TOTHT Returns

After an extended hiatus Tales of the Hungry Traveler is returning. After years of traveling for work and eating great good all over the country I spent two years in State College,PA earning my MBA at Penn State. I have since relocated back to the DC Metro region and joined Unison, a creative agency focused on brand and digital. TOTHT will now have a focus on discovering all the great eats in and around Washington, DC.

Dick’s Drive-In – Seattle,WA

Dick's Drive-In

Dick's Drive-In

Name: Dick’s Drive-In

Location: Seattle, WA (Five, soon to be six, locations throughout the city)

Type: Burger joint

Meal: Two burgers, fries, and a milkshake

Seattle is easily associated with new. It is home to Microsoft, Amazon, and Cray Supercomputers. It’s coffee culture is now America’s coffee culture. Grunge and most of its most memorable acts all came out of Seattle and its food scene has long been ahead of the local/sustainable curve. With so much of Seattle that screams cutting edge it was a pleasant surprise to find that is does old quite well.

Dick’s Drive-In is a classic burger joint out of Hollywood casting central. A simple menu done well, a prominent yellow, orange, and white color scheme that screams the 1970s, and more than 50 years of success all contribute to a great experience.

The burgers were good; cheap and light enough that ordering more than one is not out of the question. The Dick’s Deluxe is two patties, cheese, lettuce, mayo, and chopped pickles. Their fries are all cut in-house and are similar enough to traditional fast food fries to be comforting but imperfect enough to be special. Tartar sauce seems to be the preferred condiment for the fries which is interesting because there is no fish on the menu. Milkshakes are made to order and as a fast food milkshake should be, are a bit thinner than what say, Silver Diner serves.

All told, grabbing lunch at the Dick’s window and heading back to your car to enjoy the food and people watch is a great meal. Seattle is many things and Dick’s Drive-In proves that the city always has been.

Dick's Deluxe

Dick's Deluxe

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Booby’s Charcoal Rib – Niles, IL

 Booby's Charcoal Rib

Booby’s Charcoal Rib

Name: Bobby’s Charcoal Rib

Location: Niles, IL

Meal: Skirt Steak Sandwich, Fries, Cole Slaw, and a Coke

Type: Sandwich Shop

One of the culinary strengths of Chicago is that every neighborhood can be home a dozen great restaurants all representing different cuisines. Located to the north, Niles is one of the old Chicago suburbs and has the food heritage that comes with it. In determining where to eat during my limited time in Chicago, I kept hearing about Booby’s.

(Let’s just take a moment for the 11-year-old kid in all of us to giggle at the name.)

Booby’s is a old-school, Greek owned counter, service sandwich shop. They serve everything from sandwiches and gyros to salads and the ubiquitous Vienna Beef hot dogs.  The star of Booby’s is the steak sandwich, a healthy slice of skirt steak char-grilled,  smothered in BBQ sauce, and served plain on crusty bread that has just the right amount of chew to it. The sauce, despite being generously applied, is not overpowering; it provides just the right amount of flavor, letting the grilled taste really shine. Accompanying the meal were fries and cole slaw. Neither of them were too remarkable but that’s not their role, they direct the attention to the sandwich’s simplistic perfection.

As a visitor, and likely a resident, you’ll never have enough time fully explore all that Chicago has to offer your stomach. Booby’s makes my shorter list and I think you’ll agree it is worth it. My only advice, pay cash if there is any concern of Booby’s showing up on your credit card statement.

Steak Sandwich Lunch

Steak Sandwich Lunch

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LOT No.3 – Bellevue,WA

Manhattan

Manhattan

Name: LOT No.3

Location: Bellevue,WA

Meal: Manhattans, Bacon, Onion Dip, Salami Sandwich

Type: Gastropub

Every once and a while you stumble across a place that just clicks with you: it serves the right food, it makes drinks the right way, or looks the way a good place should. LOT No.3 in Bellevue met all three of those conditions. I found myself in Bellevue, home to a wide range of restaurants, looking at websites, trying to figure out where to go for dinner (and possibly grab the end of happy hour). My search came to an end the moment I saw bacon as a menu item at LOT No.3.

Apparently the place is pretty new (14-15 weeks) and designed with a quite appropriate focus on spirits. Any place the includes a section of specialized Manhattans clearly knows that they’re doing. I started with a traditional Manhattan, not too sweet, not too dry, just right. Tyler, the bartender, makes most his own garnishes including a scratch made mix of cherries. At his recommendation I followed that up with two of the appetizers specials, sweet onion dip with chips and bacon. BACON. They serve a plate of bacon, regular and candied. The chips and dip were also good, smooth and creamy but not too thick and heavy. The bar menu was exactly what a good bar menu should be: interesting, salty, and a just filling enough to make you want to order dinner.

Happy hour finished off with a different Manhattan, this one made with root beer bitters. Different yet great.

LOT No.3 is nice enough to include one of Seattle’s great ingredients on their menu, Salumi Salami. A Salumi sandwich on crusty bread with a local beer ended the meal. This was a meal that I was immediately impressed with and looking back it still holds up. I cannot speak highly enough of my experience at LOT No.3; it was great. This is a restaurant worth going pretty far out of your way for. Great food, only surpassed by great service.

