If third time's the charm, the fourth go-around should be full of good luck, right? That's certainly what I was hoping for on my Beach Blvd. Urban Hike, my longest one to date and one that actually includes both LA & OC. While the hike itself is a bit lackluster, there were definitely some interesting eats and drinks to be had along the way (thanks to a little homework and recommendations from fellow bloggers & friends.)
To start, I stopped by SoCal mini-chain Millie's in La Mirada for a pretty healthy breakfast - eggbeater scramble with mushrooms, spinach and fat-free cheddar, served with salsa, unbuttered wheat toast and some fruit slices. Yes, this was an item off their health-conscious menu, and it works for me since I didn't want to start off heavy and sluggish from a hearty breakfast when I got another 20 miles to go.
In hindsight, I probably should've asked them to give me the real full-fat cheddar instead of the fat-free version that reminded me of Kraft "American" cheese -- but overall the breakfast was not bad and certainly not guilt-inducing. I did have mixed emotions about not ordering a slice of their much-touted deep dish strawberry pie, but I reasoned with myself that I can always get a Donut Man strawberry donut if I still have such glazed berry & sugary carb craving at the end of the hike.
I had my sights set on Park Ave. for a heartier mid-hike bite, but found out they're dinner-only for weekends, so I hauled myself to the other notable Stanton eatery, Thai Nakorn. I was initially excited to check out this much raved place, but got dismayed when I saw how little vegetarian options there are . . . I finally settled upon Som Tam (a.k.a. spicy green papaya salad) which really hit the spot for a summer lunch, cool and refreshing yet with a pleasant chili kick that's well rounded with a citrusy tang, plus some salty-sweetness from the sauce.
There was also a slight fermented taste to it and I can't tell it was from the fish sauce (which of course, would render the dish non-veggie) but the server assured me the dish was vegetarian so I decided to turn a blind eye rather than be annoyingly scrupulous. But definitely a place I look forward to returning to when and if I go back to eating meat (and in another hindsight moment, I wish I checked out the more veggie-friendly and friend-recommended Mad Greek Restaurant instead.)
Moving onwards, time for to quench my thirst -- with a good hearty glass of beer! When mapping my route, I remembered there's a German-themed Old World Village next to the Bella Terra complex in Huntington Beach so that's where I decided to pitstop while waiting for Caroline on Crack (my urbanhiking - and drinking - partner in crime last month) to join up with me for the remainder of the route. To start, I got the light, quaffable, lightly spicy and fruity Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse. A summer perfect brew while we played a little shuffleboard.
When Caroline joined me, we studied the drinks menu and almost immediately became intrigued with their German Schnapps . . . so we both decided to order a shot. I ordered the bramble one, expecting it to taste like raspberries or blackberries (i.e. fruits of the bramble plants) but it tasted more like wintergreen-peppermint, or "Christmasy" as Caroline puts it. I thought they'd given me the peppermint schnapps by mistake but was reassured by the bartender that's how bramble supposed to taste like. Oh well, I thought, as I finished the rest of it (and thinking how this cooling-yet-fiery drink may have actually gone well with that papaya salad.) Caroline got an apple schnapps which tasted like uber-sweet, liquored up apple juice. Wrapping things up, I got a light, fragrant white wine and played a little shuffleboard with Caroline before taking leave . . .
. . . only to be stopped by a bakery that was selling apple strudels and freshly made candied pecans! Not knowing any better, Caroline and I said "We'll take one strudel!" only to have the lady present us with a pastry the size of two baguettes! So we opted instead a strudel SLICE (still substantial size for two to share) and it was divine and unlike any apple strudels I've had before... impeccably light because of the phyllo pastry and an wonderfully complex apple filling that's crisp, aromatic and not-too-sweet, which the baker explained were from six varieties of apple and just a touch of sugar and spices. The still-warm candied pecans were great too, and towards the end we tossed the two together to make a sort-of-baklava. Yum!
As we neared the beach, we stopped for one final snack break at Mother's Market & Kitchen, another mini-chain market whose in-store cafés have deemed one of the best vegetarian places by the OC Register. Caroline got a freshly-made pineapple/coconut & mango smoothie, and I opted for their grilled vegetables whole-wheat quesadilla, hot and gooey with globs of REAL cheddar cheese binding the grilled eggplants, chiles, bell peppers and zucchinis - served with generous sides of fresh guacamole, sour cream, salsa, scallions and black olives. Both Caroline and I groaned with glee as we noshed down this "healthy, but not really" treat at a bus stop.
After we hit the coastline and did a victory jump at the beach, we quickly hauled butts to our most anticipated location - Don the Beachcomber's, a revival of the famous Tiki bar & restaurant that's been forever feuding with Trader Vic's on inventing the Mai Tai.
Regardless of who made it first, I think of the two I liked Trader Vic's (which I happened to have drank the day before) more, which was smoother with a pleasant balance of fruit and orgeat. I got the Three Dots and a Dash, a little more sophisticated and herbacious, but again -- it made me wish for the better made version at Cana Rum Bar. And Caroline and I both wished the menu had a little bit of description of what each of the tiki drinks contained so we don't have to bug our waitress or do a quick search on our phones.
As for the food, I didn't expect anything spectacular and sure enough, it wasn't. I got the simply named "The Noodles" which turned out to be vegetable chow mein with udon ~ it tasted pretty standard (greasy and soy saucey) and was good enough for soaking up alchy and filling my stomach, but nothing that I'd order again. Caroline had better luck with the Kalua Pork dinner plate, at least until her teeth encountered some unappealing gristle.
Comparatively better was their Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Rhum-Caramel Sauce and cone of garlic fries, but better versions of those can be had (and for cheaper) elsewhere too. It was still pleasant checking out the space (and I had a $50 Groupon to use anyways) and I might return for some of their other famous tiki drinks (Zombie or Rum Barrel, anyone?) if I'm in the area.
As always, the best part of the hike is discovering all the eateries that I probably would've missed if I was driving by, and just when I thought my to-try list couldn't get any longer . . . on goes the like of ParkAve, Mad Greek, Tampopo Ramen and all the Korean joints that dotted the Buena Park stretch of Huntington Park. Now let's see if I can shave off that to-eats list before or during my urban hike next month (July 25, this time along length of Colorado St./Blvd. from Glendale to Arcadia!)
More photos on flickr set here
Millie's Restaurant & Bakery
14840 Beach Boulevard
La Mirada, CA
11951 Beach Boulevard
Old World Village
7561 Center Avenue,
Huntington Beach, CA
Mother's Market & Kitchen
19770 Beach Boulevard
Huntington Beach, CA 92648-5927
Don the Beachcomber
16278 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA