Saturday, December 30, 2017


Place: Portillo's
Lunch (and dinner, really): Italian beef sandwich w/mozzarella dipped in gravy, cup of chili, chocolate cake shake

Chicago may have its fair share of high-end luxury eateries, but ask the local working class where to dine out and they will send you to Portillo's almost every time.

Founded by Dick Portillo (who could have walked right off the set of SNL's old "Daah Bears" skits) as a hot dog stand in a portable trailer, they specialize in Chicago dogs and Italian beef sandwiches.  But you can also get burgers, salads, ribs, chili, tamales, and more, and they do most everything pretty well.  Their chocolate cake is legendary.  Their chocolate cake shake, which is a very Dairy Queen-like chocolate shake with a slice of the chocolate cake mixed in, is a must try.  I'd put it in my top three all-time shakes (behind Steak n Shake's seasonal Caramel Apple and Winter White Chocolate shakes).  To say they do volume is an understatement.  This is a fast food with a drive-thru format with most menu items in the under $10 range, yet average store sales are around $8 million a year.  That's astounding.  That's not only well over triple what the average Chipotle or Applebee's does, it's approaching Cheesecake Factory-level sales.  Their drive-thru system is something to see at peak hours when they have staff standing outside to take your order and even deliver the food before you ever get to the window.

Another year of reflection is here.  Think of this as my annual holiday family letter home.  Your home, specifically, where I secretly live in your attic.

Who Needs Paper Anymore of the Year Pt 1 - I realized the other day that my kitchen calendar was still set to October.  And although I remember to change the month on my office calendar, I never use it.  So I guess my New Year's resolution is no more paper calendars.

Who Needs Paper Anymore of the Year Pt 2 - My sister visited for the first time in nearly 40 years and I hauled her around the Midwest to visit all the relatives.  Most of them noted that they hadn't managed to send out Christmas cards this year but said to me "I got yours, of course."  That was true for a lot of people...I sent out a couple dozen and got just four.

Random Compliment of the Year - "Excuse me, sir, but they should use you in their commercials.  The way you eat that chicken is passionate, slow, and inviting."  Said to me by a random customer in a Popeye's.

Dream of the Year - Dreamed I was at a gas station that was on fire.  Called 911, but the operator just wanted to talk about her kids.

Tacky Joke of the Year - Aristocrat Slots launched a Madonna-themed slot machine.  I don't even want to know where you drop the quarters.

Coal in Stocking of the Year - Another year of the so-called health care industry finding a cure for nothing, while pharmaceutical companies continued their path of turning the world into obscenely profitable prescription drug addicts, and health insurance companies skyrocketed rates while cutting benefits and outright eliminating coverage of certain drugs.  How any of these scumbags consider themselves human beings I'll never know.

Local Restaurant Debut of the Year - We got an R-Taco, a Texas fresh-Mex chain that makes cheap but very nice tacos of a wide variety.  Their breakfast brisket taco instantly won me over and put them in my regular breakfast rotation.

Fast Food LTO of the Year - Arby's Smokehouse Pork Belly sandwich.  Basically a slab of salted pork fat on a bun with bacon, cheese, and sauces.  SO tender.  SO tasty.  It was almost disappointing when you bit into an actual piece of meat.

Fast Food Fish Season LTO of the Year - White Castle enhanced their Lent offerings with Crab Cake Sliders, and they were excellent.  I actually went to a White Castle and had some with Shrimp Nibblers and no original Sliders.  Pretty sure that was the first time I ever ate at a White Castle without having original Sliders.

Fast Food Fail of the Year - When Steak n Shake';s big promotion is a variety of bacon cheeseburgers, but your location is out of bacon...

Fast Food Advertising of the Year - Fresh off a research study that more Burger Kings burn down than any other fast food chain, BK took out print ads touting flame broiling by featuring actual pictures of Burger King restaurant fires.

Pretty much sums up this year AND last, doesn't it.

Fast Food Flip of the Year - Hardee's started an expansion into New York in 2016 that apparently didn't go quite as planned, so this year they converted the stores to their sister brand Carl's Jr.

Ice Cream LTO of the Year - Braum's came out with a Mother's Circus Animal Cookie ice cream they used in a special sundae at their stores.  It was a pink ice cream with a nice yet indescribable flavor with chunks (basically halves) of the famous cookies throughout.  Scoops on little bundt cakes and topped in marshmallow topping, whipped cream, and a cherry.  So sweet and rich.

M&M's Flavor of the Year - Among the bajillion seasonal flavors M&M's rolled out for fall and Halloween was "Cookies & SCREEEM", dark chocolate with a white chocolate core in a purple speckled shell.  The official M&M of goth chicks everywhere.  They were also one of the most delicious M&M flavors ever.  They actually sort of tasted like hot chocolate.

Oreo of the Year - Oreo is just throwing away money by not making Cookie Butter a permanent offering.  They have done SO MANY FLAVORS well that they should open a dedicated retail store where they sell dozens of flavors year-round somewhere on the Las Vegas strip.  Maybe near the Coca Cola and M&M's stores.  Hershey World is right across the street.

Ill-Advised LTO of the Year - Fudge-covered Ritz crackers?  They were exactly as weird as you're thinking.

Drink of the Year - Gatorade Flow Smooth Blackberry.  Like drinking blackberry jam.  Better at room temperature than cold, oddly.  Or maybe not because that's actually true about a lot of Gatorade flavors.

Appliance Discovery of the Year - How did I live this long without knowing about hot dog toasters?

Movie of the Year - Lady Bird.  A GREAT high school coming-of-age dark comedy with a TON of scenes shot rapid fire with not a piece of dialogue wasted.

Television Show of the Year - We finally got the new Twin Peaks.  And it was so beyond what anybody expected it to be.  I will argue till my dying day that it was the greatest television ever made.  It was better than any MOVIE that came out this year.  I feel sorry for those of you who don't understand.

Sheep of the Year - You know how they run TV commercials at the movies before the feature?  You know those DirecTV ads where they compare liking cable to things like bumping your head that you see on TV a hundred times a day?  People still ACTUALLY LAUGH at those when they play in the theatre.

Dumb Commercial of the Year - Is there a more disturbing ad campaign than Charmin?: "It helps keep your underwear cleaner."  Said by animated bears who NEVER WEAR UNDERWEAR.

Album of the Year - The debut album by Charly Bliss, "Guppy", is loud and raw and weird and wonderful.  "DQ" is about as crazy as any song ever recorded.

Twitter Account of the Year - Whoever is behind the Las Vegas @GoldenKnights Twitter account is worth their weight

Retweet of the Year - "Be yourself (as if you had some choice in the matter)" - @NightValeRadio

Podcast Episode of the Year - Alice Isn't Dead: Part 2, Chapter 2: Mouth of the Water - Aside from being one of the most brilliantly written things I've ever heard, it hit me on a very personal level.  It vividly brought back a memory from my childhood of an encounter I had with a forbidden ship I can't believe I'd forgotten about.

Feeling Old of the Year - "The Lost Boys" turned 30 this year.  I still remember seeing it in the theatre.  Ex-Girlfriend-From-Hell #1 hated it.

Overheard Family Drama in a Wienerschnitzel of the Year - Girl 1: "I'd still be the same person even if I had a father."

Girl 2: "You HAVE a father."

Girl 1: "A TANGIBLE one."

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Place: McDonald's
Lunch: McRibble, fries, Fanta Orange

PREVIOUSLY ON THE LUNCHTIME SOCIAL: Val was committed after suffering yet another breakdown when Gary left her for Olivia.  Karen befriended the new neighbors, not realizing they were serial killers.  Greg sold The Sumner Group and feigned dementia in an elaborate plot that made no sense.  And Sam had a McRibble and played with the McDonald's app order process.

The McDonald's by the Townhouse of Solitude just finished a major and badly needed remodel.  The building was a hybrid convenience store.  The convenience store part closed years ago.  McDonald's now has possession of the whole building and has expanded the dining room and its waaay super nicer decor into the convenience store space and added a PlayPlace.  It also has all the latest McTech, including self-order kiosks.

Lets PLAY!

The Girl With Pink Hair greets the incoming and encourages everyone to self-order.  The kiosk screen is FREAKING HUGE.  The screen itself may well be three feet tall.

"Do you need any help?" asks The Girl With Pink Hair.

"No, I'll figure it out."

The screen encourages me to touch it.  Isn't that how all those celebrities got into trouble?  Upon touching, the standby screen disappears and food options appear.  You can pick types of sandwiches (burgers, chicken & fish, other) or choose the Extra Value meals menu.  I go for that, looking for the McRib deal, but the McRib doesn't exist.  Fine.  I go back to the main menu and try Chicken & Fish.  Nope.  Other?  No.  Look, McRib season can't possibly be over already.  I give up and pull up burgers and...oh, there it is.

When you choose the two McRib's (where you get the second for a buck), it automatically makes it a combo because that's part of the deal.  Why isn't this under the Extra Value menu?  Because it's becoming apparent the people behind the kiosk and app software have no idea what they're doing.

I accidentally order two combos.  So I hit Cancel and start over.  The Girl With Pink Hair, who apparently has been peering over my shoulder this whole time, says "Oh nooooooo!"

I start over and complete the transaction.  The thing asks you to choose your drink because I suppose you're not getting a cup from the kiosk, but I'm wrong.  There's cups right by the kiosks.  You're apparently on the honor system to choose the right size or if you even bought a drink in the first place.  The Girl With Pink Hair hands me the proper cup.  You also need to choose a plastic table number and tell the machine what number you took.  Total process...about 800 times longer than walking up to a human cashier and saying "McRib deal."

You can customize items to a limited degree, probably even less so than with the aop.

Also new is the drink fountain.  The big part that usually has the Coca Cola logo is a touch screen that you swipe through drink options.  Select an option. touch it, and soda flows into your cup.

My food arrives at my table and I eat while watching all the kids in here.  Some are in pajamas.  No idea why.

