By Mary O’KEEFE
The Prom Plus Taste of Montrose was held on Sunday, made possible by the complete generosity of local restaurants.
Prom Plus began over 20 years ago after a Crescenta Valley High School student was murdered while she slept at an unsupervised after-prom party. CVHS seniors had rented rooms in an Anaheim hotel. According to reports, there was alcohol at the party. After the murder of the young girl, a group of concerned parents, teachers and administrators came together to create a safe place for CVHS seniors and their prom guests to go after prom.
Over the years the Prom Plus event has grown to include a zipline, bungee run, bungee jump, mechanical bull, full casino and gyroscope. About seven years ago, two CVHS students founded the on-campus Prom Plus Club as a way to bring students into the Prom Plus organization. It quickly became a strong community service club whose members volunteer for many local events.
Each year members of Prom Plus must raise about $25,000 for its Prom Plus party and scholarship program. Taste of Montrose is one of the non-profit organization’s biggest annual fundraisers.
Restaurants within the Montrose Shopping Park and beyond generously donate “tastes” to those who purchase ToM tickets. The restaurants that donated this year, as in years past, have varied menus but they have several things in common including a sense of community, a drive to help the kids of the area and a willingness to pay it forward, not only by volunteering to donate but hiring locally as well.
Restaurants featured this year included: Amber Road, which offers unique infused olive oils and vinegars as well as the famous Gelsinger’s meat. Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria can offer a variety of pizzas in a variety of sizes from 10 to 36 inches. Casa Cordoba is a love letter to all things Spain. The owners traveled to the country, fell under its spell and brought the best of Spanish cuisine to Montrose. The restaurant is within adobe walls and is an escape from busy lives. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf was the first to introduce ice blended drinks to the community and offers a place for the public to sit, relax and study. Dream Dinners is a unique place that is built on a foundation of helping busy moms. There is nothing like having family around the table for dinner but in these busy times it is difficult to find the hours to cook. Dream Dinners acts as a sous-chef, chopping and organizing meals for easy preparation. ETC Gourmet Kitchen has a well-established menu that includes everything from chicken salad sandwiches to beef Wellington and lamb lollipops. ETC has built a strong and loyal customer base that enjoys everything from sweets to full dinner meals. Frank’s Famous Kitchen and Bakery can be seen at many events. They are very busy with catering but also have an area for lunch both inside and outside their Verdugo Road restaurant. The owners are from the CV area, are CVHS graduates, and their menu is well-known including Tracy’s Chicken Salad and their maple balsamic vinaigrette. Froyo Life is where to go for a frozen dessert. It changes its flavors often but it is their numerous toppings that keep those in line contemplating the best mixture. It is common to see adults and kids alike walking Honolulu Avenue with a Froyo cup filled to the rim with a delicious dessert. Mountview Retirement Community may have surprised some at ToM but their meatballs were just a sampling of the restaurant that is open to the public. All that is needed is a reservation. New Moon has contemporary Chinese cuisine where many of the items on the menu are named after the owner’s family members. That family feeling stretches beyond the menu and into the restaurant. Pepe’s is all about family and community. It would be unusual to enter this Mexican restaurant without seeing someone you know. The homemade Mexican food continues to keep people coming back. Rest Farmhouse Inspired is the new kid on the block. It is owned by two La Crescenta moms who wanted a healthy place for their kids, who have food allergies, to eat. Now all benefit from their fresh and meticulous approach to healthy food. Togo’s in La Crescenta is popular for its sub sandwiches. Its menu offers a variety of sandwiches, including vegetarian, but also includes soup, salads and wraps. Town Kitchen and Grill is a community restaurant that offers a variety of items, from small bites to specialty pizzas including exotic mushroom pizza. Patrons remember the food, the great atmosphere and the service. It all comes together to make the restaurant a very popular place. And last but not least is Zeke’s, which is all about barbecue. The barbecue ribs, and pulled pork and brisket are unique for a California restaurant. Texas has nothing on Zeke’s.
Prom Plus thanks those restaurants that support the ToM event and encourages the community to visit those restaurants, said Prom Plus board member Kyle Studebaker.
For more detailed information on what the restaurants offer, along with their hours, please visit www.cvweekly.com.
Saluting Taste of Montrose Restaurants
By Mary O’KEEFE
Big Mamas and Papas Pizzeria
2307 Honolulu Avenue
S-Th 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Fri- Sat. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
This is where someone goes when a giant delicious pizza is needed. Pizza sizes range from 10 inches to 36 inches, enough to feed every hungry athlete on the team. The pizzeria is not just limited to pizza; its also has calzones, pastas, salads, wraps and sandwiches.
