LA (Manhattan Beach), California – North End Caffe

Restaurant: North End Caffe
Cuisine: American/Sandwiches/Salads/Pacific Northwest/Fusion
Last visited: October 4, 2011
Location: Los Angeles, California (Manhattan Beach)
Address: 3421 Highland Ave
Price Range: $10 – 20

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6Tres Excellent!!

Food: 4.55 (based on what I tried)
Service: 4
Ambiance: 3
Overall: 4.5
Additional comments:

  • Featured on Diners, Drive Ins, & Drives
  • Family owned
  • Popular for sandwiches
  • Local favourite
  • Extensive menu
  • Daily specials
  • Modern/eclectic comfort food
  • Hand made pasta
  • Big portions
  • Family friendly
  • Beer/wine available
  • Eat in/Take out
  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Daily 8am-9pm

**Recommendations: Kahlua Pig Egg Rolls, Aguilucho Sandwich, Short Rib Tacos and the Pasta Carbonara is a favourite. Anything with roasted pork or short ribs is likely a solid choice.

I was on my way to a culinary tour of Jamaica and I had a lay over in Los Angeles, California. I had about 4 hours to kill and there was no way I was about to let a good eating opportunity slip.

North End Caffe is located in Manhattan Beach, which is not far from the LAX airport. It was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives so I was prepared for something deliciously greasy before my red eye out. Eating light before bed is so overrated anyways.

I wouldn’t even really consider this a diner, drive in, or dive. I’d maybe consider it a LA version of one, but it’s definitely got a bit of a gourmet twist. It’s somewhat of a fancy little caffe that’s easily overlooked on the strip, but it is a local favourite.

The chalkboard features their specials which are more gourmet than their regular menu. The regular menu is quite extensive and offers a selection of hot/cold sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs and salads. The cuisine is generally Pacific Northwest with influences from Mexican, Italian, French, Asian and good old American comfort food. It’s popular for pastas and a variety of sandwiches, but the menu goes beyond that.

It’s very casual, clean, and comfortable, and although I didn’t try as much as I wanted to, I could see its potential and charm. It’s worth checking out if you’re at Manhattan Beach, or looking for a quick bite before or after your flight. I actually would have overlooked it if it wasn’t for the whole Triple D thing because from the outside you wouldn’t guess it would bring this to the table…

On the table:

**Kahlua Pig Egg Rolls5.5/6

  • 3 for $10
  • This is the house favourite and it was featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. I’d say it’s a must try here.
  • They’re jumbo egg rolls and you can order them individually as well. 2 would be enough for lunch.
  • They’re obviously a bit greasy inside and out, but I’d certainly order them again.
  • This is probably one of the only egg rolls I’ve liked that wasn’t from an Asian place.
  • It came with a trio of dipping sauces which included Teriyaki sauce, mojo mayo, and Sriracha sauce.
  • The Teriyaki sauce was obviously bottled and very sweet. I wasn’t keen on the brand.
  • The mojo mayo tasted almost like a Miso mayo, but it was a bit sweet rather than citrusy or garlicky.
  • The Sriracha sauce was deliciously spicy as it always is.

  • It had a crispy thin egg roll wrapper and was generous stuffed with juicy, savoury, soft and moist roasted pork that was similar to pulled pork.
  • There was a thin layer of plain sautéed cabbage and cheese, but I could barely taste the cheese although I could see it.
  • It was literally dripping oily savoury pork juices as I was biting into it, yet it wasn’t sickly greasy. It was delicious!
  • The pork is savoury, moist and pretty fatty although it has no texture of fat.
  • I couldn’t taste any soy sauce, cumin or apparent seasonings, but it carried a natural pork flavour.
  • They don’t taste Asian at all and I’d consider them something else entirely.
  • The egg rolls were excellent with a combination of all 3 sauces.
  • The sauces just gave it more flavour, sweetness and spice and made it taste more interesting.
  • It was more than a pulled pork spring roll and I’m actually inspired to recreate them at home… with some caramelized pineapples.

**Aguilucho Sandwich4.5/6

  • Carnitas, pepper jack, avocado, creole mojo, red salsa $12.75
  • Ohhh I have a soft spot for that word. Carnitas. Yum!
  • This was a hot sandwich and it was reminiscent of a Cubano, but with California twists.
  • It was a giant sandwich and everything about it was delicious, except for the bread.
  • The bread didn’t taste bad, but there was just too much of it.
  • The bread cut with a crunch,  but it was actually very soft and fluffy throughout and I found it too thick.
  • I wish it was brushed with olive oil or buttered, and then pressed and grilled so that it would be thin and crispy like a panini or cubano.
  • It was under the “hot sandwiches” and there was a “panini” section with 3 sandwiches, but I still rather have this pressed.

