Anna and I have driven through Salt Lake City on many occasions, but we never had any reason to stop there before DDD. This is the beginning of another three week trip with stops in Boise, Spokane, Seattle, Portland, Sacramento and the bay area.
We passed through Las Vegas on our way to SLC and enjoyed another Stromboli at the Four Kegs. Yum.
Our first stop in SLC was the Lone Star Taqueria for a light lunch. Anna and I shared a carne asada taco and a carne adovada quesadilla. The food was quite tasty and we enjoyed the salsa bar as well. I would have liked to eat more, but we had to save room for other stops.
We next headed into downtown and tried to find a nice motel for a few nights. They didn’t have any rooms available at the first place we stopped. While we were in the lobby trying to make other arrangements, a very well dressed, very attractive woman came into the lobby and waited behind us. The clerk told us that we could get a nice room at a different location just north of town, but if we wanted to stay at her location to check back after 6:00 p.m. We thanked her and went out to the car. After a few minutes, the attractive woman came out to the car parked next to ours. Actually, attractive doesn’t quite do it. She was stunning. Anyway, she told us that we shouldn’t stay there and that our car wouldn’t be safe. Yikes. She was driving a nice car herself, and so I asked her why she was staying there if she wouldn’t recommend the place to us. Her response was simple but it took me by surprise. She said she was meeting a gentleman there later. She got in her car and drove away before I had a chance to connect the dots. Ooh la la.
It’s probably just as well that I didn’t have a chance to ask her any questions (not really). I’ve never had the chance to interview a woman in her line of work, and I’m sure I would have enjoyed talking with her. Not to single her out, but when I get a chance to meet people in an interesting line of work, I like to learn more about it and hear all the pertinent details. I’m just curious that way.
We did get a nice room just north of town.
Our next stop was Pat’s BBQ. Although I missed out on the brisket (oversight) we split a smoked meatloaf dinner, which was accompanied with mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed corn, corn bread and BBQ sauce on the side. We ate on a picnic table out front. The food was piping hot and filing, but under-seasoned for my taste (which could mean that it was just right for other people).
We managed to find Liberty Park and stretch our legs before dinner.
Being a Philly cheesesteak lover, I had been looking forward to Moochie’s for quite some time. We ordered the 12 inch with a side of fries. It was a good sandwich, but I must confess, I was expecting a great sandwich. They did everything they were supposed to do to make a great cheesesteak sandwich, but they cut just enough of the corners to knock it down a few pegs. They were really busy and it was put out more like fast food than crafted food. The fry sauces were excellent though, and the service was fast.
We headed back for another stroll around Liberty Park and then headed over to Bruge’s Waffles and Frites. I had to let Anna out while I went in search of a parking space. I caught up with her just about the time her order came up. She ordered the Vanilla Liege Waffle with strawberries and Crème fraiche. It was her bag and I wasn’t planning to have any. I love waffles, but I think of them more for breakfast than dessert. Anna insisted that I try a bite and so I took one just to make her happy. The flavors exploded in my mouth and it was one of those OMG-I can’t believe how good this tastes moments. I looked at Anna in disbelief and she confirmed my reaction that yes, it really is that good.
Unbelievable. I had a second bite (to confirm). I’ll be making a beeline for that place if I ever make it back to SLC. I’ll be trying the frites too, with the Sauce Andalouse.
Our second day began with a nice drive out to Ruth’s Diner just east of town. We weren’t expecting much and we were shocked to find such a great place where we least expected it. Ruth’s is great, inside and out. The weather was warm and sunny, perfect for sitting on the back patio with live music and plenty of hot coffee. We didn’t mind waiting for a table. It gave us a good chance to read the menu.
I ordered a breakfast sandwich which was roughly a BLT on grilled bread with fried eggs and cheese. It tastes even better than it looks in the picture and the potatoes were great too. It may not look special, but let me tell you that this sandwich is inspired and cooked to perfection. Anna ordered Banana Walnut French Toast, and she was one happy camper. We also sampled one of the gigantic biscuits, which they bring out to every table. We declined ours the first time, but after we sat and watched everyone else enjoying theirs, we decided to share one after all. Our server was even kind enough to bring us a sample of their gravy to go with it.
The ambiance was divine. The road out to Ruth’s was shared by bicyclists and motorcycle riders, and everyone else out enjoying a beautiful morning. We explored the surrounding area and learned a little about Ruth (we would have approved of her).
We knocked around at a few different places and then headed over to the Blue Plate Diner. It’s a nice little place with a great bar and a screened porch. We sat outside and ordered a Reuben sandwich with fries to share. The service was excellent and it was nice for us to sit and veg out for a while. The sandwich was good, and we also enjoyed the ubiquitous fry sauce. It was a good break for us, and then we headed back to Liberty Park.
