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Iconic Neighborhood Restaurants: Temple City

 

Temple City is named after its founder, Walter P. Temple, who dreamed of building a community where average people could afford to buy and live in their own homes. After discovering oil on his own property in Montebello in the 1920s, Temple bought the land which was once a part of Lucky Baldwin's Rancho Santa Anita and divided the area into a series of lots facing Las Tunas Drive. He named the streets after relatives and friends: Workman, Rowland, Agnes, and Kauffman.

Today, Temple City has grown beyond a network of friends into a population of 35,600. Like many of its neighboring cities in the San Gabriel Valley, Temple City has a large Chinese community, making up 56% of its racial demographics. It follows naturally then that Temple City offers some of the most famous Asian cuisine in the SGV, as well as some other longstanding traditions that have endured the test of time.

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The Hat

Practically a historical landmark, The Hat's simple menu and décor is legendary in the eyes, hearts, and stomachs of Southern California locals. The Hat has been serving devoted customers in the SGV since 1951, boasting a spare menu of sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, and sides. Inside, lit by fluorescent lights, an impressive row of condiment dispensers will immediately catch  your eye. Mayo, ketchup, mustard, relish, horseradish, anything you could possibly want to pile on a sandwich is provided free of charge by this loving establishment. Take a seat in their distinctly uncomfortable plastic booths or just do takeout like the rest the patrons: this is not the kind of place where you sit down and gossip over endless mimosas. Rather, order the famous pastrami dip sandwich and some chili cheese fries at the window, take a rather sloppy looking picture for your Instagram feed, and finally open wide for a bite of the finest sandwich the SGV has to offer. Allow the sensation of a soft French roll soaked with mustard and pickle juice to flood your senses and don't think twice about ordering a large Orange Bang to wash it all down. You're in good company. Other favorite menu items are the double cheeseburger and the tuna sandwich, all excellently seasoned and punctuated with spikes of relish. Visit this friendly neighborhood joint any time between 10AM and 11PM on any day of the week; your taste buds will thank you and force you to come back for more.

The Hat: 5505 Rosemead Blvd., Temple City, CA 91780 (626)292-1000

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The Hat knows what it does best (pastrami) and keeps it classic. Photo by Ken N.
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Pastrami set free on a pile of fries and cheese. You're welcome. Photo by Marco G.

Dai Ho Restaurant

Don't be fooled by the sulky Yelp reviews. Dubbed the “Noodle Nazi” by denizens of Temple City, Dai Ho Restaurant serves up some of the best Taiwanese style noodles in the area. This bare bones Chinese restaurant is packed during lunch hours and you'll see wannabe patrons standing around trying to snag a table. Really, it's a jungle in there and you'll soon see why. Whether you choose the perfectly portioned Minced Meat Dry Noodle, the peanutty goodness of Dan Dan Mien, or a steaming hot bowl of Beef Tendon Noodles, you will agree the quality of food is worth the glare from the aproned owner of Dai Ho. He will want you to be ready with your order by the time he gets to your table and he won't waste time with any small talk. But just as the restaurant's cold dishes ease some of the heat from its spicy “red oil” dumplings, the owner's surly attitude is also tempered by a little smile when he sees you enjoying your noodles. So slurp those sauces in peace and don't mind the spotty service. Be sure to order some pickled cucumbers and cold tofu shreds as an appetizer and if it's a really hot day, the cold veggie noodles, if not the service, will be sure to lift your spirits.

Dai Ho Restaurant: 9148 Las Tunas Dr., Temple City, CA 91780, (626)291-2295.

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Behind the scenes at Dai Ho Restaurant. Photo by Tiffany L.
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Order a bowl (or two or three) of hot or cold noodles. Photo by Claudia C.

