24 August 2009

Food: Part One

We’ve established by now that the sole reason we exist as a touring band is to eat at as many Taco Bells as possible. But sometimes you can’t find a Taco Bell, and you have to eat at some totally unkown local restaurant, where you can’t order with the confidence that you can at a Taco Bell. Hell, they might not even have bean burritos. But sometimes these unknowns turn out to be really good.

Thus, this, our civic duty to share this wealth of culinary knowledge we’ve amassed. This will be a two-parter, chronicling the top ten restaurants of the last year of touring. It was gonna be a 2008 year-end list, but then we did another US tour and ate more US food. So now, here it is, after driving around this great land for the last year, the dudes' top 10 restaurants in the USA.

Part one / numbers 6-10:

6. Sokolowski’s. Cleveland, OH. While Tom Jones ate Chinese at the food court back at the hotel, we split for an old Polish cafeteria/tavern on the wrong side of the Cuyahoga. We caught the end of their lunch, and they heaped upon us mounds of what was left of their pierogis
and boats of gravy, unsolicited and gratis. It’s the kinda cafeteria where the cashier eyeballs what you got and makes up an arbitrary price. We were the only ones in their dining room, but gosh, we sure filled it with moans of delight. The pierogis lived in a styrofoam box under the back seat of our van for the next 2 weeks. Also, Bill Clinton ate here in 1993.

7. Tomato Head. Knoxville, TN. Not much to say; just really good. Downtown Knoxville, near that sad little mirror-ball-on-a-stick poor-man’s-Space-Needle 1982 World’s Fair relic. Soup/sandwich/pizza/good-lookin staff/etc. Bonus fact: You know how like all of the 20th century’s great innovations were unvailed at the World’s Fair? i.e., the telephone, the hot dog, the ice cream cone, etc. Well, said Knoxville World’s Fair gave us... Cherry Coke. Marinate on that.

Tim outside Letty's
8. Letty's Casita. El Centro, CA. It’s an hour west of Yuma and 15 minutes north of Mexico, and the only thing it’s (to translate) The Center of is nowhere. But it’s at Letty’s little cottage that you’ll find the greatest machaca - which is more or less reconstituted beef jerky, which doesn’t sound good, but so is; when it’s done wrong, which it almost always is, we gringos can just call it “shredded beef.” Then there’s the mantarraya tacos Will had. That’s manta ray, aka sting ray, and everyone knows the Crocodile Hunter died eating sting ray tacos. Turns out it tastes kinda like canned tuna, which makes you wonder why you can’t ever find that in a taco. When we left here - again, 15 minutes north of the Mexican border - we drove up into the mountains and into a snow storm, thusly giving us the unique distinction of being able to say we were late to our San Diego gig because we got caught in a snow storm.

9. Kit Carson Restaurant. Chehalis, WA. If only because of two dishes, which were more just fine than anything else. One, a heaping pile of any and all morning foodstuffs called Mt. St. Helen’s Eruption.
Kit Carson
The other, unremarkable though it may be, was listed on the menu as C.F.S., which is an acronym that entered and has remained our lexicon. That is, country fried steak. It was also here we learned that steak weights and men’s shoe sizes are congruous. That is, as a rule of thumb, an 11 oz. steak is roughly equal in size to a size 11 foot. And vice-versa.

10. Famous Anthony's. Roanoke, VA. If you’re driving down Interstate 81 in Virginia on a Wednesday night, are looking for an affordable all-you-can-eat spaghetti feast, and dislike flavor, go to Famous Anthony’s. Our 16-year-old waitress had both the cutest southern accent and the cutest cold sore.

and for good measure, avoid these at all costs:
Amigos, North Platte, Nebraska
Fiesta Azteca, Nashville

Stay tuned for more...

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