Category Archives: Thousand Oaks

Habanero Mexican Grill in Thousand Oaks

sopes Habanero Restaurant Thousand OaksIt turns out, the Aztecs weren’t the only ones capable of building pyramids, as I found out at Habanero Mexican Grill in Thousand Oaks. I ordered the sopes, and the piles of beans, chicken, rice, lettuce, cheese and salsa.

Mmm.

I was impressed by the creative twist of serving the beans in a small fried tortilla shell.

My friend took advantage of the fact that we arrived on Taco Tuesday. He ordered three for a very favorable price. They were oversized and delicious in crispy shells.

oBig portions is what Habanero specializes in. The vegetables are fresh.

The tortilla soup is recommended, as are the fajitas.

I haven’t yet tried the desserts, but I can see from the pictures that I must.

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The exterior of Habanero belies the interior, which is double in size. The restaurant occupies two locals, but the frontage only shows one. The interior decoration is NOT typical Mexican but modern, sophisticated, urbane, designed to attract the well-heeled patrons and nouveau riche of the region.

The chips came without any salt, which I consider a blessing because some might be trying to cut down on sodium. You can salt to taste, always preferable to having the kitchen staff salt it for you to their taste.

burrito Habaneros Thousand Oaks Newbury ParkWhen I first saw the restaurant, I thought it was Cuban food because unconsciously I associated “Habanero” with the people who live in Havana, Cuba. Obviously, it is associated with the habanero chili, which is pretty darn hot. I used to indulge chilis but can’t anymore. It doesn’t seem like Habanero is trying to be so authentic that they risk “burning” their customers.

sarahzing-100

Habanero Mexican Grill
520 N Ventu Park Rd
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
(805) 375-0755
$$

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Urban Plates, a notch above prepare-in-front-of-you concept restaurants

urban plates sandwich makingsThe secret to Urban Plates, a new concept chain exploding in Los Angeles, is not the taste, the natural ingredients, the decor or the super friendly staff. The secret is the food’s preparation.

urban plates wild line caught ahi tuna sandwichLike pioneer of the concept, Tendergreens, Urban Plates has all the food out in front of the customers. There is no need for menus hardly, no need for pretty pictures or enticing words. The enticements are right there in front of your eyes.

urban plates sandwich menuYou get in line with your train and pick the most succulent, the most inviting items you see. It’s not prepared in the back. Right there, in front of your eyes, the foods are put together in what you order.

urban plates interiorYour hunger grows as you wait AND WATCH.

I went to the Urban Plates in Thousand Oaks. It’s a new concept restaurant like Tendergreens and Lemonade. But it transcends these in its depth of menu and attractive interior decorating.

urban plates grilled grass fed steak sandwichI ordered the “Grilled, grass-fed steak sandwich with slow-roasted tomatoes and chimichurri aioli.” I had loved chimichurri in Latin America as part of the parrilladas, but wondered how it might be added into a sandwich.

The menu items use all the right key words for health and woke culture (there is “anti-oxidant” salad and “line caught” ahi tuna, not farmed or fished in nets).

urban plates fruit juicesI was quite taken aback that the steak was cut into thick slices for my sandwich. It was steak, like it could have been served on a platter with asparagus and mashed potatoes for $19.95, and here generous slices were being cut before my eyes to go into the sandwich.

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urban plates dinnersNo ordinary bread was used, but baked in their own oven.

urban plates soupsOnce you get your sandwich, salad, soup or entre, you pass by — and are inevitably tempted by — a display case of pastries and cookies. Nothing is ordinary or regular. Everything could have come from an expensive hotel or pricey restaurant for the well-heeled.

urban plates teasThere are exotic teas and wines. Forget about going to the local juicery. You will get natural juice mixtures here with no added sugar to pique your palette and keep you slim. I got the acai apple beet & carrot while my buddy got passion fruit coconut lime. His was too tart for me.

urban plates makings of dinnersUrban Plate Thousand Oaks took pains for their interior decorating. No corner cutting, everything is done by a pro, impressive and attractive.

urban plates acai apple beet carrot and passion fruit coconut limeBy the team we received our sandwiches, “Chef Rosendo” showed up at our table and chatted friendly about the decoration (he noticed I took pictures). “I will do anything to make sure your experience here is enjoyable,” he said.

urban plates cakes and pastriesOur eyebrows rose.

urban plates desserts cookies pastriesOf course we knew about Chik-Fil-A’s custom — and Wahoo’s Tacos’ — of sending personnel around to proactively make sure customers enjoyed their meal. But this was “the chef” — and he took the welcoming to a higher level.

