The Original Pink’s Hot Dogs

Los Angeles is an epicenter of culinary delights. Literally anything you want to eat, you can find here. But if someone visiting from out of town wanted to know what restaurant they absolutely cannot miss, I would tell them to go to Pink’s Hot Dogs. This family-run hot dog stand first opened in 1939 and has since grown into an internationally recognized Hollywood landmark. Frequented by celebrities, the late-night club crowd, and well, basically anyone living around Los Angeles, Pink’s is the quintessential Hollywood dining experience.

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Famous for their epic hot dogs piled high with creative topping combinations, huge portions and reasonable prices (almost everything on the menu is less than $10), a visit to Pink’s is definitely worth braving the LA traffic. Pink’s does have a small parking lot behind the hot dog stand with complimentary valet parking (yes, using the valet is mandatory if you want to park in the lot. Otherwise, you can try to find street parking).

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Be prepared for a possibly long line. Every time I have been there, the wait was at least 20+ minutes. Once again, totally worth it though. They have paper menus printed out and sitting on the counter…grab one to look over while you wait and know what you want to order before you reach the front.

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I ordered the “Brando” hot dog on my most recent visit. Most of their hot dogs are named after celebrities who have dined at Pink’s or movie titles. Definitely adds to the Hollywood experience.

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When you get to the front of the line, one of the servers will take your food order and then begin to prepare it for you, while you move on to the register to pay. They also sell sodas in glass bottles and Pink’s souvenirs (cash and credit cards accepted).

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My feast!!

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And then a close-up on that beautiful and wonderful hot dog:

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Perfection. Seriously, you can’t find a better hot dog anywhere.

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Pink’s Hot Dogs is located at 709 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90038
Daily Hours: Sunday – Thursday 9:30 a.m. until 2:00 a.m. Friday & Saturdays 9:30 a.m. until 3:00 a.m.

The Most Beautiful Taco Bell in the World

Taco Bell isn’t exactly known for being a fine dining destination, and is definitely not a place to go out of your way to visit. However, the Taco Bell in Pacifica (which is about 20 minutes South of San Francisco) might make you reconsider.

The food at this Taco Bell is exactly the same as any other Taco Bell. But you don’t go here for the food- you go for the location.This particular Taco Bell is located right on the beach and features a wrap-around porch with ocean view dining. Follow the steps down from the porch, and you will be in the sand. The outside patio even features a walk-up window so sandy-footed, bathing suit clad patrons don’t have to get all cleaned up to go inside.

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This is the view from the outside seating area. Nothing like your average Taco Bell, that’s for sure.

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The idea of eating Taco Bell on a beach was too wonderful to pass up. But apparently we weren’t the only people who had that thought. The place was absolutely packed, and we waited in line about 45 minutes to order our food (tip: the employees seem to give preference to the outside walk-up window line, so you’ll get your food much faster using that one if the line inside is outrageous). In addition, the employees moved really slowly despite the huge line, and were very unapologetic about it. I would go as far as to say it was by far the worst service I have ever experienced in any fast food restaurant anywhere. So don’t go here expecting great customer service. Go here because it is funny, a very different experience, and you can get pictures like this:

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Ocean breezes and Taco Bell: what a delightful way to spend an afternoon! My only regret is that we didn’t have enough time to hit up the beach after. I would’ve loved to soak up some sun with a Mountain Dew Baja Blast Freeze in hand…

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The Taco Bell in Pacifica is located at 5200 Coast Hwy, Pacifica, CA 94044.

Boudin Sourdough Bakery and Fisherman’s Wharf!

It seems like every trip I take to San Francisco ends up being a culinary tour of sorts. From fresh seafood in Fisherman’s Wharf, to Ghirardelli chocolate, to dumplings in Chinatown, the wide variety of food available in San Francisco will keep you feasting during every moment of your trip. Of course there are plenty of chain restaurants available, but I like to go to the places that are unique to the city by the bay. And so, I always end up at Boudin Sourdough Bakery, located in Fisherman’s Wharf.

