Mango is a Reader contributor. See staff page for published articles.

Boomerangs Gourmet Burger Joint

My friend was anxious to treat me to a birthday lunch at a place called Boomerangs Gourmet Burger Joint. It’s been open for about five years, but I don’t live in Clairemont, where Boomerangs is located, so we simply never managed to get there until today. My friend knows that I love macaroni and cheese, and she was anxious for me to meet her friends, the owners Jose Munoz and Bruce Cohen. She said that Boomerangs has a special deal, in which you choose your mac and cheese, then you select items from their long list of delectables, to have added-in to your pasta. I had every intention of ordering the mac and cheese, until I saw the size of the portion! It was big enough to feed four people! We'll try it next time. Just know that Boomerang’s offers 24 different add-ins to their macaroni and cheese, things like horseradish; roasted red peppers; sun dried cranberries; bacon; jerk spice; Cajun spice and Kalamata olives. You also get a choice of one of the following meats: chicken breast, ground beef, ground turkey, bratwurst, shrimp, mahi-mahi, salmon or top sirloin. I ended up ordering a Portobello mushroom burger topped with grilled red onions, smoked Gouda cheese and grilled artichoke hearts. Excellent choice! For the burgers, Boomerangs has a list of seven meats, plus a Portobello mushroom, and a veggie burger. Then you get to choose three items to put on top of your burger. Then select one of 19 side dishes, such as: mashed potatoes with blue cheese crumbles, horseradish, bacon, and garlic; garlic French fries; chili corn on the cob; sweet potato fries; tater tots and tropical coleslaw, etc.For my side dish, I wavered back and forth between the garlic fries, the baked beans and the spicy onion rings. The food at Boomerangs is like quality gourmet fair food. Unlike the San Diego County Fair, the prices are quite reasonable. If this place had a motto, I think it would be: *So many dips, so little time*. Whether you order a burger or sweet potato fries, or an appetizer sampler platter, be prepared to be bombarded with a plethora of dips and sauces to choose from. They have a spicy chipotle sauce, habanero ketchup, a citrus glaze sauce, tropical salsa, garlic sour cream, and horseradish mayonnaise, to name a few. The best beer cheese soup I ever ate was from Boomerangs, which I slurped up with glee, along with my Portobello burger. I would travel across the county just for that soup. They also serve a vegetable soup with fresh seasonal veggies and potatoes, in a seasoned broth; and a spicy southwestern corn chowder. I think Boomerangs would be much better situated in an area like Hillcrest or North Park, which are geared more towards foodies. I just want to get the word out to people, so that if you do end up traveling through Clairemont, make it a point to check out Boomerangs , you won’t be sorry.
— August 2, 2013 5:44 p.m.

Lil’ Piggy’s Bar-B-Q

Last month, we ended up having lunch at Lil' Piggy's Bar-B-Q in Coronado. The fact that I'm a vegetarian didn't stop me from eating there, because in addition to the barbecue, which smelled smoky, tangy and scrumptious, they had a plethora of vegetarian side dishes. The boys went for the combos: pulled pork, barbecued chicken and beef brisket, each of which is served with two side dishes and slice of white bread, which I understand is a southern thing. From the way that they were chowing down and by the fact that there was silence, interrupted only by lip-smacking and chomping, I gathered that the Q was a hit. I ordered a small salad and was presented with an enormous plate full of lovely greens and veggies. I also ordered a basket of fried pickles! I'd heard of this southern delicacy before and my brother finally convinced me to try it. I'm so glad he did, although the portion size was big enough for three people. I ate it all by myself. The pickles, which are dredged in cornmeal and deep-fried, come served with a spicy jalapeño mustard dip that is now one of my new favorite things. Lil' Piggy's also features its own house-made barbecue sauces, three in fact. I mean no offense to Phil's Barbecue, but Lil' Piggy's sauces are better. They're more on the tangy side, rather than being sweet like Phil's. The sauces come with three different degrees of spiciness. I drizzled the barbecue sauce on my fried pickles, but I could have slurped it up like soup. I'm sure it wasn't their intention, but Lil' Piggy's satisfied this vegetarian with its abundance of veg-friendly side dishes like Pig Tails (seasoned curly fries) and Pile O' Rangs (beer battered colassal onion rings) Corn Fritters served with honey butter, Bar-B-Q Piggy Chips (fresh potato chips with a Bar-B-Q rub and house-made bleu cheese dressing) Mac & Chees, Corn on the Cob, Cole Slaw, and Po' Tater Salad. Lil' Piggy's Bar-B-Q is worth crossing the bridge for.
— September 20, 2012 9:27 a.m.

