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Tio Wally Eats America: Noel, Missouri, Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant

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 Noel, Missouri.

Tio%20Wally%20Eats%20America%20truck2 Tio Wally Eats America: Noel, Missouri, Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant

Greetings from Noel, Missouri
N 36° 32.7378′, W 094° 29.113′  Elev. 817 ft.

The road into Noel is a narrow, winding, hilly two-lane highway. As I sailed in I kept saying, “I’d sure hate to drive a big-ass truck on this road.” It turned out I should’ve been saying, “I sure hope I can find a decent breakfast.”

Noel (pronounced knoll, with the emphasis on NO) is tucked in the far southwest corner of the southwesternmost corner of Missouri. It’s a remarkably beautiful place.

It claims to be the “Canoe Capitol of the Ozarks.” If the sheer number of canoes I saw being hauled around by the canoe rental folks is any indication, it’s true. Hell, I’d venture to guess that if you set every canoe in Noel end-to-end they would reach the Gateway Arch some 321 miles away, if not well into Illinois.

But I didn’t want to canoe. I wanted breakfast. Specifically, I wanted eggs and hash browns or grits … or both. But where?

I came to Noel to pick up disassembled poultry from that chicken-plucking behemoth named after a World Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Why they named the company after an ear-biter like Mike is somewhat baffling to me. After all, he raises pigeons not chickens. Nevertheless, the corporate giant of processed meat let me drop the box … and off I went.

I first backtracked to the intersection of MO-EE and US 59 in Lanagan, to a place I thought looked really interesting, The Cave Bar and Grill, a bar (and grill) located in one of Missouri’s 6037 caves. (I did not make this number up. Six thousand thirty-seven is the actual number of recorded caves in the state.) I was quite giddy about eating breakfast in a cave. I imagined they might offer The Spelunker’s Spam Special or something. They don’t. They don’t even serve breakfast.

05 Noel inside 2 Tio Wally Eats America: Noel, Missouri, Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant

I toured the place nevertheless and it was pretty cool (56°). As I left I had to wonder: On their readerboard advertising “Bike Night”, etc., was a curious addition: GOAT. Outside the Cave’s cave is a rocky-ledge pen with a bunch of goats in it. There are gumball machines fully stocked to dispense goat feed (25¢) at the turn of a handle. This raised a question: Should the goats dread Wednesdays?

So off I went to downtown Noel. You can imagine my delight when I saw Kathy’s Kountry Kitchen, which is “Open 7 Days a Week.” It was just after noon when I reached for the doorknob. I was ready for eggs, hash browns and/or grits. I knew I could get ‘em here.

The door was locked. I saw someone inside, so I called. When are y’all open, I asked? “Six to two, but we’re going to start opening at night.” But it’s just after noon and the door’s locked. “Yeah, my wife had a doctor’s appointment so we’re closed right now.” This really sucked. I knew he had hash browns and grits in there.

C’est la vie.

Across the street side-by-side were two other restaurants, the 219 and the Hog Shop. Did you know neither of them serve breakfast? Now you do.

In my travels I’d passed a couple of Mexican restaurants, one with cars and one without. My gut instinct said to visit the least traveled but my head said perhaps I should ask. So I did, of a couple of local poultry drivers. They directed me to the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant.

The Rio Grande is a puny place, maybe 10 tables total. It’s clean and homey but they don’t have hash browns (shock!) and they don’t have grits (shock x10!). But they have eggs.

22 Noel plate Tio Wally Eats America: Noel, Missouri, Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant

I ordered the only egg dish they offered, Huevos ala Mexicana ($4.99), “Three scrambled eggs with sauteed onion, tomatoes and jalapeño peppers. Served with your choice of tortillas.” I got corn.

While the service was impeccable and the food was fulfilling, everything you’d expect eggs scrambled with onion, tomato and jalapeño would be, I was still somewhat disappointed. You see, I know that all Mexican restaurants have hominy hiding somewhere in the pantry. If figured if they ground the hominy and dried it out, they would have the makings for grits. It ain’t that hard.

I probably should’ve asked them to do it but I didn’t. You never know, they may’ve gone the extra mile.

And so we roll.

Rio Grande Mexican Food, 445 Cliffside Dr., Noel, Missouri

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.

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The Cookout at Rockaway Beach Surf Club

Rusty’s been surfing hardcore at Rockaway for the past year (even in the winter). I went to check out his locker at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club. Apparently when it gets warm, it turns into a happening hangout. They have a food truck called The Cookout (from the people behind the Lodge and Urban Rustic in Williamsburg). I got the Backyard Burger (blend of ground short rib, brisket & chuck, aged white cheddar, red pepper relish $11) with a side of Sugar Snap Slaw. They gave me Matthew McConaughey table sign to find me for my food.

It was a lot of fun. People watching the World Cup. The bar was open. Kids from my neighborhood were being bussed in. A lot of hot chicks. And you also have some quality beach time. Just don’t feed the seagulls. There were a bunch hovering over this African-American family next to us on the beach. It was hilarious how they freaked out. It was like Martin (the TV show). I’m not sure if that’s racist, but it was funny.

Rockaway Beach Surf Club – 302 Beach 87th St. Far Rockaway, NY 11693

Northern Bell’s Brunch

Checked out the newish restaurant that took over the old Cheers Thai space in Williamsburg –Northern Bell. Brunch came with a complimentary Mimosa and a scone.

I ordered the Weekly Hash (pulled pork over fries, topped with eggs $13). Pretty tasty.

Northern Bell – 612 Metropolitan Ave (btw Lorimer & Leonard St) Brooklyn, NY 11211

Tio Wally Eats America: QuikTrip

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 Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Tio%20Wally%20Eats%20America%20truck2 Tio Wally Eats America: QuikTrip

Greetings from Tulsa, Oklahoma
N 36° 4.5813’ W 096° 2.9036’ Elev. 653 ft.

If you’ve never been to a QuikTrip you’re missing out. It’s a trip.

The chain was founded here in 1958, which may explain why there seems to be one on a corner every four blocks … or less. I’ve been to many QuikTrips, from as far west as Phoenix to as far east as Gaffney, South Carolina. Although most locations are merely overly large convenience stores with gas pumps, many are truck stops as well.

They’re all curiously consistent in an unusual way. It’s not that they look the same or have all the same stuff or anything. Rather it’s that all the employees are consistently friendly, happy. The reason for this is that the founders of QuikTrip, or QT for short, discovered long ago one of the secrets to making money: Pay your employees well, adequately train them and treat them with respect, and your turnover will shrink to virtually zero. The payoff is that they will exceed the customers’ needs with alacrity.

The result it that the customer base and their loyalty only grows. It’s essentially the mirror image of Walmart’s personnel management model. You know, where the mega-profits are derived from squeezing every penny from every employee, every vendor, and every county, state and country they operate in, through a combination of outright intimidation and other forms of mafia-esque thuggery.

Indeed, QT is an anomaly in this respect. It’s consistently rated as one of Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For”, a claim Hades Hillbillies, the Wicked Waltons of Bentonville, has never aspired to. In Walmart’s defense it should be said that when you’re a corporate behemoth roaming the planet being the Merchant of Death, Who has time to care about freakin’ human beings? Certainly not Walmart. Just for fun I’ll also note that the center-less asterisk that follows its branded name — they call it a “starburst” — accurately represents the company and its corporate ethos to a T: It’s an ASSHOLE!

QT on the other hand is not. In fact, they tend to roll along treating the public and its employees with great dignity. It’s also perfected cooking most anything imaginable on roller grills. I mean, they’ve got various flavors of hot dogs and foot-long taquitos, bagel dogs — hell, if it can be rolled they’ve got it! Moreover, they rotate the stock; i.e. if it’s been there for over X amount of time, it hits the Dempster Dumpster. I like that.

What’s more is they actually have warm hot dog buns. I’m kind of baffled by the mechanics of it all, but the bun warmer has water in the bottom of the drawer. So it’s warming them but not steaming them. It’s like some sort of climate control thing for buns, a bun spa, if you will.

10 QT bacon cheese dog Tio Wally Eats America: QuikTrip

When I was there this time they had a new “flavor” of hot dog (2 for $2.19): a bacon cheese dog. Ever curious, I got one along with a traditional Oscar Meyer weenie. A cool thing about QTs is the fixins it offers: fresh chopped onion, pico de gallo (a great mix of tomato, onion, jalapeño and cilantro), sliced jalapeño peppers, chunked fresh tomato, neon-green Chicago-style relish, sauerkraut, banana peppers, and pickles. The other thing that’s really great are the condiments. QT not only has deli mustard, it has spicy ketchup! I’d never run across spicy ketchup before.

So I fixed my dogs in the warm buns with onion, pico de gallo, deli mustard and spicy ketchup. Then I ate them (sorry, no photo available). They were great, especially the bacon cheese one. Keeper!