We met up with some friends and hung out with them while they enjoyed some coffee. They couldn’t join us for dinner, but Anna and I drove over to the famous Red Iguana for a great Mexican dinner.
The place was packed and we had a short wait for a table. We got a nice little booth towards the back, and an excellent waiter. He took great care of us, including a full sampling of the different moles. Anna and I decided that the moles weren’t doing it for us (but it’s always fun to try new things).
Before I tell you what we ordered, I have to comment on how large the menu is. They have page after page of great sounding dishes. I ordered the Tacos Don Ramone, and convinced Anna to order the eponymous Combination Platter (a chile relleno, taco a la iguana, cheese enchilada, beef tostada and beef flauta with guacamole and sour cream). We also had chips and salsa, so it was an impressive array of food (which is a polite way of saying it was an embarrassing whole table full of food for just two people).
The Tacos Don Ramone are described as, “Three crisp corn tacos filled with tender top sirloin tips, grilled with pork chorizo, garnished with shredded lettuce and queso cotija, served with pico de gallo, and a salsa de aguacate.” The tacos were great, but I actually ended up liking the Taco a la Iguana better.
Anna helped with the food as much as she could, but I put away most of it. It was our last night in SLC and no desserts on the horizon either. Between the two of us, we managed to finish everything, and I can tell you that I was one happy camper. Anna and I used to go out and eat that kind of Mexican food all the time, but we stopped about three years ago after our best friend died. Needless to say, it was a real treat. No doubt the Red Iguana must have thousands and thousands of regulars who are fiercely loyal (not to mention very fortunate). The food was spectacular, super fresh and tasty; and the service was top notch. It’s easy to see why the Red Iguana made it on to DDD, and it easily makes my top ten list of favorite Mexcian Restaurants. Salt Lake City… Go figure. It was a great day in Flavortown USA.
We rolled out of town the next morning, heading north for Boise, Idaho, with a much anticipated stop at the Burger Bar in Roy, Utah. Being way back in Season Three, the Burger Bar was one of our earlier favorites. The woman from the episode, Jessica, looked like a lot of fun. You could tell from watching her that she grew up in the place. Everything she did or touched was like an extension of her body, as if she could run the place blind-folded. Sadly, Jessica was not there.
I just watched the segment again, and it’s some great looking drive-in food. The burgers looked fat and juicy (not to mention hot and fresh). The fries looked perfect and the onion rings are made from scratch. I’d been looking forward to the Burger Bar for years.
DDD is great for finding great food at great places. The problem though is that sometimes the build-up and the anticipation is too much, and if the food isn’t perfect, then you end up disappointed. When you get food that is just as good or better than what you were expecting, the experience is even better because of the anticipation (like Hodad’s).
We ordered a double Big Ben with cheese and bacon, onion rings, a corn dog (rare treat), a peanut butter/chocolate milk shake, and something we hardly ever get… fried mushrooms. I don’t know what could have went wrong, other than the fact that we were probably the first customers of the day. The food was good, but I was expecting great. The best part of the meal was the milk shake, which Anna loved (even though the weather was a bit on the cold side). The fry sauce was good, and we used it on everything. I was disappointed that we didn’t get to meet Jessica. Nevertheless, we rolled out of town full.
We had a drive-in like this one when I was growing up (although ours had, uhm, tables!). It was called Roy’s Drive-In, which opened in 1961 in Salinas, California. It grew into an institution, just like the Burger Bar. I loved that place and it was always a treat when I got to eat there. They were famous for their deep fried burritos, which I loved dearly. They used to be three for a dollar. Sadly, Roy’s closed a few years back (2004) which is tragic. A reliable source told me that they were forced to close because the place was not wheel-chair (ADA) compliant and that it would have cost way too much money to retrofit the place. What a shame. Anyone reading this who loved Roy’s can feel my pain. I’ve never been able to find the burritos anywhere near as good as they were at Roy’s. I got tired of the disappointments and gave up. I’ve even tried to make my own. Not even close.
If you recall from our first trip, we really enjoyed the Kodiak Grill just outside of Boise (our 3rd place). I ordered the burger that was made on the show, but there were other great burgers and sandwiches on the menu and I was looking forward to making it back, and meeting the owner, Danarae Clor. About a week or so before we left on this trip, I went on-line to double check the hours of the Kodiak Grill and discovered that the place had closed (as in out of business). It was a crushing bit of news and my heart sank. Here we were going all the way back to Boise, and we might miss Danarae again. I tried to reach her before we left, but had no luck.
