Eureka, CA: La Patria Means "Homeland" And Boy Is It Nice To Be Home Again!

La Patria Mariscos & Grill Restaurant

1718 4th Street
Eureka, CA 95501
Phone: (707) 407-3848

FINALLY, after 8 years of mediocre Midwest Mexican food, I found a real Mexican restaurant and I had to return to California to find it!
La Patria is unassuming and simple with 8-10 tables, one waitress, one cook, and great food. As soon as I sat down, a small (complimentary) bowl of refried beans topped with cheese arrived along with freshly made chips and both red and green homemade salsas. Draft beer is $3.50 and an order of guacamole is $3.95.

They have everything you would expect, including carnitas, carne asada, fajitas, tacos, rellenos, enchiladas, tostadas, burritos, tamales and so on, but they had a few things I had not seen before in 59 years of loving Mexican food. Gorditas and sopes, both coming in a baked masa (corn meal) enclosure, the gorditas more like a round sandwich and the sopes similar to a tart pastry shell. Both are filled with refried beans, cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, and your choice of meat (carne asada, carnitas, shredded or ground beef, and chicken among others – fish, shrimp, lamb and goat are $2 more). 
For $10.49 you get your choice of a soft taco, crispy taco, super taco, enchilada, chili relleno, tamale, burrito, tostada, gordita, or sope (choose any two – any meat) with rice and beans. I had a super taco (a large, fried flour tortilla filled with shredded beef, lettuce, tomato, cheese and guacamole) and a gordita with carnitas. The super taco shell was a bit greasy, not surprising as flour tortillas do not deep fry quite as well as corn, but it was massive, filling and delicious. The gordita was excellent, not greasy at all with the crispy masa halves filled with carnitas and the other yummy ingredients.
The place is simple, the service excellent, the food delicious, and the prices very reasonable. What more can you ask for in a Mexican restaurant … FINALLY!

CombatCritic Gives La Patria Mariscos & Grill Restaurant 9 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!

Nine Bombs Equates To:
“U.S. Marine Response To A Verbal Greeting Or As An Expression Of Enthusiasm”

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp – Elite ’14/’15/’16

Tabelog – Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato – #1 Ranked Foodie

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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Title: Eureka, CA: La Patria Means “Homeland” And Boy Is It Nice To Be Home Again!

Key Words: La Patria Mariscos And Grill, La Patria, la, patria, Eureka, California, CA, Mexican, 4th, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Colorado Springs, CO: Inflexible, Prima Donna Chef Rubbed Me The Wrong Way … Au Revoir La Baguette

La Baguette
4440 N. Chestnut Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80907
Phone: (719) 599-0686
Prices: $$$$

Having traveled extensively in France, I have come to love French food (we have none in Lawrence, Kansas) and have been wanting to try La Baguette since I was in the Springs for my mom’s passing and funeral in February 2015. Being my first return since then, I decided to take my son there for dinner on my last night before heading home.

Their prices were reasonable and the menu had all of my traditional favorites, including escargots, fondue, mussels, veal, beef Bourguignon, cassoulet, steak Diane and steak frites, but the side dishes were either boring or odd. For example, the veal dish, which sounds exquisite, comes with quinoa pilaf … yuck … and the beef Bourguignon is accompanied by boiled potatoes … blah, so I asked the very nice server if it were possible to substitute mashed potatoes or French fries for the quinoa or boiled potatoes. After all, we were going to blow a C-note on dinner for two, including appetizers, entrees, and a bottle of wine, so it seemed like a simple request. Well, I guess it was not because her answer was: “the chef doesn’t like substitutions, so mashed potatoes would be an additional $6”.

Six bucks to substitute mashed potatoes for quinoa, really? I was not hearing things because she confirmed it with an “I’m sorry, but those are the rules” look on her face. I was not about to eat quinoa pilaf with a lovely veal or boiled potatoes with a rich beef Bourguignon and I definitely was not paying an additional $6 for mashed potatoes, so we left. Their prima donna of a chef should think of his customers more than his vanity and pride, after all, La Baguette is a strip mall restaurant on Chestnut in Colorado Springs, not a bistrot on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Get a clue chef.