In addition to the “roller” foods, QT offers freshly made (packaged) sandwiches and, in the morning, breakfast sandwiches and fresh donuts. While the donuts are pretty good, I’m still a bit miffed at QT about them.

You see, during the winter of 2011-12 QuikTrip had a Buy-A-Coffee- ($1.19, because I’m getting a refill) -Get-A-FREE-Donut thing going. I liked that. Very much. So much so that I’ve been waiting for them to bring it back ever since. To date, they have not. I still make it a point to ask “When is that going to come back?” every time I check out. They never know. So I wait, antsy-pantsed, tapping my foot, rolling my fingers (ba-da-da-dut, ba-da-da-dut) on the counter.

QuikTrip also offers a half-dozen flavors of coffee, a like amount of iced teas, chocolate cappucinnos, frozen cappucinnos, milkshakes, and eight flavors of Freezonis, which is analogous to a Slurpee or a Slushie or, if you’re a patron of Apu’s Nahasapeemapetilon’s Kwik-E-Mart, a Squishee®™©SimpsonsMegaloCorp®. They also carry nearly every soda known to man. I haven’t looked but there’s probably a bottle of YooHoo and/or Diet Moxie hiding in there somewhere.

Another thing QuikTrip has that I’ve only seen one other place (Sapp Bros.) are plastic drink cups with plastic lids. These are great because they’re reusable; it’s the official SSMSH ice water cup. The only thing that ever wears out is the lid, which eventually breaks along the lip. Thankfully, QT has more.

If you happen to visit this particular QT it has a Wendy’s attached to it. And you know what that means: Great chili dogs!

I swear, it seems that if QT doesn’t have it, you probably don’t need it. Seriously, they’ve got everything. And at reasonable prices. What a trip!

And so we roll.

QuikTrip, 6008 S. 49th W Ave., Tulsa, Oklahoma
and 694 other locations scattered across metro areas in 11 states.

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.

Hometown Bar-B-Que

Had a pretty great meal at Hometown Bar-B-Que in Red Hook for Dan’s birthday. Look how huge this Beef Rib is! Very tender.

05 Big Beef Rib Hometown Bar B Que Hometown Bar B Que

The barbecued meats were smoked nicely and of high quality. I think the brisket is the best thing there. Sides and sauces were just okay.

A little out of the way, but a big fun space to party.

Hometown Bar-B-Que – 454 Van Brunt St (btw Reed St & Beard St) Brooklyn, NY 11231

New Tu Do Vietnamese Restaurant

We wanted something new to do, so we went to New Tu Do Restaurant for some Vietnamese food.

Todd accidentally ordered the Shrimp and Crab Spring Rolls from the picture underneath the glass table top. Pretty good stuff though.

Then I got this huge ass bowl of Pho for $6.95. I barely ate it and still got stuffed.

PHO%20small New Tu Do Vietnamese Restaurant

Also on the table were some grilled pork skewers and extra spring rolls. They give you bean sprouts, mint leaves, lettuce and the fish sauce with each dish. There was a lot of it on the table.

Then ended the meal with some Vietnamese Coffee. I didn’t realize it was a whole process.

Somehow our meal was $50 between the two of us. I thought this place was supposed to be cheap. But I guess we drank a lot of beer.

New Tu Do Restaurant – 102 Bowery St (btw Grand St & Hester) New York, NY 10013

Tio Wally Eats America: Roast Beef sandwich from Casey’s

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 McPherson, Kansas.

Tio%20Wally%20Eats%20America%20truck2 Tio Wally Eats America: Roast Beef sandwich from Caseys

Greetings from McPherson, Kansas
N 38° 22.1632’ W 097° 37.6354’ Elev. 1499 ft.

This post was originally going to be about Mi Pueblo<https://www.google.com/maps/place/Mi+Pueblo+Mexican+Restaurant/@34.494903,-89.031426,548m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0xf72b4a05130f01db?hl=en>, a Mexican restaurant in Mississippi I dumbed into one night. The food was so good that I went again, this time during the day, and discovered the most awesome lunch buffet I’ve ever experienced.

But this post is not about Mi Pueblo because of a message I received en route on the Qualcomm® that read: WE ARE GRILLIN COME AND EAT. The message was from my dispatcher who knew I was coming to our distribution center for a load.

These new Drayage Dudes are a little different from what Skippy and I are used to. Other companies might barbecue but they don’t invite the hoi polloi. On the contrary, the others all but put up Keep Out signs and post armed guards to make sure there are no misunderstandings.

