Triple-D in Triple-A (2010-2012)
Steve Klauke, voice of the Salt Lake Bees, spends all 144 games of the Bees season with the team, home and away. Needless to say he's not getting home cooking for 72 of those games. Steve's always looking for a good spot to eat in the 15 cities throughout the league and here, he'll chronicle those visits to his favorites, which also happen to be featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
August 30, 2012 - "END OF THE ROAD"
Bro's Cajun Cuisine (Nashville), Alcenia's (Memphis) & Café Rolle (Sacramento)
Another season on the road has come to an end for the Bees. Seventy-two away games have been played and that means countless restaurant meals have been consumed.
With that in mind, I was able to stop at three new places that were featured on the Food Network show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives", one in each of the three cities we visited during the last two road trips. That brings the total of Triple-D spots that I have eaten at to 83.
My first stop came in Nashville at a place call Bro's Cajun Cuisine. Since the Bees did not make a trip to New Orleans this season, going to Bro's was the next best thing to going to the Big Easy. The featured item that host Guy Fieri sampled was a stuffed pork chop. Normally, when you think of the stuffed chop, a bread stuffing comes to mind.
That was not the case at Bro's. Out in the back of the place, there is an old wood shed. In that shed is where they smoke their meats, including their own special Cajun spiced sausage that has quite the kick to it. For the stuffed pork chop, they take the fresh smoked sausage and, using an instrument that looks like an oversized hypodermic needle, they inject the chop with the sausage.
After it is cooked, they smother it in a delicious barbeque sauce and place on top of a bed of jambalaya and serve it with your choice of two vegetables. The chop was moist and tender and the sausage in the middle gave it an extra spicy oomph.
The only bad thing was the ice machine was not working that day and warm water did little to put out the fire in my mouth.
My next stop came in Memphis at a delightful soul food restaurant named Alcenia's. The downtown eatery is run by a woman named B.J. who named the restaurant after her mother, whose recipes are used in the place. You can feel the friendliness as soon as you walk through the front door.
I sat down and B.J. came over to make sure that you are comfortable and welcomed me with a kiss on the forehead. One of her specialties is a fried pork chop that is battered and pan fried and served with two veggie sides and something called hot water corn bread.
The pork chop was moist and delicious and there just enough batter on it to taste it, but not too much to where you couldn't taste the pork. My two veggies were corn on the cob and green beans, which were served separately in a plastic bowl. I don't know what spices she used, but those were the best green beans I've ever eaten. The corn bread was tasty, too, but I have no idea how you make it.
B.J. did a little campaigning while I was there. She asked me to vote for her in the Memphis' Best in Black awards for Best Soul Food in town. I was happy to oblige, even though I had not been to the other places on the ballot. I hope she won, but I have not been able to find the results.
I wanted to revisit The Little Tea Shoppe, another Triple-D spot that I have previously been to, but it was closed as the owner had recently passed away. I do hope his widow, who actually ran the place, will be able to reopen soon.
Our final road trip was to Sacramento and I had been to all Triple-D joints there except for one. It was a French restaurant called Café Rolle and once again, I had to exit my comfort zone and try something I never thought that I would eat and that was a chicken and goat cheese pate' sandwich.
On the show, Guy called the pate' "French meat loaf" and while I wouldn't quite describe the texture of the pate' that way, I liked it a lot more than I expected. They mix the ground chicken and the goat cheese, place it into a loaf pan and then bake it. They slice it up and serve it on a fresh baguette and melt gruyere cheese over the top of the pate'.
They served it with a salad topped with honey mustard vinaigrette that was better than I expected as well. It was a good-sized sandwich, maybe seven inches long and it was quite filling. Café Rolle does bring over bottled sodas from France, but I stuck with water that day.
They had some wonderful looking desserts like crème Brule and chocolate mousse, but I had to pass. I wanted to go back later in the series to try their roast lamb and gruyere sandwich, but they were closing that night for a two-week vacation in France!
Another season of traveling and eating has come and gone, but the start of the 2013 season is only seven months away and I can't wait to check out more Triple-D joints. I am running out of places in PCL cities, though. I have now made it to all locations in Sacramento, Reno, Omaha and even Phoenix where the Bees and Angels hold their spring training. Until next season, Bon Appetite!
August 10, 2012 - "SANDWICH TOUR OF VEGAS"
Lola's Louisiana Kitchen & Moondoggie's Bar and Naked City Pizza
I had always been surprised that host Guy Fieri had not spent more time researching "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" in Las Vegas. Fieri attended UNLV and figured he would have eaten at several places that might have qualified to be on the show. Up until this summer, his only Vegas stop had been to a place called the Four Kegs on the Northwest side of town that featured great strombolis.
That changed when Fieri visited several Las Vegas area "joints" on new episodes of "Triple-D" that have aired in recent months. So, naturally, I took it upon myself to check out a couple of them when the Bees visited Vegas in late July.
My first stop was at a place called Lola's Louisiana Kitchen, which features home style Cajun cooking. Located on Charleston close to an outlet mall, Lola's only has a few tables, so I did have to wait to sit for lunch, but it was definitely worth the wait.
There were so many items to choose from, but, as always, I need to eat something that was featured on the show. With that in mind, I did zero in on the Roast Beef Debris Po' Boy. I am not sure what part of roast beef is the debris, but the sandwich was filled with chunks of tender, well roasted and juicy beef with the usual Po' Boy toppings; lettuce, onions and tomatoes, smothered in a thick beef gravy on a fresh Po' Boy roll. Served with a stack of home cut fries, the sandwich is a meal in itself. It was definitely a true taste of Louisiana and it had to have been at least a five-napkin sandwich. Messy, but good.
I started the meal with a delicious crab cake made with plenty of Blue Lump Crab meat and topped with a drizzle of lemon aioli. It was a perfect way to begin my lunch at Lola's.
The next day, I decided to head to Las Vegas' west side near Chinatown and went to a place, that without question, falls into the "Dive" category.
Moondoggie's Bar and Naked City Pizza is a true dive bar, to the point that the front door is locked and you have to press a buzzer to let them know you are there. I'm sure the bartender or one of the server's checks you out on a monitor to see if they want to let you in.
Once you enter, it is a very dark bar with most of the light in the place emanating from the many HD televisions that are up on the wall with a low-watt lamp hanging over the table.
It took a while for the server to make her way to my table, but she turned out to be very helpful. I had not yet seen the Triple-D episode that Moondoggie's was a part of, so I had to ask what was featured from their menu. She very quickly rattled off the three items and it did not take very long for me to make up my mind.
I ordered "The Royal," which was a sub sandwich that featured two meats; sliced Cappicola and grilled chunks of Italian Sausage, not a link. It was topped with melted mozzarella cheese along with lettuce, tomatoes and onions.
The place might have made me a little nervous, and yes I did eat a little more quickly than usual so that I could get out, but the sandwich was outstanding. There were plenty of both meats, as well as toppings on the sub, which made wish I had ordered the half instead of the whole sandwich. It too was a five-napkin sandwich. It seems like the messier the food, the better it is.
I heard that their Sicilian-style pizza is outstanding, but the sandwich was a good call. If you plan on checking it out the next time you head to Las Vegas, remember that it is a bar first and that you must be 21 years old to enter.
With these two stops, I have now been able to eat at 80 different restaurants that have been on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives". Our next road trip is to Nashville and Memphis and there a few Triple-D eateries that I need to hit, so I am looking forward to our Tennessee Two-Step.
June 6, 2012 - "OVER IN OMAHA"
California Tacos, Joe Tess' Place & Big Mama's Kitchen
Over the years, there have been six Omaha area restaurants that have been featured on the Food Network program "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." In 2010, I visited three of them; Amato's, Dixie Quicks and Brewburgers. When the Bees visited Nebraska in May, it was time to go check out the fare at the remaining three establishments that were visited by host Guy Fieri and complete my sweep of Omaha.
My first stop was a place called California Tacos, which was located near downtown Omaha. The name does not come from a style of taco made in that state, but rather after the name of the street it's located on.
First, I tried what they call a California Taco. They take a flour tortilla and deep fry it to puff them up. After that first step, they then stuff it with your choice of beef, pork, chicken or carne asada steak, which is what I had since it was highlighted on the show. The meat was juicy and tender and the lettuce and tomato were fresh and tasty. I am not a cold cheese person, but for those who like it, they put more than enough on the taco. California Tacos also offers two types of salsa that you get yourself out of a slushy machine. I tried a little of each and the hot was spicy and the mild was tasty.
