Category Archives: Phil’s California Cuisine

Clearman’s North Woods Inn

Southern California natives will tell you that there’s no better place to live than the Southland, and people from any other state will tell you that there’s no better place to visit and dream about living than So Cal.

But there’s more to us than our golden beaches and endless sunshine – we have some of the best food in the world.

An icon in Southern California dining since 1958 is the North Woods Inn of San Gabriel.


With peanut shells on the floor, and a warm, woodsy, snow-topped hunting lodge atmosphere that’s anything but stuffy, diners’ line up for lumber-jack sized portions; ample appetizers, enormous salads, and delicious dinner entrées that include juicy steaks and fresh local seafood.

Every North Woods meal starts out with bread and salad. But like everything else they do, Clearman’s has raised the “appetizer” bar to new, decadent heights. The first starter to hit the table is a bowl or two of roasted peanuts in the shell.

Bottomless baskets of their mouthwatering cheese bread arrive next, along with two huge bottomless bowls of salad that are served family style: their delectable blue cheese salad and their famous red cabbage salad.  And when it comes to the salads, in-the-know locals combine the two for a savory treat that you won’t find anywhere else.

Nutrition wise, North Wood’s hors d’oeuvres are pretty much what you might suspect:

  • One half-cup of the roasted shelled peanuts contain 166 calories, 14 grams of total fat, 230 mg of sodium, 187 mg of potassium and 2 grams of dietary fiber.
  • One cup of the blue-cheese salad has 97.5 calories, 4 grams of total fat, 208 mg of sodium, 63 mg of potassium and .25 gram of dietary fiber.
  • One cup of the red cabbage comes with 109 calories, 5 grams of total fat, 140 mg of sodium, 196 mg of potassium and 1.7 grams of dietary fiber.
  • 1 unbelievably flavorful slice  of the cheese bread carries 230 calories, 17 grams of total fat, 16 grams of carbs, 5 grams of protein and 1 gram of dietary fiber.

And just in case you’re wondering, in the decades that I have been visiting Clearman’s North Wood Inn with family and friends, I have never seen anyone eat just one half-cup of peanuts, one cup of salad, or one slice of cheese bread. Never. It just doesn’t happen.


Sourdough Bread

Since the California Gold Rush in 1849, sourdough bread has been an important part of the cuisine of San Francisco. Though this style of bread originated much further back in history, the unique starter used in San Francisco’s sourdough has become world famous for its intense sour flavors and dense texture, and is difficult to reproduce elsewhere in the world. The starter’s microorganisms can only thrive in the specific combination of conditions found in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sourdough bread was a favorite of the miners during the Gold Rush, who carried the starter with them as they dispersed across the state, bringing the delicious bread wherever they went. Sourdough bread has become so closely associated with San Francisco, that sourdough became a nickname for miners, and today the mascot of the football team, the San Francisco 49ers, is named Sourdough Sam.

San Francisco’s Boudin Bakery began baking sourdough bread way back in 1849, and using the same starter, has been in continuous production ever since.

This white bread has a chewy, crispy crust, and is the perfect pairing for many popular San Francisco soups, like clam chowder and cioppino, and can often be found hollowed out and shaped into a bowl in which to serve the soups.

Sandwiches, Burgers, & Fast Food

Southern California’s car culture and the population’s reliance on automobiles for transportation throughout California’s vast cities, has widely contributed to the popularity of the classic drive-in and modern drive-thru restaurants.

Famous restaurant chains such as McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, In-N-Out Burger, Carl’s Jr., Der Wienerschnitzel, Del Taco, Taco Bell, Panda Express, Original Tommy’s, Fatburger, and Bob’s Big Boy were all established in sunny Southern California .

Regional fast food menus differ throughout the state, generally depending on the ethnic composition of an area. In Southern California, smaller chains like The Hat feature hamburgers, Mexican food, chili fries, and pastrami.