Crazy Otto’s Diner: Where Quantity is King

The pancakes barely fit on the plate at Crazy Otto's.
The pancakes barely fit on the plate at Crazy Otto’s.

Upon a recommendation of a friend, SCVFoodie headed over to Canyon Country to visit Crazy Otto’s Diner, the chain’s newest location, which opened last year. (In Southern California, they have two restaurants in the Lancaster area, one in Acton and one in Rosamund, north of Lancaster.) We heard that Crazy Otto’s had crazy-sized portions, but we didn’t know exactly how absurd the dishes were until we ordered the following:

  • Machaca and Eggs: Eggs and shredded beef with tomatoes, onion, bell peppers, topped with Jack cheese. We opted for the hash browns and toast as our sides.
  • Stack of three pancakes: It comes with two eggs and a choice of meat. We chose the ham slice.
  • Crazy Otto’s Burgermeat Omelette: Seasoned ground beef with onions, Ortega chiles and cheddar cheese. We ordered it with avocado (extra) and hashbrowns, biscuits and gravy.
The Burgermeat omelette with hashbrowns, biscuits and gravy.
The Burgermeat omelette with hashbrowns, biscuits and gravy.

So when the dishes came out, we were floored. Any one of them could have fed our party of three. The waitress said that the omelettes were made with six to seven eggs, but by the size of the Burgermeat, which must have weighed at least three to five pounds, we’d bet that there were more eggs in that omelette. It was hearty enough that the 16-year-old boy in our party couldn’t finish it (when do you see that!), and we had to take at least a third of it home.

While are jaws dropped at the size of the portions, our palates, unfortunately, didn’t dance with flavor. The Machaca wasn’t zesty, and the ample hot sauce we poured over it only helped a little. It could be improved if the meat were more tender and a few jalapeños—or spice, any spice—were added. The Burgermeat fared a little better flavor-wise, though both dishes were too greasy. Also soggy with grease were the hashbrowns, which were soft and undercooked. (We like them crispy).

The ham was nearly an inch thick, but was a little tough and flavorless. The pancakes were the best of all the dishes: They were moist and so large that the last one had to be folded over in order to fit in the to-go-box.

Hot chocolate with whipped cream, Crazy Otto's style.
Hot chocolate with whipped cream, Crazy Otto’s style.

We learned from the Crazy Otto’s website that before Otto opened his restaurants, he spent time cooking for lumberjacks in the Pacific Northwest. So with that in mind, the tradition of the portion sizes make sense; however, this is Southern California, and we live a much more sedentary world than Paul Bunyan so that part doesn’t (hello obesity epidemic!). Crazy Otto’s does offer half-sizes, but it’s misleading—they only discount the half-sizes by $1, so most of the customers will pay for that full order.

Speaking of price, those super-sized portions don’t come cheap. Our bill for three dishes and a coffee, a soda and a hot chocolate came out to more than $50 before tip.

Crazy Otto’s is a great place for lumberjacks, football players and those with super metabolisms. For the rest of us, it’s a typical greasy spoon diner that serves up enough food for breakfast, lunch and dinner with one dish.

Crazy Otto’s Diner
19132 Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country
661-299-6886 (OTTO)

The Worst Philly Cheesesteak Ever

Just no.
Just no.

At SCVFoodie, we try our best to find the silver lining in all dining experiences, even the disappointing meals. We know that, for the most part, restauranteurs and foodservice workers are hard-working, dedicated people who care about the food they create, and we try hard to be constructive as possible in our criticism. But we also have to be honest.

So all that being said, we had the worst. cheesesteak. ever. at Hot Wings Cafe on Town Center Drive. Not only was it devoid of flavor, but it had this greasy film that coated our tongues and didn’t leave for hours. We tried beer, soda even ice cream to remove the residue, but our efforts were in vain. We think the server probably knew that the cheesesteaks weren’t stellar; she saw that we didn’t even come close to finishing them, and didn’t bother to ask how our meal was or if we wanted the rest of our sandwiches boxed up.

