Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hash House A Go-Go

Hash House A Go-Go, San Diego
Farmer's breakfasts from the midwest (Indiana, specifically)--good food and lots of it

It was the name that attracted us to the Hash House A Go-Go, for (we hope) obvious reasons. Not just a Hash House--a Hash House A GO-GO. We love that. But you know, despite the name, it could still be just a Waffle House in hot pants. Looking at the menu actually drove us to visit.

The first thing we noticed, walking in, was how enormous the plates of food are. They were serving platters, for cryin' out loud, full of eggs and hash and fruit and biscuits and all kinds of other good stuff. We saw two immense people devouring two Brobdingnagian plates of waffles and pancakes. Intimidated, we decided to split a plate of hash--you can't go to the Hash House A Go-Go and not get the hash. They had a special hash with wild boar and roasted red pepper, plus the usual cheese, potatoes, mushrooms, and two eggs any style. Plus a biscuit approximately the size of my head. In addition to that, Mark ordered a pancake--"it's just one pancake?" he asked the waiter, who affirmed that yes, indeed, it was.

The place looks like a midwestern diner with a bar on one side. There are pictures of tractors and farms all around, and a strange whiplike rope artistically arranged over an archway in the center of the dining room (one can only imagine the owner saying "we have to put something there). The people, too, seem very midwestern--San Diego may be home to the most sexy people in the country, but those people generally don't eat at the Hash House A Go-Go.

Our one pancake arrived first. It was, we kid you not, the size of a car tire. We've had pizzas that were smaller than this pancake. In its center it was nearly an inch thick, and its diameter was clearly over a foot. It was four pancakes that had banded together to form one Super Pancake. It was a pan-sheet-cake. With it, amusingly, they gave us a tiny little jug of syrup. We had to ask for seconds.

The hash, when it came, was restrained by comparison. A big mound of boar, peppers, potatoes, eggs, cheese, and mushrooms, it was all very tasty. Mark didn't like the boar--somewhat gamey, he said--but Tim liked it all. The potatoes were big, nice and crispy, the cheese wasn't overwhelming, the peppers were well done, and the eggs a nice complement. We enjoyed the biscuit, too, though it was more cakey than flaky.

Not a place to go if you're watching your weight, but what breakfast place is? We regard this as the Buca di Beppo of breakfast places, a midwestern diner in the land of the skinny. Go with a group and share around. We do need to drag some people back there.

South Street Cheesesteaks

South Street Cheesesteaks, L.A.
Closest thing to Philly on the West Coast

There are a lot of places in California now that purport to offer "authentic Philadelphia cheesesteaks." We've tried most of the ones in the Bay Area, but some web browsing turned up an interesting place in West L.A., a shop called South Street Cheesesteaks that imports Amoroso Rolls from Philadelphia.

Amoroso are the rolls used by Jim's Steaks on South Street, one of Tim's favorite places. Unfortunately, they don't do chicken steaks--they're strictly old-school. South Street Cheesesteaks, being a California eatery, does chicken steaks, mushroom steaks, and so on. But we had to plan our trip out to hit them on the way to San Diego this last year, because we're not often in L.A. anymore.

We'd tried back in April, the last time we drove down, but were thwarted by road construction. This time, all went smoothly, landing us at their doorstep with nearly an hour to spare. The shop has the usual decor for a California cheesesteak place: Philly sports memorabilia, including old baseball and football cards; Philly newspaper replicas (covering the tabletops), and this one had a wall of famous Philadelphians (Tim isn't on it yet). The ambiance was somewhat tainted by the chrome and red naugahyde chairs and the black and white checkerboard floor that looked like they'd raided a fifties diner, but overall they did a pretty good job with it.

The girl at the counter wasn't too thrilled to sell us the cheesesteaks, even when Tim told her he was from Philly and had come all this way for the bread. Her comment was, "hope you like it. Some people do and some don't. There's a real difference of opinion." Under duress, she recommended the spicy fries as a side, though she worried they'd be too spicy for Tim. He assured her he's been practicing.

The fries were the weakest part of the meal, but authentic Philly fries for all that (would've been better with cheese). The bread was sublime, perfectly soft, falling apart from the juices. The chicken and sauteed onions, suspended in a matrix of provolone and white American, gave your teeth something to bite into that they didn't want to let go of. We tried the pizza steak and the cherry pepper steak (medium spicy), and both were terrific. Pizza sauce just the way they do it in Philly, a good rich marinara, and peppers with enough zing to make your mouth tingle for the cold (root) beer. We have to get hold of those rolls somehow--they're exactly right for the sandwich. Other bread comes close, but there's no mistaking the real thing once you've tried it.

The most amusing part of the whole place was that the bathroom light wasn't working. It's a small one-person bathroom, and the switch turns on the fan but nothing else. The counter girl and her friend told us someone "went in and just took the light right out." So, as Kevin Smith would say, we had to piss in the dark.

For a cheesesteak like that, they could've taken out the lights of the whole restaurant. We'll definitely be going back, next time we have to drive through L.A.