Remember a little while ago when I asked for advice for places to stay and restaurants to try out on I-40? Well, just yesterday Cobalt and I returned from the most fantastic Summer Adventure ever, from Chattanooga, TN to Los Angeles, CA. Definitely considering it a second honeymoon, though the one we had last year in a cabin in the woods still stands #1 on the list! In actuality, I could consider this trip a Happy One Year Anniversary Present since we left the day before our wedding day, June 16. :)
While I won’t bore you with the fabulous details (you can check out our website for that!), I will in fact write about some of the lovely food we ate on our journey across the United States and back. Sadly, I don’t have pictures of every single dish we ate (sometimes you’re just too hungry to remember to snap one! ;)); but nonetheless I am happy to share the ones we did happen to capture via digital pixels. I do apologize for the not-so-great image quality; many of them were taken on the iPhone instead of the Canon DSLR.
- Cuban Grille, Fayetteville, AR
Who would have thought a little restaurant in a small town would be so delicious? It’s hole-in-the-walls like these that really should be paid more attention! When we walked in around 7 or 8pm there was only one other couple there (perhaps because it was late?). If it hadn’t smelled so wonderful and if the hostess/waitress (for she played both roles) hadn’t been so kind, we may have gone somewhere else for dinner.
Setting us at a table next to the window with two menus, our waitress, who fortunately knew more English than we knew Spanish, was very helpful in describing dishes to us that we had questions about (such as papas rellenas – stuffed mashed potato balls).
I don’t know if it was just our appetite or the quality but wow! Was the food delicious! Everything was piping hot with freshness, and every flavor balanced perfectly (that’s some good cooking skills right there!). No need for sprinkling salt, pepper or hot sauce, as is mine and Cobalt’s usual habit.
I ordered grilled chicken, fried plantains, rice and papas rellenas while Cobalt chose pork tacos, black beans and rice. All of this we shared, of course, as we always do. It was ultimately more food than we expected but we ate it all before boxing up an order of fried yuccas and salsa for a snack later.
- Granny’s Closet, Flagstaff, AZ
Talk about comfort food! I’ve never been much of a “comfort food” kind of girl — or at least I had no idea that I was so attached to it until we came to this restaurant. When looking it up online the week before we left I wasn’t sure what kind of place it would be. Even pulling up we weren’t sure what to expect. The neon sign above the door was of a picture of a mop bucket with Granny’s Closet written across it. What would you think if you saw this?
Once inside, we were happily welcomed by the hostess who directed us to our table. On the way we passed a seating area of antique couches and picture frames. “This is a cool place!” I thought. Cobalt echoed my observation once we sat down. We meant to get a picture on the couches before we left, but we forgot.
When our waitress came by she listed off to us the specials of the day. We thanked her, gave her our drink orders and opened the menu. She came back in a jiffy, so I asked her what dishes she might recommend; she mentioned several different choices, including the Chicken Fried Steak Plate. Cobalt and I looked at each other and smiled. So that’s what we got!
To our delight, the food was freshly hot and seasoned well. The white and brown gravies were a smidge salty, but that’s kind of expected in comfort food. The wonderfully–and by wonderfully I mean WONDERFULLY–fresh and slightly bland homemade bread made up for it (don’t tell…we ate two loaves!). For dessert we ordered a Root Beer Float to finish off the evening.
- Mountain Sun, Boulder, CO
Boom Boom Sammie and Red Pepper Tarragon Soup
A short walk from my brother’s apartment, this restaurant serves as the hot spot for many people downtown. It reminded me of some places here in Chattanooga that many locals are loyal to. Mountain Sun is a very unique and somehow homey place even though it’s always crowded, loud with conversation and the waiters and waitresses all share tables. I felt safe very safe there despite the chaos.
We were welcomed to choose our own table (there was only one left) where we found menus both for food and drinks. My brother, who took us here because it’s one of his favorites, knew off the bat what he wanted; but it took a while for Cobalt and I to choose something. It didn’t help that we were running low on money at this point, so we were trying to find the cheapest thing to eat that still sounded delicious; in addition, the titles of each dish didn’t describe the meal very well, so we had to read the descriptions over and over again.
Eventually, Cobalt and I decided on the half sandwich and half soup combo. Cobalt chose the Gooney Bird and Black Bean Chili with Sour Cream and Cheese and I chose the Boom Boom Sandwich with the soup of the day, Red Pepper and Tarragon. Elliot chose his favorite: The Basil Blue Cheeseburger with Chips.
