Definitely Not, Definitely Awesome
Not A Burger Stand
1221 Riverside Dr, Burbank, California 91506
This place looks like a burger stand and serves burgers, but it is definitely not a burger stand. The menu is diverse and each item is unique. More importantly, the quality of the food is unexpectedly gourmet. The chef/owner took over the spot about a year ago and transformed it into something special. They feature “American comfort food influenced by Maryland and mid-Atlantic roots.” The vibe and decor is down-to-earth. No frills. Homey. A little arty.
The food is top-notch. The grilled cheese sandwich with bacon marmalade is a surprisingly perfect combination of sweet and savory. The mashed potatoes has horseradish in there which makes it special. The guy next to us ordered the pulled pork sandwich which smelled so good I was salivating. Not A Burger Stand is located in a quiet neighborhood in Burbank near Griffith Park called Riverside Rancho where many residents keep horses. A beautiful stallion strolled past us while we munched. I can’t wait to go back there soon and have another lazy relaxing high-quality lunch.
We have been lazy about keeping up with our food blog. It’s either because we have been super busy touring the country or uninspired by the food we’ve been encountering. I like to believe it’s the latter because today I went to a meatball joint in the Little Italy section of Toronto that made me run to my computer to write this. Well actually I had an amazing churro in between.
I feel like every time I order meatballs they disappoint me. The marinara is not great or the seasoning doesn’t have a good balance of salty and sweet. The pork meatballs at “Hey Meatball” were perfect as was the marinara sauce in which they were served. I literally jammed them down my gullet in less than two minutes; partially because we were late for an interview and partially because I’m a glutton sometimes and the taste was amazing. I also ordered a side chopped salad that was one of the most unique salads I’ve ever had; it was filled with huge pieces of parsley, dill and other herbs normally used to lightly garnish. The unusually large quantities of these strong flavors worked so well.
Hey Meatball redeemed the meal I had in Toronto the previous morning where a bait and switch technique was used. I ordered a side of avocado with my breakfast and instead got a shitty thimble of low grade guacamole. Thank you “Hey Meatball” for making me love Toronto food!
It’s so fun to encounter restaurants that are clearly run by creative people that don’t settle for the status quo. Hey Meatball takes pride in their food and want to put something delicious into the world. Hell yeah!!
719 College Ave.
It isn’t often that I write about an eating experience. In fact, I never have. It is Cones Rotisserie on Hollywood Boulevard that has inspired me to finally take a crack at it. On a Tuesday night, after our band performed a beautifully grueling set at The Sayers Club, our gear was all packed up, and the late night cravings kicked in. Where to eat? Someone in our group reminded us about our good friend Arthur’s new shawarma joint just a block and half away and open late. We walked it, stepping over names of unrecognizable Hollywood stars, window-shopping for cheap lingerie, funky wigs and Scientology literature, and enjoying the soundtrack of L.A.P.D. sirens.
At Cones, Arthur greeted us with bright blue-green eyes and a big smile. The small well-lit food stand with standing-room-only counters for about 6 people had a clean and modern vibe with bright yellow wall graphics displaying giant words like “explosive, mouthwatering, and scrumptious,” perfect descriptors for what we were about to consume. Most of us ordered the first item on the menu: the chicken shawarma wrap. Let me start listing more of the words on the walls: “exciting, yummy, distinct, savory.” To say these descriptions are accurate is an understatement. Every aspect of the shawarma was perfect. The white chicken breast, which gets sliced off a cone-shaped rotisserie (hence the name of the restaurant), tasted perfect, sizzling with just the right balance of juiciness and crispiness. The garlic sauce, a key component, was to die for. The pita bread was fresh and warm and just the right amount of toasty, and functioned perfectly as the delivery method for the massive sandwich. But the secret to the success of this truly exceptional flavor ride are two ingredients you don’t normally find in shawarmas here but are common in Lebanon: small green pickles and french fries. Yup. Good french fries. Not too many. Just enough to add the comfort-food element and make you close your eyes when you chew on this tasty flame-broiled perfection.
Unfortunately, the whole band wasn’t there that night. Fortunately, we were all in the same area just a couple weeks later to visit a clothing designer from Thailand who was in town for the Grammy’s and offered us to pick out jackets for us to take on our first real tour of the U.S. this spring. She had set up a temporary showroom at the Redbury Hotel, and one of the racks (pictured) was set aside for Snoop Dogg, which of course consisted of nothing but long pimp coats. We found a cool costume for us and got fitted. All that excitement got us nice and hungry.
