When Stuart Davis opened the first City Wok in North Hollywood in 1990, he had already been honing the restaurant’s concept for three years. He envisioned a stylish, casual restaurant where chefs created fresh, healthy versions of authentic Chinese dishes to order in an open kitchen. The problem? Davis lacked a background in traditional Chinese cooking. Enter Hing Fan Chan, a professional chef trained in Kowloon, China. “It was a 50-50 collaboration,” Davis told Restaurant Hospitality magazine in 2003: Chan brought traditional recipes to City Wok, and worked with Davis to create healthy, MSG-free versions of authentic dishes. Their collaboration paid off: in 2011, City Wok earned Palm Springs Life’s award for the area’s Best Chinese Restaurant.
Today, flames surge as chefs tend woks in chrome-lined open kitchens. In the dining room, customers relax as they wait for servers to arrive with dishes such as a spicy kung pao combo or house lo mein. A breakfast menu features creative wok scrambles and moo shoo burritos, bringing Chinese flavors to morning meals without the hassle of stealing a Concorde.
Iron Chef Café uses the heat of the wok, grill, and frying pan to creatively fuse the diverse flavors of traditional Asian cuisines. The menu is peppered with dishes made with the freshest possible ingredients, never with added MSG. Start with an order of crispy Asian lettuce wraps with chicken ($6.29) or shrimp ($7.49) or a plate of crab wontons ($3.95/four), and cleanse your palate with a warm bowl of egg-flower soup ($2.29/small). Specialty dishes from the Japanese grill, served with your choice of brown or white rice, satisfy savory seekers with teriyaki and hula bowls topped with chicken, steak, shrimp, or tofu ($5.49–$7.29) and mixed tempura ($6.79). Meanwhile, a wide variety of fresh wok bites delights with classic stir fries including crispy orange-peel chicken ($7.25), Thai-basil tofu ($6.69), and Mongolian beef ($7.95). For lighter fare, throw back a few fresh sushi rolls ($3.99–$7.49), or indulge in an Iron Chef signature dish such as the honey-walnut shrimp ($9.95) or spicy eggplant ($7.45), both served with brown or white rice. The café also offers a selection of low-carb and dim-sum bites.
The Far East and the Southwest converge behind the glass walls of Dragon Loco Chinese Food, where inventive cooks fuse traditional Chinese and Mexican flavors. The menu teems with tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, which can be stuffed with globally inspired fillings such as carne asada, spicy orange chicken, and Chinese barbecued pork. The burrito loco, a house specialty, pairs bacon’s salty crunch with grilled onions as hot and sweet as a greeting card from the equator. In addition to preparing in-house meals, the kitchen caters parties and meetings with trays of hearty tacos.
Though he didn't work in the restaurant industry, the very first time Rick Covert set foot in The Sand Crab Tavern—established in 1988—he knew that one day it would be his. Some 22 years later, he finally bought it, and though he's made a couple of changes, Rick has maintained the restaurant’s defining traits. A primary change was the addition of Rick's Black Pearl, a twice-weekly spread of raw oysters on the half-shell. What he hasn't changed, though, have been some of the faces customers have gotten to know before he took the helm: cook Lucy has been boiling crawfish at the tavern for more than 15 years, and server Kim has been doting on guests in the lantern-lit space for more than 19 years.
Perhaps almost as important as The Sand Crab’s food and faces are its surrounds. Dangling in the net that’s suspended from the ceiling, like delicious constellations hover starfish, shells, and realistic crabs. And, mimicking the barnacle-coated sides of a whale, the walls are encrusted with sepia-toned photos, nautical memorabilia, and navy patches. Wooden booths host enough dunking of Maine lobsters and king crabs into melted butter to be considered basketball courts. The Sand Crab Tavern hosts live blues music during Sunday brunch, but that's not the only time musicians visit. They're a common sight and sound in the warmly lit dining room, where guests can fill their ears while grabbing frosty bottles of beer sourced from local microbreweries.
Baby Genius's award-winning children's products teach babies and toddlers essential skills through the power of music. Based on a bounty of research, the company's DVDs enrich the learning experience by merging classical pieces and familiar songs with vibrant images, keeping kids entertained for hours. Parents can sit back while animated animal educators teach pocket-size pupils better motor skills, dictionary-defying vocabularies, vampire-free counting, and nap-inducing dance moves that ready little ones for kindergarten and beyond.
The concept of the South in evidence at Luc's Bistro is expansive, including not just down-home American comfort foods but historical influences from French, Creole, and Cajun cuisines. In an airy room that's a little fancier than the location tucked away off busy Poway Road might suggest, servers deliver plates accented with spicy touches such as paprika mayo or peppered bacon. Breakfast bites include Cafe du Monde beignets and eggs benedict with ham and homemade hollandaise. For a lighter lunchtime offering, diners might try the crab-cake sandwich or simply suck the helium out of a balloon. Dinner entrees range from Atlantic salmon to old Southern standbys such as country-fried steak and shrimp and grits.