Best of 2021 – Bargains and Splurges List!

It’s that time of year! Judgement day – lol. But in all honesty I traveled up and down California and visited various part of Arizona all of last year to find the best of the best! Come checkout my absolute favorites from 2021!

$ Bargain

Papaya Salad & Coconut Cakes (Mae Ting’s Coconut Cakes): Hands down the best papaya salad ($9)! This little stall in a LA Chinatown parking lot may not look like much but their food really packs a punch. Read more here. It was so good that I went back and had it again and successfully tried their coconut cakes ($6) for a dozen!

Sushi (Sakae Sushi): Authentic, sushi, and take-out aren’t usually words you see together often, but Sakae Sushi in Gardena, CA does just that and for a very reasonable price. They offer 6 different types of sushi for $1.05 – $1.25 a piece (though each piece is double the size of a normal sushi piece) and they packaged your order in the most endearing and convenient manner. It’s been a staple in the community since the 60s and I would love to go back and support this small mom n’ pop shop. Read my tips here.

Roast Pork Entree (New Lun Ting Cafe): The mysterious orange gravy may look off-putting to some, but boy that sauce slathered over a thick cut of roasted pork and rice is beyond amazing. See full review here. For $9.25 you can feed two people with that popular entree. I will DEFINITELY be back for this on my next visit to SF Chinatown.

Thrifted Goods (Society of St Vincent De Paul- Scottsdale): Hands down best thrift shop in Scottsdale, AZ. Everything is very reasonably priced and they have a cool bridal section if you’re in the market. If I come back to Phoenix I will definitely want to make a trip here. Read my complete review here.

$: Papaya Salad & Coconut Cakes (Mae Ting’s Coconut Cakes), Roast Pork Entree (New Lun Ting Cafe), Thrift Shopping (Society of St. Vincent De Paul – Scottsdale), & Sushi (Sakae Sushi)

$$ Moderate

Boba Drink (True Dan): This small 3 chain boba shop serves Taiwanese drinks with a twist. I visited the Burlingame, CA location and tried the “Fresh Milk With Brown Sugar, Crema, and Oreos” with Oat Milk Substitution (+$.50) = $6.50 and wow it was amazing! Honestly, it beat out my 2020 favorite boba drink (see list here), and that’s saying a lot! See my full review of my True Dan experience here.

Salad (Flower Child – Gilbert): I make salad for lunch regularly, but I aspire to make salad like this! The butternut squash and organic pear salad has loads of delicious ingredients including candied pecan, cranberries, ricotta salata and more. The salad by itself is $10.95, but patrons can add a protein for an additional fee. Salmon would be my choice. There are multiple locations and this location is at Gilbert, AZ; read the full review here.

Chicken Soup (Lourdes): I doubt most people would go out of their way for soup, but the chicken soup here at Escondido, CA is definitely worth the drive! For a 32oz bowl ($9.65) you get fresh flour or corn tortilla, slices of avocado, a well seasoned soup that’s perfect for a cold day. Read the full review here.

$$: Chicken Soup (Lourdes), Salad (Flower Child – Gilbert), Boba Drink (True Dan)

$$$ Splurge

Salmon Spinach Cream Udon (Udon Mugizo Mountain View): Among the different types of noodles Udon is probably my favorite. I usually have it with broth however, the Salmon Spinach Cream Udon at Udon Mugizo was definitely a highlight of this month. There are two locations for this restaurant – one in Japantown, CA and one in Mountain View, CA and while It is a bit of splurge for noodles ($18ish a bowl) it’s delicious! See my full review here to see why.

iphone 13 Pro (Apple Store): I’m not a huge tech nerd, but I have been eyeing the 13 pro (1TB) for a while and finally made the splurge ($1499+). To be fair I currently have a 7+ and I was desperately due for an upgrade.

Cream Puffs (@Puffs_SD): Honestly, these are some of the most beautiful cream puffs I’ve ever seen. I think a traditional flavor of that size costs roughly $2.50 and these are more at $4.33 each (but you need to buy in half dozen or full dozen increments). Nevertheless, the flavors are very unique and I would absolutely buy them again on my next San Diego, CA visit. Learn about the ordering process here.

$$$: Salmon Spinach Cream Udon (Udon Mugizo Mountain View), Cream Puff (@Puffs_SD), iphone13 pro (Apple Store)

These were my absolute favorites last year and I hope you’ll check them out in 2022!! What businesses did you discover and want everyone to know about? Comment below!

Until next time!

Irene

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