Monday, April 6, 2009

Top 10 Eats That Mathan Misses Most

Longtime readers of mine might remember "J.A.M." "The Minority Report". Earlier this decade, I teamed with fellow music zone writers Jeff Fernandez and Mathan Erhardt, forming an unoriginal first-initial acronym 2002 Tom Cruise movie reference/super-group that held down the Thursday, Friday and Saturday music beats.

I've had the pleasure of meeting both of 'em and the honor of featuring their writing within the confines of this lightly-read blog. Jeff was nice enough to contribute a pair of international food reviews, while below, m'man Mathan gets all bi-coastal

So, just under a year ago, Bootleg commissioned me to write about the West Coast eateries that I missed the most since my relocation to Baltimore. And now five months after I finished writing it, I finally got around to typing it up and sending it Aaron.

Thus, here are the ten places whose food I miss the most, in alphabetical order.

Baja Fresh

Baja Fresh shouldn't be on this list. It should be excluded mainly because there are a few in Maryland. But my beef is that there isn't one in the city. I used to work across the street from a Baja Fresh in Vegas. Across the street. It was my Monday routine; get off of work, cross the street get the awesome Nacho Burrito (rice, beans, chicken, cheese, nacho sauce, jalapenos), get on the bus and go home a happy man. That was every Monday. And I can't tell you how much I'd kill for a case of the Mondays now.

Carl's Jr.

I didn't really think that I was going to miss Carl's Jr. I mean I'm not the biggest fan of the Roast Beef Burger (which was overkill) and the Lo-Carb Six Dollar Burger was just an edible fiasco. However I'm a huge fan of the "Six Dollar Burger" concept. I loved the Teriyaki Burger. I really dug the Mushroom Burger too. Oh and the Cap'n Crunch Shake was a genius addition to the menu. Plus Carl's Jr. was literally just around the corner from the crib, so it was uber convenient.

Del Taco

My heart yearns for Del Taco. You have no idea how much I miss the #12 ( a chicken taco, a Big Fat chicken taco, fries and a cherry coke) which I'd always upsize to macho. Del Taco is what I miss the most because it literally melds the best of both worlds; tacos and fries. Their fish tacos are the best you'll find in a drive thru and their shakes are darn fine too. My world is darker without Del Taco in it.


Eegee's isn't in Vegas, but it's in Tucson, but knowing that I’m time zones (plural) away, kills me. In terms of good they stand out only because they have grinders. Not subs or hoagies, but "grinders" which is rare for Tucson. But they're really unique because they have the Eegee. It's really hard to quantify what an Eegee is. It's like a smoothie only without the dairy. It's like a Slurpee only not as sweet, more thick and with real fruit. Any Tucsonan will tell you that nothing is more refreshing than an Eegee on a typical triple-digit summer day. At this very moment my mouth is watering thinking about a half strawberry half pina colada Eegee. Gah!

Farm Basket

I don't even know where to begin with Farm Basket. Apparently it's a bit of a Vegas institution. From what I can surmise the selling point is basically for people who crave hearty, Thanksgiving-ish meals, year round. They've got turkey on the menu. They've actually got a "Turkey Steak Dinner." They've also got some honey biscuits that were completely oversold to me. The real reason why Farm Basket makes my list is because of the Cluck e' Tos. Chicken taquitos doesn't really do justice to the product. It comes with some watered down salsa that would be lame if it didn't completely compliment the taquitos. Plus they are awesome fresh, lukewarm or even after your roommate left them in the microwave for a couple of hours while you were at work.


I used to miss Fatburger more than I do at this moment. I fell in love with Fatburger because of the specialty burgers. They had one called the Saucy Burger. It was basically a mouthwatering cheeseburger, cooked before your eyes with just the right amount of A-1 Sauce to spice things up. Sadly for Fatburger (but fortunately for me) Five Guys has pretty much the same thing here in Baltimore and it's on my way to work. But I do miss the Fatburger ritual, which usually involved leaving a midnight movie premiere at a casino, venturing into the food court and having a thoughtful discussion about the flick we'd just watched.

Grande Tortilla Factory

The Grande Tortilla Factory, in Tucson, is the place that I probably hold the dearest to my heart. I literally grew up eating their food. A few blocks away from where my mom used to work, they were the place for a quick lunch or the place to grab dinner to take home. It's one of those awesome family owned places and they've seen me transform from a baby in my mom's arms to a grown man who has to stop by every time he's in town. Their quesadillas were the best thing I've ever tasted and sadly due to a specific ingredient being discontinued, they are no more. I love their little chicken tacos and their cheese enchiladas. They provided the food for my soul, which is why I'm so depressed since it just closed it's doors.

Jack in the Box

Jack-in-the-Box is really the reason why I wrote this. At work this fellow well traveled coworker and I came to the conclusion that JitB has the best value menu. Eggrolls, tacos, chicken tenders, two kinds of fries and onion rings. And that's just what I can remember. The Sourdough Jack will always have a special place in my heart. Sure the sandwich makes for greasy hands, but the sourdough bread is practically a delicacy compared to regular fast food buns. I was fond of the relatively new Sirloin Burgers; they were some hefty burgers and I don't know if that void can ever be filled.