The hardware's there.

The software needs help.

Friday, November 17, 2017


Place: McDonald's
Lunch: McRibble, fries, Coke

For those who don't remember, a McRibble is the term I coined for when you buy a McRib Extra Value Meal with a second McRib for $1 special, then remove the bottom buns and fold the sandwiches together to make one double McRib.  Try to keep up, class.

Our local McDonald's stores have added mobile ordering through the McDonald's app.  I've played with the app but haven't actually used it yet because I don't really see the point.

I am an avid app user for some other chains, most notably for Taco Bell, because you can make crazy customizations to anything on the menu without locking up the brains of the counter help.  I also use the app for Which Wich.  Customize your sandwich, pay, walk into the store, go back to the Pick Up, give your name, they hand you the sandwich, walk out.  Awesome.

But customization on the McDonald's app is seriously limited.  They give you a list of the standard ingredients on each item and you can remove them or add extra to SOME of them.  For example, forget adding extra beef patties.  You can add extra cheese to cheeseburgers...up to three slices (why would you limit something you're charging extra per slice for?)...and for some reason five on the Filet-O-Fish, but I can't, for example, add cheese to a McRib.  Then they have a Condiments tab where you can add a very limited number of specific things to each sandwich.  One of the options is usually that condiment known as "Bacon".  Finally, there's a "Special Requests" tab.  That usually has one option..."Plain".

It's not even the same over all sandwiches.  I can add mayo to most of the burgers, but I can't to the Filet-O-Fish, even though they make ketchup an option on it.  And by the way, who would put ketchup on a Filet-O-Fish?  I don't even want to know you.

The really annoying thing is that you can't substitute cheddar cheese for American cheese.  It's back there in the kitchen.  They have sandwiches with cheddar on the menu all day.  Why can't I have a Quarter Pounder with Cheddar?

It's like somebody at corporate decided "I'll let people have this and that, but not this" on each specific sandwich.

If I want to build a Big Mac with McChicken patties or even sausage breakfast patties, why can't I?  I want to be able to Frankenstein up any concoction I can think of with the available ingredients on hand.

So don't expect me to use the app with any regularity.  Elderly Counter Guy and Wilford Brimley Lookalike Rod will just have to keep taking my orders the old fashioned way.  It's not like I customize anything at McDonald's anyway.

But I look forward to seeing what I can eventually concoct on the Whataburger app.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Place: B-Bops
Lunch: Classic single (no lettuce, no tomato), chili (w/cheese & onion), Pepsi (because I suck at being a no good worthless rotten diabetic)

B-Bops is our local version of the double drive-thru discount burger joint that was such a fad in the late 80's and early 90's that featured loaded quarter-pound burgers for 99 cents.  Most of these chains nationally have all but died off, but this market is so backwards that the concept continues to thrive.  Heck, we still have two operating K-Marts, a Bonanza, AND a Bennigan's.  We're about a Shakey's Pizza away from being a living retail history museum, and we even had one of the last of those outside of California.  It was even on the frontage of one of the K-Marts.

This location is brand new but foregoes the double drive-thru in favor of a standard fast food building with a single drive-thru and an indoor dining room.  B-Bops had to conform to the design standards of the uppity development this store is located in but wanted to keep their fun retro style, and the result is a mishmash of hideousness.  The building looks like a re-purposed 70's Taco Bueno, but painted in white, black, blue, yellow, red (a fake "neon" pinstripe)'s just awful.  There's fake arched window framing painted black along the drive-thru lane

It's also instantly popular.  The joint is jumping.  Nice to have a B-Bops nearby where you don't have to eat in your car in the winter.

Aside from price increases (that 99 cent quarter-pound burger of the past is currently $3.59), B-Bops hasn't changed much.  They make a good charbroiled burger and one of the better fast food chilis.  They have the usual alternate options like chicken and what not.

Keep it simple.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Blazing Pizzas

Place: Blaze Pizza
Lunch: Create-Your-Own (Pepperoni, Italian sausage, Italian meatball, mushrooms, black olives, mozzarella, feta, creamy white sauce), blood orange lemonade

Blaze opened recently in Wichita and I found it favorable so when I found myself wandering the older upscale mall in town wishing to myself we had one here while WALKING RIGHT BY ONE RIGHT THERE IN THE FREAKING MALL, it was sort of magical.  Why can't I have this power with Steak n Shake?

So it's now in the regular lunch rotation.

Blaze is basically Pie Five with pizzas that are on fire, as they're baked in an "artisan" pizza oven with visible flames.  I like Blaze's earthy thin crust, but I prefer Pie Five's red sauce.

I get in line.  And stand there.  And stand there.  Seemingly a dozen people are working, but they're busy with other pizzas.  One guy is training another guy.  One guess who will end up making my pizza.

Yep.  Trainee.

"What kind of sauce do you want?"

"Creamy white."  I haven't had this before.  I usually get their Spicy Red.  Their regular red sauce isn't very good.  But hey, new things...

Training Guy very specifically instructs him how to specifically fill exactly the amount of sauce into the ladle, and how to correctly spread it on the crust.  Then Training Guy ceases paying attention completely.

"What kind of cheese do you want?"

"Mozzarella, and a little feta," I reply before realizing I actually wanted Parmesan.  Oops.  Oh well.

One of the failings of Blaze is they don't have cheddar or provolone cheese.  All the best pizza places use a mixture of mozzarella, cheddar, and provolone.  ALL of them.

While I'm drifting off thinking about cheese, Training Guy re-appears, mumbles something about my pie, and THROWS IT IN THE TRASH.  WHAT THE HELL, MAN.  I've already been here longer than it takes to actually be handed a cooked pizza.  Now we're starting over?  My lunch hour isn't that long.  It's an HOUR.

He produces another crust and makes Trainee start over, with more specialized instructions.  Sauce.  Mozzarella.  "Oh, he wanted some feta too."

Me: "Uh, actually..."

Too late.

He asks for my meats and proceeds to put on the fewest pepperonis on a pizza I've ever seen.  Then I get my other toppings.  Then I get oregano and sea salt.  The pizza goes into the oven of FIRE.  I go to pay the cashier.  Except there isn't one.

Still isn't one.


Oh...there she is.

Blaze has a Coke fountain and some other specialty drinks that includes a blood orange lemonade, which is my drink of preference.  On an earlier visit, an elderly customer questioned me on what exactly it was, but decided he was too chicken (his words) to try it.

My pizza is ready.  It's very white.  And very salty.  Like REALLY SUPER SALTY.  Like the trainee put on way too much salt, as I've had the salt added before and it wasn't this bad.  Unless the creamy sauce is also salty.  I might try this pizza again without the sea salt.

Still delicious.

We were supposed to get a Pie Five near the office, but it was canceled.  I'd prefer that to Blaze, but this is a fine consolation.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Soup Season

Place: Chick-Fil-A
Lunch: Original chicken sandwich (w/mayo), chicken noodle soup, lemonade

I walked outside without my coat into 43 degrees and heavy rain, so soup was definitely on the lunch agenda.  Chick-Fil-A, who has the best chicken noodle soup, it is.

Apparently this Chick-Fil-A, which has pretty much been printing money since it opened, wasn't printing enough money, so they've converted the single drive-thru lane into a double.  This makes backing out of the already narrow parking lot a strategic maneuver.  You might as well just park across the path at the end of the Kohl's lot and walk over.  They've also expanded the inside counter order area by removing the condiment-napkin-plasticware station and adding a zig-zag line.

By the time I figured out where they hid the mayonnaise packets and spoons (down the side corridor between the main entrance and the bathrooms), my food was ready.

As I have noted previously, Chick-Fil-A is the official restaurant of human females.  They treat the chain like Californians treat In-N-Out Burger.  The women sitting behind me are textbook examples.

"I just LOVE Chick-Fil-A!" one of them exclaims.  "I always feel SO CARED FOR here!"

Same woman: "Isn't it exciting that we get to sit in a BOOTH?"

Other woman, later: "How's your soup?"

"It's SO DELICIOUS!  I just LOVE it!"

She's also exclaiming something at their table is "SO CUTE!"  Jeepers.  Did she just get out of prison or something?  She sounds like me when I was forced to live in Alaska for ten years whenever I'd escape to civilization and have access to a McDonald's.

Settle down, Beavis.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Stop It

Place: Hardee's
Lunch: $5 All-Star Meal (double cheeseburger, jumbo hot dog, fries, cookie, Coke)

Go ahead and kill me, diabetes.  Nobody cares.  Least of all me.

$5 seems to be the magical promo number these days with most chains.  KFC has their $5 Fill-Ups, McDonald's is doing the $5 version of their McPick 2, DQ has done a $5 Buck Lunch before (might still for all I know) and Hardee's has four versions of their $5 All-Star Meal.  All four have the double cheeseburger, fries, cookie, and Coke.  The difference is a single item.  It can be a hot dog, spicy chicken sandwich, chicken tenders, or onion rings.  We're all aware of my mental disorder where when I hear the words "hot dog" I must immediately have one, so...

The food is literally served in a box.  Well...not the drink.  That would be soggy.  You have to dig through the fries to find the burger and hot dog.  The hot dog is decent enough.  They give you one little completely inadequate packet of mustard for it.  The cookie is really good.  And I keep forgetting about how good Hardee's basic double cheeseburger is.

My personal favorite of the deals out there right now is Burger King's.  2 for $6 Whoppers, plus you can get 10 chicken nuggets for $1.49.  $7.49 for an obscene amount of food.  Hit the drive-thru, take it with you, and pour your own beverage.

Last week sucked on a personal level.  So I really really really did not need to wake up to images of chaos amidst the backdrop of Mandalay Bay on Monday morning.  Las Vegas is one of my favorite places.  I wanted to jump on the next flight and give the city a big warm hug.

It's an obvious target for terrorists or plain idiots like this guy was.  Doesn't make actions like this excusable.  Doesn't make ANY violence excusable.