Date Night

I really wanted to like “Date Night.” Steve Carell and Tina Fey are two of the funniest actors on TV and in movies. They’re both very charming and have great chemistry. Unfortunately, the writing for this movie was just too bland. It wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t funny. In the hands of a more talented writer, say Nancy Meyers, who wrote and directed both “Something’s Gotta Give” and “It’s Complicated,” this movie could have been a really hilarious romp. The premise for the movie is a bit farfetched, Fey and Carell are a married suburban couple on a date in the city who accidentally get mixed up with organized crime, due to a case of mistaken identity. The improbability of the situation could easily be overlooked if the writing was at least somewhat amusing. I kept waiting for it to get funny, but it never did, which is really too bad because Fey and Carell are really likeable and wonderful together. Although it got mixed reviews, Steve Carell made an excellent romantic lead opposite Anne Hathaway in the remake of “Get Smart” from 2008. In that movie, he was handsome and sweet and cool (the opposite of his character in “The Office”) without being intimidating. And Tina Fey, always, is simply sexy (even in “Date Night”), funny and subtle. These two charismatic, funny actors definitely belong together and hopefully someone will come along soon to provide them with a more appropriate avenue with which to ply their trade, to shine, and to make us laugh. If you do go to see “Date Night,” try to stay awake until the end. You will be treated to a very funny outtake real during the end credits. Also, somewhere in the middle of the movie is a very creative car chase involving a fancy sports car and a taxi that is worth seeing.
— April 21, 2010 4:24 p.m.

The Pancake House

The best pancakes I ever ate were in a great mom and pop place called, simply, The Pancake House Restaurant, in El Cajon. The flapjacks in question were actually sweet potato pancakes, that were, as Mary Poppins described herself, “Practically perfect in every way.” The retro style of the place suggests that they’ve been in business for many years. I love those kinds of places, slightly well worn, but always welcoming. They have a pretty big dining room that can accommodate large, after-church breakfast crowds, but it’s still cozy and warm. And they have big comfy booths and Formica tables which are just the right size for spreading out big breakfast plates and the Sunday paper. I was introduced to the Pancake House by a good friend who was moving to Utah. He wanted to take me out to lunch before he left. It turns out that my friend knows the owners, Armin and Carol Salinas and, luckily, Carol was working the register that day. Our lunch date was mid-week, in the middle of winter and it was pouring down rain, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves, although the place is usually hopping on weekends. Carol said the Pancake House had recently celebrated its 44th anniversary. She also told us that they have an all you can eat “family treat” breakfast buffet consisting of scrambled eggs, country potatoes, bacon, sausage and pancakes all for $9.99, every day, an excellent price for a hearty breakfast. They also have an all you can eat fish fry for the same price on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays from 11:00 a.m. until closing. Dinner specials range from $3.99 to $6.49 and feature old fashioned comfort favorites such as fried chicken, Salisbury steak, grilled ham, liver and onions, and spaghetti with meat sauce. All the dinner specials are served with soup or salad, potato, vegetable and a dinner roll. For lunch they have a good selection of sandwiches including a patty melt, a tuna melt, a French Dip, a Philly cheesesteak, and, my friend Mr. Carnivore’s favorite, the chicken salad sandwich, which he described as being very moist with lots of chicken. The sandwiches come with coleslaw, which my friend, despite his carnivorous ways, said he especially loves. In my opinion, good coleslaw is one of the simple pleasures of life. And for a wonderful stroll down the culinary memory lane, The Pancake House is one of the few places that still serves a Monte Cristo sandwich! If you’re breakfast minded, you won’t be disappointed. The Pancake House boasts twenty five different omelettes and of course they have plenty of pancakes. They also serve crepes and waffles and pigs in a blanket, plus several Mexican specialties such as machaca con huevos, huevos Monterrey, chorizo con huevos and my personal favorite huevos rancheros. I had a very hard time choosing. Hopefully The Pancake House will be in business for another 44 years so I can go back and try everything.
— April 14, 2010 1:08 p.m.

