Boat to table
Long have we enjoyed the hefty sandwiches and stacked, house-ground burgers at Arcata Pizza and Deli. They're almost enough to hinder exploring the rest of the chalkboard menu. And, OK, maybe rolling in late at night, a little worse for wear, you weren't in the mood to experiment with the seafood.
Let your gaze drop to the "Hook & Line" board with the big fish on top. The owners of APD are also the captains of a pair of fishing boats, the Scrimshaw and the Markit 8, the fruits of which arrive weekly on the board and in fried fillets via little red, paper-lined baskets from the kitchen.
The local lingcod fish and chips ($16) came courtesy of the Scrimshaw this week. The delicately panko-crusted fillets break open to steamy, tender, white fish that is lovely with just a squeeze of lemon or one of the two accompanying sauces: a sweet, tangy citrus aioli or a traditional tartar sauce. U.K. natives will sigh over the lack of batter and wedge-cut potatoes, but given our refusal to follow your spelling conventions, isn't this rather a small thing? Let yourself enjoy a haystack of skinny fries that are as close as you can get to fast food (in the best way) without that one friend making you watch a documentary on factory farming again. Trust us, this is better.
If you still have room in your boat, the clam chowder ($3.80 cup, $7 bowl) will make you forget about the goopy business you can stand a spoon in. Instead, it's none too salty and full of skin-on potatoes and decidedly un-canny clams with a little white wine whisked into the cream.
While you are poking around the Lao Oriental Market (2908 E St., Eureka) on a Saturday, rooting through boxes of bitter melon and eggplants both long and golf ball sized, it's easy to overlook the unmarked stack of a couple dozen paper-wrapped bành mí sandwiches ($5.99). Easy and tragic.
Let's appreciate for a moment the Vietnamese creation — called khao ch in Laos — that looks France in the eye and asks, Frère, do you even sandwich? The flavors of fragrant cilantro and the spicy, tart, sweet pickled radish and carrot against the mix of savory meat, eggs, tofu or fish are unmatched. Its variations are many, even reaching into the realm of dessert.
Those found at the little Henderson Center shop, brought up from the Bay Area on most Saturdays (and Saturdays only), are the version we see perhaps most often in the U.S., with a schmear of peppercorn-spiked pâté, layers of pale Vietnamese pork sausage, ham and head cheese, along with cilantro, sliced fresh jalapeños and a smattering of pickled daikon radish and carrot. The baguette is a little more delicate than the usual around here, flaking off as you unwrap your slightly dented prize. Don't dwell on the superficial imperfections. Focus on the riot of tastes, the vegetable crunch and the perfect balance of something that's come so far to meet you.
Cookies from the burrito place
Amigas Burritos has long had a loyal following, one that's hanging in with the change of ownership since Jorge Bravo, who worked there some 12 years, bought it two years ago. Regulars come for the burritos but we're here for dessert. The saucer-sized cookies in plastic wrap by the register are unremarkable looking but they're grandma-level stuff.
These are the kinds of homemade goodies you used to have to mow somebody's lawn for. The thick, palm-sized brownie's flaky top is dotted with chocolate chips and wonderfully fudgy and moist, right to the crusty corners ($1.35). There's also a two-hander of a peanut butter-chocolate chip cookie with chopped peanuts that bends and breaks in that gentle way only fresh cookies do ($1.25). The oatmeal, cranberry and white chocolate cookie is a soft, lumpy fall treat alternative for those who are pumpkin spiced out ($1.25).
If you're lucky, the mini cheesecakes Bravo whips up won't be sold out ($2.50). More airy mousse than dense cheesecake, the lightly tangy fluff topped with berries comes in a cup of crumbly graham cracker crust that honestly could fall apart from a harsh word. But it's a simple, sweet surprise at the burrito shop.
Share your Hum Plate tips with Jennifer Fumiko Cahill, arts and features editor at the Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or Jennifer@northcoastjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.