There's WAY too much violence, tension, and verbal abuse in the world anymore, and it's impossible to move forward until y'all can recognize that we all have differences, and that's okay.  There's nothing wrong with having different faiths.  There's nothing wrong with having different political beliefs.  There's nothing wrong with having different skin colors.  There's nothing wrong with having different sexual preferences.  There's nothing wrong with having unique gender identities.  There's nothing wrong with being a cat person or dog person.  There's nothing wrong with liking different foods.

There is absolutely something wrong with blindly ridiculing, bullying, hurting, and killing those who you oppose.

Stop it.  Stop it right now.

Stop snickering at the two guys walking down the street holding hands.  Or the guy with a limp.  Stop catcalling women like their prey.  Stop THINKING of women like they're prey.  Stop crossing the street because you assume the kid in front of you wants to mug you.  Stop assuming everyone who isn't of your political beliefs is a racist or Nazi or supremacist or whatever the latest fad catchphrase is that you're completely misusing.  You're making a complete fool of yourself every time you do that.  And stop thinking your thoughts or actions are excused because you know of somebody who does it more than you.  You seriously sound like little children on the playground.

If you can't handle somebody because they're different than you, just stay in your isolated little corner of the world, build a blanket fort, and cower in your irrational fear.  Leave the rest of us alone.

We are going nowhere as a society until everyone just calms the hell down.  And for those of you angrily reading this and thinking how your position in life entirely justifies your hate for whatever or whoever it is you hate, YOU are the one who needs to take a good hard look in the mirror more than anyone.

I know, I know, this guy was seemingly just shooting random people.  Unless his expression was specifically against country music fans, my rant doesn't necessarily apply.  It DOES apply.  Because it all STARTS here.  So shut up.

Then, out of nowhere, Tom Petty died.  Cripes.

Settle down, life.

At least the weather's finally cooling down.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Retro Roast Beef

Place: Rax
Lunch: Mushroom Melt, Cheese and Bacon Potato, Sprite

Ex-Girlfriend-From-Hell #1 loved Rax.  She'd want to go there any chance she got.  While their specialty was roast beef sandwiches, the big novelty for her was the line of loaded baked potatoes.  She'd just order one of those most of the time.

With 500 locations in 38 states, the chain was a slightly bigger deal then than now.  There's just eight locations in three states now, and six of those are in Ohio.

The food's still good, especially this potato.  Everything down to the interior is old school.  If you want to feel the eighties again, come on down wearing your best shoulder padded top and big poofy hairdo.

My visit got me thinking about roast beef sandwiches from days gone by.  It hasn't always been all about Arby's even if these days it seems like it.  Here's some of the rare-to-extinct names from the roast beef sandwich glory days.

Barn'rds - Ex-Arby's guy Sam Marvin started this chain in 1981 in Council Bluffs, IA.  Their buildings had a barn shape that included a silo used to prominently display their signage.  The food featured sandwiches, soup, and salads, all made fresh on site with fresh ingredients.  No pressed meat.  You'd think that would go over well today, wouldn't you.  There's one left in operation, and it's in Wichita.  We had one locally, but when it became a Subway, they took the silo down.

Kentucky Beef - KFC launched this spinoff idea in the late sixties.  The menu featured roast beef and ham sandwiches.  Their existing chicken franchisees built a hundred or so locations scattered across the country before the idea quickly fizzled out.  There were a couple of them locally.  One is still a restaurant nearly structurally identical to its Kentucky Beef days and even has the original shield signage. (Side note to locals, it’s Little John’ LJ's... on 2nd north of Euclid.)

Roy Rogers - Where you had chains specializing in burgers or roast beef or chicken, the Marriott-created chain named after the legendary actor capitalized on all three, and did all three pretty well.  The chain once had over 600 outlets across the US.  There's still about 50 of them operating in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, and New Jersey.  The chain is currently owned by the sons of a guy who helped put the concept together for Marriott's restaurant division, himself a longtime Roy Rogers franchisee.  The brothers also franchise a number of Marriott hotels.

Hardee's - Hardee's of the eighties was pretty awesome and considered to have a premium product over the typical fast food burger chains, and that included their Big Roast Beef sandwich.  It had a more buttery taste than Arby's.  You can still find it at a few Hardee's here and there, usually in smaller towns.  However, they tend to make it with their new "fresh baked buns", and something is lost in translation.

It's supposed to finally cool down next week.

I'll believe it when I see it.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Krispy Krunchy

Place: Krispy Krunchy Chicken (inside Zip's 66)
Lunch: 2 thighs, Honey Butter Biscuit, bottled water

Krispy Krunchy is the 2,000-plus outlet chicken chain you've never heard of.  That's because most outlets are in convenience stores.  Usually in sketchy older inner-city stores with bars on the windows or in old small-town mom-and-pop stores where Peggy is the cashier and her sister Mandy and her best friend Luann hang out keeping her company until the kids get out of school.  Or those ones in the middle of nowhere where everyone goes dead silent when a stranger walks in the door.  The creepy supernatural convenience store in "Twin Peaks:The Return" probably sells Krispy Krunchy Chicken.

The appeal to owners seems to be it's cheap and easy to get into.  There's no ongoing franchise just have to buy their food from them.  You already have the space, you just buy the equipment (and even there, they might let you use existing equipment if it fits their standards.)  You can put one in pretty much any situation you want. There are rare standalone and strip mall outlets, sometimes in conjunction with another food (pizza, for example).  That mom-and-pop burger joint that is the only restaurant in the food court of your local nearly abandoned shopping mall could probably add it. might make an interesting addition to a sports venue or a drive-in theatre snack bar.

But there are those who swear it's the best chicken money can buy, often drawing comparisons to Popeyes (which is, in fact, the best chicken money can buy.)  If you're lucky enough to get it freshly cooked, it has a mild spiciness to it, but what pops to me is the citrusy flavor of the marinade.  You won't taste that at all if the chicken has been sitting under the warmer too long.  Then it's just dry and bleh.

It's mid-September, and average temperatures are about 20 degrees above normal.  Why?  Because my air conditioner is broken.  I came home from my Labor Day weekend trip to find the fan blowing warm air through the Townhouse of Solitude in an impossible attempt to cool it down and the cats looking at me like "WTF?".  Did the usual troubleshooting and decided it needs professional service.  But it's September, and it should be cooling off, so why not wait until Spring to deal with it?  So that was the plan.  Except we're STILL averaging mid 80's temperatures two weeks later and will even hit low 90's this week.  I'm telling you...if my A/C was working, this wouldn't be happening.  And the second I get it fixed, it will suddenly quit happening.

So the windows are open overnight and closed during the day, which seems to keep the inside temp between a livable 72-80 currently.

So feel free to blame God's constant hatred and bullying of me for it being so hot out still.

Makes as much sense as climate change.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Nothing Much

Place: McDonald's
Lunch: Big Mac, fries, McChicken (no lettuce), Diet Coke (oh God, just kill me)

Cordial Counter Guy Rod is a dead ringer for Wilford Brimley.  He even sounds like him.  He rings out my order, hands me the receipt, and encourages me to take the online survey.  It would be hilarious if he ended his pitch with "it's the right thing to do."

The "Twin Peaks: The Return" finale is happening Sunday.  This has been a fantastic ride.  Seriously...get a Showtime subscription (it's cheap through Amazon Prime) and stream the whole thing.  It blows everything you've ever seen on television out of the water.

I'll probably keep Showtime just so I can watch it all again and maybe again after that (I've watched every episode at least twice since it started airing.)

That's...uh...all I really had to say.

K bye.

(UPDATE: The ending was terrible.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Dog Days

Place: Chicago Dog
Lunch: Jumbo chili dog basket (chili dog, potato salad, kettle chips, pickle), Pepsi

Smiling Counter Girl, who usually works at the downtown store, is having issues with the POS system..


Other Girl, who seems to be doing nothing: "Well stand on your tippy toes."

She literally tries this and eventually enters my order.  "I think it's the glare," she notes.

Other Girl: "You should wear sunglasses."

She gives me my total, and it's about two bucks less than it should be.

"You did put that in as a jumbo dog, didn't you?"


Other Girl: "THAT'S A JUMBO!"

Girl In Back Making Food: "A JUMBO?"


It's National Hot Dog Day, and this is my second chili dog of the morning.  The first was at 5:30am because I had to go to work early, and whenever I have to go to work early, I swing by QuikTrip and get a chili dog.  It's tradition.  It's also completely necessary because I'm not getting through a workday that early without a gutbomb breakfast.

You could argue that I'm doing National Hot Dog Day wrong since there's also a National Chili Dog Day (last Thursday in July), but I'll probably have a couple Nathan's hot dogs, sans chili, for dinner.  So there.

Hot dog cooking at home has gotten far easier recently.  I discovered a couple of products from a company called Nostalgia.  The first is a hot dog toaster.  It has two round slots to put hot dogs in and two arched slots to put buns in.  In less than five minutes, you have cooked hot dogs and toasted buns.  AMAZING!  It works great, but the slots only fit standard width dogs, so no plump or jumbo dogs.  One of the complaints I've seen about them is using Ball Park's "plump when you cook 'em" dogs because they fit in initially, then get stuck when they cook.

The second is their hot dog roller grill.  A mini counter top roller grill that will take on pretty much any straight round sausage you throw at it...or carefully place on it.  In 15-25 minutes (depending on the size of the dog), you have perfect roller grill dogs.  I use the crap out of that thing.  You can fit about eight standard length dogs on it at a time, or four longer ones.

Since pretty much everything I post anymore includes a stupid listicle, here's a list of my current favorite dogs, be it at home or about town.

Nathan's Jumbo Restaurant Style Beef Franks - Nathan's has a wide variety of dogs available at supermarkets.  These are the ones to get.  Unless you want to deep fry them, which requires the Natural Casing variety.  Simply my favorite hot dog ever.

