Archive for the ‘Foodie Survival Kit’ Category

Foodie Survival Kit – East Texas

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Sure, I know it’s hard to believe, but someday you will venture outside of Boston.

Helpfully, I offer a series of posts devoted to enabling you to eat well in such far-away places as Gary, IN, Fresno, CA, and now – East Texas.

Close your eyes and imagine yourself about two hours east of Dallas in the town of Tyler, TX. Here, you will encounter an abnormally high proportion of fast food chains and will find it near impossible to lay your hands on some vegetables.

Indeed, in my experience, some of the most abundant food options available include donuts, TexMex, cheap Chinese food, and burgers slid across a drive-thru window.

Thank sweet baby Jesus for that B-B-Q.

Tyler has it – and it’s mighty fine too.

Gimme some ribs, some beans, ‘n some slaw

Ain’t nothin’ better, ‘cept of course my maw.

A few things you should know about BBQ in this part of Texas:

  1. They love their ribs and do those the best
  2. Sauces are a little sweet, not spicy, and NEVER vinegar-based
  3. Everybody feels VERY strongly about which ‘cue is best, and each individual will give you a different opinion

After sampling many of the most-raved-about spots in these parts – here is where to get your BBQ-on in E.T.:

Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q

Definitely my personal favorite in the area, Stanley’s made the List of Top 50 BBQ Joints in TX published by Texas Monthly Magazine. Rightly so. Their ribs are a square tie with Country Tavern (see below) for the best I’ve ever had, but overall these guys bring better game to the table.

The ribs – ooohhhh the ribs. Tender, well-seasoned, quality pork meat that when slathered in one of their excellent sauces blew my Yankee mind.

Their other meats (especially the sausage) are commendable, and their potato salad and slaw were divine things that left me craving more rather than tasteless add-ons that are better left untouched.

Best Ribs Eva

Country Tavern

Country Tavern is located about 20 minutes further east than Tyler – and well worth the extra drive. It is basically a long red house off the main road. One enters into the dimly-lit interior, saunters up to the bar, orders a beer, and eats only one thing – the ribs. The seasoning and smoke flavor on these bad boys was a step above Stanley’s, but overall I’d  say the two are different but equal in my mind.

Hickory Fare

I came to Texas seeking, craving, and dreaming about brisket. I didn’t find a lot of the stuff in the Eastern part of the state…and when I did – it failed to wow me. But Hickory Fare was the one bright spot in this quest. They served me up a monstrous beef brisket sandwich that was oohh-so-tender, ripe with that hickory flavor, and flavorful to the last bite. They also earn points for their look – check-it:

Foodie Survival Kit – Gary, IN

Monday, January 30th, 2012

In case you missed my earlier post on Fresno, CA kicking off a series devoted to helping stranded foodies eat well in far –off U.S. lands – I’ve got another installment here on the birthplace of Michael Jackson and the deathbed of American manufacturing  – good old Gary, Indiana.

This is a town that has clearly struggled on many levels – read miles of boarded-up housing, high unemployment, and financial woes. Along with that comes a commercial food scene dominated by KFC, Whitecastle, and Seven Eleven.

After much searching, there is one shiny establishment that offers an alternative to large fast food and that is Big Daddy’s BBQ.

A local husband-and-wife team brought their flea-market meat-smoking business up a notch and opened a full-scale eatery with several large “pits” out back churning out pulled pork, chicken, brisket and all sorts of goodness. They use a light, sweeter, tangy red sauce and the pulled pork sandwich I devoured was moist and truly beautiful.

So next time you’re in Gary (if you ever find yourself there), get your eat on with good BBQ from Big Daddy, who says: “The meat is the boss, then the sauce.”

Foodie Survival Kit – Fresno, CA

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Perhaps you’re stranded on a businazz trip in a strange city. You may be meeting your new in-laws in a foreign land. Or you could be taking a ‘mandatory’ family vacation to a food desert.

This “Foodie Survival” series is designed to equip the discerning grub snob with edible (and even destination-worthy) eats from all over. With a focus on second, third, or even fourth-tier cities – you’ll never get stuck at a Micky-D’s again.

Our first installment is Fresno, California. Just a few hours away from San Francisco but one would think it moon-pies away from being a natural food haven. It’s actually got some real gems which I’ll outline for you below:

TRELIO| 559.297.0783 |

Run by two brothers who are insanely serious about good local food, Trelio is technically in nearby Clovis but just a 15-minute jaunt from downtown Fresno.

You’ll find the food here very well executed and inventive. Pimp a phyllo wrapped goat brie with pistachio butter, central valley figs and aged balsamic. Get pumped by one of the best, thickest, juiciest bone-in pork chops you’ve ever noshed on over brussels ‘n bacon and cipollini onions.

Wash all that down with a beautiful west coast pinot and that’ll cure your jet lag from that eastern state you arrived from. Highly recommended…

LA ELEGANTE | (559) 497-5844 | Too small for a website

Whilst speaking with the head chef at Trelio at the end of the aforementioned meal, I asked for his reco on the best authentic Mexican cuisine in the area (having felt overwhelmed by the selection found on Yelp and nearly every street corner in the area). Without hesitation, he said – with a slight accent, a tilt of the head, and a sparkle in the eye: “La Elegante.” The Gypsy Kings rendition of Hotel California started playing in the background as he spoke and I immediately knew there was something special here…

Next day, we drove out to the sketchiness that is Kern St. in the “Chinatown” district of Fresno. Several minutes, four Mexican shops, two mean stares, and a request for 89 cents later, we finally found La Elegante. The food here was beyond words and hands-down the tastiest no-frills homemade Mexican food this Bostonian gringo has ever tasted. Amazing soft tortillas stuffed with really flavorful carnitas and accompanied by beautiful rice and beans. Everything from this spot looked amazing.

Word to the wise – I only recommend coming to this neighborhood in broad daylight. But the food is too good to pass up.

GEORGE’S SHISH KEBAB | (559) 264-9433 | Too small for a website  

On our final day in town, we decided to hit this much-lauded Armenian joint. You first think: “Armenian food in Fresno? Boy, you be playin.’ “ But oh was my shish kebab the most wonderfully-seasoned lamb over fragrant rice and veggies. Simple. Delicious. Cheap.

At the end of the day, Fresno greatly surprised me with the food it offered. You’ll do much better going with smaller no-frills joints than seeking-out something upscale. But for that one nice dinner while you’re in town – Trelio is not far away.

Hope these suggestions fill your inner foodie with glee on the next boondoggle.