The Big Brew Beer Festival Version 2.0

There are not many things in this universe that get me more excited than Tommy Chong at 4:19 P.M. on April 20th in Amsterdam, but a Beer Festival happens to be one them.   For those of you that have never heard of this amazing phenomenon, here is a brief description that should make you feel worse than Homer Simpson after he eats his soul donut, for not knowing about these events sooner.  A beer festival is comparable to Comic Con, except instead of all the comics and fan boys dressed in tights, there is a shit ton of beer.

In other words these events attempt to showcase the best craft beer our wonderful planet has to offer, and for a reasonable fee, you get to taste all the hops and barley your belly and brain can handle.  Furthermore, most of these events pair their adult sodas with other mantastic goodies, including but not limited to food, spirits, party paraphernalia, and many more products that make men swoon like fashionistas smack dab in the middle of the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris.

Big Brew Beer Fest Ballon Mug

Welcome to The Big Brew Beer Festival!

On September 28, 2013 The Big Brew Beer Festival took over The Morristown Armory and dropped a proverbial beer bomb barrage on Morris County that will from this point on be known as the Belch that was heard around the world.  After taking some lumps after last year’s event, to say The Big Brew Beer Festival improved slightly, is like saying that Breaking Bad was kind of a good show.  It was apparent that the head honchos of the Big Brew Beer Festival not only took every complaint from last year seriously, they took this year as a challenge to make The Big Brew Beer Festival into what they envisioned it could become from the very beginning.  Their hard work and dedication created a Craft Beer event that New Jersians could be proud of.  Which is no simple accomplishment considering that Grumpy Cat ain’t got nothing on us Jersey folk.  We can hate on literally anything!

New Jersey Vs. Grumpy Cat

The Battle For The Hating Championship Of The World Begins Now!!!

There were three ticket options for the two sessions of hoppy shenanigans at The Big Brew Beer Festival.  One could purchase a V.I.P. ticket for $75.00, a general admission ticket for $45.00, or a designated driver ticket for a measly $10.00, which happened to come with 1,000 Karma Points for making sure your inebriated friends got home safely.  The V.I.P tickets granted you access to the event one hour earlier than the general public, entrance to the V.I.P. beer area, and free food from the Morris Tap & Grill V.I.P. spread.

Now it is the time that I stand on my soapbox that is obviously filled with beer bottles, and preach to my congregation.  My fellow foodies and craft beer geeks, I ask you one very simple question?  Was there really ever a choice of what ticket we had to purchase?  I mean honestly, if you consider yourself even a half-ass Cicerone or Gourmand the list of beers and food that the V.I.P. ticket offered was worth well more than the $30.00 dollars extra you paid, not to mention the one-hour head start.  If you screwed up and purchased the general admission ticket this time around, I will let it slide and not report you to your respective guilds, but remember for next time, and there will be a next time, you can scrimp and save on health care, car insurance, and your significant others but never, not ever, on food and drink!

Let The Games Begin!

Let The Games Begin!

What was that? Do we have some non-believers in the crowd?  Let me drop some hop –knowledge on you in the form of the V.I.P. beer list:

Tuckahoe Brewing Co. – Holly Beach Pumpkin Ale
Ommegang – Game of Thrones “Take the Black”
Duvel – Tripel Hop
Captain Lawrence – Xtra Gold
Brooklyn – Silver Anniversary
Starr Hill Brewery – Smoke Out (Limited Release)
Ramstein – Barrel aged, dry hopped Oktoberfest
Victory Brewing – Ranch DIPA Double Simcoe, 4 Hop Bock
Boulder Beer Co. – Honey-of-a-Saison
Epic – Brainless On Cherries
Flying Dog – Gonzo
Great Divide – Wolfgang Doppelbock
Neshaminy Creek – Highwater Hefeweizen
Oskar Blues – G’night Imperial Red
Sly Fox – Black Raspberry Reserve
Smuttynose – Homunculus
Stone – 17th Anniversary
Weyerbacher – Blasphemy
Yards – Cicada Indigenous Ale
Slumbrew – Attic & Eave Toasted Brown Ale
LakeFront Brewery – 25th Anniversary Brandy Barrel Imperial Pumpkin
3 Beards Beer Company – Bearded Lady Rye & Raspberry Belgian Pale Ale
Big Muddy Brewing – 17th St. Smoked Amber Ale 

Boom!  As long as you did not just jump onto the Craft Beer bandwagon to impress your mates or shag a scrummy girly, that list should have made you randier than Austin Powers on ten Viagra pills at the Bunny Ranch!