Bacon, slab and candied.

Bacon, slab and candied.

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Northshore Hawaiian BBQ – Seattle, WA

Mochiko Chicken

Mochiko Chicken

Name: Northshore Hawaiian BBQ

Location: Seattle, WA

Meal: Mochiko Chicken, Rice, and Macaroni Salad

Type: Pan-Asian

Seattle much like Hawaii is a mixture of various cultures and cuisine (many of them Asian). In driving around Seattle for lunch I spotted Northshore. I had been curious about Hawaiian BBQ, having seen a few TV spots on it. My plan was to order Hawaiian BBQ of some sort but upon sitting down I saw a dish headed to another table and ordered it on the spot. Chicken Mochiko soon was delivered hot and fresh to my table.

Big chunks of chicken thighs breaded in rice flour fresh out of the fryer tossed with a mixture of soy, ginger, garlic, and sugar is Chicken Mochiko (mochiko is rice flour). The plate comes served with two scoops of white rice and a scoop of macaroni salad. The rice makes sense for a Pan-Asian dish, the macaroni does not make sense but it certainly does work. The creamy soft texture of the macaroni salad balances the savory crunch of the chicken.

I don’t see myself getting to Hawaii anytime soon but I am quite happy I’ve had my small taste of the islands. I’m sure the BBQ would have been just a great like many other items on the menu. Every once in a while you need to go with your gut, put down the menu, look around, and order what you see.

Hawaiian Lunch Plate

Hawaiian Lunch Plate

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Triangle Bar & Grill – Pittsburgh, PA

Destroyer Hoagie

Destroyer Hoagie

Name: Triangle Bar & Grill

Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Swissvale neighborhood)

Meal: Italian Hoagie, Potato Chips, and Iced Tea

Type: Sandwich Shop

A sandwich made on a long French or Italian roll is and always will be a hoagie to me. I can thank my suburban Philadelphia roots for that. It is well documented that these sandwiches have many names all over the country but I’m always partial to any to any store with the good sense to call it a hoagie. Triangle Bar & Grill is one such sandwich shop. Their sign brags that it is the home of the Battleship and Destroyer sandwiches (take that submarine sandwich!).

Taking a naval theme their sandwiches ranges in size from Torpedos (4 inches) all the way up to Super Battleship (36+ inches). The varieties cover the usual mix of turkey, tuna salad, and cheesesteak but the star is the classic Italian. I opted for the classic Italian Destroyer, a little bit larger than a footlong. Classic Italian brings you salami, provolone, and ham topped with onion, tomato, lettuce, oil & vinegar, and salt & pepper. The sandwich was on point.

The sandwich has a sweetness to it, possibly from the mayo, possibly from the ham. The sweetness is not over the top though, balanced by the vinegar and salt. The meat and vegetable balance was just right. If I had to give it one critique it would be for a chewier roll (there’s my Philadelphia roots again). Paired with some potato chips and iced tea it has all the makings of a perfect meal. In all honesty an Italian hoagie paired like this is on my short list of last meals, were I ever forced to choose. Swissvale is not the most conveniently located of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods but Triangle Bar & Grill makes it worth the side trip when headed out to Monroeville.

Destroyer

Destroyer

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Philippe the Original – Los Angeles, CA

French Dip Roast Beef Sandwich

French Dip Roast Beef Sandwich

Name: Philippe the Original

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Meal: French Dip Sandwich, Potato Salad, Pickles, Pie, and Lemonade

Type: Sandwich Shop

Sandwiches, done well, tend to simple, wholesome meals. Philippe’s has primarily been making sandwiches for 100 years; they have mastered the simple and wholesome. Located in Los Angeles on the edge of Chinatown, Philippe’s is a restaurant for the everyman. Regards of who you may be outside the restaurant inside you stand in line and  order from the counter just like everyone else. You pay for your food, in cash, and make your way to a shared table often asking your neighbor to pass a bottle of mustard. The reward for checking your ego at the door is a meal that is on many levels satisfying.

The origins of the french dip are debated back and forth but what is important is that it is delicious. Meat is roasted in the oven, sliced thin, and served up a roll which is dunked in au jus at the last moment. The finishing touch of the sandwich is applied at the table when you apply the homemade hot mustard. They warn that the mustard is hot and they are not lying, it is a warming horseradish hot not a spicy, pepper burn hot. I opted for the original roast beef though you can have turkey, lamb, pork, or ham (lamb was a tempting choice).  Rounding out the meal you can add a number of different sides: salads (potato, macaroni, or cole slaw), pickles (eggs,pigs feet, olives, etc.), and desserts. I decided that potato salad, two gherkin pickles, and a slice of blackberry pie would make me quite happy. The potato salad was good, soft but not mushy, enough salt with a touch of sweetness, and with a creaminess to counteract the hot mustard of the sandwich.

All together, my lunch at Philippe’s was one of my more memorable in California though as I was just coming off a five-day battle with food poisoning my standards may have been a little off. I know this was a great meal regardless, it had all the benchmarks. History? Check. Simple menu? Check. Diverse clientele? Check. Value? Check. All the things that make for a great lunch spot are there in abundance at Philippe the Original.

Lunch tray at Philippe the Original

Lunch tray at Philippe the Original

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