The drive to Boise was smooth, and after getting a room, we headed out for a return to Pizzal-Chick. We stopped at a park along the way and threw our ring till it got dark. Pizzal-Chick is a run-on for Pizza, Salad, and Chicken; and we ordered all three. Brad was there and we got to visit with him and talk more about drums and drumming. He is in a band, and they play at the restaurant (among other places). It’s too bad we weren’t able to check out the band, but we’ll plan on it next time (if we ever make it back to Boise).
The food was fabulous. The oven roasted chicken was moist and succulent. The pizza was even better than the first time we had it. The quality is just unbelievable. The real kicker though was the salad. It came with the chicken and we weren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary. Well, the salad turned out to be a work of art. It was an amazing and seemingly whimsical concoction of several different micro-salads all composed into one big salad. Every bite was different. Anna and I just kept looking at each other in wonder, as if to ask, “What the hell is that? I don’t know, but it sure does taste good.” It was far and away the most interesting salad we’d ever had. Life is short, why just have boring lettuce? We were in town for a few days, and we told everyone we met to go to Pizzal-Chick. I wish it wasn’t so far away. Brad, and the rest of the crew, are doing it right.
As promised (see Boise) we headed out the next morning for the lagoon looking water attraction at Sandy Point Beach. It was a beautiful day and we had the place nearly to ourselves (although we kept our suits on just to be on the safe side). The water was inviting, but sadly too cold to actually swim. We waded in it a few times, and Anna dunked herself. I didn’t want to be outdone, so I dunked myself too. If you ever saw a grown man sound like a little girl… let’s just say it was invigorating. All kidding aside, I was hoping to get in some serious swimming, but the water was too cold. We had a lot of fun anyway, got lots of sun, and left just in time to shower and change then head out for lunch at Rick’s Press Room in Meridian.
Rick is obviously a very talented chef and we were looking forward to eating there. It’s a big place with a big open dining room, lots of tables and a big bar along the left side. I’d call it comfortable, with a downtown appeal and casual charm. Our server was friendly and took good care of us. They were just getting ready to close their lunch service and we made it in just under the wire (as planned). We asked to meet Rick if he was available.
I ordered a cheesesteak sandwich and Anna went for a grilled cheese, one with fries and the other with a side salad. As you can see from the photos (and not surprisingly) the food was cooked perfectly. That was one scrumptious cheesesteak, with a meticulous blending of the melted cheese into the thinly sliced and grilled steak. Bravo. I suspected Rick was going to nail it and I was not disappointed. It might even be the best I’ve ever had. Rick looks to be one of those chefs who only knows one way to do something and that’s the right way. I respect that approach to food service and appreciate it when I get to be on the receiving end. It’s so good.
Anna still insists that I make the best grilled cheese sandwiches, but Rick’s was about as good as it gets. Rick came out to meet us, and he was very gracious. We thanked him for the meal and complimented him on his talent and success. The people of Meridian/Boise are lucky to have Rick’s Press Room. We also had a great time talking with our waitress. We hated to tear ourselves away from the place, but she had other work to do.
After we finished our lunch, our waitress brought out a dessert that Rick wanted us to have, on the house. It was a towering slice of Tiramisu, and one heck of a nice presentation. It was my first time, and it tasted just as good as it looks in the picture. We left happy, and headed back towards downtown and the beautiful Ann Morrison park.
The park wasn’t as great as our first visit. The weather wasn’t good, the main fountain was dry and empty, and the park was nearly deserted. We walked around anyway, after throwing our ring, and hooked up with some guys playing disc-golf. I’d never tried that before and they let me join in for a couple of holes. It was fun, but I didn’t really get the hang of it. I’ll have to buy some discs and practice. It started to sprinkle, and by the time we were at the far end of the park away from our car, the sprinkle turned into a full deluge of rain. We huddled next to a big tree, which managed to draw the curiosity of everyone driving by who craned their necks to make sure we weren’t doing anything indecent.
We went to Target to get some aloe vera for Anna (too much sun), and strolled through the Boise Towne Square Mall. We nearly closed the place down, and then headed over for a bite of dinner at the Westside Drive-In. On our first visit there we only split a milk shake. I felt bad that we didn’t have any of the actual food. So this time, I ordered a double cheeseburger with tater tots and Anna ordered something called the Monte Cristo (which is supposed to be a delicate sandwich of ham, turkey and cheese, dipped in an egg batter and fried, not unlike french toast). It’s served with jam or preserves. We decided to forego the shake as it was cold and dark. It was well after 9:00 and the place was still packed.
Anna did not care for her sandwich. I was not familiar with it at the time, so I wouldn’t have known what to expect. What happened was that after the sandwich went through an egg wash, they rolled it in Panko bread crumbs and then deep fried it. The resulting crust overpowered the sandwich, and was too thick to enjoy eating. My burger had the potential to be great, but it was not seasoned (like I must be cursed). We were too tired to send the food back so we just ate it the best we could.
