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Road Trip Hit: Taqueria Cuernavaca (Ventura, CA)

Posted by Caveman Cooking on November 1, 2015

Taqueria CuernavacaRoad Trip Hits. Taking a page from Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, this ongoing series features some of those little known paragons of road-trip rations.

While the beautiful city of Cuernavaca, Mexico is known as the “City of Eternal Spring”, the much more geographically friendly Taqueria Cuernavaca (1117 N. Ventura Avenue, Ventura, California 93001 (805) 653-8052) should be known as the “Restaurant of Eternal Yum”. Located on “The Avenue” in the old section of town, it is a nice departure from the tourist-rich Main Street district of revitalized downtown Ventura. While there are two other locations (Santa Barbara and Oxnard), this one screams of a quaint south-of-the-border hole-in-the-wall.

Taqueria CuernavacaThough, many patrons opt for take-out, there are still 11 tables available for full wait-service. One of the first things you’ll notice is the self-serve salsa bar, loaded with 4 varieties of the Latin sauce plus several types of hispanic condiments like marinated carrots, seared Serrano peppers, onions, cilantro, etc. Also eye-catching is the cold case filled with a wide array of domestic and Mexican beer and soft drinks … including my favorite Jarrtios Mandarin.

Of course, the menu is filled with the usual tacos, burritos, and the like. Taqueria Cuernavaca also offers a breakfast menu (served all day) featuring the customary Huevos Rancheros (fried eggs on fried totillas), Huevos con Chorizo (egss with Mexican sausage), and breakfast burritos. However, once you see the Chilaquiles (tortilla chips topped with eggs and green sauce), sopas (tostada meets a sandwich), tortas (Mexican sandwich), Alambres (grilled meats, bell pepper, onion, and melted cheese, served with corn tortillas), and Pozole (a staple Cuernavacan soup), you realize this is not your usual Mexican fare.

Alambres El Fortachon at Taqueria CuernavacaOn a recent visit to Taqueria Cuernavaca with the Caveboy and his Grandpa, I opted for the Alambre known as El Fortachon – usually served with Carne Asada (steak), Al Pastor (marinated pork), Chorizo, Jamon (ham), melted cheese, onion, bell peppers a generous portion of sliced fresh avocado on top, and a wad of fresh corn tortillas. Though, I asked for no ham (extra Pastor) and no bell peppers. Meanwhile, my Father-in-law went for the same platter with no changes, and the Caveboy chose his favorite as of late: bean and cheese burrito.

Bean & Cheese Burrito at Taqueria CuernavacaWhen the grub arrived, I quickly grabbed one of the warm tortillas and loaded it up with the grilled meat and cheese mixture, topped it with a slice of avo, and drizzled some of the spicy rojo salsa over it all. The first bite was bursting with flavor heaven, as was each mouthful that followed. My father-in-law eagerly agreed … it was “amazing”! My bean and cheese burrito expert readily exclaimed that it was the best one he’d ever had (and he’s had quite a few over the last year). On a previous visit the Cavewoman and Cavegirl had the potato tacos and cheese enchiladas, and both had similar reactions.

Needless to say, Taqueria Cuernavaca has become one of our favorite spots to munch when we are in the Ventura area. We’ve also tried the new location in Oxnard. However, while we found the food to be equally phenomenal, it just doesn’t have that “dive” ambiance of the original location and does not offer full wait-service. We plan on visiting the Santa Barbara location soon. If you find yourself near any of these locations, and you are in the mood for something deliciously different from our neighbors to the South, do yourself a favor and give Cuernavaca a go!

©2015 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at http://cavemancooking.net authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.

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Road Trip Hit: ToM’s TaCos (Torrance, CA)

Posted by Caveman Cooking on September 19, 2015

ToM's TaCosRoad Trip Hits. Taking a page from Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, this ongoing series features some of those little known paragons of road-trip rations.