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Boudin has been baking sourdough at this location in the wharf since 1849, and this bread is awesome. Since then, a restaurant and gift shop have been added to the bakery, but visitors can still watch bakers make the bread through demo windows, or take a tour of the sourdough museum and bakery.

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I usually get the soup in a sourdough breadbowl (which is absolutely fantastic) but when we were there this last time, San Francisco was in the middle of a freak heat wave. Definitely not soup weather. So I tried the sourdough garlic and herb pizza. And it was awesome!

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Of course one of the best parts of the visit is watching the bakers in action behind the demo windows… they make some of the cutest shaped breads! And everything looks and smells amazing.

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The bakery and restaurant is located in Fisherman’s Wharf, and it is easy walking distance to see some other cool San Francisco sites from there.

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The main cable car station is just a couple blocks away, but be prepared for a long wait to hitch a ride on one of these iconic San Francisco cable cars. The wait was over 45 minutes when we were there this past visit, and we couldn’t spare that kind of time, but if you can, do it. And ride it standing up, holding onto the hand rails outside of the car. It is totally exhilarating, and makes you feel like you are flying.

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These are some photos I took while exploring the wharf:

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There is so much to see and do in Fisherman’s Wharf. Tons of restaurants, shopping, and bars with live music. I have been all over this beautiful city, but Fisherman’s Wharf will always be one of my favorite areas, and I can’t go to San Francisco without stopping by.

For information on visiting Boudin Bakery at the wharf, click here.

The Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop

While the official “San Francisco Treat” might be Rice-A-Roni, to me, it will always be Ghirardelli chocolate. A San Francisco landmark, Ghirardelli has been producing some of the most delicious chocolate in the world since 1852. It has resided in its current location in Ghirardelli Square since 1893, and opened up to the public as an ice cream fountain and chocolate shop in 1964.

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Ghirardelli’s claims to fame are their chocolate bars and ground cocoa powder, but the reason I trek to Ghirardelli Square whenever I pass through San Francisco is for the ice cream. I have a deep addiction to chocolate sodas, and it is hard to find an ice cream shop that knows how to make them, and of those shops, no one does it better than Ghirardelli. (For anyone wondering, a chocolate soda is club soda, chocolate syrup, and chocolate ice cream, similar to a float. And more delicious).

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The ice cream shop is open late on weekends, but the place stays packed till the last minute. It was an absolute zoo in there when we stopped by around 10 p.m. on a Saturday night! The wait was long, and there was no place to sit inside the shop, but the ice cream sodas, floats, and sundaes are absolutely worth the mild suffering you must endure to get them.

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It is ice cream perfection.

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Even if inside the ice cream fountain is unpleasantly crowded, there is plenty of seating outside. The Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop is located in Ghirardelli Square, which is comprised of specialty shops and restaurants, and is host to many events and live music performances. You could easily pass an entire afternoon or evening here.

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This factory/shop was opened during the gold rush, survived the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and is still standing today, serving up some of the best ice cream and chocolate treats you can find anywhere. By 1982, the government acknowledged the importance of the original Ghirardelli location, and added it to the National Register of Historic Places. As if you needed any more reasons to pay it a visit. A delicious treat and historic sightseeing, rolled into one!

DSCN8914For additional locations, information about the company, or to buy Ghirardelli products online, visit their website.

Original San Francisco location in Ghirardelli Square hours of operation, location, and additional information can be found here.

Phillipsville: Hobbits and Fried Food

One of my friends had memories of visiting Phillipsville as a child back in the 80’s. Back then, there used to be a short trail full of life-size scenes from JRR Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” constructed into the mountain, and my friend wanted to see if they still existed. As avid Lord of the Rings fans, we were all game to check it out!