Afterwards, I went back to the window and asked to talk to the cook. I wanted to know if they season their burgers or not. I told him mine was not seasoned and that I didn’t enjoy it. He apologized profusely and said that someone else had come through the drive-thru and ordered the same burger without seasoning (and he must have got them mixed up). Of course he offered to make a fresh burger for me, but I was already full. We accepted a vanilla milk shake instead, and had a happy ending to our dinner. The cook (sorry I forgot his name) was a good sport about the whole thing, and I could tell that making good food and doing a good job was important to him. High marks for that.
The next morning, we drove our car back to Ann Morrison Park and left it parked while we spent most of the day downtown on foot. We crossed the foot bridge and headed south along the Boise River. One of the first things we came across was an Anne Frank Memorial. It was very impressive and we toured the whole thing. Her diary is a moving and heart-wrenching reminder of the atrocities of war and tyrants. I hope we never have to go through anything like that here in America.
We made it back to BODO (Boise Downtown) and stopped in for an early lunch at the Basque Pub & Eatery named Bar Gernika. We got a nice table outside, which gave us a great view of the downtown action and all the pretty girls walking by. Everything was going our way, except for an annoying blabbermouth at the next table. Our waiter took good care of us and we asked to meet the owner, Jeff. Even though they were busy, Jeff came out and chatted with us for a few minutes. We told him how much we enjoyed watching him on DDD with Guy, and that we were familiar with Basque food. Our friend, Ken Del Rio, was of Basque decent.
Anna ordered the BLT with cheese, and I ordered the Chorizo Supreme sandwich, with caramelized onions and pimientos on a french roll. We ordered Anna’s with a side salad, and mine with something called Croquetas. For whatever reason, I wasn’t expecting the chorizo to be in the casing. It had a good flavor, but I was expecting a blend of everything like a cheesesteak sandwich. The Croquetas were out of sight. I don’t know if Guy sampled any, but I sure wish he would have had them made on the show. The menu describes them simply as: butter, onion, chicken, flour and milk. They are one of the best tasting things I’ve ever had. Had Jeff came out after we had lunch instead of before, I would have asked him for the recipe (and may have resorted to begging). Those Croquetas are gooooood, and I will go back for more if I ever make it back to Boise.
We continued our exploration of Boise on foot. At one place we found an exterior stair-way that ran up about seven or eight floors. We climbed that and it gave us a spectacular view of the city and valley. A bit later we meandered over to the Boise Fry Company and sampled a trio of their fries. Good stuff. Great sauces.
It was a good afternoon, and we started back for the car. Along the way, we stopped at the place where Donnie Mac’s used to be. It is now a combination deli/store/bakery/coffee bar/wine shop called a Tavola. Anna bought some chocolate covered espresso beans and we couldn’t resist sampling a few of the salads (shaved Brussels Sprouts, chicken salad, and more). Excellent fare. They make soups, sandwiches and pannini; and they do catering. Everything appeared to be top quality and it was about that time that I asked to meet the owner. We had a nice chat with the owner, Lisa Peterson, and she made a very favorable impression with us. For that matter, so did a lot of other people in Boise. Come to think of it, Boise must be about one of the friendliest cities in the country. Go check out the “Gourmet Marketplace” a Tavola and tell them Ken and Anna sent you.
While we were there, it started raining. Lisa offered to drive us to our car, but I didn’t want to impose. I told Anna to wait there and I made a run for it. The same trek from the year before when we left Donnie Mac’s and discovered Ann Morrison park for the first time. If there were any girls with their pants pulled down this time, I didn’t notice it for the rain. The car was a welcome site, and I made it back to pick up Anna. We were planning to have dinner at Big Juds (which would have been our first time there), but it was too early. So we didn’t know what to do. It was dark and rainy, and too far out of the way to drive back to the motel and back again.
We never heard from Danarae and it occurred to me to look in a phone book. We got a street address, punched it into the GPS and headed out for it. I had mailed a letter to the Kodiak Grill, hoping it would get forwarded to her, but it was returned. To make a long story short, we dropped in on her at her house, and she was gracious about it and invited us in. Yes, it was royally out of the blue, but what else could we do? She remembered me from the letter, and we had a nice visit. It was good for me. We stayed so long that we missed our dinner plans. I knew from watching the show that I would like Danarae and I was right. I wish her all success.
Other than missing Big Juds, we did everything else that we planned to do in Boise, so the trip was a smashing success. I have plenty of fond memories and would love to visit again.
Next DDD Destination: Spokane/Coeur d’Alene (DDD count: 167)