  • The sandwich filling was generous, but there was still too much bread, which goes to say how thick it was.
  • I think it was Italian bread and it’s just store bought so there’s nothing too special there.
  • The carnitas weren’t Mexican in style, but it tasted like the same pork used in the Kahlua Pig Egg Rolls. It was fantastic in both!
  • It was a very soft and creamy sandwich with chunks of juicy roasted pork which had a natural pork flavour and no apparent seasonings or sauces.
  • It was slathered with a creamy smooth guacamole that I could taste, and together with the soft pork it was a combination of melt in your mouth goodness.
  • There was a little bit of spicy melted cheese and not much red salsa I could taste, but the sandwich carried a mild-medium spice and heat. It was probably from the creole-mojo and cheese.
  • Overall it was a saucy sandwich and I could eat all those fillings on top of nachos or even a corn tortilla.

Spaghetti Telefono2.5/6

  • Tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella $17
  • They’re known for their Carbonara (featured on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives) and pastas in general because they hand make their pasta.
  • There were only 3 pasta options and all were on the specials board.
  • Another diner said the carbonara was kind of “meh” and just super fattening. The waitress did recommended this as her favourite, so I picked it.
  • Unfortunately, I didn’t get it. This was the only flop.
  • The pasta was piled high, but it was very typical and reminded me of pasta from Americanized big portion pasta houses.
  • The spaghetti was overcooked and I really don’t think it was handmade.
  • I was hoping to see actual whole leaves of fresh basil throughout, but I barely saw any and couldn’t taste any for sure.
  • It was heavily sauced with a part stewed tomato sauce and some pieces of fresh regular tomatoes.
  • The sauce was very basic and I wanted more fresh tomato to be used.
  • The fresh mozzarella was the saving grace. There were a few large chunks of it and the rest was shredded mozzarella, which melted throughout the pasta dish.
  • The cheese was stringy and interwoven between each noodle and everything was well coated in cheese and basic tomato sauce, but it was a bit boring.
  • Mozzarella alone is such a mild cheese that doesn’t carry much flavour so it needs help in pasta.
  • As it cooled down the cheese just solidified and it stopped sticking to the noodles and it just stopped being appetizing let alone being very good.
  • The garlic bread wasn’t really garlic bread, but it was buttered and grilled well with a crispy exterior and soft and fluffy middle. I liked that!

**Short Rib Tacos with Fries5.5/6

  • Lettuce, red salsa and avocado $17
  • Ohhh I have another soft spot for that word. Short Rib. I’ll take one please.
  • This is their regular Tuesday special, but they usually have something with short rib on the menu, and I’m pretty confident you can’t go wrong ordering it.
  • The fries were the only disappointing thing on here. They were all soft and soggy and a bit oily, but at least well seasoned.
  • It had the traditional double soft corn tortilla shell, but it wasn’t an authentic Mexican taco, but an in house original. It was more of a Baja (Californian) style taco.
  • It was generously filled with super saucy beef that was braised in a bit of a tomato paste, but it wasn’t tangy or that obvious.
  • The beef was quite fatty so it was very juicy and moist.
  • I would have loved avocado wedges, but it was a creamy rich guacamole (same one used in the Aguilucho Sandwich), which I still really enjoyed.
  • Everything was very soft and mushy and the cheese never melted, but it was all heavenly and I couldn’t put it down.
  • I think there was a little chipotle mayo in it giving it a bit of heat, and I couldn’t taste the red salsa much, unless that was it.
  • I would have loved this with some sweet caramelized onions, but braised beef short rib and guacamole is sure to please any indulgent craving.
  • I wouldn’t mind sour cream in this too since it’s not meant to be an authentic Mexican taco anyways. I could have used something tangy.
  • Although it came with a lot or short rib, I actually found it pretty pricey for a place like this. $15 would be more reasonable since it was only 2 tacos.

Dessert

Of course I had some! But just not here… wait and see where. Post coming soon!

Teaser shot.

North End Caffe on Urbanspoon

14 Comments

  • Bow says:

    Boy, you sure sample a lot…whew, all that food late at night ? ! Well, I know egg rolls can be greasy(good Vietnamese ones aren’t…at the Pho Linh) but they are a guilty pleasure and these are HUGE, very nice. The sandwich bread was indifferent because it lacked a good crust and was too pillowy on the inside. It’s harder and harder to find great bread(although the Galleria in North Vancouver/Edgemont Village uses mini French loaves baked at Westview shopping plaza’s Portuguese bakery which fit that bill…that’s why the Galleria makes such great sandwiches). Tacos lokk great but TOO pricey for street food.