The pizzeria was founded by brothers Are and Allen Agakhanyan. The brothers, with their mother, immigrated from Armenia to the U.S. in 1985. Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria opened six years later and has since grown to 20 restaurants throughout Los Angeles.
BMPP opened in 2010 by franchise owner Raymond Bacshee. The chefs at the pizzeria make their sauces fresh every day and have the distinction of having an Egg Gonola pizza, a gondola-shaped pizza filled with eggs and butter and mozzarella and feta cheeses. Orders can be delivered, picked up or eaten at the restaurant.
2331 Honolulu Avenue Ste. C
Tu-Th 5 p.m. to close
Friday noon to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to close
Saturday noon to close
Sunday noon to close
For three years now Casa Cordoba owners Jeannie and Chris Bone have brought the taste, sound and now dinnerware of Spain to Montrose. From the minute a patron walks into the adobe and tile courtyard, there is a feeling of calm. The colors and beautiful Spanish music seem to sweep one into the courtyard. The food is what keeps people coming back. Jeannie has traveled with her chef to Spain to not only sample the food but to also see how it is authentically made.
“I have a passion for [Spanish] food,” Jeannie said in a past interview with CVW. From its truffle potato chips and Salmorejo Cordobes, a southern Spanish raw tomato soup, to the amazing arroz, the Spanish flavor is all around.
In addition to the food Casa Cordoba often has entertainment like guitarists and, on May 25 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., there will be a Flamenco show. Reservations are suggested.
Recently the restaurant expanded to add a gift shop with items including handmade ceramics, sangria pitchers, paella pans, gourmet food and more.
Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf
3701 Ocean View Blvd.
Daily 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
When asked what its is best known for, Ashley Pratt, the supervisor at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, said “our ice blended.”
“[We are] the original ice blended, the first company to start those types of drinks, so we are really proud of all our [ice blended] drinks,” Pratt said.
The shop grinds its own coffee every morning, too.
“The freshest you can get,” she said.
In addition there is a new bakery menu that includes croissants, bagels, muffins and donuts.
“Kids love the donuts,” she added.
Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is busy, no matter the hour. There is free Wi-Fi and students of all ages can be found drinking their favorite drinks and working on their homework.
“We joke that it is the Coffee Bean University,” Pratt said. “They are here all day long.”
In addition to those engrossed in their studies are others who are joking with friends over a cup of tea or coffee, parents spending some quality time with their children as they drink milk and munch on donuts and friends who have been around Montrose for decades meeting up to catch up.
4121 Pennsylvania Avenue
Call for reservations (818) 957-1499
It’s late. You have been working all day and now its time to make a meal for your family. If lucky you will get family members to help; however, they too have been working or going to school all day and are equally tired. This is where Dream Dinners works best.
“We do all the shopping and chopping,” said Stephanie Carnes, owner of Dream Dinners in La Crescenta.
It is simple. A person can choose meals from a long list of recipes and let Dream Dinners know what meals were chosen. They do the shopping and the sous chef preparations. The busy person then comes to Dream Dinners and prepares the meals.
“When you walk in the door everything is set up for you in advance. We help you assemble the meals and you take home about 12 to 14 portions of ready-to-go meals,” Carnes said.
The meals are not cooked and go into the oven or stove the night the meal is desired.
“Our focus is to help busy moms,” she added.
Dream Dinners also focuses on “growing great kids.” That, Carnes said, is easier to do around the dinner table.
“We do the food prep for mom so she can get her family back around the dinner table,” she said.
Dream Dinners offers fundraising for local organizations and school clubs. It offers three, three-serving meals for $35 and $10 of that goes to the non-profit organization.
For reservations or for questions about the fundraising opportunities, contact Dream Dinners.
ETC Gourmet Kitchen
3600 Ocean View Blvd.
W-F 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturdays 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sundays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
ETC Gourmet Kitchen is a great place for sweet snacks, a relaxing lunch or a delicious dinner.
“We make everything from scratch,” said Robin Seifert, ETC owner.
Seifert opened her restaurant about two-and-a-half years ago and it has become a popular place to go and has a loyal customer base. The menu offers something for everyone from chicken salad to lamb lollipops – yes, lamb lollipops! And of course beef Wellington along with home made pasta.
“We are getting busier,” Seifert said.
Part of that growth has come from ETC’s catering.
