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Monterey Park Suggestions for Lunch

Okay, so every other day for the next two weeks I'll be driving to Monterey Park (from Highland Park) to water my Grandma's plants (she's got a freakin' botanical garden in her backyard) and pick up her mail while she's out of town. Mentally-to make this not seem like such a pain in the butt, I want to grab a little somethin' somethin' to eat for lunch. It doesn't even need to be for lunch, it could even be a little snack (like Kelly's Bakery) or fun drink to quench my thirst (like some good boba). If it's something that I can pick up around lunch time and heat up for the husband for dinner that night, even better (for example tofu from Lee's tofu).

Places I've eaten and liked around there so far:
*Lee's Tofu
*Beard Papa
*Hawaiian Island BBQ
*NBC Dim Sum
*Pepe's (LOVE LOVE LOVE the hard shell tacos)
*The Hat (but there's one of those everywhere, so that's no fun)
*Mr. Baguette
*Kelly's Bakery
*Empress Harbor
*Dim Sum Express

Places I'm curious about:
*Mexi-catessan (any Mexican place that can survive in the middle of Monterey Park for THAT long has to be pretty damn good when you have Chinese restaurants coming and going)
*Angelena's (on Main St-the soul food place)
*Dumping Master (although I think getting it to go might not do it justice)

Since I live in Highland Park anything along the way would be fair game to me.

I'll have my dog with me so it's something I need to be able to pick up and go without her dying in my car. Also, if you knew they only take cash a little head's up would be good-I'm so bad at carrying cash around.

TIA! You guys are the best!

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  1. I've never been, but CH's always seem to rave about Babita in San Gabriel, not too far away from Monterey Park.

    5 Replies
    1. re: hch_nguyen

      You might want to try Tin Tin Seafood, 7621 Garvey, just over the border in Rosemead. Fantastic $4.50 lunch specials--good tasting, large portions, good selection. You can order two for lunch and a couple more to take home with you.

      1. re: Chandavkl

        OMG my mouth waters just thinking about it. I don't know the real name- I worked in MP for five years and we just called the place "House Special Shrimp" or 501. It's located at 501 Atlantic. (on the corner)

        1. re: chowesq

          Sounds like Gourmet Delight, which I think is a Shanghai influenced restaurant that has been at 501 S. Atlantic for six or seven years.. (Some of these places are a blur to me.) I do remember fish with pine nuts in some kind of wrapper at Gourmet Delight.

          1. re: Chandavkl

            AHA! It IS Gourmet Delight! Thank you!

            1. re: Chandavkl

              Yes, Gourmet Delight is one of my favorite places in the SGV. It's a no-frills, non-dim sum, never-crowded, always tons of parking, always-get-seated-right-away, simple, delicious and inexpensive little spot. Great $5 and $6 lunch specials. My favorite dish is that minced fish in lettuce leaves. Very basic, with nothing but fish, pine nuts, peppers and green onion, sauteed and served with lettuce leaves. I was told it is tilapia so I tried to recreate the dish but failed miserably. It's on Atlantic and Harding, a few blocks north of Elite.

              Elite is my other favorite spot in Monterey Park. Probably my favorite place to get dim sum.

              I'd skip Dumpling Master and Ocean Star.

              If you're willing to try a few other places that are within a five or ten minute's drive from MP, consider these places:

              Din Tai Fung on Baldwin and Duarte in Arcadia (maybe more like 15 minutes from MP): pretty much a must-try for any foodie;

              Lucious Dumpling on Las Tunas and Mission in, I think, Alhambra: the name says it all. Amazing dumpling/noodle soup combos for $6;

              Lu Din Gee in San Gabriel for Peking Duck (must order an hour in advance);

              Babita in San Gabriel for upscale, authentic Mexican food, beloved by many CHers;

              Sea Harbour in Rosemead - another favorite dim sum spot of mine; or

              Blue Harbor Seafood Restaurant on Garfield and Valley in Alhamabra for decidedly ordinary but CHEAP dim sum (any order is about $1.60 during the week) in a white linen restaurant.

      2. Dumpling Master is no good - don't waste the time, nor the calories.

        Try MACAU STREET (429 W. Garvey Ave.) for egg custards and chicken knees, and YI MEI (736 S. Atlantic Blvd) for their open-faced pork baos, which are like Chinese tortas/tacos.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          Yi Mei?! Sounds so good! I will for sure pick one up tomorrow!

