Best barbecue Melanie and I have eaten in a while and right here in sunny (or not so much lately 😎) Bakersfield, California.
Melanie ordered the Pulled Pork Sandwich and I ordered the Brisket Sandwich. Her side was potato salad, mine slaw. No alcohol served, but who cares when the barbecue is this good. And the Brisket, not to be missed, if Brisket is your thing.
The service was great and personable and we were able to enjoy the great spring-like weather outside in front of the restaurant on one of two picnic tables.
The owner came out after we finished eating and we chatted with him for a while before we got back on our bikes and rode towards a local car show we'd seen happening in downtown Bakersfield.
He's a great guy, a culinary school grad, but credits his "Mammy" with his love for eating and preparing food. Not sure we caught his name and it's not mentioned on his website. The restaurant is named after nicknames given two of his children.
Porchop and Bubba's BBQ. Highly recommended.o
Cochineal, Marfa, Texas
Alexandra Gates' restaurant, Cochineal, has been on our radar since we first visited for dinner in January of 2019. She was nominated for a James Beard award in 2020.
Last year when we made a pass through West Texas, we happened to be there when Cochineal was closed. Of course the pandemic created a whole other problem for fine dining restaurants.
An aside and a particular quirk of visiting Marfa we find is the hit-or-miss nature of whether a particular business may, or may not, be open. This time, for example, one of Melanie's favorite shops where she's found great post cards was closed for "winter break" on Saturday of the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend. So it goes.
Marfa is just interesting enough given the art scene and good food and a couple of nice hotels and El Cosmico (which offers dry camping for $15.00 a night per person with a few amenities thrown in) and tourists who come from all over the world to experience the wonderful weirdness this remote town of about 1,700 souls offers. Some 40,000 people visit Marfa in any given year. For the record, we camped at the Marfa Lights Viewing Area just outside of town where we've camped several times in the past.
Approaching Marfa this year we are on our way to Tucson, Arizona for what will be one of Melanie's last appearances in an official capacity as executive director for the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. She will attend services in Green Valley, Arizona later this month at Saint Francis in the Valley.
We'd been traveling every day for the past three days when we arrived in Marfa and one of Melanie's first suggestions was dinner at Cochineal. We quickly requested a reservation via email and heard back from them requesting a deposit for the Prix Fixe Menu they were serving on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
We roamed around Marfa during the day on Saturday, looking for post cards, checking out a few of the shops and having a drink at the bar of the Hotel St. George where they also have a really fine art collection on the walls of lobby and bar.
We then parked on the street very near the entrance to Cochineal, Melanie worked a bit more, I streamed a show I've been watching and we then dressed for dinner and walked in.
Dinner exceeded my expectations which were already high. While I remember a very fine meal in 2019, dinner in 2023 was exquisite and one of the best we've had in quite a while. Service was personable and great.
Highlights for me were the House Artisan Bread service with Miso Butter and a Truffle Egg Salad, the Antelope tartar, and Wild Boar with Buckwheat Noodles and Cultivated Mushrooms. Dessert, Japanese Soufflé Cake with Mascarpone Dried Cherry Confiture was amazing.
I also ordered the wine parings which Melanie and I shared with each course.
When visiting Marfa, you now know where to dine.
La Fonda On Main, San Antonio
Sometimes a restaurant bears mentioning again. La Fonda is that good.
We've had dinner and brunch there four or five times as we've passed through San Antonio. Each time has been a treat.
The food and service are always impeccable. Highly recommended.
Shiro, San Antonio, Texas
Our friends, Steve and Kim, live in San Antonio and we like catching up with them as we pass through the area. Steve and Melanie attended law school together at Vanderbilt.
Because of COVID we haven't seen them for a few years so we were happy they consented to meet us for dinner. Having access to locals and their knowledge of the restaurant scene is a plus.
Their daughter who now lives on the west coast was in town recently and recommended to them they dine at Shiro located on the North River Walk and just down the street from San Antonio Museum of Art.
If you're in the mood for some very fine sushi, Shiro is the place in San Antonio. Whether single pieces or their very innovative sushi rolls, you'll not be disappointed.
