There's a recession on, but apparently we still need to eat. When this year's Menu of Menus hit stands (and the Journal's app), a couple of places hadn't officially opened yet. Three of them are in downtown Eureka.
Who doesn't love a stadium dog? And yet, even as you unwrap the foil, isn't something telling you that it's not quite a meal? Places like Pink's in Los Angeles and nearly everywhere in Chicago have been loading up heartier hot dogs for years.
In Humboldt, fancier franks have popped up here and there, and a rivalry or two have even developed. But rainy weather can take the old-fashioned joy out of stopping at a cart.
Now, in the stately lobby of the Vance Hotel on Second Street, Wolf Dawg is serving up specialty hot dogs with an endless menu of over-the-top toppings and a solid roster of beers. It'll run you more than a giant Costco dog, but Amy Wolfe and Viola Wolford, two single moms who started the business, are serving up some high-end show dogs.
Evergood sausages are simmering in beer broth, and the substantial "Reuben Dog" comes with thin-sliced pastrami, County Fair sauerkraut and pickle, Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing. If you've just been dumped or audited, the "Mac Daddy" hits all the comfort food buttons. It's topped with homemade macaroni and cheese (wonderfully lumpy and rich), a slice of bacon and crumbled potato chips. Be prepared to use a knife and fork. And maybe take a nap.
It's puzzling that there isn't more Indian food in Humboldt. Sure, there's been a buffet in Eureka for years and a truck in Arcata, but that's nothing compared to the number of local vegetarians (seriously, India owns vegetarian cuisine) and meat eaters alike who love a good curry. But India's tricky — roughly a third the size of the United States, with all the regional variations you might get between, say, Florida and Boston. So it can be tough to get back to that semi-religious experience you had over a masala in San Francisco.
Live in the now and try something new. Over on 5th and G Street, Bollywood, the new South Asian option in town, is up and running. Kiranjeet and Indarjeet Saini are from a Bombay restaurant family, and they come to Humboldt by way of San Francisco and Seattle. Previous tenants have struggled with the layout of the restaurant's location, including the nearly all-glass front and the windowless back room. The brothers Saini are installing flatscreens to play Bollywood movies in the front and rear dining rooms.
No buffet here — Indarjeet is cooking dishes order (except for long-cooking curries, of course) in the small kitchen up front. It takes a little longer, but this is the price of non-frozen samosas. Pulao ($9.99-$11.99), the saucy cousin of the rice dish biryani, is prepared Bombay street style, and the saag paneer (spinach curry, $9.99) is of the creamy gravy variety rather than the deep green puree. There is no naan. It's OK. Let it go and enjoy the firm, fresh cheese in the matter paneer (green pea curry, $9.99) with a warm tortilla-like roti. Or order up the dal (lentil curry) — it's what Indarjeet makes for himself when he goes home.
When the Fifth Street location of Z & J's Asian Subs closed, those of us in walking distance felt its loss keenly. (A little dramatic since there's still one next to Target.) The smoker wasn't cold for long. Humboldt Smokehouse is still in soft opening stage, but you can smell the double smoked bacon down the street.
Dave Isaacs, Steve Macknicki and Rick Crum have built a small but serious menu around their pulled pork and Kansas City beef. Each takes around 22 hours in the smoker and a couple more to rest before serving. The result is tender, tender barbecue.
The pulled pork sandwich ($10) comes with crumbled bacon and a grown up coleslaw on a no-frills white burger bun. Don't be afraid to order the burnt ends — it's meat from the tips of a brisket, and if you delight in the soft, tasty fat on a good steak or rib, then it's for you. Order it in a pile in a barbecue box, or on a roll with smoked cheddar, bacon and scallions ($10 each). Light a candle and hope they bring back ribs.
Still on the way is the Espresso Fiasco on F Street right downstairs from the Journal offices, and the Black Lightning Motorcycle Café up the street on the corner of 5th. Lunch downtown is looking up.