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Sorry ipsedixit, I would have to disagree with you on MACAU STREET. I'm not sure about back in 2007, but I just went there 3 nights ago. This was one of the worse experiences I've had. The owner took our order and made a mistake and the waitress claimed that it was our fault. We deliberately asked the if the dish in the picture was asparagus and he reassured us twice that it was. When the order came...it was Chinese broccoli. The portions were tiny and food was horrible. The owner also suggested a chicken soup that they were known for that was $19.99. It turned out to be pieces of chicken and pork stomach dumped into a bowl of chicken broth. Not only that, when it arrived the soup was cold and needed to be reheated with a portable stove. I would not recommend this place to anyone.

          2. There area also loads of dim sum places and Viet places in and around the area. I don't know the area that well, but perusing the boards I've come up with a list of "to-do's"

            dim sum:
            Elite
            The Kitchen
            888
            Triumphal Palace

            Vietnamese:
            Banh Mi Che Cali
            Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa
            Pho 79
            Golden Deli
            Saigon Flavor

            and Shao Mei for Taiwanese shaved ice desert....

            1. i have lived in MPK for some time and besides some of the best chinese food around there is also some of the best mexican food around! ie: Armondos on Garvey ave just east of garfield. also, a cool happening place for cook your own new york steak and bar is the venice room. i just spoke with this guy who says he is opening an italian food restaurant with a woodfire oven on garfield up the street on garfield called Bollini's. so i will check that out when it opens. Best pastrami "the hat"!

              1. My favorite at Mexicatessen is the beef enchilada plate. Tacos are allright here but not as good as Pepe's. Lilliana's is closeby too if you like tamales.

                2 Replies
                1. re: kure

                  i go to mexicatessen often and my favorite there is all meat red chile burritos. also their half and half (red and green chile) burritos is good too. fyi - their green chile is extremely hot!

                  1. re: rickym13

                    Thanks for the heads up on the heat level, I have a bun in the oven right now and spicy foods don't sit well with him.

                2. For quick snacks I would recommend:

                  Phoenix on Valley and chapel across from the taco bell. They have a dessert to go section that I usually go for cool drinks like their mango delight (mango, mini tapioca balls, coconut milk), melon delight ( watermelon, honeydew, mini tapioca balls, coconut milk), coffee delight ( creamy coffee, mini tapioca, black grass jelly.. my fav) They also have a variety of custards and teas. Amongst my favorite are the taro and coconut.

                  Also a great place for snacks and drinks is Hui lau San. I believe the name is only in Red Chinese writing. It is located on Valley in an Asian mall plaza next to tea station but not in the same plaza as Tea STation. They are known for their fresh mango drinks in which u have a choice to add aloe jelly, tapioca, or coconut milk in. It is the best snack/treat. When I go there with friends I get their taro cakes and dumplings.

                  For like quick take out, I go to Noodle World because they have a wide variety of noodles and rice dishes.. prices are very cheap,.. around 4-6bucks a plate.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: karynx78

                    Oh my goodness that Melon delight literally has every flavor that I love. I'm so there tomorrow if I don't get the craving for Mexi-catessan.

                    1. re: bigtums

                      I can vouch for the Mango Delight and the Iced Tea w/ Mixed Melon at Phoenix. Karynx78 introduced me to the Mango Delight, and since then, I've been hooked. :)

                      A couple of other things I've enjoyed there are the pickled cucumber and the pickled mango, served in snack sized plastic tubs.

                      Phoenix has a number of locations throughout LA and OC. There's also one on Fair Oaks in Pasadena. :)

                      1. re: katkoupai

                        Taro custard and pudding are even better ...

                        1. re: katkoupai

                          I know that place! Right by the Starbucks and OSH! I've always seen that place but never gone. That would be so much easier for me, I have to try that melon delight!

