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Posted by Michael Stern on Thursday, February 12, 2015 3:27 AM

Originally opened in 1973, Mother Hubbard’s Café became known to Tucsonians as a hash house with an extraordinarily cheap breakfast special of eggs, hash browns, and toast -- for all of 79 cents in the beginning. By the turn of the millennium, the price of the meal was up to $2; and today, it will cost you over $5. But almost nobody comes to Mother Hubbard’s any more for eggs, potatoes, and toast. They come for Contemporary Native American Comfort Food.

When Kelzi Bartholomaei bought the place in 2010, her plan was to offer dishes that combined indigenous southwest ingredients – chile in particular – with native foodways (very little wheat is used) to create breakfasts and lunches that are unavailable anywhere else: blue corn and pine nut waffles, for example; chorizo sausage that is hot but also sweet; corned beef with a twist of Thai pickling spices. Ham is smoked on premises, sliced thin, soft as velvet. The Hollandaise on top of eggs Benedict is the consistency of light cream, pure and buttery. The English muffin underneath is made from a spectacularly sour sourdough that the menu advises is 75 years old.

I love the Pueblo green corn waffle, which is dotted with sweet corn kernels. When I waver on the choice of red or green chili to adorn it, waitress Faith asks, “You like spicy? You want green chile.” Yes, indeed, the chili is radiant, adding welcome zip to waffle and eggs. The coffee served alongside is blah, but orange juice is squeezed to order.

Mother Hubbard’s sausage repertoire is grand. In addition to the crumbly chorizo, there are turkey-sage, apple-onion, Italian, Cajun, and country. Beyond blue or green corn, available waffles (all gluten-free) are cornbread, buckwheat, coconut buckwheat, potato (with or without bacon), and lemon poppy seed.

For all its culinary aspiration, Mother Hubbard’s remains an inexpensive, humble café, a simple, rectangular storefront in a tumbledown shopping mall. Décor is whimsical Day of the Dead skeleton art and tables are covered with flower-pattern oilcloth.
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Roadfood of the Day: Joe's Real BBQ - Gilbert, AZ
Posted on Thursday, February 12, 2015

1/2-Pound Meat Plate

The 1/2-lb meat plate comes with your choice of one or two meats and one or two sides. I had the brisket and pork ribs, with cheesy potatoes and BBQ pit beans. An ice cold Stewart's cherry and cream soda pop to wash it all down really hit the spot!
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Posted by Michael Stern on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 12:22 PM

Named for Dagwood Bumstead, the Chick Young cartoon character who loved mile-high sandwiches, the Dagwood has been star attraction at the Sycamore Drive-in for years, billed on the menu as "The Final Answer to the Hamburger." Now the Dagwood has a mate, named for Mr. Bumstead's wife, Blondie. The Blondie is a lace-edged burger festooned with jack cheese, bacon, tomato, chipotle mayonnaise, and jalapeno pepper chips that pack real heat. Patrick Austin, whose family has been keeping the classic 1948 eatery in fine fettle since the 1990s, explained, "Blondie was a hot number. Her burger should be, too." The Blondie's heat is beautifully complemented by a frosty mug of Sycamore root beer and a heap of house-made potato chips. Drive-in dining at its finest! ( review)

Posted on Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Here's a quad espresso, waiting to be gulped.
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Roadfood of the Day: Voodoo Doughnut - Portland, OR
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Old Fashioneds

There is an immensely satisfying crunch to the crust of these old fashioned doughnuts, glazed to the left, chocolate-frosted to the right.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Monday, February 9, 2015 4:18 AM

Bacon Cheeseburger

Hodad’s motto, on a sign above the cash register: “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem!”

Here is the definitive Southern California beachside burger joint, serving truly amazing hamburgers. Available in three sizes (mini, single, and double), as cheeseburgers or bacon cheeseburgers, solo or as part of a basket with a pile of French fries, these burgers are a sight to behold. The double, which is two good-size patties, is huge beyond belief, piled inside a broad sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup. The menu warns that all burgers come with all condiments “unless you say otherwise”; and frankly, we suggest that unless you are allergic, all the way is the only way to go.

