Cheap Eats at Bloglander

Your guide to eating cheap including tips, recipes and techniques

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[ Currently Eating: Nature Valley Oats n Honey Cereal ]

Cheap Eats - McAngus Eaten

Folks, this past Friday I went on a MISSION. The mission – bring back one of the elusive Angus Third Pounders from McDonald’s. These wily burgers are for now restricted to the environs of Southern California (to be exact: LA, Orange, Kern, Riverside, San Bernadino, San Diego and Ventura counties). I felt so privileged knowing I was going to be one of the first to try 1/3 pound of cow cooked McDonald’s style. Yeah.

(For those regular readers who are wondering if I’ve completely fallen off the apple cart, I’ve designated Friday’s as Anything Goes Day, which is the reason you’ll still see a lot of junk food reviewed here.)

So to be truthful – who cares, right? McDonald’s restaurants are everywhere here in the Southland and for the most part I try to avoid them whenever I can. Two reasons for that: McDonald’s hamburger meat tends to give me the runs for some reason (I’m certainly not “lovin’ it” when that happens), and there just happens to be an In-N-Out a few steps away from the McD’s I pass by frequently. Given the choice, it ain’t hard to go with a Double-Double Animal Style.

Cheap Eats - McAngus CouponHowever, I wanted to report on it for the benefit of other Cheap Eaters out there who don’t live in SoCal. And more importantly, there is actually a current coupon for $1 off any Angus Third Pounders Sandwich or the Extra Value Meal , good until April 15.

Now, since the 1/3 pounders cost $3.99 normally, $1 off is a pretty good deal. I mean, you might pay that much for comparable sandwiches at other fast food places. And I wanted to try and see if the “Angus” hamburger was any different. And before you ask, I absolutely DESPISE Carl’s Jr.’s Six Dollar Hamburgers. I’ve tried them several times at many different locations and they are horrible. I actually have grown to despise Carl’s Jr. in general, but that’s another rant (and most likely an upcoming Hall of Shame entry).

I started off the day pretty excited – I’d been planning this “mission” since about 4 weeks ago but it was hard to get up the courage to actually walk through the golden arches.

Cheap Eats - McAngus's LairActually, my biggest fear was that they wouldn’t honor the coupon, which is a web-only printable thing. I’ve had the worst of luck with these coupons… there seems to be some sort of disconnect with the people who design them and the people who are training the serfs that are taking your order. (Side Note: When I say serfs, I’m not poking fun at the people working at fast food joints. I feel sorry for the folks who work in the trenches… remember that the next time they screw up your order, how draining it is to work at one of these places.)

It was high noon when I pulled up to McD’s, so I didn’t want to risk a traffic jam by trying the coupon in the drive-through. I walked up to the counter and said, “I have a coupon for a McAngus burger.” The girl looked at me kind of funny and said, “Oh you mean you want an Angus Third Pounder.” I’m still trying to figure out why they didn’t name it the “McAngus” burger, it’s just smoother than saying “Angus Third Pounder”. But anyhow, she took the coupon with surprisingly little fuss. The manager was called over to ask how the coupon was put into the computer, but after that I was set: a McDonald’s Mushroom and Swiss Angus Third Pounder was mine for $2.99.

Continue reading “Angus Third Pounder Coupon” …

[ Currently Eating: Cheetos - Finger Dirtyin' Good ]

One of my new year’s resolutions for the Cheap Eats site (besides some minor site redesigning and writing up a Manifesto) is to try and focus more on local restaurants and eateries. Being in Southern California has advantages in that there are billions of local joints and places with a myriad of cuisines to sample… all of them possible cheap eatery candidates.

I really haven’t written about them enough, though many times the problem is that I don’t have a camera handy and I’m too busy scarfing to think about writing up an entry. Plus, I don’t have the unlimited budget that Jonathan Gold has to try all these places…

Anyhow, maybe this is a good way to kick it off. Here is a list of the “Top 9 Cheap Eats” restaurants in Southern California by 9 On The Town which is a human interest segment broadcast on KCAL Channel 9 News. I found this while idly surfing around for cheap food sites.