Next, I tried the chicken enchilada and if I get the chance to go back there in two years, this will be the only thing I order because it was so good. Their secret is in what they do to the tortilla. The cooks smother them in a delicious enchilada sauce and then quickly pan fry them to seal the sauce into the tortilla. It may have been the best chicken enchilada I have ever eaten.
My next stop did not go as well. I went to a restaurant called Joe Tess' Place and ordered their specialty, even though I was hesitant to do so. The idea of eating deep fried carp was not appealing to begin with and, quite frankly, was easily the worst thing I have ever eaten at a Triple-D spot. The "Garbage Fish" as it is not so politely known as, was pungent and filled with small bones.
On the program, the owner said they cooked the fish so hot that it dissolved all of the bones, but that was far from the truth. I took one bite and must have ended up with five to six small bones in my mouth, which admittedly scared me, as I worried about choking on them.
After that, I kind of chipped away at the fish, but the flavor was less than desirable. The best part of the meal was the sliced fried potatoes and the peas, carrots and corn combination that looked like it had come from the frozen food section of the grocery store.
I can honestly say that I took one for the team and tried it, but Joe Tess' will be one place that will never go back to.
To salvage my trip to Omaha, Storm Chasers broadcaster Mark Nasser and I went to lunch at Big Mama's Kitchen and Catering on my last day in Nebraska.
Big Mama's is located in an old school cafeteria and serves up some great down home soul food cooking. I decided to pass up the pig ear sandwich that Big Mama made Guy eat on the program, but was very interested in the oven fried chicken she serves.
After coating the chicken with her spices, she places the chicken in a pan with cooking oil, puts it in the oven and flips the pieces over halfway through the cooking process. The chicken was moist, but not greasy. The sides were amazing. While I passed on the greens, the homemade mac and cheese was great, but something she makes called sweet potato pudding was absolutely divine! It was smooth, creamy and baked with a coating of brown sugar. Again, it is called a side order, but I would have it again just for dessert!
Mark had the same two sides, but for his main course, he ordered the smothered pork chop, which he said was delicious.
Now that I have hit all six Triple-D spots in Omaha, I have now been to 78 joints which have been featured on the show. Unless he makes a return visit to these cities, I have now been to every place in Omaha, Phoenix and of, course, Salt Lake City, but there are still plenty more to visit!
May 4, 2012 - "WRAPPING UP IN RENO"
Louis' Basque Corner and Burger Me
The 2012 Pacific Coast League season is underway and the Bees opened up on the road. Our second stop on the road trip was Reno and while I had visited three Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives spots in the area, there were still two more to check out in the "Biggest Little City in the World."
My first place to go to is actually just one block north of Aces Ballpark. It is a Basque restaurant called Louis' Basque Corner. Now my "rule" when I go to a place that has been featured on the Food Network program is that the first time I visit, I must eat something that host Guy Fieri has eaten on the show. At times, he hasn't done me any favors and this was one of those occasions. When Louis' was on the program, Fieri sampled oxtail bourguignon and roasted rabbit. My choice was selected for me, as rabbit was not on the menu that day.
Being a Basque restaurant, they serve their meals "family" style, which means they seat you with other people at one table. That day they sat me with a delightful older couple, who owned a farm in Fallon, Nevada, which is about an hour's drive from Reno. Will and Kathy come to town every couple of months to do their shopping at Win-Co and Costco and decided to enjoy lunch at Louis'.
After the three of us ordered our food, the server brought out salad and soup. They were both in large bowls that we passed around. The soup was a delicious pasta soup that was based with a chicken broth and filled with noodles and carrots. The salad was cold and crisp.
The main course was interesting. I'm sure to your surprise; I had never eaten oxtail before. It was cooked in a stew-like fashion with gravy and carrots. The meat was still on the bone and I did not realize the thickness of the oxtail bone. I had to scoop them up with a spoon, put them in my mouth and, basically, suck the meat off of the bone. It was actually pretty good, despite the extra work. The tenderness of the meat was very reminiscent of a good beef stew. I did find it odd, but I was told this is how they do it at a Basque restaurant, but they serve French fries and kidney beans with every meal.
My new friends each ordered roast leg of lamb and they offered a sample to me. When we return to Reno in July, I am definitely going back to Louis' to have the lamb dinner.
The next day, Reno broadcaster Ryan Radtke took me to a place called Burger Me. When it was featured on the show, it was located in nearby Truckee, California, but they recently opened a second location on the west side of Reno.
They have some crazy burger combinations there, but I went for the Italian Stallion that was featured on the show. You could say it was the Italian version of the famous Utah pastrami burger.
It is a grilled-to-perfection one-third pound patty that was topped with some delicious Genoa salami and an Italian cold cut called Mortadella, which is a staple product of Bologna, Italy. It is flavored with spices, including whole or ground black pepper, myrtle berries, nutmeg and pistachios, jalapeños and/or olives. It was topped with what they called Boston Peppers. I'm not much for peppers, but this sweet combination worked perfectly with the burger, which is also topped with lettuce, tomato and cabernet vinaigrette.
I have to admit that I wasn't sure about it when I ordered it, but it turned out to be one of the best burgers I've had at any Triple-D restaurant that I have visited.
I have heard that their fries and onion rings were outstanding, but I just had the burger on this visit.
With this trip, I have now been to 75 "joints," as Guy likes to call them, which have been featured on Triple-D. There aren't any to visit on the next two road trips, but I can't wait until our sojourn to Omaha in May. I have been to three places there, but three more places are waiting for me.
April 16, 2012 - "FINISHED IN PHOENIX"
Chino Bandido and Los Taquitos Grill
As many of you know by now, I am a big fan of the Food Network program "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and I have now been to 73 of the restaurants that have been featured on the show. With two new stops in Arizona during my trip to 2012 spring training, I have now been to all eight restaurants in Phoenix that have been highlighted on the show that are still open. Unfortunately, an ice cream parlor named Aunt Lena's Creamery closed down before I could pay them a visit.
My first stop this spring was at a place that host Guy Fieri said was one of the funkiest spots they have ever stopped at. Chino Bandido combines the flavors of Asian cuisine with Mexican food for a unique taste. You can get any number of Asian dishes and make them a quesadilla or burrito or you can order carnitas and have it in a rice bowl.
I opted to make a plate of the different flavors with their unique ordering system. I took a photo of one of their order sheets where they do it by number. You may combine any of the numbers to make a custom made order. I should mention that I do not care for any kind of Asian food, but as I have said in the past, I sometimes eat out of my comfort zone for this blog, as one of my "rules" is to have something that Guy ate on the program.
When I was standing in line to order, they asked if there were any newbies out there, so I went up to the counter. They go over their ordering system and ask if you wanted any samples, so I requested the Jade Red Chicken and the Machaca.
The Jade Red Chicken is a lightly coated fried chicken that has a little kick to it. It is glazed with a spicy sweet and sour sauce. I was hesitant at first, as I definitely do not like that kind of sauce, but I figured since it was a free sample, so I went for it. It was very good, so I ordered that for my plate. The Machaca is shredded beef and cooked like pork carnitas with garlic, onion, tomato and cilantro. The Machaca was outstanding, so I ordered both meat dishes and ordered one Asian side, chicken fried rice, and one Mexican side, the black beans, which are served in a spicy refried-style made with olive oil.
It was a delicious meal that covered three continents, as they topped it off with a good old German snicker doodle for dessert. Upon telling them of my visit, the Angels' radio crew said it was one of their regular spring training stops each year.
Next, I visited a place called Los Taquitos Grill. To my surprise, I walked through the door and there was Bees pitcher Jeremy Berg and his family just finishing up their meal. It was not their first visit to the place, so I really looked forward to my dinner.
I ordered two items off of the menu that were featured on the show. I started off with two carnitas tacos, something that Los Taquitos is famous for going back 20 years when the parents of the owners ran a food truck. Their five daughters now run the place and it hasn't missed a beat.
The carnitas were the best I have ever eaten. It is shredded pork topped with onions, cilantro and hot sauce. The tortillas are freshly made on site and were soft and tasty. Amazingly, these little delights were just $1.15 each. One interesting note about the carnitas is that the pork is cooked in the pot with a combination of condensed milk and cola without any oil.
I also ordered a Carne Asada torta with my tacos. A torta is a sandwich made with Mexican bread called bolillo. The torta is topped with onions, lettuce, tomato, cilantro, hot sauce and mayonnaise, although I had mine without the mayo.
