A little known fact about me: I am a very particular person. Shocking, I know. If you’ve ever seen my dvd collection, iTunes playlists, or any number of things I like to keep organized then you are already well aware of my relatively minor Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder tendencies. Frankly, I am a firm believer that OCD should be rearranged and read as CDO, so the letters would be in alphabetical order. Seriously, the man should consider this. Unless it’s some diabolical ploy to drive me mad. If that’s the case, then I tip my hat to you, Mr. The Man.
The portion of my life that is most affected by my afflictions pertains to my eating habits. Most people know me as being a very picky eater, even though I will throw some of the nastiest food imaginable straight down my throat into the abyss that is my empty, gurgling, expecting stomach. I will provide a minimal amount of back story to provide some context, but not so much as to repulse all of you.
Growing up, I was perpetually sick. Not the kind of sick where I was malnourished, frail, and constantly being checked into the hospital. It was more the kind of sick that would be associated with an overflowing sewer. Foul gases would back up my esophagus instigating my gag reflex to react and ruin my day. I vomited on a near daily basis. I was checked and had tests run for everything under the sun. I was given medicine, drank barium, and swallowed scopes. It was very unpleasant. Naturally, that led me to being very cautious of what I ate, and I tended not to venture too far out of my comfort zone. As a clarification, when I say I was “cautious about what I ate,” you should understand that I didn’t choose the healthiest items off the menu. I was raised on fast food and pizza, so that’s what I stuck with.
Another hang-up of mine is that I don’t like to get dirty. I try my best to avoid things that are messy. I have a “2 napkin” rule when I eat that I picked up from some cop friends – if you need more than 2 napkins, then you’re a pig. Oh sweet irony! This has led me to side-step most sauces. I steer clear of ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise on darn near everything. This also includes BBQ sauce. When I go to a sports bar and feel like ordering some chickens, I stick with the breaded tender variety. There are very few exceptions, which prove the rule. I don’t want stuff smeared all over my face after I take a bite, and I certainly don’t want to have junk drying out in my beard after I’m done!
Having said all of that, my wife is often left wondering how I eat some of the things I do. She is amazed at how I am so reluctant to try new dishes, and yet at the same time have undeniable cravings for sliders and chili cheese dogs. I’ll admit, on the surface it doesn’t make a lot of sense, but bear in mind what we have already reviewed. All of the crap that I jam into my mouth is what I grew up on. It’s what I know.
My favorite restaurants include White Castle, Hardee’s (Carl’s Jr.), Rally’s (Checkers), Ft. Wayne’s Famous Coney Island (Mister Coney), Red Robin, and Angelo’s Pizza. For most of you, I’m willing to bet just seeing that list alone made you feel a little queasy, and you probably have the notion that you may be onto the cause of my stomach issues as a child. Turns out, things have been figured out, and I am now more comfortable than ever with my “intestinal fortitude.” Most of these top my list because of the rarity of coming across one of these establishments in my area. It is also pertinent to be aware of the kind of area I grew up in. I refer to it as the absolute middle of nowhere in southern Indiana. I am right in the middle of Evansville and Louisville, KY. There are 2 high schools in my entire county. Two. It takes a half hour to get to the nearest McDonald’s and/or Walmart, and those things are EVERYWHERE! That’s not 30 minutes of driving across town and hitting red lights and bad traffic. That’s 30 minutes of driving on the open highway at 60 mph’s. That’s an hour round trip. It also includes crossing state lines into Owensboro, KY. The area literally is a vast wasteland of open pastures.
White Castle isn’t as commonplace as McDonald’s, and when we came across one as a child it was always on a road trip. So there’s a bit of fantasizing about yesteryear when it comes to White Castle. The smell alone is almost satisfying. It takes a certain kind of person to be able to handle this establishment though, and I know not to suggest it in most company. You have to be with people who you feel completely comfortable with to make this a serious suggestion.
Hardee’s, or as it’s dubbed on the West Coast, Carl’s Jr., used to be about the most vile fast food chain in the country. But before turning up your nose, you should realize that was several years ago before the advent of the wondrous Thickburger. Talk about a serious fast food burger! If you haven’t tried their mushroom swiss thickburger, then stop reading until you have and I’ll meet you at the next paragraph. My only wish is that they would bring back the Philly Cheesesteak Thickburger permanently! Mmm…
While I thoroughly enjoy Rally’s, or Checkers as it’s known on the East Coast, it is only listed here to serve as the exception proving the rule. This is almost the only place that I will eat a burger anyway they serve it…which always includes ketchup, mustard, AND mayonnaise. And yes, the 2 napkin rule still applies. Even stranger still, is my philosophy regarding Rally’s is the messier the better. Hmm, intriguing. Plus their fries are simply killer.
Ft. Wayne’s Famous Coney Island is more of a family tradition (and not just my family) than it is a conventional eatery. This little diner is no wider than a single wide trailer, and patrons enter the place through one of two entrances. The first being the door facing the sidewalk that opens directly to the front counter/grill area. The second being the kitchen door that leads customers through the section hosting the hot stoves and ovens. You literally walk right through the kitchen into the dining area and have a seat. If you’re on the outskirts of town, you could always hit up Mister Coney. It’s more of a “fast food” kind of place, but they use basically the same recipes. Six of one, half-dozen of the other.
