Hidden Gem: Eat Food Drink Coffee

Although it may be a smallish suburban city, there are many things that Cerritos, CA is known for. For one, it’s got that really cool titanium-plated library with a shark tank, which was named one of the world’s 50 most beautiful libraries.

Of course, there’s always the Cerritos Auto Square that pretty much everyone in SoCal knows about as well. The Los Cerritos Mall, Cerritos Towne Center, and the Cerritos Performing Arts Center are also popular local destinations. Yet none of these involve one of the best secrets in Cerritos.

Okay, I lied. The hidden gem I’m talking about is Eat Food Drink Coffee, and it is located right next to the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. However, most locals who live right down the street are oblivious to this wonderful little cafe that feels like home away from home.

Eat Food Drink Coffee Ube Pancake 2

When I first discovered Eat Food Drink Coffee, I actually almost missed it. It is adjacent to an office building, contained to a smallish corner of the large, corporate-looking edifice. However, once you meander inside, it’s a whole new world of warmth and good vibes.

The service is stellar, and even though I don’t prefer disclosing right off the bat (if at all) that I write about food, they must have detected that we were food lovers, because they seemed to especially enjoy having us there… in a genuine way. Juan, our chef, delighted in the fact that we trusted him to choose the options that came with our meal, and personally brought the food out to us.

Eat Food Drink Coffee Ube Pancake 1

We had the ube (purple yam) pancakes, which are technically not on the menu, but I had heard about them and they were accommodating in making them for us. The uniquely purple pancakes had the subtly sweet, starchy and slightly vanilla-like flavor, so they were definitely made with plenty of the real stuff. Your first time trying them (be sure to ask for them!), don’t expect a fluffy interior so much as a cake-like texture, which actually goes quite well with the ube flavor. Delicious, and a must-try for ube lovers and curious foodies.

We also got a breakfast bagel sandwich filled with a fried egg and crispy bacon, which was the special of the day and came with a hot beverage. Seeing how our group was sharing different items, Chef Juan cut the sandwich into four pieces before bringing it out to us. Talk about personalized service!

Eat Food Drink Coffee Sandwich

Lastly, the turkey and crispy onion sandwich on ciabatta bread was the perfect lunch dish to end our meal. The soft ciabatta bread held together moist turkey slices, crisp lettuce, a zingy mustard and crispy crushed onion rings. The Hawaiian hazelnut boba (yes, they have boba too!) is another flavorful complement to your midday meal. They also have a few interesting crepes, such as the red velvet or the PB&J, which I personally have yet to try.

As Juan chatted with us, it was clear that he loves his job and enjoys making people happy with his food. It was also clear that this place needs to be put on the map, because most current customers are office folks who need to get in, get out and get on with their work… and thus can’t truly appreciate the cafe for all that it is. Additionally, after the new management took over the cafe in August, even the office folks have been skeptical to give them a try, due to past experiences with an old place in the same location. However, this new gem, tucked away in an unassuming business plaza, is truly worth seeking out.

Eat Food Drink Coffee Location

Eat Food Drink Coffee is located at 17785 Center Court Drive, Suite 185 Cerritos, CA 90703, and they even deliver. They are open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on select Saturdays during the same hours as the nearby Cerritos Farmer’s Market. My recommendation would be to call them at 562.402.4400 before coming if you’re hoping to catch them on a Saturday.

Trust me, you’ll be glad you tried it. Cerritos pride!


Bridging Generations Through Mexican Food at Chalio’s

L.A. boasts an abundance of good places to find traditional Mexican food throughout its various parts. However, Chalio’s Mexican Restaurant in Whittier, CA has stood out for generations for its famous birria, or meat stew made with a base of dried, roasted peppers. Although birria has traditionally been enjoyed only on special occasions, Chalio’s owner Raul Luis’s father started serving it years ago out of the family’s backyard after he’d lost his job.

Once word spread of the delicious fare, customers needed some sort of sign to find their way to the family’s home. The cactus by their fence became the designated landmark letting people know they’d found Chalio’s! Now, Chalio’s has grown to multiple locations in the L.A. area and in Texas.

Invited to a Chalio’s Cinco de Mayo food tour, my friend and I visited the Whittier location for the first time. Here’s what we had, and how it was:

Nopal Sope

· Nopal sope – I loved that the pinto beans were whole instead of refried in this dish, which gave the beans a fresher taste instead of weighing the dish down. The diced nopales, or cactus leaves, were tangy and not slimy, as they sometimes can be. The sope was topped with pico de gallo salsa, queso fresco and a slice of avocado. All of these ingredients sat on top of a masa dough base, which brought the dish together to create a unique and healthier sope. Raul expressed his concern over the elevated risk of heart disease and diabetes in the local Mexican population, and said he wanted to create a change in the community and cater to more health-conscious customers through dishes such as these. The sopa de birria (pictured below) had a more traditional base of refried beans, and was topped with red onion and cilantro.

Sope de Birria

· Zacatecano taco – This taco consisted of carne asada, nopales, pico de gallo, queso fresco and a slice of avocado served on a handmade corn tortilla. “With this dish, I’m trying to get more of the younger generation to try nopales,” said Raul. “If they eat it this way (mixed with carne asada, in a taco), they’ll like it, and my hope is that we can transition them so they can eventually enjoy more traditional dishes.”

Birria Taco Dorado

· Taco dorado de birria – This unique dish stars the famous goat stew, stuffed into a fried taco shell. It is then topped with red onions and cilantro, then drenched in a savory tomato-based consommé. The filling was moist and plentiful, and the shell added a nice crunch. The consommé made a flavorful dipping sauce for this texturally complex, very tasty dish.


· Camarones a la diabla – Juicy shrimp in a thick and spicy “devil” sauce, made with a combination of chilies, herbs and spices, served with rice and beans. By this point we were beyond stuffed, so I took the dish home. Plus, I didn’t even mention all the great drinks that our super sweet and hospitable server Stephanie kept bringing out for us: Micheladas, horchata, sangria, mango and strawberry margaritas with agave wine… and even vaporized tequila!

I first experienced the Vaportini (pictured below) while covering the amazing 2014 Las Vegas Nightclub & Bar Convention. However, I hadn’t seen it elsewhere since. How does it work, you ask? The liquor is heated at the bottom of the globe, and you suck the vaporized alcohol through the hole, via straw. Not my favorite way to consume alcohol, but certainly a very innovative one!

Vaporized Tequila

Cinco de Mayo may be over, but did you know that September 16 is the real Mexican Independence Day? Still, you don’t have to wait for a special occasion to check out Chalio’s if you want to try something unique and authentic. If you do visit, let me know your thoughts!

Often hosting fundraisers to benefit today’s youth, Chalio’s is involved in the community and is constantly looking to find ways to bridge the gap between the newer and older generations. Upon returning from the feast, I learned that Anthony Bourdain had also visited the Chalio Birrieria in East L.A. Interesting, right?

When walking into the restaurant, the friendliness of the staff and the decor inside are two things you notice right away. Raul’s motto is to keep on improving, as he constantly keeps his staff motivated to do a stellar job. He also owns Bad Azz Burrito, which is a custom-built burrito joint with massive portions located in Saginaw, TX. The eatery hosts weekly burrito challenges to finish a 3-lb, 9-lb, or 11-lb burrito in record time. Just something to think about if you happen to be in Texas… because the food may be bigger in Texas, but L.A. is where lies the authenticity in Mexican food!