Sabrett Bun-Size Beef Frankfurter - Similar to Nathan's.  Slightly stronger taste.  Probably a better pairing with sauerkraut.  I don't like sauerkraut.  But I like these.

Schmidt's Bahama Mama - A Columbus, OH-based staple since 1886 (they still operate a restaurant in German Village), this dog has as perfect a mix of spicy and hot dog I've ever had.  Not too spicy unless you put spicy mustard on them.  That'll clear your nostrils.  A popular roller grill item at Maverik convenience stores out west and at EZ-Go's on the Kansas turnpike.  If you're in the Cincinnati area, you can find grocery packages at Jungle Jim's.

Vienna Beef - A Chicago staple.  If you're making a Chicago-style dog, this is the dog you should be making it with.  Or so many will argue.  I get the jumbo ones.

Eisenberg - Another Chicago style dog some will argue should be used for Chicago dogs.  Hy-Vee Gas convenience stores have these on their roller grills.

Kirkland Quarter Pound-Plus Beef Hot Dogs - Kirkland is Costco's house brand.  They sell these thick way-longer-than-the-bun beasts at their in-store snack bars with a soda for $1.50.  Cheapest lunch in town.  You can also buy them in huge bulk packs in the store.  They taste similar to the Eisenburg dog.

Oscar Mayer Foodservice Beef Hot Dog - The Oscar Mayer restaurant-grade dogs are different than any of the variety of dogs they sell in grocery stores.  They're juicier and have a completely different flavor profile.  I don't do the home dogs, but I like these.  That's the dog in my QuikTrip chili dog.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Eye Scream

Place: Braum's
Lunch: Birthday cake sundae (no whipped cream)

They were out of whipped cream. On National Ice Cream day.

Braum's birthday cake ice cream is blue with spongy tasty chunks of cake and is the best birthday cake ice cream I know of.  Especially covered in marshmallow sauce.

It's National Ice Cream Day.  And it's Sunday.  So why not a Sundae for lunch, because I suck at being a diabetic.

Who can't open a floodgate of happy memories surrounding ice cream.  From the first time I saw a twist cone (at a walk-up stand called the Curly Cone) to the time at the drive-in theatre when a woman walked down the front row of cars handing out cups of her magnificent homemade vanilla with lemon shavings to everyone sitting in lawn chairs in front of their cars.  There was the night my dad apologized to three-or-four-year-old me for the half-dozen shots a doctor had just injected into my heel (to this day the most painful thing I've ever experienced) with a milkshake stop at Tastee-Freeze.  Grandma's freezer seemingly always had a container of Carnation 1880 Neapolitan.  We had Fred Meyer's My-Te-Fine in our freezer.

Ice cream comes in a seemingly endless number of styles, flavors, and even textures.  From soft serve technically too lean to be ice cream (making it ice milk) to concoctions so rich in butter fat they're really frozen custards, we love them all.

These are my favorites.

Tillamook Udderly Chocolate - Originally called "Brown Cow" before the Brown Cow Cream Top Yogurt people had a...cow...this is the best ice cream in the history of the world as far as I'm concerned.  Chocolate ice cream, white chocolate ice cream, and dark chocolate shavings.  The chocolate ice cream is as tasty as pudding.  There's simply never been any ice cream better.

Haagen-Dazs Strawberry - Technically my second favorite Strawberry ice cream of all-time.  My favorite was Frusen-Gladje Strawberry, but that brand died years ago in a bizarre ownership dispute that went something like "YOU own that brand now."  "No...YOU own that brand!"  "We SOLD you that brand."  "WE DID NOT BUY THAT BRAND!"

Jeni's Queen City Cayenne - Cincinnati, the Queen City, is one of my five favorite cities to binge eat in and lay in bed staring at hotel ceilings pondering the shallowness of my life and wondering why I bother go on living at all.  A signature dish of the city is Cincinnati chili, and the name of this ice cream is a tribute to that dish.  It was this flavor that Columbus, OH-based Jeni Britton Bauer concocted that inspired her to start Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, who make some of those $10 pints you find in Whole Foods and other uppity grocers.  This is a fabulous deep chocolate with a flavor profile somewhere between Fudgesicle and chocolate cheesecake, with a spicy kick to the aftertaste.  It's simply incredible.  If your local uppity grocer doesn't have it, you can mail order, or visit one of their 25 Scoop Shops in 8 markets.  Also try: Churro, Brambleberry Crisp, Brown Butter Almond Brittle, Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk...oh God, just mortgage your house already.

Speaking of...

Jeni's Brown Butter Almond Brittle - Have you ever had Baskin-Robbin's Pralines & Cream and though to yourself "I wonder how they could improve on this?"  No you haven't, because such a concept is unthinkable.  Until you try this.  Then your mind is blown.

Baskin-Robbins Mint Chocolate Chip - It's probably childhood memory association, but as far as I'm concerned, no one makes a better mint chocolate chip.  Jeni's makes a nearly identical one and promotes it as being "just like you remember."  And by "just like you remember," they're very much referring to Baskin-Robbins.

Braum's Birthday Cake - I already talked about it at the top of the page.  What...did you start reading halfway through?  Are you just skimming this post?  LAZY.

Kemps Orange Cream Dream - A limited edition that stuck around seasonally for years, it's your classic vanilla ice cream and orange sherbet swirl taken further with little orange vanilla candy cups.  I still look for it, but haven't seen it in a couple years.

Cold Stone Creamery Cake Batter with Cookie Dough Mix-In - A rich, creamy, perfectly mixed balance.  Best in a waffle cone.

Freddy's Funnel Cake Sundae - Put a 5-inch or so funnel cake on a plate topped with Freddy's vanilla custard and cover it with strawberries in syrup and you have a simple, yet unique, winner.  Available seasonally around State and County Fair time.  In fact, it just made its 2017 debut this past week and I had one yesterday.

Dairy Queen Cherry Dipped Cone - Nothing like a small town DQ on s hot Summer day.  Especially if it's an old school location with a walk-up window.  While not a problem at my local DQ's, I occasionally run into ones that don't have the cherry dip.


Monday, July 03, 2017

Bad Blockbusters

Place: Taco Casa
Lunch: Taco Lite (no tomato), Chilada, Coke

It's Independence Day weekend.  Well...Independence Day is Tuesday, but you probably took Monday off and headed to some exotic locale like Oklahoma like I did.  Or maybe you're grilling in your own backyard.  Nothing wrong with that, so long as your grilling includes hot dogs.  Everyone should have a hot dog on the fourth of July.  In a rare instance of the government doing something nice for the people, they legalized real fireworks again back home, so I fully expect to come home Tuesday to find the Townhouse of Solitude burned to the ground.

I saw a pretty decent Independence Day weekend movie today.  It wasn't a massive blockbuster.  It was "Baby Driver", a modern-day take on old car crime spree drive-in movies.  The big weekend release was "Despicable Me 3"  I'll skip that  But I got to thinking...don't we usually have a big budget action blockbuster taking advantage of the Independence Day holiday?  I guess the closest to that right now is the fifth "Transformers" movie, but nobody cares.  Heck, I didn't bother with any of them past the first.  But I got to thinking about Independence Weekend releases of days gone by, and how many of them were truly awful.

Let's have a look.

Independence Day (1996) - We can't not start with this one, right?  This movie had so much positive word-of-mouth and so many people gushing over it and I just sat there in my car at the North Star Drive-In in North Ogden, Utah aghast at how awful it was.  But it wasn't the worst movie I've ever seen over an Independence Day weekend.  That honor goes to...

Armageddon (1998) - If you thought it impossible to make a sexy scene with Liv Tyler in it really really unsexy and gross, you haven't seen "Armageddon".  The whole thing was just painful to watch.

War of the Worlds (2005) - Remember when Tom Cruise starred in this opus where the Earth was attacked by camera tri-pods?  "Scary Movie 4" largely parodied this, and is the far superior movie.

Wild Wild West (1999) - Will Smith owned the Independence Day weekend in 1997 with "Men in Black".  Not so much two years later.  Or in 2002 when "Men in Black II" came out.  Come to think of it, he was also in "Independence Day", wasn't he.

Men in Black II - The first MiB movie may be my favorite all-time Independence Day weekend rblockbuster.  As for the sequel, the flushing scene was a metaphor for the turd that this movie was.

The Lone Ranger (2013) - The third act was outstanding, but who wanted to wade through the rest of the movie to get to it?  Not many.  Major box office disaster.

Superman Returns - Okay, I actually liked Superman Returns.  Nobody else did, but I liked it.

Back home tomorrow, then back to work Wednesday.

At least it's a short work week.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Would You Like Something You Can't Have With That?

Place: Taco Bueno
Lunch: Big Freaking Taco (no romato), Mucho Nachos (no tomato), Pepsi

Nobody makes better fast food nachos than Taco Bueno.  A big plate of beef, beans, chili sauce, nacho cheese, and sour cream.  And tomatoes if you want them.  None of that nonsense like avacados, guac, pico, whole black beans.  None of it.  Go to a fancy bar if you want that crap.  Wife #1 agreed...they were her favorite too.

One thing that is surprisingly consistent with this particular Taco Bueno is the number of times I hear customers ordering things that are no longer on the menu.  Sometimes for years.  But it seems to happen every time I'm here.  But something happened to me today that's never heappened here or anywhere else that I can recall...the counter guy actually offered me a menu item they didn't have, and couldn't produce.

Me: "Big Freaking Taco, no tomato..."

Counter Guy: "Beef, chicken, or steak?"


I had NO idea this was an option.

"Beef," I say.  BUT...I'll take a steak one too."

I mean, why not try it, right?

 "No tomato on that one too?"


I finish ordering and get my drink, salsa, and what not.  I catch up on Twitter while waiting what seems like forever for my food because this location is slow at doing anything even on a slow day, and they're busy today.

I get my food, unwrap the first taco (happens to be the beef one) and chow down.  It's quite awhile later when I grab the steak one.