“We do a lot of catering,” she added. “I love it.”
Like the other restaurants that supported Taste of Montrose, Seifert gives back to the community from ToM to Fremont Elementary School.
Seifert plans on staying open later on Thursdays and Fridays and later for dinner on Saturdays. In addition to all of the meals and sandwiches, ETC also offers cakes and pie by the slice – something that is a little unusual.
ETC also offers cooking classes and this summer will be offering a cooking camp for kids.
“The classes are fun. I do a lot of kids’ birthday parties,” she added.
Franks Famous Kitchen and Bakery
3315 N. Verdugo Road
M-F 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Roger and Tracy Frey have owned Franks Famous for 13 years. They have some very “famous” menu items including Tracy’s Chicken Salad and their maple balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing.
“Everything is made from scratch. We make everything ourselves; there is nothing processed,” Roger said.
They also bake their own cookies from scratch, which is unusual for some restaurants, Roger added.
The restaurant has some seating inside and outside but many people order lunch for take out.
“Some customers are on tight schedules,” Roger said.
It is easy to call Franks and have lunch prepared for a quick pickup, but what keeps the couple and their staff very busy is the catering side of the business.
The Freys both grew up in La Crescenta and have deep ties to the community, which is what keeps them saying “yes” to organizations that ask them for their support.
2301 Honolulu Avenue
Daily 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Anyone visiting Montrose will notice that this is a community that walks, and a community that walks with a dessert in their hands. Honolulu Avenue is perfect for this type of eating and exercising. Froyo Life is a self-serve frozen dessert shop. Customers take the size of cup they want and fill it with frozen yogurt. Then comes the most difficult part – deciding on a topping, which are numerous.
Then it is all about socializing with friends and enjoying the Montrose Shopping Park.
Gelsinger’s Amber Road
2016 Montrose Avenue
M-T 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
W-F 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“We are a specialty store that caters to gourmet food and food products,” said Sarah Velasquez, a Gelsinger family member.
The Gelsinger family has been in Montrose for decades and are known for their meats.
“Our sausages,” Velasquez confirmed. “They are house ground and made here – something that we have been providing the area for over 80 years.”
Their meats, including the sausage, can be found in the store’s freezer along with quiches that have become very popular.
Now the store has become a specialty shop for flavorful infused olive oils and vinegars.
“Anyone can come in and sample any of the oils and vinegars any time,” Velasquez added.
Mountview – A Multilevel Retirement Community
2640 Honolulu Avenue
Lunch daily 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Dinner daily 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Mountview may not be what comes to mind immediately when you think of dinner but they do have a restaurant that serves the public.
“We are a senior living community and have a restaurant-style diner,” said Nicole Taylor of Mountview.
The restaurant is not only for the residents of the retirement community but for their families, friends and the entire community. The restaurant has a variety of items on the menu and encourages the community to stop by for a visit and a meal.
Reservations must be made for the restaurant and for tours.
“We can show [those who take the tours] our Memory Care Unit and introduce them to al the activities we do at Mountview,” she said.
The facility has several features including private and shared apartments in a home-like setting, common areas for socializing, dining and entertaining and offer signature programing including Vitality Club, Walking Tall and Second Wind Dreams.
Mountview also has an Alzheimer’s and dementia care program built around each person’s life history, cultural heritage, current abilities and interests.
2138 Verdugo Boulevard
M-Th 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Dinners 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Dinners 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Sunday 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.
New Moon opened its doors in Montrose in 2005 and is one of five restaurants around the LA area. The Tom family owns the restaurants that Montrose New Moon manager Owen Alanado describes as “Chinese fusion for the modern palette.”
“We definitely have traditional Chinese [menu] with a modern twist,” he added.
Diners will be able to find traditional meals like Mongolian beef and Kung Pao chicken but also some favorites like its popular New Moon chicken salad.
“We have Chloe Shrimp (a crunchy sweet and pungent sauce) and Shelby Sweet and Spicy Beef. Both are named for the Tom family daughters,” Alanado said.
In addition to lunch and dinner the restaurant has a popular happy hour.
“Our bartenders are also mixologists, so we are always [introducing] new and clever drinks,” he added.
Happy Hour offers drinks and appetizers like potstickers that Alanado said are great to share with friends at their lounge area.
Pepe’s Mexican Restaurant
2272 Honolulu Avenue
Daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“Food and the service,” said Jaime Salinas, manager of Pepe’s, of what the restaurant is best known for. “The service is really good.”
