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‘Travel Guides’ Category

  1. Dining Don’t: Tyler’s Taste of Texas Egg Skins

    April 27, 2011 by Jill


    I have already reviewed Tyler’s Taste of Texas, but while practically everything I’ve had there was quite tasty, I must admit that I was incredibly disappointed when I recently ate there and ordered the “egg skins.” I know the name sounds utterly disgusting, but the concept sounded intriguing: potato skins filled with bacon, scrambled eggs, avocado and bell peppers, all covered in hollandaise sauce.

    Unfortunately, the Frankenstein of breakfast dishes was far inferior to the individual ingredients included therein. The biggest problem was the potato skins. Rather than being crispy and earthy, like a good potato skin, they were too thick, making them too soft and too light in flavor. As if that weren’t bad enough, the texture was terrible, they were almost chewy, like they were reheated in the microwave. I ended up having to scrap the eggs off the skins and eating them alone.

    The egg, bacon and veggie blend was good, but the hollandaise wasn’t particularly flavorful -too heavy on the butter and too light on anything else. All in all, there is a hell of a lot more things I’d rather spend my $9 on than eggs covered in butter and loaded in a half-empty potato.

    I still recommend Tyler’s, just skip the egg skins if you do you stop by.


  2. Reviewing BJ’s Snacks & Small Bites

    April 18, 2011 by Jill

    Reviewed by Jill Harness on April 14, 2011 .

    BJ’s recently released a new addition to their menu, called “Snacks & Small Bites.” The dishes range from $2.95 to $4.95 and include classic treats like macaroni and cheese and tacos, to more exotic fare like seared ahi tuna.

    When I last reviewed the restaurant, one of my main complaints was the price of the food, but with these small dishes, you can pack in a lot of flavor for a pretty small price. I ordered the two mini tacos and since I already ate lunch a little while before that, the portion was great, but if you want to fill up on them, you’ll probably want to order two or three of the dishes. Even so, at $3 a serving, it won’t cost much to fill up.

    My girl friend ordered the $3.95 seared ahi, which was certainly on par with the tacos. Flavorful, perfectly raw in the center and well-seasoned externally, these were quickly devoured at our table.

    The tacos come with your choice of fillings, fajita chicken or barbacoa beef. While I wish you could have one taco with each filling type, both have to be the same. I chose the barbacoa beef, which was moist, flavorful and lean. Paired with a squeeze of lime juice, salsa that lacked the overwhelming chipotle flavor of the nacho salsa and a light sprinkling of cabbage, these are absolutely perfect.

    Head in between 12 and 3 and you can take advantage of the $3 beer deal, which also includes their home-brewed cider. The berry cider is pink and quite sweet, in fact, it might be a bit too sweet for more people. For something a little less sweet, but better balanced, try combining the Jeremiah Red with the cider. The mix is smooth, floral, sweet and all around delicious.

    In the grand scheme of things, Bj’s Snacks & Small Bites are certainly worthy of a 5 out of 5.


  3. Pho Fusion Is Pho Heaven

    April 14, 2011 by Jill

    Reviewed by Jill Harness on April 14, 2011 .
    With amazing boba drinks and great food to match, Pho Fusion just might be my new favorite Vietnamese restaurant in San Diego. Pho and noodle dishes are all around $6 and they are totally filling and delicious. The rice dishes, which are usually served in small portions at other restaurants are big and flavorful, served with a variety of veggies and a number of sauces. The pho was meaty and the broth was rich.

    Perhaps the greatest thing about Pho Fusion though, is their impressive selection of boba drinks, all of which are fantastic. To make things even sweeter, any of the teas, which can be served with boba or jelly, are only $1 with any entree. The almond black tea is sweet and refreshing and the green apple green tea is a perfect blend of cloyingly sweet apple flavor with slightly bitter and mellow green tea. Both my boyfriend and I agreed that these were certainly some of the best teas we’ve ever had and we will be coming back for more.

    I’d say they certainly deserve a perfect 5 out of 5.

