Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions Paty's Toluca LakePerhaps one of the greatest features of the fitness studio I spin at in Toluca Lake is its close proximity to Paty’s Restaurant. Oh yes, it’s a diner, and we all know how much I love love love diners. I was introduced to this establishment by dear friend Tim who I spin with regularly. An innocent post-workout breakfast quickly turned into a ravenous craving that surfaces every time I’m up there. And who could blame me? It’s everything you could want – counter seating, reliable staff, regular local clientele, breakfast served all day…. it’s that intangible yet unmistakable quality that you find only at a good diner, and Paty’s definitely has it.

So I like this place for many reasons: the adorable little waitress who always waits on us, the old booths, the fabulous outdoor seating, the hot cops that come in and sit at the counter… but what really makes it for me is the “Fitness Menu”. Being that we are in California, land of Yogis and the overly conscious self-image, there is quite a large market for healthy dining options. I am no exception to this since I come here only after vigorous workouts. My go-to breakfast is “The Treadmill”: a grilled veggie patty with egg whites topped with copious amounts of Tapatio hot sauce (also very California). Normally this comes with brown rice and choice of toast or bran muffin. Neither toast nor bran muffins are on my healthy eating regimen, so I just skip them. And is it not hilarious that one can get brown rice at a diner? This is why I love California.

Being a breakfast whore, I have never gotten any lunch or dinner items at Paty’s, BUT one of my friends who I recently brought onto the Paty’s train got an omelette filled with their famous chili and beans, which he said was super good. Also I love their turkey patty, which I usually get these days instead of the veggie as I’m trying to avoid gluten at all costs. Very juicy, very delicious. And let’s be honest, when I want to splurge I get the corned beef hash and eggs. Diner breakfast bliss.

Now I have to do my starving artist duty and tell you that the service is not always perfect. Some of the waitresses that work in the morning have more personality than others and sometimes the kitchen seems to be asleep. When I ordered the pictured breakfast yesterday morning, the veggie patty inexplicably took a lot of extra time to cook and came out at least 5 minutes after the egg whites. Once I went in with a group of friends – it was the week before Christmas. The place was crowded, the waitresses were training new staff so they took the food took forever, came out at different times,  – it was sloppy. My meal didn’t come for a good 5 minutes after everyone else’s. The waitress was very aware of this and apologized several times. When it came time to pay the bill, my meal was no where to be found. A nice gesture that more than made up for it. And you know, I don’t think there is any restaurant that doesn’t occasionally have a bad day. Especially one you frequent as often as I frequent Paty’s. And I also have to call out that they break one of my good diner rules! They aren’t open late – only 10pm. But who are we kidding, it’s Toluca Lake. No one is out late.

So what’s the verdict? Paty’s is totally starving artist – enjoy a great diner atmosphere with great diner food for around $10. I love being a regular here and look forward to many more breakfasts in the years to come.

10001 Riverside Dr.
Toluca Lake, CA 91602

Click here to read my review on YELP

Rock the Hawk

Mohawk Bend, Ramona Room

This weekend was quite a busy one: a concert on Friday night, two films I worked played in a festival on Saturday, social outings on Sunday, and all while battling yet another throat infection. Blech. But, as my mother can attest to, I’m not very good at being sick, so on I went, though I did make sure to get quite a bit of sleep on Saturday evening. Of course business and social outings mean culinary outings to go with them. Yum.

Friday night included a quick dinner before the concert at one of the hippest and most unique venues in East LA called Mohawk Bend. Converted from an old one-screen movie theatre, the restaurant has transformed the space into a retro modern eatery that retains the original cathedral-like shape of the theatre as well as brick walls and an outdoor patio where the ticket booth used to be. The food is just as hip as the décor with a new, date-stamped menu printed daily that changes with the whim of the chef and the local markets. It is also entirely vegan unless noted otherwise, but don’t let that intimidate you – nearly half the menu is labeled “NV” and they certainly know how to NV. There are just as many menu staples as there are rotating items, including the Flash Gordon salad, which I had on this visit. Flash grilled baby gem lettuce with dill dressing, avocado, pine nuts, pickled red onion, and citrus.

Flash Gordon Salad

My roommate goes here for the brussels sprouts, roasted with almonds and apples. I am perpetually mesmerized by their spicy and refreshing house-made ginger beer and have shamelessly assisted in devouring their vegan skillet chocolate chip cookie on more than one occasion. My friends also enjoy the pizza and flatbreads, though for me if I’m going to get pizza it’s going to be at a pizza joint. The starving artist raises his eyebrow at the $3.50 per glass of ginger beer with no refills… really? How expensive can that fresh ginger be? Still, despite one thinking there may be an air of pretension to contend with, all of my experience with the wait staff has been warm, friendly, and helpful. As for one’s wallet, it is clearly a place designed to nibble and share, so if you’re looking to get out for there for less than $15, that’s the way to go. The proverbial icing on this trendy cake is definitely the massive beer and wine selection, which ultimately makes Mohawk Bend a perfect weekend hang fit for being cool and feeling so totally LA.

