Restaurant Reviews and Ratings

Here at News From The Pollywog Cafe Dot Com, you will find a quick and easy way to find and check out restaurants in and around the L.A. area. Below you will find some of our favorites and a few not so favorites. No need to read those long rambling restaurant reviews – we just get to the point so you can get on with your day – or your meal.  At times, we will point out some great restaurant qualities we come across, like great service or ambiance, and of course, those outstanding food items that we wouldn’t want you to miss out on.

Since we grew up in the City of Los Angeles, we rate the restaurants by  using the same grading system used by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) in the 1960’s and 70’s (maybe they still use it.) We grade: Food, Price, Value, Service and Ambiance (Atmosphere).  So an “A” is outstanding; “B” is good; “C” is average; “D” needs to improve” and “F” is, well, fail (or forget it).  We might also use pluses (+) and minuses (-) as appropriate just like they used in school; or we might use “E” for excellent; “S” for satisfactory; and “U” for unsatisfactory which LAUSD used to grade “work habits” and “cooperation,” in their report cards for junior high (that’s what they called it before “middle school”).

The pricing is indicated “per person,” as indicated right after the restaurant’s name, and ranked as follows: $ (up to $15); $$ ($16 to $30); $$$ ($31 to $50); $$$$ ($51 to 70); and $$$$$ ($71 and above).

It’s important to note that we visited each of these restaurants without them knowing who we were so we could get (and rate) an authentic experience. None of our meals were ever “comped” nor were we ever paid for our reviews so you can rest assured that they are honest- we tell it like it is.

And yes, we admit that we are tough restaurant critics.  But we are sophisticated foodies and have eaten all over the world so we know what we’re talking about. L.A. is a world class restaurant destination so we expect the best and we know you do too.

So here’s the list, as follows: They are not ranked in any particular order. Look through them all and tell us what you think. Check back often for the latest and greatest reviews:

  1.  Philippe, The Original –$  1001 N. Alameda, Los Angeles, CA  90012 (While some pronounce it Fill-leeps, we say Fill-leep-ays because it’s more fun to say!) This is one of the oldest and best known restaurants in L.A. and has been family owned since 1908! It’s located in the heart of L.A. aka DTLA, on the edge of Chinatown, just a block or two from Union Station (which you must visit) and of course, is practically the next door neighbor to our beloved Olvera Street (which you also must visit and which has it’s own Haiku featured on L.A. Haiku!). This place is awesome and in our opinion, there in only one thing on the menu – the original French Dip sandwich. That, along with their homemade hot mustard will set you up
    “Philippe” Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

    for a life-long addiction to this legendary sandwich. We’ve tried a lot and none compares. They sell about 6,000 sandwiches a week!  Philippe claims their famous beef dip sandwich is the original and we believe them!  And if they weren’t, then it’s a tie with the other guys (whose beef dip is not as good – trust us).  Philippe has plenty of other items on the menu – including other dips like turkey, roast pork and leg of lamb, lots of breakfast items including eggs and pancakes, chili, stew, beans, and other sandwiches but the beef dip can’t be beat! It’s an order-at-the-counter, sawdust-on-the-floor kind of place with character plus!

    “Philippe” Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

    And coffee is just 45 cents a cup!  FYI, your beef dip goes awesomely (is that a word?) with their amazing cole slaw and fresh homemade iced tea. And don’t forget pie or brownies for dessert. So our rating is: A for food (A+ for the beef dip); A for value; A for service; and A for atmosphere (which is L.A. authentic vintage deluxe!) Enjoy.

2.  Bestia $$$$$  2121 E. 7th Place, Los Angeles, CA  90021. Have you ever heard great things about a movie and then when you saw it, you felt it didn’t quite live up to all the hype? Well, that’s how we felt about Bestia. But don’t get us wrong – this is definitely a place to check out. Bestia (Italian for “Beast”) has been recognized for a number of years now as one of the best restaurants in L.A.

“Bestia” Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

It is owned and operated by Ori Menache and Genevieve Gergis, a great looking and highly talented husband and wife team, both of whom are L.A. area natives. (Genevieve is the pastry chef and we love the fact that she learned to bake while studying to be a classical French horn player. Ovi’s background and experience is very impressive as well.) Bestia is multi-regional Italian and very popular. It can be hard to get a reservation without persistence unless you want to go at an off-hour. While the food was very good and sophisticated, there were no wow moments or tastes that made us think OMG. It is located in the very cool Arts District of L.A. and the restaurant itself is upbeat, trendy, bustling, a bit phrenetic and noisy with a lively crowd filled with lots of hipsters and wannabes. However, unlike some of the snobbery and attitude that we have found at other hip places, Bestia is friendly, welcoming and delighted that we were there, especially for the first time. The restaurant’s look is mostly unoriginal as it looks like so many newer restaurants these days, done in early industrial, wearhousey (it is a converted industrial space), lots of exposed brick, rustic fixtures and plenty of reclaimed-looking wood. (Check out the unique display of bathroom tile!)

