CVIndependent

Sat03282020

Last updateMon, 23 Mar 2020 12pm

What: The fish tacos

Where: Barrel District, 35939 Date Palm Drive, Cathedral City

How much: $15

Contact: 760-537-7431; barreldistrictpizza.com

Why: These tacos are big and tasty.

Regular readers of this space know I am a fan of properly prepared fried fish. I love it on a good sandwich; I adore it served alongside yummy fries.

And, of course, I crave it in a well-assembled taco.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that my attention was piqued when the server at Barrel District praised the fish tacos during our recent lunch visit. I was torn between the fish tacos and the sesame-crusted ahi burger ($13, with fries), but Kevin, my dining companion, was also interested in the ahi burger, so I picked the tacos in the spirit of food diversity, even if I was a little skeptical of the $5-per-taco price tag.

When the tacos arrived, that skepticism went away: The three tacos were huge—packed with deep-fried cod, along with tomato, avocado, cabbage, cilantro and aioli. I made a mess while devouring them, but it was a happy mess, thanks largely to the delicious beer-battered cod.

Here’s an endorsement within an endorsement: Kevin raved about his sesame-crusted ahi burger, served with onion, avocado, tomato and tartar sauce on a ciabatta bun. He was kind enough to give me a piece of the rare tuna—and it was fantastic.

Unfortunately, even though we were at Barrel District at the height of lunch hour, we pretty much had the place to ourselves; only a couple of other tables were occupied. Why the dearth of customers? I have no idea, as it’s located in a recently revitalized and now-busy strip mall; the menu offers an intriguing selection of starters, pizzas, tacos, salads, burgers, sandwiches and entrées; and the service, at least on our visit, was just fine.

Maybe the restaurant needs to advertise more. Perhaps the place needs better word of mouth. Regardless, Barrel District has a new customer in me.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The disco

Where: Bake’d Cakes and Pan Dulce, 27800 Landau Blvd., Cathedral City

How much: $1.59

Contact: 760-656-0176

Why: It’s caramelized, cinnamon-y goodness.

When I perused the trays upon trays of baked goods at Bake’d Cakes and Pan Dulce, one particular pastry immediately caught my eye: It looked like a cinnamon roll had been flattened by a steamroller. The resulting disc was the size of a large plate.

“What is that?” I asked the pleasant and helpful young woman.

“That’s a disco,” she said—Spanish for disk.

I got the disco and several other goodies to take home and sample. The aforementioned other goodies—including a brownie and a couple of pastries—were very good.

The disco was a revelation.

I will now try to describe the flavor: Imagine a really good cinnamon roll—one with lots of delicious cinnamon—but give it the texture of a crispy cookie. There’s no white glaze like a cinnamon roll would have, but there’s a lot of sugar that’s been caramelized, giving the pastry a thin, clear, almost-candy-like coating. It’s certainly big enough so share … but you probably won’t want to.

It’s big. It’s fragile. It’s so freaking good. As a result of this fantastic festive Frisbee, Bake’d will probably become a regular destination for me—my waistline be damned.

The little family-owned bakery with a decidedly Mexican flair opened back in August, and the place was empty when I was there. Granted, I was there at 6:30 p.m. on a weeknight in November, which is not exactly business prime time for a bakery, and I am hoping that’s why I was the only customer—because this place deserves customers, and a lot of them.

So, go. Get a disco—and revel in the cinnamon-y, sugary goodness.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The enchiladas de mole

Where: Los Arcos Mexican Restaurant, 68718 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Cathedral City

How much: $10.95

Contact: 760-992-5133; www.facebook.com/LosArcosMex/

Why: It’s a sublime mix of sweet and savory.

Los Arcos Mexican Food opened back in 2015, on the side of the former IMAX theater at Palm Canyon and Cathedral Canyon drives. I’d heard good things, and I placed it on my mental “Restaurants I Need to Try” list.

Well, I thought I’d lost my chance: Last fall, Los Arcos closed its doors. The old movie theater was being turned into the brand-new CVRep Playhouse (and the theater company needed Los Arcos’ space), and while I am elated about everything CVRep has done with the new building, I was bummed I never got a chance to try Los Arcos.

Fortunately, Los Arcos was not closed—just on hiatus: A few months ago, it reappeared on the other side of what’s euphemistically called “downtown Cathedral City.” Not wanting to miss out again, I headed to Los Arcos on a recent Sunday for dinner.

I intended to order the chicken tortilla soup ($7.95) and the combo featuring a relleno, a taco and an enchilada (a downright reasonable $10.95). Alas, the restaurant was out of tortilla soup, so I had to settle for the combo—and it was quite good, albeit a step or two short of endorsement-worthy.

However … I knew my Monday was going to be crazy, so I ordered the enchiladas de mole (with chicken) to go, for lunch the next day. I was quite full when I got home, but I figured I must try one bite before the food cooled down. After that one bite, I realized I had two things: 1) an endorsement-worthy dish, and 2) a test of self-control, as it was so tasty I was inclined to keep going after that one bite. The mole was rich, sweet, savory and complex—everything a traditional chocolate mole should be.

I am glad Los Arcos is back from its hiatus. If you like delicious mole, then you should be, too.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The al pastor taco

Where: Taqueria Tortilla Factory, 35270 Date Palm Drive, Cathedral City

How much: $2.99

Contact: 760-324-6505; taqueria-tortilla-factory.business.site

Why: It outshined the main course.

Sometimes, the supporting player outshines the star.

Such was the case during a recent lunch I enjoyed at Taqueria Tortilla Factory, located in a busy little strip mall in Cathedral City. I was trying to get over that terrible cold that’s been going around, and I was craving soup—specifically, that fabled cold remedy known as menudo.

I understand that menudo isn’t for everyone—the main ingredient is tripe, aka cow’s stomach—but when it’s done right, I think it’s delicious. I’d never had the menudo at Taqueria Tortilla Factory, and I’d heard good things, so I decided to give it a shot. I ordered it at the counter—and decided to add on an al pastor taco, because, well, tacos are delicious.

The verdict: The menudo was pretty darned good. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever had—while the tripe, hominy and other ingredients were perfect, the broth could have been more flavorful—but it was enjoyable, and it was a welcome salve for my sniffles. After downing most of the bowl, I turned my attention to the taco.

Wow.

It was fantastic. The pork meat was delicious and just a little crispy—as good al pastor should be. Some might balk at the $2.99 price; while you can get cheaper tacos in town, those tacos likely won’t come with this amount of meat.

In addition to making its own fantastic tortillas (as the name makes obvious), Taqueria Tortilla Factory cooks up a wide variety of delicious food, from breakfasts to seafood plates to all the Mexican-restaurant standards one would expect. I am not sure what I’ll order on my next visit … but I am sure that I’ll add on an al pastor taco.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The mac and cheese egg rolls

Where: Bubba’s Bones and Brews, 68525 Ramon Road, No. A101, Cathedral City

How much: $7.95

Contact: 760-699-7231; bubbasbonesandbrews.com

Why: It’s decadent and delicious.

You know that feeling when you see something on a restaurant menu, and you think, “Holy hell, that sounds amazing, and I MUST have it!”?

Well, that’s how I felt when I saw the words “Mac and Cheese Egg Roll” on the menu at Bubba’s, the barbecue place—in a Cathedral City strip mall—that’s been winning over fans due to its delicious meats and impressive beer selection. It was my first visit to Bubba’s, and when I saw those words all together, it Just. Seemed. Right.

Not healthy, mind you … definitely not healthy. But right. And that was before I read the description and learned that these egg rolls also contained pulled pork!

Hell yeah!

Well, my friends, I am happy to report that these egg rolls did not disappoint: They were nothing but artery-clogging deliciousness.

I have but one quibble with these fried pieces of glory: They come drizzled with a delightful mango habanero sauce … and on certain bites, that was the only thing I could taste. Macaroni, cheese and pulled pork all have fantastic but somewhat subtle flavors, and those flavors were completely masked wherever the sauce was poured on heavy. My advice: When you go to Bubba’s and order these—and, really, you should go to Bubba’s and order these, as long as your cardiologist is looking the other way—get the mango habanero sauce on the side, and apply it, lightly, yourself.