The hamburger is presented partially wrapped in yellow wax paper, which provides a way to hoist it from the table and to keep it relatively together as you try to eat it. "That paper is your burger trough," proprietor Mike Hardin told us many years ago. (Hardin passed away in 2015.) He said, "We tell people, 'Do not take the paper off! It is there for a purpose.'" The purpose is to keep the immense thing from disintegrating. Mike pointed around the dining room at veteran customers wolfing down not merely huge hamburgers, but doubles, which are an insanely larger bun, larger patty, and larger larder of toppings all in one package. He noted that experts all eat their Hodad hamburgers the same way. Grasping it by the paper-covered part, they gingerly rotate it around within the wrapper; and most important of all, they never let go of it once they hoist it from the plastic-weave basket in which it is served. "Eat your onion rings and French fries first. Drink your milk shake. Do whatever else you have to do," Mike explained. "Then, pick up your hamburger." We did notice that the Big Kahunas of Hodad's tables – those with literally very large hands – were able to keep a semi-wrapped double bacon cheeseburger secure in one mitt while they plucked French fries with the other. But barneys who don't focus on keeping it together risk epic burger wipe-out.

Just getting to Hodad’s is a blast. Lined with palm trees, and with a gorgeous ocean view, Newport Avenue is a colorful part of the city. It is occupied by surf shops, alternative hair salons, juice bars, and high-proof bars; and this rockin’ joint fits right in! Its walls are festooned with vanity license plates from around the nation; surfboards are strung above the dining room. Seating includes hard wood booths and a counter along the wall with stools. Each booth is outfitted with a cardboard container that once held a six-pack of beer bottles. The half-dozen compartments are now used to store sugar and sweeteners for coffee.

Special thanks to San Diegan Michael Kawamoto for originally suggesting Hodad’s.
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Roadfood of the Day: Di Fara Pizza - Brooklyn, NY
Posted on Monday, February 9, 2015

Chris, Amy, and I split this pie with pepperoni and semi-dried cherry tomatoes that was bursting with flavor.
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Posted on Sunday, February 8, 2015

Triple Threat

At under a dollar apiece, a trio of old-fashioned donuts makes a fine bargain breakfast. Annie's donuts have a wicked crunch to their gnarly skin and rich, cakey insides. Pictured here are glazed, maple, and chocolate.
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Posted by Michael Stern on Saturday, February 7, 2015 5:13 AM

Pimiento Cheese Sandwich

Merridee's is a casual bakery cafe where people come early in the day to buy breads and pastries to take home or to sit down for breakfast or lunch. Place an order at the counter and they'll call your name when it is ready, by which time, hopefully, you will have found a seat. The repertoire includes hot breakfasts and a vast array of oven-fresh rolls (almond swirl, cinnamon twist, sticky bun, muffins, biscuits, scones, etc.) as well as lunch of sandwiches, salads, and crescents ("No, not croissants!" says the menu), which are homemade bread doughs wrapped around turkey and honey mustard, spinach and feta cheese, or roast beef and Swiss. Box lunches, packed and ready to go, are a handy alternative for people who need to eat elsewhere.

Pimiento cheese, a mid-south passion, is the essential sandwich. It is not dramatically different from ordinary cheese spread, but subtle difference is just the point. Pimiento cheese is all about nuance: the slight zip of chopped pimientos and sweet relish and their red and green sparkle in the gentle-flavored cheese. While hearty and satisfying, it has a refined character that sings of ladies' lunch rooms, afternoon tea, and Dixie finesse.

For dessert: cake, pie, fudge brownies, and sugar tea cakes. There is a nice variety of espresso coffee drinks.
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Roadfood of the Day: Teddy's Restaurant - Rome, NY
Posted on Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Best I've Ever Had

Teddy's chicken parm: crisp crust, gooey cheese, and lots of flavorful marinara sauce.
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