Another day, another lunch. Working in Sunnyvale has definitely had its lunchtime limitations, but when I looked hard enough, there was definitely greatness to be found. Asian food has proven itself as the area's strong suit so it was almost unsurprising that there's a real, legit, banh mi-slinging hole-in-the-wall in Sunnyvale. This shop, called Cam Hung, is located in an extremely nondescript strip mall parking lot much like every other decent eatery in Sunnyvale and would be next to impossible to spot if you weren't intentionally seeking it out. It's literally not visible from the street and has almost no signage to catch the eyes of passerbys so its a little amazing that they get traffic.
This is probably the most bizarrely happy-go-lucky place anywhere on the entire planet. On this day, torrential rain was falling from the sky, the shop's WiFi was out so the normal music source was unusable, and many of the ingredients had not and were not going to be delivered. But, that couldn't hold the Dat Dog staff down – it's not in their nature. In fact, from the moment I laid my eyes upon that gigantic, two-story, neon, multicolored building on New Orleans' Magazine Street, I knew there was something special about the place. I think passing through those Heinz mustard-colored doors functioned as a sort of portal to a comically super-happy alternate dimension.
In general, Paso Robles is a pretty quiet, sleepy, little wine town. Whether you're looking for a nice place to drink or eat dinner downtown, people tend to recommend the same handful of places. That's probably because new bars and restaurants don't open very often, and the options always are what they are. But, when new bars and restaurants do open, they tend to cause a big stir. Recently, a massive new bar and restaurant popped onto the downtown scene – a trendy, upscale, Baja-style Cal Mexican joint called Fish Gaucho and I knew on my most recent trip that I had to see for myself what all of the hype was about.
Is it wrong that I want to eat Indian food surrounded by Indians? I don't want this to come off sounding bad, but there's something that just feels right about eating in an ethnic restaurant that's actually filled with people of that ethnicity. I view it as a sort of tip of the hat to the place's street cred and I've often found that it's a pretty consistent indicator to determine if the place is going to be authentic and good. Just think about it, if Indians don't want to eat this food when they're dining out, why would I?
The San Francisco food scene is full of all sorts of inventive, creative crossover cuisines. And one of the city's most loved and most delicious integrated creations comes from a beloved Filipino-fusion vendor called Señor Sisig. This city seriously has so much love for this truck – I've honestly never heard a negative word spoken against it, and that says a lot in a city so extremely divisive and combative about whose favorite place is best. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that they exist in a category all alone by themselves – absolutely no one else is competing in the Mexican-Filipino arena. And why would they? This truck's reputation alone would be nearly impossible to topple.
From the first moment many years ago when I heard about the Gilroy Garlic Festival – a festival designed to celebrate garlic in all of its many uses – I knew I had to go at least once in my life. I am a garlic-lover after all, even though you may recall that my recent visit to a world famous garlic-centric restaurant in San Francisco ended with disastrous results. But, I figured if any place could redeem the concept of garlic worship, the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival would be it. My move this year to San Francisco put me in close enough proximity to this Winston Wanders bucket list destination and provided the perfect opportunity to make my much-awaited garlicky pilgrimage to the Garlic Capital of the World.
It's feeling like summer, so let's talk about summery things. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone but, I'll say it anyway – New Orleans gets freaking hot in the summer. And when the people of NOLA find themselves melting under the oppressive sun, they rely on a steady intake of freezing cold shaved ice treats known in this town as Snowballs. You're probably familiar with this sort of summery snack and you also probably know it by another region-specific name – Italian Ice, Water Ice, Shaved Ice, a Snocone, or any other myriad of alternatives. But in NOLA, it's a Snoball. And there's one place that become the most famous for them and draws the biggest crowds of all called Plum St. Snowballs.
Though the Mission is best known for its abundance of casual, inexpensive taquerias, monstrous burritos, and other Latin American street foods, those are certainly not the only kinds of cheap eats you can find. If you know where to look, there are actually quite a few non-Latin gems. Take for instance, Duc Loi – a gigantic grocery store right on bustling Mission Street that looks just like any other market with one major difference – its vast selection of hard-to-find ethnic Latin American and Asian ingredients.
When people hear "California", visions of sun-soaked, brah-filled, coastal, Southern California beach towns usually fill their minds. Imagine the level of surprise and disappointment we've seen on our unknowing out-of-towner guests' faces when they come to visit us in San Francisco and are faced with our unusual patchwork of foggy and rather chilly micro-climates instead of a permanent summer. It always throws them for a (disappointed) loop. Really, Nor-Cal and So-Cal are so extremely different that it would probably make sense to consider them two separate states, but that's a whole 'nother conversation. But, there is a place like this dreamlike version of California that does exist in Nor-Cal and it's actually not that far from San Francisco. This place actually has that stereotypical beach bum vibe where surfers and skaters live their carefree suntanned lifestyles and tourists flock to catch rays of sunshine. This place is Santa Cruz.
Over my many trips to Texas and other parts of The South, there's one thing I've learned for sure – the most delicious foods usually come deep-fried. There are exceptions, of course, but in general I've found that Southerners have a very skilled hand using a deep fryer. Whether it's deep-fried bacon, deep-fried eggs, deep-fried breakfast steak, deep-fried vegetables, deep-fried cheese, deep-fried balls of mystery meat, deep-fried sushi rolls, deep-fried samoa Girl Scout cookies, deep-fried sandwich fillings, or even an entire deep-fried sandwich – it's all bound to taste really good and of course be really bad for you. But, one of the simplest, but most incredible things I've found you can get deep-fried in Texas is catfish and there's one place I constantly return to for the very best – Huck's Catfish in Denison, Texas.