Sunday, March 11, 2012

Standing Room Only - and At That, You May Want to Suck in Your Gut

"What's she blathering about now" you ask? Yesterday Richie finally consented to grab a sandwich at the place that's been getting very good reviews indeed from local food critics (Merrill Schindler and Richard Foss, to be exact.)

Locals have probably passed it umpteen times and never noticed it. "What, the invisible resto?" Pretty much! Catalina Liquor and Deli is located at the southeast corner of Diamond and Catalina (144 N. Catalina) here in Redondo Beach. 310-374-7545)

The building reminds one of a 7-11 in style and tucked away, at the very back of the store, is the take-out only Standing Room. If you're waiting for your food and decide to prowl the aisles, suck in your gut. We're talking very narrow aisles. And if you eat here regularly and clean your plate, you WILL have to suck it in.

"What kind of food?" I would say American (hamburgers) Hawaiian (fried egg on the hamburger) and Korean (buttered kim chi on pulled pork.) And the Pan-roasted edamame with a chili garlic sauce could be Japanese or Thai.

Hamburger toppings sampler; there are eight in all - "Cash" - 1/2 lb. patty, bacon hoisin BBQ, shishito peppers and crispy pepper onion. "Chance" - 1/2 lb. patty, jalapeno, habenero cream cole slaw and cheddar cheese. "Napoleon - 1/2 lb. patty, smoked gouda, cheddar, carmelized onion, spring mix topped with braised short rib, a fried egg and truffle Parmesan fries.

There are seven sandwich choices and we both ordered the Charlotte - pulled pork carnitas, hoisin bbq sauce, caramelized onion and habanero cream cole slaw on a brioche. Everything was excellent. Some of you may wince at the thought of habanero cream cole slaw, but it had only a prickle of hot. The only thing I didn't like was the brioche. Two slices of 4 x 6 in. bread, nearly 2 in. deep that had been grilled in the hamburger fat on the griddle. I will eat grease with gusto, but damn! That was just too much bread.

But I'm not their typical customer which includes (based on my own eyes) surfers, landscapers, construction guys, all of whom have been exercising (presumably) and are h u n g r y.

When we go back (not if) I want to try the K-Dilla - hoisin bbq pork, buttered kim chee, bacon, caramelized onion, avocado and I'd ask the chef to hold it on the cheddar and smoked gouda. Maybe okay on the gouda, but cheddar is just too fat-loaded to me.

Vegetarians are included - truffle-parmesan fries, the Fu-Fu Sammie which is fried tofu with spring mix, tomato, onion, tossed in a spicy house vinagrette and gouchu-q drizzle on a pan de mie (honey) roll. The Portobello Mushroom is grilled portobello, topped with paresan, pesto cream, onion, tomato and spring mix.

Lunch for two? $13. The liquor store part has oceans of drink choices; fruit juices, flavored waters and teas, energy drinks and, of course, cold beer! How can you even ask?

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