Mee & Greet | Culver City

So I’m kind of a skeptic when it comes to Vietnamese food in Los Angeles. Best case scenario it’s just okay and regardless, it’ll be overpriced. Make the extra 40 minute trek down to Westminster or Garden Grove. It’s just so much more worth. Or for me, the hour and half drive home to my parents, where everything is delicious and free. When Mee & Greet opened, I was kind of cautiously excited. It’s fusion. Most Vietnamese fusion is a banh mi but with non traditional ingredients. Or pho, but not. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mee & Greet walked the fusion line pretty well. I apologize in advance for the terrible looking photos. I only had my phone with me and the restaurant is lit like a lounge with dim, neon lighting.

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First course we ordered was the Hainan chicken, served cold with garlic, soy and spicy dipping sauces. Not too much of a twist here, but also not a bad hainan chicken. The portion was pretty sad though.

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My favorite dish of the night – Bo Luc Lac Saltado. Traditionally, Bo Luc Lac is stir-fried marinated beef tips, usually served on a sizzling hot plate or on bed of lettuce with slices of tomato and cucumber. A simple salt, pepper and lime vinaigrette will either be used to dress the salad or left on the side to dip the individual tips into. On the side you’ll get a small bowl of a light clear broth and white rice. This was one of my favorite dishes growing up. What could make it even better? Turns out french fries will do the trick. Preparing the the dish Peruvian style, stir-fried with onions, tomatoes and french fries, was a brilliant idea. Everyone please put more french fries in everything, thanks.

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Tofu Family Style – prepared with serrano peppers, cilantro and spring onions. Silken tofu, deep fried and sitting in a light flavorful sauce. Yum! Pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this one.

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Turmeric Fried Chicken – These weren’t as exciting. One of my friends absolutely loved them, but I have a hunch she feels that way about all fried chicken.

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Mad for Garlic Noodles – Imagine a less greasy, less heavy-handed version of the garlic noodles you get at crawfish places like Boiling Crab. Not exciting, but when has the classic combination of carbs + garlic ever done you wrong?

I also ordered the grass jelly drink, which was basically the canned version I drank as a kid. Points for nostalgia, but negative points for having to pay LA drink prices for it. Overall, I actually really enjoyed the food. The prices were kind of unexpectedly high for the portion sizes though. I wanted more meat with all of the entrees we got. Especially the saltado. There were a few tiny tips of beef amidst all that onion and rice.

That being said, I liked the vibe of the place and the food was good. I would definitely go back for a snack and a drink or two.

Happy Eating!

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Brenda’s Soul Food | San Francisco

One of, if not the first place that pops when you yelp SF is Brenda’s Soul Food. It doesn’t matter how far out you are, Brenda’s will pop up. All those Southern Cajun flavors…it’s exactly what comes to mind when you picture comfort food. It’s also crazy popular. So we knew what we were getting ourselves into trying to get a table during peak Sunday brunch hours. Brenda’s isn’t exactly located in the most upscale part of town. There’s not a whole lot else on the street it’s on. Luckily, all that space comes in handy because the line to get seated will fill the whole damn block.

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Luckily, Brenda’s bought the small space next door and converted it into a small cafe, Libby Jane. You can get some of their staples (like their gumbo) to-go if you’re in a rush for a quick bite. Or if you’re just killing time until your table’s ready (like us), you can grab a seat at the counter and sip on coffee for an hour and half. They keep track of who’s chilling in there so no worries about losing your spot.

The restaurant itself is pretty snug. They’re definitely pushing max capacity. The ceiling’s are high and covered with plenty of art with that New Orleans vibe. It’s loud. Waiters are squeezing through tables with more people than they can hold. The air smells like butter and cheese and comfort. There was only three of us total, but we’d been waiting for a while and may have ordered a wee bit too much.

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The shrimp & grits were probably my favorite dish of the day. Tangy, salty, creamy, cheesy. It’s a hearty dish that packs a kick. This was the flavor I was expecting from the crawfish beignets. While I had probably been the most excited about those, they were honestly a little too….fishy(?) for me and not enough tomato-y cajun goodness. The texture of the dough outside was wonderful though. The gumbo and fried catfish benedict were both solid choices as well. Though nothing mind-blowing, I thoroughly enjoyed both.

So worth the wait? Ehhhh. But go on an off-peak hour and Brenda’s is definitely worth it.

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Cafe Vida | Culver City

Cafe Vida | Black Coffee
Two coffees straight up!

I wish brunch was some hidden secret that only the lucky few got to know about. Unfortunately, brunch is pretty much a lifestyle for Los Angeles foodies and all the good spots are a far cry from secret. Cafe Vida is one of those places. Right in the heart of Downtown Culver City, this Latin-New American cafe always has a crowd. Expect at least a thirty minute wait even if you roll up in the earliest of brunch hours on a Sunday.

Their fresh-squeezed juices and smoothies are super popular menu items. They’re good, but honestly, a little overpriced. So I skip the blended greens and always start with black coffee. They keep you topped off all brunch (yay for being way too over-caffeinated) and give you two tiny thumb-sized muffin bites to go with it. They’re itty-bitty, but so sugar packed that they go great with a straight-up cup of joe.

Cafe Vida | Brunch
Passed on the powdered sugar & butter, that makes this healthy right?

Every time I come back, I tell myself I’ll try something further down on the menu. I never make it past the pancakes. Namely the brown rice pancakes. I’m a sucker for crispy, crunchy, warm your heart pancakes covered in berries. So my go-to is the turkey burger scramble (gotta get those ‘teins) with a side of brown rice pancakes. You can’t go wrong with their blueberry corn cakes either, a little grittier, just as tasty.

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The boyfriend, on the flip side, has never gotten the same thing twice. Though he never makes it down the menu either. He almost always orders whatever brunch special is available that week. Wet burritos, skirt steak benedicts, banana french toast… whatever the new shiny food is for the week. It’s usually a “latin” twist on a traditional brunch food or a brunched up version of a latin dish. I keep putting latin in quotes because this is hip LA latin-inspired more than it is a diverse array of latin food. We’re talking chilaquiles, huevos rancheros and some sort of taco and burrito. That’s about as far as it goes. Donde estan mis pupusas y ceviches?

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This week was the short-rib breakfast burrito. Delicious! I was spooning off some of that burrito sauce to drizzle all over my scramble.

Disclaimer! If you’re already miles beyond hanger though, skip Cafe Vida for the day. The kitchen can be pretty slow getting food out. Even just getting your coffee can take a good ten minutes. That being said, the waiters and hostesses are all friendly faces (even when you ask them for a fifth tiny pitcher of syrup – no shame).

TL;DR? 

Service: Attentive, friendly but slow.

Food: Not quite “latin”, but delicious nonetheless.

Parking:  Plenty of meters and paid lots within a five minute walk.

Wait: 25 min – 1 hour

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