Anyone who has lived on the West side of Los Angeles has likely heard of, or eaten at, Tito’s Tacos. A multi-decade mainstay of simplified Mexican fast food in Culver City, CA (originally they had an Anaheim location, too). Most days, you will find long lines of hungry patrons waiting at one of their several ordering windows to get their mitts on the munchable burritos, tamales, enchiladas and, of course, tacos. One of those dedicated locals was a man named Ted Niida, who loved their food almost as much as life itself. So, when Tito’s decided to sell their location behind the Orange Curtain, Ted immediately jumped on the opportunity. He changed the sign slightly so that it read “ToM’s TaCos” (named after his beloved late father) and proceeded to offer the same great menu.

Over the years, Tito’s has raised their prices, reduced their portions, and turned to lower quality ingredients. Meanwhile, ToM’s kept the same dedication to quality, and customer satisfaction that made them both such gastronomic successes … and, even expanded their menu slightly to include tostadas, taquitos, nachos, quesadillas, and french fries. Plus, ToM’s Tacos also offers a chicken version of their taquitos, as well as their namesake dish.

So, about a year ago, it was with considerable glee that I directed a Disneyland-bound friend to nearby Ball Road for some great grub. Though, I was deeply saddened to receive a text from that friend, saying that ToM’s had closed it’s doors. Yes, Anaheim is long way from the Cave. But, there was so much comfort knowing that ToM’s was there waiting for my return to Orange County. Fast forward to this Summer, when I was recounting my disappointment to another friend, who excitedly stopped me mid sentence to tell me that ToM’s TaCos had actually relocated to Torrance, CA (4669 Torrance Blvd. Torrance, CA 90503ToM's TaCos Tacos & Taquitos 310-371-0625), not far from his factory. Needless to say, I was ecstatic that my beloved ToM’s was not only still in business, but less than half the distance from me as before. “Get the $*&# out!” I shouted, and we immediately packed up the families and headed over for some beef and cheese tacos, all beef and cheese burritos, bean and cheese burritos, and beef taquitos.

Having grown up about a mile from Tito’s, I remember the quality, size, and flavor they used to offer. As mentioned, it has since waned as their prices have skyrocketed … presumably to cover the cost of the TV advertising they now employ. But, one bite of ToM’s fare immediately brought me back to those delectable carefree days. ToM's TaCos BurritosMy beef and cheese burrito was hefty, zesty, and tasty. The pourable quac was thick and full of flavor, and the famous chips and salsa were as mouthwatering as I remember. The Caveboy and Cavewoman exclaimed they had the best bean and cheese burritos they’d ever tasted, the Cavegirl was too busy munching her taquitos to even mutter a word, and the Cave friends all agreed the food was just like what Tito’s used to be … perhaps even better!

The rave reviews should be no surprise considering that ToM’s TaCos uses no trans fats, no lard, and no MSG. They do, however, use the freshest, high quality ingredients they can find while taking no short cuts in their cooking process. Which leads to the most tender, flavorful cubed beef in the Chili Colorado for the burritos; savory shredded beef in the tacos and taquitos; and hearty, mouthwatering refried beans.

ToM's TaCos MenuSo, the next time you are cruising around the South Bay, and your stomach starts to rumble, head over to ToM’s Tacos for some simple but scrumptious Mexican food. You will walk away sated and full, as will your wallet. Plus, if you are a devotee Tito’s, you will readily become a ToM’s convert! Yes, it’s that good!! Do keep in mind that ToM’s TaCos only accepts cash, and is closed on Mondays.

©2015 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at http://cavemancooking.net authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.

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Happy 1st Birthday, C3!