urban plates thousand oaksWhich is Urban Plates does. It takes others’ successes to a higher level.

urban plates menuOn another date, I will have to try to the dinner platter, the soup, the salad and the tempting desserts.

urban plates saladsurban plates thousand oaksurban plates decor

Urban Plates
162 W. Hillcrest Dr #100
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
$$

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Frozen custard and Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

what is the difference between frozen custard and ice creamFrozen custard, I learned, was slow-churned for a smoother, creamier-than-ice cream delight with no ice crystals because of the painstaking preparation. Custard, a virtually unknown quantity in L.A., was what brought me into Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers when I was visiting my daughter in Salt Lake City. The throwback eatery throttled me: Was there one in L.A.? Yes, but it is far. It is in Thousand Oaks.

It turns out that frozen custard is more than slow-churn. It has more egg white and less oxygen, which makes for a denser product that doesn’t melt as easily as ice cream (the science). In short, it is a significant step up from ice cream (the non-science). You can find it scarcely around L.A., but I’ll only vouch for the quality of Freddy’s. When I was inducted into the wonders of frozen custard with my relatives around East Rochester (who schooled me as to the advantages), I embarked on a quest to find it on the East Coast. I have found it.

freddy's steakburgersFreddy’s, as I discovered in Salt Lake, doesn’t specialize in dietary or healthy. While other burger joints have made strides to cut calories or limit trans fats, Freddy’s wallows in the goodness of the way things were cooked in the 50s. (Quantities of salt and sugar, I think, register on the Richter Scale.) So don’t make this splurge a regimen regular.

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I went for the custard but discovered Freddy’s has more than just custard. Originally from Wichita, Kansas. This is part of the swath of America that likes Fry Sauce.

what is fry sauce

Wichita Freddy's Frozen Custard

What is Fry Sauce?

I asked. When I was in Idaho visiting my brother.

Fry sauce? Fry Sauce is Fry Sauce.

I’m not kidding. That’s what they told me.

I suppose those Idahoans never imagined life without Fry Sauce. Nor had they ever imagined there might be a barbarian who had never tried or even heard of it.

It’s worth a try.

Freddy's Frozen Custard hamburger and hotdog combo

The hamburger and hot dog combo. The side sliced pickles.

I’ve been a straight ketchup-and-fries man myself. So the prospect of something new and exotic is tantalizing. Could there be something better — or at least equal to — ketchup with fries? Some people swear by it.

freddy-s-frozen-custard-amp-steakburgersFry Sauce is mostly mayonnaise with a touch of ketchup, vinegar, pepper and seasoned salt. Freddy’s has a variety with jalapeño. The wheel has been reinvented. Break out of boredom and give it a try.

deep fried cheese curds at Freddy's Frozen Custard

The steak burger with the deep-fried cheese curds

Freddy’s shoe-string fries, which give more surface area for salt to cling to, will force you to fire them fast into your mouth to fill up. There’s no slow-eating those shoe-string fries. If you are a cheese lover, as I am, then skip the fries altogether because they have a thing I didn’t even know existed: deep-fried cheese curds.

Oh my!

The steakburger, too, is a notable break from routine. The patty is squared and comes with charred edges. It seems to hold together more loosely, giving the perfect circle patties with uniform thickness of other restaurants the feel of rubber hockey pucks, by comparison. The pickles are sliced lengthwise (even that is different from the norm!)

freddys-front_750xx1500-844-0-77To complete the exotic experience, sprinkle on some Steakburger & Fry Seasoning, which is made of salt, sugar, pepper, paprika, turmeric, onion salt, and garlic salt.

After reveling in the diet-busting, throw all restraint to the wind and get what you came for: the frozen custard. Savor it. Admire it. Bite it. Look at the denseness of the cream. I got the chocolate, and my buddy got the vanilla. (He’s not close enough of a buddy for me to ask for a bite of his ice cream.) They have sundaes, shakes and malteds.

Freddy of Freddy'sFreddy soldier WW2 Freddy's Frozen CustardInitially, I thought that Freddy, a World War 2 veteran, was the founder of his throwback restaurant. It certainly adds mystique to the experience. But, as it turns out, it was his son, who named the restaurant after his dad. Pictures of dad and his farming and war hero life are featured on the walls of Freddy’s.

When I found out that the nearest Freddy’s to me (in L.A.) was Thousand Oaks, I despaired because that’s a bit far. I was told there are only three Freddy’s in California. When my buddy moved to Thousand Oaks, I began to plot my visit. I will be back with my family.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
Westlake Village, CA
(805) 497-3344
$

bamboo steamer bestThe 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.