“DAILY BREEZE” NEWSPAPER ARTICLE: Friday, December 26, 2003

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CULINARY DETECTIVE

DINING OFF THE BEATEN PATH

Best little treasures of 2003 revealed

Well, 2004 is less than a week away and so ends the first year of the Culinary Detective.

This column has been a joy to write and pretty fun to “investigate” as well. I have found there are a lot of people just like me who love to check out hidden treasures and hole-in-the-wall places in the never-ending quest for great food that’s just off the beaten path.

During the past year I found, stumbled upon or was guided by RAVE! readers to a host of great places.

After thorough analysis, here are my favorite spots, as of 2003, around the South Bay:

B&R’s Old Fashion Burgers, 3512 W Rosecrans Ave., Hawthorne, 310- 679-4774
You want to know the best burger in Southern California? It’s the Royal Burger at B&R Old Fashion Burgers. Two handmade half-pound ground beef patties, chili, bacon or pastrami, lettuce, onions, and cheese, topped off with a fried egg. The Royal Burger is a massive piece of heart-stopping tasty goodness, the Holy Grail of burgers, which I feel truly blessed to have stumbled upon. Judging from some of the e-mails I have gotten, many of you have blessed by B&R burgers during the last year as well.

Rizzo’s Pizzeria, 2350 Sepulveda Blvd, Suite G, Torrance, 310- 530-9527
Rizzo’s, which has been around for 20 years, has the absolute best garlic breadsticks on the planet. I have yet to find anyone who has tried them and didn’t like them. The pizzas are huge and made from some of the best dough I have ever tasted. They have an “all you can eat” special on Mondays that includes pizza, breadsticks, salad or spaghetti and a drink for $7.90. Chuck and Annette Rossi run a true “family” place with lots of fund raising and community involvement, which makes Rizzo’s a true benefit to the South Bay.

Big Mike’s, 1314 Hermosa Ave., Hermosa Beach, 310-798-1499
This place was the winner of my “quest for the best cheesesteak in the South Bay” contest. Big Mike’s serves up massive cheese steaks on really high-quality bread. The beef is top-notch and the sandwiches are cooked just right, with the gooey cheese melting into every nook and cranny of the steak and onions. Mike also makes the best “chickensteak” in town and does not skimp on the meat either. I don’t know how the restaurant does it, but nobody in the area comes close to making sandwiches like Big Mike’s.

China One Buffet, 2864 W. Imperial Highway, Inglewood, 323-756- 2988
When it comes to Chinese buffets there are few that can top China One Buffet for the combination of price, quality and overall selection of good food. The restaurant has General Tso Chicken, which is very hard to find in the South Bay. The food does not sit and get stale as at some Chinese buffets; it’s kept fresh so it’s hot and delicious when you put it on your plate. There’s also a salad bar, pizza and stuff for the kids, as well as crab legs for the adults. Great place, good value. Check it out.

Rajin’ Cajun Cafe, 422 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach, 310-376-7878
Stephen Domingue truly takes pride in every aspect of the Rajin’ Cajun. He and his sister Janeen take care of their customers as if they were guests in their home. When Stephen Domingue asks you how your food is, he really wants to know if you liked your meal. He is a true Southern gentleman. The food is awesome, a great variety of Cajun specialties from recipes taught to Domingue by his mother in Louisiana. You can get alligator, hush puppies or a salad in a flower pot. There’s gumbo and jambalaya that’s done just right; if you close your eyes you would swear you were eating on the front porch of a Southern mansion along the riverfront.

Chris Cognac, a detective for a South Bay police department, specializes in reviewing hole-in-the-wall restaurants. If you’d like him to conduct a culinary investigation at a restaurant you’ve been hesitant to try, write to him at the Daily Breeze, 5215 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA, 90503 or e-mail him at chris@culinarydetective.com .

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