Friday, June 17, 2011

Foodie Girls Lunch Brigade - Episode 25

My husband looks up as I rush past him to grab my car keys from the hook by the door.

Him:  Where are you off to in such a hurry?  I thought the Foodie Girl thing was for lunch.
Me:  It is.  But first a bunch of the moms are going to Happy Feet.
Him:  Happy Feet?
Me:  Yeah.  It's apparently this place where you go and get a foot massage.  It's an end of the school year treat.  We're very stressed out.
Him:  Do they know about your feet?  Like, are they insured?
Me:  Shut up!
Him:  Seriously.  Do you need some cash?  It's going to cost a fortune to get some stranger to touch those things.
Me:  Oh my god!  Why do I even talk to you?
Him:  And you should definitely have left a few hours ago. There's not enough time in the day...
Me:  I am so not bringing you any leftovers.

I turn and head out the door.  He calls after me.

Him:  I bet they change the name soon! To Scary Feet!
Me:  I hate you!

My horrifying feet and I soon arrive at a nondescript mini mall a few miles from my house.  After exchanging hugs and hellos, our group ducks into a cool, dim room, where the sound of small waterfalls and soothing flute music* greets us.  There are simple bamboo screens, plants, and very cushy looking chairs set up just past the pleasant entryway.  We all begin to whisper in hushed tones:

"Have you been here before?"
"No, never!"
"I bring the kids.  They love it!"
"How do they do the pedicures in the dark**?"

Suddenly, a burly man in a face mask is at my elbow.

Him:  Lady?  You ready?
Me:  Um, sure.  I guess so.

There's my cushy chair, with matching cushy footstool, draped in clean white towels.  Mr. Face Mask gestures for me to place my things next to the chair, and to step into a wicker basket between the chair and the footstool.  The serenity of the darkened room is momentarily disturbed by my sharp yelp of surprise when my toes hit the lake of steaming water that is hiding in the basket***.

Recovering nicely (in my own mind), I begin to sit in the chair, ready to start in on my rehearsed apology for having such crappy feet. Instead, MFM points me in no uncertain terms toward the footstool.  I sit, facing the chair, feet firmly planted in the basket of hot water. He puts a small flat pillow on my legs, then signals for me to lean over and place my hands and arms on the chair.  I am now folded over my own lap, completely mystified by what's going on****.   Not only am I doing yoga unexpectedly, out of nowhere, strong hands begin to massage my shoulders.

My neck muscles:  Ye-OW! What the hell? Christ! That hurts. Oy! Oy! Oy! Holy #$%*! Ah, jeez. Good lord almighty! A little to the left. Yeah. Ooh. Ooh. Eeeeee! Oy. Whoa. Uh. Ugh. Uh. Ugh. Oh.  Oh. Man, how did this knot even get in here? It's the size of a piano. Ouch. Ouch. Yikes! More down.  Ah ha. Right. There. Great. Great. Hmm. Mmm. Zzzzzzzz. Oh no. No. Other side. Ye-OW!

A gentle tap. I am cleared to move to the chair. Zombie-like, I rise, arms flaccid, rotate my body, and sit down heavily.

MFM:  Lady? Lady? You like head massage?
Me:  Mmfph.

An hour later, after my arms, legs, and those truly pitiful feet of mine have all been given the full treatment*****, we assemble like shell-shocked wet noodles in the parking lot.

Fellow FG:  Tony's?
Me:  Mmfph.

Episode 25 - The Comfort of Tony's
Going from mini mall to mini mall is a very LA thing to do.  Likewise, finding delicious food or muscular bliss within those strips of unremarkable storefronts is also an unheralded benefit of life here. So it seemed only fitting for us to say farewell to FG10, who is moving away in a few weeks, with a visit to Tony's Mexican Grill.

Like Bua Siam, Tony's is squarely in the flats of the Valley, sharing a small parking lot with a Donut Inn and a dry cleaner.   As I snap a photo of the outside, a woman in an apron comes out and asks if I need help.   When I explain that I'm taking pictures for a blog, she looks puzzled, then smiles and waves me in, laughing.

"I don't even know what a blog is.  But we'll be glad to get you set up.  Thanks for coming!"  She heads back to the kitchen and sends out chips and salsa for the table.

It's that kind of place.

Roasted corn salad, with grilled shrimp and fresh avocado

No wonder people love it. That, and the food is very good, too.  The menu is full of traditional Mexican fare:  tacos, enchiladas, burritos, with a long list of salads, soups and breakfast items, along with  "big plates" of grilled meat or seafood, vegetables, and sides.   Everything is made from scratch, from fresh ingredients.  There are no trendy specials, and not a single dish is "plated" for effect.  There's too much food for that.

The chicken "Big Plate" lives up to its name
Here come the Nachos...
Our group of 10 takes up nearly half the restaurant, but the staff cheerfully works their way around our awkwardly assembled table, taking orders and bringing drinks.  We have a few non-FGs with us, and they are initiated into the rituals of ordering, sharing, and letting me grab a shot before digging in.

Combo plate, with chile relleno and an outstanding chicken enchilada in green sauce
Plates go around.  There's more than enough, and it's all tasty.  Will any single bite change your life?  Nope.  It's just good, hearty food, lovingly prepared by people who care.  Per the name, the standouts seem to be the grilled dishes, although my tempura-battered mahi mahi tacos are also excellent.

Everyone's chattering away, at least until we clink the napkin holder and give our best wishes to our departing friends. FG10 solemnly promises to eat herself silly in Seattle, with photos and dispatches for the rest of us.  It's in print now, so she has to do it.

The "Wet" beef burrito, with warm homemade ranchero sauce
The family delivers small bowls of ripe, fresh fruit, with a spoonful of delectable sweetened yogurt, to the table.  It's a lovely way to end the meal. We lean back, smiling.

We're relaxed.
We're very happy.
And it's not just our feet.

FG Final Verdict? Tony's is ON the list.
Pricing Information:  Most dishes $7-11.  Our cost was $14 per person, including tax and tip.
FG Value Rating:  A steal!

* Personally, I don't find Asian flute music soothing.  It makes my teeth hurt.  But maybe other people do.
** Several people thought they were going to get a pedicure.  They were, of course, misinformed.
*** Important life lesson.  Just because something appears to be woven of reeds and full of holes doesn't mean it can't have a waterproof plastic lining.
**** I have a great view of my feet, by the way, and they look almost harmless, beneath the shadow of my belly, shrouded by the dark water.   My husband is clearly way off base here.
***** There was a warm oil foot rub and special attention paid to each little piggy, without even a sign of MFM freaking out.

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