Posted by Caveman Cooking on October 25, 2010

Birthday CakeHard to believe it, but this little rag of ours is one year old as of today! Yep, just one year ago I posted the recipe for my Texas Red Grilled Shrimp Tacos, and thus began this public culinary journey. Time certainly flies when you’re having fun … heck, a blast! And, I have all of you to thank for it. I don’t think I’d have the drive or determination to post as prolifically if it wasn’t for your warm and generous embraces.
As you probably know, this past year has been quite a challenge for my family and me. After nearly a year-long attempt, we finally sold our house and moved to an entirely new community. We’ve dealt with a couple of passings. And, we have been confronted by the massive stroke my mother-in-law suffered over the summer. But, when I produce something for the C3 site, I get a chance to leave the daily travails behind and revel in the creative process that exists here. For that, I am eternally thankful.
Hopefully, you have enjoyed the first year of this blog’s existence as much as I have enjoyed bringing it to you. I hope to continue with many more, filled with easy yet mouthwatering recipes, delectable dining experiences, ginormous giveaways, and the ridiculous ramblings of a modern Neanderthal. Thank you for indulging me in this grand epicurean quest … adventures like this are no fun alone! 😉
(Insert shameless self-promoting plug here) BTW, there are only a few days left to enter our Want Pasta? Giveaway – a $200 gift certificate for Florentyna’s Fresh Pasta Factory. Don’t miss it!

©2010 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at http://cavemancooking.net authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.

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Road Trip Hit: Ranch Hand BBQ & Grill (Newbury Park,CA)

Posted by Caveman Cooking on September 18, 2010

Ranch Hand BBQ & GrillAnother installment of Road Trip Hits. Taking a page from Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, this ongoing series features some of those little known paragons of road-trip rations.

Okay, so this technically wasn’t a “road trip”. Just a quick lunch stop between picking up the Cavegirl, who gets out of school at 1:30, and corralling the Caveboy, who gets out an hour later. But, Ranch Hand BBQ & Grill (NOTE THEIR NEW ADDRESS: 1015 Broadbeck Drive Suite A Newbury Park, CA 91320 805-375-4252) is truly your typical road-house type of establishment (also known by such names as “greasy spoon” or “hole in the wall”), offering tasty, hearty food at a reasonable price.
Having spent the entire morning and lunch hour in a voice over session, I hadn’t had a chance to eat a thing yesterday. Since my stomach was talking louder than I could speak, I thought it might be a good idea to appease the belly-beast. Ranch Hand has been on my radar to try ever since we moved into the neighborhood. Though, it was always an afterthought as I would drive by and say, “Oh! We should have gone there!!” after munching at some other local spot. Yesterday, however, that little light bulb went off over my head as I drove to the school and I eagerly awaited my introduction to the local Q-house.
As we walked in, I noticed the old authentic Western saddle by the door … nice touch. There was one small table and two chairs outside, but a few more tables with chairs inside – enough to seat several families at once. The guy behind the counter, Chris, was very nice and couldn’t have been more kind to the Cavegirl, giving her a lollypop and one to take home for her brother. Behind him, the lunch special board had seven or eight options on it. Being that I’m always looking for a deal, this seemed like the way to go. The only problem was choosing between all the possibilities like the Pulled Pork sandwich, 1/2 a BBQ Chicken, Burger, etc. I opted for the Tri-tip Sandwich special, which also included one side-dish (I went with the Coleslaw) and a refillable fountain drink, all for $7.95.Tri-tip Sandwich
As we sat and waited for the food to be prepared, I noticed that the walls were covered with notes and drawings from previous customers. I knew instantly, that this was a very Cave-friendly place. Chris also came by our table and asked the Cavegirl all about her school and her favorite things to do, which made the wait seem to go by in an instant.
When the food did arrive, I was pleased by the amount of meat that was piled onto the soft, fresh sandwich roll. Too often these days, places will slap one slice of meat on each half of the sandwich and call it good. This one was packed several layers high – the perfect amount! As you can see, it also had a nice basting of their proprietary sauce. I took that first bite … oh my, was it good! The Tri-tip was amazingly tender, full of wonderful flavor, and complimented by the zesty sweetness of the sauce. I offered the Cavegirl a bite … BIG mistake! As she proceeded to eat almost half of my sandwich despite the fact that she had finished off a full lunch just over an hour earlier. 😯
CavegirlI then took a bite of the slaw and was pleasantly surprised by the unique sweet tang it possessed. I then started piling a little onto each bite of the sandwich and then topping it off with a little squirt of their homemade BBQ sauce in the spicy variety and I was absolutely in gastronomic heaven. While it really complimented the Trip-tip unbelievably well, I imagine it must be otherworldly when combined with some of their Pulled Pork which, I am told, is as good as anything you can get down in the BBQ Belt
All together, it was one of those sandwich experiences you just never wanted to end. In one of the late Warren Zevon’s last interviews, just before his impending passing, he said, “Enjoy every sandwich”. If he had gotten the chance to taste one of these he might have added, “… as long as it’s a Tri-tip sandwich from Ranch Hand!”
After some fact digging with Chris, it turns out the owner, Arnold, and his family used to live in the Santa Ynez valley, the place where grilling this cut of beef originated. In fact, they apparently had a BBQ joint there for years where he learned his trade and, obviously, learned it well. I can’t wait to go back and give the Pulled Pork, chicken, ribs, House Chips, mac salad, and deep fried Twinkie a try … but not all at once! 😉 The Cavegirl can’t wait either, as you can see by the delight the Ranch Hand BBQ & Grill left on her face. The only drawback is that they don’t really offer anything vegetarian other than their side dishes and a house salad. So, the Cavewoman is out of luck on this one. You’d think, especially being a So Cal establishment, that they’d throw a Veggie Burger or Grilled Cheese sandwich on the menu. But, until they do, at least the Cavekids and I have a new Road Trip Hit right in our own backyard. Gotta love that!

UPDATE: I have since found out that they do indeed offer a veggie burger for the herbivore crowd … it’s just not officially on the menu because meat is their obsession. But, if you ask for one, Arnold swears he’ll gladly throw a veggie burger on the grill for you!

UPDATE #2: They updated their menu when they recently moved to a bigger and better location … and the “Garden Burger” is now proudly on it! Plus, they’ve added a stone pizza oven … and their Zah is gooooooood!!

©2010 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at http://cavemancooking.net authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.

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Road Trip Hit: Chihuahua’s (Winnemucca, NV)

Posted by Caveman Cooking on July 12, 2010

Road Trip Hit: Chihuahua's 1When I’m on the road, there’s nothing better than stumbling into an unfamiliar town (preferably small enough to throw a Frisbee across) and finding a hidden gastronomic gem. I feel as if I’ve miraculously discovered some pirate’s buried treasure … without a map! The only difference is, I can’t wait to share this find with everyone I know. 😉
Hence, the start of a fun new series here on C3: Road Trip Hits. Taking a page from Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, this ongoing series will feature some of those little known paragons of road-trip rations.

After finding a great Mexican joint in Santa Maria on the first day of our road trip, I wasn’t sure that we’d stumble across another in the genre that would make me feel like breaking out my best Hat Dance. But, when we stumbled into Winnemucca, Nevada on our power-drive-day on the way home (10 hours, 4 states, and nearly 720 miles), the allure of Chihuahua’s Grill & Cantina (245 S. Bridge Street Winnemucca, NV 89445 775-625-4613) was just somehow too much for us to resist. I even did the rare U-turn to go back to this restaurant that seemed somewhat reminiscent of the Alamo from the outside. I think it was the fact that people were willing to sit outside in the 90°+ weather in order to get a table that had me pushing the traffic-law envelope. Fortunately, we were able to get a table inside since none of us, especially the Caveboy, does well in the heat. In fact, at the age of 3, the first time he ever walked outside into some real desert heat, he tried to beat it up … he was fightin’ mad at it! 😆 Inside, the main restaurant is separate from the bar, which also has some dining tables available. Road Trip Hit: Chihuahua's 2

When we sat down, the usual chips and salsa were delivered and quickly received the seal of approval from the Caveclan. We hastily backed it up with an order of guacamole which also was quickly going down our collective gullets faster than a Lindsey Lohan sainthood tribunal. It was thick and chunky, with tomatoes, onions, garlic, cilantro and lime juice all part of the action. We really had to show some restraint in order to have any room remaining for our meals.