What's the worst way to die?

I recall a story about a man named Rafael Jimenez who was killed in April 2008 by being sucked into a wood chipping machine. According to reports by the LA Times,, Signonsandiego and other news organizations, Mr. Jimenez was a senior tree trimmer for the city of Inglewood, California. After his death, his family sued the manufacturer of the machine, Morbark, Inc., after hearing reports that the company knew, previous to Mr. Jimenez's tragic and gruesome death, that their machines possessed faulty safety equipment. Also, the city of Inglewood was hit with three citations and a fine by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for not having proper written safety instructions, with regard to the wood chipping machine, available to its employees. There are many gounds maintence workers in the city of San Diego who do a superb job by keeping our parks and beaches looking beautiful, despite many budget cuts to their departments. Keep up the good work people and stay safe!
— March 23, 2010 12:49 p.m.

It's Complicated

Three elements that make movie watching particularly enjoyable for me are cooking, juicy romances and Meryl Streep. I saw two good movies this week that incorporated all three elements. The first film, “Julie and Julia,” which stars Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, is essentially two completely different stories within one movie. The Julia Child storyline, which also stars Stanley Tucci, was practically perfect. The Julie Powell storyline which portrayed writer Julie Powell’s creation of a blog describing her attempt to cook her way through Julia Child’s recipes was cute, but would have been better off as a completely separate movie. Meryl Streep became Julia Child in “Julie and Julia” and really satisfied the cravings for my three favorite elements. In the second movie, “It’s Complicated,” it was interesting to see how the same three elements could play out so differently, yet so wonderfully. Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin star in this charming comedy about a long divorced couple, who by the circumstances of their son’s graduation, are thrust into uncomfortably close quarters. Un-extinguished flames of passion flare up and much complicated hilarity ensues. Both Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin are mature adults without perfect bodies. Perfection in this day and age means emaciation and lack of wrinkles for women, and ripped hairless bodies for men. Streep and Baldwin, although certainly more attractive than your average folk, look like real people. In several scenes, Baldwin bares his hairy, chubby older body, but still manages to look exceedingly handsome. With his deep blue eyes, it’s no wonder that Streep’s character becomes flushed at the site of him- pot belly, straggly grey chest hairs and all. They embark on a romantic affair, if that is what one would call it. The movie’s title, “It’s Complicated,” pretty much sums up the situation for the newly re-united couple. Baldwin’s character is currently married to a much younger, but dreadful woman with a bratty kid. His current wife served as the other woman to Streep’s character ten years earlier, causing the initial divorce. Now Streep is the other other woman. Thrown into the mix is sweet Steve Martin who is still mourning the loss of his own marriage, while getting to know and fall in love with Streep’s character, a pastry chef, while remodeling her kitchen. Cooking, romance, Streep. There is much skulking around, omissions of truth, passionate encounters and emotional airings of past regrets mixed with painful revelations of needs and desires by all parties. Complicated, funny stuff. Writer/Director Nancy Meyers, who made “It’s Complicated,” also wrote one of my favorite movies of all time, “Something’s Gotta Give,” starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson from 2003. That movie is another fine example of a complicated romance between older adults.
— January 31, 2010 6:33 p.m.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox is an odd animated movie. Folks who grew up on the Rankin/Bass stop-motion holiday movies such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, The Year Without a Santa Claus and The Little Drummer Boy will recall with fondness, the animation style. But some of the themes in the movie seemed a little weird and unclear. One theme appeared to be the idea that everyone is different and that it benefits society to encourage each individual’s strengths. The only problem, at least in this story, was that by engaging that notion, the characters got into more trouble than they had been in in the first place. Another theme appeared to be the concept that the animals (Fox, Beaver, Mole, Rat etc.) which are being compared to human personalities, have very specific natures, and when one tries to deviate from his or her true nature, problems arise. Only in this story, the opposite seems to have been proved. In other words, things go from bad to worse in this tale, which is contradictory to most fairy tales and children’s stories. Disregarding that and getting back to the animation, the stop-motion action is very well done, but what really enhanced the visual feel of this movie were the harvest gold/autumn/dusk colors in the background scenery. Most of the film appears bathed in perpetual sunset. The other feature that really made this movie interesting was the original music by Alexandre Desplat, which was at times melancholic, strange or exciting. The soundtrack is an oddball combination of tunes by The Beach Boys, Burl Ives, The Rolling Stones, Desplat, Art Tatum, Jarvis Cocker and a few others. Weird, yes, but effective. Some of the voice-overs in this movie didn’t work as well as they could have. George Clooney, as the voice of Mr. Fox was fine, but I think a British actor would have been a better choice. All of the human characters in the movie have British accents. The voice of Mr. Fox’s son, Ash, played by Jason Schwartzman, sounded like a snarky twenty-something adult instead of a child. And Meryl Streep, who voiced Mrs. Fox, had such a dull monotone that I didn’t even realize that it was her until I read the end credits. On the other hand, Bill Murray as Badger, Wallace Wolodarsky as Possum, and Willem Dafoe as Rat were excellent. One other oddity that stood out was a mysterious banjo playing character who was supposed to be the son of one of the human farmer characters. At one point, the farmer made some very disparaging comments toward him, which were never explained. I could only guess that the banjo player and the rude comments must have been some kind of inside joke by and for the film makers. Despite some really odd moments, this is a good movie, which it is targeted more toward baby boomer adults than kids. The imagery and the music make up for the weirdness.
— December 4, 2009 9:53 a.m.

