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
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
Food: 4.5 – 5 (based on what I tried)
- 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
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
Of course I had some! But just not here… wait and see where. Post coming soon!