Still not convinced eh?  Alright maybe I have to appeal to the carnivore within you, to persuade you to purchase the right ticket on February 15, 2014, when the Big Brew Beer Festival comes back to town.  The following is the jaw dropping, palate appeasing, foodie approved V.I.P. menu that was brought to you by the culinary mastermind Chef Eric LeVine and his prodigious crew from The Morris Tap & Grill:

Smoked Beef Brisket Sliders with Cole Slaw

Smoked Beef Brisket Sliders

Smoked Beef Brisket Sliders with Cole Slaw:  These sliders may have been like Tyrion Lannister in stature, but their flavor reminded me of his on screen presence, large and in charge.  The subtle smokiness of the brisket paired exquisitely with the tangy slaw to create an impeccable bite of awesomeness.

Beer Braised Pork Cheeks with Garlic Mashed Potato

You Cheeky Bastard!

Beer Braised Pork Cheeks with Garlic Mashed Potatoes:  Some people are turned off by pork cheeks, and to them I say, “good, more for me.”  The cheek is a fantastically tender muscle that when served right, and it was prepared by Morris Tap & Grill so you already know it was, in my opinion can be the best part of the pig.  That is except for, of course, the belly, which is where Bacon Town is located and is more sacred than the Pope, Jesus, and the Vatican combined.

Chicken Carnitas with Beer Pickles

Mmmmm Beer Pickles!

Chicken Carnitas with Beer Pickles:  The chicken that stuffed these carnitas was not only bursting with flavor but was so moist and juicy the taco shell almost could not contain all the spicy goodness that it was charged to protect.   The addition of the beer pickles was a stroke of genius and created an expertly balanced dish.

White chocolate and Busted Barrel Caramel Mousse

A spoonful of happiness

White chocolate and Busted Barrel Caramel Mousse:  After demolishing all the savory food that the Morris Tap & Grill was offering the V.I.P. guests, there was only one dish left to sample.  This light and airy mousse was the perfect ending to the flawless lunch that was provided by the MTG staff.  Not only did it taste like a spoonful of heaven with a drizzle of OMG, it was not overtly heavy which left enough space to tackle the tremendous amount of beers that The Big Brew Beer Festival still had to offer.

I know this is a blog so you can see that I just dropped the microphone on the ground and walked off the stage.  If the beer list and the food pictures did not make you drool like a politician during lobbyist season, then I think you may be reading the wrong blog.  Perhaps this blog is more your speed, Dr. Dull Mc. Boringstien.

After enjoying all the thirst quenching bucket list beers that the V.I.P. area had to offer and chowing down on the amazing concoctions that the Morris Tap & Grill provided, it was time to venture to the 100 plus tables that littered the gigantic convention center.  The Following is a list of these wonderful purveyors of the sudtastic and intoxicating:

This small mug packs a lot of flavor!

The Vessel To Flavor Country!

