I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Greeley, Colorado.
Greetings from Greeley, Colorado
N 40° 24.841’ W 104° 41.5883’ Elev. 4671 ft.
Greeley, Colorado is named after Horace Greeley, the 19th century newspaper editor widely quoted for writing, “Go West, young man, go West.” What Horace actually wrote was, “Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go West, young man, go West and grow up with the country.”
Were he alive in his namesake city today, and still working in print, he might well be reduced to writing directions to The Kitchen for some alternative weekly: “Go northeast, young people, to the northeast corner of the University of Northern Colorado campus. That’s where you’ll find it, right across the street.” While it doesn’t have quite the same panache, it’s as accurate as his take on the District of Columbia was both then and now. Horace would like that.
Having spent the night in the parking lot of one of my favorite Internet Service Providers (The Home Depot), I awoke with the thought of a grumpy Horace. It made me hungry. So I Googled “Best Breakfast in Greeley” and The Kitchen popped up at the top of the list.
I read the reviews on various sites, most of them glowing. A few, however, were quite scathing, especially one that made mention of both flies and bad service. Having looked at the Google map I felt pretty confident I wouldn’t be able to park anywhere near it, even sans trailer. But I went anyway, just to see. It being early on a Sunday morning I figured I couldn’t get in too much trouble.
Miracles occur occasionally, and I was able to park. Moreover, there was a 7-11 located kitty-corner. I took that as a good omen as 7-11 has pretty good coffee. As I sat in the bridge sipping coffee a guy came out of a house behind the restaurant.
How’s the food at The Kitchen? I asked. “Good,” he said. “Good and cheap. Huevos Rancheros.” That’s your recommendation? “Yeah. That’s what you want. Huevos Rancheros.”
As I waited for The Kitchen to open (6 a.m.; 7 on Sunday) I decided that I didn’t really want Huevos Rancheros ($5.50), although I enjoy them very much. Being a former musician by inclination I decided I’d play it by ear.
I was the first person in when the lady unlocked the door. How are you this morning? I asked, cheerfully. “I’m not ready for this day at all,” she said. So far, so good, I thought.
The special that morning was Chicken Fried Steak ($7.50 menu price), which many reviewers raved about. They also raved about the Frazier Hall Omelette ($7.75). I asked the lady which one was more fun. “The Frazier has Chicken Fried Steak in it,” she said. Okay then, give me one of those, with hash browns; they also offer home fries. “What kind of toast do you want?” What do you have? She listed a bunch of breads, tagging the list with “We also have homemade white, whole wheat and raisin bread.” Oh joy: Raisin bread. I’ll have that!
As I waited for my meal, I tried to read my latest book, The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson. Amid Bryson’s bemoaning the homogenization of America a lone fly kept buzzing me. Landing on the table, landing on my hand, my head, my glasses. My glasses! The fly, I’ll call it Flo, was begging to be put to death, by my hand. Luckily, there was stack of local free papers nearby that could be neatly folded into an instrument of execution. I lay in wait, ready to strike. As I waited for Flo to land and meet its maker, I thought of Frazier Hall.
Frazier Hall was a mulatto born in 1888 in Blue Earth, Minnesota. Because he was extremely light-skinned, and his father was both an extremely successful Caucasian farmer and a respected Lutheran minister, Frazier was allowed to attend school, a rarity at the time. Although he didn’t really care for school academically, he became a star athlete, excelling in the nascent American pastime of baseball. Basic equipment for the sport, like baseball gloves, didn’t exist at the time. Players caught the ball barehanded. Fortunately, Frazier was blessed with freakishly large hands, and was recognized throughout Minnesota and the Midwest as a standout fielder.
At age 17, Frazier was offered a position playing for the Greeley Wranglers, a start-up team in the newly formed Rocky Mountain Baseball League. He was paid $2 per month for his services, a handsome sum in those days. The team played only when weather permitted, at best about two or three months a year. During the interminable off-seasons he worked as an assistant order-taker for Sears Roebuck and Company in Greeley. Frazier enjoyed his star status, regaling customers at the Sears Roebuck counter with his on-field exploits during the long winter months. But then the rumor started.
