I have unfairly judged Bakersfield to be the butthole of California. In November 2018, I experienced my first look at oil fields. I’d never experienced them at all before – and they were unsightly. Alien to me. And I got my first glimpse right here in Bakersfield. So, without thinking much about the city itself, I decided it was gross. We didn’t venture far from our overpriced campground that round, and I think I said something along the lines of, I like this campground, but I’m fine never coming back. But, because of it’s direct placement between Los Angeles and San Francisco, we found ourselves back here. Then, I ate some of the food. And if you know me, food is everything. And my opinion of Bakersfield shifted into a positive light. In fact, Bakersfield made the list of some of our favorite foods on the road.
How do you judge a place? By the scenery? By the weather? By the activities nearby? Or, maybe, like me, by the food available.
It’s been a long time since I jotted anything substantial about the foods we’ve eaten on the road, but sometimes I think we hit the road just to eat everything delicious in every area we stay. I wanted to catch everyone up on what we’ve been eating, and what stands out in our mind as the top best-of-the-best. (Some of these will be repeats mentioned in this blog.)
Bakersfield has some amazing tamales, with the busiest looking sign in the world at Grandma’s Tamales Restaurante. You can get a dozen for about 15 bucks, I believe. You better believe we’re going back to take some on the road before we head North again. Don’t try to call them; they explicitly state they don’t answer their phone due to how busy they are, and they have no website. Just go. Order a tamale plate.
We were really spoiled in Hillsboro, Oregon. The street tacos were freaking amazing. But the ones in San Felipe? Yeah, they were fantastic. I must stress though, skip any of the sit-down restaurants if you visit and go to where the locals at the tiny stands with bright red coca-cola chairs. (See a red coke chair? Go to that place to eat.)
Indian Oven in Bakersfield has taken the top place away from Jeremiah’s previous favorite located in Dallas. It also has foods Sasha can eat. (Who knew that some places call Cashew Chicken “Tikka Masala?” Well, Sasha knows, now. Thanks Dallas. I am forever scared of Indian food again.) Indian Oven is at a truck stop in what looks like a mini mart. Do not judge a book by it’s cover in this scenario. Another weird thing is they have low-ish prices, but then you have to order naan and rice separately. So, if you go, make sure to order the rice with it.
Best Spectacle of a restaurant
Lambert’s Café, home of the “throwed rolls” in Missouri boasts serving sizes even I think are huge. They bring around all the sides by walking up and down the aisles of restaurants with these huge metal bowls and pots, then just shove it on your plate. You don’t get all your food at once. The strangest part? They throw the rolls across the entire restaurant. The food was mediocre, but it sure is a show. I have yet to eat a roll there because I never caught one. True story. Oh! They also let us stay the night there in our RV. Win.
Sushi is a big deal for us – if we’re thinking of staying put in a place for a while, we need to make sure we have sushi near by. I’m allergic to scaley-fish, so one of my qualifiers is whether real crab is available, and how many vegetarian options are on the menu. Jeremiah just wants fresh sashimi.
Our favorite go-around (we were spoiled again in the Portland area because there is so much good sushi) was in Chicago. Sushi+ Rotary Bar reminded us why we love sushi-go-arounds, and had some very adorable cars on tracks that delivered sushi. Jeremiah was very happy.
Two of our favorite table-service sushi restaurants are Totto Sushi & Grill in Chattanooga, and outside Dallas at Edo Japan. The most beautiful sushi we’ve had on the road goes to Sushi Axiom in Dallas.
We don’t eat a lot of “sandwiches” at restaurants per se. It’s not something we seek out because, well, a lot of them are relatively easy to make at home. The one exception to that is a good bahn mi, in my opinion, because the effort associated with making it would be better spent googling “Best Bahn Mi near me.” I have yet to find one that really stands out, but we did have a delicious spicy shrimp poboy in New Orleans. Yeah, I know, poboys are nothing like bahn mi sandwiches. Wait, that’s not true! They both have bread. So there’s that! Anyways, when you’re a couple drinks in, walking on a hot day in New Orleans, stop by NOLA Poyboys in New Orleans.
We didn’t eat much pizza before traveling, but we’ve found that there’s a lot of it on the road – when there’s no Indian food, or Thai, or sushi, there’s always a pizza joint. Here’s a rundown of some of our favorites.
Deep Dish Pizza isn’t ever going to be my favorite style of pizza, but when you’re in Chicago, you try it out. After an hour wait, we chomped into Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Pizza. Would I eat it again? Yes. But let’s be real, deep dish pizza is not like any other pizza. We eat had one piece before thinking we were going to die of overeating.