Speaking of which, when it came time to order, I had to give their Chile Verde a go, since they make it with beef. In my experience, pork had always been the carne of choice when making this dish. So, I was in for a new treat. Green chiles, potatoes, onions and a unique Verde sauce all acted as a bed for the juicy, tender hunks of beef. And, oh my, was it flavorful! Served with cheese-topped refried beans, Spanish rice, and corn tortillas this was a dish I just couldn’t stop eating until it was all gone. If they would have served me seconds I, somehow, would have found the room for it!

Road Trip Hit: Chihuahua's 3 As good as my dish was, the piece de resistance was actually the Cavegirl’s Carne Asada taco, which is pictured below. Yeah, it looks like two tacos, but it is actually one that we split into two since it was wrapped in two tortillas. Besides, despite her ravenous state, there was no way she’d ever get her mouth open wide enough to get a good bite of the overstuffed $1.90 taco. After dividing it up for her, I grabbed a piece of the marinated steak and was blown away by the incredible flavor these juicy, butter-soft chunks of beef possessed. It just may be the best Carne Asada I’ve ever tasted. I vowed that the next time we stopped in I would have to order these tacos … only, I’d have more than “one”!

Road Trip Hit: Chihuahua's 4 The Caveboy went Americana with Chicken Strips and fries and was very happy, as was I when I saw they looked like they were made with actual chicken breast meat rather than the pressed stuff so many restaurants serve up on the kiddies’ menu. And, though the menu had several vegetarian offerings, the Cavewoman went with her usual Cheese Enchilada. I have to admit, she was the only one who wasn’t thrilled with their meal. But, she is anxious to return and try some of the other herbivore-friendly choices available.

While I wouldn’t classify this restaurant as inexpensive, it still is reasonable enough to get a family of four out the door for around $35. Add in the good food, friendly and fast service, and comfortable surroundings, and you can see why this qualifies as a Road Trip Hit. The next time you find yourself cruising through the northwestern Nevada desert on I-80 or Highway 95, and south-of-the-border grub sounds good, make a stop at Chihuahua’s for some flavor that will certainly be bigger than it’s canine namesake.

©2010 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at http://cavemancooking.net authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.

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Road Trip Hit: Mezzaluna Italiano (Crescent City, CA)

Posted by Caveman Cooking on July 8, 2010

Road Trip Hit: Mezzaluna Italiano 1When I’m on the road, there’s nothing better than stumbling into an unfamiliar town (preferably small enough to throw a Frisbee across) and finding a hidden gastronomic gem. I feel as if I’ve miraculously discovered some pirate’s buried treasure … without a map! The only difference is, I can’t wait to share this find with everyone I know. 😉
Hence, the start of a fun new series here on C3: Road Trip Hits. Taking a page from Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, this ongoing series will feature some of those little known paragons of road-trip rations.

Before we get to this delicious local Italian bistro in this quaint Northern California coastal town, let me brag a bit about our hotel room and, in doing so, give you one of my favorite Road Trip Tips. Beach Sunset You see the beautiful shot, on the right here, of the sunset on the beach, taken by the lovely and talented Cavewoman? That was taken from the balcony of our hotel room. Yeah, baby … we were beachfront! And, it was only $136 for the four of us, including a hot breakfast the next morning!!
“How is it so, Caveman?!?”, you may be asking. A very simple road trip trick I picked up years ago. First, you need to be able to fly by the seat of your pants a bit. If you are one of those people that just has to have your plans pretty much set in stone well in advance, this isn’t going to work for you. So, go ahead and skip down to the restaurant review. Though, if you are a bit more laissez faire in your travels, follow along: Call an hour or two ahead on the day of your arrival and see how much availability the hotel/motel has and what their best rate is. When they tell you, thank them and tell them you’ll let them know shortly. If they have a good amount of rooms available, drive directly to the hotel and ask the same question in person (don’t tell them you called ahead, unless they offer you a rate higher than you were quoted on the phone). Usually they will offer you the same room at an even better rate. We did this here and the best rate (with a AAA discount) that the Hampton Inn & Suites gave us on the phone was $189 for a non-view room. When we arrived an hour forty five later the rate had miraculously dropped $53, which put it within our budget (barely) and more than payed for our lip-smackin’-good dinner. Plus, it had magically improved to an ocean-view room! SCORE!!

