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

Weekend Eats

Happy Tuesday, everyone! And happy July! I really can’t believe June is gone…. where the hell does it all go? My weekend was full and hectic, as they always seem to be these days. I’m hoping that after this week things will be a little bit more mellow, but I’m not getting my hopes up. Despite being a bit hectic my weekend was still full of good eating, but let’s be honest, I always make time for that.

Friday afternoon I found myself at Mendocino Farms, a Los Angeles sandwich market specializing in local and seasonal eating, with a group of friends who couldn’t stop raving about it. The minute I arrived I understood why. High ceilings, open kitchen, all the ingredients on display, and a menu full of creative, mind-bending sandwiches from Vegan to pig-filled. I am a huge fan of vegan food as it tends to be on the whole more creative than the average cuisine. Plus it’s usually better for you, though you definitely have to be careful about carbs and calories. Like many casual yet trendy eateries in LA, this establishment is an order up front, get a number, find a table, sit, and wait for them to call you kind of place, which honestly I like. No tipping wait staff, no bs with food service. I didn’t have a lot of time to obsess over the menu in line, so I went with my gut instinct, which was the vegan Shawarma. Made of chickpeas and served with a vegan tzatziki on a whole wheat tortilla, it was definitely the right choice. The kicker? The wrap was grilled. Little crispy, grill marks. Awesome. Super flavorful, overall outstanding sandwich. Unfortunately in my eagerness to devour it, I neglected to take a photo. Instead what you see above is a photo of the vegan bahn mi on buckwheat bread. Super yummy. My friend Jeff swears by the Vegan BBQ Torta, which he gets every time he’s there.

This is definitely the kind of place I want to visit numerous times because everything just sounds so friggin good. There is a chef’s sandwich pick that changes constantly – a reason to go all the time in and of itself. I was actually quite tempted by the special when I was there, which was a riff on TBM (tomato basil mozzarella) that involved applewood smoked bacon, pesto, avocado… tempting, but not the time for it. The problem with wanting to coming here all the time is the roughly $10 per sandwich price tag. It’s actually reasonable for the quality of ingredients you’re getting, but still, that much for a sandwich can really add up. They have combo deals to get sides and a drink and I love that they are so eager to let you try their side salads (which are really good), but I found my sandwich by itself to be plenty. And you know, honestly, I don’t mind spending $10 at a place like this if only because you know you’re getting high quality. Not to mention the vibe is great, the staff is friendly, lots of gays, lots of outdoor seating, everyone enjoying themselves and their fantastic food. You just have to promise yourself you’ll only come once a week.

Saturday night I found myself at Kitchen 24 after seeing the movie TED, which I found to be uproariously hilarious. A talking bear that has a Boston accent and is best friends with Marky Mark? I’m sold. I’ve blogged about Kitchen 24 before, so I will spare you from repeated details, but I will say I did give breakfast a try and was not disappointed. A cast iron skillet filled with hash browns, eggs, sausage, and toast. Can’t go wrong. And let’s not kid ourselves, breakfast is my favorite meal, particularly late at night. The place was mobbed at 1130 – we actually had to wait for 15 minutes. But, definitely worth the wait. Someday I’ll actually try a cupcake, but not this weekend.

Sunday was my good friend Adam’s birthday and his birthday wish was dinner at Wurstkuche, an exemplary sausage and beer house in downtown LA. My experience there is deserving of a separate blog post, so you will have to come back to hear my tales and see some pictures of the magically ridiculous sausages that were devoured by me and my friends. You won’t be disappointed.

Coming up this week: 4th of July on Venice beach, creative ways to use fresh cherries, and what happened to my weight loss journey.