Located in Northern CA along the HWY 101 just South of Humboldt Redwoods State Park, it was easy to find and perfectly situated to serve as a pit stop on our way to San Francisco from Redwood National Park. Information on the Hobbit Trail was hard to find however. We tracked down the location to this restaurant, The Chimney Tree Grill, which was perfect since we were all starving. We soon learned that the trail officially closed years ago, but some of the scenes are still visible from the road. So we parked our cars and went to see what we could find.

We started at the restaurant.

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I got these tasty deep fried jalapenos. Not to be confused with jalapeno poppers… these were just straight up fried jalapenos. They were good though!

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After feasting, we went to check out the restaurant’s namesake. The Living Chimney Tree is a hollow redwood tree (still living) that you can go inside and see all the way up through the top.

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Definitely interesting to see. And more importantly, it was free and right next to the restaurant, so we figured, why not?

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And then, it was time to find the Shire. You could see the beginning and end of the trail, but they were chained off and completely overgrown. There really wasn’t much you could see from the parking lot, but we were able to see a couple hobbit holes and the most frightening Gandalf I have ever laid eyes on.

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I mean yikes. Look at his face! It is the stuff of nightmares.

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Without a doubt, Phillipsville has got to be one of the most random and odd pit stops I have been to. So if you are in the area and are looking for a place to stop for food or a bathroom and want to see something more interesting than a fast food place, Phillipsville and the Chimney Tree Grill are a great choice!

Flamenco at El Cid…Ole!

Few things last in LA. In a city where everyone is constantly searching for the next big thing- the new, yet to be discovered cool place to hang out- the hip and trendy flourish, while the older establishments fall by the wayside. Tradition and history don’t carry much weight with Los Angelenos, as one historical venue after another is shut down and replaced by something new.

However, one venue that has persevered against all odds is El Cid, a small restaurant/theater located on Sunset Blvd where the trendy areas of Los Feliz and Silverlake meet Hollywood. The building was built back in 1925, became El Cid in 1963, and has remained much the same ever since. It doesn’t look like much from the street, but as you step inside and descend the staircase, it opens up into a gorgeous Spanish courtyard, complete with fountains and a bar. If you continue to follow the hallway, it leads you to an old-world tavern style showroom.

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Flamenco shows at El Cid have been performed since the supper club first opened its doors in 1963, and continue to happen every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. After hours, and on the other nights of the week, El Cid is host to a variety of other acts and performances. But the Flamenco shows are the reason to go here.

“With its bewildering beauty and passion, Flamenco has gained fans worldwide. Flamenco is a unique spectacle, captivating for all. Think of the fire, the passion and the defiance of those stomping feet, making Spanish flamenco dance an integral part of Spain’s culture. With its roots deeply embedded in Andalusia, the southern region of Spain, flamenco is a passionate music and dance art form. No two shows are ever the same” – El Cid website.

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Tickets are $15, and it is recommended to buy them in advance online to guarantee your seat for the performance. The food at El Cid is incredible, so show up early, order some tapas and sangria, and settle in for an amazing show! There is no minimum purchase required, and all food and drink items are sold a la carte. El Cid’s menu features Spanish entrees and tapas, as well as a full bar. Ticket price includes show only. Show is open to all ages.

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Flamenco at El Cid has been a part of Los Angeles history for over 50 years now, so stop by to check out one of the last remaining venues of old Hollywood! For more information on show dates and times, as well as to purchase tickets, visit the El Cid website.

El Cid is located at 4212 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029

Phone: 323.668.0318

Pea Soup Andersen’s: California’s Best Split Pea Soup!

Velkommen to Pea Soup Andersen’s, home to the best pea soup in the state, possibly even the whole country! (ok, I have no evidence to support that, but as a lifelong split pea soup aficionado, I have yet to taste any that compares to Andersen’s).

A favorite stop of travelers passing through central California since 1924, Andersen’s now serves up over 2 million bowls of pea soup each year in their warm, welcoming, family-friendly restaurants located in Buellton and Santa Nella.