I thought the Carne Asada was a little dry for my liking, but overall, the sandwich was good.
Next spring, if I get the chance, I will definitely come back for the carnitas tacos. I also might try the very spicy bombera sauce, which is featured on a burrito.
January 20, 2012 - "I FOUND HEAVEN IN COLORADO"
Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen (Clarkston, MI), The Sink (Boulder, CO) and Foolish Craig's Café (Boulder, CO)
While we are still just under three months away from the start of another PCL season with the Bees, this does not keep me from two of my favorite pastimes...traveling and eating. This year, my family and I went back to Chicago for Christmas, a visit that included a drive up to the Detroit area to see my wife's mother and sister. I also had the chance to go to Boulder for New Year's Eve to fill in on the play-by-play broadcast for the Utah-Colorado basketball game. That's where I discovered a heavenly dessert.
While we were in the suburbs of Motown, I made it a point to make a 25-minute drive to the small town of Clarkston, Mich., which is most "famous" for being the hometown of Kid Rock. Downtown Clarkston consists of two blocks, but it also includes two restaurants that have been featured on an episode of the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." Kid Rock joined host Guy Fieri on a tour of the town and the two eateries. Unfortunately, I only had time for one spot and we chose the Clarkston Union Bar & Kitchen, which is known for having the "Mackest Mac and Cheese."
I ordered the house specialty with diced ham mixed in. When I asked the server about whether or not to get the half order or the full, he spread his fingers about three inches and five inches apart. Because of that, I chose the full, which turned out to be eight inches in diameter!
The Clarkston Union uses penne pasta with a mix of Canadian sharp cheddar and a mild Pinconning cheese. Pinconning is a Michigan original, named after a small town just north of Bay City where it is made. I don't know that I have ever ordered mac and cheese at a restaurant, but this was well worth it! The dish has a creamy goodness to it and it has a crunchy crust that adds great texture. My daughter had the lobster mac and cheese, which I would have selected except that it has jalapenos, which I don't like. Still, I tried a bite and wish that I had gone ahead and ordered it as you really couldn't taste the jalapenos and it had plenty of big pieces of lobster meat.
They serve 35 different beers at the Clarkston Union and while I don't drink, my kids sampled some of what they had to offer. My daughter had an ale that had pineapple as one of the ingredients and she liked it. My son tried a brew that is owned by Kid Rock, but he was not impressed, calling it beer-flavored water.
After a short stay at home, it was off to Colorado. While the hoops did not go well, the Buffalos routed the Utes 73-33; the food was great at two triple-D joints that I visited there.
The first stop was a place called The Sink, which is located right off of campus. It is a restaurant and bar that has been open since 1923. Actor Robert Redford worked there when he was a young student at CU. When I got there, I met one of the owners and told him this was the 69th Triple-D spot that I will have visited, which I think is a lot. He told me that a retired couple came in recently and said they were spending their retirement traveling the country and going to as many of the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives that they can get to and that they had reached 350!
I was leaning towards ordering the Cowboy Reuben, which features smoked brisket, chipotle BBQ sauce, cole slaw and cheddar cheese on rye, but the Texas Onion Straw Burger caught my eye. Both of those sandwiches were featured on Triple-D, but I went with the burger. Good choice!
The Sink uses a grass-fed beef for their burgers, one of the juiciest and most flavorful that I've ever eaten. This burger is topped with provolone and cheddar cheeses and seasoned onion straws. It also comes with jalapenos, which I had removed from the order. They spread the bun with a chipotle mayo that had just the right kick to it. It also comes with season fries, but you have a choice of eight other side dishes to choose from at a slight cost increase. I had the side salad, but you can also select everything from clam chowder to sweet potato fries.
The Sink is a bit on the loud side, but that is to be expected since it is half bar, half restaurant.
For lunch the next day, we went to Foolish Craig's Café, which is located in the Pearl District of Boulder and became the 70th Triple-D restaurant that I have visited. I decided to try the BLT Guacamole sandwich. I don't really like guac, but a good BLT is hard to walk away from. They put plenty of bacon on the sandwich and they give a choice of several different breads. I went with the house specialty that was featured on the show, an oatmeal stout bread that was delicious. The bread and the bacon were so good, I didn't mind the guacamole. You can actually find their guacamole recipe on the Food Network's website. They also offer several choices of sides and any place that offers tater tots is alright with me.
Now it's time to describe the heaven that I mention in the title of this blog. With apologies to my wife and mother, I, unequivocally, believe that Foolish Craig's served the best dessert I have even eaten in my entire 56-plus years on this earth.
They make a cake in which they layer 21 crepes. In between each crepe, they lightly spread a delicious butter rum caramel. They top it with a cream cheese frosting similar to what you would find on carrot cake and add some fresh sliced strawberries. When they serve it to you, the crepes are still warm and the whole fork full just melts in your mouth. It is also not as heavy a dish as it might seem by my description.
My eyes tear up just thinking about this divine dessert and wonder if I will ever make it back to Boulder again. Looking at the Bees schedule for this season, there is an off day prior to a four-game series at Colorado Springs. I wonder if they will let me go in a day early so I can make a side trip back to heaven, I mean Foolish Craig's.
October 11, 2011
The Wienery (Minneapolis), Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge (Minneapolis), Sam's No. 3 (Denver) and Mad Greek Cafe (Baker, CA)
As most of you know, when I make a road trip during the season with the Bees, I try to find restaurants that have appeared on the Food Network's hit show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives". That doesn't stop during the offseason. I recently took a trip that landed me in Minneapolis to see a Twins series at Target Field for the first time, Colorado to broadcast a Weber State football game and to Anaheim to see the Angels' final series of the season. While none of those are Triple-A stops, I figured I might as well tell you about the four Triple-D restaurants I ate. I did visit with the old Buzz coaches that are on the Twins staff and some of our former players that are with the Angels, therefore, in my mind, this qualified as a Triple-A trip.
In Minneapolis, I went to a pair of places that show host Guy Fieri stopped at on his cross-country tour of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." My first stop was a place called "The Wienery" and I'm not going to sugar coat this...calling it a "dive" would be too kind. A dump is more like it. I walked in and most of the chairs had lost their padding and were down to the bare wood. The tables were shaky and the place looked like it needed a good cleaning. I was hesitant about eating there, but I went ahead with it. Looks can be deceiving, though, and the Italian combo sandwich I had was delicious. The owner, who was working the counter, deep fries an Italian sausage and then makes a single batch of Chicago-style Italian Beef, which is thinly sliced roast beef with Italian spices mixed in. He places the sausage in the fresh roll, layers the beef over the sausage and then tops it with fresh garlic. The sandwich is served with fresh-made fries that he cooks one batch at a time. Everything was made just right and the sandwich was even better than expected when I saw the place.
The Twins played an afternoon game on my final day in Minneapolis, so I was hoping to go to a place called "Psycho Suzi's Motor Lounge." I did not have a car, so I went to the public transportation website to find out how to get there by bus. After a three-mile ride and a half-mile walk, I found the place, but did not think it was a restaurant when I walked by. It was a former A&W drive-in that, as you can see in the adjoining photo, looked more like a bank. From watching the show, I knew it would be very interesting on the inside, which is decorated like an island Tiki bar. I also believe there was a six-tattoo minimum for all of the servers. Most of the menu items featured on the show were appetizers, like batter-dipped and fried mini asparagus and mini hot dogs, but I came to try one thing and one thing only.
I love barbecue chicken pizza and from what I saw on the show, this was going to be deliciously different. It is your basic BBQ chicken pizza with two major exceptions. First, the tangy barbecue sauce is laced with cayenne to give an extra kick. Second, they add slices of pineapple to it. The hotness of the sauce balances beautifully with the coolness of the fruit for a tasty combination. This may have been the best BBQ chicken pizza I have ever eaten.
Next, it was on to Colorado and broadcasting Weber State's win over Northern Colorado. It is too bad that the Wildcats now play in what is called Division I FCS, otherwise I could have called this portion of the blog "Triple-D in Division I-AA." I headed down I-25 to downtown Denver to go to a place called "Sam's No. 3." Unlike a lot of the places featured on Triple-D, Sam's has marked on the menu which dishes that were highlighted on the show. There were several to choose from, but I narrowed it down to the Green Chili Mexi-Burger or the Red No. 3 Chiliburger.
