Saturday, August 20, 2016

SoCal Food Tour

It's Silly Sunday, so here's some random silliness for you. Before I left for California all my Florida friends said "Make sure you post pictures for us on Facebook." Well, I spent most of the time socializing with family and old friends. Boring pictures. So I decided to share food. (Who doesn't love food?) Hubby and I came up with the SoCal Food Tour. We had to eat anyway, right? The rule was we only ate at places we couldn't find at home. Some friends thought it was funny, others thought it was a cop out. We had fun with it -- even the kids got involved! Here were the stops in case you missed the FB posts.

Jack in the Box -- With headquarters in San Diego, this is a predominantly West Coast chain. You can find them in other places throughout the country, but we don't have one in Florida so the kids wanted to give it a try. I was a bit sad to see that the chain has dumped the creepy clown mascot.

Baker's Drive-Thru -- This chain is exclusive to the Inland Empire area of Southern California. On a nostalgic note: I worked the drive thru at a Bakers in my 20s, and the one we ate at was next to my old junior high school. Awww . . .

Rosa Maria's -- Mexican food Mecca! (We ate here twice). This is a family owned hole-in-the-wall with the best food EVER. Until recently there was only one Rosa Maria's and it would close for the entire month of August while the family was on vacation. Fortunately, several family members have branched out and opened three other restaurants in the area. And there are enough employees to enable all four locations to remain open year-round. This is such a big deal that my brother and his new wife took it into consideration before planning an August wedding.

Romano's Macaroni Grill -- Yes, they are all over the country but the closest one to our place is in Orlando. The food wasn't as good as I had remembered. But we met up with some old friends from high school and the great conversation made up for what the food lacked.

In-N-Out Burgers -- You can't go to the southwest without visiting an In-N-Out. The kids loved it. The food was fresh and fast and everything they had heard about. Unfortunately, my uncles didn't tell them about the secret menu until afterwards. Now I guess we'll have to go again so they can experience animal fries.

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery -- OK, It's not technically food, but this microbrewery is worth mentioning. Once upon a time Redlands was full of orange groves. It was the most wonderful place to be in the spring, the smell of orange blossoms was strangely intoxicating. And orange blossom honey was available everywhere. Now there are more condos than citrus trees and you have to buy honey in the grocery store like everybody else.. This brewery is trying to save what orange groves are left. It's most popular beer -- Orange Wheat -- was served at my brother's wedding.

Eureka! -- I had never eaten here before. When I started posting the SoCal food tour on Facebook I got a PM from a local friend saying "You've got to try a Eureka! burger." I did and I was not disappointed. This California chain serves craft beers along with American (although a bit hipster/fusion) cuisine. My favorite part: they'll put avocados on anything.

Del Taco -- Del Taco is unique in that it serves burgers and fries alongside tacos and burritos. We used to hang out here all the time when I was a teenager. Unfortunately, the quality of food has gone down (or maybe my taste in food has gone up). Either way, it seems that Del Taco is no better than Taco Bell these days, and it will not be on the next SoCal food Tour.

Fiesta Village -- Technically not a food place. In fact, I wouldn't recommend eating there at all. The food is on par with Chucky Cheese. However, Fiesta Village has a water park, mini golf courses, laser tag and an arcade that we just can't find here in Florida. So, give me a mini golf course with a windmill on the green and I will gladly pay $4 for a watered-down Coke. Yep, I'm easy.

The Mexico Café -- One Sunday afternoon my family joined all the old long-time friends we could gather at a local restaurant for a large Mexican meal. The food was great (the service not so much). We sat there laughing for hours. As I looked around the room I saw picture after picture of police officers and their K9 dogs. On the way out I saw the monument. Wow. (I'll share more about that later.)

HomeTown Buffet -- This is pretty much a low-budget Golden Corral. We were in the mall and starting to get really hungry. It was convenient and they offered a military discount. (Besides, we had already made plans to eat Rosa Maria's again for dinner.) It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either.

Wienerschnitzel -- Anyone who knows me knows that I love hot dogs. When I saw that there was a Wienerschnitzel half a block from the hotel I told Hubby we were not leaving until I got myself a chili cheese dog and a kraut dog. I did, and they were absolutely wonderful. (BTW, when I was a kid it was Der Weinerschnitzel. Anybody know when they lost their Der?)

Johnny Rockets -- We have these in Florida to. I ate at one in Daytona Beach about 10 years ago. But what made this Johnny Rockets special was that it overlooked Hollywood Boulevard. Can't get that in Florida! BTW, I highly recommend the Avocado Chipotle Ranch Chicken Sandwich. Yum!

Gina's Italian Bistro -- This one has a funny story. We spent our last night in California at a friend's house. She said "I'll make you dinner but I want to be on the tour." She served pasta with homemade meatballs and marinara sauce, fresh green beans, sautéed squash, crusty garlic bread, crab stuffed mushrooms and an antipasto plate. Yeah, it was great. So I listed her place on Facebook as:

Gina's Italian Bistro. Very exclusive, by invitation only. (P.S. I beat up a cheerleader in 1983 and earned a permanent invitation.)

OMG it was good. We ate until we hurt, drank wine, laughed, and spent way too much time in the hot tub. It was soooo worth punching that girl in the face!

San Dimas Wine Shop & Tasting Room -- This was the best find of the trip. We spent the early afternoon in downtown San Dimas before heading off to the airport. San Dimas is a cute little town, despite what Gina says. At the very end of the main drag, down by the train tracks, there's this little wine shop. The woman behind the counter was very knowledgeable and happy to pass out samples. To the right of the counter was a case full of personalized wine glasses. Those were for the regulars -- they have scheduled tasting nights! [Insert shocked face here.] And why don't we have something like this in Jacksonville?!

El Pollo Loco -- This chicken place puts all other chicken places to shame, and I almost missed it! For eight days I said "We have to eat at El Pollo Loco before we leave." Somehow, we just kept missing it. Lucky for me, there was an El Pollo Loco half a block from the car rental place in the skeezy part of L.A. I didn't care! I got myself some crazy chicken after all.

Alright, enough with the silly non-dog stuff. I'll get back to dog related content tomorrow. But for now, I think I'm going to see what's in the fridge. For some strange reason, I'm kind of hungry. Want some more silliness? Check out the Silly Sunday posts below. A huge thanks to Sandee at Comedy Plus for putting this hop together every week. Later, -- K

P.S. With all that eating I only gained four pounds. Seriously! Even better, I lost three of the excess pounds my first week back.

P.P.S. Anybody have suggestions for the next SoCal Food Tour?

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