But it's immediately apparant this isn't going to be what it's supposed to be.  It's limp, like a soft taco.  It's a Muchaco, Taco Bueno's version of a Chalupa.  (It may actually pre-date the Chalupa.)  Also, it has chicken in it.

I take it back to the counter.  A girl from the back appears.

Me: "This is supposed to be a steak Big Freaking Taco, but it's a chicken Muchaco."

"We don';t have steak," she says flatly.  "Do you want something else?"

"Then why is the cashier offering it up as an option?:"

She just shrugs.

I'm so dumbfounded, I just turn and go back to my table and finish my nachos.  She eventually comes around to my table and mutters "Here's a refund" and drops money.

The receipt she printed for the refund shows exactly what i ordered...a steak Big Freaking Taco.  But if they don't have steak, why is this even an option in the register?  There's nothing on the menu that includes steak, thus my surprise when the guy offered it up.

And what food maker looks at the screen, sees a crispy taco with steak in it, and thinks "I'll just give him a completely different menu item with a completely different meat instead"?


Took a five-day weekend to go to an out-of-town concert last night, where I proved that, stamina-wise, I'm still a long way from being me again.

Not that I'll ever be me again.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Danged Chickens

Place: Burger King
Lunch: Crispy Chicken with bacon and cheese, onion rings, soda water

BK has a new chicken sandwich probably designed to try and grab some market share from the massive following that Chick-Fil-A has.  While a vast improvement on the oblong inferior Chicken Tendercrisp (which is still available), this isn't going to do it.

I've had three of these since they launched.  The first was cooked to order and was wonderful.  The other two, one of which was the cheddar-bacon-ranch variety, weren't because the chicken and bacon had that "pre-cooked and sitting in a warming bin for way too long" taste to them.  The cheese was cold, had no melt to it at all.  Bleh.

But even the cooked-to-order one wasn't quite on the level of Chick-Fil-A.

Also upping its chicken sandwich game is KFC.  They have a new "Zinger" chicken sandwich.  That one's way tastier.  The chicken has an extra crispy coating and a really great spicy seasoning.  They should rightly sell a bajillion of them but probably won't because Chick-Fil-A is so good at what they do, their fans have no reason to even think of going elsewhere.  Also, while it's great, it feels like a completely different product.

In other chicken news, I may get to try Slim Chickens this weekend.  That's one of those chicken tender chains.  They opened their first Wichita store this week.

Wait...isn't it National Burger Month?

Danged chickens.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Orange Drink

Place: McDonald's
Lunch: Big Mac, fries, Hi-C Orange Lavaburst

This is one of the ugliest McDonald's locations in the history of the chain, thanks to an arrogant idiotic city council who demanded the building have a specific facade and appear more conservative to blend in with neighboring buildings than the mansard McDonald's buildings of the era.  It's almost like the McDonald's building team got spiteful and designed this as a testament to blandness on purpose.  Well played, McDonald's.  Well played.  There's an equally sad Burger King across the street that looks like it was trying to blend in with a Mennonite community.  Then there's a Taco John's one building away from it that looks like...every Taco John's ever built, proving the city council is a bunch of hypocrites.

Me: "Medium Big Mac combo."

Elderly Counter Guy: "Small, medium, or large?"

A LOT of people are ordering all-day breakfast for some reason.  And they mostly seem to want stuff that isn't actually on the all-day breakfast menu.  One woman did a hybrid order to satisfy her four kids, some getting burgers, some getting breakfast.  So I guess that's all working out.

When it comes to the McDonald's menu, you can't go wrong with the classics, right?  Well, McDonald's is taking away a classic.  McDonald's is replacing the "orange drink" from it's available soft drink options to make way for some sort of new tropical Sprite flavor exclusive to McDonalds.

Fans aren't happy.  Not quite "New Coke" level unhappy, but unhappy enough.  Can you ever remember a time when you couldn't get the sugary (sorry...high fructose corn syrupy) non-carbonated orange non-soda at every McDonald's in North America?  No you can't, because it's been there since the McDonald brothers converted their barbecue drive-in stand into their namesake walk-up and order burger stand.  They were making their own out of blemished oranges they were able to buy on the cheap from local sources...perfectly fine for juicing but not pretty for grocery store sales.  Granted, the stuff they were serving was different than the generic "orange drink" mainstay at the national outlets later replaced by the essentially identical Hi-C branded version, but it's always been there in one form or another.  And it's always been in my regular drink rotation.

It's not a New Coke-level tragedy because, whereas Coke actually discontinued their original cola, you can still get Orange Lavaburst juice boxes at pretty much any supermarket or even on the taps of other fast food chains.  My local Hardee's has it.  Burger King could jump all over this and make sure it's in all their restaurants and do a national promotion.  (I think BK's with the Coke Freestyles have it, but the ones with standard fountains tend to have Hi-C Fruit Punch instead.  In fact, any restaurant with Coke Freestyle machines likely has it.)

While the official launch date of the new drink is today, franchisees can continue selling the orange stuff until they run out of existing supply, the Coke tech guy shows up to change the taps, or I think July 1 if I read correctly.  This location obviously still has it, on two taps, no less.  Why can't one tap become the new stuff and the other have the orange goodness?  Who knows.

If you ask me, this is probably the dumbest move McDonald's has made since replacing the Filet-O-Fish with the Arch Deluxe version years ago.  A move they obviously reversed.

But nobody asks me.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Fake Founders

Place: Hardee's
Lunch: 1/3 lb Baby Back Rib Thickburger, ice water

Smiling Counter Girl greets me and does the whole "for here or to go" thing.

Me: "1/3 pound Baby Back Rib Thickburger."

Smiling Counter Girl: "In a combo?"

Me: "No, just the sandwich."

She fiddles with the cash register a bit, looks confused, and grabs a pile of coupons for the sandwich.  "Like this?" pointing at the burger image.

Me: "Yes, the 1/3 pound Baby Back Rib Thickburger."

She fiddles with the register some more.  "I'm going to give you the coupon for a dollar off if I can figure it out."

Me: "Don't worry about it.  No big deal."

She's determined.  "Hey!  How do I input the coupon?" she asks another employee walking by.  He looks at the screen.  "That's only good on combos," he says, and walks off.  "Oh!" she exclaims.  Then she looks at me and starts to explain I can't use the coupon before realizing I didn't ask to use the coupon at all and am clearly getting fed up with this nonsense and she just says "I'm sorry."

The Baby Back Rib Thickburger is another Hardee's/Carl's Jr Frankenstein concoction of unnatural burger meat bybrids.  They top the burger patty with rib meat, add barbecue sauce, pickles, and crispy onion strings.  I liked it WAY more than I thought I would.  The rib meat appears to be real pulled rib meat, not a pressed patty like a McRib.  It's smoky and tender and works really well here.

Speaking of Frankenstein, over the past couple of years KFC has bombarded the airwaves with ads featuring various actors portraying their dead founder Colonel Harlan Sanders.  Every "Colonel" has had unique personality traits and quirks they bring to the role.  It's sort of like they stole the idea of regeneration from Doctor Who.  And the various Colonels seem to get quirkier as time goes by.

Hardee's is borrowing from this approach with a fictional founder by the name of Carl Hardee Sr.

Yeah, have a look...

Carl Hardee Sr

For those not familiar, the Hardee's chain (founded by Wilbur Hardee, also dead) was purchased by the parent company of Carl's Jr (founded by Carl Karcher, he's dead too) in the mid-1990's.  The original plan was to marry the brands by rebranding all the restaurants as Carl's Jr with the classic Carl's Jr lunch/dinner menu, but adopt the Hardee's breakfast menu.  The whole thing went horribly, horribly wrong and it's a miracle the company still exists today at all.  But it does, and both brands are now successful, focusing on premium burgers largely promoted in the ads by sexy well-endowed women who can't possibly be eating these burger beasts they're promoting on any regular basis.

The campaign has been controversial, and apparently, it's time for change.  And that's what Carl Hardee Sr is here to do, laying the blame for the allegedly sexist campaign at the foot of Carl Hardee Jr.  Senior comes off as a rednecky version of the Dos Equis "Most Interesting Man in the World" guy.

The focus on the ads is going to be on the food and quality ingredients going forward.  That's fine, I guess.

I suppose in the era of Ronald McDonald, the creepy Burger King (who I miss dearly, he needs to come back) and Jack Box, this is all perfectly normal.

As for the unemployed models, maybe they can milk up a campaign for Dairy Queen.

(Sorry...not sorry.)

Monday, April 24, 2017


Place: Subway in a Walmart
Lunch: Italian Hero (provolone, mayo, chipotle southwest, pickles, onions, black olives), ice water

The ad had me at Capicola ham.  It's not all that great.  But I had some shopping to do so it was convenient.

Notice lately that more and more people are posting pictures of their pets on Twitter with a comment that says something like "every RT this gets I'll give her a very soft pet and tell her I love her", then they get hundreds if not thousands of retweets?

This drives me nuts.  What are you going to do if you don't get any?  Hold your affection for your pet hostage?  "Sorry, Fluffy.  Nobody on Twitter loves you, therefore I don't either."

And what are you going to do if you get hundreds?  How long do you take to spread out that affection?  Or are you just going to wear your arm out going nonstop for a few days?  Is it just one pat per retweet?  What if the pet tires of this and tries to escape?  Do you tie them down?

My cats don't need retweets to get pets, scritches, scratches, or praise.

And neither should yours.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spring TV

Place: Chicago Dog
Lunch: Jumbo chili dog, potato salad, pickle spear, kettle chips, soda water

I can't speak to the authenticity of the actual Chicago dog at this joint as I'm not really into them, but I can say they have the best chili dog in town I know of.  A perfectly (and I mean PERFECTLY) cooked jumbo Vienna Beef hot dog sits in a poppy seed bun abundantly topped with chili, cheese, and onion (and peppers if you want).  It's even a bean chili, which is chili dog sacrilege, but it's still the best.  It looks impossible to hold as opposed to going in with a knife and fork, but it holds together in your hands.  The bun absorbs some of the chili juice (sort of runny chili) which only makes the bun better.  It's SO great.  Their Italian beef sandwiches are pretty good too.  I also really love their ice.  I fill my drink cup with it when departing so I have super awesome ice water at work the rest of the day.