Paranormal Activity

I agree with antigeekess. Paranormal Activity was one of the scariest movies I've ever seen. It was frightening in a good way, not like some of the horror films that depend on gratuitous, gory violence. I like scary movies that come with Alfred Hitchcock-esque or Rod Serling-style suspense. One of my favorite shows from the seventies was a series called Night Gallery, a slightly scarier drama than Twilight Zone, with different weekly stories, also hosted by Rod Serling. I thought Paranormal Activity worked because it was all about the suspense. I thought the time-lapsed video photography really enhanced the sense of suspense. I kept watching the clock on the video camera footage and was constantly thinking, "When is this thing going to show itself?" Some of the suspense was caused by the mere fact that in some scenes, not much actually happened. After those scenes, I could hear people in the audience laughing nervously, murmuring and letting out their breath. The other aspect of the movie that I liked was that the couple seemed very real. Not stupid or smart or anything else. They just seemed like everyday common people, but not necessarily your favorite people. They were like folks I’ve worked with, people who are my acquaintances and people I have observed at parties and airports and grocery stores, just regular people. The couple in this movie bickered a lot, which reminded me of countless folks I've known over the years. The couple's slightly dysfunctional relationship is one of the things that made the movie kind of funny. In between the scenes of the couple bickering, there are super-scary suspense-filled scenes that take place in the middle of the night after the couple has gone to bed. Even though not much might be happening at any given time, you just "know" something is going to happen at any moment. I felt like I was the person behind the video camera, just watching and waiting for something awful to happen. I wanted to scream at the couple to get out of the house, or at least to call the cops or an exorcist. Do something! Don't just keep waiting for the inevitable appearance of the entity. Unlike the previous comment poster, I enjoy Ghost Hunters, for the same reasons that I liked Paranormal Activity. Even though I know it's not real, it's still super scary and fun, especially if you watch it alone, late at night. But Paranormal Activity is way too scary to watch by yourself.
— November 16, 2009 6:40 p.m.


Nature’s Express in Hillcrest opened several months ago at the site formerly occupied by Kung Food. It’s right next door to Extraordinary Desserts so now there are two good things in the same spot. In Los Angeles, there are tons of vegetarian restaurants all over the county. You can even find several good vegetarian/vegan fast food places; Orean Health Express in Pasadena and Covina Tasty in the city of Covina are two of my favorites, but I’m not able to get to either of them very often. With the opening of Nature’s Express, now San Diego has a vegan fast food joint. Rejoice! Nature’s Express actually has two sections to it. There is a drive-up window, which is really nice if you’re in a hurry, then there are tables both inside and outside if you plan to eat on site, nothing fancy, but it’s comfortable. All of the items available at the drive-up window can also be ordered inside, but the inside section also has a hot food station that’s similar to a buffet. Instead of being “all you can eat,” the hot station has three pre-sized plates available for different prices, ranging from $6 to $10.50, depending upon the size of the plate. Some of the hot dishes included casseroles, potatoes, lasagna, quiche, mac ‘n cheese and chili. The inside section also has vegan pizzas made to order and a cold “grab and go” fridge with sandwiches, salads, soup and desserts, very convenient for heading to a picnic or for picking up dinner for movie night at home. At the hot station you can try a little bit of everything, which is what my friend the omnivore and I did, or you can get a bigger portion of just a single item. Although I’m not sure how you could possibly go there and just eat one thing. Everything was so tempting. There were about eight or ten different items in the hot section on the night we visited, plus there was a salad bar with fresh, organic dressings. We wanted to sample as much of the food as we could in one sitting; so first, we walked up to the drive- up window. That was before we realized that you could order the same menu items inside. At the drive-up window you can get vegan versions of fast food favorites, including burgers, fries and shakes, only this stuff is much better, nutritionally, than any regular fast food in town, plus they have sweet potato fries. Oh my! My favorite thing was the raw cashew cheeseburger. The patty, which in my opinion, reminded me of the texture of a super crispy falafel, was served between two leaves of cabbage, most likely Napa or Savoy, instead of a bun. The tempeh Waldorf salad was excellent too. Of course Nature's Express will appeal more to vegans and vegetarians, but other folks who appreciate trying new and healthy cuisine will probably enjoy it too. Ms. Omnivore put it succinctly, “I just like food!”
— November 14, 2009 3:58 p.m.

What manners are missing in society?

In many stores and restaurants the people working at the registers rarely ask, "May I help you?" or even say "hello" anymore. On the other hand, the folks at Starbucks usually seem to be very nice and polite and always make me feel welcome. The patrons frequenting stores and restaurants rarely say "hello" or "thank you" or "pardon me" before they start barking demands at the clerks or worse yet, they talk on their cell phones while they are making a transaction, as if the clerk didn't even exist. On the road, many people tailgate and weave in an out of traffic without using turn signals (they don't seem to understand the notion that turn signals are there to signal intent to other drivers.) People rarely let people merge, why? There's a simple lack of patience, civility and common sense adherence to the rules of the road that lead to a lot of unnecessary stress and accidents. Distracted, lazy and angry drivers are not just a nuisance, they're a danger. Everywhere in public, people talk loudly on their cell phones and don't seem to realize or care that other people near them (usually total strangers) are being assaulted first by the loudness, and second, by the fact that they are being subjected to that person's (often angry, embarrassing or private) business. Why do people choose the grocery store when they want to yell at their relatives on the phone? I long for the days of phone booths with doors that closed. At school some parents regularly let their kids bully other children and break rules, then blame the teacher for the problem when it's brought to their attention. On the other hand, some school administrators do not set and enforce adequate rules or present examples of correct and polite behavior for the students. There are often no consequences for students who exhibit rude behavior or lack of respect toward their teachers or other students. The more often this is allowed to happen, the more it becomes acceptable behavior and then the nice folks at the Reader find themselves asking us all the question, "What manners are missing in society?"
— October 27, 2009 3:26 p.m.

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