Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Mad Greek - Baker Ca

100 Miles outside of Las Vegas and it's 116 degrees. Off in the distance is the town of Baker California. I have spent a week in Las Vegas and am tired, hot and hungry as I drive back to San Diego. This town is in the middle of nowhere and you have to drive past it. no other way around it. The first thing you see of the town as you approach it from a distance is this large outdoor thermometer, in fact it is the largest outdoor thermometer in the world. It thrusts out of the sand like a huge phallic mirage from a dream that Larry Flint would have. jutting towards the sky proclaiming itself as indeed the largest in the world. I felt a stirring of pride build within myself and at the same time a feeling of inadequacy.

The sign at the bottom of this beast states that Baker is the gateway to Death Valley. I don't know about you but I really have no interest in going to any destination that has the word " death" in its name. Ironically this monument is located right next to the Bun Boy Motel.

Wow, what a name for a place. I know that years ago I used to stop at a diner here that was named Bun Boy, But I really can't figure out why anyone would choose to stay at this aptly named place. This is a very eccentric little town, not only is there a mad Greek here but everyone else seems that way as well.

Driving through the town I spotted the Alien Fresh Jerky Stand. OK, We have Phallic monuments, a Motel named Bun Boy, oh the little bun boy is holding a rather large red arrow towards the Motel. Oh yeah and the alien jerky store. Nice. What they say about the desert heat driving people mad must definitely be true.
I drove on through to my destination, The Mad Greek at the same time keeping an eye out for creepy old guys sitting on porches and playing banjos.

And there it was, I have actually eaten here a few times before on my way through. From the outside of the place you can immediately tell that it looks like a Greek rendition of the It's a small world ride at Disneyland, only a much smaller world of course. this boat only goes through Greece. The decor actually looks like what would happen if Bobby Trendy and Liberace got together, smoked crack and then designed a restaurant. I only wish my brother George were here to see it.

This place is usually extremely busy and I mean very busy. It is the consummate tourist trap. there is nothing around you for miles. It was featured recently on the Food Network show Diners Drive-ins and Dives. I know they make they're own shawarma , I had it the last time I ate here. Nothing to write home about. This time I ordered the classic Gyros plate. $9.95 a bit steep I thought for what you get. The plate consists of a scoop of mild flavored fluffy rice, Pita bread, veggies and the must have classic condiment, Tzatziki sauce. Tzatziki sauce is usually made from yogurt, dill and cucumbers and this one at The Mad Greeks is quite good.
The bread was very fresh and moist. The Gyros meat was typical. I mean I don't think anyone really makes this stuff from scratch anymore. It would be a daunting task, especially at a busy place like this. Nice lamb taste. The tomatoes that were on the plate were actually rancid and not edible.

Had to have a cold $4.50 Budweiser to wash the taste out of my mouth. But I knew that I would have to have a Sam Adams later to wash the Bud taste away as well.

This place is actually known for its strawberry shakes. I have never had one. But I will next time I'm on my way through this dusty little town. I will have dessert here in the desert, but will try the Mexican place next door for lunch.

So with a loud shout of Opa! we bid farewell to this eccentric little town.

72112 Baker Blvd
Baker, CA 92309
Phone: (760) 733-4354

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Harbor Fish Cafe

Feels great to be writing about food again. been awhile. Over the past few months I have had more Pâté de foie gras in France that I thought possible. I knew one more bite was going to get me picketed by an animal rights group. I ate so much in fact that flocks of geese started to change the direction of their migratory flight to avoid flying over me. Even had the best lobster I have ever had anywhere in New York City. And of course took no pictures and blogged none of it. Needed to relax and enjoy the food, after all, to eat is the greatest luxury we have as humans, to enjoy with our friends and family and just relax.

And that is just what we did at one of my favorite haunts, The Harbor Fish Cafe in Carlsbad California. You can't really call this place a dive in my opinion a dive must have an air of some eccentricity to it. This place reeks of tourist trap if you just happen to stroll by. Located in the Carlsbad village area and perched on a cliff by the ocean and if you grab your food and are lucky enough to find parking in the rear of the place. You will have a spectacular view of the beach below.

I absolutely detest fried foods of any kind, But I have to say that I have a weakness for fish & chips, must be from all the times my mom dragged us to Long John Silvers every Friday night. when I was a kid. She was a devout Catholic and that meant no meat on that night. Just wish she had mastered the art of cooking fish at home. She was a wonderful cook, just not with fish.

This place has been here for almost 30 years and despite it being a tourist Mecca restaurant it still draws in the locals who know what the food is all about. The Fish & Chips are the best I have had anywhere on this planet.
Extremely large portions of fresh cod that are hand dipped in a traditional batter of rice flour, soda water and egg. This stuff is truly remarkable, light and flaky and not greasy at all. Frying foods generally takes away from the texture and taste, often times resulting in a overly heavy and soggy lump of something that was once a shrimp or a cod fish. Not at this place. you can taste the freshness of the fish and cracking one open you can see the flakiness of the cod.

The rice flour makes it. it comes through without compromising the foods natural flavor and unlike regular flour, where you have to season it and after frying with it, is too thick. Rice flour just makes a nice light coating. I use the stuff almost exclusively when I have a request for some onion rings or fried zucchini. The homemade tartar sauce is wonderful as well. Not to heavy and mayonnaise driven. a very light concoction with a perfect amount of diced pickles in it. The cocktail sauce on the other hand was a bit sweet for me. I never have really tasted a cocktail sauce that I particularly liked. Don't get the stuff really. A squeeze of fresh lemon and a heavy dash of good malt vinegar and you are in heaven with this dish. The chips are more French fries than the traditional English chips, which are thicker cuts. But these are a great alternative. Very light and crisp.

We also ordered up a plate of fried clams. Sue grew up on the East Coast and always had them back home growing up. I was really apprehensive about these as they are not only fried but are heavily coated with batter. But was very surprised with the light texture of them and the very nice and refreshing sweet briny taste of the fresh clams. Very well done with homemade coleslaw that had a light dressing on it. This place I believe has mastered the art of frying to perfection.
This is definitely on my top 10 haunts in San Diego. Not a dive, but definitely on the edge, of a cliff that is.
3179 Carlsbad Blvd Carlsbad, CA
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