This appetizer is not only splendid; it’s filling, and can stand as a meal if you’re just a party of one. I barely touched my main course (the two meat plate with two sides, $15.95; I got brisket and pulled pork, with fries and potato salad), as good as it was.

Egg rolls. With macaroni and cheese … and pork! God bless America.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Meatloaf Sandwich Meal

Where: The Desert Queen. 35400 Date Palm Drive, Cathedral City

How much: $10.99

Contact: 442-615-0344; thedesertqueen1.com

Why: It mended my broken heart.

When the server came to take my order, she broke my heart.

My heart was set on having biscuits and gravy. I’d seen a couple of online raves about this down-home dish at The Desert Queen, a new Southern-style restaurant in Cathedral City, and as lunchtime approached, biscuits and gravy sounded freaking amazing. So I put The Desert Queen’s address in my GPS, and off I went.

After I arrived and seated myself, I perused the menu and instantly spied what my heart desired: the biscuit and sausage-gravy meal ($11.99). Then the server came to take my order. I said what I wanted; she politely pointed at a line on the menu my eyes had heretofore not seen: BREAKFAST ENDS AT 11 A.M.

It was 11:46 a.m.

As my heart sank, I looked over the handful of lunch options. I quickly selected the meatloaf sandwich (which came with a drink and a side; I chose coffee and the homemade chili, respectively).

After my order came, I poked at the chili before unenthusiastically taking a bite of the sandwich. As I chewed … my broken heart began to take notice.

I took another bite. The meatloaf was dense enough to stand up to being inside a sandwich, while being neither dry nor greasy. It tasted great, and the wheat bread was perfect for such a sandwich: It was crispy on the outside, but still soft enough on the inside to hold things together. The word that comes to mind when I think about each bite is pleasing.

By the time I finished my meal, my heart was no longer broken; the delicious meatloaf sandwich had mended it. That’s not to say I wasn’t still craving biscuits and gravy … but I was OK with waiting to have that on my next visit to The Desert Queen.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The lamb and beef gyro plate

Where: Super Shawarma Mediterranean Grill, 69185 Ramon Road, No. 3, Cathedral City

How much: $11.99

Contact: 760-321-1100; www.supershawarmacc.com

Why: The oh-so-pleasing melding of textures and temperatures.

Once upon a time, I had a go-to gyro place. Whenever I had a hankering for good gyro, I’d head over there for some delicious food.

Alas, this would not last forever. The gyro place is still there; however, I decided I could no longer give the place my business after the owner angrily threw out one of the Independent’s distribution drivers for no reason—after he’d personally given me permission for us to leave papers there. (On the plus side … his angry responses to less-than-great reviews on his Yelp page are incredibly entertaining.)

So, for the last few years, I have been culinarily adrift, lacking a place to quickly and easily get great gyro. However, that’s changed now that I’ve found Super Shawarma.

I’d seen the place before—it’s next to one of my go-to sushi places—but I’d never stopped in until a recent lunchtime. Only one or two other tables in the impeccably clean space were occupied, which is a shame—because the food I had was excellent.

The lamb and beef gyro plate comes with hummus, tzatziki, a pickle-forward salad, pita and, of course, gyro—delicious, perfectly prepared gyro. It was a mixture of moist and crispy, and when wrapped in a piece of pita with some of the earthy hummus and cool, creamy yogurt sauce … wow, it was good.

Super Shawarma also offers all the expected Mediterranean dishes, as well as some fairly unusual finds. (A spicy Alexandria beef liver dish? Intriguing!) There are a bunch of vegetarian options, too, for those of you who eschew meat. For those of you who don’t … Super Shawarma just may become your new gyro place.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Porto crepe

Where: Lala’s Waffles Crepes and Shakes, 34041 Date Palm Drive, Suite E, Cathedral City

How much: $8.35

Contact: 760-202-3443; www.eatlalas.com

Why: It’s a treat you don’t find often.

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment: What if you heard a new Mexican restaurant was opening near you? Would you be excited—even if you had reason to believe that new Mexican restaurant was going to be really, really good?

Probably not—because the Coachella Valley is already home to a wide variety of Mexican joints serving up all sorts of yummy eats. Right?

