25 Degrees is a hamburger restaurant with three locations in the United States and one in Thailand, which is kind of strange but, hey, whatever, Bangkok is a rad place. They claim they're named after the precise temperature difference between a raw and well-done hamburger, and market themselves as a "sophisticated twist on the traditional burger bar." That's actually a pretty accurate description, because if somebody asked me to describe them I would say they're a hamburger bar but kind of more sophisticated. Don't ask me what makes them more sophisticated because I couldn't tell you, but they've got snazzy-dressed bartenders and they're located in the trendy Roosevelt Hotel so take that for what it's worth. Plus the one in Los Angeles is open 24 hours, making it one of the few places you can grab a decent bite to eat when you're stumbling home from a night of partying. And by night of partying I mean watching Game of Thrones episodes until you lose track of time and next thing you know it's 4 am and oh my god how am I going to wake up for work tomorrow it'll probably be easier if I just skip sleep and watch a couple more episodes instead.
Located in Costa Mesa's very own mini-Portland, The OC Mix, Taco Maria is the first brick and mortar restaurant of the food truck by the same name. I wasn't a huge fan of the original food truck, but apparently I'm some sort of idiot because everybody else loved it. I came here for lunch which is a shame, because I hear to truly appreciate what chef Carlos Salgado has done you have to come for dinner where the only option is a $52 prix-fixe menu that doesn't even serve tacos. I didn't do that though, so instead of getting a proper review of what Taco Maria is capable of, you're going to get a half-assed review of something not even representative of what this place is supposed to be. Go me. It's like going to Chick-fil-A and doing a review based entirely on their ketchup packets (best in the business by the way).
I've always been under the impression that Mario Batali was the best actual chef of those silly TV/celebrity chefs. Maybe it's because he looks like a chef. Maybe it's because I love Italian food. Or maybe it's because the other chefs are basically cooking barefoot in their kitchen for their neighbors while Batali's restaurants have actually earned him a Michelin star. Whatever the reason, Osteria Mozza has been on my Los Angeles radar for a long time.
We got the pasta tasting menu because why have one pasta when you can have, like, six? While overall I'd say the pasta itself was cooked perfectly, almost every dish was slightly over-salted. Plus, no matter how hard somebody tries to dress it up, at the end of the day you're basically just eating flattened dough and sauce. Osteria Mozza is definitely delicious on the pasta scale, but it can only go so high on the overall food scale. Unlike me on an actual scale. I can go as high as I can dream! Now where'd I leave that bucket of bacon-stuffed ice cream?
There are two types of people. Those who like cheese and those who are stupid idiots. And those who are lactose intolerant. And I guess those who don't know what cheese is. Okay, there are more than two types of people. The point is, cheese is good. And when you're in Seattle, the place you go for cheese is Beecher's Handmade Cheese. We had spent the day eating so we were actually too full for cheese or curds or whatever else it is they serve at this so called cheese place, so we ordered their "World's Best Mac & Cheese" which seems a little boastful but whatever. This isn't a personality contest. Like all things that matter, this is about outer beauty.
If you have to eat at a food court, it's an unwritten law you avoid chains and go for the most unique option available. Skillet Counter is a brick and mortar version of the Skillet Truck and specializes in comfort food. And I use the term 'specializes' loosely, because while slightly better than your typical food court fare, Skillet Counter just isn't very good. The chicken and waffles were dry and the poutine was average. Although average for poutine means delicious by normal food standards. If your goal is to get full, this place will get the job done. If your goal is to dine on exquisite epicurean creations, why are you in a food court?
People love French bakeries. No matter where you go, there's probably a super popular French bakery nearby that specializes in croissants or macarons and has a line out the door. Le Panier is that place in Seattle. And while I don't consider myself an expert when it comes to French pastries, I left Le Panier completely unimpressed. When I asked the worker for a recommendation, she said their chocolate croissants were probably the best thing they had, followed by their macarons. One guess as to what two things I ordered. That's right, a baguette and a muffin.
I hadn't really planned on coming to Rachel's Ginger Beer, but it was right next door to Pike's Place Chowder and I love ginger beer. I don't know who Rachel is, but she's got some serious balls devoting an entire shop to just ginger beer. I tried the original and while it was a bit too tart for my tastes, it was still refreshing enough that I came back a couple more times on my trip to try the other flavors. Do yourself a favor and get the blood orange since it was the best one I tried and hence the best one they have. On the scale of ginger beers I'd place this in probably the top 25th percentile. Near the very top would be the amazing house-brewed ginger beer from Son of a Gun, and near the bottom would be the cup of Sprite I had sitting around that I decided to dump chunks of sushi ginger into.
There are a handful of places that people say you absolutely have to try when visiting Seattle. Paseo is one of those places. You know a place is legit when there's a line out the door and no sign on the building. You also know a place is legit if they have four and a half stars and over 2200 reviews on Yelp. They specialize in Cuban-themed sandwiches, and oh what sandwiches they are. The man behind the register pointed me towards the Caribbean Roast since that's what they're known for. It's piles of pulled pork topped with piles of grilled onions topped with jalapeños and smothered in their Paseo sauce. If that description alone doesn't sound delicious, it's obvious we can't be friends. And also you might be dead on the inside.