Being rather late and hungry, we stopped at Carrabba’s on the way back to Monument and blew a C-Note there, enjoying appetizers, entrees, and a bottle of wine, leaving satiated and content because they were more than happy to make substitutions without charging an extra arm and a leg. C’est la vie … au revoir La Baguette!

CombatCritic Gives La Baguette 2 Bombs Out Of 10 … The Only Reason They Did Not Get 1 Bomb Out Of 10 And A Spot On My WALL OF SHAME Was Because Of The Nice Female Server … More Bombs Are Better!
Two Bombs Equates To
“Tits Up” 

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp – Elite ’14/’15/’16

Tabelog – Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato – #1 Ranked Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!

… And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!

Title: Colorado Springs, CO: Inflexible, Prima Donna Chef Rubbed Me The Wrong Way … Au Revoir La Baguette

Key Words: La Baguette, la, baguette, French, Bourguignon, escargots, France, Colorado Springs, Colorado, springs, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Translation for Civilians: Tango-Uniform = “Tits-Up”

IT’S "THE BOMB" … Great meal, superior service, outstanding value … as good as it gets for the price!

Pizzeria La Tavernetta
Viale San Modestino, 5
83013 Mercogliano, Italy
Phone: +39 0825 787020
Prices: $$$$$

Santuario di Montevirgine
My iPhone decided to go on the fritz again while my wife and I were spending the night at a hotel in Mercogliano, a hillside town about 30 miles (50 kliks) east of and a world away from Naples, Italy, after visiting the famous mountain top abbey called Santuario di Montevergine. The Abbey of Montevergine has been the site of religious orders dating back to the 12th Century and sits almost 5,000 above the base of Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples. It was reportedly the hiding place of the Shroud of Turin during World War II and is home to the massive and celebrated Byzantine painting on wood of the “Madonna” (Blessed Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus).

Baked Scamorza and Porcini Mushrooms – €10
Anyway, back to my crappy iPhone. We were searching for a place to eat on TripAdvisor (because there was a dearth of reviews in the area on Yelp) and found an excellent option, Pizzeria La Tavernetta, which appeared to be in close proximity to our hotel, Hotel Mercurio. However, when I clicked on “Directions”, both Google Maps and Waze could not pinpoint my location even though “Location Services” was enabled on my iPhone. So, we decided to do it the old fashioned way and ask the hotel desk clerk. He took us outside and pointed to the restaurant next door and sure enough, it was La Tavernetta … HOOAH!
As we entered, we were greeted warmly by the pizzaiolo and one of the owners apparently. There was a smattering of occupied tables in the large dining room and a party of about 35 celebrating a birthday at the long table next to ours. I began to become concerned after 10-15 minutes of being mostly ignored by the waiter and thought about going elsewhere, but I knew he (the only waiter) was overwhelmed by the large group and decided to wait.  Am I glad we did!
Antipasto San Valentino – €8
The owner came over and apologized shortly thereafter and the young waiter was nothing less than superb from that point forward. We started with a bottle of mineral water, the local red wine, and the antipasto San Valentine (€8), a massive plate (plates actually) filled with various salamis, prosciutto, guanciale, two medium balls of mozzarella di buffala, two bruschette (plural of bruschetta, which is prounounced brew-sket-ah, not brew-shet-ah as most Americans do), black and green olives, as well as marinated and roasted mellenzane (eggplant), mushrooms, and carrots. Accompanied by a basket of bread, it was a feast in itself, well worth the €8, and we nearly filling before our main courses arrived.
My family comes from a town about ten miles away and the wine was a bit drier than the local wines made there, but it was dark, fruity, and robust, an excellent value at less than $5 a bottle.
Sausage and Frierielli Pizza – €6
I had been craving my favorite frierielli (broccoli rabe) and sausage pizza for over a month and seeing it on the menu had no other choice even though they have a nice selection of primi (pastas), secondi (meat dishes), and contorni (side dishes – potatoes, vegetables, etc). The pizza was as big as any I have had in Naples, the home of the best pizza in the world, and one of the best sausage and frierielli pizzas I have had, including Naples. The crust was perfect, thin yet firm and slightly crispy (unlike Roman pizza which is like eating a cracker with tomato and cheese) and was well covered with fresh mozzarella, broccoli rabe, and large chunks of fresh, sweet sausage. The waiter read my mind and offered “olio piccante” (a spicy olive oil flavored with peperoncini) before I could get the words out of my mouth, adding just the right amount of spice to accompany the perfect pizza.
My wife had the baked scamorza, a stronger tasting cousin of mozzarella found mostly in Southern Italy, and porcini mushrooms (€10) and again we were not disappointed. Two large melted balls of cheese topped with just the right amount of sauteed porcini mushrooms was filling and delicious.
We stopped to talk to the owners, brothers I take it, on the way out and were treated to a small complimentary glass of “digestivo”, in this case a local green liquore reminiscent of absinthe, but made by the abbey monks from herbs found on the mountain slopes near Sanuario di Montevirgine – a perfect ending to an outstanding meal!
Unlike many reviewers, I give the maximum number of “bombs” (stars) rarely (as you can see from my rating distribution here and on Yelp and TripAdvisor). My ratings are based strictly on “bang for the buck” and for €33 plus tip, this was a meal deserving my five-star rating and I can safely say that Pizzeria La Tavernetta is “THE BOMB”!
CombatCritic Gives Pizzeria La TavernettaThe Coveted 10 Bombs Out Of 10 … More Bombs Are Better!
Read More Reviews By CombatCritic On Yelp And TripAdvisor … And Don’t Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube


Title: Great meal, superior service, outstanding value … as good as it gets for the price!

Key Words: Pizzeria La Tavernetta, pizzeria, la, tavernetta, Apple, iPhone, pizza, pasta, antipasto, frierielli, broccoli, rabe, sausage, scamorza, Viale San Modestino, montevergine,

83013, Mercogliano, Italy, CombatCritic, TravelValue

La Familia … Mediocre Mexican Food and Watered Down Margaritas

La Familia … Mediocre Mexican Food and Watered Down Margaritas

La Familia Cafe and Cantina
733 New Hampshire St
LawrenceKS 66044
(785) 749-0105

Prices: $$$$$

La Familia is a small restaurant with friendly service and decent food. Being a Mexican food junkie from SoCal and used to some of the best Mexican food north of the border, I have high standards. La Familia failed to meet those standards, at least on our first visit.

I ordered the large guacamole, trusting the server when she said it would be “just right” for two … it was enough for four and at $7+ not a total bargain. It was tasty even though we ended uo taking half of it home.  I also tried the margaritas, an impressive 16 ounces for $5 but lacking ANY noticeable alcohol content (isn’t that the whole idea?). 

My wife is Italian and not a big fan of Mexican cuisine, so she usually orders a quesadilla and did not surprise me here. An Italian that hates tomatoes, does not cook (thankfully, I am quite a good cook) and does not drink wine, she makes a great designated driver. Trying to find Mexican food WITHOUT TOMATOES is like trying to find a beach in Greenland … Good luck! The quesadilla was stuffed with tasty sauteed mushrooms, but little, if any, cheese. The name “quesadilla” comes.from the word “queso”, meaning cheese, so you would expect cheese. There was none that we could find, but my wife liked it nonetheless. 

I always order the staples, tacos and enchiladas, when trying a new Mexican restaurant because if they cannot get those right, there is little chance the rest of the food will be with trying. Store-bought chips and pre-fab tacos shells are another dead give away and La Familia did again disappoint, although the tacos were tasty and the shells the large variety, beating out any Mexican restaurant in Lawrence so far (Fuzzy’s Tacos being the exception), but that is not saying much. The cheese and onion enchilada was nothing special. Finally, the “sweet” salsa I had heard so much about was awful, but thankfully they have two other savory and spicy options. 

In all, when a bunch of gringos run a Mexican restaurant, you cannot expect authentic recipes and that was the case at La Familia. We will return and give them another chance only because they are so convenient and my wife liked the chesseless quesadilla. Asta la vista baby!

La Familia gets 5 Out of 10 Bombs … Bombs Are Good!

la Familia Cafe And Cantina on Urbanspoon

Key Words: La, Familia, Mexican, restaurant, food, eat, taco, enchilada, burrito, salsa, sweet, guacamole, mediocre, margarita, Lawrence, Kansas, CombatCritic