When Bacon is Your Jam
There is nothing like the crushing disappointment of sharing intel on a favorite hole-in-the-wall — the labyrinthian directions! the semi-sketchy location! the limited hours! — only to find your confidante has already eaten there.
Sniff out whether or not members of your carnivorous inner circle have hit up BullDoggies hot dogs yet (1125 Summer St., Eureka). For obscurity, you can't beat it. It's not even a food truck yet — it's a tent-covered cart parked in front of a commercial kitchen behind the Clark Street Post Office.
Huddled in a tent with layers guarding against the chilly air and a platoon of condiments and relishes, the proprietors serve half a dozen variations of the beef dog on a standard white bun.
A standout among these is the Bourbon-maple bacon jam dog ($5.50) heaped with caramelized onions. This is not a dog with a snappy casing, if that's important to you, but it meets all smoky-sweet-bacon needs with the "jam," which is not so much of a preserve as a warm, loose topping. As you chew, your mind may start racing with other applications for the bacon jam, which apparently started out as something to spoon over a pork loin. Prepare to experiment, as little jars are sometimes available for $5.
San Diego Homesick Blues
Now and then, you may see a faraway look in the eyes of those of us without Frumboldt stickers on our cars, who hail from elsewhere but were lured here by Humboldt's verdant charms (or perhaps the charms of a Humboldter). We long for the food of our homelands. You may wave a hand in our faces but we are far away, spirited back by memory to remembered barbecue shacks, deli counters, dim sum joints and pubs, ordering our usual.
Your San Diegan friend is likely dreaming of Roberto's, the 50-year-old gold standard for the city's signature carne asada burrito. And in a real desire to help, you may have taken him or her to your favorite spot only to see a perfectly fine burrito met with a sad smile and that distant look again.
Don't give up. That funny log cabin-looking building near the courthouse has been hastily painted over yellow and converted into Raliberto's Taco Shop (1039 Fourth St., Eureka), an outpost of the franchise rumored to have been started by a relative of the Roberto's dynasty. Right by the courthouse. Takeout is not a bad idea.
The Journal's token San Diegan was pleased. The carne asada burrito ($5.95) is a slightly-too-chewy flour tortilla stuffed with fistfuls of marinated chopped beef, pico de gallo and guacamole. That's it. No rice, no beans, no cheese. Between bites its SoCal minimalism drew sounds of happy surprise from northerners, too, as did its torta cousin ($5.95) on a soft bun with the addition of a little shredded lettuce. Much of the credit goes to the green and red salsas, little shot cups with no lumps and plenty of heat.
You stay classy, San Diego.
Early evening at Five Eleven (511 Second St., Eureka), with its azure concrete floor and shining glass tile bar, is a bit like relaxing in rather than beside a very chic swimming pool. On a recent night, adjacent tables were stocked with flat-billed hats, toddlers picking at fancy pizza and older patrons discussing the fine line between appetizers and small plates — all of us likely wishing we were as flatteringly lit as the bottles behind the bar.
By 6 p.m., there were only three orders of the special appetizer left: roasted beef marrow bones served with micro greens and black tobiko caviar ($16). And with good reason. Halves of the split bone, like a pair of dug-out canoes, are filled with melting marrow salted only by the briny caviar. Coax a mouthful out of its hollow with a spoon and onto your char-striped bread, and the roasted marrow's deep meat flavor emerges. Suddenly the theory about early humans surviving off scavenged marrow sounds like the kind of Paleo diet you can get behind (assuming the availability of bruschetta).
Low down on the regular menu, the duck confit mac and cheese ($19) speaks to the sometimes conflicting urges toward comfort and swank. The sauce, an already luxurious melding of mozzarella and parmesan, is further enriched with duck fat, cream, herbs and truffles, as well as buried shreds of duck. The whole thing is crowned with a crisp sprinkling of fried shallots and duck skin cracklings. It is rich enough that you may have to share — if not out of generosity, then self preservation.
There's no point finding a great place if you're not going to brag about it. Send your hot tips to Jennifer@northcoastjournal.com or via Twitter @JFumikoCahill.