Personal Favorites Around the South Bay

Several affordable restaurants offering quality above their price.

Over the years working in the South Bay, I’ve made a number of places frequent stops for dinner or lunch.

Here’s some of my personal picks I’d like to share.

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Shrimp on the barbie at the California Fish Grill.

California Fish Grill

Where else can you get swordfish for $11.99 with two sides? You’d be hard pressed to find anywhere offering such a dish for under $20, but California Fish Grill (a short drive east on Artesia Boulevard from the campus) offers that and other tasty seafood for reasonable prices.

The swordfish steaks and other grilled fish selections come with optional cajun, olive oil, chimichurri or garlic glaze.

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Swordfish steaks in cajun glaze, french fries and brussel sprouts. 

Keep in mind the excellent clam chowder, not too greasy fish and chips ($8.99) and consider spending an extra $1.50 for a side of brussel sprouts doused in a tasty vinegarette.

California Fish Grill has numerous locations in Southern California. The closest to campus is 1425 W. Artesia Blvd. in Gardena. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Phone: (310) 225-2777.  Online: cafishgrill.com.

 

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A Habit charburger with bacon, lettuce and cheese. Charburgers start at the $3 range.

The Habit

Forget the greasy Five Guys burgers and consider In-&-Out’s offerings flavorless and overrated compared to The Habit’s charbroiled creations.

While it is more than what you would pay for at In-&-Out, The Habit is much cheaper than Five Guys and other gourmet burger joints in the South Bay.

If you want something a bit fancier for the price, consider ordering the Santa Barbara Char, which has avocado and numerous other toppings on grilled sourdough.

And don’t forget the onion rings. Crisp, not too messy, not oily and a better order than french fries. Have a lemonade or mocha shake and you’ve got an excellent burger outing.

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Onion rings go great with honey mustard dipping sauce.

The Habit has restaurants across Southern California. The nearest to the campus is at 3829 Torrance Blvd. in Torrance. It is open 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Phone: (310) 406-3063. Website: habitburger.com.

 

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A combination plate of ground beef enchiladas, rice and beans from Zacatecas in Hawthorne. Price: $9.25

Zacatecas

This literal hole-in-the-wall in a strip mall in Hawthorne is a hidden gem of a Mexican family restaurant, and within reasonable distance from the college.

It is almost always busy and loud with Spanish sports on the TV, but the food can be ordered to go with complimentary chips and salsa, or can be enjoyed in the establishment with a margarita, Michelada or various beers.

Breakfast, seafood, and a variety of burritos (try Tom’s, with carne asada, beans, guacamole, sour cream, onions and spicy green sauce) round out the menu, and weekends offer menudo.

The best thing is that this isn’t a joint that piles on spices and sauces to mask poor-quality meat. It’s mild done right, with the option of adding more fire if you desire.

It’s highly likely the friendly staff will offer you deliciously cold flan on the house, but it might be a challenge to eat it as the amount of food will put you at the bursting point.

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The chips and salsa is where the gluttony begins at Zacatecas.

Zacatecas is located at 13737 Inglewood Ave. in Hawthorne. It is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Phone: (310) 679-5161. Take out is available.

 

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A mountain of food awaits at #1 Buffet in Hawthorne. Egg rolls, potstickers, chicken skewers, fried rice and various meats, along with a Chinese donut barely fit on the plate.

#1 Buffet

Offering lunch on the weekdays for under $10 and dinners and weekend prices for $13 a person, this Chinese buffet in Lawndale is just a short drive from the campus.

The establishment offers a change of dishes from its lunch and dinner options. Lunchtime eaters should make a beeline for the Chinese barbecue pork, while weekend and dinner visitors should make room for giant crab legs.

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Chinese barbecue pork (aka char siu) is the star of the lunch menu at #1 Buffet in Lawndale, and brings back memories of $1 Chinese take out joints in the ’90s (the pleasant ones).

However, the place excels in its appetizers, from wontons, sushi, fried shrimp and chicken wings and skewers. It is likely you will have a plate of appetizers, rice and some variations of meat dishes, and if room allows, a third plate for dessert or fruits.