Naked Fish

My longing for Naked Fish is comparable to my longing for my ex; I miss both immensely. Granted Naked Fish was more of a group activity. A cabal of coworkers would go there after work and splurge on sushi. But Naked Fish is a straight up great local sushi spot. First off, it's off The Strip, but still has a view fit for a postcard. The service is friendly and the prices are reasonable, for sushi. I'm a fan of the salmon sashimi, the cat eye roll and you can't go wrong with blue fin tuna. And I'm telling you it's got the perfect view of The Strip; it's from a distance.

Roberto's Taco Shop

Roberto's is the perfect late night spot. They're open 24 hours and the food is greasy. It's a (relatively) authentic Mexican food take out place. It's got enchiladas and tamales, which I love. Everything comes with refried beans and lettuce, so everything is like a combo. The price point is under $6 and they've got a value menu, which has a burger on it, so it borders ironic. They're all over the place. They're like the Mexican food equivalent of In N Out; it may not live up to the expectations, but it's something you've got to experience.


that mexican guy said...

Mathan - I love your work. I've been reading your stuff for about as long as I've been reading Cam's. But your omission of In n Out from this list leads me to believe that you really are the random terrorist that you've said people think you look like.

They were #11, right?

acctg.sean said...

Roberto's is incredible. I like how every one has one or two unique menu items (there's one by my house that has a fish n' chips burrito = fried fish, french fries, secret sauce).

Also, how has their "California Burrito" not been reviewed in this space???

Anonymous said...

In n Out Burger?

mike mejor said...

No love lost for CPK, In and Out or Rubio's?

That Bootleg Guy said...

Oh, for crying out loud, people. I can't speak for Math, but this In n Out love must stop.

If I were to ever write a post about the most overrated things in California, In n Out would finish a strong second behind "visiting Hollywood" and *just* ahead of "Disneyland".

The food there is perfectly edible, but the 15 minute drive thru waits and fanatical following this place has is completely undeserved.

mathan said...

@Mejor - CPK used to be right from the Cheesecake Factory I used to work at. Don't let the name fool you; CPK is everywhere.

As for Rubio's, I've been there. It's good. In fact I'd forgotten until Cam posted a recent review for them. But it wasn't a "regular" spot of mine.

@ In N Out lovers - In Vegas there are dozens of other places to get late night food, burgers even (Fatburger & JitB have 24 hour locations.) In N Out is cool, but it doesn't offer up anything truly unique other than the long drive-thru wait, which I can get at Taco Bell out here.

It would have certainly made the cut if I were going for 12 or 13 places that I miss. Maybe even 11. But not Top Ten. I'm just not passionate about it.

that mexican guy said...

Name three better chain burgers, Cam. Kthx

acctg.sean said...

CPK = McPizza.

I don't mind novelty pizza, but theirs is cookie-cutter assembly line crap that's been mass packaged for conveinent frozen enjoyment at home.

Also Five Guys trumps all other burger spots on either coast.

That Bootleg Guy said...

Really, Mex? Come on - apples and oranges. In n Out makes ONE kind of burger. ONE! I don't hate 'em, dude, but you can't possibly compare what they do to the big chain places.

Not sayin' one's better than the other, just that they're too different to compare.

mike mejor said...

Too late to crash the black guy/mexican guy slapfight over food? If not, then allow me to nominate El Pollo Loco. 3 pieces, white meat with mac n' cheese and cole slaw for about $7.

Plus I remember reading an old Music Bootleg post that said something about Cam nearly choking to death on some Pollo Loco. Your near death is hilarious to me.

mathan said...

Yeah, I'll cosign for El Pollo Loco. That place is full of goodness. When I was in my "food in a bowl" phase, I was all about their Caesar Bowl. That thing was remarkably satisfying.

It had the chicken goodness you'd expect from El Pollo Loco, yet there was also enough leafy material to allow you pretend it was of the salad family.


SHough610 said...

Mathan, you know that Carl Jr's. is Hardees, right? They should have a Hardees in Baltimore.

that mexican guy said...

I second the Caesar bowl love. How in God's name can lettuce, chicken, salad dressing, rice and beans (all mixed together) taste so good???

Another West Coast franchise (that they may or may not have had in Las Vegas) is Pat and Oscar's. Pricey, a bit overrated, but some good ass food.

Tom said...

I do have to give props to Five Guys. They are by far the closest to the greasebomb burgers I can get in Upstate NY at our answer to delis.

mathan said...

@ SHough610 - We actually had Hardees in Tucson, I want to say back when Hardees and Carl's Jr were two separate entities. I used to love "old school" Hardees fries.

I don't think there's a Hardee's here, I'm pretty sure it's a Midwest/South thing now.

But we do have Checker's. I've only been once. They've got the drive-in motif of Sonic and they're somewhere between In n Out and Carl's Jr in terms of menu selection. It was good.

There's also the "one of a kind" Burger Bros, which is some solid hometown quality burgers.

That Bootleg Guy said...

M'man Smitty broke the news earlier tonight that Five Guys is in Southern California. Cerritos!

(Confidential to Thai...we must make this happen. AIEEEEEE!)

SHough610 said...

@Mathan, I'm from Central Virginia and we have Hardees. I thought they would go as far north as Baltimore but I guess I'm wrong. In Richmond they're considered (at least by my friends and family and I) to be below the other fast food places in quality.