I told the server that I could not make up my mind; she told me to hang on and then brought out samples of both the green and red chili to see which one I liked best. Both were very good, but I went with the green, since that is what they are most famous for. Am I glad I went with the green! First, they grill a half-pound burger. That's a lot, but I hadn't eaten since breakfast and it was close to 7:30 p.m. Then they put the burger inside a flour tortilla, top it with cheddar cheese and then smother it in their Kickin' Pork Green Chili. It also came with a side order of tater tots with some of the green chili. WOW! There were all kinds of flavors racing through my mouth as I ate it (knife and fork required) and it was fantastic.
After spending one day at home, my wife and I drove to Anaheim, but planned to stop in the town of Baker, California for lunch. Baker is a town with a population of 600 and features the "World's Tallest Thermometer." It also has several fast food joints; the usual chains and a locally-owned spot called the "Mad Greek Café" and it is not associated with the Mad Greek chain here in the Salt Lake City area. This place, though, was featured several years ago on the very first episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."
We were taken aback by the $9.85 price tag on a gyros sandwich, but went ahead with it. As it turns out, it was worth it. There was more of the meat (a combination of lamb and beef) that I have ever seen on a gyro before and it is served with a side of either rice or French fries. The meat was the most tender and juicy that I've had on a gyro and the pita bread was grilled up just right.
The only complaint I would have is that is what I call a "California" style gyro. It was topped with the usual onions and tomatoes, but it also had lettuce. Having seen it at places in Fresno and Sacramento over the years, California is the only place I have been to where they put lettuce on a gyro and, quite frankly, I don't think it belongs there. Plus, this lettuce had some sort of dressing on it that did not enhance the sandwich. It did come with the most delicious tzaziki sauce, which is a cool cucumber dressing.
All in all, this oasis in the desert is a must stop if you are making the drive to Southern California.
With these four "joints" as Guy likes to call them, I have now been to 67 restaurants that have been featured on the show and hope to visit more during the offseason.
August 11, 2011
Green Mesquite, Sophia's Place and Cecilia's Café - Austin and Albuquerque
After a long season of travel, the Bees just went on the club's last eight-game road trip of the 2011 season. Fortunately the team hit a couple of cities that had some Diners, Drive-Ins and Drive stops that I had yet to make it to. I went to three places that all fell into the "Dive" category, but that is not to demean the eateries I visited. As always, show host Guy Fieri did not steer me wrong. With these three "joints," I have now eaten at 63 restaurants that have been featured on the Food Network's hit series.
My first stop came at a place called the Green Mesquite. Located just south of downtown in Austin, Texas, the restaurant's name is also the kind of wood they use in their smoker for their pulled pork, brisket and other barbecued meats. My server told me that the green mesquite gives it a distinct tangier flavor than other woods. It is a smokier wood that clogs up the smoker's flue to the point it must be replaced once a year.
One drawback was the small dining room, which forced me to eat out on the patio. Normally, that wouldn't be a bad thing, but it was 105 degrees outside on what was Austin's 27th consecutive day of triple-digit temperatures. They had fans working, but all they were doing was moving around the hot air.
With several choices of items that were featured on the show, I went with the tacos that had nothing Mexican about them. One was made with the brisket and the other with the pulled pork. They were served in flour tortillas and topped with lettuce and tomato and, of course, I had to smother them in their very tangy barbecue sauce.
Both were very good, but I preferred the brisket. Then again, Texas is more famous for their beef BBQ anyway. Both meats were nice and tender and the brisket had a delicious bark (crust) to it, as well as a very noticeable smoke ring. You could order two sides, so I got the corn on the cob and the hushpuppies. The corn was tasty, but the hushpuppies may have been the best have I eaten since I lived in South Carolina in the late 1970s.
Normally I wouldn't eat dessert, but I had seen someone else's order of peach cobbler and could not pass it up. I am glad that I didn't.
Next, it was on to Albuquerque where Fieri has visited four restaurants. I had visited two of them in 2009; the Standard Diner and the Monte Carlo Steak House, which is located in the back of a liquor store, so it was time to hit the other two. My first stop was to Sophia's Place, which was located on the outskirts of the northwest side of the city.
There were two items from the show that intrigued me. One was a duck enchilada and the other was blue corn pancakes topped with fresh fruit and homemade butter. As it turns out, the enchiladas were not a regular item on the menu, but that's okay. Everytime I order duck, I get stuck with the bill.
I had never eaten blue corn pancakes until a couple of years ago when I had them at another Triple-D spot, the By-Ways Café in Portland, Ore. They have kind of a nutty texture and flavor and they are delicious. The fresh blueberries and strawberries on top were a nice touch, but the key to the breakfast was the butter.
Not only do they make it fresh at Sophia's, but they add pine nuts, honey and dried cherries to it to make it sweet enough that you really don't need to add syrup, even though they give a you a container of fresh maple syrup to go with it. I got a half order, which is two pancakes and that was plenty. I would have needed to walk back to the hotel, four miles away, if I had eaten a full order.
You pay up front before you eat, but rather than leave a tip at the table, there is a mug that you leave the money in called the Karma Jar. I figured I did not want to tempt fate, so I left plenty in the cup.
Later that same day, I went to lunch at Cecilia's Café just off of downtown Albuquerque. Cecilia says she was the oldest of 12 children and has been cooking since she was five years old. Cecilia's features fresh New Mexican style food, which means two things; red chiles and green chiles.
As I have mentioned before, I am a fairly picky eater, but by following the show, I have ventured outside my comfort zone a few times. This was one of those occasions, as I ordered the carne adovada as part of a stuffed sopapilla. The carne adovada is chunks of pork marinated in red chile sauce for several hours. It does come with a warning though. It says "This one is hot!" Normally I would pass on it, but it looked so good on the show. The sopapilla is a fried tortilla, which is made fresh every day, that puffs up and then they open it in half. The sopapilla is soft and chewy like bread that is made fresh every day. They actually sell them separately for you to snack on before or after your meal.
They stuff them with all sorts of meats, but I went with the carne adovada. It was absolutely delicious and it was HOT, HOT, HOT! I don't think I have ever eaten anything that spicy, even with some of Cajun food I've had in New Orleans. Of course, I did not help myself by pouring a small side cup of the red chile sauce on top of everything. I would put ice cubes in my mouth in between each bite. Sometimes I would need to eat one of the sides; rice, beans or cinnamon rice pudding to cool off. Besides the heat, the pork was juicy, flavorful and tender.
In the end, the stuffed sopapilla with carne adovada was very, very good, but my eyes were still watering when I left Cecilia's.
July 19, 2011
The Bagel Deli and Steuben's Food Service - Denver
After several seasons of waiting, host Guy Fieri finally took his Food Network show to the state of Colorado and stopped to eat in several places in Denver. Fortunately, when the Bees travel to play the Sky Sox, the team flies into the Mile High City and drives down I-25 to Colorado Springs.
When we arrived into what I like to call "Kansas International Airport" since it is so far away from downtown Denver, I picked up my rental car and headed to a place called The Bagel Deli. I went to a high school where 90 percent of the student body was Jewish and had many meals at friends' homes. When I saw that I had the chance to go to a real Jewish delicatessen, I jumped at the opportunity.
When I walked through the front door, it was as I expected; a restaurant to my right and a true deli counter to my left. After watching the episode, there was no doubt as to what I was going to order; chicken and matzo ball soup and a knish. What I didn't expect was, as you can see in the photo, they had a sampler platter of all that Guy ate on the program; the two items that I mentioned and kishka. My heart and stomach were so focused on the soup and knish that I passed on the sampler and asked for full orders of the soup and the knish.
The soup was flavorful with pieces of chicken and slices of carrots and two huge matzo balls. For those of you who don't know what they are, some describe them as Jewish dumplings. What is different about the Matzo at The Bagel Deli is that one of their key ingredients is ginger, which gives them a little extra flavor.
The knish was delish. A knish is a turnover-type pastry filled with brisket and, believe me, it was stuffed. The pastry shell was flaky and tasty and the brisket was tender and juicy. It had been years since I last had one, but I will definitely stop there and have another one on the Bees' next trip to Colorado, although I may be tempted to try those mile-high stacked deli sandwiches.
Oh yes, I did end my visit with an apricot rugelach, a delightful little bite-sized pastry filled with flavor.
On a side note, I struck up a conversation with Joe, who co-owns The Bagel Deli with his wife Rhoda, whose parents opened the place over 40 years ago. One thing led to another and, as it turns out, we graduated from the same suburban Chicago high school, with Joe receiving his diploma three years before I did. He moved out to Denver in 1972 and has been there ever since.
