If the wall-to-wall Betty Boop décor (down to a tacked-up pair of socks) doesn't give it away, the sign exclaiming that pizza fries with meatballs and cheese are back should clue you in that Deb's Great American Hamburger Company (3340 Redwood Drive, Redway) is not about subtlety. Good thing, too.
You will be grateful for the more-is-more aesthetic untethered to trends or changing theories about "nutrition" when the fast and focused young woman from the counter finds your little, red vinyl-covered table and puts down your hefty Western burger ($9.47). The patty itself is a beast — thick and browned under a swath of melted cheese — on a white bun with a crisp onion ring and bacon. And bacon. Languid, brick red slices, salty and just-chewy-enough, drape out over the sides to taunt those who ordered the simple cheeseburger, pleasingly old-fashioned as it is ($8.52). In fact, there's enough of the stuff that snaking a piece from my husband's burger did not leave me hitchhiking home from Redway.
How's your cold? Just kidding. No one cares. You missed getting sick when everyone else was coughing and sneezing, and now that your friends and co-workers are healed up, they have no sympathy for you. Fine. You can drown your sorrows in more canned soup and cough syrup or you can drag yourself to a corner table — away from other customers, Typhoid Mary — at Pho Lan Phuong (1709 Fifth St., Eureka) and order the hot and spicy beef noodle soup ($9.75).
Don't be frightened by the color of the chili oil or the red letters on the menu; it's not crazy spicy. In fact, there's just enough heat in the lemongrass broth to help you fake the glow of health. Toss in the sprouts and squeeze the lime in there with a couple of jalapeno slices, and breathe in the scent of the cilantro. It's not terribly salty, so if you feel the need to paint the town red with that squeeze bottle of Sriracha or other condiments, you go ahead. There are thick, comforting rice noodles, slices of beef shank and soft hunks of tendon. Hey, collagen-rich tendon is supposed to be good for your skin, and you need something to lord over those insufferable healthy people.
Spoiling Your Meat
When America was just starting to wring its apron over whether chickens should be caged or cattle fed on grass, Japan was already deep into the business of spoiling its livestock, massaging cows and feeding them beer to produce wagyu, or Kobe beef as it's known here. The porcine equivalent is kurobuta (meaning "black pig"), a heritage breed of hog originally from England, living and eating better than you did in your first apartment. The relaxed beasts produce succulent, marbled meat.
Abruzzi (780 Seventh St., Arcata) keeps the pampering going in its herb crusted kurobuta pork loin with Marsala cream sauce ($28). The meat is cooked to a blushing medium rare — perfectly safe, but order it on the medium side if it's going to throw you off — which is enough to warm up that marbling and bring out the sweet flavor without overcooking. The peppery rind of fat is to be enjoyed and will chase away all memory of the leathery slabs once marketed as "the other white meat." All this sits atop springy sautéed chanterelle mushrooms, greens, firm white beans and fingertip-sized chunks of pancetta, browned and nicely salty. These accompaniments are a pleasure on their own, but the herby Marsala sauce provides a balance to the slightly bitter greens, and you'll appreciate it when swiping up the last of it with a slice of pork and a mushroom speared on your fork. And there you are, a sated, relaxed and slightly marbled beast yourself.