#1 Buffet is located at 14418 Hawthorne Blvd. in Lawndale. Open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily. Phone: (310) 644-4007. Take out is available. 

 

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Put as many toppings as you want at Pizza Rev: Above is a pie with pineapple, pepperoni, sausage, cilantro and sun-dried tomatoes.

Pizza Rev

The concept of Taco Tuesday seems to be ripped off by Pizza Rev’s special — $6 personal pies, all day on Tuesday.

The chain pizzeria, which operates like a Subway but serving thin-crust pizza, allows for as much meat, veggies and other toppings as you like for that price. That’s right: no extra charge for more pepperoni or adding more flavor to a Hawaiian-style (or is that Canadian?) ham and pineapple.

Along with specials offered on smartphones, this should be a consideration for a student’s wallet. Pies generally cost under $9 the rest of the week.

The only minus is location; the nearest one to El Camino College is in El Segundo, in the shadows of the city’s skyline on the always-busy Sepulveda Boulevard. There is ample free parking in the midst of the offices, at least.

Pizza Rev has numerous locations in Southern California. The nearest location to El Camino College is located at 460 N. Sepulveda Blvd. in El Segundo. It is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Phone: (310) 426-6320. Take out and online ordering are available, and the chain offers deals and rewards via smartphone. Website: pizzarev.com.

ECC: Empty of Cold Coffee

Few options for students wanting icy caffeine.

Hot coffee isn’t a problem — anybody can grab some powder, beans, a coffee machine or even a microwave and make a decent cup in the morning.

Making a good cup of iced coffee, mocha, cappuccino, you name it? Now that takes some skill, and time isn’t on your side when you’re between classes.

Sadly, cold coffee isn’t plentiful at El Camino College anymore, since the Caffeine coffee shop closed in 2008 and remains an abandoned shell across from Del Taco.

So what options do students and faculty have for cold brews? Not a lot. Here’s a few of the options available, ranked from best overall to worst. I’ve left Starbucks off the list as the nearest locations require a set of wheels, and I consider the following as alternatives for those who snub the omnipresent mermaid and her expensive (but usually tasty, in my opinion) drinks.

 

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McSurprising is the McCafe mocha frappe.

McDonald’s

The best overall option for cold coffee is the McDonald’s on Crenshaw Boulevard, just across the street from the campus.

Non-blended cold coffees at McDonald’s can often be bought for around $2 or so. A large mocha frappe is $3.79, and its reasonable size and taste makes it worth the trip off campus. Calories are another question.

The chocolate syrup isn’t half bad either, but you can save on calories by opting that out of the drink along with the whipped cream.

McDonald’s is located at 15810 Crenshaw Blvd. in Gardena. It is open from 4 a.m. to midnight daily, and until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

 

Costco

The hell is a place where you buy a month’s supply of toilet paper doing on this list?

Well, the blended latte/mocha sold outside the warehouse costs $1.45, and you don’t need to be a member to buy one. It’s actually better than McDonald’s in taste as well and it’s actually better to skip on the chocolate syrup for calories and flavor.

The minus is this: time and distance. The nearest Costco, the Hawthorne one, is just a simple, short jaunt up the 405 to Rosecrans Avenue. With no traffic and a short line, it could take 20 minutes on a round trip. But, if there’s traffic and the place is busy, well, 45 -minutes to an hour might be needed.

Still, $1.45 mochas and $2.99 smoothies (now more of a strawberry yogurt blend after a price hike from the former amount) are hard to beat in the area.

Not to mention the prices of Costco’s other food court fare are well within the reach of a student’s budget. And if you’ve got plenty of time to kill and a card to get in the warehouse, you can try out samples of various vittles for a free lunch.

The nearest Costco to El Camino College is located at 14501 Hindry Ave. in Hawthorne. Food court hours are from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. No membership card needed for the food court.

 

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Small and pricey is the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s tasty mocha.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

I will admit I prefer the flavor of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to Starbucks, but there’s two major problems.

One, it’s just as hideously expensive on the wallet as Starbucks. The largest blended mocha they have costs more than $5. A small will put you back $4.55. Not cheap.