“Bestia” Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

The tables are close together and there is outside dining that is pleasant and quieter. Nonetheless, we did enjoy the atmosphere and it’s cool boisterous vibe. The service was excellent bar none and we did not feel rushed. The house specialty cocktails are delightful, unique and fun. The tasty food is presented very nicely along with a detailed description of each plate as it is served.  The wine list is more than adequate and mostly in the pricey range. So our rating is: B+ for food; B+ for value; A+ for service (the restaurant gets a B for keeping us waiting for 15-20 minutes past our reservation time); A- for atmosphere.

3.  Eastside Market Italian Deli $  1013 Alpine Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. This authentic family owned Italian gem is located just off the

Eastside Market Italian Deli, Est. 1929, Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

beaten path on quiet Alpine Street adjacent to iconic Sunset Boulevard, just a stone’s throw from DTLA, and a short walk from one of our favorite picture framing stores, Downtown Framing Outlet. As an Italian Deli, this one’s the real deal where you can get a fresh and delicious hot or cold real Italian sub sandwich. This vintage market has been there since 1929 so just its longevity in the heart of this vibrant City speaks for itself. The guys behind the counter have that no-nonsense Italian attitude you’d expect in a place like this, but it took

Eastside Deli Market Counter, LA, Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

almost no effort to get them to crack a smile. The traditional Italian Sub with Cheese (#9) is a great entry level sub that is tasty and savory, and served on a hyper fresh soft Italian roll. We’re told that the best seller (no doubt!) is the mouth watering hot Roast Beef, Pastrami and Cheese (#7). Although the daily special “Chicken Parmesan” looks amazing so

we’re definitely going back to try it! And you gotta know that a place that attracts

Eastside Deli Market, LA, Photo by Steve Karbelnig, All Rights Reserved

firefighters and construction workers, and decorates with Vin Scully street signs (and who doesn’t love former Dodgers’ announcer and Hall of Famer Vin Scully!) and a Dodgers‘ autographed tee shirt among lots of other fun tchotchkes has to be great. So our rating: A for food; A for value; A for service; A for atmosphere (great L.A. vintage place with lots of cool stuff and old photos on the walls!)

4.  Nine & Nine Thai Kitchen $ 738 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91101 Sitting on the geranium-curtained patio that fronts Colorado Boulevard (the legendary Route 66 – how cool is that?) on a warm summer evening or even a chilly one in fall or winter conjures up fantasies of the ultra-famous Tournament of Roses Parade going by. You can almost smell the spectacular flower adorned floats (how do they get the all those flowers to bloom at the same time?), the unwavering excitement of the thunderous perfectly synchronized marching bands and the gorgeous equestrian units. As you come back to Earth, you will discover that this casual family-owned neighborhood Thai gem has delicious food with service that is quick, efficient and friendly. The menu has lots of traditional Thai favorites that we all love, with an energetic and ample take out menu in case you’re on the run or prefer to eat at home so you can watch re-runs of The Golden Girls. Either way, you do not want to miss the Green Curry Sole Fillet, with its luscious green curry sauce complete with coconut milk, bamboo shoots, bell pepper and basil leaves. This wonderfully delectable dish is the cozy color of split pea soup, warm and inviting. The sole was tender and enhanced by the spectacular taste of the sauce which is a velvety smooth combination of sweet and tangy with just the right amount of heat. (You can have it mild if you can’t take the heat.) It was served with a delightful heart shaped mound of rice (white or brown) and came out of the kitchen piping hot along with an Asian soup spoon so you can savor every last drop of the savory broth. It’s the perfect dish to energize you before the Spanish conversation Meetup group that gathers nearby for a truly international evening. With Target (Tarshzay) conveniently located across the street, you can take care of any shopping or impulse buying. The Laemmle Playhouse 7 movie theater is just down the street to take in a good flick. Even more importantly and essential, Vroman’s Bookstore, our all-time favorite bookstore (in a possible tie with The King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah) is also down the street. If you’re like us, you will not be able to resist the temptation to find a new favorite book either before or after your authentic Thai meal. (Check out “Treading Water in the Nile on News From the Pollywog Cafe’s website.) News From The Pollywog Cafe dot calm strongly supports independent bookstores and urges you to do the same rather than buy books from those big chain bookstores or even Amazon. By the way, as for Nine & Nine’s seemingly unusual name, we’re told by one of the pleasant waitresses that the number nine in Thailand means good luck and good fortune. So it seems that the name Nine & Nine means something like “luck squared” or lucky and luckier. We were certainly lucky to find it! And interestingly (going off on a bit of a tangent), 9 plus 9 equals 18 and in Judaism, 18 is a spiritual number known as Chai which means life or being alive. And you know how much Jews love Asian food! So, Our rating: A- for food (A+ for the Green Curry Sole Fillet); A for value; A for service; B for atmosphere (it’s cute but a little plain). So try your luck and check this one out and let us know what you think.