazon. People are absolutely fanatical about bamboo. They conserve nutrients better and absorb some of the steam so that Chinese buns come out right. I have discovered that steaming fish fillets to take into work with me is NOT slower than warming fish sticks in the toaster oven. If you want to buy one and try it for yourself, here’s the link.