Chicken and waffles at Steampunk Coffeebar cafe
“The Stack” is the house specialty at Steampunk Coffeebar in North Hollywood, Calif.

Breakfast so frequently disappoints that it’s a special pleasure when a cafe delivers not just good food and great coffee but an all-around warm experience. Such is what happened when I stopped at Steampunk Coffeebar and Kitchen in North Hollywood on a recent Sunday morning. Owner Amy was at the counter making jokes about working in her sleep. I know the feeling.

With Amy’s guidance, I ordered the house specialty, called “The Stack.” This beauty of a breakfast consists of fried chicken, bacon and a fried egg perched on two fluffy Belgian style waffles drizzled with maple cayenne aioli. The chicken was lightly breaded, a little spicy, and nicely crisp. The gentle glazing of the maple cayenne aioli — just enough for flavor, not drowning – gave the dish a sweet/savory contrast that I enjoyed. On the side was fresh kale with onion, which balanced the plate out both visually and flavorfully. And it was a lot of food for $10.50.

But Steampunk isn’t just about good eats. This is a place that takes coffee seriously. Really seriously. In fact, the woman who roasted the beans was standing next to me as I ordered, and her husband was the barista behind the counter. Steampunk’s coffee comes from Belli Fratelli Roasters, a husband-and-wife business that buys organic beans from coffee cooperatives in Central and South America. I tried both the Mexican Mocha (double shot of espresso with Mexican chocolate; $4.75) and regular drip coffee. The mocha had a pleasing combination of the rich Mexican chocolate, a hint of cinnamon, and the deep espresso. The drip coffee was perfectly mellow and balanced. Not your everyday coffee bar coffee, by any means.

The full menu at Steampunk covers all the bases from dawn to dark. Savory options include a vegan burrito (potatoes, onions, red peppers, kale, greens, salsa, and avocado, served with homemade chips and salsa; $9;) s sesame chicken salad ($10,) and grass-fed burgers – the one I want to try next time I am in the area is called the “HMO:” Grilled onions, greens, and tomatoes, topped with habanero mushroom onion aioli and served on a brioche bun ($11.)

I also enjoyed the decor. Bright natural light illuminated the space, with dark wood tables and light green walls. By 9:00 AM, the place was busy, with a nice combination of people clearly familiar with Steampunk and each other mingling with a handful of people like me, who just wandered in. Next time will be deliberate.

SteamPunk Coffeebar + Kitchen​ on Urbanspoon

One of my friends called this blog post to my attention, and it squeals for sharing. Not sure which US pork producer came up with this innovative product that certainly helps use a whole animal more completely, but apparently there’s a market for more than just pork butt or rump roast.


These boxes were spotted in Taiwan but originated in the United States and likely destined for use in dim sum or other dumplings. Here’s a link to another blog that went deeper into it:

Inverted Pork Rectums For Sale

In reality, this is more a problem of the name than anything else. I know many chefs who wouldn’t waste any meat on an animal carcass, and I’ve certainly watched a few put animal parts into a pot that I probably wouldn’t use myself. But it’s all protein, isn’t it?

Photo via

Ever read a Yelp review of a restaurant in which someone talks about getting sick from something they ate?

Frequently, I read reviews like that and can tell from either the description or timing that the restaurant likely isn’t to blame. However, this great collaboration between the New York City Department of Health and Yelp has found a way to flag reviews describing what might be legitimate reports of foodborne illnesses so that the health inspectors can check them out.

Here’s an article by one of the top food safety writers, Maryn McKenna, that goes into detail:

Yelp Helps NYC Health Department Track Foodborne Illnesses.

And thank you, National Geographic, for creating The Plate, which is providing a steady flow of intelligent, informative articles about food.

<br This National Geographic video is a good overview of how food borne illnesses actually occur.    

Potato skins
After an online reviewer complained servers at Atomic Grill weren’t “showing enough skin,” the owner put this on the menu, with proceeds going to support rape crisis services.

Recently, a spirited discussion erupted on a neighborhood group’s Facebook page  after one person posted a scathing online review about a bad experience at a restaurant on Mother’s Day. Many of us thought the person who posted the review and related comments on Facebook was wrong to condemn a restaurant for one episode of bad service on what is known to be one of the most ridiculous days of the year for even the best restaurants. I was pleased that many people were able to judge the negative comments in context. Most restaurateurs try really hard to treat customers well. Sometimes, even the best slip, but that’s when they are able to show just how good they are. Truly great restaurants know how to handle problems – real or imagined.

In that vein, I loved reading this account of a West Virginia restaurant owner who knew exactly what to do after someone who dined at his restaurant posted a negative online review on Urbanspoon that complained that women staff members should wear skimpier uniforms. So good to see the Atomic Grill getting positive attention for what is unquestionably a clever and positive way to respond to a ridiculous negative review. Bravo to owner Daniel McCawley. And, seeing his menu and his Facebook page, I’m thinking a visit to Morgantown, W.Va., ought to be on the agenda sometime soon. (The original negative review was deleted.)

According to ABCNews:

“From now through Memorial Day, Atomic Grill will be offering a potato skin special for $7, and 100% of the proceeds will go directly to the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information Services. ‘We took offense to the review and wanted to flip it in a positive way,’ McCawley explained.”

Hard to imagine a better way to handle an errant online review than this.
Atomic Grill on Urbanspoon