The one thing I don't like about Chicago Dog is Rachael Ray.  Her show is always on the TV during my lunch hour.  She has the most annoying studio audience ever.  They applaud EVERYTHING.  Rachael starts a guest interview.  They applaud.  The guest responds.  They applaud.  Rachel references their TV show.  They applaud.  Guest acknowledges.  They applaud.  A stray cat off-camera meows.  They applaud.  Shut up, already.

The regular TV season is winding down.  "Legends of Tomorrow" had their finale last week.  That show was SO much fun this season.  I was kind of iffy on its first season but this year, all in.  It's sister DC shows will wind down over the next month or so.  I'm watching all of them.  In fact, aside from the original NCIS, all of my shows since September have been CW shows.  "Arrow", "The Flash", "Supergirl" "Legends of Tomorrow", "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend", and "Riverdale".  That's my complete list of shows.

But I'm far from running out of television.  Traditionally, Americans have gotten new TV in the fall, it ends mid-Spring, and they spend Summer at the swimming pool, state fair, or the Dairy Queen parking lot.  But that's changed.  Nobody goes outside anymore because of skin cancer dangers, the irrational fear of running into a transgender person in the bathroom, and the threat of violent rogue deer attacks, so shows launch all year now.  And the list of shows launching this Spring is outright amazing.  A couple of them started last week, and the debuts keep coming into May.  Two of them are revivals of my all-time favorites that we haven't seen in years.  This could be the best new TV season of any part of the year in history.

So here's what I'm really excited for...

iZombie (CW Mondays) - Liv and the gang are back for their third season.  Liv is a zombie who uses her day job at the county morgue to access brains for food.  There's a side effect...she temporarily takes on personality traits of the deceased (often with hilarious results) and sees visions that help her and her police detective partner solve the deceased's murder.  The first two episodes have aired and everything is great so far.

Archer (FXX Wednesdays) - An animated satire of James Bond-style spy agents and one of the funniest, vulgar, most ridiculous shows in television history.  Archer starts the season in a coma and dreams himself into a 1940's noir world where he's a private detective.  The regular supporting cast differing roles than the regular version of the show, just like people you know do in your dreams.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Netflix starting April 14)  Series creator Joel Hodgson is behind this revival of the cult classic where a guy is trapped on a satellite and forced to watch bad movies with two wisecracking robots.  The season is the result of the most successful crowdfunding campaign in history.  Unlike the original show, which was taped in Minneapolis by a bunch of unknowns, this has a name cast and some name writers.  Jonah Ray, Felicia Day, and Patton Oswalt are in this for crying out loud.  Which makes me wonder if it will keep the charm of the original show.  We'll see.

Doctor Who (BBC America Saturdays starting April 15) - This is apparently Peter Capaldi's farewell season as The Doctor, because everybody who takes on this role and says it's their dream role and that they're longtime fans of the show abandon it after three seasons.  Jerks.  There's a new companion this year, and she's apparently a lesbian, which has actually proved controversial with some people.  Have said people ever actually watched Doctor Who?  I still need to catch up on last season now that I think about it.

Fargo (FX Wednesdays starting April 19) - FX's take on the Coen brothers classic builds each season around a standalone story of crime in the upper Midwest very much in the spirit of the original film, and the first two seasons were amazing.  Ewan McGregor stars in two roles in the third season.

Bosch (Amazon Prime starting April 21) - Amazon's gritty cop drama doesn't get a lot of water cooler talk, but you should be watching it anyway.  Probably start with Season 1 now just to prepare.  The first two seasons are only like ten episodes each.  You'll need at least the first season to get the explanation of how he came to own that spectacular house on a cop's salary.

Twin Peaks (Showtime starting May 21) - If any show could top the excitement for the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" revival, it's this revival.  There was nothing like Twin Peaks back when it debuted in 1990.  If you haven't seen it before, catch up on it and realize the number of shows it's since inspired.  TV Guide says you need to watch "Fire: Walk With Me", the prequel film, to get ready for the new season, which was completely written and directed by David Lynch as essentially a single 18-hour movie.  The cast, which numbers in excess of 200 people, includes "most" of the original.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Top It

Place: Fuddrucker's
Lunch: 1/3 lb bacon cheddar burger, fries (drowned in cheese sauce and mayo), Coke

Back in my Grand Forks days, there was a local restaurant owner who specialized in taking over buildings he could get on the cheap that had repeated failed restaurants over the years and put in an original idea of his that would become a local favorite.  One such place was Topper's, a retro diner-styled burger joint in a fast food format where you topped your burgers yourself at the topping bar.  His advertising smartly pointed out that his prices were comparable to McDonald's for a better product.  This was true...the prices were, and the product was.  Plus they had homemade ice cream made on site.  It was SUCH a great place.  When trying to explain the place to out-of-towners, they woudl often ask "So it's like Fuddrucker's?"  And the answer was always something along the line of "Not really.  For one thing, the food is actually good."

I got to reminiscing about Topper's when I recently overheard three guys conversing about the new B-Bop's going up in our uppity upscale shopping area.  "Are they crazy?  Red Robin is right across the street, and Five Guys and Fuddrucker's are a stone's throw away."  

It's a dumb argument because B-Bops targets a whole different market than those three (and I would argue makes a far better burger for far cheaper).  But their conversation turned to comparing the three future competitors, and the one thing they universally agreed on was that Fuddrucker's is the worst of them, and they don't understand how the place stays in business.

But you know what?  I can make an argument FOR Fuddrucker's.

I don't like Five Guys.  At all.  I don't get the appeal people have for the place.  People think they make a great homemade burger.  I'll agree about the "homemade" in I could make this at home.  There's nothing special about it.  People love their fries.  I HATE their fries.  I don't understand how anyone could like them.

In theory, I should love Red Robin.  It's a Pacific Northwest-born chain that was a part of my teen  years.  It was the first place I discovered the miracle that is strawberry lemonade.  And I've never met a menu item I didn't like.  So what's the problem?  There's nothing on the menu I really love, and it's an overpriced sit-down concept.  I'm also increasingly leery of restaurants where I have to depend on servers.  If your sit-down restaurant doesn't carry the fondness I have for Steak n Shake, Frisch's, or the Peppermill, I'm probably avoiding you anymore.  And with Steak n Shake, I just go through the drive-thru most of the time anyway.

Then there's Fuddrucker's.  I can walk up to the counter without the insane lines you see at Five Guys, order my food, and pay with Apple Pay.  For $11.85 including tax, I get a freshly cooked 1/3 lb burger with real bacon and cheddar on it that I can top myself to the point of ridiculous, fries, and a soda.  Plus I can make Euro-fries with as much cheese sauce and mayo as I want.

It's still not nearly as good as Topper's was...the topping bar isn't nearly as extensive...but it still works.  And I would argue that the food quality has gotten much better than it used to be.

It wasn't always this simple.  When Fuddrucker's opened here, there were servers refilling your drinks and expecting tips.  That worked so poorly that they ended up putting in self-serve drink machines and reformatting to more of a fast casual setup.  Which seems to work much better.

So I guess I've grown more fond of Fuddrucker's over the years.  People who weren't happy with them when they first opened should give them another try.

So there.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Auto Show 2017

Place: White Castle
Lunch: Four Original Sliders, regular Shrimp Nibblers (w/cocktail sauce), Crab Cake Slider, ice water

It's Fast Food Fish Season (or, as my weird Catholic cousin calls it, "Lent") and White Castle has enhanced their menu beyond the always available Fish Nibblers and Fish Slider by bringing back my beloved Shrimp Nibblers and adding something new in the form of a Crab Cake Slider, which waaay exceeded expectations.  It's some mystery battered and fried concoction that has a far better taste than most crab cakes I've had.  And it has a creole sauce.  I can't explain it, but I love it.

Oh hey look. Somebody threw a bunch of cars into the convention center and called it an Auto Show.  Let's have a look, shall we.  It might be a bit abbreviated as I wear down much more easily with my health issues and after losing to the Undertaker in that Hell in a Cell match.  Well played, Undertaker.  Well played.  As usual, this is about cars I'm interested in mostly, so I probably won't even notice the BMW, Honda, and Lexus stands.  It's MY blog, and I'm selfish.


MDX - Acura has revealed the 2019...yes, 2019...model year MDX.  So how are they supposed to continue selling the existing thing in 2017 and 2018?  If this show is any indication, bring the kids.  Kids were wowed by the older model.  "MOM IT HAS SO MANY CUP HOLDERS BACK HERE!!!"  Not kidding...that really happened.

NSX- Dang this mid-engine sports car looks good.  A 573hp monster using a V6 and multiple electric motors.  0-60 in THREE seconds.  At around $150k it'll drain your bank account at about the same rate.


R8 - Not to be outdone, the redesigned R8 gets a V10 that can get to 60 in LESS than three seconds. And a fancy display monitor instead of a traditional instrument cluster.  Take that, Acura.


LaCrosse - The all-new sedan is all new.  Seems like a lot of effort for a segment almost nobody cares about anymore.

Regal - Rumor has it Regal could be replaced in Buick's lineup with a rebadged Opel hatchback, even though GM just sold Opel.  Buick knows this is how Saturn died, right?


Bolt - Available now in limited markets and staggering out nationwide through the year, though apparently not all Chevy dealerships will be getting it.  Chevy claims a 238-mile range for their pure electric hatchback.  Still not quite enough for a Steak n Shake run for me, unless there's free charging stations around town.  But it would get me to Taco Time and back.

Cruze - There's a hatchback version now.  And a diesel coming.  Somebody at GM a woeful VW fan or something?

