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Aug 6, 2008 03:55 PM

24 hours - highs and lows

Somehow I managed to have three meals in succession at three entirely different places, ranging from the mediocre through the Pretty Damn Good to the Really, Really Good. The first one, yesterday's lunch at the Proud Bird, by LAX, was not of my choosing; an organization I belong to has a monthly luncheon meeting there, and it's part of my job to attend those. It's standard hotel buffet food, with the guy doing omelets and custom pasta plates over here, a fairly decent build-your-own taco bar over there (quite good carnitas), an elaborate salad bar with fresh greens and veges (but unfortunate caprese, plastic cheese on pale and flavor-free tomatoes), and some reasonably good steam-table Italian-ish things and an overblown dessert presentation. We pay $25 for it - don't know what the public rate is, but there's a pretty nice dining room for the civilians and it seems fairly popular. My strategy is to load up a plate with the better salad stuff and a smidge of dressing, then have steam-table stuff for dessert. Yesterday's choices of those were two thick slices of fried eggplant (yum!), a couple of good-sized slices of Italian sausage w/peppers (how can you go wrong with that), and a small scoop of penne in some sort of seafood-Newburg dish (yawn). And lots of very pleasant fruity iced tea. This got me fed without too much apologizing to my body...

Dinner was...better. MUCH better. Met up with some other 'Hounds at Noodle House in Monterey Park, and we proceeded to follow all the suggestions we'd read here from those who had gone before: double mushroom, pork-onion, pork-leek and beef-onion bao; shrimp-pumpkin, seafood, and another I don't remember in pot-stickers; a beef and onion and herbs rollup, stomach (shredded tripe) with hot oil, a scallion pancake, cold shredded tofu "noodles" with herbs and onion; and the best hot-and-sour soup ever made, I swear it. As many have noted, the pan-fried option is not an option here; the guy was quite upfront about it, nor did he make any lame excuses. That's OK - boiled or steamed was just fine. We ate enough to sink an army, at least one of everything, and this being the SGV we dropped in a very generous tip and still got out for exactly $10 apiece. And then what did we overstuffed, slightly food-drunk idiots do? Why, we went to Fosselman's for ice cream, of course!

As for today's lunch, some time ago I'd made a date with my old grade-school buddy from back in Illinois, a fellow retiree with some law-enforcement experience and the appetite to match. I'd stumbled across the Way Station Cafe out in Newhall one day a while back, and though I'd just gotten a burger that time had noted the Old-Fart-Magnet items on the breakfast (Served All Day!) menu, and decided me'n Dave needed to check those out. It's a bit of a schlepp, out to the wilds of Greater Santa Clarita, but as I'd offered to drive he was amenable. There's a kind of breakfast plate he's crazy about, and though it's never exactly on the menu he's good at getting it custom-built: eggs over easy, potatoes, sausage and bacon, with gravy poured over everything. The Way Station DOES have it on their menu; it's called "Kris's Special", and on Wednesdays you can get this artery-clogger for a mere six bucks. I indulged in a similar fantasy, only with chicken-fried steak, and the gravy came on the side in a bowl, so I had to pour it myself, which I managed without difficulty. The hash browns are somewhat famous here, being regular shredded ones that are somehow rendered soft and fluffy, and served in a huge pile. The eggs were eggs, just fine; the sourdough toast perfectly crisp and well-buttered; the gravy obviously institutional in nature but reasonably flavorful. The CFS, I regret to say, was a patty of prepackaged Mystery Meat, reminiscent of too many school cafeterias and military chow halls, and so will go quite unrecommended. It was better than no meat at all, but hardly worth the premium charged, I think around $9 with tax. I don't foresee my making any more trips out to Newhall just to get another meal, but if I'm in the neighborhood noonish I'll certainly drop in again. Very pleasant little joint.

The Proud Bird
11022 Aviation Blvd.

Noodle House
958 E. Garvey
Monterey Park

Way Station
24377 San Fernando Rd. (street sign says Main St.
)Newhall, CA

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  1. For me The Proud Bird is a blur on the way to deliciousness elsewhere. Sounds like it should stay that way.

