Posts tagged casserole

Tio Wally Eats America: Chuck Wagon 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 Meade, Kansas.

Greetings from Meade, Kansas
N 37° 17.084’  W 100° 21.014’  Elev. 2500 ft.

I like cheese. I like hamburger. I like macaroni. Throw it all together and call it a Cheeseburger Macaroni Casserole. What could possibly go wrong, right?

I’d slept at the Chuck Wagon restaurant a couple of times before … in the parking lot. This was mostly because I always seemed to run out of hours and/or energy to make it to Liberal — the next “big” town in the endless high plains of scenic southwestern Kansas some 45 miles further west. The only other wide spot in the road between the two points is Kismet. As fate would have it there is no food in Kismet.

But hey, if Meade is a good enough location for Bob and Grat to select as the site of the notorious brothers’ Dalton Gang Hideout — Meade’s #1 tourist attraction and lone claim to fame — it’s good enough for the saintly, law-abiding crew of the SS Me So Hungry to bed down. And there is a restaurant.

So it was perverse-yet-pure kismet that we walked into the Chuck Wagon for lunch, spurs a-clankin’, figuratively speaking of course. And there it was: A Specials Board touting the aforementioned Cheeseburger Macaroni Casserole, with potato, corn/roll, salad bar, and coffee or tea, for $8.79. We knew from the outset that it wouldn’t be nearly as good as my sister’s goulash; there are few things in life as good as my sister’s goulash. As it turned out, we were right.

The Cheeseburger Macaroni Casserole was irredeemable. It didn’t taste like a cheeseburger. It didn’t even taste cheesy, although it looked like it should’ve. Salt and pepper didn’t help. Mixing in the entire side of can-fresh whole kernel sweet corn didn’t help. It was, indeed, so hopelessly unfixable that even the divine intervention of San Pasqual couldn’t help. It was just a bland mass of ingredients that should’ve tasted good, alone or in combination. But it didn’t.

At risk of sounding technical, it just tasted “blah.” Although the mashed potatoes were pretty good, good smashed spuds can’t make up for a main course being hopelessly devoid of taste/smell/flavor/perceptible sensory impressions.

Thankfully, all was not lost.

The Chuck Wagon actually had some pretty good stuff stocked in its Conestoga Wagon-themed salad bar. Although the plates were way too small a few of the items were kind of interesting. The Cucumber Slices in Sour Cream had a hint of dill and were pretty tasty. And the Macaroni Salad with bits of fresh tomato was likewise really good.

But the Big Star of the Salad Bar was the Broccoli Salad. It was easily the best I’ve ever eaten! And it was so simple. It was just little broccoli florets, big pieces of bacon, and raisins in a slightly sweet mayonnaise dressing. I suspect the dressing was sweetened by the raisins although it was somewhat similar to the dressing on the Macaroni Salad. But damn, so simple and so, so good!

I went in later that night and the special was Chicken Fried Chicken with all of the same sides for $8.99. I didn’t have it because I wanted Cream of Wheat®, which is hard to find. I guess it was kismet that they were out of Cream of Wheat® (there’s never any Cream of Wheat® for Wally), so I got oatmeal ($2.49).

In all, even though the Chuck Wagon was bereft of Cream of Wheat®, bank/train robberies and/or ghostly apparitions of the Dalton Gang (or Elvis), thanks to the Broccoli Salad … Seriously, that’s some damn good Broccoli Salad!

And so we roll.

Chuck Wagon Restaurant, 807 West Carthage Street (US 54), Meade, Kansas

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.


Barzola’s Ecuadorian Fish and Shrimp Casserole

Barzola made my best of 2011 list for their Seafood Soup. This time I was walking around my neighborhood. I couldn’t decide what to eat. And by that time, there were places that stopped serving brunch and even any food at all. I said screw it, I’m going to get that Seafood Soup. Instead I got their Ecuadorian Specialty –Mixed Fish and Shrimp Casserole ($13) …It might have been cheaper because I think they only charged me $14 with a beer, but maybe they forgot to charge me the beer.

By this time it was 5pm and it was the first thing I ate all day. No doubt, it was delicious …but I know it was delicious no matter what my circumstance. The gravy was sort of like a Peanut Satay type sauce. Everything tasted really good when I mixed it up with some of the hot sauce on the table and a bite of plantain. Big slices of fish and a good number of shrimps. Enough for two people I think. Maybe split an appetizer if you do that.

I also got an Ecuadorian beer –Cerveza Pilsener …I assume means “pilsner beer.” I didn’t care for the flavor, but the girl on the poster is hot. She kinda looks like Rusty’s old 19 year-old girlfriend.

I gotta try more stuff on the menu. I’m really digging this Ecuadorian food. It makes me realize how much I love New York. I can eat all types of cuisine that I couldn’t ever find unless I lived outside of New York.

Barzola Restaurant – 197 Meserole St (btwn Humboldt and Bushwick) Brooklyn, NY 11206

Turkey Tetrazzini

Bonnie took me to a Thanksgiving leftover party the other night. The host, Teva, made this awesome Turkey Tetrazzini. He said it’s from Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe, which is the only recipe he doesn’t stray from …I guess outside of the chicken. I watched him make it and it seemed very complicated. I would think you just throw in your meat, your pasta and a can of cream of mushroom soup …but I know it ain’t that easy based on my latest Thanksgiving cooking experience.

Teva’s (or Gianda’s) Tetrazzini was really good. Comforting. So if you guys are still working on your turkey leftovers, this is a good idea. I remember taking Advanced Food class in high school, where we roasted a turkey at the beginning of the semester. And from there on out, all the dishes we learned were based on the turkey leftovers for the rest of the semester. I wrote a song about it. This was over ten years ago, so don’t judge harshly. There’s a rad psychedelic keyboard interlude courtesy of the Hinkle Way.

Szechwan Pork – The Turkey Song

01 Turkey Tetrazinni