Best wood fired pizza award goes to Cane Rosso in the Deep Ellum neighborhood in Dallas, Texas. They have some fantastic options as far as toppings, and aren’t run of the mill.
Everyone who full-times eventually makes it to Quartzsite, and when you do, the only reason to seek any food out in the town is to go to Silly Al’s. When we first stopped into town we asked some locals if there was any place to eat. “Cillios,” they told us, “it’s an Italian restaurant.” We drove back and forth along the street, which has 3 stoplights, looking for a restaurant sign resembling anything that sounded similar to Sicilian or Sillio. Then we realized. It was Silly Al’s. Silly. Als. Not Cilli-os. We laughed, parked next to the other 40 RVers also wanting some pizza, and dived in. It’s great pie, if you want basic pizza.
While the pizza was good at Community Pie in Chattanooga, the ambiance and building itself takes the cake at this establishment. Worth trying.
Ask me my favorite food. It’s burgers. Ask me what I want to eat a hundred times, and 90 times I’ll say I want a burger. I get it from my dad. Jeremiah will eat a burger, sure, but he’d rather have Thai or BBQ any day of the week. So, what makes the cut?
For a burger best served with a brew, head to Chattanooga and get the burger and a beer at Tremont Tavern. I got one with Havarti, and sipped a blond ale. I was not upset. For a finer dining style burger, McKinney Texas, of all places, has one of my favorites at Square Burger. Jeremiah, unfortunately, didn’t like his buffalo burger, but I’ve found buffalo is pretty dry and can leave a lot lacking.
Next on the list goes to a very messy burger at Twisted Root in Dallas. And, finally, a quick burger here in Bakersfield makes the cut with John’s Burger. Hole-in-the-wall is an understatement, but the food is delicious.
Cloth Napkin Dining
The 2 finer-ish dining places that are top on our list are STIR in Chattanooga and a tiny restaurant in a tiny town in Chattahoochee Florida known as Rutabaga Café. Absolutely phenomenal food, but you’ll need to bring your own beer or wine, or skip it and go straight to the sweet tea they serve there.
Best wings so far goes to Wings on Wheat in Atlanta. The wings are tiny, but totally good. So good.
Crab cakes absolutely goes to a tiny shop in a strip mall in Leonardtown, Maryland: Crabknockers. Need Old Bay Spice? They sell it in five lb boxes there. I don’t pretend to understand the appeal of Old Bay, but crab cakes, I get those. We’ve had a lot of great seafood in the South, but a lot of it honestly tastes very similar. Those crab cakes though, so so good.
Doe Belly’s in Forney has some delicious dirty rice-and-beans, and great catfish, according to the guy who can eat it.
Again, we were shocked that McKinney, Texas served up some of the best food we’ve had on the road. It was so unexpected, but if you’re in the area, you’d be amiss to not go to Hutchins. Yeah yeah, the line is long, but if you want brisket, you’re in the right area.
Another top choice is Slap N’ Good BBQ in a very small town about an hour Southeast of Dallas. If you don’t know the owners when you step in, you will by the time you leave. They are warm and lovely, and the food is fantastic. I think I might like it better than Hutchins because of how amiable the folks were. We spent an extra 20 minutes chatting instead of just eating. So worth it.
Bringing up the rear in third place is Pappy’s Smokehouse in St Louis. Get the ribs. Honorable mention goes to Elwood Shack in Memphis, Tennessee. Park in The Home Depot parking lot and look for a group of people congregating with cute dogs at picnic tables. You’ve found it.
And, finally, all things sweet. Jeremiah is the one with the ice cream tooth, and these are the three places we agreed are good enough to mention. Clumpies in Chattanooga for real ice cream that reminds us of some of our favorite Portland ice creameries. (Portland is not short on ice cream, that’s for sure.) Best chain ice cream, mostly their soft serve cones for a dollar, is definitely Braun’s. While you order your ice cream, you can also grab a gallon of milk.
And, the most beautiful ice cream parlor with amazing cold brew coffee and a selection of bottled sodas that found us a little overwhelmed is Antiqology in Huntington, Indiana. This place was unexpected, and we drove into the tiny town on a whim. Fantastic service, ice cream floats that we couldn’t believe, and a beautiful store.
So, now that we’ve listed everything delicious, we want to know – what kind of food should we seek out? We love trying new foods, but sometimes we get stuck in a rut. Are there places you’d like us to investigate for you, or a city where you’ve heard the food is amazing but haven’t gone yet?
Some people eat to live. We live to eat. Oh, and another thing! It’s our ten year anniversary. We’ll celebrate by eating.