Travel for Food: Around Town (California Style)

Picture of Santa Monica Pier April 2021

Just like everyone else I’ve been spending a lot of time in-doors with the exception of the few times during the week when I am forced to leave the apartment to perform random choirs. The weekend is when I tend to venture out and plan trips to the beach, restaurants, landmarks, or seek out something different outside of my usual habit. While in California I wanted to take the opportunity to explore and learn more about this state. During the past three weekends, I was able to visit a few spots despite some elements of the lockdown still being in place. I visited Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier, and a few other places in between. This blog is going to take you to these places so you can understand my experience and get your own slice of what California has to offer.

Santa Monica Pier

Location: Santa Monica, California

The Santa Monica Pier is made up of two adjoining piers which makes it one of the widest piers I have ever visited. This pier is over 100 years old and was opened on the ninth day of the ninth month in 1909. It has several shops, restaurants, and places for vendors to set up along with an amusement park with a carousel that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Santa Monica Pier has also been the backdrop for many Hollywood movies such as 2012, Pacific Rim Uprising, Hannah Montana, Beverly Hills Cop, Titanic, 90210, Rocky, Sharknado, and many more. While visting a camera crew was out and about along with a number of photographers with long lens taking pictures in various spots along the pier.

This place is also home to a host of odd charterers that range from people doing street performance to a dozen or so pastors preaching about the end of the world.  It was an interesting atmosphere despite the restrictions, and at some points it reminded me of Las Vegas or walking around Time Square in New York.  The Santa Monica Pier is very energetic and seems to be always buzzing with activity either on the beach or on the pier itself. Not to far from the pier there are many stores, restaurants, and vendors surrounding this area. For the casual foodie there is an endless amount of niche restaurants.

Thai on Main

Location: Seal Beach , California

Site: https://thaionmain.com/

After visiting the pier, I went to a Thai restaurant which was the first time I had ever eaten this style of food in America from an “authentic” Thai establishment. I visited Thai on Main in Seal Beach and I can only describe this area as being very well put together and seeming to be a place where lots of yuppies and young people of a certain class hang out. The look of this location reminded me of the fictious town that the Gilmore Girls live in. The vibe of the aesthetics was one that seemed like an all-American façade on steroids. Everything was well put together, all the store fronts and window displays had a look that could only be described as shabby-chic mixed with a farm-house interior style. To me this all seemed intentional or even staged as if the entire street could double as a movie set.

Crab, Drunken Noodles, Yum Tom Seafood

I cannot compare my meal here with any of the other times I have visited Thailand and had the chances to eat a local places. I would say it was different and had the core elements of what Thai food is all about.

Venice Beach

Location: Los Angeles, California

Venice Beach is another famous area of California with a lot of history as it was said to be founded by Abbot Kinney in 1905 as a resort town. This place is best known for its 2-mile (4 km) seaside walk, beach, skateboarding park, beach gym, murals, canals, eclectic vendors, and fortunetellers. Like Santa Monica Pier, it hosts a remarkably diverse group of visitors, vendors, street performances, and small eateries.

Venice Beach shorefront is very colorful and jam-packed with energy. Some areas might seem harsher than others, but overall, Venice Beach reminds me of diving into the ocean to look at the coral reef. It’s bright, colorful, loud, and everyone seems to perfectly fit into the ecosystem. Unlike Santa Monica Pier, it has a more chill mood where people can be seen running, walking their pets, smoking weed, skating, or riding a bike.

The skateboard seems to be a prevalent mode of transportation in this area, but I have seen more people skating and surfing in California than anywhere else in the world. So, I guess you can say some of the sterotypes about Californians are true.

Stacked

Location: Huntington Beach

https://stacked.com/locations/#huntington

Stacked is a burger place with a number of locations in California. I am not a person who frequently opt for eat hamburgers, but I can honestly say that I like this restaurant even if I only visited once. This place offers some of the best customer-built burgers even for someone who do not care for hamburgers. I was able to build my own burger and what I came up with was awesome. I like my burgers well done, with beacon and blue cheese if possible.  

Stacked is a casual restaurant with great food, which means that you might have to wait a while before being seated or consider calling ahead. Due to the pandemic they are using less space which just means you need patients when you go out to eat.

El Super

Site: https://elsupermarkets.com/

El Super is a supermarket that I have never seen anywhere else outside of California. I discovered that the first store opened in Southern California in 1997 and mostly caters to the Hispanic community. I had my eye on this supermarket from the first time I saw it and was lucky to have the opportunity to visit it last week. As a person from the Caribbean who often make traditional meals, it’s extremely hard to recreate certain dishes because some ingredients are not native to the United States. Soemtimes I can find a few items online or in the more common generic supermarkets, but they are usually classified as exotic which makes them cost more. The reason why I added this place to my list is because I managed to find a Mamey Sapote fruit. In a blog I wrote some time ago called Caribbean Fruits I listed this as one of my favorites. This is an interesting fruit that is mostly found in central and south American, but of course its also found on many islands in the Caribbean.

Mamey Sapote

We usually call it a Mammee apple or Pouteria sapota, but it has many names.  Some of these fruits are oblong or round in shape, but the common feature is their skin. Which is usually brown and textured while the flesh inside can be a bright orange to a mellow yellow color. The flesh can sometimes have the texture smilar to an apple or soft like custard. It all depends on which species of the fruit you get. I bought one that was oblong shaped with a soft creamy center when ripe.  Check out the other fruits I purchased from El Super.

Pineappe, Papaya & Aleo

Katella Bakery

Location: Los Alamitos, CA

https://www.katellabakery.com/

Katella Bakery is a deli and restaurant that has been operational for over 50 years.  The origin story of this place starts out with an immigrant couple from Eastern Europe who open this bakery after moving to the United States. Katella serves excellent family style meals, fresh baked rye, challah, cakes, and pastries.  According to them they still use many of the traditional receipts passed down from the orginal owners.

I was introduced to Katella by way of their fruit tart, I rated as 10 out of 10.  After spending a considerable amount of time studying and trying to make apple tart with frangipani, I know what I like when it comes to this type of pastry. The one thing that I love about their fruit tart is the crust. Many people tend to spend a lot of time on the filling and topping then deliver a bland tart shell. This isn’t the case with Katella Bakery’s fruit tart, it delivers on quality and taste. Its 100% edible from the toppings down to the shell. I was blown away at how consisting the flavor and texture of this pastry was.  I have also tried their German chocolate cake, tiramisu, cookies, and their baguette.

The Sugar Shack Café

Location: Huntington Beach

Site: https://hbsugarshack.com/

The Sugar Shack Café is located close to the Huntington Beach pier which is a popular area. I visited this café for a late brunch on a Sunday and it was jam packed, but their pancakes were worth it. The Sugar Shack Café has in-door and out-door dinning with a very casual vibes. This place scored high on yelp as a great breakfast spot so I had to visit it.

As I revisit these pictures and I see the beauty in a day, in a life, in a moment, in the sun; I am suddenly reminded of a song by a British singer called Black. I felt it was fitting to end this segment with the lyrics to his song called Wonderful Life. Looking back at these moments, I kick myself for not taking the time to look at these days with deep respect for my ability to have these experiences.

 Here I go out to sea again

The sunshine fills my hair

And dreams hang in the air

Gulls in the sky and in my blue eyes

You know it feels unfair

There’s magic everywhere

Look at me standing

Here on my own again

Up straight in the sunshine

No need to run and hide

Its’s a wonderful, wonderful life

No need to laugh and cry

Its’s a wonderful, wonderful life!