Reminiscing back to our childhoods, we recall all the good times and bad times that significantly impacted us as children. Everyone remembers certain moments during their childhoods that has permanently affected our personalities today. Even without anything to capture those moments, we can still reminisce about the good old days through photos taken way back then. In fact, today’s society has accepted Throwback Thursdays as an homage to the good old days, when life did not bear so much worry, and we could live out our days without fear or oppression. These days, society has to deal with corruption on many levels, from governments to the internet to bullies in school and more. Like the human immune system, society reacts to these corruptions by implementing methods to combat those problems by either minimizing problems or eliminating them altogether. This may not restore the good old days, but as a society, we still like to look back to what paved the way for us to stand here today. Significantly, we remember the foods we once ate as children, even recalling the low prices. Those old signs advertising $0.10 French Fries did not lie – food stands actually sold items that now cost ten times more, or even more than that! Though we can still buy the same fast food items as back then, we have much better options today as far as finer dining without the inflated price tags. If you miss those $0.10 fries, wait until you see some of the fries that you can eat as entrées. I have discovered five different fries entrées that you can find in the Greater Los Angeles Area, and I highly suggest seeking them out this season, as some of these may not linger around once the season ends.

5. Dos Chinos‘ Garden Grove BBQ Papas Fritas

Throughout this Top 5 list, you may notice a common trend among the entries – the word poutine. For those unfamiliar with poutine, this Canadian dish, at its very base, consists of fries, gravy, and cheese curds. From there, the person preparing it may add whatever to this canvas of a dish, typically some sort of meat. While this certainly sounds like a meal already, not every fries entrée must contain gravy and/or cheese. In the case of Dos Chinos, they do not even think about gravy, in favor of their Asian heritage. This fusion food truck from Orange County takes traditional Asian flavors, such as Vietnamese-style pork belly or garlic butter shrimp, and cooks them into Latin/Mexican preparations, such as tacos, burritos, or quesadillas. Over the past few years, they have greatly expanded their menu offerings in both directions, and utilize a chart system in ordering. In other words, customers simply choose the meat, then choose the preparation. For example, their Garden Grove BBQ Papas Fritas combines their Korean Mexican BBQ Beef with red cabbage and crema sauce over a bed of shoestring fries, jack-cheddar cheese, chopped onions, and cilantro. The beef will remind you of traditional Chinese takeout, but prepared much more flavorful, with an emphasis on high-quality grass-fed angus beef and the right balance of marinade on the beef. Where traditional Chinese restaurants serve this with white rice, Dos Chinos serves this to you with fries – for America! The fries provide a different texture than the soft nature of rice, so you have more going on in each bite as you crunch your way through this bowl of meat and potatoes big enough to share. But why would you want to share? At $8 per bowl, you can own this steal of a deal at the Dos Chinos truck, constantly roaming around Orange County. Pay attention to their Twitter to discover their future locations!

4. Haven Gastropub – Orange‘s Lamb Neck Poutine

As mentioned above, the most basic poutine consists of fries, gravy, and cheese curds. Increasingly popular in Canada, poutine has made landfall here in America due to its unique combination of ingredients that appeals to many appetites as not only a snack food, but as a fulfilling meal. Among conscious eaters, poutine has increased in popularity because of the freshness of cheese curds. Ideally, people should consume cheese curds within hours of its creation, so unless a restaurant produces its own cheese curds, poutine would use other types of cheese besides cheese curds. Regardless of the method of acquisition, Haven Gastropub understands the importance of quality cheese curds, as well as the importance of all of the restaurant’s other locally-sourced ingredients. Formulating the standard structure for any respectable sustainable restaurant, Haven Gastropub has pioneered the art of pub faire and introduced it to the modern American fine dining setting. By reinventing these dishes, Haven aims to take foods with a reputation as bar food and transform them into beautiful entrées that customers will want to brag about having eaten. While corporations have created a greasy image for poutine in Canada, Haven turns that all around with their Lamb Neck Poutine. Using braised lamb neck as the spotlight ingredient, Haven constructs this poutine with their pommes frites, dijon lamb gravy, and fresh cheddar cheese curds. Some people would turn an eye away from hearing “lamb neck” mentioned in food, either at the though of eating neck or of the texture of the meat. If the latter, the braising of the meat gives it an utmost tender texture, as it falls apart like braised short ribs do. Traditional poutine may look like this, but in terms of flavor, it can come nowhere close. Keep in mind that Haven Gastropub in Orange County serves this dish, as the Pasadena location does not list it on their menu.