After the series concluded on a Sunday afternoon, it was time to head back to DIA for a 9:45 p.m. flight home. That left plenty of time to stop at Steuben's Food Service located in uptown Denver for a dinner that I had really looking forward to. There were two items on the menu that was featured on the show; an herb roasted chicken and something straight out of a seafood restaurant in New England; a lobster roll. I am sure the chicken is very good, but nothing was going to keep me from that seafood sandwich.
Steuben's is a converted car repair garage, complete with the old hydraulic lifts, in a trendy area that features many different places to eat and drink. The name of the restaurant comes from one of their favorite places in Boston. One of many unique features of Steuben's is what they do when there is a waiting list to be seated. Instead of numbers or one of those discs that light up and vibrate, they give you a skewer with a photo from a movie and locate you by checking out the photos. Mine, as you can see, was from Top Gun.
After cooking the lobster, the chefs chop up the meat from the tail and the claw. Steuben's makes their own dressing for the lobster that includes mayo, celery, onions, lemon juice and paprika and mixes it all together. They served the lobster concoction on a real lobster roll bun they get shipped in from Boston every day. They then grill the bun on the flattop in clarified butter to cap off the sandwich.
The lobster is sweet and buttery and they are generous with the portion as it overflows off the side of the roll, which is perfectly toasted. Another plus is that they don't overdo it with the dressing. At one point, I closed my eyes, took a bite and thought I was visiting Beantown. They serve the lobster roll with a side of their fresh hand cut French fries that they are known for.
I have now been to 60 "joints," as Guy calls them, that have been featured on Triple-D, but the trip to The Bagel Deli and Steuben's has been one of the highlights of my journeys to these wonderful places to eat.
June 11, 2011
Putah Creek Cafe and Jax by the Tracks - Sacramento and Reno
Sometimes when you are searching for something good to eat, you don't mind driving a few miles out of your way to find it. That is exactly what happened on the Bees' last road trip when it came to looking for the next stops on my Triple-D in Triple-A tour. I have now had the chance to eat at 58 different "joints," as host Guy Fieri calls them, which have been on the program that is now in its 12th season.
When the team was in Sacramento, I found a place that was about 35 miles west of downtown in the small town of Winters, Calif.; population 6,600. After a Wednesday afternoon game, I got out my directions from MapQuest and headed out to the Putah Creek Café. The featured item that I wanted to try was a chicken pizza baked in a wood burning oven. Much to my dismay, when I pulled up to the place, I found that it was closed. Upon further inspection, I learned that it was only open for dinner on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
I decided to go back for lunch the next day and was disappointed to learn that they only serve the pizza at dinner, so I had to try something else. The other featured menu item on the show was the great diner staple of biscuits and gravy. That is something that I like, but, for health reasons, I haven't had them in over 10 years. A full order consisted of two biscuits, three sausage patties and a ladle full of gravy. I opted for something else; chicken fried steak with a side of biscuits and gravy, which consists of just one biscuit and no sausage, except for the generous sized chunks in the gravy.
I have to say that it was a great meal that came with a side of guilt. The biscuits were light and fluffy and the gravy was deliciously creamy and rich with a bit of a peppery kick to it. The chicken fried steak was also scrumptious, so the meal was well worth it, although I would like to go back there for dinner some time and try that chicken pizza. If it is as good as the biscuits and gravy, it will be well worth it.
Our final stop on the road trip was Reno and I've already hit a couple of places there that I have enjoyed; The Gold and Silver Inn and The Dish Café. After the Sunday afternoon game, it was time for another road trip of my own. This one was about 30 miles to the west of Reno in the resort town of Truckee, Calif. to a place called Jax by the Tracks.
Jax was a place that I was really looking forward to, as Fieri raved about the meatloaf there. It wasn't just any meatloaf though, as it was made, not with ground beef, but ground Kobe beef. I had never had Kobe before, but I had heard about how flavorful it is.
Before I tell you about it, though, I need to tell you the story about the diner itself. In 1992, the original owner was looking to restore an old diner, bring it to Truckee and serve all of the comfort food that you would associate with one. He found one built in the late 1940s near Philadelphia sitting on cinder blocks. He really liked the interior and thought it was perfect for what he wanted to do. Getting out West was not easy and what was supposed to be a two-week trip turned into a month-long ordeal. Pennsylvania highway officers impounded the entire rig and the diner went to jail. Eventually, it made it to Truckee and opened after a 1.2 million dollar overhaul.
Before my meatloaf came out, the server gave me a small bowl of homemade potato chips that had been lightly sprinkled with parmesan. I only wanted a couple as I was afraid I would fill up before my dinner. Of course, they were so good I ate most of them.
Nic's also serves breakfast and has what they call an "Almost" daily lunch special. It is almost because they only have a special on Tuesday (pork chops), Thursday (fried chicken) and Friday (meat loaf), but c'mon, it is definitely all about the burger. Oh yes, the half-pound burger, fries (and as you can see in the photo, they give you a lot of them) and drink combo was less than eight dollars!
May 8, 2011
The Golden Bear, Gatsby's and Dad's Kitchen - Sacramento
After not being able to visit a restaurant featured on the Food Network television show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" during the Bees first road trip of the season to Tucson and Las Vegas, I was really looking forward to the team's trip to Sacramento. I had already gone to eat at several places in that area that had already been visited by host Guy Fieri, but in season 11, which was just completed, he went to three new spots in Sacramento. My plan was to visit one or two and then catch the others on our next trip into town, but, as it turns out, I made it to all three of them this time around.
My first stop was to a little place called The Golden Bear. The River Cats' broadcaster, Johnny Doskow, used to live in the neighborhood where the place was located, but he had never been there, as he thought it was just a bar with no food. Johnny went with me to check the place out. As usual in my first visit to a place, I want to have an entrée that was featured on the program. I was intrigued by a pizza that featured no cheese and no sauce.
The chef at the Golden Bear makes his own pizza crust and then puts down a good-sized layer of caramelized onions. Next, they actually make their own sausage in-house and fry it up and put the crumbs on top of the onions. After that, it is put in the oven for around five minutes. While that is baking, they make their own coleslaw in a unique way. Before they add their own homemade dressing, the cabbage is smoked over hickory chips, much like you would do to meat. When it is ready, they put the slaw on top of the sausage and onion.
The end result was a very tasty pizza for lunch. When I saw the show, I thought this pizza would be good, but it was even better that I expected. Even Johnny, who had a slice, enjoyed it. The only complaint I had was that I didn't think the sausage had enough kick to it, but despite that, I am sure I will be back for seconds the next time I make it to Sacramento.
The next day featured an afternoon game against the River Cats, which means a chance to relax and have dinner. That meant a trip to Gatsby's, which is located a couple of blocks from Guy's own restaurant, Tex Wasabi. My choices included a German beef dish or pork chops. As it turns out, my server was the mother of the owner, so when I asked her which dish I should try; she quickly said the pork chops because it was her son's own recipe. So pork chops it was.
At Gatsby's, they take the chops and brine them in a vanilla bean brine and then smoke them. The place was once a Japanese tepanyaki restaurant, so the grills were situated in the middle of the dining area. The chops are cooked to perfection and served on top of a bed of potato salad that is made with a southern twist. Besides the potatoes, celery and onions, they include chopped carrots into the mix. The chops were juicy and delicious and the potato salad was the second best I've ever had, behind my mother's.
It also came with grilled asparagus and that is something I haven't eaten since I spit it out in elementary school. However, since going to places featured on Triple-D has, at times, made me eat outside my comfort zone, I decided to have a couple of bites. When the server came back, I told her that story and she asked what I thought. I told her that I tried it, but I still don't like asparagus. Overall, it was another outstanding meal and I look forward to returning there as well.
Finally, on our last day there, I went to a place called Dad's Kitchen. At a place called Dad's, I had to try the Dad's Burger, even though, once again, it featured something I really don't like, blue cheese.
The burger is a half-pound of ground beef that is crusted with blue cheese and bacon. They actually fry up the cheese and bacon mixture and form a solid crust before imbedding the burger on top of it. At Dad's, the chef tops the burger with the usual, tomato, lettuce and onion, but then adds a homemade Aleppo chile spread on an artisan bun. Again, a chile spread isn't my cup of tea, but I thought I'd give it a try in behalf of my culinary research.