Equinox - The all-new third gen is coming this fall as a 2018 model.  There's one here, and it looks updated Equinox.  Nicer lines, but not so different that you wouldn't know what it is.  What you will notice is the engine lineup.  Two gas turbo four-cylinders and a turbo diesel.  No V6.  Good gas mileage, but will they be powerful enough for Chevy buyers?

Sonic - Wow, they still make this?  Yes they do, and they spiffied it up a bit.  Nobody knows why.


Nothing new going on here.  Fiat isn't doing well in the US.  Supposedly there's been meetings with the dealer network discussing ways to "save the brand".  Hopefully the 500x picks up steam.

500e - Fiat offers the pure electric version of the 500 in California and maybe Oregon only, but the original cars from 2013 are starting to come off-lease and are showing up in used car lots across the country for anywhere from $8,000-$10,000. often with low mileage.  They have a fun-to-drive reputation, get about 85 miles on a charge, and can be charged in your standard garage plug (though if you completely drain it, it'll take a full day to top off.)  I am seriously thinking about getting one for the daily work commute and around towning.

500x - I FINALLY got to sit in one.  Not bad.  It has a push-button start, but the button is located on the steering column exactly where a key ignition would be, which is weird.


EcoSport - New to the US but not new to the world, Ford is importing EcoSport from India to handle their subcompact SUV hole.  Like its competitors, it looks like one of those mini shopping carts at Whole Foods.

Expedition - The next gen people hauling beast is finally here.  Or will be in September.  Whatever.  The new model is bigger yet lighter thanks to its aluminum body.  The engine will be an EcoBoost twin turbo V6 that will auto stop/start when idle at traffic lights.  It has a ten-speed transmission.  Remember ten-speed bicycles?  I hated those things.  Never could figure out the gearing.  *pedal pedal KATHUNK KATHUNK*  Some petite little blonde woman was looking at this with her friends and declared "Nope.  I refuse to drive anything shorter than this."


Genesis had their own space at the Auto Show nowhere near the Hyundai stand, but right next to sister brand Kia.  Okay.

G80 - Hyundai's new luxury brand's first vehicle is the existing Hyundai Genesis with a new name.  So...yeah.  They're sold at your local Hyundai dealer.  Sooo...yeah.

G90 - Here's an actual new model, though it's essentially the next gen Hyundai Equus.


Terrain - Terrain is all-new along with it's Chevy sibling Equinox.  Engine options are all four-cylinder turbos, one a diesel.  That seemed questionable with Equinox, but REALLY questionable under the GMC brand.  It does look way better, though.


Elantra - All-new redesign that really stands out in absolutely no way whatsoever.  But Hyundai sells a butt ton of them anyway.

Ioniq - Hyundai's new Stinky Prius fighter shares a platform with Kia's new Niro and has hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and pure electric options out of the box.  Which one should you get?  Even the regular hybrid version gets 55 mpg combined.  Jeepers. The electric has a 124 mile range.  Apparently only California dealers will stock the electric version, but any US dealer can special order you one if you want.  It's a four-door hatch like Stinky Prius, but whereas Stinky Prius looks like somebody mated a Pontiac Aztek with a Batmobile, this doesn't look weird at all.  And it has Hyundai's cool blue dashboard lighting.


HOLY CRAP.  Infiniti ACTUALLY SHOWED UP THIS YEAR!  With multiple cars and everything.  I got to sit in a QX30 and a Q60.

Q60 - The coupe version of the Q50 is finally for sale.  They did a Neiman-Marcus version for their holiday catalog that was positively gorgeous and that none of you could be bothered to buy me for Christmas, you cheap bastards.

QX30 - The beefed up sort of SUV version of the Q30 hatch (which Infiniti's US dealers wisely decided not to sell) is basically a Mercedes in Infiniti guise.  I am not a fan of Mercedes, and I'm not a fan of this. It has that stupid plastic key thingy instead of push-button start.  I did recently drive a couple of Q50's that had the 2.0 turbo four this thing uses.  It wasn't too bad and I got better than advertised gas mileage (about 34 combined) and it had built-in stop/start technology where the engine shuts off at idle.  But if I'm spending this kind of money, I'm getting a V6.

QX50 - Infiniti showed off a next-gen concept version of this at Detroit.  The big news is that it's likely the production version will feature Infiniti's new four-cylinder VC-Turbo, the industry's first variable compression motor, which in theory should be able to perform with the horsepower of a V6 and the torque and efficiency of a diesel.  I would still anticipate at least a Red Sport 400hp twin turbo V6 version as well.  There's been some speculation the new QX50 will replace both the QX50 AND QX70.  Which sucks for those of us who were fans of the FX.  I suppose they might be clearing the 70 name for something bigger to size between the popular QX60 and the behemoth QX80.  I hope they significantly clean up the infotainment beyond the mess in the Q50 and maybe support CarPlay, but I'm probably just wishful thinking.  They seem to think their garbage two-screen system is as super awesome as they thought renaming the entire lineup into something similar to the Jollibee combo menu was.


 Niro - Niro is being marketed as a subcompact SUV, but it's not.  It doesn't have AWD available and it has a standard passenger ride height, so that's dumb.  So what is it really?  It's Kia's Stinky Prius fighter.  It's the Hyundai Ioniq's sister.  Same platform, motor, and transmission.  All trim levels get the hybrid 1.6 four-banger that hits 139hp combined with the electric motor.  Plug-in and full electric versions are supposedly down the road.  EPA average is 46-51 mpg depending on the trim level you get (the more toys you tack on, the heavier the car, thus the loss of mileage.)  It has available driving aids (blind spot, forward collision, etc) on higher end models and pretty much all the infotainment features you want, including support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Soul - Soul fans have long wished for more power, and now they're getting it with a turbo option.  Spool up, hamsters.


Continental - The new Continental has a 30-way adjustable driver's seat that will heat you, cool you, or even massage you.  Try to not follow asleep behind the wheel.  There were a couple of them at the show but I didn't get to sit in one because there was a literal line of elderly men waiting to.


Mitsubishi Motors celebrates its 100th birthday by...essentially becoming a division of Nissan.  Nissan doesn't own Mitsubishi Motors outright, but may as well.  Nissan's brass is insisting Mitsubishi will continue with new models and its own identity, albeit on shared Nissan platforms.  but it's better than the alternative of ceasing to exist.

As usual, Mitsubishi had an absurdly huge display at this show with probably more cars on display than they'll actually sell in the market this year, and furiously engaging reps trying to keep your attention on the brand.

Eclipse Cross - Remember Mitsubishi's killer awesome all-wheel-drive sports coupe?  Well, it's NOT returning next year, but a new crossover using that name is.  What the hell, Mitsubishi.

Mirage G4 - G4 stands for "Gee, it has four doors."  It's a sedan version of the Mirage hatch, which is also available with four doors, but a four-door hatch in the auto industry is technically considered a five-door because the hatch accesses the passenger compartment, so my joke applies.  It looks, feels, and smells like cheap basic transportation.  Basic transportation from ten years ago, specifically.


GT-R - HOLY CRAP.  THERE'S A GT-R HERE.  Can't sit in it, but there it is.  Some almost unnoticeable style updates and more noticeable interior refinements.  They're always tweaking the motor, of course, and this year is no exception, bumping up the ponies to 565.

leaf - Nissan says the next Leaf is coming, and it will have a 200-mile range.  It'll need it to compete with the latest offerings, but I'm somehow not terribly worried about Nissan understanding that.  Sales have fallen off for the current model and it's no wonder with its short range and dated weird look.

Rogue - Rogue gets a new hybrid option, the V-grille treatment Nissan is so danged fond of these days, and a few other style changes.  There's new safety features as well if you're willing to pay for them. The hybrid side doesn't sound all that robust. 

Rogue Sport - You know how Mitsubishi has the Outlander and the shorter Outlander Sport?  Well Nissan is pulling a similar trick by importing an existing nearly identical but slightly smaller European model called the Qashqai and slapping the Rogue brand on it to take on subcompact crossovers like Chevy Trax and Honda HR-V.  You'd think THIS would be the Rogue with the Hybrid option, wouldn't you.  It's said to have sportier handling than Rogue.  It was comfortable to sit in.  Wouldn't mind taking one for a spin.

Sentra SR Turbo - Want s 188 horsepower Sentra with a six speed manual?  Hey, who doesn't.  Well you can get one now.  Hope they retuned and beefed up the suspension too.


Legacy - Subie's Altima-Accord alternative gets a style refresh that makes it look less like a Subaru and more like its competition.  Just blend in and nobody will notice, Legacy.  Good boy.


86 - This is the rebadged Scion FR-S sports coupe, also known as the cousin to Subaru's BR-Z.  It has new tweaks and stuff I didn't quite understand.  Still, it's pretty great.  It's the vehicle Mitsubishi Eclipse fans drive now, and will probably buzz by Mitsubishi dealerships in flipping the bird at their new Eclipse-branded SUV.

Corolla - Hey, this thing is 50 years old.  So it gets a style refresh, some new standard safety features, and a limited edition.  These things are so reliable there's probably some 50 year-old ones still running out there.


After somehow surviving Dieselgate, one has to wonder how VW still exists.  Governments are all like "Just throw us some money and we're good" and consumers are all like "Sure you're an untrustworthy cheating company and even though my VW is practically falling apart thanks to your constant cheap shortcuts, I'll still buy one."  You're all stupidheads.

VW is betting big on electric cars for its future.  It has a dedicated electric platform (dubbed MEB) that cars will soon be rolling out on.  A concept called the "ID" is hoped to revolutionize motoring the way the original Beetle and Golf/Rabbit did when the production version arrives.  And a neat concept that looks like a Microbus showed up at big auto shows this year.  I'd look at that.  VW wants to be a huge player in electric cars.