Now getting back to burgers. Red Robin is a burger place that dreams are made of. If you can imagine a topping to put on a burger, they’ll do it. While I always stick with their sautéed ‘shroom burger (I like mushrooms…a LOT), my dad is a big fan of the Royal Robin, which consists of a hamburger topped by an egg. This joint is so dear to my heart that it’s where I had lunch on the day of my wedding with all of my party.
Angelo’s Pizza is a little mom and pop kind of place that none of you has ever heard of. It’s located in that vast wasteland of pastures where I grew up that I spoke of earlier. This is the kind of place that if you decide to dine in, you end up smelling like for the rest of the day. The odor seeps into your pores and clings to your clothes so that it serves as a reminder for the remainder of your day, and advertises to all those who weren’t lucky enough to join you. The pizza here is acceptable, but it’s the bread sticks that draw you in. I can’t do them justice by explaining them to you, so I’m not even going to try. Just know that they are the best on the planet. Fact. And you have to get cheese to dip them in. I know this is a foreign concept to certain areas of the country, and to you, Texas and Tennessee, I say get with the times!! The strombolies here are also delectable. Again, I can’t describe the goodness. Crawl out from under your rock, see the world, and stop at Angelo’s.
In my day, I’ve also got to frequent a few iconic eateries. Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo, the original Hard Rock Cafe in London, England, and the top biker destination in the world (at least in my book) – the Ace Cafe which is also located in London, England.
Hard Rock Cafe will never be confused as having great food. Actually, I would even hesitate to call it good! However, it’s not like you can walk right by the front door of the most rocking restaurant on the planet and not stop in for a bite, unless you’ve at least been there before. I had an unremarkable burger and fries, I think. But I ate it while sitting directly in front of Eric Clapton’s guitar and Jimi Hendrix’s stage jacket. It doesn’t get much better than that, ladies and gentlemen!
Speaking of rocking restaurants, Cabo Wabo is another must-see for any rocker that enjoys food. Sammy Hagar opened this club in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico after visiting there and not wanting to leave. There’s a little more to it than that, but that’s a totally different post altogether and since this is my blog, I’ll make up the stories as I see fit to support my claims. This stop was on my honeymoon, so I was careful not to stray too far from something I expected my stomach could tolerate. I went with the Waburrito, and what a great choice it was! The Red Rocker knows his stuff when it comes to Mexican food and adult beverages.
There’s not much I need to say about the Ace Cafe, but you can bet your sweet Ace that’s not gonna stop me! (See what I did there?) This is the birthplace of the underground “rocker” motorcycle scene. Drive by this unassuming diner that looks more like a filling station and you’ll see the inspiration for cafe racer-style bikes. Once inside you are immediately drawn to the stage lined with motorcycles and the gift shop. This iconic eatery also serves REALLY good food. I had to try their chili cheese fries which were amazing. Unfortunately, I ended up eating these very quietly while sheepishly cowering in the corner of our table. My brother had popped off with some poor attempt at a smart-alec comment unrelated to the food in any manner, and I retorted by inquiring if this was some sort of amateur hour. The lady behind the counter seemed to think I was referring to the fries, and offered me a tip that the hot sauce was on the table. Note: Never offend the staff at a biker bar if you have any interest in not being beaten to a pulp!
Now you know what gets my engine revving when it comes to food. My wife however, knowing all that I WILL eat, is still trying to understand why I won’t eat certain other offerings.
While I thoroughly enjoy most types of seafood (salmon, shrimps, crab, lobster, sticks, etc), I refuse to go anywhere near sushi. Raw fish parts wrapped up in rice and lettuce? No thanks, I’ll pass. I don’t care how much she seems to love it, it’s just not my style. And don’t waste my time and yours talking about wasabi. All I know is that it’s spicy, and that’s another thing that doesn’t agree with my refined palate.
Something that may come as a bit of a surprise that I could completely do without is Panera Bread. I’ve eaten there twice in my life and that’s one time too much. Don’t get me wrong, I eat plenty of sandwiches and enjoy every bit of them. My problem with this place is the absurdly pretentious attitude it purveys. Being armed with all of the back story I have provided today, you should already be well aware that I can’t just step up to the counter and order something off of the menu as-is. So upon my first visit to Panera, which is a self-proclaimed sandwich shop, I was denied a very simple order. After glancing over their menu, I came to the conclusion that it would probably be best for me to keep it simple and decided on a ham and cheese sandwich. “I’m sorry sir, we don’t have a ham and cheese sandwich.” Excuse me? I can clearly see that you offer ham on several sandwiches, almost all of them have cheese already, and the word “bread” is part of your company’s name!! All I’m asking is for you to put those three together, and then not put on all the other crap that you pile on top! Apparently that’s asking entirely too much though and I think I blew the kids’ mind by asking him to make something easy.
I get a lot of flack from people about my eating habits because I appear to be incredibly picky and difficult. I’ve never been to an Indian restaurant and probably never will. I know what I like and more importantly what I can handle. I hesitate to push my luck for fear of reverting back to my younger years when I had so many digestive problems. Don’t judge me.
Thank you, that is all.