The burger was super juicy and delicious! The sauce was yummy and I needed several napkins to get through it. The burger is normally served with fries, but I wanted to try their handmade beer battered onion rings. They are served with a sprinkling of parmesan and a drizzle of what they call a balsamic reduction. I don't know what that is, but the onion rings were outstanding.
As a big fan of the show, I have now been to 54 places that have been featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and each time I go, I never know what to expect other than a good meal. I definitely was not disappointed on this trip to Sacramento.
Thee Pitts Again and Giuseppe's on 28th - Phoenix area
As my annual sojourn to Spring Training in Tempe, Ariz. neared, it was time to check out which restaurants had been featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives that I wanted to go to in the Phoenix area. I had already been to several, but there a couple that I had still not yet visited.
My first stop was in Glendale at a barbecue place called Thee Pitts Again. The owner has won many national BBQ competitions and yes, they do have those kinds of contests and point me towards the leftovers. I am always up for good barbecue, so I was really looking forward to this visit, as it was the 50th Triple-D restaurant that I have visited. I mentioned that to my server and she said that was cool, but she pointed to a couple in a corner booth and said they were visiting their 70th! I did have to go over and talk to them and had a great time exchanging notes.
I ordered a combo plate with pulled pork and beef brisket. The pork was good with several pieces still attached to the bark that forms on the roast in the smoker. The brisket was very lean, almost too lean for my taste, but it was all very good. My server convinced me to try their popular peach cobbler for dessert. The peaches were covered in a whipped cream that was sprinkled with cinnamon on top. The fruit was delicious, but I was disappointed in the bottom crust. It was very doughy, almost like it wasn't cooked all of the way.
As a whole, I would definitely go back to Thee Pitts Again, but I would skip dessert, although my doctor doesn't want me to eat it in the first place.
On my last day in Arizona and before I went to the airport, I visited an Italian restaurant that is cleverly named Giuseppe's on the 28th since it is located at 28th Street and Indian School Road. You wouldn't expect great food from a strip mall restaurant, but this may have been the best individual meal that I've had at any Triple-D spot, definitely in the top three.
Guy Fieri raved about their osso bucco on the show, so I had to give it a try. One of the things that make Giuseppe's different than most places is that instead of lamb or veal, they use pork shanks. The pork is roasted with tomatoes, carrots, onions and celery and placed on a bed of freshly made lemon herb pasta and then topped with the veggies. After the first bite, I asked my server why she gave me a knife, as the pork easily came off the bone with my fork. It was soooo good! The fresh pasta with that hint of lemon was a perfect base for the dish.
On top of the great meal, I asked the server if the iced tea they served was brewed or from a fountain. That is an important question as I am an iced tea snob and won't drink fountain tea. She said not only was it brewed, but it was sun tea, where they put the pitcher of water with the tea bags outside and let the sun naturally brew it.
At Giuseppe's, I also met a family that was visiting the place because of the television show. It was just their fifth, but they were looking forward to it. I knew that a couple of the guests had ordered the osso bucco, so I told them they were in for a real treat.
Rainbow Drive-In, Nico's at Pier 38, and Hank's Haute Dogs - Hawaii
From 1961 through 1987, Honolulu was the home of a Pacific Coast League team before it moved to Colorado Springs in 1988. I believe the last games ever played by the old Salt Lake Gulls were at Aloha Stadium before the Gulls were sold and relocated to Calgary.
I bring this up because last month, I enjoyed the opportunity go to Hawaii for the first time. With Utes broadcaster and Kansas City Royals fan Bill Riley with the University of Utah football team as they played in the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl, the Utes needed someone to fill in on their radio broadcasts for the basketball team's visit to the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic basketball tournament and I just happened to be available.
A couple of years ago, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives host Guy Fieri dedicated an entire show to Hawaii, so I knew I needed to visit some of those joints to add to my list of Triple-D restaurants that I've had the pleasure to eat at. I ate at three places featured on the show, raising my overall total to 49 places. My first stop was at the Rainbow Drive-In to try one of the favorite dishes on the Islands called Loco Moco.
Loco Moco is made with several ingredients that people enjoy, but rarely eat together. It starts on a bed of rice, topped by, in this case, two hamburger patties. That combination is then smothered in brown gravy and topped with a fried egg. Now I don't care for fried eggs, but they were able to make it for me with scrambled eggs. Some restaurants in Hawaii also include grilled onions in the mix, but not at the Rainbow. For such an unusual mix of food, the meal was pretty good and definitely filling, but probably not something I would eat on a regular basis unless I was looking for a rapid weight gain. To add to the oddity of the dish, it was served with a side of macaroni salad. But I learned in my time over there that rice and macaroni salad are served with just about every meal.
My next stop was Nico's at Pier 38. Nico's is located right on the waterfront in the heart of Honolulu's seafood industry, which is part of the intrigue. Nico, himself, goes directly to the fish market and picks out all of the fresh fish himself and, because there is no middle man, the customers reap the benefits. No entrée on the menu costs more than nine dollars and my meal would have cost more than double that anywhere else.
My final stop was at Hank's Haute Dogs. Hank is a native Chicagoan, like me, who decided to open up an authentic Chicago Hot Dog stand, but with a few twists. Unfortunately, the two unusual dogs that were featured on the show weren't available. One of those was a Lobster Dog that is only served on Friday. I wouldn't have been able to eat it, though, as they mix in shrimp with the lobster and I am allergic to shrimp. The other was the Fat Boy, which is a hot dog wrapped in bacon, deep fried and topped with lettuce, tomato and mayo. A hot dog BLT.
I did, however, enjoy their true authentic Chicago Dog, which is a steamed Vienna pure beef hot dog served on a steamed poppy seed bun that Hank has shipped from the Windy City. Now a true Chicago Dog is topped with mustard, onions, tomatoes, a special glow in the dark green relish that he also has shipped to Hawaii, a dill pickle spear, sport peppers and celery salt. I am from the suburbs, so I drop the relish, salt and peppers. The Vienna Dog itself has an unmistakable snap to it when you take a bite, so as Guy would say, this was the real deal. Thankfully, I was able to enjoy a side of fresh cut fries instead of yet another plate of rice.
Fieri has featured three other Oahu restaurants on the show, but I had to save those for another visit, a visit I hope to make in the near future. In the meantime, I will have to start lining up some new Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives stops for my annual trip to spring training in March.
August 20, 2010
Arnold's, Athen's, Martin's Bar-B-Cue Joint, and the Little Tea Shop - Nashville and Memphis, Tenn.
Despite the heat and humidity, I always enjoy the Bees' every-other-year visit to Tennessee. This season's trip has been even more enjoyable thanks to the bevy of restaurants in Nashville and Memphis that have appeared on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives". There has never been a shortage of good places to eat in either city, but Guy found some great locations for his television show that I had never been to and, quite frankly, would have never stopped at while driving by, which is the beauty of the show.
My first stop was arranged by former Bees assistant general manager Brad Tammen, who is now a vice president with the Nashville Sounds. He had found a place near the ballpark that he enjoyed for lunch and one day, he and another former Bees employee, Darrin Feller, showed up and there was Guy filming that episode of the show. Arnold's is your basic southern lunch stop where the menu is on a blackboard with a list of meats and vegetable choices. You can mix and match however you'd like and the price you pay is based on the number of meats and veggies that you order. The menu changes daily with one exception.
When Guy was there, he tried the chicken and dumplings, and according to the owner's son, couldn't stop eating it. Like most of their entrees, Arnold's only served it once a week, but Guy convinced them that it was so good, they needed to sell it every day. They took his advice and often sell out, having to make a second batch almost daily. I, of course, had to try the chicken and dumplings and it was as good as advertised. The chunks of chicken are nice and moist, the dumplings are soft and tender and the sauce was absolutely delicious.
My next stop was a place called the Athens Family Restaurant that, not surprisingly, features many different Greek dishes. What I had isn't something you would normally find at a Greek place and I'm not sure this is even a Greek dish, but it was so good. I am a sucker when it comes to anything made with lamb and they had a bacon and lamb burger. It starts with about a one-third pound ground lamb patty, which is very juicy and tasty. They top it with two strips of crisp bacon and Swiss cheese. I am not a big fan of Swiss, but I figured, if I've eaten goat cheese this year, it's not going to bother me. Underneath the burger, they have the staples of a gyros, onions and tomatoes with a dab of homemade Thousand Island dressing that closely resembled fry sauce. It was very good and very messy, but I would definitely order it again.