Deep Fried Ravioli

Deep Fried Ravioli

Which brings me to another tip. Always ask the person at the desk checking you in what their favorite local eateries are. You are likely to be pointed in some very surprisingly enjoyable directions. Again, we did that here, and Ben was kind enough to mention a restaurant that he used to work in. A couple of hours later, it was clearly our next Road Trip Hit: Mezzaluna Italiano (389 M Street Crescent City, CA 95531-4118 707-464-6173).
When we walked in there were only two other patrons in the cozy 12 table trattoria-decorated restaurant. Not usually a good sign, but we felt committed at that point since we hadn’t planned on an “Option B”. But, when the fresh homemade Rustic Herbed Bread arrived, with Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar for dipping, our hopes were quickly raised. Much as a Mexican restaurant can often be quickly appraised by it’s chips and salsa, one in the Italian genre can be discerned by it’s bread, oil and vinegar.
Our house salads were very good, and their Blue Cheese Dressing is very unique and definitely worth a try. Cavewoman decided to try their Deep Fried Ravioli stuffed with cheese and topped with their Creamy Marinara sauce. I went with their Garlic Herb Chicken served over Linguini noodles, also covered with their Creamy Marinara Sauce, and topped with melted parmesan and mozzarella. Both entrees were served with Ratatouille. Yes, that is traditionally a French dish. But, Mezzaluna Italiano gives it a flare fitting of the cuisine by adding Italian spices and topping it with melted Mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses.
The Deep Fried Raviolis were unbelievable! I was expecting it to taste like something you’d get in the frozen section from Chef Boyardee. Instead it was a flavorful crunchy encasing for a delectably creamy complex filling. It certainly held the my wife speechless for a good 30 minutes – other than for exclamations of “Oh my God! This is SO good!!”
Garlic Herb Chicken

Garlic Herb Chicken


My Garlic Herb Chicken was equally astounding. In fact, I still can’t decide which dish was better. The chunks of chicken were moist, tender and full of flavor, surrounded by sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions, piled onto perfectly cooked pasta, and bathed in a sauce that made the dish so enjoyable that I ended up sharing it with both the Cavekids. The Caveboy was especially taken with it, calling the dish one of the best things he’s ever tasted in his six and eleven-twelfths years! He quickly added, “Besides the stuff that you make, Dad!” I guess he knows who butters his bread, eh?!? 😆
Unfortunately, the portions were so large, and good, we didn’t leave room for any dessert. But, is that really a problem when the food is too tempting to stop piling into your pie-hole?!? 😉 Next time you find yourself in the most northern coastal Cali town (just 20 miles from the Oregon border) try to get a “cheap” room at the Hampton Inn, say “Hi” to Ben at the desk, and ask him for directions (about 4 or 5 blocks away) to Mezzaluna Italiano.

©2010 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at http://cavemancooking.net authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.

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Road Trip Hit: Hank’s Creekside Restaurant (Santa Rosa, CA)

Posted by Caveman Cooking on June 30, 2010

Road Trip Hit: Hank's Creekside RestaurantWhen I’m on the road, there’s nothing better than stumbling into an unfamiliar town (preferably small enough to throw a Frisbee across) and finding a hidden gastronomic gem. I feel as if I’ve miraculously discovered some pirate’s buried treasure … without a map! The only difference is, I can’t wait to share this find with everyone I know. 😉
Hence, the start of a fun new series here on C3: Road Trip Hits. Taking a page from Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, this ongoing series will feature some of those little known paragons of road-trip rations.

