Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Rubio's Returns to Utah Valley

I should probably mention that I'm on a quest for the best fish taco. Like most quests, this one has a certain pointlessness and an indeterminate end date. What it means is that when someone offers a fish taco on their menu, I usually try it. So far, I've been pretty disappointed (but not deterred). Most restaurants either have good fish (McGrath's or Magleby's) or good tacos (the now defunct Rosa's), but rarely do you find both. The best I've found is at the Lone Star Taqueria, a Cottonwood Heights legend, but more on that another day.

The best "fast food" fish taco I've found is at Rubios, which has finally returned to Utah Valley. Rubio's began in 1983 as a walk-up taco stand. It was started by Ralph and Ray Rubio in San Diego, CA. As a young man Ralph Rubio had enjoyed fish tacos on his frequent trips to San Felipe in Baja. Provo used to have a Rubio's at the current site of L&L, but when it closed, I had to travel to the Rubio's at 700 East between 300/400 South (by Wild Oats). Now Rubio's has opened at the Meadows in American Fork (just off the Main Street exit). I have to admit that I've been spoiled by some of the better tacos I've had. Sometimes, the Rubio's taco does taste a lot like a big fish stick. It can depend on how well it has been deep fried and how carefully it has been assembled. Remember this is fast food. The Chili-Lime Salmon taco offers a bit of an upgrade, and they also offer a Mahi Mahi taco. (Mahi Mahi sounds a lot more exotic and appetizing than "dolphin fish.") I actually liked the Rubios Carnitas taco best of all. (Perhaps a new quest?) It comes with a really good chimichurri sauce (which is more Argentina than Baja, but it still tastes good).
At their grand opening, Rubio's offered a year's supply of tacos to the first 50 people in the door. Unfortunately, I had to work that day, or we would be "livin' large."

Rubio's is part of the "Fresh Mex" movement that I usually associate with California but that can now be found throughout the country: Rubio's, Bajio, Cafe Rio, Costa Vida, Chevy's (no longer in Utah), Baja Fresh, Qdoba, Taco del Mar, Barbacoa, and Chipotle. If you want some Sonoran food (by way of contrast), try Mi Ranchito at one of its several locations. (But even Mi Ranchito has adjusted its menu to be a little more "Fresh Mex.")

Monday, March 30, 2009

Nothin' Could be Finer . . .

Charlie Boy's Pit BBQ in Springville advertizes itself as "authentic Carolina BBQ." There are certainly signs that it is authentic. You can see the smoker and smell the rich BBQ smoke everywhere. Also, you can buy meat in bulk. That's always a good sign.

What makes it Carolina? There are several distinct regional barbecue traditions. The Carolinas are rich enough to have several of their own. Charlie Boy's provides an eastern-style Carolina BBQ, which means pulled pork, slaw, and a vinegar/hot pepper sauce. (They also offer a beef sandwich, but it is pulled brisket rather than the sliced brisket more common to Texas style.) I didn't find as many sides as I expected, but they did offer up a pretty good potato salad (a little on the sweet side) and good beans. Carolina usually means "whole hog" barbecue, which apparently CB's sponsors on occasion. I thought the sauce was great, on either the pork or beef. (The pork is more authentic Carolina, but I actually like the beef better.) Next time, I'll check into getting a bottle. I'm a big fan of slaw, and I like theirs a lot. And do you suppose you could just get a dozen of their soft rolls?
Charlie Boy's is on 1400 North Main Street in Springville, on the site of the old Brand X Burger (which I never had a chance to sample). There is no indoor seating, but some nice shaded outdoor seating for when things warm up again. (There is a second Charlie Boy's in Lehi.) I'll definitely be back in the summer.

Friday, March 27, 2009

In-N-Out is Coming to Utah--in a big way

All right, it's true that In-N-Out is already in Utah, but it's in St. George, which always feels a little more like Arizona or Nevada to me than Utah. Now it's coming to northern Utah in a big way. Locations are approved an under construction in Draper, American Fork, and West Jordan, and plans are under way for Orem and Layton. The American Fork location has garnered interest because of Chadder's, an In-N-Out knock off. (It's like In-N-Out, but with fry sauce.) Will In-N-Out but Chadder's out of business? Or does have Chadder's have enough of a local following that it can stand up to the California chain? (By the way, Chadder's has just opened a new location in West Valley. Let the battle begin!) Now we can settle the debate about which is better by doing a side-by-side comparison (something that would have required an airplane before).

The Orem location is also interesting because In-N-Out will compete with two other out-of-town chains: EZ Take Out (another CA product) and Five Guys (which originated in Washington, D.C.). Anyone up for the local legends meets out-of-towner burger throwdown? We can try Chadder's, Parker's, Burger Supreme, Apollo Burgers, and Crown Burgers and compare these to In-N-Out, EZ Take Out, and Five Guys. (Then we can all check into the cardiac unit.)

Parker's Drive-Inn

Somehow Parker's Drive-Inn has managed to survive the proliferation of fast-food places in American Fork. There are other "indie" hamburger places in the north valley (JCW's, Purple Turtle, Chadder's), but Parker's is one of the originals. Lillian Parker has owned and operated Parker's for 55 years, and you can still find her working the grills in the back. As I've said in another entry, "Parker's is what Arctic Circle was 50 years ago." I like the fact that you can get a "stake sandwich" there (it's taste that matters, not spelling) as well as some truly "old school" burger joint extras: lime rickey, foot-long hotdog, brown topper, and some great shakes. The only setting at Parker's is outside (at one of the busiest intersections in American Fork), so plan on carry out. You should also be prepared to stand in line, not because they are slow, but because they are busy. They do a brisk call in business (why don't I ever think of this?), and woe to you if you get caught behind the call-in order from Cabela's or Doug Smith Autoplex. (I've had both experiences.) In an age of mass production of food, I'm not sure how long Parker's will stick around, but given the following it has, Parker's might occupy the corner of 500 East and State Road for a long time. (Check out the Herald Extra story on Parker's.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Luck + Cash = Girl Scout Cookies

Girl Scouts never come to our door selling cookies, which is too bad, because we buy just about everything that some kid is selling--football, cheerleading, Boy Scouts, and especially band. (But for some reason, I don't buy anything from those kids who are part of some program to "keep them off the streets"--obviously not working.) We're only able to score GS cookies once every few years, and it's usually by chance. I got some several years ago because someone at work was selling on behalf of her daughter. My son and his friend happened upon some in the parking lot at The Canyons ski resort.

Leaving work on Friday, I found a few girls selling boxes at on the corner across from the bottom of the Maeser hill, just off BYU campus. Knowing the city of Provo, this is probably illegal. Let's hope that if they police did show up, they bought some cookies before moving the little girls along.

The other amazing fact was that I actually happened to have some cash in my wallet--enough for two boxes. ($3.50 per is the going rate.) My favorites? Thin Mints and Do-Si-Dos.

A word to moms and other adult leaders who help with the cookie sale--let the girls actually do the selling. When I got to the little card table, I asked the girls if they had Thin Mints. The adult accompanying them took over immediately. Remember, Courage, Confidence,and Character. Girls will learn this by taking the responsibility themselves. The adults should just be kicking back in a lawn chair nearby.