My parents brought me to Andersen’s as a child, and now, I can’t drive through the central valley without stopping for a bowl of all-you-can-eat split pea soup!
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Even if you are not a fan of split pea deliciousness, Andersen’s has a full menu to accommodate every taste. In my group of 6 travelers, only my sister and I ordered the pea soup, and the others all enjoyed their meals just as much as we did. Though in my opinion, if you order anything besides the split pea soup, you are seriously missing out. Not sure if you like pea soup? At least order a side bowl to go with your meal. You will never find better split pea soup than Andersen’s.

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Pea Soup Andersen’s Santa Nella
12411 South Hwy 33, Santa Nella, CA 95322
(209) 826-1685
Hours: Monday – Sunday 7:00am – 10 pm
(Adjusted hours on Christmas & Christmas Eve)
Pea Soup Andersen’s Buellton
376 Avenue of Flags, Buellton, CA 93427
(805) 688-5581
Hours: Monday – Sunday 7:00am – 10 pm
(Adjusted hours on Christmas & Christmas Eve)

http://www.peasoupandersens.net/

The Garlic Capital of the World!

The scent in the air announces your arrival before you even realized you’re there. The delicious aroma of garlic is all around you… welcome to Gilroy, the “Garlic Capital of the World” and home to the famed Gilroy Garlic Festival, held every year in July.

You don’t have to travel off the beaten path in order to experience all the garlicky-fun Gilroy has to offer though. One of the biggest garlic shops in Gilroy is located right off of the 101 freeway and provides everything garlic you could possibly want.

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Garlic World is an amazingly fun store. It even has the World’s Longest Garlic Braid! That, plus all the garlic arts and crafts on display, make Garlic World feel part museum, part grocery store. You can buy all sorts of garlic merchandise, and they sell garlic prepared in every way imaginable: minced, pickled, crushed, fresh, dried, stuffed into olives, cooked in sauces…

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And the best part is, they have a station where you can sample all the goods. Yes!! I came home with a jar of habanero garlic stuffed olives.

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But the real piece de resistance is the garlic ice cream. It sounds kind of weird, and in all honesty, it tastes kind of weird too. But you have to try it, if for no other reason than to be able to gross out your friends and family back home. The chocolate has a much milder garlic taste than the vanilla, but both leave you tasting garlic in your mouth for the next couple hours.

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So if your travels take you along the 101 freeway in central California, roll down your windows, take a deep breath, and spend a few minutes trying some of the best garlic in the world.

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Garlic World, 4800 Monterey Highway (U.S. 101), Gilroy, CA 95020, http://www.garlicworld.com/

Eating and Drinking My Way Through Solvang

A little over 2 hours North from Los Angeles, nestled in the Santa Ynez Valley, is the Danish village of Solvang. As famous for its food and drink as it is for traditional Danish architecture, no visit to Solvang is complete without sampling the local food.

My time there was limited, so I only got to try a couple places. First up: The Succulent Cafe.

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This restaurant served sandwiches, salads, and other assorted deli-type foods in addition to an awesome selection of locally brewed beers. I had a tuna sandwich and a Figueroa Mountain Danish Red Ale, both of which were excellent. And the cafe played awesome classic rock tunes during our lunch there. Pair that with ample seating and a fun staff, and that makes Succulent Cafe a win in my book!

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After lunch we strolled through the town for a bit, and checked out some of the shops.

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And then, we found aebleskivers! For those who are unfamiliar with these, they are pretty much a Danish version of donuts, and they are absolutely amazing! No visit to Solvang is complete without ordering a tray of these deep-fried balls of tasty goodness.

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Unfortunately our tight travel schedule did not permit for any additional food or beverage samplings, but my next visit to Solvang will definitely include wine and chocolate!

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I was only able to spend a couple hours in Solvang, which is plenty to get a feel for the town and try some of the delicious food, but you could just as easily spend an entire weekend here and never run out of things to eat, drink, and see. So whether just passing through or as a romantic weekend getaway, Solvang is a must-see destination for anyone who has a love for food and drink.