3 Beards Brewing – Lumberjack Black Lager, CowPuncher IPA
Ace Cider – Pumpkin, Perry, Apple
Abita – Turbo Dog, Purple Haze
Anchor Brewing – Big Leaf Maple Red, California Lager, Liberty IPA
Alchemy & Science – Curious Traveler, Just IPA
Big Muddy Brewing – Galaxy IPA, Vanilla Stout
Blue Point – White IPA, RastafaRye
B Nektar Meadery – Evil Genius, Black Fang, Necromangdon
Bolero Snort Brewery – Blackhorn American Black Lager, Ragin’ Bull Amber Lager, There’s No Rye-ing in Basebull Rye Beer
Boulder – Mojo IPA, Hazed and Infused, Sweaty Betty, Kinda Blue
Breckenridge – Regal Pils, Vanilla Porter
Brooklyn – Oktoberfest, Blast!
Butternuts Brewing – Porkslap Pale Ale
Captain Lawrence – Pumpkin Ale, Captain’s Reserve Imperial IPA
Carton Brewing Company – Boat Beer, Pumpkin Cream Ale, Carton of Milk Stout
Climax Brewing – Oktoberfest, ESB
Crabbies – Ginger Ale
Cricket Hill -Fall Festivus, East Coast Lager, Hopnotic IPA
Doc’s Cider – Pumpkin Cider, Apple Cider
Duvel – Duvel Single, Maredsous Brune
East Coast Brewing Co. – BeachHaus Cruiser IPA, Winter Rental, BeachHaus Pils
Epic – Smoke and Oak, Barley Wine
Firestone Walker Brewing Company – Union Jack, Double Jack, Reserve
Flying Dog – Snake Dog, Dogtoberfest
Flying Fish Brewing Company – Oktoberfish, Exit 4, ESB – only on draft
Fort Collins Brewing – Major Toms American Wheat
Full Sail – Existential Ale, IPA
Goose Island Beer Company – Pere Jacques, 312, Oktoberfest
Great Divide – Rumble IPA, Claymore Wee Heavy
Great Lakes Brewing Co.– Oktoberfest, Dortmunder Gold Lager
Gritty’s – Maine IPA, Black Fly Stout, Pub Ale
Harpoon – Octoberfest, Saison Various
Horny Goat Brewing – Hopped Up N Horny IPA
Ithaca Beer Company – Flower Power, Apricot Wheat, White Gold, Cascazilla
Keegan Ales – KD’s Triple, Longest Day IPA, Mother’s Milk Stout
Kuka Andean Brewing Company – Pumpkin Porter, Imperial Rye IPA, Belgian Triple, Belgian Golden Ale
LakeFront Brewing – Fixed Gear, Pumpkin Lager
Lancaster Brewing Company – Milk Stout, Strawberry Wheat
Latis – Estaminet, Palm, Steenbrugge Tripel
Left Hand Brewing Company
Magic Hat – Seance, Elder Betty
Moa – Imperial Stout, Breakfast Ale
Moonlight – Kurt’s Apple Pie, Sensual
Neshaminy Creek – Dunkel Weizen, Trauger Pils
Newcastle – Newcastle Brown and Werewolf
Old Dominion – Double D IPA, Oak Barrel Stout
Ommegang – Abbey, Scythe & Sickle
Oskar Blues – Dale’s Pale Ale, Old Chub
Otter Creek Brewing Company – Hopsession Pale Ale, Oktoberfest, Lager
Pyramid – Oktoberfest
Ramstein Beer – Oktoberfest, Double Platinum, Gold
River Horse – Hippo Lantern, Special Ale
Sam Adams – Boston Lager, Oktoberfest, Angry Orchard Crisp Apple
Sea Dog – Blueberry
Shed Brewery – IPA, Mountain Ale
Shiner – Oktoberfest, Black Lager
Shipyard Brewing Company – Smashed Pumpkin, Monkey Fist IPA
Sierra Nevada – Kellerweis, Flipside Red IPA
Sixpoint – Crisp Pils, Righteous Rye
Slumbrew – Flagraiser IPA, Happy Sol, Porter Square Porter, Trekker Trippel
Sly Fox – Rt 113 IPA, Pikeland Pils
Smuttynose – IPA, Pumpkin
Southampton Public House – Pumpkin Ale, Double White, IPA
Speakeasy – Tallulah Pale Ale, Prohibition Ale
St. Ambroise Brewery – Pumpkin Ale, Apricot Wheat Ale
Starr Hill Brewing Company – Boxcar Pumpkin Porter, Whiter Shade of Pale, Double Platinum, Smoke Out
Stone Brewing Co. – Ruination, Cali-belgique
Stoudts Brewery – Heifer in Wheat, Oktoberfest, Pilsner
Strongbow Cider
Summit – Extra Pale Ale, Oktoberfest, Porter, Pilsener
Tommyknocker Brewery – Small Batch Pumpkin Harvest Ale, Pick Axe IPA, Maple
Troegs – Perpetual IPA, Javahead Stout
Tuckahoe Brewing Co. – Dennis Creek Pale Ale, Steelmantown Porter
Unibroue – Chambly Noir, Blanche De Chambly, Trois Pistoles
Victory Brewing Company – Hop Wallop Double IPA, Headwaters Pale Ale, V12, Hop Devil
Weihenstephan – Kristal Weisse, Vitus, Oktoberfest
Weyerbacher – Double Simcoe IPA, Imperial Pumpkin
William’s Bros. – Fraoch Heather Ale, Kelpie Seaweed Ale, Midnight Sun
Wolaver’s Organic Brewery – IPA, Pumpkin, Oatmeal Stout
Wychwood Brewery – Hobgoblin Strong Dark Ale, Ginger Beard English Beer, Hobgoblin Strong Dark Ale, Ginger Beard English Beer
Yards – Pynk, Brawler
Tenth & Blake – Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin, Crispin Cider

After wandering around this beer maze for a few hours, if you were not smiling from ear to ear, something is wrong with you.  You are broken, and there is no amount of cow bell that will fix you.  Unless, perhaps it is not more cow bell that you need but some ridiculously good Cheese Curds from  The Cow and The Curd truck that happened to be parked in the venue.  Not a cheese fan, yet you still needed some sobering food to assist you in your journey, The Big Brew Beer Fest thought of that too, featuring food from The Office Beer Bar & Grill, 40 North, and Nicole’s Ten strategically located throughout the event.

Cheese Curds

How Could You Go Wrong With Fried Cheese

So let’s discuss what we have learned today shall we?  The Big Brew Beer Fest not only addressed but exceeded the concerns that were expressed after the first year of this event, which by the way I still loved.  Secondly, the beers that were offered at this event would make our founding fathers, whom by the way loved themselves some hooch, cry like a disgraced English man after the revolutionary war.  Furthermore, the food that was served at the Big Brew Beer Festival is the kind of food that is slightly more addictive than nicotine and three times tastier than anything your grandmother ever made, and that is a promise.  Finally and seriously most importantly is the fact that this astounding, intriguing, brilliant, and insert obligatory adjective here, event is coming back to the Morristown Armory on February 15, 2014, and if you are not in the house, you have no excuse!  See you there!

Pretzel Necklace

Never Underestimate the Power of a Pretzel Necklace!

The Blue Collar Foodie’s Top 5 Spots to Celebrate National IPA Day

IPA DAY

Are you the type of guy that buys your wife a half a dozen wilted red roses from the gas station around the corner from your house while fervently calling all the restaurants in town to get a reservation on your anniversary day?  The kind of Santa that pays no attention to the calendar until December 24th and all your loved ones end up with dollar store dog toys and gift cards from Walgreens as presents.  If so, when you signed onto Facebook this morning and found out that today was National IPA day, you most likely panicked and began to scour the interwebs for a place to celebrate this most hallowed day.  Have no fear my procrastinating hop heads, The Blue Collar Foodie here.  The following is the Top 5 Blue Collar Foodie approved craft beer bars to wet your whistle on this hop filled holiday!

Andys Corner

Andy’s Corner

5:  Andy’s Corner:  If you are looking for a low key neighborhood bar that serves nothing but the best beer this world has to offer, look no further than Andy’s corner.  Not only is their draft menu constantly rotating, they have refrigerators full of bottled hoptastic perfection that is sure to please.  Furthermore, the proprietor, George, is the type of bartender that has long since gone the way of the dinosaur, beepers, and Blockbusters.  He not only is personable and friendly, he has more beer knowledge in his pinky toe than most pompous cicerones have in their entire bulbous craniums, yet is humble unlike those D-bags.  Although there is no true IPA Day event at Andy’s tonight, I assure you, if you go see George he will point you in the direction of some beers that are just perfect for the evening’s festivities.

Andy’s Corner Bar:  A World of Beer, Just a Corner Away
257 Queen Anne Road
Bogota, NJ 07603
(201) 342-9887

The Shepard & The Knucklehead

The Shepherd & The Knucklehead

4: The Shepherd & The Knucklehead:  A long time ago when I was just a naïve college student shot gunning PBRs, I thought nothing about the quality of beer and food that I ingested.  That is of course until this Knucklehead met the Shepherd.  If I had to pin point the moment that I realized that I had an affinity for craft beer which in turn gave birth to my passion for all things gastronomic, I would have to say that it was the moment that The Shepherd & The Knucklehead became my Cheers.  Although I am not there as much as I would like to be anymore, the years I spent at this now even more epic craft beer bar shaped and honed my palate in a way that I could never have envisioned.  The Shepherd & The Knucklehead now features 90 taps and serves classic and creative pub food to boot.  Much like Andy’s Corner there is no IPA Day event scheduled for this evening but I can attest that at the Shep it is IPA day, every day!

The Shepherd & The Knucklehead: Where we celebrate the Duality in Man
529 Belmont Avenue
Haledon, New Jersey 07508
(973) 942-8666 *after 4:00 PM*

The Twisted Elm

The Twisted Elm

3:  The Twisted Elm Tavern:   This North Jersey Gastropub exploded onto both the foodie scene and the beer scene in 2011 and has not looked back since.  The Twisted Elm features an ever changing remarkable beer menu that will satisfy even the most refined beer aficionado’s palate.  However, the Twisted Elm doesn’t just have beer; they combine their impressive craft beer list with foodie fare that is prepared by an award winning chef and an outstanding staff that makes you feel as if you are one of the family.  This truthfully is my favorite bar in North Jersey and a spot-on representation of what a Gastropub should be.  There may not be an IPA event scheduled for tonight but never the less The Twisted Elm Tavern makes the list because there is no place I would rather be on a Thursday night.

The Twisted Elm:  A New Jersey Gastropub
435 River Drive
Elmwood Park, NJ, 07407
201-791-3705

Cloverleaf Tavern

Cloverleaf Tavern

2:  The Cloverleaf Tavern:  When it comes to craft beer bars there are only a few bars in North Jersey that are on the level of The Cloverleaf Tavern.  Not only do they have one of the most notable beer lists in the state, their food is stupid good.  They also love to celebrate beer centric holidays like St. Patrick’s Day and of course National IPA Day.  Tonight the Cloverleaf is celebrating by having an IPA showdown of East Vs. Midwest by offering Kane Head High and Founder All-Day IPA drafts for only $3.50.  To add to the appeal of this event, if either of those brews don’t make you more excited than Bill Clinton snorting Viagra at the Bunny Ranch, they are also damn near giving Dogfish 90 minute away for $4.50.  If you are looking to pair some of the best IPAs in the land with foodie fare that is off the hook, look no further than The Cloverleaf Tavern tonight.               

The Cloverleaf Tavern: Where Good Friends Meet
395 Bloomfield Ave.
Caldwell, NJ 07006
973-226-9812

Morris Tap & Grill

Morris Tap & Grill

1:  Morris Tap and Grill:  Where is The Blue Collar Foodie going to celebrate the most sacred American beer holiday of the year you ask?  I have to admit it was a very difficult decision, but after careful consideration the Morris Tap and Grill was the clear winner.  Their beer list for tonight has an average Ratebeer rating of 96.91 and is the most serious IPA selection that I have ever seen compiled under one roof.  With selections from Stone, Kane, Carton, Elysian, Founders, and Dogfish Head to name a few, my biggest problem is going to be that I am going to want to try them all.  On top of their incredible beer list, Chef Eric Levine, a freaking Chopped Champion by the way, will be on hand to create his awe inspiring, drool invoking, culinary creations as usual.  Morris Tap and Grill may be somewhat of a drive for this foodie, but every mile is worth it, and I am super excited to spending my IPA day with the cast and crew of this praise worthy establishment!           

Morris Tap and Grill:  The MTG
500 Route 10 West
Randolph, NJ
973-891-1776

Whether or not you decide to take one of my suggestions and venture to these spectacular craft beer bars to celebrate IPA Day 2013 is up to you.  I do however ask that all of you drink responsibly tonight or ask one of your hoighty-toighty wine drinking friends to be a designated driver.  Have fun and Hoppy Holidays to one and all from The Blue Collar Foodie!

The Blue Collar Foodie Goes On A Foodcation

When normal people go on Vacation, they spend hours, if not days, obsessing over which monuments to visit or which museum has the most, must see artwork, within its confines.  I however am not an ordinary person, I am a foodie through and through and my vacation planning begins with the googles and ends with a list of must have foodie finds for whatever foreign land I am venturing to.

In the past, I have ate my way through a road trip spanning across this beautiful country of ours sampling all the spectacular food that the fly over states have to offer.  Kat and I then went on an International foodcation to see what eats Europe had to offer, while stopping off at London, Paris, and Rome. No matter where Kat and I journey, as Snoop  Dogg once kind of said, “We got our mind on our food, and our food on our mind.”

This past week Kat and I were traipsing through LA LA land, over on the left coast, and I was not disappointed with the fantastic food that I found while I lived among the movie stars and crazy meth addled homeless people that seem to live next door to each other in good ole’ Los Angles. The following is my Top 5 Blue Collar Foodie finds in the L.A. area.

5.  Bar Kitchen 819 S. Flower Street, Downtown LA

“When in Rome” is the Cliché that should roll off every foodie’s tongue when foodcationing (Yes I just made that word up and by the way, it is Trademarked).  One should not go to Philadelphia and opt to eat a Cheese Steak without Cheez Whiz because they are on a diet, just like one should not go to the Musée du Louvre in Paris and opt not to see the Mona Lisa because the line is too long, it is decisions like these that make the rest of the world believe that Americans are uncouth, and this foodie will not allow that to happen on his watch.

With this thought in mind, I could not let my fellow East Coasters down, even if every frugal bone in my body was tingling like Spiderman’s spidey sense at Doctor Octopus’s New Years Eve Party, as I walked into the posh downtown eatery known as Bar Kitchen.  From the moment I walked into this establishment my hipstrometer, which of course is my scientific device that measures the approximate hipster level a restaurant gives off, was reading Michael Cera in a Starbucks with a Mac Book Pro, which is the highest reading I have ever seen before.

When in Rome I thought to myself as we were seated adjacent to the wall that was showing a looped, muted, black and white version of The Never Ending Story and offered a libation before our five course Chef’s Tasting began.  I ordered a Golden Road, Point the Way I.P.A, which is one of the few beers that is brewed and bottled in sunny Los Angeles, California.

With my first bite of the first course, a Quail salad with sweet potatoes and pomegranate seeds, I was ready to don an ascot, black glasses, and sing to Weezer while driving down Hollywood Boulevard in my Smart Car.  With every bite I was whisked away to a foodie paradise via Falcore the Luck Dragon, the creepy flying dog from The Never Ending Story, and I savored every second of it.

With a tiny bird and some greens in my belly, the courses hit the table like a flurry of punches from Mike Tyson, not the pigeon wrangling medicated Tyson either, the biting people’s ears off crazy Tyson.  The Mussels with Catalina beans and Tasso Ham were so rich and decadent they would make Bill Gates jealous, a Chicken Chorizo skewer topped with a lime aioli that tasted as if it was grilled on Jesus’s barbecue outside the pearly gates, and a Sock-Eye Salmon that was served with Fava beans and an Olive Compote that was so light and flaky that I mistook it for actress and damn near asked it for its autograph.

With the savory courses done, our Motley Crew sat back in our chairs like the hedonistic rulers of age old societies as we loosened our belts and discussed the fine food that graced our table in celebration of our friend Benni’s bachelor party and all agreed that this grub was in fact better than the obligatory stripper laced bachelor party that is the ordinary agenda for a party of this magnitude.   Just when we thought we could not eat another bite, a small glass of sherbet and cantaloupe arrived in front of each of us.  The chef at Bar kitchen is apparently smarter than the average bear, and knows no one in Los Angles can turn down Sherbet and Fruit no matter how stuffed they are.  This final course was simply divine and was the perfect ending to a tremendous meal.

When I entered this eatery I fell into the age old trap of judging a book by its cover and I was wrong to do so.  To add insult to my injury their price was half as much as one would expect to pay a New York Restaurant for a 5 course tasting meal, and I gladly ate the chef’s humble pie for only 35 bucks!  Well done Bar Kitchen, my compliments to the chef.

Bar & Kitchen on Urbanspoon

 

4.  Bob’s Big Boy 4211 Riverside Dr. Burbank, CA

There are quite a few things that New Jersey is known for, some of them we are proud of and others, not so much. A true Jersey native will proudly boast about first game of baseball being played in Hoboken, cringe at any Snookie related nonsense, and give you directions to one of the 17 billion malls that are located in the Garden State.   Even though New Jersey is known for all of these things, the one thing that Jersey has that no New Jersian can truly live without, is the magical Diner.  In most of the other states that I have traveled to finding a Diner is quite a task, but not in our wonderful little armpit. I am pretty sure that every town has a law about having at least one diner, and if that diner closes your town risks being shunned and forced to become a part of Pennsylvania, and believe me, no one wants that.

Everyone enjoys having a small slice of home when they are on vacation, including Kat and I, so if we can have breakfast  at a diner when we are away  it makes the start of the day that much better. Enter Bob’s Big Boy, which is not just any old run of the mill diner, but a full service diner that has been feeding the residents of Burbank, California since 1949.  Whenever we are in the L.A. area Bob’s Big Boy is a must stop for at least one leisurely breakfast.

The door for Bob’s in Burbank is like a time portal that whisks you away back to the 1950’s when Diners were chock full of plump oversized booths  and smiling waitresses.  As you walk into this amazing historical landmark, you can feel the Americana oozing from every corner, from the plague that informs you where the Beatles ate to Bob Big Boy statue that is displayed within the dining area.   If there is one thing better than the décor, it is the deliciously comforting food.

At Bob’s you can, of course, get the normal diner fare, but in my opinion normal is just another way to say mundane.  If you decide to go visit Bob in Burbank I recommend getting the Big Boy Scramble which is described as scrambled eggs mixed with ham, bell pepper, onions and tomato, topped with cheddar cheese and is served with fresh hash brown potatoes, a side of salsa and toast, English muffin or biscuit if you are hungry yet want to appear healthy.  I for one, use the mantra go big or go home a lot when I am on vacation, so when I go to Bob’s I order the Deep Fried French Toast with bacon, eggs, and home fries.   That’s right I said DEEP FRIED FRENCH TOAST, try to read the rest of the article before booking a flight to Big Boy Land please.

Bob's Big Boy on Urbanspoon

3.  Food Trucks (Lardon’s Obituary)

The first time Kat and I wandered around the streets of California we had never partook in the offerings of mobile gastronomy purveyors, or food trucks in layman’s terms.  It was on this first adventure to Los Angles that Kat and I realized the folly of our ways.  While we were looking for expensive chic restaurants in preparation for our trip, we should have been scouring the interwebs for mobile eateries and then chasing them down California Highway Patrol style sans the goofy looking tan shorts and bad 80’s hair.

The food truck that converted us to the church of portable cuisine was none other than the delectably decadent Lardon.  This now extinct beast was the countries’ first and, as far as I know the only Bacon themed food truck.   Lardon was so popular due to its Baconey goodness that it was featured on numerous Television Shows including everyone’s favorite Ginger, Conan O’Brien.  Just reading Lardon’s menu literally added cholesterol to your system.  Some of the menu highlights were, The Bacone which consisted of three strips of exotic bacon, such as Duck or Wild Boar, Chicken Wings covered in bacon hot sauce, topped with hot sauce covered bacon served with a bacon blue cheese dipping sauce, and of course the BACO, a Taco Shell made entirely out of BACON!

I honestly could write a dozen sonnets in iambic pentameter about Lardon and their porky yumminess, but alas they are no more, so I will mourn in silence for our deceased friend.  In the meantime, let me explain how these trucks work for those of you who are not in the know.  The first step is to find a truck you are interested in trying before you arrive in L.A., which is easy enough thanks to the good ol’ googles.  If you are feeling lazier than usual, you can choose one from the Zagat’s Top 10 L.A. food truck list.

Once you have a truck in mind, for example the Grill ‘Em All truck, head over to their website and check out how you can follow them around town.  Most trucks use their Twitter and Facebook feeds to tell potential clients where their truck will be parked for breakfast, lunch, and diner.   Once you are following your food truck via your preferred method of social media, the rest is simple.  Check feed, find truck, and eat food.

The food truck scene in California is amazing because the weather year round is perfect for outdoor dining and standing in line.  Although the New York Metropolitan area is trying to catch up, there seems to be a lot more red tape on this coast that these small businesses have to cut through in order to open up shop.   With that said, these mobile business ventures do seem to disappear overnight never to be heard from again, so if you see one you like and you have the opportunity to eat there, do it while you can.

2. Smoke House  4420 W Lakeside Dr. Burbank, CA

While driving around the Burbank area, Kat and I drove past this unassuming eatery and noticed a neon sign that read, “fine food at a fair price.”  You would think that the sign read, “Free Bacon,” because the next day Kat and I were on our way to explore Smoke House with some friends and family that we were visiting with during our stay.