Second, no matter how blended or stirred it gets, the taste and texture of powder used to make the drinks doesn’t seem to go away. The grit is present at the start of the drink and especially as you come to the bottom.

I honestly thought this problem was from me adding vanilla or cinnamon powder to drinks in my visits to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, but I stopped doing that and still detected the distracting solids on my tongue.

Having suffered two kidney stones, I wonder if this powder won’t accumulate down there.

Oh well, it is a good cup of iced coffee.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s nearest location to El Camino College is at 18201 Crenshaw Blvd. in Torrance. It is open from 4:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.

 

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Smelly coffee, but decent taste.

Jack in the Box

No blended coffees here, but this establishment has iced coffee in a few different flavors.

The caramel iced coffee however, had a real funky smell about it. The syrup used smells like feet.

Picturing sweaty socks doesn’t make a good impression, even if the coffee is OK in taste and decently priced in the $2 range.

The Jack in the Box near El Camino College is located at 3940 Redondo Beach Blvd. in Torrance. It is open from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday thru Thursday, 6 a.m. to midnight on Friday and open 24 hours on weekends.

 

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The iced mocha offered on campus has its flavor like the ice chunks – all over the place.

Cafe Camino

The on-campus option at Cafe Camino has a number of problems — the McDonald’s nearby is cheaper and the composition of the $3.99 drink leaves a lot to be desired.

Instead of being a consistent liquid slush, it’s more like a collection of oxygen spaces with coffee-flavored ice, with extraction of mocha nutrients taking considerable effort through an under-powered big straw.

As with the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, there’s the problem of using powder in the drink as well; the grit is detectable on the tongue.

There’s pockets of decent flavor, but the blended mocha was for the most part too sweet in some chunks, too watery in others, and actually too much effort to finish in time between classes.

Cafe Camino is located on campus between the Humanities building and the Schauerman Library. Its hours are 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and 6:30 a.m. to on 2 p.m. Fridays. Closed on the weekends.

 

Del Taco

While not having the weird smell of Jack in the Box, the bitter cup of iced coffee at Del Taco isn’t worth it, even if it is priced less than Costco’s blended latte/mocha.

None of the previous entries required sugar to be added to counter the default taste. There’s cream in there, but it almost tastes black.

And if that’s your thing, you’d be better off brewing your own cup of coffee at home in a travel mug and just tossing ice cubes in it before leaving the house.

Del Taco is located at 16216 Crenshaw Blvd in Gardena. It is open 7 a.m. to midnight Sunday thru Thursday and open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays.

French Toast and Joe: The Pancake Factory

A diner within walking distance of the campus.

With the background radio playing songs that would fit in an episode of “Miami Vice” and set next to a shady motel, eating at The Pancake Factory made me think Harvey Keitel would be my dining partner in a movie stakeout scene.

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♫ I can feel it, coming in the air tonight, oh Lord ♫ — the assurance from seeing an “A” grade.

Sadly, I was eating alone and for the most part, Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour” was stuck in my head as I ordered French toast at the Pancake Factory.

Breakfast wasn’t groundbreaking as a Tarantino film (maybe the Nutella French toast would have been), it didn’t “Take My Breath Away” which came on the radio a bit later, but the combo of thick French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and coffee for $12 and change after taxes hit the right spot for its price.

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All the caffeine you want for just over $2.

The best part of the combo was what comes extra: the scrambled eggs, hash browns and bacon. The hash browns weren’t overcooked and had a nice flavor and happy medium of being crisp, but still potato in nature. The bacon wasn’t too soggy or burnt, too.

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The stars of today’s breakfast. The mood really changed when hash browns left the scene after a surprising performance.

The French toast itself was thick, but was a bit heavy on the “eggy” taste; it soaked a bit too much in. I had to add “old fashioned” syrup — one of four offered on the table, which included strawberry, blueberry and butter pecan — as the butter wasn’t enough to overcome that taste.

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Powdered sugar and butter not enough to overcome the overdose of egg on bread.

As mentioned, the prices seem reasonable and if you have a student ID, you can get more off the bill. The place is quite packed for lunch, so don’t expect a quiet time dining.

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I wonder how many El Camino students or faculty try to say they’re still kids to the server.