    Noodle house is another story. I went about three weeks ago and had a couple of different dumplings and a bao plus a corn soup. I will deffinately be back, many times!

    Now regarding The Way Station, I posted about it before, the so called Chicken Fried Steak stinks, probably pre-made Sysco product. The Biscuits are also lousy, I saw the box and they are pre-made from Bridgeford Frozen Foods. Burger was ok but I don't plan on returning!!!

    5 Replies
    1. re: sel

      Yes, the CFS definitely is an industrial product, as is their potato salad (out of a First Street carton, which I think I mentioned in my first post about this place). The biscuits you mention weren't even on the menu, so maybe they just gave up on them. They offer toast or muffin, what kind I don't know nor care to know.

      PB was mentioned only for the reason you cite, to help shape the later narrative and provide some contrast. I hope nobody takes its mention as a recommendation...unless you're stranded there by a sudden hurricane, very hungry, and with sufficient money. Then at least you won't starve, especially if you like carnitas tacos.

      1. re: Will Owen

        I drive through Santa Clarita at least three or four times a week and I just wish that some of the old time diner/coffee shops were worth stopping at, especially for breakfest but also lunch and dinner. The Saugus Cafe has a long history, it's really an old roadside diner but the last time I ate their food around 1990 it was lousy and every report I have heard from friends since indicates that not much has changed (except for the prices)! Same deal with The Way Station, went there years ago and was dissapointed in the food (although the decor and service are great) and only went back after some positive posts here from Santa Clarita locals. The food just isn't worth a return trip.

        The only GOOD/EXCELLENT breakfast and lunch in the Santa Clarita area that I have found is at Thelma's Morning Cafe. They close after lunch ie. no dinner is served.

        1. re: sel

          The 'Link to a place' didn't work so I'll try again, wish the Chow/Cnet folks could make this site work right!

          Thelma's Morning Cafe
          22876 Copper Hill Dr, Santa Clarita, CA 91350

          1. re: sel

            Everybody isn't gonna like any place, as observe the fierce pros and cons re: Casa Bianca. I happen to swoon over getting a whole shovel full of fluffy hash browns on my plate; others may well find that disgusting. De gustibus and all that. But I may very well try Thelma's.

            1. re: sel

              thelmas is now open for dinner..larry robins

        2. Thanks for the reviews Will! :) Sounds like you had an eventful 24 hours. Glad you liked Noodle House as well... I still have to try their made-from-scratch Hot & Sour Soup. :)

          6 Replies
          1. re: exilekiss

            It's funny, I thought the hot and sour soup was the only weak part of the dinner. To my taste, the broth was way too peppery (as in white or black pepper, not chile pepper). Everything else we tried at Noodle House was fantastic, as was Fosselman's as usual.

            1. re: Debbie W

              Sorry it's taken me a year to reply, Debbie, but there's that old "de gustibus" thing again: my reaction to that broth was "Oh, boy - lotsa nice pepper flavor!"

              Jeeze, has it really been a year since the Noodle House thing? I recently reported on our taking the old folks there, and couldn't remember just how long it'd been.

              1. re: Will Owen

                Next time you're in Santa Clarita for breakfast, head one block west from the Way Station and hit up The Egg Plantation. Good hearty breakfasts and a full bar. Full bar! Maybe I've shared too much.

                1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                  I was just going to recommend Egg Plantation as well. Very nice. Also, there is a Mexican restaurant right near the Way Station (I think Mas is in the title). They have these skillet breakfasts that are delicious. I usually get the red beef one... eggs over easy. Comes on potatoes and maybe onions and bell peppers. I really enjoy that - with lots of tortillas. Cash only.

                  1. re: WildSwede

                    VERY glad to know that, WS. If it's the one I'm thinking of I believe it's right next door to the Way Station. I'm not contemplating a return to Greater Santa Clarita real soon, but I've got this filed firmly in what's left of my memory.