It originated with a rancher, one C.A. Buck, who’d ordered a pair of very expensive fleece-lined all-leather mittens that arrived many sizes too large for his diminutive hands. “Those mittens will fit only one man,” he told the townsfolk. “And that man is Frazier Hall.” Although Frazier informed him he could return the mittens for the correct size, Buck wouldn’t hear of it. He was convinced Frazier had ordered the mittens for himself and that, once Buck had paid full price for them, would offer to buy them at a considerable discount.
Buck had such influence on the citizenry that soon all of Greeley was ready to lynch Frazier. Recognizing the direness at his situation, Frazier fled to Ottumwa, Iowa where he lived out his days working handily as a midwife’s assistant. Or so they say. Truth is he actually earned most of his money as a gigolo, slapping the asses of Ottumwa’s many well-to-do fetishists.
As an aside, Frazier Hall’s granddaughter, Sissy Hankshaw, inherited at least a part of his ample hands, his thumbs. Sissy became a legendary hitchhiker, and subsequently became the subject of Tom Robbins’ biographical novel Even Cowgirls Get The Blues.
Yeah, I thought of Frazier Hall while I was waiting for my food, and Flo. Unfortunately, not a whit of what I wrote about Frazier Hall is true. I made it up because the truth about Frazier Hall is a bit boring; it’s a Performing Arts Center, I think. Oh, and Flo the Fly never got its most deserved reward. That’s the sad but honest to God truth.
The Frazier Hall omelette should be called something other than an omelette. It’s cooked on a griddle. You can’t make an omelette on a griddle. Sorry. Can’t be done. You have to use a pan. Even employing the super-secret ingredient for fluffy omelettes — water! — won’t help. So the Frazier was dense, flat.
It was so flat, so bereft of “fluffy,” in fact, that the Flat Earth Society could understandably adopt it as a pitch-perfect culinary representation of the Earth. So flat was it that it wouldn’t make the cut if it were, say, a pet flounder named Eric. But it wasn’t bad. Just dense, flat.
It’s a shame, really. Many great elements are there: chicken fried steak, jalapeño bacon, cheese, topped with a really great country gravy. Although I thought the jalapeño bacon was odd. I got a couple of bites of it that were quite hot, unexpectedly and annoyingly so. I will never understand why anyone would think they could or should — or find a need to— improve on good bacon. As a wannabe all-pork-diet guy, I say it can’t be done.
Honestly, the only reason why bacon would be “adjusted” with “flavors” is because it’s a substandard product to begin with. But rather than just trash it, les propriétaires de l’abattoir want to — surprise! — sell it. So they resort to any measures available to facilitate that goal. I don’t blame them. If anyone wants to buy crap the butchers themselves won’t eat, well … they’re probably Americans.
The Kitchen’s hash browns were quite nice, truly a treat. Real potatoes! It’s always just short of miraculous to me to find anything other than the frozen-in-a-bag crap I haul around the country to feed the masses of demented, tastebud-less eaters nationwide. Even better, The Kitchen’s hash browns were cooked to a nice crispness. Another miracle.
But the true highlight — and a reason to go back to The Kitchen again and again — is the toast. Slices of this homemade heaven are an inch thick. While that’s a bit thicker than I like my toast, it’s sooooo good. So very, very, very freakin’ good. And they have Smucker’s® Apple Butter! There are few better combinations on this planet than toasted, buttered raisin bread and apple butter. It’s in the Top Five of my Ultimate Soul Foods list.
I’m already planning my next visit to The Kitchen. And I know exactly what I want: Over-easy fried eggs, hash browns and toast ($5.25), with a side of toast ($1.50?). I’ll even bring my own Jif® peanut butter for the eggs. On second thought, they also make French toast (with one egg and bacon or sausage, $4.95) with that awesome bread. And I travel with a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth’s®! Oh my. Decisions, decisions, delicious decisions.
And so we roll.
The Kitchen, 905 16th St., Greeley, Colorado
Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.