On the way out I noticed the huge hoagies and enormous amount of fries piled on the plates the lunch crowd was enjoying, so it might be worth a jaunt to try something more than pancakes or French toast.

While The Pancake Factory may not measure up to Coco’s and might be slightly more in cost than Denny’s, it is closer to El Camino College than those two locations. If coffee and flapjacks are your jones, it’s worth a look.

IMG_0243The Pancake Factory is located at 15619 Crenshaw Blvd. in Gardena and is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Wi-Fi available on premises. Phone: (310) 349-0325. A menu with prices and online ordering is available at doordash.com.

Shrimp Pho the Soul — Daily Pho

Flavorful broth in a sea of noodles.

You’re sick and can’t tell if you’re hungry or still queasy.

Mild lunch is the best call, something like broth. A Yelp check on what’s by El Camino College shows several Vietnamese pho restaurants offering bowls of broth, rice noodles, herbs and a variety of meats.

A catchy named place named What Pho? is unfortunately closed on a Monday, but the next highest-rated Vietnamese soup joint is Daily Pho, just south of Marine Avenue on Western, a short drive from the college.

You arrive to a strip mall of Asian restaurants. The Daily Pho menu is handed to you by a friendly. elderly Asian man in a uniform that would probably double for work clothes in an auto garage (it’s clean, though). The sound of Mexican music and CNN in the background and a decor that looks like an Asian diner and a boba drink bar eloped are the opening impressions.

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Quite quaint.

It’s pleasing amusement. And so is the pho, which comes in a variety of ways with many meats. Rare steak, brisket, tripe, meatballs, chicken, squid, ox tail and more.

But today, the pho is kept simple: shrimp.

A few minutes later, a half dozen big, fat shrimp arrive in a giant bowl, and they’ve been thrown into a kelp forest of noodles with some cilantro, onions and other greens, along with a platter of basil, bean sprouts and chilies on the side.

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And this is the small bowl.
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For a touch more crunch or spicy flair.

A ladle will easily scoop the broth and diced greens. Chopsticks, however, are the only way to work with the mass of noodles, which dam up more of the succulent broth and the occasional shrimp that has soaked the flavors in.

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The noodles are thick enough to double as wiring for a computer lab.

The broth hits the spot, the shrimps are plump and the noodles are … well,  chewy and plentiful. What more could you ask for under $10 with a Thai iced tea with whipped cream on top?

Well, there are rice dishes, banh mi, boba drinks and other things to consider. But that’s for another time.

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Pho Daily is located at 15126 S. Western Ave. in Gardena and is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Wi-Fi is available on the premises; ask for the password. Phone: (310) 630-4915. A menu can be found on its Yelp page: https://www.yelp.com/biz/pho-daily-gardena.

The All You Can Eat Chronicles: Little Trouble in Big Wok

Enough sizzling meat and vegetables to satisfy a horde.

Note: Part of an occasional series on local AYCE restaurants near campus.

In the 2007 film “Mongol,” Genghis Khan, enjoying a barbecue with the wife and kids before annihilating a city in China, talks about wanting to spread his language across the world, starting with the word for meat.

In the more civilized 21st century, he probably could do a good job in doing so with opening a chain of restaurants similar to Big Wok Mongolian BBQ in Manhattan Beach.

A bit of a drive from El Camino College — travel west down Artesia Boulevard and turn right on Sepulveda Boulevard in Manhattan Beach, Big Wok will be on your passenger side as you descend the first hill.

While you won’t learn the Mongolian word for meat, you’ll have plenty of it — frozen chicken, beef, pork, turkey, lamb, tofu and more spread on a buffet line among a mass of noodles and vegetables, which are then seared on a hot stone and served in minutes.

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Consider two bowls on a trip to the buffet line; one for noodles and vegetables, the other for meats, such as lamb pictured here. Curry sauce optional.
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Noodles, vegetables and meats dance on the cooking stone.
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Pictured here are noodles, lamb, a small bit of beef and chicken, water chestnuts, cilantro, pineapple, cabbage, mushrooms and scallions in a curry sauce.