My final stop in the Music City was a place called Martin's Bar-B-Cue Joint. Brad told me it was the best barbecue that he had enjoyed since he moved there last fall. I had to try what they called a "Redneck Taco." To make it, Martin's starts with what I would call a cornbread pancake. They top it with their moist and tender pulled pork and then top that with their tangy homemade slaw. At first, I tried to fold it like a taco and eat it that way, but that was a losing proposition, so out came the knife and fork. The "Redneck Taco" was outstanding, although I would have liked a little more pork on it.
From Nashville, it was on to Memphis and a trip to the Little Tea Shop that was conveniently located two blocks from the team's hotel. Like Arnold's in Nashville, the Little Tea Shop features a different menu each day. The menu comes like a list and you check off what you want to order and then take it to the cashier when you're done and it doubles as your bill. One of the items featured on the show was their southern fried chicken. It has your basic fried chicken spices on it, but the owner, a delightful lady named Suhair, is from Jerusalem and adds a few Middle Eastern spices that she even kept secret from Guy. I don't know what those spices are, but they sure made the fried chicken extra tasty. It doesn't stop with the chicken, though. Most entrees are accompanied by these delicious cornbread sticks and veggies. I ordered the cooked carrots and noticed something unique about them right away. The carrots were not cooked in water but rather in a chicken broth which was very good. I was also told I couldn't leave without trying the peach cobbler, which was, hands down; the best I've ever eaten. The whole meal was served by a wonderful lady named Lizzie and she added some great southern hospitality to the meal.
In all, it was a trip where not only did the Bees play well, but I went 4-for-4 with my visits to the four restaurants from Triple-D.
August 5, 2010
Pine State Biscuits - Portland, Ore.
It has been three weeks since my last visit to a Triple-D restaurant, so I was really looking forward to the team's visit to Portland. My target this time was a place called Pine State Biscuits. Side note: this is my 40th different place that I have been to that has appeared on the program, the 10th during this season.
The owners of PSB are from North Carolina and the place may have been the smallest I've ever been to out of the 40. The dining room consists of four tables and a counter that seats five or six. As the name implies, Pine State features biscuits that are topped or stuffed with some great ingredients. They have everything from homemade country gravy to fresh fruit spreads with combinations that can be described as a breakfast item, lunch item or either.
If I have the chance to go back to Portland some day, I would order the biscuit topped with seasonal fruit and whipped cream.
One other thing, to help them out, you must bus your own table. It was just like being at the school cafeteria again, only with much better food, and no one was wearing a hair net. They actually have you place your plate in a plastic tub and your silverware in another tub filled with water.
July 18, 2010
Four Kegs - Las Vegas, Nev.
I was in somewhat of a conundrum on the Bees last visit to Las Vegas. The idea of a heavy Italian dish on a 106-degree day wasn't all that appealing to me, but there was still a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives featured restaurant in Vegas that I hadn't been to. I am sure glad I made the trip to the Four Kegs, which had been a college hangout for Triple-D host Guy Fieri when he attended UNLV. It's a sports bar restaurant famous for its stromboli, which is something like a calzone. As a matter of fact, I wasn't sure what the difference was until I looked it up.
According to Wikipedia, calzones are similar to stromboli, but traditionally the two are distinct dishes. A common misconception is that the ingredients are the primary difference between the two. The ingredients are actually at the discretion of the chef. Although most strombolis are rolled, strombolis have also been known to be prepared like a calzone, where the only difference is that a calzone has the sauce on the side, where the stromboli is served with sauce on the inside of the folded crust and it is cut up into slices for serving.
Like I said, I don't care for sushi, but some of the names on the menu weren't what you might be used to seeing. That includes "Stop, Drop and Roll," "Jumping Jack Fish Roll" and the "Tootsie Roll."
There is a fun atmosphere at Tex Wasabi's where sports are shown on every TV, but one. That one features episodes of Triple-D, of course.
June 14, 2010
Gold 'N Silver Inn - Reno, Nev.
When I go to a restaurant that has appeared on the "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" for the first time, I always like to eat one of the dishes that host Guy Fieri tries out on show. Sometimes, I have to go to YouTube and view the episode again to refresh my memory. That wasn't a problem at the Gold 'N Silver Inn in Reno, Nev. where they have a special section of the menu that shows what he ate and what Guy had to say about it.
My choices, after an easy six block walk from the team hotel which included a walk past Reno's only drive-thru wedding chapel, were a tri-tip sandwich, a 1-lb. ground beef patty smothered in veal gravy and a unique dish involving pork chops. As a fan of chops, I had to go in that direction. The pork chops, which are hand cut in the kitchen, are about a half an inch thick, breaded and pan fried. That is about as basic as it gets, so what makes these pork chops different than most was the sauce that was served on top. The base of the sauce is, believe it or not, lemonade. Not just lemonade, but fresh squeezed lemonade. Ketchup, cider vinegar and a variety of spices are mixed into the lemonade to form a delicious taste. Fieri is quoted on the menu as saying it reminded him of sweet and sour sauce, but to me, that wasn't the case because I don't like sweet and sour sauce, but I really enjoyed this one. I could taste the tartness of the lemons, but it wasn't overwhelming.
It came with two sides, so I went with mashed potatoes, so that I could enjoy more of the sauce, and a salad. I passed on the roll because I wanted to try their bread pudding for dessert. I don't normally eat dessert, but I saw someone nearby order it and it looked too good to pass up. I was not disappointed, although I only ate half of it.
My lunch was so good; I went back for breakfast the next morning and enjoyed a scramble with ham, tomatoes and onions.
As it turns out, Guy was in town for an appearance in Lake Tahoe, a combination rock show and cooking show, but it was at the same time as our game. Some day, I hope our paths will cross. I hear he's a big baseball fan.
June 3, 2010
Podnah's Pit Barbecue - Portland, Ore.
As I was packing for our road trip to Portland, my wife, daughter and I were watching another episode of Triple-D. Guy was checking out great barbecue places around the country and, I was in luck as there were several joints in Portland that I haven't tried and I was still pondering which one to go to. After watching that show, my decision was made as I was now in the mood for some 'cue' and a visit to Podnah's Pit Barbecue.
I don't get a rental care in Portland because there's a light rail stop at our hotel. But I checked out the location of the restaurant on MapQuest and decided I could walk on down to Podnah's. Twenty-six blocks later, some of them uphill, I made it. Sometimes, I will go out of my way for a good meal.
Podnah's features Texas-style barbecue and in the Lone Star State, that means beef. As I have written in earlier stories, I always like to eat something that they showed being made on Triple-D. The lamb ribs are only on the dinner menu, so that made my choice easy. I ordered the beef brisket sandwich with a side of cole slaw. On the program, Guy showed the owner preparing the rub for the beef before it is smoked and talked about what he calls the "bark." That is the crust formed by the rub and he showed the smoke ring underneath the bark. When the server delivered my sandwich, I noticed the bark and the ring right away, so before I dug into it, I pulled off a piece of the bark and gave it a try. It was so good; I couldn't wait to take a bite. The brisket just melted in my mouth and was as tender and delicious as any beef barbecue I've ever had. I almost forgot about the slaw because the sandwich was so good, but it was vinegar-based, both tart and sweet.
Overall, it was very much well worth the hike to Podnah's, which is now the 37th Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives restaurant that I have been to and my seventh in the PCL this season. The Bees don't make it to Round Rock this year, so I very much appreciated that Portland had a cure for my hankering for some good Texas barbecue.
May 25, 2010
Dixie Quicks, Amato's and Brewburger - Omaha, Neb.
One of the rarest events in a baseball game is the triple play. To get three outs on one play, everything has to fall into place. The Bees, Stingers and Buzz have combined to turn only four triple plays in its 17-year history; the latest coming on May 1, 2006. While this doesn't quite equal what could take place in a game, I did manage to turn a triple play of sorts during our visit to Omaha. I was able to visit not one, not two, but three restaurants that have been featured on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." I have now eaten at 36 of the joints that have been highlighted on the show, which is in its ninth season.
My first stop came Friday afternoon when I stopped for lunch at a place called Dixie Quicks near downtown Omaha. On the Triple-D episode it appeared on, host Guy Fieri raved about the blackened salmon, so that's what I set my sights on. Dixie Quicks does not have a printed menu, but instead uses a blackboard to list the items of the day. To my dismay, the salmon was not on the board, but the waiter suggested the blackened trout, which he said is very similar. As it turns out, he was absolutely right. The Cajun spices that the chef used were right on the money and it may have been the best blackened anything that I've ever had. It was cooked just right and served with two sides and corn bread. I went with green beans and cooked carrots. One of the amazing things about the lunch was that I got all of that food, plus my iced tea, for just $9.90, tax included! The neighborhood was a little sketchy, but if given the opportunity again when we come back in 2012, I will be back for another visit to Dixie Quicks.
