Cali: The Sullivan Family Reunion

A few weeks ago, I had the esteemed privilege of attending the Sullivan family reunion in Cali. At first, Mike and I weren't planning on going. It was a bit short notice and pricey to fly. Reluctantly, he concluded it was best not to go. He left to visit his folks, saying he would tell them we couldn't go; he came back with unexpected news: they bought us tickets. California here we come!

There's no thank you card big enough for their kindness and hospitality! I could understand buying a ticket for Mike, but not for lil ol me. We weren't even engaged yet! Our flight left at 6 in the morning from VA and we landed in Cali (layover in Texas) around 11am. The Sullivans had arrived the day prior and were waiting to pick us up for the ride out to Lancaster. The drive out was amazing! It was nothing I'd ever seen before! Dry, mountain terrain and beautiful rock formations. We pulled over to stare at the Mormon rocks. The desert holds an alien mystique.

Our first stop was In-N-Out Burger, a Cali classic. This was my first time and I honestly don't see the big fuss. The prices are cheap and the menu is simple. It was a solid meal, I just was expecting something crazy from how many friends have exclaimed, "you've never had an In-N-Out burger?!" If you want a good ol fashioned burger, this is the place to go. Apparently there's a secret menu- you just need to know what to ask for.

We got to the hotel and relaxed for a spell; then it was off to grandma's to meet family and grab groceries.  His younger cousin, Mary, immediately took a shining to me (thank God). She's super sweet and loveable. Grandma was laid back and full of the sort of wisdom (and spunk) only time can provide. Dinner was at Hacienda Don Cuco. Based on the exterior, I had my reservations. Inside, however, was ornate and authentically decorated. Though the main dishes were mediocre (the veggies were very sketchy in my fajita)- their guacamole and chips appetizer caused an uproar at the table. It was sinfully yummy and you could feel the oil still warming the chips. That night, I didn't sleep in the hotel. I blacked out!

As luck would have it, we were only one hour away from LA- the current home of one of my best friends in whole wide world, Yen-Nei. We rented a car and rolled out! The mission: find black sesame bubble tea. The first stop that came up on the GPS took us to the dead end of a construction site. The second took us to an abandoned warehouse. Oh joy. 

Exasperated, we settled on getting lunch while we waited for Nei to get off of work. There are a TON of tempting restaurants along Sawtelle boulevard. We decided to check out Asahi, a japanese noodle joint. It was small and bustling, with a very active hostess running the shop. It's cash only so come prepared. The prices are reasonable too! As an appetizer, we got fried gyoza ($3.75) which is a kind of dumpling. They were very tasty and comforting. My meal was Shio Ramen ($6.95), a slightly salted broth that's not soy-sauce based, with pork and egg. This dish made me very happy! Good portions and well flavored. 

Mike got yakisoba with chicken ($8.75), which is essentially saucy fried noodles. He was not impressed and thought it was under seasoned. If it wasn't for the side of kimchi, he would have been bummed out completely. In combination it made for an excellent lunch. I think this place should keeps it's focus on the main part of its menu which is ramen.

As soon we finished lunch, Nei pounced on us! We jumped into the car and continued the epic quest of black sesame bubble tea. Yen-Ling, Nei's sister, directed us to a guarantee win called Tapioca Express. With LA traffic, a 10 minute drive turned into 40. Good grief.

Even though it wasn't on the menu, Nei marched up to the cashier and recited our list of demands. I got my black sesame bubble tea! It wasn't as good as the original placed I had it, but it was still pretty damn good. It's sweet and vaguely reminds me of peanut butter. Mike had watermelon milk tea and it was just okay. 

I got my sinful indulgence in, now it was mike's turn: shoes! He found this spot called Sportie online and we took off for another long drive in LA traffic. It gave us all time to catch up and have a few good laughs. There's something magical about Nei, she always puts a smile on my face. Seriously, just look at her awesome smile! It's contagious!

The graffiti'ed out parking lot was impressive however the overall area was strange. On one side of the street you saw luxury cars, on the others side homeless people sitting on a bench. There was no hard divide to the city and all walks of life strolled by.

Mike's thoughts on Sportie: too expensive and has some of the highest prices he's ever seen at a shoe store. It's a great selection but the store itself is not very well kept. It took a long time for him to even try on a pair of kicks. While in the store, he looked up the same Pro Keds online and found them cheaper on the Pro Keds website. Super lame.

While there was still light out, we decided to make a run for the coast! She took us to the Santa Monica pier to take in the beginning of the sunset. Nei, Asako, and I have been here before but now it was Mike's turn. I love the view going down the shore line and the festive atmosphere. 

It was crazy windy! Nature went from warm and pleasant, we're talking 70's and clear, to sweater weather. We didn't last too long out there- just enough time to eat some funnel cake, get harassed by a sea gull, and snap a few shots at the end of the pier.

Dinner was a venue that Nei frequents called Chego, a Korean fusion restaurant. It was BUMPING with the line peaking out the door. They had a very different set up with community seating and a "pack up your own food" section. There's minimal service. Basically, you order your food at the counter and you're on your own. Again, this spot was tiny but the decor was cool and dark. Mike and Nei got Chubby Pork Belly: kochujang-lacquered kurobuta, w/fried egg, pickled radishes, water spinach, Chinese broccoli, cotija, and peanut ($9). I was still feeling lunch and simply got some side items. Highly recommend this spot, though it's not vegetarian friendly and has a teensy parking lot.

We retired to Nei's apartment and chowed down. She wouldn't let us leave though until we had dessert at a local ice cream shop called Blockheads. I figured it would be another yogurt spot but no! It's gimmick is "shaved ice cream." It's hard to explain the texture... it really is snow-like and melts smoothly. It's very light and fun to eat. You think the portions are HUGE, but after a few spoonfuls you realize how quick it goes. Even around 9pm, the place was mad busy. We got green tea ice cream with red bean and boba. They have a specialty of home-made mochi but they were sold out when we went. 

It was time to retire! Tomorrow was the big family reunion!

The reunion was a blessed event. I got to see all sides of the Sullivan crew, experience grandma's amazing bbq, and relax in the backyard for hours. Everyone was sweet and easy to talk to. We basked in the sunshine and swapped stories the entire afternoon. I made monkey bread in the hotel room (don't even ask) and sampled everything on the table. It was so peacefulo.

Mad love and thanks to Mike's parents for letting me share such an amazing adventure!

Don Cuco
1106 W Avenue
Lancaster, CA 

2027 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025

7454 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046

3300 Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034

11311 Mississippi Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90025