Upon returning to your seat there should be a drink waiting for you along with complimentary rice and toasted sesame seed buns. It’s best to probably make a trip to the restroom to wash your hands just in case from using the tongs to pick up raw frozen meat. This also allows for a chance to let the food and bread cool.

A dispenser for hand sanitizer is located near the buffet as well in case the restrooms are occupied or you don’t want to make the trek across the building.

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Delicious bread, but it tends to be pretty hot to handle. Also, a bit sharp on the gums.

About that bread: it’s fresh and goes well with the meal, but it can have searing hot pockets of air trapped in and the exterior can be crisp and sharp enough to cut your gums. Be careful.

So we’ve discussed the journey. How does the arrival fare when this food goes into your mouth?

The meats are lean, noodles are just right in texture and the produce is fresh.

There’s a variety of sauces at the end of the buffet line that can add more spice. The curry sauce is particularly enjoyable; it’s hot enough to make one cough, salty enough to forget about the table salt, adds a nice punch to the meats and veggies and pairs well with pineapple chunks and crisp water chestnuts.

As for price, it’s not cheap (dinner and a drink reaches close to $20 a person), so if you’re watching the wallet it’s advisable to try to make the lunch sessions. There’s a no leftover policy here for dining in, but food can be taken out and weighed if you’re on the go.

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Take out rules and prices at Big Wok.

This place is not a quiet one. Aside from the scrapes and clanks from the cooking area, it’s generally busy inside and two large screen TVs usually have a sporting event on them with the volume up considerably.

There’s a few issues with Big Wok — you might be queasy about handling raw meat on a buffet line, the overeating risk and the dangerous sesame bread — but at its price and taste, it’s worth it.

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Big Wok Mongolian BBQ is located at 250 N. Sepulveda Blvd. in Manhattan Beach and is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 to 9:30 p.m. weekdays, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 to 9:30 p.m. Saturdays and 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 to 9 p.m. Sundays. Phone: (310) 798-1155. Website: http://www.bigwok-mongolian-barbq.com/.

Falafel Face Off: Chicken Maison vs. Chicken Chick

Two sandwiches enter, one man eats.

Falafel.

For those who don’t know the difference between a falafel and a loofah, the former is a fried ball of chickpeas and fava beans. A loofah is a bath sponge, but that’s not important right now.

They — falafels, not loofahs — can be served on their own, as a topping in salads and as the main ingredient in sandwiches.

Two restaurants within walking distance of the college grounds offer falafel sandwiches for under $7: Chicken Maison and Chicken Chick.

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Chicken Maison’s falafel sandwich is served in a pita bread. Didn’t ask if onions are normally placed like cute fez hats on falafels upon serving.

Chicken Maison

Chicken Maison, just across the street from the campus on Crenshaw Boulevard in the strip mall near the McDonald’s, won the coin toss to start first.

No, actually it won first try on mentioning it had pickled turnips in the sandwich. And tomatoes and parsley and onions.

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Pickled turnips sound like precious hors d’oeuvres in Bilbo Baggins’ kitchen cabinet.

Served on a giant flatbread, the sandwich looks like a giant burrito at first glance in its wrapping. The three falafel balls were large, a bit on the crumbly side, but had a good flavor. The turnips were just the right kind of bitter to accent the sandwich.

The sandwich normally comes drizzled with tahini sauce — sesame seed paste mixed with water, garlic and lemon juice — for those who like that sort of thing.

At a listed price of $6.75, it’s well within a student’s budget. Most of Chicken Maison’s fare is around $10.

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Bag it in a baguette — smaller falafel and sandwiches at Chicken Chick, but the flavor makes up for it. The baguette is nice and fresh, too.

Chicken Chick

A Persian restaurant just southeast of the campus across Crenshaw Boulevard, Chicken Chick offers its sandwich in a different way — in a toasted baguette.

Most places serve this sandwich with pita bread, but this baguette works — it’s fresh and has a good flavor, along with the tomatoes, parsley and crisp onions (word of advice: bring a breath mint or chewing gum after eating). Pita bread is also served as a side.

The four falafels are smaller but not as flaky as the ones at Chicken Maison. They had a more robust flavor as well.

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Tahini sauce on the side, please.