                          1. re: bigtums

                            Yup, that's the one. I go to the Pasadena location of Phoenix more often than the others, just because it's more convenient to me. I have also tried the Arcadia, Irvine and Alhambra locations of Phoenix. Check it out. They have a variety of drinks on the menu. :)

                          2. re: katkoupai

                            Phoenix seems to be popping up everywhere. I saw one on Garfield and Valley and another one towards Fremont and Valley. Next time try the mango pudding and the taro pudding.. mmm

                        2. re: karynx78

                          I loooove the mango drink at Phoenix! I need to try the melon and coffee drinks. =) They also have a great soy mango dessert that is similar to the drink, but with custardy super soft tofu. Yum

                        3. Check out Jerome's killer post on Chinese food in Monterey Park (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/315779)

                          Ono Grill on Potrero Grande or Aloha Deli on Atlantic for better Hawaiian than Hawaiian BBQ. Aloha Deli is really close to Lee's Tofu.
                          Savoy on Valley, near Garfield in Alhambra for Hainan Chicken & Rice
                          Har Lam Kee on Garvey for Shui Gow (not won ton) with or without noodles.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: mpken

                            I think Aloha Cafe is closed-gone. The last couple of times I've passed it the shades have been down. Which was no big deal, because they were always down, but I see some chairs stacked and the closed sign. I hope I'm wrong, I actually really liked that place too.

                            Thanks for the link!

                            1. re: bigtums

                              Yes, the Aloha Cafe did close. I went there about a week before they closed. They said that they were possibly looking into opening up in Little Tokyo later this year.

                              1. re: Vegasbuff

                                Aloha is gone, but I love to go to Shaka's for Hawaiian food!

                                1. re: avena

                                  Aloha is not gone! Aloha Cafe is back at a new location in Little Tokyo as Vegasbuff said.

                                  -----
                                  Aloha Cafe
                                  410 E 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012

                          2. Litz Restaurant at 201 E Garvey Ave

                            You MUST have the Laksa and Singaporean noodles.

                            Big portions and low prices.

                            1. How about Wahib's?

                              And definitely concur on hch_nguyen's recommendation for Shau May (just north of Garfield/Garvey in Garfield Lincoln Center, and one on Garfield and Valley) for tasty watermelon juice and wonderful Taiwanese slush.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                another fairly new place in monterey park is this tiny japanese place called "saga"
                                very small menu but they have very good:
                                hire katsu(very lean tonkatsu), fried seafood (fish, scallop, shrimp, squid and oyster), fried oyster, tempura etc....
                                they also have good nabe yaki udon and few other udon that i am not familiar with.
                                its on the corner of atlantic and garvey...you won't regret going there.

                                1. re: rickym13

                                  How are the prices at Saga? Is it in the plaza with Ocean Star Seafood?

                                  1. re: karynx78

                                    karynx78 - saga is at the corner of garvey and atlantic in the strip mall. kiddy corner to ocean star...i think there is lttle sheep? diamond bakery? in the same shopping center. it is south east corner behind chevron gas station.
                                    prices for lunch is very fair. dinner can be little more but you get small aptzer, edamame, miso soup, chawan mushi and desert with your entree.
                                    lunch will run $6 - $8 and dinner $7 - $19 (rib eye steak) daily spcl

                                    1. re: rickym13

                                      Thanks rickym I will def try it the next time I'm in the SGV and then prob swing by Diamond bakery for some desserts to bring home.

                              2. The bean & cheese burritos at Mexi-catessan are great. I've been going there since a kid

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Ernie

                                  i just went to mexicatessan today for lunch. had all meat red chile burritos......yumm

                                  1. re: rickym13

                                    Where is this place? I'm going to look it up and check it out.

                                    Found it: S. Atlantic (near Cadiz St.), south of Garvey but before E. LA College.

                                    Mexi-catessan
                                    830 S Atlantic Blvd
                                    Monterey Park, CA 91754
                                    (626) 281-2514

                                2. 1) El Locos on 3rd and Atlanitic. It also has good hard tacos, and good burritos. There beans are delicous and there salsa is good. If you like Pepe's you will like this place.
                                  2) Ordonez in another Mexican restaraunt located on Grafield, South of the 60 fwy across the street from Quit Cannon. Good Mexican food, order the letter B, chilequiles, carne asada, beans cheese, and two eggs, this is HEAVEN!!!
                                  Open 24 hrs.
                                  3) J&S is located across the street from Ordonez and has probally the best breakfast burrito,and bean & cheese burrito in East LA. Open 24 hrs.
                                  4) Venice Room is a restaraunt/bar on Garfield north of the 60 fwy, you can cook you own stake and sing karaoke on the weekends.
                                  5) Armando's is a mexican restaraunt located on Garvey Ave, east of Garfield. They good food, good burritos, excellent chorizo, but best and most important, they have delicious beans.

                                  Try these places out. Good luck!

