Princess Bee Breakfast & Bakery
5069 N. Academy Blvd., 419-7772
There's nothing to slow the mind and bog down the circulatory system like a big plate of biscuits and gravy ($5.99), and Princess Bee serves up an interesting take on the dish. Their biscuits are moist, but the texture resembles a buttery bun or dinner roll, lightly browned on both sides. Under a chicken-dominant sausage gravy, they're palatable, if salty. More to the point, the accompanying ranch potatoes (or hash browns) show up accompanied by a bottle of Cholula hot sauce along with the ketchup and Tabasco, a clear sign that this place 1) is a Mexican bakery and 2) knows what's up.
On Wednesdays, a plate with drink comes with a free empanada. But the coffee ($1.99) is Folger's, and the vanilla cream empanada bears a congealed custard filling. A wide variety of pan dulces ($1.78 to $2) combine that bready biscuit dough with custards, sugars and artificial fruit gel fillings to greater success. There's better, cheaper, elsewhere. — GS
Serranos Coffee Company
625 State Hwy. 105, Monument, 481-9445
Two Starbucks sit within eyesight of Serranos: one across the parking lot, another across the highway inside Safeway. Despite what that says about our modern era — the neighboring Starbucks scene from Best in Show comes to mind — the corporate competition appears to have no effect on well-established Serranos. Their parking lot's entirely full at 1 p.m. on a Saturday.
Seeking a coffee that offers more to write about than one of the standards typically does, I go out of character for the "trademark" hot buttered latte ($3.60/16-ounce), concocted with vanilla and cinnamon flavorings, plus half the usual amount of butter rum syrup by request, sans whipped cream. Still, it's wickedly sweet, entirely burying the espresso element, and for some reason channeling an eggnog essence. My friend walks away with a $27, 3/4-pound bag of site-roasted Kona coffee, which we later grind and AeroPress at home. Smooth, but over-hyped. — MS
La'au's Taco Shop
830 N. Tejon St., #110, 578-5228, laaustacoshop.com
We're over a year past the reopening of La'au's, closed for a long stint during CC construction, and originally opened by Blue Star/Nosh's creator Joseph Coleman about eight years ago. As with Nosh, not much changes on La'au's menu, a tight, pretty simple concept. I've always enjoyed La'au's light, fresh approach, something like Chipotle gone to the islands, where fruit and spice sub for enormous sour cream dollops and E. coli.
But La'au's has also landed consistently inconsistent. This visit highlights more of that flawed fluidity, launching with stale chips on a chips and guac plate ($3.95). The fine spicy tilapia tacos ($8.25) gain ground with sincere heat that begins with a chipotle marinade and climaxes with the jalapeño edge of an aji de Peru sauce. But then the tofu lettuce wraps ($7.95) sport charred edges and an unpleasant toasty finish, incapable of being masked by ginger-soy sauce or pineapple salsa. Not the best day in paradise. — MS