Tahini sauce is also served on the sandwich. It tends to distract from the flavor of the sandwich. Its sour taste doesn’t go as well as pickled turnips offered by Chicken Maison.

Chicken Chick’s atmosphere is a lot less hectic than Chicken Maison’s and more comfortable. The falafel sandwich is just a few cents more at $6.99, but do take note the price of the other fare is a bit steeper here than at Chicken Maison.

Final Verdict

While Chicken Maison offers pickled turnips and bigger falafel, the sharp flavors and fresh baguette Chicken Chick serves gives the latter a slight edge. They’re both very good sandwiches, and you can’t go wrong with choosing one or the other.

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Chicken Maison is located at 15900 Crenshaw Blvd. in Gardena and is open 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday thru Saturday and closed on Sundays. Phone: (310) 327-737. Website: http://www.chickenmaison.com.

Chicken Chick is located at 16300 Crenshaw Blvd. in Torrance and is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. Phone: (424) 396-3437 or (424) 396-3438. Its menu can be found on Yelp.com.

The All-You-Can-Eat Chronicles: The Mystery at the Inca Gourmet

What the hell did I eat?

Note: Part of an occasional series on local A.Y.C.E. restaurants near campus.

There should be a law for buffets to label all their dishes offered.

Accurately, too.

That was the case when I went to the Inca Gourmet buffet in Lawndale for dinner.

With the exception of a few dishes— most notably, the watermelon and pineapple chunks — nothing was labeled. Even so, who knows if the sticky notes were above the right item, as some appeared to have been blown around by the winds.

Not being an expert on Peruvian food, I had no idea what I was getting, other than what I could tell from experience: rice, fried bananas, chicken, potatoes. A lot of chicken and potato dishes. What’s the difference between them aside from a sauce color? Can’t tell.

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To this day, I have no clue what this is, other than rice, potatoes, assorted vegetables and chicken.

This was a first for me, almost flying blind in a restaurant. I’ve been to a number of chaotic buffets where things may be hastily labeled. And I’ve been to exotic restaurants offering Eastern European, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Tibetan and Middle Eastern dishes that had some sort of English description of what the dishes were.

I could tell there were a number of stews offering fish and tripe. I didn’t get a chance to try any lomo saltado, a late discovery I made when I moved a few old sticky notes around, but it looked like there was barely any steak bits in the bin.

It was a noisy joint by the way. CNN in Spanish was on full-blast, and the tables were alive with conversations. Combine the TV, the hectic atmosphere of the place, the wait staff’s poor English and my bad Spanish, there was probably no chance at identifying much of anything. Checking up photos of items and sticky notes on Google and Wikipedia didn’t always pan out. An online menu for take-out orders didn’t help either.

Eating at the Inca Gourmet gave a feeling of being stranded in a foreign country with no idea what you’re doing; just waiting for the pick-up and grabbing whatever the local fare is.

Another thing I noticed was it wasn’t all Peruvian fare. Chinese buffets tend to have the odd habit of throwing a pizza, french fries and other non-Chinese foods onto the buffet trays. I still chuckle at the memory of a Chinese buffet in Riverside County that put Oreos in the dessert section under a heat lamp. But it makes sense when consider small children and the no-frills steak and potatoes crowd.

Inca Gourmet did the same, only putting Chinese fried wontons along with fries — which actually, after reading up, are typical sides for lomo saltado. I think I recognized chow mein in one bin. When I came home to Google through my notes and pictures to identify dishes, I noticed the restaurant boasted “Peruvian-style Chinese food.” Hm. Well, the fried rice I scooped up on a second trip to the buffet was good.

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Chocolate cake for sure on top (and tasty, too). Possibly flan on the right and almond cake on the left.

The food wasn’t bad. It was decent for $12 and change for the buffet and a soda. But aside from the enigma of the dishes, nothing really stood out.

Basically it comes down to sentences like this: “The potatoes and chicken in the green sauce was better than the potatoes and chicken in the red sauce.”

Should you eat at the Inca Gourmet? Ask yourself if you want to take a $12 gamble and find out.

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Inca Gourmet is located at 15651 Hawthorne Blvd. in Lawndale. Open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.