                                  11 Replies
                                  1. re: iknowfood64

                                    I've always wanted to try El Locos. I always debate on going there when I pick up some Hawaiian Island BBQ. I'm going to try it next week-especially if you say it's up there with Pepe's.

                                    1. re: bigtums

                                      I suggest you try their combination burrito, it is delicious! Let me know what you think of it.

                                      1. re: iknowfood64

                                        I was all ready today to eat a good burrito and hard shell taco, but I thought that Paco's Tacos was where El Locos was. My bad. I'll have to try it later on in the week, can't wait!

                                        1. re: iknowfood64

                                          Okay, the taco-WOW! Very good. I might really have to compare theirs with Pepe's in a blind taste test.

                                          I'm not a burrito person, but the combo burrito was very good. It was a little runny, but I think that's why it was so good. There was so much flavor. I couldn't tell what was in it, but I liked it.

                                          Although, when I make another El Locos run, I'd probably stick with their tacos because they're so good.

                                          Thanks for the recommendation!

                                          1. re: bigtums

                                            instead of combo burritos...get el loco burritos! yummm!

                                              1. re: bigtums

                                                EL LOCO BURRITO

                                                A chile relleno with refried beans and steak picado. Homemade avocado sauce; served in a huge flour tortilla.

                                              2. re: rickym13

                                                Loco burrito is just plain awesome. Love that burrito, but my arteries don't.

                                        2. re: iknowfood64

                                          i couldn't find el locos. Where is it exactly? What is it by? I'm lame, I need some landmarks. I saw 5th on Atlantic then all of a sudden I was on 1st and Atlantic.

                                          1. re: bigtums

                                            el locos is on corner of atlantic and pomona blvd. across the street from mcds and kiddy corner of pep boys

                                            1. re: rickym13

                                              Thanks! I'll try it out this weekend!

                                        3. There are so many good restaurants in this area- which is why I would suggest you cross Angelena's off your list. We had a very disappointing experience there and I would not recommend it. If you are going to be on Main Street anyway, I know it is a cliche but the "Diner on Main" has never failed me. Always good food, friendly service... It is only a regular old diner, admittedly- and nothing super spectacular- but there is a reason why us locals go there all the time. Yummy! I've brought so many different people there and smiles abound each time! Also, I've had some pretty decent food at Crane Sushi, which is another Main Street eatery. The "hot pot" there has a good bite to it, and the fish is usually pretty fresh. Don't let the unappealing grotto in the entrance of the restaurant turn you away- the food is not bad.

                                          1. if u like hot spicy chinese food, choong king on garfield is good too.

                                            1. One of the best dishes around is the beef roll at 101 Noodle Express on Valley. Get that and some dumplings.

                                              1. Pearl's on Garvey, in the same center as Sam Woo is a tiny little place with excellent fried dumplings and noodles. They are super small, with only 4 or 5 small tables, but I love their food.

                                                Paco's Tacos in Atlantic Square near Ralphs at the end of the strip is my fave place for Mexican Food.

                                                -----
                                                Paco's Tacos
                                                2242 S Atlantic Blvd, Monterey Park, CA 91754

                                                Pearl's Oriental Restaurant
                                                644 W Garvey Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91754

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: avena

                                                  What do you recommend from Paco's?

                                                  1. re: bigtums

                                                    The taco salad is huge, and very rich for a "salad" but its delicious. I don't know if you've heard that Budweiser radio commercial where they make fun of the taco salad inventor, but thats what it reminds me of...hahaha. I also like their carnitas tacos, enchiladas, and horchata.

                                                    1. re: avena

                                                      The chile relleno burritos at Paco's Tacos and the chicken fried tacos are my favorites. And the salsa bar, filled with fried chiles, limes and radish. The tortas are huge, your choice of meats, so big you gotta eat them with a fork. Check out the weekday bargain specials.

                                                      1. re: la vida dulce

                                                        I had a chicken fried taco and Cheese enchilada. The enchilada was very good, I don't think I've ever had one made with two tortillas. The chicken taco was good, the shell tasted like it had some kind of seasoning or something.

                                                        But unfortunately, I ate the chicken taco after a beef hard shell taco from El Locos. So it didn't wow me like that one did. But it was still good, thanks for the recommendation!

                                                        1. re: bigtums

                                                          I don't want to put down Armondo's but I hardly call it the best Mexican food. I know it's opinion but I didn't think it tasted that good. I prefer Pepe's on Valley. That's great. I love Carumba on Main in Alhambra/El Serrano.