Saturday night was another visit to my local tavern, Franklin and Company, where I dined on a brussels sprouts salad with nuts, bacon, and a light lemon vinaigrette. Perfect feel good food that is affordable at only $10. Though I can’t seem to get out of there without ordering their scotch egg… damn you and your lustful deep fried egg sorcery. The friend I was with ordered something I had never noticed before, The English Burger, which must be new since it’s not even on their online menu. Served on a grilled english muffin and topped with blue cheese, it was ridiculously juicy and delicious – and I don’t even like grilled cheese. Like Mohawk, this place has a tremendously huge beer list and is great for a hangout… but you already knew that from the blog post I wrote several weeks ago.

Yesterday (Sunday) was the monthly date of the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, which transforms the Rose Bowl into a gigantic flea market filled with untold treasure (and crap). I went several months ago and this time around three of my friends decided they wanted to make a day of it. Me being me and having a huge tub of blueberries on my counter that I bought from Trader Joe’s for $5, I invited everyone over for blueberry muffins before we departed for the flea market. It’s a killer recipe that I used to make all the time for my co workers at my job in NYC, but hadn’t seen the light of day in well over a year. So, shockingly, I arose at 730 to get them ready for my friends’ 830 arrival. I daresay I would never get up that early for work…. Alongside I threw together a fruit salad with the leftover blueberries and some strawberries I had in the fridge. Tossed it with a little sugar and let it sit on the counter for a bit before serving it with a side of greek yogurt that I mixed with vanilla and honey as a topping. A splendid (though not entirely healthy) Sunday morning breakfast if I do say so myself. In the end I never made it to the flea market. As the morning went on my head began to reel from my infection, so I decided to bail. I got back into bed, slept until 2pm, and then rejoined my friends for an early dinner at Fred 62 in Los Feliz, which I posted about yesterday.

Now as the week begins I will be contemplating more uses of blueberries as well as peaches as I work on the remaining music for a feature film I’ve been scoring.  Hope everything is enjoying their first glorious weekends of summer.

Mohawk Bend
2141 W. Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles 

Kettle Cooked Classiness

Bran Muffin

One of the greatest things about being a starving artist and composer in Los Angeles is the steady stream of wonderful people that enter my life. Last night I had a spotting session with director Oscar Torre and his actress/producer wife Chuti Tiu for their independent feature Pretty Rosebud. It was a tremendously fun evening – we laughed, we talked, we brainstormed. It’s exactly the kind of situation a composer wants to be in. Yes, it’s business, but more important it’s building a relationship, and that you can’t fake. We finished at 11pm and realized we were starving, so the two suggested their favorite local all night eatery in Manhattan beach called The Kettle. You know me, I love a good diner, and I had never been to the main drag on Manhattan Beach, so I was pumped.

Now usually when I think of a 24-hour joint, I imagine a local, hole-in-the-wall kind of establishment. Oozing with character, same staff for 30 years – classic back roads America. The Kettle, however, keeps it classy without losing the warmth of a small town diner. Modeled after an old world “little house on the prairie” kind of place, the restaurant is huge, rustic, and full of life. Hanging at the restaurant for a while it was clear that this was the place to come – you feel the sense of community  There was a wait list when we got there at 1130, which, while surprising, is actually a good sign. And in fact even after we were seated the waiting line never went away – people just kept pouring in. The menu is rustic home cooking meets classic diner fare meets California. This means that you get big hearty portions of a variety of diner staples like meatloaf, a patty melt,  or a club sandwich, but you can also get thai lettuce wraps or an avocado BLT. This also means that you won’t be leaving without spending at least $12 (unless you split a meal or opt for breakfast). But, it’s certainly worth it, especially considering all the pretty local beach clientele this place attracts. Yum.

But let me tell you the real reason to visit here: homemade honey bran muffin. I’m dead serious. All of us ordered salads and I was rather bemused to discover that salads come with a choice of homemade muffin… holy crap. That muffin came out griddle-warm with a big scoop of whipped butter on the side (we all know how emotional I get over whipped butter). It was moist, sweet, had a slight crunch to it from the griddle, a deep earthiness from the bran, and covered in melting butter… I could have eaten 4 and wouldn’t have felt even a little bit sorry. Yes, my Crab Louie salad was quite good – the perfect blend of texture and simplicity I like in a salad. Hell we even split desserts that were phenomenal: house made bread pudding with a whiskey cream sauce and an apple cinnamon cobbler a la mode… But what I’m still thinking about the next day is that damn bran muffin. I can’t wait to return for breakfast and try their honey bran pancakes… I’m screwed….

The best part for me was the surprise of Oscar and Chuti making this a belated birthday dinner. My dessert came out with a candle and the two of them treated me to my meal – a very generous gesture on their part and, let’s face it, always much appreciated for the starving artist’s ever-dwindling wallet. At the end of the day there is nothing better than sharing a meal with new friends who I can work so well with and am certain will be in my life for many many years to come.

The Kettle
1138 Highland Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Click here to read my review on YELP