    Image via Winnie S. [Yelp]
    Fusion Cafe on Urbanspoon


  4. Gualbertos: I’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

    April 8, 2011 by Jill

    Reviewed by Jill Harness on April 8, 2011

    Before I started working from home last year, I worked in Kearney Mesa. One of my favorite neighborhood spots for lunch was Gualbertos #4 in Kearny Mesa, which, aside from having a terrible name was a seriously wonderful taco shop.

    I recently swung by there twice last month and was disheartened to discover the shop has lost its value and quality. On the first trip, I got one of my favorite dishes at the place, the Hawaiian burrito (something you cannot get anywhere else). It’s a carne asada burrito paired with pineapple and ham slices. If you like Hawaiian pizza, you’ll probably like this, if not, you’ll probably be disgusted by its mere existence. My BF got a carne asada torta, which ended up being soggy and not particularly flavorful.

    While my beloved Hawaiian burrito was as delicious as I remembered it, my stomach started killing me about a half hour after I ate it. Since my boy friend’s stomach was fine and I always seemed to have stomach issues, I chalked it off to my normal belly problems.

    The next week though, we tried Gualbertos again, and I found out that it was most certainly fallen from glory. When I used to work there, you could get a massive pile of nachos, loaded with sour cream, meat, guacamole, etc. My boyfriend and I both ordered nachos this time -his with pollo asada -which had so little flavor it was essentially just regular grilled chicken meat, and mine with carnitas.

    The restaurant now filled up only the front half of the container with chips, cheese and meat and reserved the back for beans, guacamole, salsa and sour cream. Although the price was the same as it was a year ago, we essentially got about half of the quantity. Even worse, the bland chicken must not have been good because while my stomach didn’t hurt after eating the carnitas, my boyfriend’s iron-cast stomach was essentially slaughtered for the rest of the night.

     

    After two bouts of stomach troubles, seriously decreased portions and a few mediocre meals, I’ve called it quits with Gualbertos. In fact, the restaurant has dropped their rating from a 5 out of 5, to a 2 out of 5.

    Image by Yelp user Jason B.


  5. Pat & Oscar’s Carmel Mountain Ranch: Tasty, Tasty Value

    March 30, 2011 by Jill

    Reviewed by Jill Harness on March 29, 2011

    Whether feeding a family or grabbing a quick lunch by yourself, Pat & Oscar’s is always a great value for the price, but the one in Carmel Mountain Ranch puts the other locations to shame. Their breadsticks taste fresher and are covered in even more buttery garlic than those at other places and their lemon chicken tastes even fresher and more flavorful.

    The prices (while the same at all locations) are unbeatable as well. For only $6.50 you can get a quarter of a chicken, fries, salad and breadsticks. I personally prefer the lemon chicken and Greek salad (with their delicious house dressing), but the barbecue chicken and Caesar salad are also tasty. For $3 more, you can also have meaty, juicy ribs with the meal. Or, step up to the family meals and enjoy half a chicken, a massive bowl of pasta, eight breadsticks and a large salad for only $19.

     

    Whatever you get, you’re certain to enjoy amazing food for an unbeatable price.
    I would certainly give Pat & Oscars a 5 out of five.


  6. Flour Power’s Beautiful Delights

    March 25, 2011 by Jill

    Reviewed by Jill Harness on March 25, 2011

    Since moving to La Mesa I’ve been telling myself that I was going to visit the local bakery, Flour Power. A year later I finally made it and I have one regret…not coming sooner.

    The prices are fairly average for a bakery, averaging around $3 for a cupcake and $2.75 for a pastry, so they’re sure to not break the bank. While I found the red velvet to be a little flavorless, the strawberry cupcake was filled with bits of real strawberry and held a perfect balance of sweetness and natural fruit flavor. Both of the cupcakes looked absolutely gorgeous too, covered in two inch mounds of frosting with just a few edible decorations on top.

    The pastries were the highlight of the experience though. The bear claw was sweet, flakey and perfectly delicate as was the cheese danish. Both had just the right amount of sugar to make them delicious, but not enough to make them seem like more of a dessert than a breakfast.