We’d never been in a Hot Wings (it’s a local SoCal chain) before this recent visit, and it seems that it’s an establishment with an identity crisis. Like the now-defunct Titled Kilt and Varsity on the other end of Town Center Drive, Hot Wings isn’t sure if it wants to be a restaurant for the SCV families or a nightclub/sports bar, so it tries to be both. While we spied families with kids in the restaurant while we were there (a Friday night around 7 pm), there was a robust bar scene and large TV screens on the other side of the restaurant. The lights dimmed during our dinner that must have signaled club time.

The restaurant’s decor is no-frills and sterile, and the dinnerware is much too formal, almost mismatched for the cuisine. We don’t need our cheesesteak served on an unadorned heavy white plate—actually we don’t need the cheesesteak. Period.

One good thing about our visit? The fried zucchini was great.

Hot Wings Cafe
24501 Town Center Drive
Valencia, CA 91355

Move Over, Red Lobster: Bonefish Grill Opens in the SCV

Bonefish Grill opens at the Valencia Town Center.
Bonefish Grill opens at the Valencia Town Center.

The Santa Clarita Valley gets a new seafood restaurant option on Monday when the Bonefish Grill officially opens to the public. We had the opportunity last week to take a sneak peek at the restaurant’s interiors and sample the fare, and we think the restaurant should do just fine in Awesometown.

A restaurant line owned by Bloomin’ Brands, who also owns and operates Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse, Bonefish Grills is definitely more upscale than Red Lobster or California Fish Grill at the other side of the mall. It has a nicely appointed interior that lets in a lot of natural light and doesn’t come off as stuffy.

The bar area is spacious and there’s outdoor seating on the patio available, too. During the media preview on Thursday, the passed appetizers included the restaurant’s signature Bang Bang Shrimp, which was a crispy shrimp dish tossed in a creamy, spicy and sweet sauce. The fried dish and the glaze reminded us a little of General Tso’s chicken, which is tasty, but we can only eat on occasion. Ahi tuna sashimi (sesame-seared rare with wasabi + pickled ginger) were passed out, too, but could have used a touch more seasoning. We didn’t get a chance to try the Lobster Flatbread, but it looked amazing.

IMG_2827
The Fish Taco at Bonefish Grill.

Moving onto the appetizers at the dinner, we had a chance to sample the Blackened Baja Fish Tacos with fresh romaine, mango salsa, lime crema + fresh herb pesto. The menu item comes in an order of three full-sized tacos, which are perfect for sharing as a hearty appetizer or as a meal itself. The Cilantro Lime Shrimp Salad was next; the greens were fresh, the grape tomatoes were sweet, and the feta worked well with the shrimp, which was grilled perfectly. The entree size is a huge enough portion for anyone.

Next up for the diners (as if we needed another entree) was the Surf + Turf Mixed Grill: Ahi Tuna Pan- Asian Style, Chilean Sea Bass with Mango Salsa and Filet Mignon. The Ahi Tuna was too much like the appetizer, and we prefer the filet at other steak restaurants better (Ruth’s Chris, The Palm). The steak came out a little lukewarm, and not sizzling, but our party was quiet large, but at least it’s good to know that there are options for non-seafood eaters. The star of the Surf + Turf was the Sea Bass: The fish was tender and mild, and the sweetness of the mango salsa was a perfect complement.

Bonefish Grill's Berry Shortcake and Espresso Martini
Bonefish Grill’s Berry Shortcake and Espresso Martini

The final course was a fresh Berry Shortcake (a number of the restaurant’s desserts are made in-house, and switch seasonally).  The shortcake biscuit tasted homemade, and the creme anglaise complemented the berries. The dessert was a great choice for a heavy meal—just light enough to stuff our faces a little more. The dessert was paired with an Espresso Martini that includes Vanilla vodka, Kahlúa, Crème de Cacao and fresh brewed espresso. It tasted like a sweet, cold brew coffee.