It took a while for our food to come to our table but it was well worth the wait. Our plates were obviously made to order with fresh ingredients and I could tell that the sandwiches had come right off the grill (panini style). The cheese was melting gracefully through all the layers of vegetables and meat/mushroom. I tried Cobalt’s and my own, and they were both phenomenal.
In addition to our meal, Cobalt ordered an Apricot Wheat Beer and Elliot ordered an Old School Nitro Stout. Both were interesting (I’m still exploring the world of beers, having turned 21 only two years ago) but I, preferring fruity alcohol, liked the Apricot better.
- Beachy Cream, Santa Monica, CA
Toasted Coconut Ice Cream (if you look closely, you can see the flecks of coconut!)
The day before the LA wedding were the infamous “Bachelor and Bachelorette” activities. So while Cobalt spent the afternoon with the groom, I hung out with my eleven-year-old cousin Lizzie (we were staying with my Aunt and Uncle that week) in Santa Monica.
Strolling down Wilshire Blvd., we spotted an ice cream store that looked promising. Since it had just opened for the day there weren’t any customers, so Lizzie and I walked in hoping to be greeted right away. Instead, a bell sat on the counter with a note that said something like “ring for service.” After browsing the flavors and sharing with each other which ones we liked best, I clicked the button. Soon a young girl came from the back and smiled. She asked if we wanted to sample anything and we nodded our heads with glee. I tried two different kinds, the first I can’t remember, but the second was Toasted Coconut. The girl handed me two small metal spoons (possibly tea or sugar spoons?), with an impressive bite of ice cream on each. I decided to go with a small bowl of coconut ice cream since that flavor is not around in Tennessee. Lizzie chose one of her favorites: Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream in a cone. I guessed they use metal instead of plastic spoons to save on plastic but when I received my bowl a plastic spoon was placed inside. I used my metal one anyway because it tastes better that way:)
Luckily, we came during happy hour (half price) but I wasn’t actually aware of this until I looked at my receipt later that afternoon. If I’d known that at the time I would have probably ordered a waffle cone as Lizzie had:)
- Vienna Bakery, Santa Monica, CA
Cheese Rollet and Hamantash @ Vienna Bakery, Los Angeles, CA
The next morning Cobalt had to run some errands in Santa Monica with the groomsmen, and I tagged along because afterwards we had to drive to the wedding. We arrived at the suit store earlier than the other gentlemen, though, so to kill some time we ate breakfast (we has left the house in a rush, hoping not to be late). While walking leisurely down the street (the weather was so lovely we couldn’t help it!), we saw a little corner restaurant with wedding cakes presented in their window. I thought at first that it was purely for catering, but after a closer look we both realized they served individual pastries, too. So we walked inside.
Upon entering we immediately began oo-ing and ah-ing in unison over what was before us. Dozens of different kinds of pastries lined a cold case, all shapes and sizes, all different colors and — most notably — all made from scratch right there in the bakery. We got even more excited when turning to our right and beholding the sweets case. Cupcakes, cakes, fruit tarts, and more glittered across the shelves…
We decided on the two treats pictured above, a Cheese Rollet and two Hamantashes. The cheese rollet reminded me of bread pudding; the dough was eggy, and rolled up inside of it was a cream cheese/vanilla pudding mixture. The whole thing was very cold–refreshing on a hot morning. The latter seemed to be a Jewish type of pastry, based on the name. It was similar to a Fig Newton, only much, much fresher and melt-in-your-mouth-esque. We were happy with both of our choices and walked away satisfied.
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Of course, there were many, many more foods that we ate, some good and some bad; some worth our money, some not so much. All in all, this part of our trip was an adventure in itself since we rarely eat out when at home (hence my food blog). We were very thankful for all the restaurants we visited, even if they weren’t satisfying. Lewis and Clark — as we were reminded at the Gateway Arch Western Expansion museum — didn’t have the luxury of diners as we do now! If they and their men were hungry (which according to their journals, they always were), they had to find it in the wilderness themselves. Probably cheaper in the long run but still required a lot of energy that these explorers didn’t have much of if they were hungry.
I hope you enjoyed reading this personal review of the aforementioned restaurants. Feel free to share with me your favorite restaurants, too! I love learning about great places to eat!
Happy July 4th. Be safe everyone!