    If you do make a trip to Flour Power, be sure to check out their cake showroom, filled with amazingly decorated cakes of all sizes.

    In the end, I would think Flour Power deserves a strong 4.5.


  7. The New And Improved CH

    March 18, 2011 by Jill

    Hello readers new and old. I’m happy to announce the release of a new and much improved Cheapskates Handbook. Aside from a shiny new layout, we also will be improving the content and post regularity here. Expect lots of traditional delicious recipes, tons of links to fun food articles, regular wacky recipe ideas and more.

    You may also notice that the local restaurant reviews and other localized travel advice will no longer be appearing on the homepage. These articles will still appear in your feeds and can now be found under the travel guides category. I figured it was best not to muddy up the site with too many local articles that may not apply to some of our readers, but if you are still interested in reading these, there are still plenty of ways to find them.

    I hope you like the new site and, as always, if you have any questions, comments, complaints or article suggestions, please feel free to email me at admin@cheapskateshandbook.com.


  8. Chicago On A Bun: Good Food, Miserable Price

    January 20, 2011 by Jill


    Reviewed by Jill Harness on Jan 20, 2011  

    Restaurants inside of strip malls are generally inexpensive with mediocre food. La Mesa’s Chicago On A Bun manages to reverse the stereotype, offering good food, but not great for the price. With so many pizza places offering massive pies for only $10, it seems pretty silly for a place like this to charge $15-$20 for a medium thin crust. As if that weren’t expensive enough, sandwiches are $7-$9 without even coming with a side of fries or chips.

    To be fair though, the pizza was quite good. The cheeseburger pizza was loaded with cheddar, red onions and hamburger meat and the thin crust was perfectly crunchy without being too hard. The Italian sub was good, loaded with wonderful meats, but it needed far more veggies and way less Italian dressing. In face, I had to hold it sideways just to drain off the extra dressing so I could taste the actual sandwich instead of just dressing.

    While the dogs all sound good, they are also expensive and given the value of the food I did try, I don’t intend to go back just to try a hot dog.

    All in all, I’d give it a 2.5 out of 5.

    Image via Yelp user MaryLou D.


  9. Sunny Donuts: A Wonderful Chain Experience

    December 10, 2010 by Jill

    Reviewed by Jill Harness on December 10, 2010 .

    I’ve been a fan of Sunny Donuts in La Mesa ever since I had them the first time back in 1998. With delightfully different flavors like French apple, blueberry, coconut cream and chocolate frosting filled, the company has always managed to stand out from other donut shops and the flavor of the donuts is always great. They’re also relatively cheap, going at around $7.50 for a dozen.

    With their tiny location off of Spring Street, I always assumed they were family owned, but I was surprised to learn the company is actually a rather large California chain that was created when a number of Dunkin Donuts franchisees decided to work together on their own chain.

    If you find yourself in the vicinity of a Sunny Donuts while traveling through the Golden State, stop by and try one of their delicious treats.

    Sunny donuts is entirely deserving of a 5 out of 5.

    Image by Yelp user Grey D.


  10. V House Pho & Grill -Pho Sho!

    December 8, 2010 by Jill

    Check your Penny Savers, because V House Pho & Grill constantly sends out buy two get one free coupons to everyone in East County. Of course, even at full price, this restaurant is worth every delicious penny.

    Their pho is rich and flavorful and you don’t miss out on the presentation when you opt to get your soup to go. The broth is packaged in a massive Styrofoam container, the noodles, onions and beef are in a take out box and your basil, jalapenos and bean sprouts are kept in another container. They even provide you with small cups of plum sauce and packets of soy sauce so you can further customize your soup flavor at home. If you do get the order to go, be sure to microwave your broth before adding the raw beef because the meat is supposed to cook in the soup and if you wait too long, you could be exposing yourself to unnecessary risk.

    Eating in the restaurant is also nice. The atmosphere is nice, clean and quiet and the service is immaculate. Aside from the pho, I highly recommend trying the crispy calamari (which isn’t always available), the beef vermicelli noodles and the Thai iced tea. In fact, I have yet to find anything that’s not great here.