Phoenix Kitchen

Ah, Phoenix Kitchen. It's the Cantonese equivalent of an old fashioned soda shoppe. Here, you can find all forms of the best Cantonese desserts: colorful Chinese cookies and confections, shaved ice, black rice with mango and coconut milk, and of course, egg puffers. It's the first sweet eggy scent that welcomes you when you walk in the door and you'll smell it all the way through your meal. Even if you're stuffed to the brim with Phoenix's pleasantly chewy beef flat noodles, crispy iceberg lettuce cups with seasoned ground chicken, flavorful Yeung Chow fried rice, and their always comforting house soup, you'd do yourself a disservice if you skipped dessert this time. The egg puffer (or Hong Kong waffle, as some call it), a large sheet of toasty waffle batter dotted with hollow “puffs” of air, is perfect for tearing in half and sharing with a friend. Many of Phoenix's other desserts are just as sensational. The black rice with mango and coconut milk is equal parts sticky, chewy, fresh, and creamy. The silky tofu with ginger syrup will make you forget those overrated ice cream sundaes from your childhood. Not to be outdone by its solid counterparts, Phoenix drinks are also a standout. Milkshakes will be a distant memory after you try the Mixed Fruit Tapioca Drink, a liquid fruity ambrosia in cool coconut milk, as well as the Mango Juice with Club Soda, a peppy, sweet-tart drink you wish you could buy in a can. Ben & Jerry who?

Phoenix Kitchen: 9225 Las Tunas Dr., Temple City, CA 91780, (626)285-0988.

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The modest egg tart, veiled in coy layers of plastic, will only make you want it more. Photo by Irene Hsu.

Rose Donuts & Sandwiches

Rose Donuts and Sandwiches shot to fame when it became the first bakery in SGV to serve the cronut, a culinary love child of the flaky croissant and the omnipresent donut. Rose Donuts was not only first to serve the delicacy, but executed this task with the sort of ease that comes from already having served the best donuts in Temple City for decades. Locals that grew up in the town of Temple still wax nostalgia for this quaint shop, which also serves croissant and bagel sandwiches for breakfast, subs for lunch, and a surprisingly vast array of frozen yogurt flavors and boba smoothies. If you're feeling fancy, definitely plump for the cinnamon sugar cronut with custard, a churro-like pastry with incredibly feather light layers of flaky dough, bold dashes of cinnamon and sugar across the top, and sandwiching a not-too-sweet creamy custard in between. Wanna go fancier? Try the maple bacon cronut or replace the custard cream with strawberries and you're on your way to foodie heaven. For the traditionalists, start with a hearty egg croissant sandwich, and then go for broke with a bag of donut holes for your coworkers and a glazed donut for yourself.

Rose Donuts & Sandwiches: 6276 N. Rosemead Blvd., Temple City, CA 91780, (626)287-1488.

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Resistance is futile before the power of Rose's cronut. (Note: sprinkle donut photo bomb). Photo by Irene Hsu

Olympic Bakery

How does Chinese mango birthday cake differ from your typical birthday cake? Let me count the ways.  One, layers of bouncy sponge cake, spongier and lighter than its American counterpart, less sweet with a glimmer of smooth vanilla. Two, light-as-air cream between each layer, the kind you initially scrape to the side and then realize it may be better than the cake itself and you're left looking quite silly trying to slather the majestic stuff back onto your cake slice. Three, and this is the, well, “icing” on the cake: thinly sliced mangos covering the entire surface of the cake. A glittering jewel of a dessert, this is the best possible present you could bring to a party. Or alas, if it's nobody's birthday, one could make do with Olympic's other tasty offerings. The moist and chewy mantou, Chinese breakfast buns, are a treat, as well as the colorful fruit tarts, filled with custard and topped with a slice of strawberry, kiwi, or mango. Be forewarned though, you will be tempted when you see those mango cakes inside the glass displays at Olympic. Go ahead, we won't tell. And besides, isn't there always something to celebrate nowadays?

Olympic Bakery: 6276 N. Rosemead Blvd., Temple City, CA 91780, (626)285-8532.

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You don't have to be able to read the labels to know that each pastry is filled with magic. Photo by Daniel L.
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Don't you just wish you could lather up in this mango-yumminess? Photo by Irene Hsu.

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