Well … what if you heard a new restaurant had opened near you that serves crepes—both savory and sweet varieties—as well as waffles? Would you be excited? Well, when I heard about the opening of Lala’s Waffles Crepes and Shakes, I was certainly excited—because Lala’s is offering something fairly unique. After all, how many restaurants in town do you know of that focus on crepes?

And, yes, the fare at Lala’s is really, really good. On a recent lunch visit, I decided to try a savory crepe: the Porto, with ham, Provolone and Swiss cheeses, and mushrooms—all topped with a chipotle sauce. It was delicious—made fresh with quality ingredients—and surprisingly filling. I wanted a touch of sweet with my savory, so I decided to wash it down with Lala’s strawberry horchata ($4 for 24 ounces), which was so tasty and refreshing that it, in and of itself, was endorsement-worthy.

On my next visit, I plan on jumping to the sweet side of things to try the Frida ($8.50), with dulce de leche spread, strawberries, coconut flakes, bananas, whipped cream and pistachio ice cream—offered as either a crepe or a waffle. Wow.

I strongly advise you to go to Lala’s. Support a local business. Try something unique. Your taste buds will be glad you did.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The chile relleno plate

Where: Cardenas Market, 31655 Date Palm Drive, Cathedral City

How much: $6.99

Contact: 760-422-1330; www.cardenasmarkets.com

Why: It’s a delicious bargain.

When we moved here five years ago, the initial plan was to buy a house not too far from the Cathedral City Cardenas. I remember first walking into the huge Mexican-focused supermarket and being utterly wowed by the amazing selection of prepared foods on offer there.

However, the sale of that house fell through, and we wound up living in Palm Springs. Therefore, I had little reason to go to Cardenas—and somehow, I forgot about all that amazing food. Well, I recently rediscovered Cardenas, and this rediscovery has been a very good thing (for my taste buds, if not my waistline).

Since the joyous rediscovery, Cardenas has become one of my go-to places whenever I need to pick up some food for a party. The selection of Mexican goodies available is, frankly, stunning: more than a dozen different types of ceviche, a variety of salsas, tamales, tacos, burritos, breakfasts, cooked meats by the pound, and a whole bunch of yummy entrées—it is all available, and then some.

Beyond parties, Cardenas has also become a place to go when, well, I am simply hungry. One recent day, I was in the general area of the store after a doctor’s appointment, so I decided to drop in and pick up an early dinner to-go. (Eating at the store is also an option; Cardenas has a large, comfy dining area.) My only problem was choosing what to get, given the bevy of options. However, I eventually decided on the chile relleno plate—and I’m so happy I did.

The egg-battered pepper was cooked perfectly, and swam in a delightful, cheesy red sauce. It came along with beans, rice and tortillas—a damn fine meal for $6.99.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Chorizo Taco

Where: Tacos El Poblano, 68100 Ramon Road, Cathedral City

How much: $1.49; $1 on Tuesday and Thursday

Contact: 760-534-0446; www.facebook.com/tacoscemitaselpoblano

Why: It’s a few bites of deliciousness.

It was the noon hour. I was hungry, so I headed to a restaurant I’d heard good things about, located in the shopping center at the northeast corner of Ramon Road and Landau Boulevard.

I went to the door, saw an “open daily 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. sign,” pulled the handle … and the door was locked. For some unannounced and undisclosed reason, the restaurant was closed, no matter what that sign said.

As I drove through the shopping center to make my departure, I passed by Tacos El Poblano—and spotted a sign touting $1 tacos on Tuesday and Thursday. It just so happened to be a Tuesday.

Dollar tacos? Yes, please.

I walked in, ordered four tacos—one each with chicken, pastor, steak and chorizo— at the window, got the tacos, paid for them, got some salsa from the salsa bar, and sat down.

I wish I could tell you that all of the tacos knocked my figurative socks off … but that was not the case. Frankly, three of the four tacos were merely OK: The chicken, pastor and asada tacos were decent, but not as flavorful as tacos I’ve had at other places. I can’t say I’d order any of them again, despite the thrifty $1 price tag.

However, the chorizo taco was delicious—and not too oily, which can be a problem with some versions. With a squeeze of lime and just a hint of the house medium salsa, the taco was pretty damn near perfect.

I would order that chorizo taco again in a heartbeat. In fact, I’d probably order about six of them.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

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