When you think of ricotta cheese, which I don't do often, but when you do, what comes to your mind? Lasagna, right? Well, think again. On Saturday morning, I stopped by a spot called Amato's. On the show, Guy showed us how they made their homemade sausages and sandwiches, but there was something else on the program that caught my eye. I am a sucker for good blueberry pancakes and owner Sammy Amato, who I met while I was there, makes his flapjacks with ricotta cheese in the batter. I had never heard of anything like this before, but I wanted to give it a try. This proved to be a great decision as those pancakes were as good as you can get. With the creaminess of the ricotta, you didn't need to put any butter on them and Amato's uses big, plump blueberries, which makes for a delicious combination. To top it all off, I asked for a side order of their homemade Italian sausage links. They were the perfect compliment to a great breakfast. Next time we come to Omaha, I will have to include a lunch stop and try one of Amato's locally famous Italian sausage sandwiches.
To finish off the Omaha Triple-D trifecta, it was on to Brewburgers with some friends for lunch on Saturday. Brewburgers is a sports bar and restaurant that features over a dozen different hamburgers. I love lamb, (he said sheepishly), and would have ordered the lamb burger, but I always like to try something that was featured during its episode on the show the first time I go to a restaurant. With that in mind, I decided to try the old-fashioned beef brisket sandwich. The meat is called Montreal brisket, which is a staple in the beautiful Canadian city which the owner is from. It's a hybrid of two other styles of meat; it is brine cured with the flavor of corned beef and it's smoked like pastrami, served on Jewish rye bread with a touch of mustard. Starting with my first bite, it just melted in my mouth. It was as good as it gets. I got it with a side of onion rings, which were good, but not great. I wanted to get an appetizer that I haven't had since the days the team was affiliated with Minnesota and spring training was in Florida...deep fried alligator tail, which was also featured on the program, but my friends didn't seem interested. As mentioned, I went with the onion rings, but you can get fries served six different ways including Italian fries, which are served with Alfredo sauce, gorgonzola cheese, bacon and chives. Thanks, but no thanks.
This was a great trip for food. Surprisingly, even without the Triple-D spots, Omaha is a great city for restaurants and I didn't even make it to one single steak places, which this city is famous for.
May 4, 2010
Guisti's - Walnut Grove, Calif.
When we go from city to city in the Pacific Coast League, all 15 of them, I have always loved to eat at locally owned establishments rather than chain restaurants. Mind you, I don't mind franchise restaurants, but there is something about the friendliness, food and fun at the "mom and pop" places of the world. So I definitely figure that if a place has been featured on the show, it's got to be good. C'mon, do you think host Guy Fieri would steer me and you wrong?
There are a few places in Sacramento that have been on the program, but I've already been to a couple of them and wanted to visit some new places for this series of stories on the road. The Squeeze Inn is a great burger place and Jamie's Bar and Grill has a pair of fantastic items; a great garlic filet mignon sandwich and a turkey club sandwich, but no sign outside the place to tell you that it's there. Sometimes, I do have to drive a little out of the way to visit one of the restaurants as I did on Tuesday after our day game against the River Cats. Giusti's is located in the delta area about 25 miles south of Sacramento near Walnut Grove. It is located just along the riverfront and if you wanted to, you could actually take a boat to the place.
When you walk into Giusti's, pronounced "Joo-Stees", you enter a bar area complete with a ceiling full of hats. I was told that was because, many years ago, it was a boarding house and guys would hang their hats there. From there, you walk into the dining room and into what feels like a rustic lodge.
As usual, I like to order one of the menu items featured on the show that the chef makes in the kitchen. I was really looking forward to that because lamb shanks are one of my favorites. But, as it turns out, I was told they only make those maybe every other weekend. The woman I talked to said even the regulars at Giusti's get a laugh when they watch the show because they rarely have lamb shanks available. I did get over my disappointment when I noticed one of the specials of the day, rack of lamb. It was as good as I have ever had, meaty, perfectly cooked with just the right spices. The meal started with a minestrone soup that was also featured on the show. I'm usually not a big fan of that soup, but it was really good. They actually bring a large cauldron of it that's bottomless.
Altogether, I'm really glad I made the half-hour drive to Giusti's, which is now the 33rd Triple-D joint I've visited. The food was great and the people were very friendly. Now I can't wait for our next road trip, which includes four days in Omaha where they've had several Triple-D stops on the show, none to which I have been.
April 27, 2010
Slim's Last Chance Chili Shack & Watering Hole - Seattle, Wash.
The Bees and I are on our second road trip of the season, so it's time to visit another restaurant that has been featured on one of my favorite television shows, the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." I have been to 31 such "joints", as host Guy Fieri would call them. As I search for number 32, and the second of the season, there is only one restaurant in Tacoma that has been featured on Triple-D. I visited the Southern Kitchen last year and enjoyed some great fried chicken, cornbread dressing and peach cobbler that made me feel like I was traveling through the Deep South.
While looking for a Triple-D stop to visit in the Seattle area, I found that most of them were located north of downtown. With Tacoma some 30-35 miles south of the city, I didn't feel like making that drive. However, I did find one place that was south of downtown Seattle that piqued my interest. A place called Slim's Last Chance Chili Shack and Watering Hole. It is located in a real blue collar part of town with a blue collar style bar. There was not a necktie in the place, complete with a stage for a live band and a pool table.
It has been a long time since I had a great bowl of chili and with the day being cool and overcast, I could not think of a better time to enjoy some. [No, I did not ask any of the Bees' pitchers to come with me so that they could add a little gas to their fastball.] The episode that Slim's appeared on featured two recipes; traditional Texas Red and a pork chili verde. While the chili verde looked good, I really enjoy a good bowl of Texas Red. The Texas Red was really thick, the way I like it. I had them top it with diced sweet onions and then I dug in. It was some of the best chili that I've ever had. It had a unique kick to it, but it wasn't overpowering to the point where tears well up in your eyes. The onions gave it a little extra crunch as well.
The bottom line is that it was well worth the half-hour drive for an outstanding bowl of chili. If I get the chance to go back, I'll be sure to try the chili verde. As I was leaving, I ran into a couple that was also there because of the TV show. I asked them how many Triple-D places they had been to and they said Slim's was their 10th. Amateurs.
April 15, 2010
Dish Cafe - Reno, Nev.
Let's get this out front right away. One of my favorite shows on television is Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on the Food Network. For those who may not be familiar with the program, host Guy Fieri travels America to find great out-of-the-way restaurants that may not be the fanciest in the world, but deliver friendly service, unique stories and great diner-type food that is known today as "comfort food."
As I travel throughout the Pacific Coast League, I always prefer to eat at locally-owned restaurants rather than chains, unless it is a chain that we don't have in the Salt Lake City area like Elephant Bar and Claim Jumper. Sometimes, though, it can be a little dicey if you go out on your own, so I have always asked the locals where to go. This is where Triple-D, that's what fans of the show call it, comes in. After watching the program over its eight seasons, I figure that if it is good enough to make the show, it's good enough to give it a try.
This year as I go from city to city, I've been asked to chronicle my visits to the restaurants of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I began the season having been to 30 different Triple-D restaurants in 11 states, including all seven in the SLC area. In Reno, during our second road series of this season, I was able to visit No. 31.
The Dish Cafe is owned by a former elementary school teacher who always wanted to get into the restaurant business. It's a small place with less than 15 tables. One thing you'll learn is that I usually try to eat one of the entrees that were featured on the show. I was a little hesitant this time around, as one of the sandwiches that Guy showed had one ingredient that I have never eaten before. Goat cheese. It was a Panini with a delicious tri-tip roast beef, caramelized onions and a goat cheese spread, served with a small salad and a dill pickle spear. People who know me understand that I can be a very picky eater, but I thought if I'm ever going to eat it, this was the time.
Overall, I thought the sandwich was pretty good and the goat cheese wasn't too bad. The sourdough bread was nice and crunchy after being put in the Panini press.
The staff was very friendly and genuinely excited when I told them that I was visiting my 31st Triple-D restaurant and thought it was neat that I would go to the trouble to stop by. Especially since it was over a one mile walk from our hotel in Reno. I will likely return to the Dish Cafe when we come back in June, but I might try something else off the menu.