  • Mijune says:

    @Bow – Great bread is SOOO hard to find! I agree! I have certain ones I always think of.. Pecan, Cranberry Walnut Terra Cotta bread, baguette at Bistro Bistrot, Seaweed bread at C Restaurant, brioche bun at Belle’s… those come to mind 🙂 … there’s Asian bread and French pastries too, but that’s different category.

    yeah the tacos are pricey, but this isn’t really “street food” either.. it was like “upscale diner” lol

  • Jayda Home says:

    I love eating in California…… there is such diversity. I think one of the best restaurants I’ve been to was in Malibu. We were driving a Nissan 350Z we were picking up for my little brother to drive back to Vancouver via the Pacific Coast Hwy (a must drive for anyone who loves breathtaking scenery). We did a detour in LA to Mulholland Drive (another spectacular drive) which exits in Malibu. The restaurant is like a surfer hangout but the food (mostly seafood) was absolutely spot on…. I’ve never had anything as unpretentious and simple that tasted so good. I believe it was called Malibu Seafood…. seriously worth finding.

  • Tony says:

    Kalua pig is one of the most amazing foods around (and one I’ve never found to taste right outside of Hawaii), and those egg rolls look absolutely fantastic… This place looks like a pork lover’s heaven.

  • Mijune says:

    @Jayda – I know right?! So much fun!!! Ohh I haven’t don’t Malibu yet! I love unpretentious, simple and affordable… but it can’t be something I can easily make at home.. unless it’s really cheap lol. I still need something extra to the table. Malibu Seafood… I will put that on my #FMFinMalibu list 😉

    @Tony – woohoo! So it looks like a win to you?! It was! 🙂

  • Linda says:

    o man! i remember hearing about kalua pig on triple D too but it was at a place in oregon.. the egg rolls here look delish! since they were humungo, were they burrito size? lol

    sometimes i’m always a bit sketchy with the places that guy fieri tries out – too much enthusiasm for some things but i did visit two of his places that he went to and they were pretty spot on – this definitely looks like the case for this place too.. the food has a lot of variety and they seem to use a lot of fresh and homemade ingredients.. plus every piece of meat here seems to be cooked low and slow which i LOVE 🙂

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – they were the size of 3 normal egg rolls bundled up… a bit smaller than burrito.. but good comparison lol! deep fried burrito! omg I know what you mean! But the dramatics are needed for tv so I get it… but I just wish they were a bit more honest.. it can’t all be 6/6 right lol?

  • Jayda Home says:

    haha…. I went to Urban Spoon to find out exactly where this restaurant is again and I found one of your fellow Vancouver bloggers has also been there…… do you know Me Plus Food? http://www.meplusfood.com/restaurants/malibu-seafood-fresh-fish-market-and-patio-cafe

  • Mijune says:

    @Jayda Home – I do know Me Plus Food! Anne and David are sweet! 🙂 So great that you know so many blogs Jayda! I hope you try this place now 🙂

  • Jayda Home says:

    I am fascinated by food culture….. I guess I developed it while becoming a dietician. Food is the universal language …. that was very apparent a couple weeks ago when we went to see Anthony Bourdain. It’s bloggers like you that make this aspect accessible to the general public who don’t always have the ability (or courage) to try many of the beautiful, wonderful foods and rituals practiced by other cultures. Many of us live vicariously through you.

  • Mijune says:

    @Jayda – … wow. Jayda, I think that is one of the most rewarding comments I’ve ever received. Thank you so much! Just like you I love exploring cultures through food! And if I’ve even convinced ONE person to explore something they otherwise wouldn’t have… it almost brings me to tears! Seriously! That comment just encourages me to keep doing this! Thank you so much Jayda!

  • Jayda Home says:

    Thank you for your kind words…… I am very happy to hear you don’t intend to quit blogging any time soon…… that would be tragic. (I think that time may come though in the future as you move onto bigger and better things…..I still think you’re going to have your own show one day on the Food Network)…..

  • Mijune says:

    @Jayda Home – Oh wow… you got me a bit choked up there. Jayda, really I am so humbled by your thoughts. I’m so lucky to have you as a ready and thank you so much for the encouragement, kind words, and loyalty to this blog! :* ) xo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *