The Neighborhood Taco Stand

When you live in Southern California, Mexican food is basically a food group.  I don’t think a week goes by when I don’t eat some form of Mexican cuisine – either at home or out.  The great thing is, virtually every community in the area has a great local Mexican joint.  It could be a simple take-out spot, a food truck, or a fancier – liquor license/margaritas available – restaurant.  I’m going to start posting about all of my favorite Mexican places, some of which go back dozens of years in my life, while others are fairly new to me.


Casitas Tacos Burbank, CA – just a walk up counter, but oh so good!

Mexican Joint #1Casitas Tacos, Burbank, CA

Just a little walk-up counter joint in a small liquor store strip mall, Casitas Tacos does it simple and right.  Choices of meats, fresh tortillas, flame grilled, tacos and burritos.  When Barb and I get take-out there, it’s a $20 load that includes:

Four (4) carne asada tacos with extra cheese

One (1) cheese quesadilla with guacamole (that one’s for me)

Side of Frijoles and cheese / Side of chips

And, sometimes, an order of Ceballitos – grilled green onions – those are for me too – heartburn coming but worth it!

When in Burbank and in need of a good quality and good quantity Baja-style taco stand, look no further than Casitas.  More to come.


Every Town Has One – an Old-School Italian Place

Growing up in the small college town of Claremont, California, much of my childhood was spent at cheap family eating places that had been around since my parents attended Pomona College in the 1950s. As my parents began to study food and wine, many of those ‘cheap eats’ places went away as our family ‘upgraded’ our food experience. But in the late 1980s, when I started having my own children, those ‘family style’ places came back into the fold – because with kids it’s all about easy, big and cheap!

Vinces Spaghetti on Foothill Blvd. in Upland, CA

Vinces Spaghetti on Foothill Blvd. in Upland, CA

Enter Vince’s Spaghetti – an Inland Empire landmark since 1945! My parents went to the Ontario, CA location in the 1950s, and we raised our children on the Rancho Cucamonga location in the 1980s and 90s. Back then, a spaghetti with meat sauce plate, soup, salad and cheese bread dinner was about $5.50 a person! Needless to say, on a Friday or Saturday night, the line is out the door and down the street!

I’ve lived in Burbank, CA for about 15 years now – and yes, even Burbank has their version of the cheap Italian family restaurant. Monte Carlo Deli and Pinocchio Restaurant on Magnolia Blvd. in Burbank is another one of those historic places that’s been family owned and operated for years. No secret to Burbank folks – check their hundreds and hundreds of ‘likes’ and ‘yelps’ – it’s a simple cafeteria line with all of the traditional pasta favorites. And again, on Friday and Saturday nights, the lines are out the door. Pizza and gelato are also part of their draw.

The Pinocchio Cafeteria line.

The Pinocchio Cafeteria line.

My wife and I do Friday nights – we share a Lasagna with meat sauce, a large Italian salad and garlic bread. That, along with a diet coke, and we’re in for $16.88. And yes, there are A LOT of families and kids there! We skip the wine – as it’s mostly San Antonio Winery jugs – but maybe someday we’ll walk in with our own bottle of Sangiovese and see if they have corkage.

My mom used to call Vince’s ‘depression food’. These days, when we go to Pinocchio on Friday nights, I rarely feel depressed. Does your town have an Italian joint like this? Tell us about it!