I have just returned from the Beef Roll Crawl and I have a lot to report back. First of all, the goal was 5 places in 4 hours. We ended up hitting the 5 places with a slight variation (see Kings Cup section) in just shy of 6 hours. The day was an absolute blast and the best part of all was that each roll was totally different. Not to mention that everyone on the crawl spent less than $20 for the entire day, average price per place was under $4. Minty is an expert crawl leader and when us, UG girls, started to become close friends with her we asked her if she could do a special UG crawl for us and this is what she came up. The beef roll was perfect as it had the delicate couth pastry side stuffed with uncouth beef and cilantro. The whole thing is rolled up into deliciousness and while you can use your chopstick, it is the perfect thing to just grab with your hands. On this Sunday morning, I found myself crawling with more than 15 foodie friends and while we were all surprised by the variation of rolls, I received a very personal surprise (see Mandarin Noodle Deli section.)
Doe Jon Station in Arcadia was the first stop for the day. I woke up with hardly a voice, which I discovered when I made a morning phone call and then realized I could not speak. That did not stop me, I may be loud and a chatterbox, but my main goal for the day was just simply to eat. As soon as I arrived, I realized that I had been there once before with SinoSoul and FoodIsMyNish. I remembered that they have good dumplings, big buns, and a delicious oyster soup. This time around we were joined by The Minty, Ian (our web guy), Nicola and her friend Jenny, Shemuell, and Derek Thomas (who I have only ever met at my infamous birthday dinner) and his girlfriend Catherine. We ordered the beef roll, small steamed buns, pork dumplings, and a twisted cruller.
The dumplings were still delicious but the beef roll was like something I have never had. The pastry part tasted identical to sesame bun and I liked that but the beef was dry and not fresh; and I am not sure the two went together. It also was more of a sandwich then a roll. I kept assuring the group of crawlers that rolls are way bigger and better than this. At the end of the day this was probably most people’s least favorite. However, it was Josie that insisted on the cruller after she saw everyone eat this monstrous churro looking thing with their porridge. She went nuts over this fried dough sans powered sugar and I will always like this place for dumplings, soup, and big ole buns.
101 Noodle Express was our second stop. For me and Josie it is was the first place we ever tried a beef roll, so it the measuring stick for how we judge all other beef rolls. This Arcadia location of 101 was much larger and fancier than the Alhambra one. We were spoiled by air conditioning and Mayo4You waiting for us at a large table. We ordered the combo plate of appetizers, beef noodle soup, hand cut wok fried noodles, steamed pork and celery dumpling, fried dumplings, and the beef roll.
I loved the soups and, of course, this beef roll was perfect. It was rolled tightly, the beef was moist, and there is a sweetness that I loved but Minty found to be too sweet. It was a full meal and OliveJina and Limer35 both made cameos at this stop. We ordered the most here and also dropped the most cash, a whopping $6 a person with tax and a 20% tip included. I think that this was most people’s favorite including my own.
Mandarin Noodle Deli was the third stop and we had several crawlers waiting for us including Kane, Matt, and Jessica. Later our favorite Yelpers Jenny, Allen, and Virgina joined in on the rolls. Josie has a ton of memories at MND with her ex so it holds a special place in her heart but when I have been here before to eat I haven’t been impressed. We were stuffed by this point so we just stuck to the beef roll and got three orders. It was loosely put together and this one contained green onion, a lot of green onion. It may have been a good addition if it was a small amount but it was just so much. It was definitely overpowered with onion but we all liked the hoisin sauce that accompanied it.
I was sitting at the other end of the table from Josie and at one point during beef rollin’ she said that an anonymous person she was sitting next to was roommates with the long term girlfriend of a guy I saw briefly. This guy was my grad school crush and someone that was a brief rebound after my boyfriend. At first I said, “That’s impossible” but after a few facts were confirmed like MBA student, job, and car driven I was sure that it was the same guy. I have dated a married man years ago, so I really can’t get angry but it just put a bad taste in my mouth. One of my new friends at the table is as big of a Will & Grace fanatic as me and he kept doing the Jack, “I WOULD DIE, I WOULD JUST DIE” line. In reality, I really don’t care but it was definitely one of those awkward turtle moments. I thought this was a good responsible guy, who could have that an MBA grad student could be such a sleaze bag? Anyway, on to the next stop and roll…
Michelle’s Pancake was stop number four and it was a pleasant surprise. This beef roll had no oil. The pastry tasted just like a thicker mushu pancake. They were totally light and were a favorite of mine. The cilantro was fresh and this one also had some leek thrown in, which I loved. Not only was the roll great but they also had the strongest garlic dipping sauce.
Kings Cup was a surprise in all aspects. We thought we were heading to Mama’s Kitchen, a beef roll hotspot. At the previous stop, I even made an announcement saying that Mama’s Kitchen was supposed to be a kind of disgusting place with no bathrooms and where the only food to order was the beef roll and that dish was supposed to be amazing. However, when we made our way to the last stop we didn’t find Mama but we did find Kings Cup. Different person and different thing. We were all tired and full, so we checked the menu, saw beef rolls and sat down and ordered. The menu had frog fried rice and duck feet and other interesting items but my table stuck with the beef roll while the other table ordered some dumpling and soup standards. This roll was very fried, the antithesis of the last roll. I liked the meat inside but not the roll. The whole dish just didn’t seem cohesive to me, there was just meat and cilantro thrown in. However, Josie really liked this one and said it was a favorite of hers. I could see that as the whole time it kind of reminded me of a flauta (something she also enjoys.)
It was a long day, but it was a fantastic day! I saw some old friends, met new ones, and each roll and restaurant had something totally different to offer. I want to thank all of you that joined us and, especially, The Minty for all of her planning. I hate to say it but…if you haven’t been on a Minty Crawl then you haven’t been on a crawl. She prints outs notes and maps and makes it so everything is close enough together and driving/parking is not an issue. You are free as a crawler to just enjoy the food, delve in, and explore your beautiful city. Crawl on folks and continue to Rock and Beef Roll!