Some of us leap flip-flop first into summer at the first hiss of lawn sprinklers. For the rest of us, zipping up our hoodies in vampiric fear of the sun and denial over the year whizzing by, a little incentive is required. A slice of Key lime pie will help.
There is patio seating at Café Nooner (409 Opera Alley, Eureka) for those who are ready for it — otherwise, take the baby step of snagging a window table. The Key lime pie looks like a tall, slick wedge of cheesecake ($4). At the bottom is a pinky-thick graham cracker crust, sandy and salty-caramelized against the sweet and tart, dense filling. It speaks to the kind of beachy pleasures that don't require exercise, more Hemingway-esqe boating around the Florida Keys with a cigar than oceanside yoga in Malibu.
Come out of hibernation, friends. There's pie out here.
Tucked back from the street, its fence camouflaged with peeling fliers, La Chiquita (1021 I St., Arcata), brick-and-mortar counterpart to the taco truck of the same name, is easily missed on the walk past Los Bagels and Wildwood Music. Luckily, there is the smell of steamy tortillas and carnitas to turn your head.
A news editor who prefers to remain anonymous claims that the beans, rice and homemade flour tortillas are so good that he can be content with a simple bean burrito. But if you want to go past contentment, he suggests the pastor burrito ($6.90).
"Burrito? Yeah. Good choice," says a deeply relaxed customer as we pick up our foil-wrapped bundles at the counter. "You gotta get the hot sauce."
Out in the sunshine at a battered picnic table, taking the first bite into the pliant layers of warm, translucent flour tortilla at the top, we were feeling a little relaxed, too. Inside, the rice and beans are as promised — the coral-colored rice being fluffy and flavorful, and the beans being a well-seasoned mix of black and pinto, half mashed and half whole. And the hunks of pork inside have the juicy richness of fatty, fall-apart carnitas with a red-orange sheen of the chili sauce that gives it a little tang and heat. Bite. Groan. Repeat.
"How was it?" calls our fellow diner, who's pleased to get a thumbs up. As we head out, another patron making the turn onto the patio and up La Chiquita's steps catches his eye. "Yeah," he cheers from his table. "Another good decision."
The Crabs get most of the local press, but the summer sun shines on Bomber Field, too. The Humboldt B-52s haven't got a live band yet but the snack shack platoon is performing this season (Redwood Acres, Eureka). Pay for your entry stamp at the folding table and hook right once inside to find yourself immersed in the sounds of the season: the crack of the bat, applause from the crowd and the surf-like shhhh of the deep fryer.
On a recent evening, the concessions counter was staffed by a pair of towering players who shrugged and grinned as they relayed orders to the pros in the back, a couple of women pivoting in the narrow galley between tubs of shredded lettuce and patties on the hissing grill. As a customer went into a mild panic upon receiving her satellite dish of a quesadilla, we ordered the Bomber Burger with grilled onions ($8).
Your debate over whether the hamburger is a sandwich is rendered irrelevant by this cheese-topped beef patty with lettuce, tomatoes and onions (grilled or raw), all of which is held together by a pair of grilled cheese sandwiches instead of a bun. It's a gimmick that works. The flattened sandwiches are both sturdier and tastier than a standard white bun — also weirdly not as painfully filling as one would imagine eating a cheeseburger and two grilled cheese sandwiches to be. And as you listen to the chosen walk-up music of the next batter, Will Smith's "Wild Wild West," it's a reminder that anything goes in the summer. Well, almost.
Going back for seconds? Tell us where. Share your hot tips about local food by emailing Jennifer@northcoastjournal.com or via Twitter @JFumikoCahill, and the Hum Plate investigative team will check it out.