Friday, December 17, 2010

Frugal Foodie on the Road: Barstow's finest and Santa Monica finds

There's nothing like a weekend trip to LA to whet your appetite - so many worthy places to try, so little time. I was surprised, however, to find such good eats on the way to my final destination.

If you are tired of the Mad Greek and other en route Vegas-LA eating options, boy do I have a place for you. On my last jaunt this past weekend I used my handy Yelp app to search out a more unique eatery, and stumbled upon Lola's Kitchen. This pipsqueak of a restaurant in a typically grim Barstow strip mall is run by twin sisters who cook deliciously down-home Mexican cuisine. I only sampled a couple of options, but was tempted to take the rest of the menu to go. The chicken enchilada verde was more than noteworthy, with a tangy, slightly spicy tomatillo sauce, delicately sauteed onions, and cotija cheese ($7). It was still good two days later on the Sunday drive home, when Lola's is closed.

The pork and shredded beef sopes were equally mouthwatering ($3 each). The cornmeal dough crust was expertly crispy on the bottom, and the pork in particular was beautifully fork tender. It was loaded with the freshest iceberg lettuce (not sure how but they take this staple from 'dud' to 'stud') and given a shot of sour cream and a sprinkle of cotija. I recommend these with a touch of their spicy homemade salsa. OOOOh weee. You'll really thank me for this discovery, especially since it will cost you next to nothing.

Once in LA, we went o my new favorite breakfast spot, Amelia's on Main Street in Santa Monica (previously mentioned in Frugal Foodie on the Road). I can't get enough of their lattes, a drink I never order unless I'm here. This time I tried the Chai latte - don't miss out. To bring you up to speed, Amelia's is family owned spot almost too good to be true, as not only do they use the freshest, local ingredients, but the customer service is impeccable. The owner even chased us down the street to return a bottle of veggie juice we just had blended down the street at the Great Life health food store (also highly recommended).

Though we were full after our meal, I could help but gravitate towards a sign across the street that said "Sunny Blue - first store in California to make fresh omusubi." Not knowing what omusubi was, and this being the "first" store to make it fresh, I had to try. I discovered omusubi is a warm triangular rice cake stuffed with a filling of your choice and wrapped in crisp seaweed. The version I had was made with curry pork, scallions, and fresh onion. I always try interesting things and generally they don't WOW me, but this was a definite exception. Had I not been so full I could have eaten a couple more, and for just $2.60, it would have been tempting to order one of each variety.

These spots are enough reason to take a weekend trip. Just avoid coming or going on a Sunday - you'll want to stop at Lola's on the way there and back!

Lola's Kitchen
1244 E. Main Street
Barstow, California 92311

2645 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405

Sunny Blue
2728 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405

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