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Hum Plate Roundup

The pleasure of eating like a grown-up

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In a youth-obsessed society, it's important to remember the many perks of being an adult. Here are a few meals worth putting away childish things for.

Happy Hour Revival

Pessimists hoisting crudely made signs would have you believe that our society is circling a wide cultural drain and that the end is nigh. I would direct their attention to the recent renaissance of happy hour.

Sure, the drinks were always cheap, but didn't it used to mean dark curly fries and freezer-burned wings? Not at the Carter House's swanky little loft of a bar (301 L St., Eureka). A sprinkling of parmesan slivers (you wouldn't be wrong to ask for extra) sweats over a pile of hot, crisp, skin-on steak fries tossed with truffle oil ($3.50 during happy hour). Don't roll your eyes. Take a bite. That wee bit of mushroomy richness makes the difference between absent hand-to-mouth fry munching and eating. No ketchup necessary.

If you can get that at the bar, it's not time to stock the bunker just yet.

Sandwich Porn

When you name something the "XXX Adults Only Grilled Cheese Sandwich," you're making a statement. A reader sent in an email tip about her favorite order at Lost Coast Café and Bakery (468 Main St., Ferndale), and her flustered description of the sandwich read a bit like vintage Penthouse Forum. The first time I ordered it, I had to borrow a woman's phone to snap a lurid photo of it. She never sent me the image — maybe she wanted to keep it for herself, and I can't really blame her.

The XXX is a pile-on of cheddar, jack and feta cheeses melted over grilled onion, zucchini, mushroom, tomato and jalapeno — just enough for a little heat — on grilled homemade wheat bread ($7.25). Beyond homemade, actually, since chef Mario Lorenzo mills the local wheat himself. Who does that? The same guy who whips up the pesto aioli slathered on the bread. Don't try to pick the XXX up like a diner grilled cheese; this is a fork and knife situation. The thick, crusty-edged slices of bread are too tender to support the fillings, and you want to eat it, not wear it. Or maybe you do — the lingering smell of pesto aioli is sexy as hell.

Bar None

It's dismaying to hear how many people have not had a steak at the AA Bar & Grill (929 Fourth St., Eureka). Maybe you're new in town. Maybe you're coming out of a no-red-meat phase. Maybe you're just a little skittish about eating right across from the jail in a dark bar with the letters "AA" over the sign. Understandable.

But eating a steak at "the double A," as it's known, is about cultural and culinary literacy. It's also about a serious 14-ounce sirloin steak ($21) that harkens back to the glorious tradition of just eating steak — no fancy marinade, no melange of anything — something harder and harder to find outside early episodes of Mad Men. And the steak is good. The marble, the salty, charred exterior and the deep pink meat that, shockingly, comes as you ordered it, medium-rare in this case. There will be a tiny cup of soup and a little green salad — eat them to make your mom happy. Then pick up your knife and Ron Swanson this thing. No, the rings and fries aren't homemade. But when the juice from your steak flows under them and soaks them to a cocoa red, do you really care? No. No, you do not. For it is the taste of freedom a stone's throw from the big house.

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