Tropicalia – 1966 Hillhurst Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90027

Cha For Tea – 5720 E 7th Street Long Beach, CA 90803

Zankou Chicken – 1415 E. Colorado Blvd., #D, Glendale, CA 91205

Dona Rosa (Mexican) – 577 S Arroyo Parkway (@ California) Pasadena, CA 91105

Fassica Ethiopian Restaurant – 10401 Washington Boulevard (@ Motor Avenue) Culver City, CA 90232

Spring Street Smokehouse (BBQ) – 640 North Spring Street (just north of Sunset Boulevard) Los Angeles, CA 90012

El Nido Restaurant (Nicaraguan) – 2112 S LA Brea Avenue (@ 21st) Los Angeles, CA 90016

Ginja Lions (Caribbean/Asian) – 11320 Ventura Bouelvard (1 block east of Tujunga) Studio City, CA 91604

Indo Kitchen (Indonesian) – 5 N. Fourth Street (@ Main Street)
Alhambra, CA 91801

I have only actually been to two of these restaurants: Dona Rosa and the Pasadena branch of Zankou Chicken. Dona Rosa was pretty decent Mexican food, but you may remember my earlier disenchantment with Zankou Chicken. I’ve heard of Spring Street Smokehouse, Cha For Tea and Fassica… anyone try any of these places before? Leave a comment if so…

Interestingly, I was driving around Main Street in Alhambra a couple weeks ago and spotted a restaurant I had somehow missed before called Indo Kitchen but that was before I had seen this list. That’s piqued my curiosity and since that’s 10 minutes away from me I think I’ll be reviewing them soon!

Speaking of reviewing… I’ve been thinking of asking (begging) some “guest bloggers” if they’d like to write about a few Cheap Eats restaurants in their neck of the woods. This is because there’s no way I can do reviews of all of these out-of-state restaurants. If you’re interested, I’ll try get some more details up soon. But go ahead and contact me about what city you want to cover.

[ Currently Eating: Much Needed Nectarine ]

Lobster Festival

Why hello there… we haven’t visited the infamous Cheap Eats Hall of Shame lately, thought I’ve been meaning to put a few entries in. A friend sent me a bunch of food links the other day in L.A. (including the local Tofu Festival in J-town). I took one look at the link for the Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival and knew I had a good candidate for the Hall of Shame.

First off, I’ll have you know that when I can afford it (read: when it is provided for free through hook or crook or maybe scavenging off an unsuspecting yuppie’s plate) I really do like lobster. I’m very partial to it, especially when it is stir fried with massive quantities of garlic, onions, scallions at any of the multitudes of Chinese restaurants around me. And actually, when a restaurant is having a promotion or sale, it can be phenomenally cheap. Same with crab, shrimp, fish, squid or any number of other ocean creepy crawlies. Yum.

Lobster FestivalBut I have to give “un-props” to whoever came up with this Lobster Festival. First, “Port of Los Angeles”? What a joke. They must mean “Ecologically Unfriendly Ocean Dump of Los Angeles”. Actually, I know they mean San Pedro, but still. I live here, so I’ve seen the beach closures and know about the high PCB and heavy metals levels in locally caught fish. This is just some spinster trying to put a shiny happy face on L.A. in order to lift a couple more dollars off the Beverly Hillites.

Second, you will note that not only do the lobsters NOT come from the Port of Los Angeles, but they go to great pains to advertise that “The Port of Los Angeles Lobster Festival proudly serves only lobsters from the Great State of Maine.” In other words, these are ALL Maine Lobsters. This is just weird… I mean I totally understand the tradition of lobster festivals from the New England area because that’s where the durned lobsters come from right? So why does L.A. feel the need to make their OWN lobster festival that features lobster caught on the other side of the continent? They actually have to ship that 12 tons of Maine lobster here.

Continue reading “L.A. Lobster Festival” …

7/6/05 | Zankou Chicken

[ Currently Eating: Neat Macaroni Egg Salad ]

Zankou Chicken

As promised earlier, I’m finally getting around to reviewing local area eateries near where I live. As you can imagine, besides reviewing fast food places and “quick sit down” places there aren’t too many chances to review actually restaurants since I try not to eat out too often. That is Cheap Eats Rule #1: avoid eating out when you can!

