culture smash.

View Cactus Fuck 2012 in an even larger map!!!!!!


This is the beginning of a long post designed to steer the young and sexy hooligans of Cactus Truck towards Goodness. Or at least Interesting Americana. Food Writers of America Who Are Also Somehow Vegetarian Duck Readers: let's come together and help these boyz really TASTE AMERICA.

Their moronically ambitious USA tour schedule is here; if you are intimate with one of their unfortunate destinations and you have recs for a divey breakfast or scuzzy late-night hang or anything else they might rub their curious, misshapen genitals on please get in touch. Oversaturated places like NYC, New Orleans, Olympia, Portland, Austin, etc are a lower priority than underresearched towns like Cedar Falls, Wilmington, Boise, Fayetteville, etc. I'm also going to skip most of the Carolinas cause after Charlotte they're with Jeb and that's his neck of the woods.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand lastly: I'm focusing mostly on American regional specialties b/c I think that most people they're hanging with will recommend more ethnic shit and so this is to provide some reverse variety.


For this first batch of southeastern dates, it should go without saying that at any point a stop at a Waffle House would be a good idea (have a pecan waffle and/or eggs + hash browns, can't recommend anything else).

ATLANTA (Monday)
near the venue
Community Q BBQ. Open 11 til 20.30 on Mondays. No beer, takeout's a better idea anyway maybe.
Mi Barrio. Monday it's dinner only. Known for their posole. 

on the way out of town via buford highway
El Rey Del Taco. Open 10am to 5am. Real Mexican tacos, not much English spoken. I had carnitas, suadero, lengua, and a Michelada (Michelob + clam juice + other stuff) the last time I was there.
Quan Ba 9. Open 10am-10pm. Serious Vietnamese, no English spoken, hangover cure is soup called Mi Quang Ba 9. Or Chao Ga, featuring cubes of chilled blood. Use The Chile Oil.
Gu's Bistro. Closed Monday, but Tuesday open for lunch 11-3:30, closed from 3.30-4.30. Szechuan.

I would love to send them to Diamonds, but being killed and/or having your tour van stolen on the first night of the tour seems a bit overzealous.

near the venue
Midwood Smokehouse. Open 11am-11pm. Supposedly best BBQ-like experience in downtown Charlotte.
John's Country Kitchen. Not sure of the hours, but open for breakfast and lunch. Very old-school Southern place, and cheap cheap cheap. Could see how the food might not be amazing, but the experience should be pretty unique. And if you stick with biscuits, grits, eggs, bacon....everthang should be fine.

WASHINGTON, DC (actually Silver Spring, MD, but whateva)
I wasn't going to recommend anything here until I realized where the gig actually was. And I'm only recommending these three b/c I think decent affordable food is going to be hard to find near the venue. 
Mandalay. Real Burmese food, close to the venue.
Addis Ababa. For a taste of home/Amsterdam/Addis.
Tastee Diner. A 77-year-old, 24-hour diner, closeby the venue. Need I say more.

on the way
John's Roast Pork. Open 6:45am to 3pm. Yes, the hours are unrealistic. It is right on the way up from Washington, but the schedule is probably not right. But this is Chowhound/eGullet's fave roast pork sammie in town.
Tony Luke's. If you can't make it to John's, this is the other more possible way to have a real Philly cheesesteak or a roast pork + broccoli rabe. They're open 6am-midnight.
Johnny's Hots. Hot dogs. And hot sausage, which is the thing you want to order. Open 4:30am-2pm.

near the venue, these two are just in case, I wouldn't go out of my way to eat there
Memphis Taproom. 11:30-2am. Nice-looking beers, nice-sounding beer garden, menu mixes basics like hot dogs, wings and schnitzel with more far-out shit like smoked coconut and deep-fried kosher dills. At first I thought it was on the expensive side, but I think that's just northern/Philly prices.
Green Rock Tavern. 4pm-2am. Another very well-reviewed tavern seemingly not unlike the one above (minus beer garden), except that this one has pierogi. Plus an open mic night every Monday. I mean, you're there on a Monday....

on the way to Boston
Czerw's Kielbasy. 75-year-old Polish smokehouse, you need their kielbasa and their pierogi. Unfortch closed Mondays but open 7am-5pm Tuesday.

I'd probably have to have a $20 sandwich.

You should really be having crab, but somehow I think $85/dozen is outside the tour budget. If not, there are a couple of legendary places as you approach Baltimore from the northeast, Mr. Bill's Terrace Inn seems to get the best reviews. But I imagine pit beef is more reasonable pricewise. 
Pioneer Pit Beef. One of two competitors for Best in Town. This one's on your way out of town.
Chaps. This one's kind of on your way into town.

I wasn't going to suggest anything for Chicago b/c I figured you'd be well taken care of there by the friendlies. But for years I've been reading about a couple places that I would have to try if I was there.
Hot Doug's. Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium. Often called the best in a town full of great dogs. I'd have to try the Atomic Bomb. Downside would be the 30-minute wait to get inside, pics.

I used to live here. 
Victor's 1959 Cafe. Nearish the venue, Cuban diner, maybe for breakfast. Sounds like the real thing.

Ahhh, Seattle. I used to be in love with Seattle...I've probably spent a total of six-to-nine months there without ever actually being a resident, and there are a few places that I would have to go if I returned. 
Piroshky Piroshky. A Russian bakery in Pike Place Market that is possibly the best-smelling place on earth. Poppyseed-raisin was my jam back in the day, smoked salmon was good too, in fact it was all pretty good. But the smell.....fuck.
Virginia Inn. When I was spending a lot of time in Seattle, it was pre-cellphone times. Yes. And so, maybe you remember how this used to work: if you're in a strange city with a bunch of friends, it helps if you have some kind of default rendezvous place in case you get separated. Virginia Inn was ours. There's nothing at all cool about it I imagine except for the 10 generally awesome local beers on tap.
The Lusty Lady. Very sad that this place is gone, it was a source of amusement and wonder.
OK Hotel. Geez, also gone. Bogus. I don't even want to know what else isn't there anymore.

Kogi BBQ. Korean-Mexican BBQ taco truck. Other than advanced/expensive sushi, this is really the only thing I can think of that screams "LA" to me. Problem will be chasing it around...it's at different places on different days. And when you do find it there'll be a line. The website has the schedule (some pics here).

If that fails, I'd either head to Koreatown for, eh, Korean or go to the Hollywood branch of Roscoe's.

Oh yeah and don't forget to have an In-N-Out burger at some point before you leave the west coast. They're in California, Arizona, and if you fuck that up, Austin as well.

It doesn't make too much sense to eat anything besides Mexican or Southwestern food in Phoenix.  I mean Pizzeria Bianco is supposedly the best pizza in America, and not too too far from the venue, so that could happen, but yes after my first/last visit I decided that although it was really great pizza, I myself wouldn't go too far out of my way for it. Maybe I'd go and split a Rosa if I had time. Anyway, here's what's near the venue.

Tacos Atoyac. Real Oaxacan food, haven't been there yet myself but this is definitely where I'd go today if I had time for one meal downtown.
America's Taco Shop. If you're pressed for time, this is essentially a small-chain fast food restaurant, but not shitty inside and the tacos are very good and cheap.

I think you're pretty much going to have to leave right after the show if you want to make it to somewhere like Las Cruces, NM to sleep, which you kind of have to do in order to have a reasonable drive to Austin after that, assuming you're spending two nights in Austin blah blah blah. If you do make it to Las Cruces, you should eat at Los Compas. If you do end up still being in Phoenix for breakfast, Dick's Hideaway is my favorite place to eat in all of Phoenix, yes it's a sports bar, and they open at 7am. It's not as sleazy as it sounds, in fact it's on the expensive side (probably $15 for breakfast), but it's perfect Southwestern food.

In December the boys are zigzagging across Texas a little bit. Maybe they have time to stop at one of the pretty legendary holy grail BBQ places that are in-between the bigger cities. Their path takes them from Phoenix to Austin, back to Houston, and then back east to New Orleans. Here's one person's entertaining attempt to eat at a few of the below places. The thing that years of eating and cooking and reading about BBQ has taught a brother: it's not an exact science. Places can have bad days, or even bad times of day, you just gots to hope for the bestest.

Franklin Barbecue. In Austin. Newish and consistently loved, I've read almost nothing negative about it (which is highly unusual in the BBQ debates). Brisket and ribs are supposed to be fantastic. If there's anything negative about Franklin's it's that it's impossible to eat there. You're supposed to have to get there at 8:30am to stand in line to make sure you get some food. They don't open til fucking 11am and run out of food by noon. So....I guess I would sadly skip this unless I had 3 hours to kill or a local person knew a way around the crowd. Although apparently you can drink beer while you're in line. It could be fun.

But in Austin I think would try to eat at the Texas Chili Parlor instead of standing in line at Franklin: TCP serves real Texas style chili and Frito pie as well.

Smitty's. In Lockhart, TX, this is possible on the way from Austin to Houston, and looks like an awesomely historic place. This is almost always one of the Top 5 BBQ places in all of Texas, and would maybe be my one stop if I only had one. Open Mon-Fri 7am-6pm (Sun 9am-3pm), but brisket might not be ready until 10am. You want to order "moist brisket" (not lean) or pork ribs. They do run out of food every day, but they seem to at least make it through lunch. On weekends they do pork spareribs which are supposedly the shitz.

Black's Barbecue. Also in Lockhart, also a Top 5er, the advantage here is that they're not fetishists about the ordering process or the use of sauce (Smitty's and most of the others serve no sauce). Brisket or beef ribs and cole slaw is what you want, pork isn't their strong suit.

Louie Mueller. Another Top 5 place. Brisket is the focus, but sausage and beef ribs also highly-rated. Problem is, it's a little out of the way, 25 miles north of Austin, and there's no great time in the schedule to fit this in. They're closed Sunday, open Monday at 11am.

Rudy's Country Store and Bar-B-Q. Yes it's a chain, but supposedly Houston's best BBQ by a significant bit, but not in the same league as any of the rest of this shit. There's one on the way into town coming from Austin. They're also open from 7am to 10pm, so yeah convenient and shit.

City Market in Lulling. The last of the Top 5 on this list. It's off of Interstate 10 on the way to New Orleans. You want to order the brisket or pork ribs. Still trying to figure out what time of day you need to get there (here's another review).

unfortch nothing's really near the venue. One unusual thing about New Orleans is that there's a surprising amount of consensus about where to get really good versions of things.

Parkway Bakery and Tavern. Nearly indisputably the place to get a shrimp poboy. Or a beef po boy. Unfortunately they're closed Tuesdays, but maybe Monday or Wednesday will work out.
Parasol's Bar and Restaurant. A very close second place for beef or shrimp po boys, and closer to the venue. And open 7 days a week, 11am-9pm.
Johnny's Po BoysBreakfast or Po-Boys. I don't think anyone would say these were better than Parkway or Parasol's, but the phrase "best in the Quarter" kept coming up (the other two not being in the Quarter).
Central GroceryIndisputably the place for a muffaletta. If you have a fridge in the van get some to go, they keep for days.
ACME Oyster Bar: The place for oysters, but yeah it's also a ridiculous tourist attraction that most locals seem to actively hate. It looks horrible. Casamento's would be a less flashy option.

ST. LOUIS (Thursday)
St. Louis seems like another BBQ and diner weirdness city. Plus lots of Bosnians.

Bogart's Smokehouse. Pretty legendary, if you're not there when it opens expect a line out the door. 10:30-4pm, might have to be Friday lunch (they're open til 8pm Fridays).
Big Ed's Chili Mac. Slingers and other crazy shit. Since they're open 5:30am-2pm I guess it would have to be Friday lunch also I imagine.


I've never been to any of these next cities, but I do know that nothing else about them seems as interesting as their weird specialized evolutions of normal food.

loosemeats sandwich/pork tenderloin

butter burger, fish fry
McBob's. Beer, brats, fried fish and above all, corned beef.

reuben/runza/bierocks/cheese frenchees

basque food? unexpected but true.
Bar Gernika. Too bad you're not there on Saturday, that's Beef Tongue Day.


No comments: