Restaurants Video

Meet The Family Greek Bakery That Expanded Its Reach To California

There’s some incredible stories of Greek families that have made names for themselves in the restaurant world here in the United States. Legendary icons like Chrys Chrys of Papa Cristo’s in Los Angeles or celebrity chef Michael Psilakis are some of the headliners.

Adding to that growing list of Greek restaurateurs is the Pietris family, who’ve been running a successful bakery business in Corinth that dates back 100 years. In 2017, they made their way out to Long Beach, California, and opened a location of their bakery and restaurant in the Belmont Shores neighborhood.

The original Pietris Bakery location opened nearly 50 years ago in Corinth, Greece, where Theofanis and Athanasia Pietris made a name for themselves baking bread. Today, they’ve spread to a half dozen locations throughout Greece, in addition to the satellite location in Long Beach.

Pietris’s Long Beach location combines what you find in Greece with some California flair. There’s an entire lineup of Greek gelatos (aka Pagoto) up for offer, along with plenty of fresh-baked Greek pastries and cakes.

There’s also an entire restaurant menu you can order from, which includes some massive portions of pancakes, hearty burgers, and other creative twists on Greek food.

Foodbeast recommends trying the Titan Style Baklava Pancakes, Greek Brunch Burger, and the Baklava Pagoto when you stop in. There’s also a brand new item, Tiramisu Pancakes, that’s set to debut on the menu sometime in October.

To hear our full thoughts on Pietris and the different dishes they serve, check out the video above recommending our top picks.

Grocery Packaged Food

The Frozen Dumpling Delivery Empire Built During The Pandemic

Chances are that if you’ve been in California for the past year or so and are a dumpling fan, you’ve heard of Cali Dumpling. Started in Southern California during the pandemic, the frozen dumpling delivery service has since expanded its reach to as far north as Sacramento, effectively selling dumplings across most of the Golden State.

Born as a way to help keep local restaurant employees paid, Cali Dumpling has since become its own operation, with an exclusive factory churning out over 30,000 handmade dumplings every day.

Co-founder Allan Tea, who’s also behind SoCal restaurant brands like Capital Seafood and the Hello Kitty Cafe, initially used the dumpling delivery business to keep his restaurant employees paid. Now, most of them have returned to their normal jobs, he told Foodbeast, and the dumpling factory has an entirely different set of staff.

It’s a strong testament to how Cali Dumpling has grown in the past year and a half. Initially available in just a few cities, weekly delivery is now available across Southern California, and there’s even a few farmer’s markets you can pick the dumplings up at as well.

Where Cali Dumpling stands out most is the quality of their dumplings. Almost everything in the factory is scratch-made, down to different dough types for certain dumplings and hand-butchered pork butts, the bones of which are saved to make meat jelly for the xiaolongbao.

In terms of price, they’re also pretty competitive with high quality dumpling houses. A bag of 30 comes out to $16-$19 depending on which variety you order, averaging 50-60 cents per dumpling. (There’s also a flat $10 delivery fee, all of which goes directly to the company’s drivers.)

For those looking for a new frozen dumpling option that intersects quality and price, Cali Dumpling hits all of those marks and does a lot to help support its employees. They’re also available for wholesalers to purchase, and Tea hinted to Foodbeast that they’re looking to eventually sell the dumplings in grocery stores.

Adventures Culture Restaurants

6 Unique Calamari Dishes That Prove Monterey Is The World’s Squid Capital

When you think of the seaside town of Monterey, California, the first things to come to mind are likely the internationally renowned Aquarium, or the famous Cannery Row where sardines were once king.

The sardine industry is a spectre of the past, as there’s only one business left in operation that processes the fish. One seafood you can find across menus pretty much everywhere in town, however, is calamari. It’s local, abundant, and affordable enough that many restaurants tout themselves on their ability to cook the tentacled mollusk.

Photo: Nickola_Che // Shutterstock

How did calamari get this level of reputation in Monterey? According to Jim Covel, a former Monterey Bay Aquarium Guest Experience Training director (and current volunteer/historian), squid have always been something that was a core fishing product for the bay.

“The first commercial fishers in [Monterey Bay] were the Chinese,” Covel explained, noting that they had set up shop as early as the 1850s. As more people (and competition) arrived, the Chinese village eventually turned to fishing squid late at night. It wasn’t just for the shellfish, however: By salting and drying the squid out then shipping it back to China, consumers there could avoid a heavy salt tax by using the crystals affixed to the squid.

Sicilian fishers also came to the area, but early on, “squid was treated more as bait than a dish,” according to Covel. The taste for squid was there though, as it is also common in Mediterranean cooking, and by the 1920s, a “lively squid industry” began to take shape, something the city could rely on even if sardines (and eventually, abalone) were more popular and valued catches at the time.

Photo: Mironov Vladimir // Shutterstock

This mainstay of calamari Covel mentioned enabled the city to thrive even when its biggest industries took a hit. The sardine canning industry was a bust by the 1950s, and after that, abalone, once cheap and abundant, also nearly reached the brink of extinction.

As a way to get people to eat more squid, many restaurants that once sold abalone began prepping calamari in the same way the more valued counterpart would have been cooked. Often times, this meant pounded out flat, breaded, and fried, although several other techniques were used as well.

It led to Calamari festivals in the 1970s that drew the attention of papers like the New York Times, who called it “a relatively inexpensive testimonial” to squid. Monterey was convincing people that calamari could be a useful and tasty alternative, and that shaped the industry into its modern view.

That history has helped create a unique breeding ground of creativity when it comes to calamari. Today, as Covel told Foodbeast, you can still get squid straight from the boat or fish markets for a relatively inexpensive price. Combine that with the unique history of groups that have migrated to the bay, and you get a community that’s naturally churning out globally inspired calamari creations.

Below are just some of the one-of-a-kind offerings Monterey’s calamari scene has to offer, but there’s plenty more to go around as well.

Calamari Street Tacos – Abalonetti’s

For many years, the kingpins of Monterey’s calamari empire have been Abalonetti’s. They pride themselves on hand cleaning the fresh squid daily, which is a tough chore that most squid get sent abroad for. On top of that, you can find a host of unique calamari dishes, of which the street tacos are one of their more recent additions.

Buffalo calamari, calamari Caesar salad, and Sicilian-style calamari sauteed in white wine are just a few of the other possible ways to enjoy squid here.

Squiddle and Eggs – LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle

There’s not a lot of breakfast specialists in Monterey, but those that are around definitely have some form of calamari steak and eggs on the menu. LouLou’s is one of the most celebrated and legendary local spots to offer squid for breakfast, breading and frying a massive calamari steak before serving it up with salsa, toast, and eggs. Those who question the concept of seafood for breakfast will definitely be convinced by any Monterey spot offering this up.

Calamari Steak Sandwich – Woody’s at the Airport

Again, while not too common elsewhere, a lot of lunch spots around Monterey will have a calamari steak sandwich on the menu. The one at Woody’s is a classic variation done simply yet executed brilliantly. Cracker crumb breaded squid is fried and served on bread with lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce. Fast food chains, take notes.

Whole Grilled Calamari and Bento – Sapporo

To my knowledge, this tourist hotspot right before the tunnel to Cannery Row is not related to the massive Japanese brewery (although Sapporo is for sale there). They do incorporate a lot of seafood twists into their menu, however, especially with calamari. There’s a few different preparation styles up for offer, the most eye catching of which is their grilled whole squid, Poppo Yaki.

You can also catch calamari steak slung up hibachi style on a grill, and fried calamari rings are a core piece of each bento box you can order at Sapporo.

Abalone Style Calamari Steak – Sandbar & Grill

The two local hotspots for calamari in Monterey are Abalonetti’s and Sandbar, and the latter of these specializes in “abalone style.” It goes back to presenting squid as that low-cost alternative to abalone, so it gets breaded and fried in the same way. Get it straight with a side of lemon, or coated in generous spoonfuls of picatta sauce for a vibrant and refreshing seafood meal.

Calamari Parm – Monterey Fish House

Also available at Abalonetti’s as the “Marty Special,” this might be the ultimate form of calamari you can find that’s uniquely Monterey. It’s actually a double parm dish, as you get both fried calamari and eggplant stacked on top of each other. The entire thing is then smothered with tomato sauce and cheese, with sides of pasta and veggies rounding out the epic squid feast.

All of the above dishes prove that squid can be a versatile and low-cost seafood alternative. Over the last 150 plus years, the communities that have come to Monterey Bay have transformed it into unique dishes. The creativity chefs find with calamari here is boundless, manifesting into local favorites and staples you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere.

With all of that in mind, it is definitely fitting to call Monterey the “Calamari Capital,” since what’s being done with squid here is truly one of a kind.

Sweets Theme Parks

Disneyland’s Newest Summer Treat Is A Dole Whip Pineapple Split

Photo courtesy of Disneyland

Disneyland’s punniest ride, Jungle Cruise, just got a major revamp and is now reopened. To celebrate, the theme park is going big on one of their most iconic tropical treats and making a Dole Whip Pineapple Split.

Sold at the Tropical Hideaway just next to the Jungle Cruise ride entrance, this spin on the banana split swaps in slices of fresh pineapple. Generous dollops of Dole Whip are served on top, along with mandarins, strawberries, blueberries, coconut caramel sauce, dried hibiscus, crushed plantains, and toasted coconut.

Photo courtesy of Disneyland

While supplies last, these will be served in souvenir containers designed to look like one of the boats from Jungle Cruise. It’s available starting July 16th, so if you’re in the park and love the ride, you may want to go for one of these souvenir boats first.

Disneyland’s reopening is clearly in full swing with the new rides reopening and treats that come with those occasions. With the Halloween season at the theme park just around the corner (September 3rd is the starting date), we’re excited to see what else the theme park has to offer after a year-long hiatus.