But since Bonefish Grill really wanted to make a good first impression, they surprised the diners with a surprise, second dessert. Three warm doughnuts, tossed in cinnamon sugar magically appeared. There were interesting plastic bottles filled with chocolate and sea salt caramel sauces with tips that could be inserted and injected into the doughnuts to fill them with sauce. It was a little more trouble than it was worth, so instead we topped the doughnut with the sauce and added a little on the side for dipping. Much better. Despite the overly complicated dish, the doughnuts were pretty amazing and highly recommended.

Yes, ultimately, Bonefish Grill is another chain restaurant in the SCV, but if the preview is any indication, its seafood fare will be a welcome option.

Bonefish Grill
24201 Valencia Blvd., Ste 3210
Valencia, CA 91355 (at the Valencia Town Center Patios)
661.219.0021

Newhall Refinery’s Handcrafted Cocktails

Newhall Refinery's new cocktail menu includes the Old Fashioned, naturally.
Newhall Refinery’s Old Fashioned

Newhall Refinery is one of our favorite restaurants in the Santa Clarita Valley. The gastropub located in the heart of downtown Newhall is owned and operated by the same folks (Simon and Shannon Mee) behind the Egg Plantation.

The menu offers seasonal and generally locally sourced items, and their beer selection is diverse, varied and rotated. Who else in Santa Clarita would bring in Clown Shoes from Ipswich, Mass.? But sometimes we’re just not in the mood for a pint, and until recently, the Refinery only served beer and wine.

A few months ago Newhall Refinery introduced a complete menu of handcrafted cocktails. While they’re pricey for the area—but not L.A.—at $12 a pop, the ingredients are fresh and use high-quality and sometimes organic spirits and mixers when possible.

Our table tried:

Newhall Refinery's Moscow Mule.
Newhall Refinery’s Moscow Mule.

» The trendy Moscow Mule with Hanson Organic Vodka, muddled mint and lime and Fever Tree Ginger Beer. The bar also gives customers the option to try a different spin with Teeling Irish Whiskey or muddled fresh lavender.

» The light and refreshing Blackberry Fence Hopper with Hanson Organic Vodka, muddled blackberries, fresh lemon juice and Turbinado Sugar.

» The classic Old Fashioned: Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon, muddled orange wheel, Abbott’s Bitters, cane syrup, maraschino cherries.

See the full cocktail menu.

The restaurant’s happy hour is short, from 4-5 pm Tuesdays through Fridays, and the cocktails aren’t discounted. The beers and wines are though, as are some of the food items.

Newhall Refinery's hummus.
Newhall Refinery’s hummus.

While you really can’t go wrong with any food pairing off the restaurant’s menu with your cocktail choice, we’re partial to the hummus appetizer as it also has baba ganoush, seasonal vegetables, and crispy naan to share ($11).

If you’re feeling a little more decadent then go for the Refiner’s Fries. Always the Refiner’s fries. The dish features mornay (cheese) sauce, beer braised beef brisket and green onion topping the fries. The happy hour mini-order is $5, but the full order is an even better deal at $8. Like its distant Canadian cousin poutine, it’s more than enough for a meal. Trust us. We’re experts on those fries.

Newhall Refinery
24258 Main St, Newhall, CA 91321
Hours: 11 am-10 pm Tuesdays through Thursday; 11 am to 11 pm on Friday and Saturday; and 11 am to 9 pm on Sundays.

Bargain Breakfast Burrito Alert: Burrito Factory

Meet the Burrito Factory's bargain breakfast.
Meet the Burrito Factory’s bargain breakfast.

The Burrito Factory has been around for nearly four decades, opening its first location in Chatsworth, and now boasting three additional locations in Santa Clarita, Sunland and Granada Hills.

SCVFoodie is a big fan of bargains, and we can honestly attest that the all-day breakfast burrito (at least at the Valencia location on Soledad Canyon Road) is a great deal. It’s a decent-sized breakfast burrito—two eggs, refried beans and potatoes wrapped in a tortilla with a side of chips—for $3.25.

Yep. $3.25.