So we went, and discovered they had barbecued chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs and other assorted sausages, plus macaroni and potato salads, an assortment of chips, some sort of formerly hot potato dish (that must’ve been good as it was all but gone), and a formerly hot dish of mixed squashes.

Squash but no baked beans? In Mississippi? Go figure. Like I said, this be a slightly different breed of Drayage Dudes. I had a couple of hot dogs — the Mississippians had no fresh sliced white onion for them, the sinners! — some macaroni salad and some squash.

The squash was unbelievable, even at room temperature. I don’t know who made it or how (I tried to find out but the cook remained a mystery) but it was some of the best squash I’ve ever had. Although it was a bit mushy, which I don’t mind at all, it had a sort of sweet taste that I couldn’t identify. It was probably a splash of some juice or something, or maybe just sugar. I don’t know. I sure wish I did, though, because them Cucurbitas were goo-ood.

Then this post was going to be a Freddy’s Steakburgers. But I didn’t think I would be able to get here (to my secret parking spot) before they closed; it turned out they were still open when I got here.

So I stopped on the way and got a 12” Roast Beef sandwich ($5.99) from a Casey’s, this one in Tonkawa, Oklahoma.

I’ve written before about how great Casey’s sandwiches are. And the Roast Beef is really, really great. Moreover, if you’re nice and the sandwich maker is not hopelessly anal retentive, they’ll put a little extra meat on it.

For the longest time I would have them make half the sandwich with Cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, mustard and mayo, and the other half with just barbecue sauce — they have great barbecue sauce. This time I just went with the former.

For some reason this turned out to be one of the best Roast Beef sandwiches I’d ever had from Casey’s. Along with a handful of Lay’s Classic potato chips and a Kern’s Banana-Pineapple Nectar this turned out to be quite a mini-picnic.

It’s strange how things just seem to work out sometimes.

And so we roll.

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.

Tio Wally Eats America: Extra-Special Pork Chops

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 West Richland, Washington.

Tio%20Wally%20Eats%20America%20truck2 Tio Wally Eats America: Extra Special Pork Chops

Greetings from West Richland, Washington
N 46° 15.4898’ W 119° 20.5197’ Elev. 600 ft.

Shore leave is ending here in sunny south-central Washington and, as I’ve done before, before setting sail I’ve made food I’m not going to find out on the cement seas.

For this voyage I’ve made Pork Chops with Mushroom Sauce over rice. Not only does it help me inch toward my dream-goal of an all-pork diet, it also re-heats really well.

I got some really great looking pork chops from a truly great grocery store, WinCo Foods, a Boise, Idaho-based (employee-owned!) supermarket chain with locations throughout the western states.

After rinsing the pork chops thoroughly — this is an important step as the chops are cut with a bandsaw and there are often little residual chips of bone on them — season them with salt and pepper. I like to use a lot of pepper because, well, I really like fresh ground pepper.

Next, brown the pork chops. You don’t have to cook them all the way through as they will get thoroughly cooked at a later stage.

After browning the chops put them in a baking dish and smother them with a handful (8) of fresh sliced mushrooms and a can of Cream of Mushroom soup, diluted with milk as it makes it creamier.

After the concoction is amassed and assembled cover it with foil and bake it at an absurdly low temperature (180-200°) for a few hours. Cooking it for so long at such a low temperature will render the pork chops extraordinarily tender.

Once the mass for mess is in the oven, go do something else. There is no need to watch it as it would take a short forever for it to burn.

(Indeed, we grabbed Chinese food to-go from Mandarin House — where the lady overcharged me about $5 … but the food was quite good — and took it to Howard Amon Park on the banks of the mighty Columbia River. Although this particular superhighway is a bit more fluid than I’m used to, I figure if it’s moving at about 190,000 cubic feet per second, that’s good traffic flow.)

After the chops are cooked, debone them and cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. Then put the whole mess back in the baking dish and stir it up until all the pieces are coated with all that mushroomy goodness. After it’s mixed, put it back in the oven uncovered until the sauce reaches whatever thickness you want; the longer it’s in, the thicker it’ll get.

Once the sauce reaches your desired consistency, stir it again and then pour it over rice; I make the rice with chicken stock.

This stuff is a real treat when you’re in the middle of nowhere and there’s either nothing open or there’s only various levels of pure odiousness to choose from. Trust me.

And so we roll.

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.