Old Country Cafe

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Old Country Cafe
2 E Valley Blvd
Alhambra, CA 91801
(626) 284-4610

Despite it being the oldest Taiwanese restaurant in the SGV, and my affinity for all things Taiwanese (except snobby women), I’ve never been to Old Country Cafe in Alhambra. And despite its HEInous exclusion from LA Weekly’s 10 Classic Taiwanese Dishes list, one of the Taiwanese dishes that immediately comes to mind is the Taiwanese pork chop rice. Old Country Cafe has everything you’d want in the dish: a wonderfully marinated and fried pork chop on some deliciously braised ground pork (lu rou) over rice, served with cabbage, mustard greens, and a tea egg. It’s nothing fancy; just a well-executed classic, humbly served and even moreso priced. Do note that the boba milk tea is whatevers here, but that’s not the reason you’d go anyways.

Cuisine City/Neighborhood Price Grade
Taiwanese Alhambra $ B+

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Huge Tree Pastry

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In west [Taipei] born and raised,
On the playground was where I spent most of my days…

First of all, I have no idea if I was born and raised in the western part of Taipei, and I probably wasn’t spending most of my days on the playground due to all that smog. However, despite Eugenia’s recent Trump-like rants directed at me like I’m President Obama, I’m still a Taiwanese boy at heart – food-wise. But like Will on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, my time in LA has made me soft. I had forgotten my culinary roots! Doesn’t help that there isn’t a plethora of Taiwanese options in LA, and that I grew up west of Downtown away from all the Chinese people, but now that I’ve grown up there is absolutely no excuse to continually put off rediscovering all the foods I grew up loving.

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The road to recovery begins with Taiwanese breakfast (for a guide/background, I point you to Serious Eats’ article, written by LA-based Clarissa Wei). One of the most popular places for Taiwanese breakfast is Huge Tree Pastry on Atlantic Blvd in Monterey Park. I’ve been to their former location with my grandparents, but that was a long time ago. The biggest problem for me with regards to getting Taiwanese breakfast is that I can’t get to SGV before these places close on weekdays, and I sleep in on weekends (hence me being away from dim sum for far too long as well). But here I was one day, in Monterey Park visiting grandparents and running errands. Yes 6pm isn’t an optimal time for shao bing you tiao, but when else am I going to have an opportunity?

I walked in, placed my to-go order (to-go because I was buying stuff for days), and of course pulled as much Mandarin out of my ass as I could without sounding like too much of an idiot (love the owner). Niu rou shao bing, fan tuan, gua bao, dou jiang, mi jiang – all my childhood friends! It was like an elementary school reunion for a loner fat kid in Taiwan. Of course, I threw Eugenia a bone and ate the other 95% of what I brought back. Not wanting to go into detail, I’ll say that this is simple food for simple folks. No gimmicks here – just simple ingredients in simple preparations. But such banal descriptions cannot describe the ability that the food is able to accomplish in satisfying a Taiwanese boy’s inner childhood memories and pleasures.

I’ve been back a couple of times since, and each visit has been late and me ordering way too much to-go. But if I’m heading east to SGV and it’s before 7pm, I’m making a beeline for Huge Tree Pastry, and no one better get in my way.

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Chris Hei grade: B+

Huge Tree Pastry
423 N Atlantic Blvd, Ste 106
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(626) 458-8689

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