There’s nothing fancy or gourmet about it. What you see is exactly what you get, and in this case, we’re OK with that—especially with a side of salsa and a few shakes of Tapatio.

On the downside, we can’t recommend the Burrito Factory’s guacamole. It’s way too runny. The last batch we had was closer to a chilled avocado soup than guac. Stick to the burrito and you’ll be fine.

Burrito Factory
21032 Soledad Canyon Road
Santa Clarita, Calif. 
661-288-0222

Hours: 7:30 am to 9 pm, Sunday to Thursday. 
7:30 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday

A Love-Hate Relationship with Dink’s

The breakfast burrito with meat, potatoes and cheese at Dink's Deli in Granary Square.
The breakfast burrito with meat, potatoes and cheese at Dink’s Deli in Granary Square.

The SCVFoodie team has been going to Dink’s in Granary Square for years. We don’t go to the one at the Valencia Town Center because it’s basically the same menu, just more expensive to pay for the Town Center real estate prices. So at Granary Square, we do love the chicken noodle soup, especially when we’re sick and the breakfast burritos (pictured above) are simple, yet delicious. The burritos could be our favs in the entire SCV, but we haven’t done enough taste-testing to compare—yet.

Dink’s in Granary Square is a no-nonsense restaurant where you order and pay at the counter and then they deliver to your table. Simple, right? Unfortunately for Dink’s it’s not. We can’t tell you how many times they’ve lost our order slips between the cash register and the kitchen window. During our last visit, a few weeks ago, we watched as two parties complained because their orders were lost in that Bermuda Triangle. Our order wasn’t lost, but when I ordered a fountain drink, and then took a sip at the table, the soda was warm.

I asked for ice, but the staff told me that they had run out. Don’t you think that this is something you should tell customers before handing them piss-temperature Diet Coke? Or maybe how about buying some ice at the Ralphs at the other end of the shopping plaza? This is why we have such a love-hate relationship with the place. Love the food, but the service leaves so much to be desired.

And don’t even get us started how the food establishment has no restrooms for customers.

Eat This Now: Rita’s Frozen Custard and Italian Ice

Chocolate-vanilla custard twist at Rita's in Stevenson Ranch. | Image: Christine N. Ziemba
Chocolate-vanilla custard twist at Rita’s in Stevenson Ranch. | Image: Christine N. Ziemba

Tucked away in a sad strip mall in Stevenson Ranch is Rita’s Ice, Custard, Happiness, serving up cold treats that have been summertime staples in the Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey areas for the past 30 years. It takes over a long-time vacant spot left by a Cold Stone Creamery’s short stint.

Rita’s has two basic products—Italian ice and frozen custard—which customers can mix and match in various combinations (though we tend to keep ours separate). 

For the uninitiated, Rita’s water ice is much smoother in texture than a Sno-Cone; and it’s not carbonated like an ICEE or Slurpee. But best of all, flavors are made fresh daily and served within 36 hours of mixing—so not all varieties are available at once, which is a good thing. They offer traditional flavors like Alex’s Lemonade, Blue Raspberry, Cherry and more exotic flavors like Sour Patch Kids Red, Guava, Passionfruit and Peanut Butter & Jelly.

Now, Rita’s Frozen Custard is similar to soft-serve ice cream, but thicker, smoother and tastier. Frozen custard includes egg yolks added to the cream and sugar (the basic ingredients of ice cream). It’s higher in caloric and fat content, but worth a splurge. The both times we’ve gone to Rita’s, they’ve had the basic flavors of Chocolate, Vanilla and Coffee, and we indulged in the chocolate-vanilla twist both times. Ahhh-mazing.

The most popular treat at Rita’s is the Gelati, which is an Italian ice flavor topped with a custard (and probably the next thing we order off the menu). You can add toppings to various menu items at Rita’s, but the water ice and custard flavors are that good that they need no embellishment. 

Rita’s Ice, Custard, Happiness
25802 Hemingway Ave., Stevenson Ranch
661.714.6841
Open seven days noon-10 pm