Me, being me could not resist doing a little research on the place before just walking in, so out the I-Phone came and onto the Googles I went.  I found out that the Smoke House is one of the oldest restaurants in Burbank, California and was opened in 1946.  Due to its location, near the Warner Brother’s Studio, it became a haven for celebrities in its hay day.  Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Errol Flynn, Milton Berle, Judy Garland, and even James Dean could be found dining at the Smoke House on any given Friday night back in the day.   While now George Clooney and Andy Garcia are known to pop in from time to time, Clooney even named his production company after this place.  The more and more I read about this spot, the more and more I knew I needed to eat there.

The Smokehouse Restaurant is yet another time travel device tucked away in Burbank California.  As you walk in, the old Hollywood Lounge vibe is stronger than Charlie Sheen’s coffee after a weekend binge.   I almost expected to hear a traditional lounge singer crooning over a bad P.A. system and be assaulted by plumes of cigarette smoke from the patrons.   As we traveled to our table, the nostalgia level only increased, from the in booth telephone jacks, the artwork on the walls, this was in fact Hollywood the way I only wish I could experience it.

Not only was I excited just to have the opportunity to dine at this sweet establishment, when we looked at the menu is only got better.  We had apparently arrived at the Smoke House during their 66th Anniversary celebration and we were able to order off a special menu that shaved off about 7 dollars a plate.   My research insisted Kat and I try the Smoke House famous Prime Rib with a side order of “The World’s Best Garlic Bread,” and we are not ones to argue with the foodie community or the googles for that matter, so Prime Rib it was.

Not only did I feel like a pimp sitting in this restaurant, I felt like a King eating the food.  The Garlic Bread was bursting with flavor; the salad portion was larger than Christina Ricci’s five head; and the Prime Rib was simply amazing.  To top it all off, the wait staff was wonderful and treated us like we were one of the many celebrities that has placed their rump in their vintage comfy seats.

If you find yourself in Burbank, California and you don’t hit this remarkable establishment up, you sir have failed the foodie that lives inside of you.

Smoke House on Urbanspoon

1: IN AND OUT BURGER (212 locations in CA)

If you don’t know about In and Out Burger, then you need to fly to the West Coast immediately and put some of their crazy good burgers in your belly.  I know I have done articles about Gastro Burgers and sung their praises but there is something about the simplicity of a good old fashioned In And Out burger that makes my stomach smile.  You can ask Kat, when I enter a state that has an In and Out located within its borders (Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas, or Utah) we are driving until In and Out is in my belly.

Before I get a hundred nasty grams from you guys, I should clarify that I am fully aware that it is just a burger and fries from yet another fast food restaurant.  But, because I can only have one every so often they become a forbidden fruit, a red button that you are told not to press, or a wrapped toy that you can’t play it, it gets to the point that I dream about them.

Not to mention the fact that In and Out has a super not so secret menu that you can order off of to procure items that are not listed on their very limited menu.  If you do intend to go to an In and Out during your travels you should definitely study this clandestine menu so you can experience the best  In and Out has to offer.   I love ordering off the secret menu because you feel as if you are a member of a fraternal order and only you and the cashier know the handshake.

I have a standard order when I go to In and Out for the first time in a long time.  I get myself a Double Double Animal Style with a side of Animal Style fries and wait in anticipation for them to call my number.  After ordering, I am like a child on Christmas morning waiting for their parents to wake up, I pace around the restaurant in anticipation getting the napkins and ketchup prepared so when my number is called all I have to do it sit and eat.

In and Out Burger has been pumping out fantastic burgers and fries since 1948 and the basic process has remained the same.    They don’t freeze, pre-package or over-process their beef patties.  They hand leaf their lettuce so each piece is inspected before landing on your burger.  Their fries are individually cut at the store that you walk into, so they are the freshest they can be.  The best way to put it is that In and Out Burger just make things the old-fashioned way, and that is why their food tastes so good.

I, by no means claim to have a working knowledge of the California Foodie Scene and I am sure a California native could throw out the name of ten places that are bigger and better than the five restaurants I mentioned above, but then they have missed the point of this article completely.  This post is merely designed to explain that a vacation can be turned into a foodcation with a little research and an open mind.   Next time you venture out of your area don’t just visit the monuments and museums, explore the local culture one forkful at a time.