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PETE TITTL: Always worth the trip to Moo Creamery

Ever-evolving menu, great ice cream and patio make this spot a winner

Moo Creamery is the Timex watch of local restaurants. It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

First there was the issue of the Westside Parkway work that cut off easy access to the restaurant. Then COVID hit, but they kept afloat by offering easy ordering and curbside pickup. As the virus eased after vaccinations started, any restaurant trying to find enough help to adequately staff the place is another insane challenge. Now the freeway work continues with another high-rise concrete bridge located on the Business Center Road that you need to take to get to the eatery.

As we ran this gantlet, my companion said, "Boy, people must really like the place to go through all this."

Exactly. And the secret I think is that the emphasis on the best ingredients, the continued evolution of the menu to offer some of the tastiest vegetarian choices in town and the patio, which even with all the new freeways offers a peaceful respite, especially in the spring and fall.

Then there's the ice cream made with milk from Strauss Family Creamery. Dewar's and Rosemary's also make their own ice cream, but the imaginative mix of flavors here is quite special, such as coffee toffee, bacon love, maple butter, brown sugar, peppermint Oreo and pistachio, which has real pieces of the nut visible. (I did not order any on this visit as a friend who loved ice cream had a heart attack recently, and another friend told me that a doctor told her, "You want to kill your husband, feed him beef and ice cream." I was already getting the beef on this night.)

On our most recent visit, I ordered two dishes with beef, the chili cheese fries ($9.75) and brisket taquitos ($14.50), which was one of the monthly specials. My companion's choices were more in line with longevity: the greens + grains salad ($15.50) and a cup of tomato soup ($3.65).

Everything was great. In my experience taquitos are usually made with birria, carne asada, a lesser cut of beef in most cases. Brisket, a slow-cooked gem that has long been a personal favorite, yields so much more flavor in these taquitos. Three taquitos were on the plate, with crema drizzled over them, served with some outstanding side dishes: cumin-heavy black beans, a cabbage slaw made with a light vinaigrette, and the smallest bits of feta cheese, pickled jalapenos, guacamole and cilantro.

The fries at Moo are fresh-cut and made with Kirschenmann Farms Kennebec potatoes. In the past, we've enjoyed them as a poutine with the amazing bacon gravy, but this time we had to get them topped with the house chili and sharp cheddar. Just the choice of the cheese shows you how thoughtful the food selections are in this restaurant. We live in a mild cheddar world, but sharp cheddar is where the power is, where the cheese taste is assertive without being rude. The chili is made with finely ground beef and could stand on its own, but with the fries, well, it's just elevated.

My companion's salad exemplified the artistry they use in their vegetarian choices. The greens were spinach, kale and arugula, with sweet potatoes, almonds, dried cranberries, scallions, goat cheese and both farro and quinoa as the grains. With a red wine vinaigrette on the side, it was an inspired healthy choice. The tomato soup has an appealing thick texture and conveys the natural sweetness of that fruit/vegetable (we don't want to get into that debate today.)

Also great is the harvest salad ($15) with a mix of baby arugula and kale as the greens, and other veggies included Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, sweet potato, avocado and balsamic onions, with almonds as the protein. That was her backup choice.

The rotating beer handles are always carefully selected, and the basil lemonade (with or without vodka) must be sampled if only to startle your taste buds. Considering the problems restaurants have today staffing their restaurants, we went early on a weekday night, and there were more employees than customers, though by the time we left, the patio — which had been empty — was full, as were most of the seats inside.

Moo Creamery can be recommended for a fine dining experience.

Pete Tittl's Dining Out column appears in The Californian on Sundays. Email him at pftittl@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter at @pftittl.