I have always avoided Santa Rosa like the plague. All because of a rather large guy named Edd Hoyt … or Jabba The Hoyt, as he was known by some. He was a General Manager at a station I worked at early in my radio career. And, he lived to make most of the station’s employees lives, including mine, a living nightmare. He once confessed to me, as he gleefully walked down the hallway after firing a colleague, that he got a bigger rush out of firing somebody than he did from drugs. Back in those days, he did a lot of both … or, so it seemed.
So you can see why, when Jabba left the radio station to run his own piece of the broadcast industry in quaint little Santa Rosa, I not only breathed a mammoth sigh of relief, I also vowed never to spend one minute in the northern California town. I wouldn’t even stop there for gas!
However, Edd vacated the town several years ago, or so I was told. Even if he hadn’t I think I can take him now. 😉 Regardless, I couldn’t wait to hit the town for a stop at our next Road Trip Hit: Hank’s Creekside Restaurant (2800 4th Street Santa Rosa, CA 95405-4743 707-575-8839). While most of the venues in this series will be found purely by fate, I have to admit that Guy Fieri first previewed Hank’s in his D3 series. For good reason … it rocks! Crab Cake Eggs Benedict
While waiting outside the short 15 minutes for our table we met a lovely retired couple who, for years, had been frequenting Hank’s several times a week. “You can’t order a bad thing on the menu, ’cause they don’t have one”, the gentleman told us while also exalting the virtues of their coffee – “The best I’ve ever had!” The former was music to my ears, while the latter went in one ear and out the other being that I don’t drink java (that’s a story for another time). But, the Cavewoman was eager with anticipation about the prospects of an incredible cup of coffee, as she has told the Cavekids and me on occasion that she likes her cup of Joe better than she likes us! We soon found out for ourselves that our new acquaintance was dead-on on both accounts.
I was close to ordering the house special, Joe’s Scramble, but the allure of the Crab Cake Eggs Benedict was too much for me to bear. The Cavewoman opted to split some Fresh Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes with the Cavegirl while the Caveboy went with a “small” order of French Toast.
Fresh Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes I must say, the house special is going to have to be so off-the-hook incredible if it is going to be in the same league as the Benedict. The Dungeness Crab used in the cakes is so fresh and the filling almost non-existent – it’s amazing the cake holds together. Plus, the flavor it brings to the lemony Hollandaise Sauce and poached-to-perfection eggs is such a perfect combination, you’ll have to really force yourself not to exude sighs of gastronomic pleasure. Though, I didn’t have the strength!
I never got a bite of the Caveboy’s dish because he inhaled it before I could stop mewling long enough to even think about it. Though, I did get in on some of the girls’ Blueberry Pancakes. Boy, am I glad I did! That may have been the best pancake I’ve ever tasted. Fluffy, yet dense. Yes, I know that sounds dichotomous like soft, yet hard; easy, yet difficult; or skinny, yet fat. But, that’s exactly how they were, with just the right amount of Blueberries, too.
As we sat and ate our delicious meal, with a great view of the kitchen counter (and the flowing creek outside, too), plate after plate of amazing looking food kept being swept away to the tables around us. I’m surprised the waitpersons didn’t get annoyed when we continuously asked, “What was that?!?”. It certainly was enough to entice us to come back and try more of the inviting creations Hank’s has to offer. Besides, the Cavewoman exclaimed with her first sip of morning brew, “This is the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had!” So, if nothing else, we’ll be coming back for the perk.

©2010 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at http://cavemancooking.net authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.

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Road Trip Hit: La Coqueta (Santa Maria, CA)

Posted by Caveman Cooking on June 28, 2010

La Coqueta (Santa Maria, CA)
When I’m on the road, there’s nothing better than stumbling into an unfamiliar town (preferably small enough to throw a Frisbee across) and finding a hidden gastronomic gem. I feel as if I’ve miraculously discovered some pirate’s buried treasure … without a map! The only difference is, I can’t wait to share this find with everyone I know. 😉
Hence, the start of a fun new series here on C3: Road Trip Hits. Taking a page from Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, this ongoing series will feature some of those little known paragons of road-trip rations.

