Tag Archives: In-n-Out

Three Week Foodie Tour of the South, with some Racing Sprinkled In

Over the past three weeks I’ve got a chance to sample some amazing foodie experiences around the southern part of the country while marshaling various events in Texas, California and Alabama. My goal is to share my opinions on the places I liked and others that didn’t really do it for me anymore, while promoting the idea that there’s so much more to do when traveling for Motorsport events than just being stuck at the circuit all the time.

foodie tour long beach california in-n-out burger and fries animal style

I’ll start with my visits to the In-n-Out burger joint. It is a fast food place and as such not exactly a culinary phenomenon, but we don’t have it in New Jersey and everyone rants and raves about them on the west coast, and specifically in California so I had to have it. Was it as good as everyone claims it to be? Not particularly. I think I’m In-n-Outed already. The burgers are fantastic, for sure. But I think the fries killed the experience for me. There was an In-n-Out in Austin, Texas my host and I went to during the MotoGP before trying one in Huntington Beach, California during the Long Beach Grand Prix and the problem is the same: french fries go cold quickly making them taste like paper… especially when you get them done animal style, the cheese just puts a hard layer over the thin cut fries ruining the taste of the potato (I’m assuming that’s what they’re made of). That said, next time I’m in Cali I’ll probably have one again, minus the fry.

Another chain that really didn’t do it for me was Shrimp Basket in Irondale, Alabama. I like the idea of seafood to mix things up but this joint didn’t really live up to my expectations and I left disappointed. The food was mediocre, small portions and overpriced.

foodie tour alabama grand prix irondale shrimp basket

Similarly, I was very disappointed in Boomerang’s food truck at COTA, the Aussie flag peeked my interest as I absolutely love to have meat pies whenever I travel to Australia. But this place ruined it for me. The pie was basically a miniature pot pie which is nothing like the proper Aussie/Kiwi pies, and at $10 a pop they’re grossly overpriced, considering real OZ pies go for $2-4 bux.

foodie tour austin texas cota motogp boomerangs 1

foodie tour austin texas cota motogp boomerangs 2

I had to have one when I saw the truck, but I’m sorry I did.

foodie tour austin texas cota motogp boomerangs 3

Now to the foodie experiences that I seriously enjoyed…

Meches Tacos is an excellent taqueria less then a minute away from COTA that serves amazing breakfast tacos…. simple yet excellent! So good in fact I ate them before I realized I should take a picture. Look for it on FM 812 in Del Valle, TX just past the track entrance when traveling from Austin.

Unlike my last trip to Austin for PWC in March where I focused primarily on BBQ joints for dinner, this time around Tex-Mex was the name of the game, and the highlight of my visit was a trip to Baby Acapulco’s. I was feeling pretty exhausted and a bit under the weather so I ordered Baby A’s tortilla soup to help self medicate, and that stuff was pretty awesome. Again, was too hungry to take a picture but I did snap a shot of a similar lunch at Pappasito’s Cantina at Dallas Airport on my flight home…. another excellent choice for quick and good meal when traveling to Texas.

foodie tour motogp at cota texas papasito's cantina

I enjoy visiting Pappas restaurants in Texas ever since a friend of mine took me out to the Pappas Steakhouse in Houston. Now whenever I’m in Texas I try to visit one of the establishments depending what I’m in the mood for… Tex-Mex at Pappasito’s or seafood at Pappadeaux.

Some chains of course are better than others. We went to a bunch of bad ones in Southern California which was surprising considering how saturated the market is there with good authentic Mexican food. But we also went to some really great places. One was a hole in a wall bar serving simple sandwiches on rye bread called Joe Jost’s. I ordered the hot dog which was actually Polish kielbasa and a liverwurst pate style thing on rye. This place was a few minutes drive from the temporary circuit downtown and full of people when we went. Funny enough all the drinks were served in margarita style glass, even beer.

foodie tour long beach california bar food

Next awesome stop was actually adjacent to my flag point. After two days of eating the same exact sandwich provided by Cal Club I couldn’t stand the idea of having the same thing on Race Day so we climbed the fence and went to Islands fine burgers and drinks. The root beer float I got to start off my meal really hit the spot on a warm and sunny day. But the highlight of the meal was my bacon avocado burger and those excellent fries. It was very delicious!

foodie tour long beach california islands root beer float

foodie tour long beach california islands burger

I felt like I needed a nap after that big  meal, and the uneventful IndyCar race that followed almost succeed putting me to sleep.

The final meal on the trip before flying out of town took delicious to the next level. I’m a sucker for Motorsport advertising, and when I saw a beautiful Dodge Viper racing in the Pirelli World Challenge series wrapped in Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles livery I had to see what the fuzz was all about. After visiting the Mazda HQ in Irvine I made my way to their Anaheim location to give it a go.

roscoe's fried chicken n waffles 1

Boy did that hit the spot. I requested the chicken breast with two giant waffles. The meal was so big this was one of those rare occasions where I didn’t finish it. I don’t normally leave food on the plate after I’m done eating, but this time I just had no place to put it, I was completely stuffed. And very satisfied. The freeflow of fruit punch and lemonade in a distinct two tone as pictured was a nice touch and something I hadn’t really seen before at a chain restaurant. Another good sign the place was packed for lunch!

roscoe's fried chicken n waffles 2 fruit punch and lemonade

Lucky for me, just a week later I had another Southern place to compare these friend chicken and waffles to. As I got an opportunity to stop by a real soul food place in downtown Atlanta on my layover heading home from Alabama. Glady’s Knight’s Chicken & Waffles wasn’t a planned visit, but since I was staying in a cheap motel just a block away and there weren’t too many other options in the area, I jumped on the opportunity to give it a try. Comparing the two I would vote for Roscoe’s as my more favorite, the chicken was juicier and the pancakes were more affordable. But the Hotlanta joint definitely had a better ambiance inside. And instead of the fruit punch and lemonade combo they had a sweet tea and lemonade instead… and after a week or so in the deep south, sweet tea became my go to drink every time!

foodie tour atlanta soul food fried chicken and waffles

foodie tour atlanta soul food sweet tea and lemonade

Now I’ll finish this write up with the really good stuff!

Alabama took me by complete surprise when I arrived there. It was nothing what I had expected. And while I always remind myself to travel with an open mind, arriving in Birminham blew my mind!

The foodie experiences were a major contributing factor to the mind-blown phenomena, and by sharing the pix below I’ll attempt to explain exactly why.

The first thing I learned about Southern Cuisine in Alabama is that they have a special sauce for their meals unique to the region. It’s called the Alabama white sauce and it’s best served on chicken or turkey although some friends that recommended it prefer it on pork too… So of course I went out hunting for this amazing white sauce.

And I found it at Saw’s soul food restaurant downtown.

foodie tour alabama grand prix birmingham saws sampler

My CouchSurfing host lives just about a mile down the road and was happy to show me this joint. She even recommended the sampler plate to try more of the things on the menu. She was completely right, everything was delicious and I really did enjoy the sauce.

foodie tour alabama grand prix birmingham saws juke joint sausage

A few days later my buddy Robert and I went to the other Saw’s location called Juke Joint, which had a different menu but equally delicious food. I ordered some amazing sausage and fried green tomatoes. I also ordered sweet tea fried chicken sandwich to go so I can have it as lunch at the track the next day. Both were fantastic options!

foodie tour alabama grand prix birmingham golden rule sampler

foodie tour alabama grand prix irondale bama white sauce

Speaking of taking food to the track, on Friday a whole group of Road Atlanta flaggers went to Golden Rule BBQ joint just a few miles from the track for a big dinner. There I got to sample some amazing sliced pork again served with the local white sauce which is vinegar and mayo based with pepper and other stuff added for flavor. I had so many leftovers there was no need to buy lunch the next day.  It was such an delicious experience I’m happy to say that out of all the Southern food I got to sample on the trips to Texas and California, Alabama wins hands down for having the best food!

I am so looking forward to my next Grand Prix Foodie adventure.

Day trip to San Francisco & quick layover in Fort Lauderdale on the way back to NYC

There’s not much to be excited about these days. While 2011 in Singapore was the best time of my life, 2015 is shaping to be the most depressing, for sure. At home, my dad has lost half his weight since last year and doctors say he doesn’t have much longer to live. Ukraine – my homeland is under vicious attack from Russia. My Jeep finally broke down and an expensive repair is in progress to fix the blown transmission, and to top it all off my marshal license is in question because of ridiculous complaints. So how can one cope with the feeling of the world caving in?

Fly… away!

Flying is by far one of my favorite hobbies. Since I started flying frequently in 2006 I’ve logged over half a million miles and 50+ days up in the air, flying around the globe several times (three times in 2013 alone with trips to the Australian, Singapore and Korean Grand Prix). That was cool as hell and I really miss flying more often.

So when an opportunity popped up to fly to one of 32 different destination JetBlue flies for just $32 dollars each way, I jumped on it. And while a trip to Barbados, Turks and Caicos or the Cayman Islands would have been incredible for that kind of price. The dates of travel fell on the same week that I was already travelling to beautiful Saint Lucia. And after discovering how expensive that place was for even the most budget conscious traveler, I’m glad I booked an “In-n-Out” run to San Francisco instead.