The atmosphere is great and we had a most wonderful time catching up with our friends.
Since we've been on the road, we've found it difficult at times to get our Chinese fix. We were spoiled as we left Birmingham because of Red Pearl located in West Homewood and many places we've tried around the county are not up to Red Pearl standards.
Looking for lunch after she found and received a new haircut (also hit or miss for her on the road), I found Best Quality Daughter near The Pearl district in San Antonio.
I made a reservation for us, but it was a late lunch for us so by the time we finished nobody but us remained in the outside patio area. Still, Best Quality Daughter seems like a popular spot so reservations are recommended.
Melanie had Curry Shrimp Fried Rice, I had Mighty Good Mushroom Co. Chow Mein. Both delicious and both generous portions.
The Pearl is a great place to explore, the River Walk is nearby and there are many great shops and restaurants nearby.
State of Grace, Houston, Texas
Traveling west through Houston we needed lunch and Melanie found one of the best we've experienced in a while.
Located in the upscale neighborhood, River Oaks, State of Grace is situated in a strip shopping center across from Lamar High School.
While parking was a bit of problem for our 25' van as no parking signs predominated the streets everywhere around the shopping center and High School, we lucked out as The Church of Saint John the Divine was nearby, but closed for the day. Someone at the church did, however, answer their doorbell and graciously consented to allow Miranda a space while we dined.
We walked the short block to State of Grace, entered without a reservation and were promptly seated.
Both food and service were great. Melanie had Crab Fingers (claws for the less well-bred) and Gumbo. I enjoyed the Crispy Oyster Sandwich.
G&B Groovy Food, Clayton, Georgia
Leaving our friends' spot on the headwaters of the Tallulah River in North East Georgia after a restful and joyous couple of weeks, we first traveled to Walmart in Clayton, Georgia where I picked up a few items we needed in Miranda and Melanie received her second COVID booster shot.
After a quick trip to the local post office, I found G&B, one of the few places open in Clayton, Georgia on Monday for lunch.
We were promptly greeted and seated. Our server was both gregarious and helpful with our order.
Melanie enjoyed the Grilled Chicken Gyro, I had one of the specials, their Grilled Cheese Sandwich with a thin slice of roast beef. Each sandwich comes with a choice of sides. I upgraded to their seasonal Butternut Squash soup for dipping my cheese sandwich.
We each had an Arnold Palmer to drink though they have an extensive cocktail and wine list.
Central Cafe, Saint Johnsbury, Vermont
Relatively new to Saint Johnsbury, opening in 2019, it makes sense we are just now discovering the Central Cafe, considering the pandemic.
We had a great lunch there this Saturday past. They also serve a nice variety of pastries, coffee, etc. and have a funky ambiance worth the experience. Check it out.
Smoked, American Barbecue
We're in Great Falls, Montana for a few days, in residence at the local KOA on the outskirts of town.
Melanie booked a hair cut cutting for today and I'd made arrangements to have the brake pads on my bike replaced yesterday. So, while she was getting coiffed, I made my way over and picked up my bike.
I figured I should find lunch since Melanie had a couple of pieces of fruit while she worked this morning, but, honestly I wasn't feeling too good about the prospects for finding something worth our while.
We had dinner out last evening and, while the food was edible, the restaurant doesn't warrant a mention though it did remind us of one of our go-to restaurants back in Alabama, The Bright Star. The food wasn't nearly as good, but the wood paneled room of longstanding was reminiscent of Bright Star.
I Google "Best Lunch Great Falls" and from my location near Melanie's salon and Smoked, American BBQ came up as as possibility. They mention on their site they have the best ribs in Montana. Okay. Sold.
While we didn't try the ribs, we do highly recommend the pulled pork and brisket sandwiches. The brisket is the best I've had since we were in Mobile and had it at Meat Boss. That's high praise.
They even have a white sauce a al Big Bob Gibsons'. The owner told me he keeps up with those who produce BBQ all over the country. Recommended.
Melanie and Steven