I find that, more often than not, I am much better off “following my gut”. And, not just for filling said bottomless pit. It’s weird how, at times, your instinct just kicks in, and you know that you must follow that path, no matter how blind of a journey it may be.
It is with that frame of mind that I have approached this particular road-trip. Sure, I have a few stops in mind. But, other than the McDonald’s a mile from our new Cave that provides one of the all-time-great early-morning travel fare (the Sausage Egg McMuffin with Cheese), and the overnight stay at our cousin’s house in Mill Valley, we haven’t hit one! We’ve just gone with the flow. It is that flow, that belief in going with “feel” rather than “thought”, that brought us to Santa Maria, California, home to our first Road Trip Hit stop … La Coqueta (118 West Chapel Street Santa Maria, CA 93458-4302 805-739-1124).
Salsa, Chips & GuacamoleThe Cavewoman was craving good, authentic Mexican food. As we traveled up Highway 101 into the southern stretches of Central California, we were getting into areas I had passed through numerous times, but was only familiar with one or two local purveyors of good eats. None of which had anything on the menu originating south of the border.
But, when we saw “Main Street” as one of the upcoming exits on the overhead signs, I felt something in my gut. Yes, hunger pangs were making their presence readily felt. However, this was something different. Something that just said, “Get off here, you knuckle-dragging Neanderthal!”. So, I did.
My gut kept us going down Main Street in a westerly direction for a couple of miles. Then, it had me make a right one block past Broadway (yeah, Broadway & Main … I can’t make this stuff up!), then the next right onto West Chapel Street. And, there it was! I mean, you look at this place and it immediately screams, “AUTHENTIC MEXICAN FOOD!”. We parked the car, pried the Cavekids away from their movie in the back seat (Lion King 1 1/2), and took our first tentative steps into our intuitive find.
I should have known that, with the World Cup matches being blasted with Pablo “Goooooooooooooooal” Rameriz’s spanish account of the action, we were in the right place. Though, that confirmation didn’t actually come until we sat down and took that first bite of the complimentary chips and salsa. Much as you know whether or not you’ll like a new haircut as soon as you glance up into that mirror, you know whether or not a Mexican restaurant has any chance of being good with that first taste of fried tortilla and tomato/onion/garlic/cilantro. This place rocked the chips and salsa.
We added an order of guacamole to start things off … that, too, was a good choice. Creamy, yet still plenty of avo-chunks to go along with the tomatoes, onions, cilantro and lime juice. This was the real deal! Plus, the serving size was more than enough for the four of us.
Carnitas PlateThen, it was time to order our main courses. My head kept telling me to go with the Chile Verde plate, but my gut was screaming, “Get the Carnitas, you mouth-breathing fossil-head!”. Who am I to argue with success??? I went with the latter. The kids ordered up some a la carte soft tacos in pollo (chicken) and carne asada (steak) configurations while the Cavewoman went with a Cheese Enchilada.
The made to order food arrived fresh and hot … and goooooooooood! The Caveboy annihilated both of his tacos before Pablo finished screaming “Goal!” on the TV, the Cavegirl left her plate so clean it didn’t seem to have been used, and the Cavewoman accomplished a rare feat for her – finishing her entire plate!
As for the Carnitas, it was as authentic (and delicious) as it comes, and done just the way I like it: a nice “bark” on the outside, yet still tender and juicy on the inside. I just kept slapping them on the generous portion of corn tortillas, and they just kept going down!
Almost as incredible as the food was the price. Our entire meal, including two milks and two Arnold Palmers, was $17 before tip. As they say at Staples, now THAT’S a great price!
At home, I probably would have stopped about halfway through and brought the rest back to the Cave for another meal. However, there just isn’t room for leftovers on the road. Even if you have a cooler, there’s always the issue of reheating them. So, as usual when road tripping, I over-ate because heaven forbid you leave anything that tasty behind! 😆 It was worth it. Besides, all I had to do was loosen the belt a little bit, get behind the wheel, and start driving to our next stop. All while my gut jiggled in delight at, both, being full and being right on the money with the La Coqueta call.

©2010 Caution: Caveman Cooking/UHearMe, Inc. All rights reserved. This originally appeared on the Caution: Caveman Cooking blog at http://cavemancooking.net authored by Caveman. This may be shared and reprinted as long as this entire copyright message accompanies it.

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