Fast Food Restaurants

Popcorn Chicken WINGS: Where Boba Shop Snack Meets Bar Food Classic

Photo: Peter Pham // Foodbeast

Popcorn chicken has to be one of the tastiest things you can find at most boba shops. The crispy chicken snack, consisting of fried pieces of chicken (often thigh) dressed in a craveworthy seasoning, is far beyond any of the bite-sized nuggets fast food joints serve up.

At Rose City Pizza in Rosemead, California, the Taiwanese popcorn chicken is getting a creative spin in the form of chicken wings. Instead of the typical boneless pieces, they’re using the same wings the restaurant would use to make buffalo wings, but instead dusting on the popcorn chicken seasoning and chili oil to add a whole new dimension of flavor.

While it may seem outlandish at first, it’s nothing new for Rose City, whose creative pizzas menu already features Taiwanese popcorn chicken (and you can even get a boneless version as a side as well). They also make their own chili oil with Sichuan peppercorn, plus a creamy Thai basil aioli on the side that far exceeds your typical ranch dressing.

For those who love boba shop popcorn chicken and love wings, this is the perfect fusion of a snack.

Fast Food Plant-Based

Plant-Based Orange Chicken Is Coming To Panda Express Via Beyond Meat

Photos courtesy of Panda Express

There’s already a fast-growing market for plant-based American Chinese dishes like Orange Chicken and Honey Walnut Shrimp. Panda Express is taking advantage of that opportunity with a new meat-free version of their legendary Orange Chicken.

Panda teamed up with plant-based meat purveyor Beyond Meat for their new vegan option. Beyond, who just launched their own plant-based tenders, also has meat-free chicken projects ongoing with fast food giants like KFC.

Beyond Meat brought their new plant-based chicken to the collab, while Panda provided their classic Orange Sauce to give the dish its signature flavor without any of the poultry.

For those looking for plant-based side or alternative protein options, Panda recommends any of their sides (Chow Mein, White Rice, Brown Rice, or Veggies) and also has an Eggplant Tofu entree. With this new partnership with Beyond Meat, there’s also an open opportunity for the two to collab more in the future. Plant-based Ma Po Tofu, anyone?

Panda’s plant-based Orange Chicken will be available in select locations in New York and Southern California starting July 26th for a limited time. One can only hope that this will eventually scale to a nationwide, permanent menu item for plant-based or flexitarian consumers.

Fast Food

Popeyes’ New Nuggets Will Soon Be Available Nationwide

Photo courtesy of Popeyes

Popeyes already has some serious fried chicken cred under its belt as the reigning champ of the Fried Chicken Sandwich “wars” on top of some seriously good crispy poultry.

They’re looking to bolster their reputation as fast food’s top fried chicken by doing the classic nugget better than everyone else, and that iteration is getting served up nationwide soon.

Photo courtesy of Popeyes

Foodbeast first reported on the existence of these new nuggets in February 2021, and on July 27th, they will be available at all Popeyes locations nationwide. During tests, these chicken bites got some serious high marks on Twitter, akin to what drove the popularity behind Popeyes’ signature chicken sandwich.

In restaurants, you’ll be able to order between 4 and 36 pieces of the new nuggets, which use the same recipe as the chicken in the Popeyes sandwich. Folks that order using the Popeyes app can go even bigger and get 4 dozen nuggets at once.

Time will have to tell if Popeyes can strike lightning twice with these nuggets, but so far, the early signs are pretty promising.

Packaged Food Sweets

Kraft Mac & Cheese Ice Cream Pints Are Now Real

Photo courtesy of Kraft

The first thing that comes to mind when you hear that Kraft Mac & Cheese has an ice cream is that it’s a gimmick, or an April Fool’s prank of some sort.

We’re in July, however, and these pints of cheesy ice cream are no joke. It’s a serious collab between the mac and cheese magnate and Van Leeuwen, a premier Brookyln-based ice cream maker who’s churning out a limited batch for $12 a pint.

Van Leeuwen incorporated all of the flavor of Kraft mac into their ice cream base, according to a press release. Not sure if that means they just whisked the cheese powder from the boxes in, but that’s not a bad idea, especially with how good salty and sweet work together.

Cheese ice creams aren’t also anything extremely groundbreaking. Purveyors like Salt and Straw have made their livelihood off incorporating tangy goat cheeses into ice cream, and there’s a variety of ice cream brands that mix cheddar into their pints. The precedent is there, but this is a pretty big brand like Kraft making a splash in the cheesy ice cream pool.

For those interested in acquiring a pint or two, they’ll be sold on the Van Leeuwen’s website starting at 11 am ET on July 14th. You can also grab a scoop at Van Leeuwen stores in LA, Houston, and NYC while supplies last. A Kraft Ice Cream truck will also be outside of New York City’s Union Square from 11 am – 6 pm on the 14th, slinging out free samples of the mac and cheese ice cream.