3. The Federal Bar‘s Short Rib Poutine

When a brand grows large in popularity and demand, one should expect that brand to expand the reach to a larger scope or audience. For example, Southern California’s own Slater’s 50/50 has opened six overall locations, while Eureka Burger has FINALLY concocted plans to expand into Los Angeles and Orange County. Not too long ago, when The Federal Bar in North Hollywood grew beyond their walls, they first opened up another restaurant right around the corner under the name Bow & Truss. Eventually the demand for The Federal Bar grew so much that they had to expand past their little bubble in North Hollywood. As a result, they opened their second location in Downtown Long Beach this past April. Boasting nearly the same menu, The Federal Bar maintains the theme of a prohibition-era federal reserve bank while operating as a full-fledged gastropub. With a penchant for terrific craft beers, fine wines, and artisanal spirits, The Federal Bar serves up classic gastropub faire with a gourmet spin. For example, take a look at their version of poutine, the Short Rib Poutine. First, they take their House Fries, which comes with herbs, parmesan, and garlic, then they top it off with fresh mozzarella cheese curds, shredded beef short rib, and a blue cheese drizzle, which gives it a unique kick that poutine normally would not have. The Federal Bar may list this in the Starters section of their menu, but the resulting dish more than fills up one person. In fact, you may actually have to either share this with someone, or take the rest to-go. Just remember to savor the short ribs well, and get as much of the blue cheese as possible with the short rib. The savoriness of the meat with the sharp flavor of the blue cheese create a potent yet irresistible match-up of short rib and sauce. You can order this off their regular menu for $11, but arrive during Happy Hour from 3pm to 6pm everyday, and you can order this dish for $2 off! Even better during Happy Hour, you can also receive drinks at Happy Hour prices, so pair this fries entrée with a cold, refreshing IPA for the perfect evening meal.

2. 1321 Downtown Taproom Bistro‘s Pork Fries

Who said that Bacon has to reign as the all-time best pork preparation of all time? We can all agree that bacon makes any food and drink taste better, but when you get to a point where you just eat bacon so much that the thought of bacon gets desensitized in your mind, you have to start searching for alternatives. Fortunately there exists visionary chefs who worship pork and the versatility of this wonderful meat. Versatility lives on at 1321 Downtown Taproom Bistro in their Pork Fries. Although 1321 Downtown Taproom Bistro lists their infamous Pork Fries under their Firsts, or appetizers, this large pan can serve a party of 2-3. This skillet consists of thin fries covered with pulled pork confit, stout-braised onions, melted sharp cheddar, and smoked tomato rémoulade. Picture the pork sitting in a marinade of salt, seasonings, and herbs, then cooked in its own drippings. What results from the process tastes like roasted and somewhat crispy shredded pork with a heaping level of smokiness and salty flavors attacking your taste buds. The onions braised in stout contribute to this dish with its tender, sweet, and dark flavors. The cheese comes melted and soft, but hardens quickly. As a result, I highly suggest eating this the moment your server brings it out, and not wait to eat it. Note that you can order this during Happy Hour from 4pm to 7pm for a reduced price, so aim to go during Happy Hour, and pair this with a nice cold pale ale!

1. Umami Burger‘s Truffle Royale Poutine

From Day 1, ever since I started this blog, I vowed never to give a spotlight to corporate businesses, but to focus on the best in the local scene of Southern California. Understandably, something may grow in popularity so much that expansion comes natural. For example, Hof’s Hut has gained enough local popularity that expansion to greater territory only seems natural at this point. Other businesses expand rapidly yet remain in Southern California… for now, such as Slater’s 50/50. One such entity remained solely in Southern California for just two years, and rose in notoriety so much that they expanded to Northern California after two years in business. Now with a location in Florida and plans to expand into New York, Umami Burger has more than cemented its name into the history of food in America. In fact, Saturday Night Live even name-dropped Umami Burger, proving the dominance of this burger chain. Umami did not reach their current status with just marketing and timing – they earned their reputation with quality unlike any other. Although pricey, their burgers will more than satisfy a craving for an amazing burger, as their menu now contains more than just burgers. Most customers will want to stick with burgers like the namesake indicates, but sometimes customers can get a little adventurous by ordering a modified burger. Umami now offers a modified burger in the form of turning any burger into a poutine dish. Have you seen a poutine with a burger patty in it? Go all-in with their Truffle Royale Poutine, their signature Truffle Royale burger served over fries with house gravy. The original burger comes with a beef patty topped with braised short ribs, garlic aioli, truffle glaze, and truffle cheese. Why bother with truffle oil at this point when the dish already contains so much truffle? The truffle levels in this dish exceed nine thousand, as you cut into the medium rare patty and braised short ribs, and scoop up the perfect bite with a little of everything in this dish. The Truffle Royale burger costs $15, while you can “poutine-it” any burger for an extra $2, so the Truffle Royale Poutine will cost $17 altogether. Not every Umami Burger location serves the Truffle Royale, and not every location has the “poutine-it” option, so refer to the Umami Burger website for a menu from each location before you venture out in search of meaty fried goodness. The old saying that you cannot judge a book by its cover typically does not apply to Umami Burger, as they strive for excellent plating and deliciously gorgeous burgers. When it comes to poutine, the gravy will cause a mess, so carefully plating poutine takes extra practice. While the photo looks like a mess, the umami sensory explosion will make you forget what it looked like when the server brought it out to you.

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