But anyhow, the other day I happened to be in Pasadena (for the Pasadena City College flea market) and decided to try out an old favorite of mine: Zankou Chicken. You might have heard of this Southern California fave without even knowing it, since Beck sings about it in his song “Debra” (off of the Midnight Vultures CD. Hey, if it’s good enough for Beck…

The first Zankou Chicken was actually opened in Beirut, Lebanon (1962). The owners, the Iskenerian family, then moved to L.A. and opened up the first American Zankou in Hollywood. In the early 90′s, they branched out into heavily Middle-Eastern influenced Glendale, CA and eventually spread to Pasadena, Anaheim, West L.A. and Van Nuys and will be opening in Burbank soon.

Zankou Chicken MenuThere are a lot of strong opinions about Zankou Chicken on either side of the “like-it, hate-it” camps. Some people say it’s the best roast chicken they’ve had while others say they have had better elsewhere, and for cheaper. They have a pretty famous strong garlic paste sauce that has always been a hit. Besides the classic rotisserie chicken you can also get plates which include the garbanzo bean and tahini based hommus (or hummus), pita bread, chopped tomato and these crazy purple-pink marinated turnip pieces.

Some of the more unconventional items on the menu are Shawerma (Marinated beef from a spit), Tarna (Marinated spiced chicken from a spit), Falafels (Fried mixture of Garbanzo, Fava beans, and split peas), and Mutabbal (Eggplant mixed with garlic and sesame)

I’ve always been somewhat split down the middle about the restaurant. I’ve certainly had better tasting Falafel wraps and Shawerma plates elsewhere, but the roast chicken was always really good. Crispy skin and not dry, even for the 1/4 white meat plate. I think the kicker that kept me coming back was the price, which was fairly cheap. The good quality Roasted Chicken Wrap with garlic paste for about $2 was excellent.

But this past time I went, I saw that nearly all the prices have been raised. A chicken wrap is now $3.29 and a 1/4 dark meat chicken plate is now $4.98. This is no longer Cheap Eats. They got a new glitzy looking menu lightboard, but I would have rather had the old boring menu if it meant cheaper prices. In some part, the price hike was overdue. I just can’t get used to inflation.

But I expected that the quality of the food would at least remain the same. Instead, the order of roasted chicken had crisp skin, but it was so salty that I almost had to discard it. And the crispy skin is almost the main reason I used to get it! The meat was just OK, but I had gotten the dark plate. I heard some people who got the white meat chicken plate complaining about it being dry. The chicken wraps were about the same, but it’s no longer very economical to get two of them which is what I used to often do. My wallet didn’t have the heart to divulge any more money to try and see how the Falafel fared.

Continue reading “Zankou Chicken” …

[ Currently Eating: Coffee ]

Picked up this news item the usual way, through Google News with a search term of “Cheap Eats”. I’ve been experimenting with finding articles on cheap food lately in different cities and it seems to be pretty on target for a number of stories. I’ve got to start reviewing some local hidey-holes of my own, but this definitely helps to review restaurants in places other than California.

This review of a place called Coffee Odyssey and Eatery was from Carrie Seidman from The Albuquerque Tribune. Now, as I’ve said before, I’ve got a soft spot for coffee shops and coffee related places even though buying coffee instead of making it is definitely not on the Cheap Eats philosophy checklist. But I especially like these small tiny places and prices can often be cheaper than the larger diners. I don’t usually go for the coffee drinks anyhow. It’s the food I’m after.

From the article:

The menu isn’t what you’d call innovative. Carne adovada breakfast burritos and something called “Lisa’s tortilla sandwich” are big sellers when the doors open at 7:30 a.m., and there’s a run on tacos, burgers and sandwiches before closing time at 1:30 p.m.

But everything save a steak sandwich is less than $5 and made with plain but fresh and unadulterated ingredients…

Innovative can be thrown out the door as far as I’m concerned with places like these. Simple food and cheap prices are the reason I head for places like these. It’s interesting that she says that the eatery is in the midst of an office park… I’ve also found that if you can locate them (and if they can stay in business), small eateries like this are hidden Cheap Eats gems.