Why “In-n-Out” run? Because initially it was supposed to be just that. I was to fly in later in the afternoon, grab a delicious burger and fries animal style and a shake, turn around and fly back home. But with the winter weather hitting the Northeast hard, I was forced to reschedule. The new flights gave me an extra day to spend exploring the Bay area, and the return flight from California introduced a new dimension: grabbing brunch in South Florida with a four to five hour layover in Fort Lauderdale (one of my favorite places on earth!)

Anyway, all this is pending my actually waking up in the morning for the very early flight, while using the NY/NJ public transport system.

Will this trip make any of my troubles go away? Probably not. But it will be an excellent distraction. I’m most looking forward to the experience of flying itself. But equally as important will be having a delicious and authentic Mexican meal in Cali, followed by a visit to In-n-Out. A little bit of sightseeing. A few more authentic Bay area meals like the sourdough chowder on Fisherman’s Wharf, and a great Cuban dish in downtown Fort Lauderdale or Hollywood Florida, depending on how much time I actually have there.

Can’t wait!

in-n-out

PS. the last two times I volunteered at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca I flew JetBlue with their amazing $120 round trip offer from Boston to San Franscisco. I didn’t think that deal could be beat, until now of course. It always pays to shop around for flight deals, and with crazy travel offers like this popping up, remember to book first and think about it later. Whatever you do, don’t miss out!

Winter/Summer North/South Hemisphere

2013 is already promising to be an incredible year. I’m particularly excited about the planning process of my next big trip this February and March. I’m not sure what I’m thrilled about the most… maybe its the prospect of flying again. Sure, I love flying! Or perhaps its the prospect of doing some more racing events in the Pacific. Yes, I love Australia and New Zealand racing series a lot, that’s where I got my education. Or maybe I’m just craving a double double with fries animal style? Hmm…

For anyone not familiar with the west coast chain In-n-Out, you don’t know what you’re missing. Well, maybe it doesn’t matter. To be honest, the fast food chain isn’t ridiculously different from any other fast food chains we have on the east coast, like Five Guys Burgers. But they do offer a secret menu and have a cult-like following so every time I get a chance I pay a visit to their establishments. (I think last time was in Las Vegas when I went for the SEMA show). I specifically arranged my flights to LAX in a way that would allow me to have enough time to visit their South Sepulveda location for a nice juicy burger, fries and some half-strawberry half-chocolate milk shake. I do plan to walk to and fro the restaurant to burn off some of the calories.

After I’m properly stuffed with the So Cal experience, I’ll be taking my comfy Qantas A380 flight off to Sydney. Its been a while since I’ve been there, save for of course the quick transit at SYD airport I did on my way home from New Zealand earlier this year. I will be visiting the Blue Mountains in NSW for my first race there. The 12 hours of Bathurst enduro series featuring some Mercedes-Benz SLS, Lambourghini Gallardo, Ferrari 458 Italias and a bunch of others including some Fords and Holdens that will have a GT race within the race running only for the first hour of the event. How cool?

Immediately after the race I plan to make my way over to Auckland for the opening season of New Zealand V8 SuperTourers at Hampton Downs. This would be the second year in a row I’ve volunteered for this event, so I’m especially looking forward to seeing all the folks I’ve worked with earlier this year. Whilst in NZ I plan to do a few trips to the South Island, an experience I missed out on while living there in 2012. Hopefully with the December 12 days of Christmas special I’ll be able to book some cheapo flights to Dunedin or Queenstown on Air New Zealand to make it happen. A visit to Taupo or Manfeild may be in the cards also.

Kiwi land may be the place where I will finally and possibly tragically run out of my savings. But it will not stop me from going. On the way back I plan to return to Australia for the Formula 1 race at Albert Park in Melbourne. A week before there will be another event at a track I’ve been wanting to work since the first time I visited Philip Island. Visiting some friends in Victoria should make an experience memorable as usual.

Retracing my F1 calendar of this year I plan to take a cheap Air Asia X flight to Malaysia for another amazing Formula 1 race at the Sepang Circuit. The flights have already been booked but the confirmation has yet to come, fingers crossed I won’t have any trouble like I did this year. Any visit to Southeast Asia turns out to be a fantastic experience and it would be a great way to end this two month journey.

The excitement will keep me going through the cold Northeast winter we’ll be having in the NYC / New Jersey area, where we just had our first snow not even a week after the superstorm Sandy had her way with us… yikes!

PS. No return flight has been booked yet. It may turn into another epic adventure of a trip!