Iâ€™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 Tempe, Arizona.
Greetings from Tempe, Arizona
N 33Â° 25.384â€™ Â W 111Â° 55.198â€™ Â Elev. 1132 ft.
There I was, chomping at the bit, just wanting to get there. It was Sunday so traffic in greater Phoenix was light. I was sailing along with no impediments. I was just a few miles away, stomach growling, and there they were: Orange traffic cones as far as the eye could see, rerouting me, in circles.
Had I known there was going to be a triathlon in Tempe that day I wouldâ€™ve entered … providing, of course, I could be motor-boated, rickshawed, and then electric wheel-chaired to the finish line.
Thankfully, I was bobtailing (land yachting without a trailer/sail) otherwise it couldâ€™ve gotten very ugly, very quickly. But after getting alternate directions from one of Tempeâ€™s finest, I eventually made it. To Chompieâ€™s.
New Yorkers, especially New York City-zens, are spoiled. With little effort they can find this kind of food. But in the rest of the country, even much of Florida â€” Go figure! â€” itâ€™s hard. Thatâ€™s why Chompieâ€™s is such a treat.
Founded in Phoenix in 1979 by the Borenstein family, formerly of Queens, Chompieâ€™s is a taste of New York and then some. Originally a bagel factory, itâ€™s grown to become a full-blown deli and bakery with four locations thatâ€™s truly a tasty slice of New York Jewish soul food. And they have an incredibly extensive menu, from breakfast to dinner and everything in between.
I first asked for the garnish plate. If you ask, theyâ€™ll serve you a heaping dish of delicious home-cured pickles. Judging by the color, there are two kinds. Iâ€™ve never figured out the difference other than the light green ones are perhaps â€œyoungerâ€ and taste more cucumbery; the darker ones more of a mild kosher dill.
I started my meal with the Sweet and Sour Stuffed Cabbage Rolls ($12.95), which came with two sides. These cabbage rolls are indescribably delicious. Overly stuffed with ground beef filling, the cabbage is as tender as can be and smothered in a sweet tomato sauce. Iâ€™m not sure why they call it Sweet and Sour. I think itâ€™s mostly sweet. In fact, I could see it being too sweet for many people.
For the sides I first ordered a spinach latke but they didnâ€™t have them that day. So I settled for the next best thing: a potato pancake and sautÃ©ed spinach, served with applesauce and sour cream, respectively. While they were both good, they didnâ€™t measure up to a spinach latke. Still, they were awfully good.
Knowing I was going to get a sandwich to go I only ate one of the two cabbage rolls. Plus I also wanted to get some of their great soup.
I noticed on the menu they had The Rueben Combo ($9.99) which included a cup of soup (your choice) and a â€œcole slaw gnosh.â€ Supposedly itâ€™s a dine-in only thing, but I told my most excellent server, Shula, that I was going to eat the soup there and run away with the rest, providing sheâ€™d give me a to-go box. I also told her that, if she were going to chase me, I wanted to take a nap first.
For the soup I got the Chicken with Kreplach. Itâ€™s a great soup, with nice pieces of tender celery and carrot and a single kreplach â€” a minced chicken-filled dumpling â€” in a savory chicken broth. However, there was no chicken.
One time I ordered the Mish Mosh, a big bowl of chicken soup with noodles, matzos and kreplachs. If I remember correctly it had chunks of chicken in it. But the Chicken with Kreplach that I had that day had no discernible chunks of chicken. That can only mean one thing: The Borensteins owe me a Chompieâ€™s hat.
As I was packing up my booty Shula asked if I wanted anything else. â€œMaybe dessert?â€ she suggested. It sounds dangerous, I replied. â€œYeah. Dangerously good,â€ she said. She was right.
Chompieâ€™s has a dessert case that would kill a diabetic on sight. So I ordered both a Mini German Chocolate Cake and a Mini Chocolate Mousse Cake ($2.25 each) to go.
The German Chocolate cake was pretty good. But the Chocolate Mousse Cake was really spectacular, really creamy.
But I learned an important lesson afterward. While the Rueben, with its half-mile-high stack of delicious pastrami served between slices of really great double-baked Jewish rye bread was awesome cold, and the cole slaw equally so, the Sweet and Sour Cabbage Rolls arenâ€™t very good cold. Not at all.
Itâ€™s just more proof, land yachters, itâ€™s always something.
And so we roll.
Chompies, locations in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Chandler and Tempe, Arizona
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.