Thursday, June 25, 2009

Henry's Tacos

Nostalgia is one powerful force. Still today, I can smell freshly cut grass in April and be instantly transported to my Little League days, waiting for Dad to load me up in the car and drive me to one of the two fields we played on. So when Bumper told me about Henry's Tacos in North Hollywood, and the rich tradition it has with her and her family, we had to make a pilgrimage.

I did, however, do my due diligence and research Henry's. I wanted to keep an open mind, but unfortunately, the reviews were pretty accurate in their assessment. They have a limited menu, with hard and soft tacos, tostadas, burritos, and taco burgers. I went for a hard taco, a soft taco, and a bean burrito.

Don't get me wrong, all the food was ok, but given that some of the local fast food places (Jack-in-the-Box) sell two hard tacos for $.99, a $2.40 hard taco better knock my socks off. It didn't. The shell was crisp enough, but was thin, and tended to crumble in my hands. While the cheese, lettuce and tomato were all reasonably fresh, the meat was bland at best, and even the hot sauce didn't help much.

An extra $.20 got me a soft taco, with the same ingredients in a slightly bigger portion. Again, nothing horrible, but certainly not outstanding.

The bean burrito was mostly bean and cheese, with something slightly crunchy on the bottom that I couldn't quite identify - it was either cold, undercooked rice or raw onion. Either way, it didn't add flavor, and it certainly didn't help hold the flimsy tortilla together, since I lost structural integrity after only one bite. And at the same $2.40 price as the hard taco, it certainly wasn't a value item either.

Look, I understand completely that there are places in our lives that we esteem purely on sentimental value. And when we hold them up in the soft light of fond memories and remembrance, we can blur away the rough edges that may have always been there. So that's why I can't be overly harsh on Henry's. It's a neighborhood landmark, and if it's a place where memories are made, well, the food doesn't really matter all that much, now does it?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Taste Chicago

I play in a Friday night modified-fast pitch (fast pitch underhand with a no-windmill delivery) softball league in Burbank with a great group of men and women . . . we have a good time playing and post-game pizza and beer is a staple.

But there was always a restaurant I passed on the way to the park that I wanted to try - Taste Chicago. It's been a few years (eight, actually) since I last spent time in the Windy City, but since my longtime friends Margie and Dave moved there, I've wanted to go back and see them, and revisit the three food items I remembered from my last trip: Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, and Chicago deep-dish pizza. So those are the three things I ordered before last Friday's game.

Mercifully, I was accompanied by Beeper, (or Bumper, as I tend to call her) who shared in the taste test, or my acid reflux would have gone into overload. We got a Chicago dog with everything, a hot Italian beef sandwich with peppers, and a slice of deep dish pizza with sausage.

In theory, the Chicago dog contained all the right ingredients, but they didn't use enough celery salt and they used plain old pickle relish instead of the bright green "Nuclear Relish." There also weren't enough poppy seeds on the roll. The taste was so-so, and not really that impressive, at least not what I remembered from my last one in Chicago. Grade: C-

The Italian beef was just middling too; perhaps I've been spoiled by the French dip sandwiches at Philippe's in downtown L.A. The beef and peppers were all right, but there wasn't the juicy beef flavor I expected in a dipped sandwich. Grade: C

I've never been a huge fan of Chicago deep-dish pizza. To me, it tastes more like a quiche than a pizza, it's been very heavy to the point of almost being soggy, and I never liked the fact you almost always have to eat it with a knife and fork. I've always been more a New York-style pizza guy. The pizza here wasn't a true Chicago style; maybe if we had ordered a whole one it would have come out differently. But surprisingly enough, the slice of sausage we got wasn't all that heavy, and the crust stayed remarkably flaky. Bonus points for the sliced sausage rather than crumbled. Grade: B

Overall, it wasn't a horrible experience, just mildly disappointing. Beeper was a good sport, and we got to see the end of the Stanley Cup finals before our softball game (she OWNS left field). At least now I've tried Taste Chicago, but it just can't compare with the real thing.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Broken & Bloody Noses

What are the odds of two pitchers being on television today with wads of cotton stuffed in their bloody noses? During the first game of the Super Regional matchup between Virginia and Ole Miss, Rebels' closer Jake Morgan got the win in relief, despite being hit by an errant throw during pre-game warmups, resulting in a broken and bloody nose (picture at left).

Then, the Angels' Ervin Santana got a bloody nose before his start tonight in Detroit (picture at right), but still pitched eight innings of shutout ball.

My apologies for the crappy cellphone pictures off the television, but it's not something you see every day, much less twice.