The family has owned Pepe’s and Margaritas Mexican Restaurants since 1970. Many of the family members work at the Montrose Pepe’s. For years Pepe’s was located in La Cañada but then, nine years ago, it moved to Honolulu Avenue in Montrose and has become the community meeting place.
It is known not only for the homemade Mexican food, “not TexMex” but also for its margaritas, Salinas said.
There is a happy hour Monday through Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Rest Farmhouse Inspired
M-F 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
2420 Honolulu Avenue
Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“We are doing well,” said Kristina Evans, co-owner of Rest Farmhouse Inspired.
The restaurant is farm-to-table with many dishes literally coming from the Farmer’s Market to Rest’s tables.
“We have a niche market here,” she said.
Evans and her business partner Theresa Rosette are La Crescenta moms who both have children with food allergies.
“Eating out became cumbersome because you get tired of asking someone to make something special for you … ‘Can you take this off?’ or ‘Can you change this?’ We just wanted a place where people had access to the chef,” she said.
And so the restaurant was opened.
All of their pastries and sweets are gluten-free, too. The recipes come from Evans as the executive chef who researches different foods and gets “inspired.” Evans approaches the menu from a chef’s point of view while Rosette, as an engineer formally with Jet Propulsion Laboratory, loves the science behind baking.
“She is the ‘sweet’ person so all the pastries are her creation,” Evans said.
One of Rosette’s creations is the blueberry lavender muffin, which includes her lavender syrup.
A signature item is the Parisian sandwich. For this they take a pork belly, house cure it, then smoke and slice it at Shriner’s in Montrose. They serve it on sourdough bread with brie and housemade bacon jam.
“It’s really good,” Evans said.
2611 Foothill Blvd.
Daily 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Jeff Cohen has owned the Togo’s franchise in La Crescenta for four years.
“We use quality ingredients in generous proportions and we try to keep prices as reasonable as we can. That’s why we create value,” Cohen said.
That philosophy appears to be working as Togo’s has become the place to go for lunch in the La Crescenta area. Its menu is extensive including special vegetarian sandwiches.
“We have four or five vegetarian meals now and they aren’t just the absence of meat, which is what a lot of vegetarian sandwiches are,” he said.
Togo’s also has soups, salads and salad wraps. It is well-known for the toasted sandwiches, and have cookies and brownies to give the meal a sweet end.
Togo’s can also cater events from their entire menu.
Town Kitchen and Grill
2276 Honolulu Avenue
Dinner M-Saturday 5:30 p.m. to closing
brunch Sunday 11a.m. to 2 p.m.
“I think people come to Town for a great experience,” said owner Jim Collins.
He added people ask what their specialty is – food, the bar?
“The answer is we place equal emphasis on food and on our beverage experience but we also place a significant amount of emphasis on service,” he said. “The point is we are a restaurant that opened to serve the community, we want the community to feel comfortable here.”
He said the best compliment anyone could pay him was that they felt like they are “home when they come to Town.”
Town’s brunch, which began over a year ago, is growing in popularity.
“I think the community is discovering they can come here and get a great brunch experience,” Collins said.
As for the menu, Town has a wide variety from “small bites to pizzas.” The restaurant has a 650-degree stone pizza oven and make fresh pizza crust everyday.
“We make about 40 pizzas a night,” he added. “They are specialty pizzas.”
Those pizzas include an exotic mushroom that is “to die for.”
2209 Honolulu Avenue
M-Th 11a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sunday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Breakfast: Sat-Sun 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
“We are family-oriented, comfort food establishment,” said Andrew Godin, Zeke’s manager.
Zeke’s is part of the Gelsinger legacy in the Montrose area, with Kirk Gelsinger its owner, but Godin said the definition of family goes beyond to everyone who works at Zeke’s
“We have [employees] who have been here since we opened 16 years ago,” he said.
Godin has been there eight years himself.
“We are known for all our barbecue. We get people in here from Texas who are surprised and happy to find us,” he said.
California, he added, is not known for barbecue and that is exactly why Gelsinger decided to open this restaurant.
“Kirk Gelsinger spent a lot of time with the partners going around to different places researching for authenticity rather than just boiling ribs and putting sauce on it,” he said.
Godin said one signature menu item is difficult to define because so many items area popular; however, he would say that the brisket is in the forefront.
“Although the meatloaf is to die for, and if you like pork we have pulled pork and our ribs …” he said.
But then he thinks of his menu and comes to the conclusion that it is “the barbecue” that is the signature item and the reason customers return again and again.