The short walk to Cones was during the day this time, and just like last time, the meal was flawlessly fulfilling. Rumor is, the beef shawarma is also amazing, but they had just run out. The limited supply is a result of their effort to use only fresh ingredients. Tamar tried the veggie wrap, which looks more like a crepe and is a remake of an authentic traditional food from Artsakh, a remote Armenian region, stuffed with dill, spinach, caramelized onions, green chard, cilantro, mmeoojfooggkkk… sorry my mouth started involuntarily salivating just thinking about it.
And don’t forget to try their unique shakes, like “Shake Dubai” with dates, bananas and nuts.
You must eat here. Cones Rotisserie Wraps. 6323 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles. Cones on Facebook.
Panna II, in Manhattan’s lower east side, occupies part of a building with three competing restaurants in it. As you approach, the dueling proprietors attempt to coax you into their establishment with the promise of the best Indian food around. Fortunately, Panna II was our destination and we could ignore the sales pitches.
The fun really starts when you enter this hole in the wall. Someone in our group compared being there to “being inside a christmas tree”, a description that could not be more accurate. Every type of string light imaginable hangs from the ceiling to the point where anyone over 5 foot 5 has to crouch in order to walk through the restaurant. The walls are covered with a psychedelic, hologram wallpaper that makes you feel like you’re peaking on a mushroom trip. In fact, if this place weren’t an Indian restaurant, where you expect a colorful environment, it would feel a bit like a nightmare, albeit a very festive one.
The food was inexpensive and delicious. We unanimously decided the best dish was a Chicken Tikka Masala that came with a stick of butter embedded in it, which slowly melted into the sauce. Thankfully, our friend who ordered it had a small appetite and let us pillage her unfinished plate. After the main course, we were pleasantly surprised by a light show and Indian, disco version of “Happy Birthday” as we falsely told them it was Ryan’s birthday that night. This rigamarole also came with a mediocre scoop of ice cream that no one ate.
One of the best things about playing music in different parts of the world is that you are constantly meeting interesting people that want to show you an adventure in their hometown. This past weekend in Colorado Springs was no exception, as we met a group of locals that invited us to dine post-show at a restaurant they worked at called Johnny’s Navajo Hogan. Nathan, seen below with his friend Holly, promised us delicious pizza and chicken, which seemed like a fantastic late night food choice given the extreme cold (10 degrees) that was causing a physiological need to consume calories. The cold was also clouding our judgement as you’ll see.
The last thing you should be adding to your system before going to bed, and having consumed beer and whiskey all night, is oily pizza. That didn’t even cross our minds as we tore through these pies as if we would never eat again. Below you can see the two pizzas with Manny’s hand positioned to show scale. They were huge, greasy and overflowing with meat.
The pizza would have been enough, but was followed by plates of “broasted chicken”. A cute name, yet highly inaccurate as this chicken was fried to holy hell, and when combined with buffalo sauce and ranch dressing created a taste that brought out the little chubby kid in each of us. We could not stop eating!
By the end of the meal, as our appetites slowly waned, the plates in front of us began to look like photos you’d see in an anti-fast food campaign with a slogan next to it saying, “Do you really want to put this in your body”?
Now back to how the cold had clouded our judgement. Although we enjoyed the eating process immensely, we all paid the price that night, each member of the band experiencing their own private hell of heart burn, sodium anxiety and sleeplessness. Will we do it again next time we are in Colorado Springs? Absolutely!
If there is one thing we have as much passion for as music, it is food. Eating good meals is part of the Capital Cities ritual and if you spent time with us you would start to notice some trends. First, we eat anything and anywhere. Street food is held in as high esteem as fancy restaurants. If it tastes good, it is good. Second, Ryan, Sebu and Nick are the gluttons of the group, consuming their meals a good 10 minutes before everyone else. Manny eats in slow motion, but will probably outlive us all because of it. Spencer and Tamar lie somewhere in between, but both really enjoy their wine.
We start our blog with a local favorite called Tonir Cafe.
Anyone who is about to go into the restaurant business has probably heard the age old retail advice “Location, Location, Location”. Most choose to take it, as much as their rental budget will allow, but others ignore it and set up shop in what seems like a no-man’s land. Tonir Cafe falls into the latter category, their storefront inconspicuously situated on an industrial street with no foot traffic, very little car traffic and a raging commuter train just 100 feet away.
Despite their poor location, we somehow found them and eat their delicious, affordable Armenian fare on a regular basis while working at our studio in Burbank. There is nothing better than hearing Tamar (Sebu’s wife) announce, “Tonir has arrived” when in the middle of a long rehearsal. Our go-to dish is the chicken breast kebob plate (see above photo), which includes a mountain of perfectly seasoned chicken breast pieces, an assortment of fresh vegetable sides and a piece of pita bread. It’s a perfectly balanced meal that never gets old and leaves you satiated every time. If chicken breast isn’t your thing, they have alternate meat choices like rack of lamb and cornish hen. BTW, none of their meals are over $12.