Carrie says that she got a chicken salad sandwich with chips and pickle for $3.95 with tax which is not bad for a sit down sandwich.

When I was working for a certain big unnamed electronics company, I used to eat at a tiny place 8 table luncheonette tucked between a two parking lots. I used to wonder how they hell it was that they stayed in business because the building was not visible from ANY street. The only way you could find it was to accidently stumble upon it. It had amazingly been in business for over 30 years. They serve delicious pseudo American Japanese brunch diner food. I guess good customer loyalty and patronage is enough to keep some of these smaller places open.

Cheap Eats Score: 5/10

The Albuquerque Tribune
Coffee Odyssey and Eatery

5/10/05 | Fast Food Tax?

[ Currently Eating: Cookies ]

Fast Food Nation PicHas Eric Schlosser’s book Fast Food Nation really gotten to everybody and convinced them to avoid fast food restaurants? I haven’t read the book yet, so I can’t really comment. But I’ve heard from many friends who have read it that it’s been at least partially responsible for a 180 degree turn in the way they eat.

Maybe Detroit’s mayor has read the book one too many times. Or maybe he’s gotten addled from ingesting too many Super Size Fries and Big Macs. All I can say is boy, I bet he will be one hell of an unpopular guy (at least in fast food restaurants) if this proposed tax comes about. I know he’s certainly landed on my Cheap Eats shortlist of dummies. What will this fast food tax entail? From CNN Money article:

In an effort to curb a looming $300 million budget deficit, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick last month floated what he called a “different budget than has ever been presented to our city council.”

The budget includes a proposed 2 percent tax that would be levied only on sales at fast-food restaurants, among other items that would generate additional revenue for the city.

Like the majority of the people in the article, I just can’t see the justification of taxing fast food. I mean if you’re going to tax something, tax the sit down restaurants… tax those people wolfing down creme brulee lobster or whatever. Shoot, they can afford it. The people who go to fast food restaurants more frequently are often the ones who currently need to watch every penny spent on food. So, you’re basically going to end up levying this tax against people who it would hurt the most. What the hell.

Continue reading “Fast Food Tax?” …

5/5/05 | Moxie’s Cafe

[ Currently Eating: Coffee ]

I came across a sort of fun article about a student at Chico State U. which is sort of in the inland empire of SoCal Northern California. The premise sort of goes like:

Dan Cline is a senior at Chico State University. Each week he cruises the Chico area with $6.75 in his pocket (one hour’s minimum wage), sampling local eateries for ambiance, service and most of all, cheap eats.

Moxies CafeThat’s a great idea… I’ve been thinking about doing something like that for awhile, a Rachel Ray’s $40 a Day theme but with less money. But I’d probably try to attempt something impossible like $6.75 a DAY…

Anyhow, in addition to providing food Moxie’s Cafe is apparently an art gallery slash indie music venue. When searching for a pic of the place, I did come across numerous shots of bands playing (I saw Mates of State did a show there) but not many about the actual place.

In this article, he mainly talks about pancakes. I’m more of an omelette and potatoes person, but pancakes are still delish when done right and not breaking your wallet. At $4.50 for a flapjack, even if as he says it’s gigantic…

A Moxie’s pancake is big. So big the cup of syrup they give you isn’t enough. It’s so big I have to eat from the center out so stickiness doesn’t splosh on their posh marble tables, (a solid foundation to our meal).

is little much, though if it’s REALLY big I guess it’s not such a bad deal. They seem to have these “Oops” 25 percent off coupons that students use so maybe that makes it a better deal. They also specialize in vegetarian and vegan food which may be good news to some.

In any case, I’ve got a soft spot for breakfast cafes and diners so I’m willing to compromise a bit. I might try make the drive there one of these days from L.A.

Moxie’s Cafe & Gallery
128 Broadway
Chico, CA

Cheap Eats Score: 4/10

Chico Enterprise Record
Starving Student Column: Moxie’s Cafe



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