Healthy Goodness in Eagle Rock

Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup Four CafeBeyond the 5 freeway towards Pasadena lies a mystical land called Eagle Rock. Charming, hipster, and increasingly trendy, it’s a fun little place filled with lots of unique little boutiques and restaurants that I always remember I’m dying to try when I drive through. This past week I got to one of them – Four Cafe on Colorado Blvd, a fully organic restaurant boasting seasonal dishes made from exclusively local-bought ingredients. Structured like many restaurants are in Los Angeles these days,  you order at the counter, pay, then take a number and your food is brought to you. I’m not sure how I feel about this apparent fad in restaurant dining, but I guess I don’t have much choice. Besides, I’m a big fan of the earth-toned decor in this place. Rustic wooden tables, earthy wall treatments, plenty of outdoor seating, and an absurdly friendly girl behind the counter who had thorough knowledge of everything she was selling and was more than happy to chat us up about it – big points there. Nothing more attractive than a place that is proud about what they serve.

Now when one hears that a restaurant is fully organic and local, it can often lead to thoughts of boredom and salad and… vegans. But such is not the case at Four Cafe. Yes, there is plenty to choose from if you’re a vegan or gluten free, but they also have items like the short rib grilled cheese made with braised short ribs, gruyere, onion, and horseradish, served on foccacia. My friend Kevin got this and was not at all disappointed. A quick peruse of yelp and you can find huge praise for their fish burger, house-made with fresh mahi mahi served on a brioche bun. My mouth waters just typing this. But on the day I visited I was not super hungry, so I opted for a bowl of soup. For those of you trying to watch your weight, soup is always a good go-to in restaurants, particularly when they are house made and vegan like they are here. Supremely earthy and satisfying with just enough wild rice to add a pop of texture. It warms you up and makes you feel good about yourself for making such a good decision. In fact I felt so good that I opted for one of their vegan gingersnap cookies. Moist, spicy, and absolutely delicious. I deserved it. On my list of things to try are the fish burger (of course) and the roasted veggie root salad, which comes with a chili mint dressing. Also – brown butter apple pop tarts!!! Mmmm.  I have to say, I love when a restaurant like this isn’t afraid to have some indulgent food along side all their vegan local wholesome creations. It shows they aren’t pretentious – they really want to attract everyone, which is really important for a starving artist. Sometimes I want vegan soup, and sometimes I want an apple pop tart.

I think what gets me about these “take-a-number” kind of places is that at the end of the day I don’t feel like I’m saving any money by not having to tip a waiter. My bowl of soup and cookie came to $10.36. Worth it, yes, but I know if I had gotten a full salad or sandwich I would have been well over $15, which is not really a starving artist friendly kind of lunch. But in this case I’m ok with it because for one I know the ingredients are of the highest quality, and for another I am getting a meal that I can feel really good about eating. Let’s face it, eating out healthy is not cheap, but a place like Four Cafe is your best bet for getting a good healthy bang for your buck.

So, if you find yourself in Eagle Rock in the mood for a meal you can feel really good about (or a short rib grilled cheese!!), then definitely give Four Cafe a try.

Four Cafe
2122 1/2 Colorado Blvd.
Eagle Rock, CA 90041

Click here to read my review on YELP

All You Can Eat

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know I have a deep love for Tender Greens, an outstanding restaurant chain here in SoCal serving locally farmed produce and expertly cooked local meats in a variety of euphoria-inducing salads, hot plates, sides, and specials. You also probably recall my entry from last month’s beer garden in which Tender Greens opens up their back patio for an all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink feast that showcases a local brewery and a whole-roasted animal acquired from a local farm. This event, which I maintain as being one of the best values in LA at only $40 a head, happens monthly from May through October.

Well, this past Sunday was June’s beer garden, which featured a whole roasted lamb, a whole roasted king salmon, and beer from El Segundo Brewing Company. My blog entry from May clearly made some impressions as there were 9 of us in this month’s group, 6 of them first-timers. I confess this time around I was not quite as psyched out for the event being that I had a lot piled up from being sick the previous week as well as a very early job in San Diego the next morning. As my friends arrived at my apartment and we began the loud, laughter-filled, expletive-ridden walk down to the restaurant, I was immediately reminded not only why my life is so great, but why I have such love for this event. When we arrived at the patio and fell into a state of hysteria over the appetizers and beer, all my stress and doubt were expelled completely. Not only was I in heaven over the food, but I was perhaps even more thrilled to see my first-time beer garden friends equally ecstatic over their experience.

Here’s a link to the menu so you all can see what was served. Highlights for me included:

  1. the salmon. crispy skin, super moist, and the sauce they topped it with… utter perfection.
  2. mini arancini. risotto balls stuffed with lamb, rolled in bread crumbs, and deep fried …life changing
  3. the veal tongue. deep fried, salty meat on crostini. unexpected and addicting. ate no less than 5
  4. baked eggplant. layered with cheese and house made ricotta, it was heaven. I don’t even like eggplant
  5. agave caramel bars. shortbread bottom, chocolate and sea salt on top. like a twix bar on gourmet steroids. win.

But the defining moment for me was when dessert hit. We were all at the table, dying, totally full, unable to continue. Then the warm peach cobbler came out, followed by cookies, followed by caramel bars… A few minutes later I looked at the table and, despite our overeaten despair, every single person had a plate heaping with desserts. No one wussed out, no one was like “oh well I’m being good and eating only half a cookie” – no. This was not the time for restraint. This was the time to shut the fuck up and keep eating. Seeing all those full plates, I knew that these were and are my people (not that I ever really doubted it).

In summary: another triumph, another batch of faithful believers… you’re welcome, Tender Greens. ;-)