Beetle - Lackluster sales are being strung along by special editions, and speculation is there probably won't be a next generation version unless they decide to build a pure electric one, which would be awesome, so they probably won't.  But OH GOD did they ever have a beautiful one on display.  It was a metallic brown called "Dark Bronze Metallic" with two-tone cream seats that immediately made me dub it the "Root Beer Float" because I suck at being a diabetic.  It's part of the "Classic Edition" line, which also has a "Bottle Green" color option.  Some Guy walking by said to his girlfriend "Hey look!  A dung Beetle!"  And I punched him in the face.

Atlas - Atlas is VW's new mid-size seven-passenger SUV/minivan/tall station wagon.  VW claims it was "designed for America" on their Atlas webpage.  Which is funny because if VW's proven anything in recent years, it's that VW knows nothing about the US market.  It will be built in their Chattanooga, TN plant.

e-Golf - VW's next-gen pure electric Golf gets a significant range increase to 125 miles per charge and more horsepower.  Local dealer folk are claiming it'll also be sold nationwide when it comes out this fall (the current one is a California-Oregon only car).

Golf Alltrack - Remember the Subaru Outback?  This new beefed up AWD version of the Golf SportWagen targets that market.  Because VW felt the need to field a competitor to a fringe model that was a fad twenty years ago.  It might sell well in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, I guess.

Tiguan - The new US-spec Tig is finally coming, and it has a stretched version to seat seven passengers...wait, what?  Isn't that what the Atlas is for?


XC60 - Volvo's smaller SUV is all-new for 2018 (just announced, but not actually here yet).   The new one looks sharp.  It's a very important car for Volvo.

You know, I didn't really wear down all that much.


Thursday, March 09, 2017

Meat Mountain

Place: Arby's
Lunch: Meat Mountain, loaded curly fries, Mint Chocolate Swirl shake

There was an abandoned drive-in theatre in rural Wisconsin a guy re-opened around 15 years ago.  He put a small grill in the snack bar to make hamburgers, planning to offer single and double patty burgers.  As a joke, he decided to offer a three-patty burger called the "Gutbuster".  Why didn't require adding any ingredient to the kitchen.  It cost nothing to put it on the menu.

It is, to this day, their best selling burger.

So it goes with Arby's, who have taken their "WE HAVE THE MEATS" slogan to new extremes with the all-inclusive Meat Mountain sandwich. It has nearly every meat in the kitchen piled on it.  Roast beef, Angus steak, ham, brisket, turkey, corned beef, pepper bacon, and even deep fried chicken tenders.  There's quote their website..."cheddar and Swiss cheese somewhere in there."  Ask for it Denali-style through this month and they'll even put a fish fillet on it.  For FREE.

It's here because it can be.  It's all stuff that was already in the kitchen anyway.  And it gets people talking.

You can't call it a best-seller...yet.  Meat Mountain has been an officially sanctioned "secret" menu item for a couple of years.  But now they've started promoting the thing with in-store signage, which is how I found out about it.

Smiling Counter Girl: "I'll be with you in a minute!"  *runs off, arms flailing*

Someone in Back: "She'll be with you in a minute!"

Smiling Counter Girl runs back: "Hi!"

Me: "Meat Mountain, Denali-Style."

Smiling Counter Girl: "Oooh!"  She seems legit excited that somebody's ordering this.

Smiling Counter Girl, staring at screen: "I can't find the button.  Oh!  There it is.  What size fry and drink do you want?"

Me: "I actually want loaded curly fries and the Mint Chocolate Swirl shake, so however that works."

Smiling Counter Girl: "Oh!"

Smiling Counter Girl: "We're just getting the shake machine working.  It might be awhile, but we'll bring it out to you.  Is that okay?"

Me: "Sure."

I'm willing to bet any amount of money in the world they'll forget about the shake completely.

Smiling Counter Girl: "Anything else?"

Me: "That's not enough food?"

Smiling Counter Girl: "We have to ask."

Somebody in Back: "DOES HE WANT IT HOT?"

Smiling Counter Girl: "Do you want that hot?"

Me: "The shake?"

Smiling Counter Girl: "Noooo, the sandwich."

Me: "Yes."

Smiling Counter Girl: "HE WANTS IT HOT!"

I'm assuming a cold Meat Mountain would mean the deli meats weren't heated, but the chicken tenders and fish fillet would be, right?  I'm not going to find out.

The food arrives.  The Meat Mountain is about five inches tall and could never fit in a conventional human bite, yet while very intimidating looking, I have to wonder if there's really more deli meat on the thing than, say, a Jimmy John's Gargantuan.  It's just piled up on a conventional bun in this case.

First bite is across the lower half of the sandwich.  The fish is overwhelming.

Second bite towards the top.  A lot of distinct deli meat flavor profiles.

Ultimately, I decide the way to go is to remove the fish and the chicken tenders and eat those as sides. That leaves me with a perfectly manageable deli sandwich that doesn't seem much taller than a Beef & Cheddar Max.  It could use mayo, though.  Inexplicably, mayo is not one of the condiments Arby's keeps on hand.

Ultimately, I ate about half the sandwich, half the curly fries, and half the fish fillet.  Arby's fish fillet is kind of nasty.  It was luke warm at best and the breading wasn't really crispy.  I did eat the chicken tenders.  Arby's deli meats have strong and distinct flavors that I'm not sure really work together like this.

About twenty minutes after receiving my food, I walked back up to the counter.  "Are we still waiting on shakes?"

Sure enough, they had completely forgotten.  They make my shake immediately.

The Mint Chocolate Swirl shake is the highlight here.  It's minty green, but it also tastes quite chocolaty.  It's really good.

It's SUPPOSED to be Auto Show weekend coming up, but the forecast calls for possibly lots of snow, so I've rescheduled that trip for next weekend.

The cats are due a home weekend anyway.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Dying in Barstow

Place: Del Taco
Lunch: 2 Barstow Tacos (no tomato), grilled chicken burrito (no lettuce, no tomato), Coke

I had a dream last year where my badly decomposing body was found in a seedy Barstow motel room.  I was watching the scene from above, as if I were hovering like a ghost.  There were police detectives.  The floor was covered in discarded taco wrappers.  Wrappers from Barstow Tacos.

Ed Hackbarh managed the Barstow outpost of Glen Bell's Taco Tia chain.  When Bell left Taco Tia to start another chain with new partners (no, not Taco Bell, that came later), Hackbarth bought the little walk-up stand and re-branded it under his own Del Taco banner.  It was actually the second Del Taco.  Hackbarth opened the first in Yermo.

The Barstow store sill exists at 401 N 1st Ave (the Yermo building does too, though it's no longer a Del Taco), and although Hackbarth sold the chain years ago, he and his family are still franchisees.  They own and operate Barstow's three Del Tacos.  They tacked on a dining room to the walk-up stand and in 2015 extended the dining room to the front of the lot and added indoor restrooms to the building for the first time in its history.  The exterior has a whole new facade and looks totally modern, but the original bones are still in there.

I like to road trip down here when in Vegas.  Why, when there's already Del Taco stores all over the Vegas area?  Because the Barstow stores are not only historic, they make better tacos.

The big key is the taco meat, which is apparently Glen Bell's original recipe.  It's much milder.  And there's far more of it in the shell.  More like a Taco Time taco than a Del Taco.  The national chain recently rolled out a new signature taco called "The Del Taco", allegedly inspired by these.  They don't work. Partly because too much lettuce, partly because of Del Taco's far more heavily seasoned meat.

Anyway, I just love the things.  And I'm not alone.  A lot of people make a Barstow Taco pit stop when traveling between Los Angeles and Vegas.  The store by the interstate is the chain's busiest location.

Been a good trip.  I've gotten most of what I wanted to get done accomplished.

I could easily become a desert rat.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Papaya King

Place: Papaya King
Lunch: C&C Dog, King's Tots, Strawberry Fields (tropical drink)

A New York City staple since the 1930's, Papaya King is a combination hot dog stand and papaya juice/smoothie stand.  The original store is still there, supplemented by two more locations in NYC and Brooklyn.  The fourth?  Right here in Las Vegas, which has quite the growing collection of out-of-market outposts of hot dog chains.  Still need a Skyline Chili, though.  Sure it's not making the headlines the Vegas debut of Chick-Fil-A is which, bizarrely, will probably go down as the biggest business debut in the valley this year.  The first two locations opened a couple of weeks ago and are just printing money.

The official address is 4503 Paradise Rd, but it's not really on Paradise.  It's in a shopping center at the corner of Paradise and Harmon, and Papaya King fronts Harmon a good half block from Paradise.  It's right across the street from the Hard Rock, right where KISS Mini Golf used to be before it moved to the old Village Seafood Buffet space at Rio.  You wanted the best, you got the best.  The hottest dog in the world, Papaya KIIIIING!!!.

Anyway, it's right down the street from where I stay when in town, and right on the route to the Pinball Hall of Fame.  SO convenient.

They've been open since November, but everything today looks like a grand opening, which they're referring to as some sort of customer royalty thingy.  The staff is SUPER friendly, maybe because this is all new and they're not jaded yet.  Balloons throughout the dining room and a live DJ in the parking lot.  Smiling Counter Guy talked me through the special, which was something to do with buy two dogs get one free, I think.  I sort of got brain locked.  So I said "I'm going to go with what I read on the website menu."  I ordered what I had intended, but got upsized on the drink because they were selling the 32oz for 32 cents.  I suck at being a diabetic.

The "C&C" in the C&C dog is Chili and Cheddar sauce.  Perfectly decent dog.  The chili is a bean chili, which really shouldn't be used as a hot dog topping.  A thick beanless chili topping always works better.  Same on the King's Tots, which are tater tots topped with the same chili and cheese sauce as well as fried onion petals.  Good tots, same complaint about the chili.

The Strawberry Fields drink tastes kind of like Strawberry Quik but juicy, not milky.  I'd have it again.

I'm sure I'll be a regular visitor when in town.  The people are too nice and it's too convenient not to go there.

Saw The Lego Batman Movie afterward and played some pinball.  Going to the live Night Vale show tonight.

Pretty good Vegas day overall.