Man Friday, a Mexican/Int’l Cafe on Magnetic Island, Queensland, Australia

Man Friday is a BYOB cafe, open only in the evenings, that describes itself as serving Mexican food, but doesn’t. It is located in Nelly Bay on Queensland’s Magnetic Island (which for gubernatorial reasons is technically considered part of the mainland city of Townsville). I shouldn’t be too hard on it; my travel partner, who is originally from Sydney, but has lived for almost half his life in California and has spent a lot of time in Mexico, likes to try every “Mexican” restaurant he finds in Australia, in large part because almost NONE of them get it right. He’s always curious, and hopeful, that he’ll find one that does, but admits its pretty rare that it happens. This would not be one of the NOT ‘authentic’ ones…. but it is tasty for all that.

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My travel partner and I spent a week at an Airbnb in Nelly Bay, and as there were only a handful of food options in Nelly Bay we did our best to try all that we could, and this was one of them. And like I said, this was one of the ones he was wanting to try … as part of his ‘do they have real Mexican food’ test. To the owner’s credit, she (I think it’s a she) recognizes that Mexican and Tex/Mex are not in fact the same thing, and that’s exemplified by her menu.

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That said, the owners are not actually clear on which is which. Nachos, for instance, while technically created in Mexico, and she has them listed as such …. are not considered to be “authentic” Mexican food; they’re Tex/Mex because they were created AT the Mexico/Texas border for the consumption of Anglos, aka white people. The story is that at a Mexican border-town hotel with a restaurant… back when the border was a lot more porous even than Trump is trying to make it today, the owner, who went by the nickname of “Nacho” … short for Ignatius, had white customers who came in after the kitchen was closed asking for something to eat with their Margaritas. The owner, looked in the kitchen, and threw together a bed of leftover tortilla chips, slopped over them various leftover ingredients, heated it up a bit and served it.

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This is essentially the same way the “Chinese” dishes of Chop suey and Egg foo-young came into being …. dishes which you won’t find in any self-respecting Chinese restaurant in American that caters to the Chinese community rather than serving mostly white customers. I am always amused when I take friends to a REAL Chinese restaurants and they get frustrated that they can’t find either on the menus. All of these dishes are essentially what you do with leftover ingredients … they are not “cuisine.”

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That said, both my friend and I were, in spite of the in-authenticity of the food, happy with our meals. The woman who runs the kitchen can actually cook. My friend ordered a vegetarian burrito. When I asked him how it was, he said, “Very Tasty! But wrapping is crispy, I’ve never had a crispy burrito before” to which I responded,  “OH, that’s because it’s not a burrito, it’s a Chimichanga” which is ALSO Tex/Mex rather than Mexican. It was created in Arizona but there’s a disagreement as to whether it was a restaurant in Phoenix or Tucson that first did it. That said, it’s yet another example of how Man Friday’s Chef knows there is a difference between the Mexican and Tex/Mex, but don’t fully understand what that difference is. (That, and the refried beans weren’t, they were just beans… the way the British might serve them.)

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For my dish, since this sort of Mexican food does NOT meet my food needs because of my fatty liver disease — my liver right now isn’t all that different from human Foie gras — was a negotiated affair of what they had in the kitchen that could meet my needs… and I have to say they did a VERY good job of it. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_20fa.jpg

My dinner was a grilled bit of chicken breast, nicely spiced up that was VERY juicy (YAY!!!) with a salad with NO dressing (because that has oil in it) and a little side dish of balsamic vinegar for me to dip my food into. I was happy.

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That said, Man Friday’s is for the most part, out-door seating in a VERY pretty garden. There’s not much space, and even less so in-doors, so make sure to make a reservation, and like with all restaurants on the island, be prepared for a LONG wait between ordering and getting your food. Either snack in advance, or order in advance.

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Paddy’s Market & Market City (the mall for Asian tourists) in Sydney Australia’s Haymarket

In a way this building tells you a LOT about this section of Sydney. It serves the needs of multiple populations living right on top of each other but that somehow remain utterly obvious to each other. Paddy’s Market (open Wednesday –> Sunday), the basement of this building, has a long and complicated history that extends back to 1834, when Sydney’s Governor had moved all of the towns hay & grain markets out of the city into an adjoining area, that henceforth became known as Haymarket. What started out as simply a local market has over the years evolved into arguably one of Sydney’s major tourist attractions, that sits at the edge of the tourism district in the Haymarket neighborhood. And sitting upon that base is a Market City, a mall targeted directly at upper middle class Asians (the 20%), both those who are visiting as tourists and those who live in Sydney

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In actuality, Paddy’s Market is something of a chain. While it still maintains a branch at the original Haymarket address (for locals and tourists) its larger branch is located about a half hour west in Flemington, which also offers a flea market section and night food market. Combined, the two locations offer up over 1000 stalls selling food, fashion and just stuff. The Flemington location is where the Sydney markets were moved too when the city grew well past the Haymarket in the 1960’s (wholesale markets for the metropolitan area that sell fresh… from the ground …perishables, like fruits, vegetables and flowers to NSW and ACT florists)

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Currently the tourist attraction part of Patty’s is in a massive space on the ground floor/basement level (the building sits on a slope) of a multistoried entertainment and housing complex, where it was moved to in the 1970’s

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_bb76.jpgThe lowest floor is of an old-fashioned brick construction (I have the feeling that it had its exterior walls preserved), can get very hot and uncomfortable… and house’s Paddy’s, while a modern, air-conditioned, steel and glass structure towers above it,

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which houses both the Market City Shopping Mall (with 30+ factory outlet stores on its 2nd floor, a food court and wide selection of restaurants) and a separate/connecting apartment building, .

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That said, Paddy’s Market, which sits in the basement of the structure– in what could have easily been the parking area based on the look of the place… is in fact broken into two parts. In the southeast corner of the area, Paddy’s maintain’s it original purpose as a”Farmers Market” that manages to maintain its popularity with locals for the breadth and depth of its offerings, even though there’s an Asian Supermarket (IGA X-press Thai kee) located just above it in Market City, and there’s a Woolworth grocery store just kiddy corner from it, offer up way more in terms of packaged and bottled options. In large part it is because Paddy’s boasts a combination fresh foods which these other more modern stores just can’t really compete with

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…the reality is that in those areas, the more modern markets can’t really compete… that said, I was initially seriously wondering how the new ‘refrigerated’ section of Patty’s manages to compete with them in anything other than convenience

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Thai Kee Butchery

I ultimately realized that both the meat market at Paddy’s, and the fish area is actually owned by the Asian market, Thai Kee, that is upstairs in the modern mall, Market city

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_20e4.jpgand as such seem to be offering up the sort of bits and pieces its customers want but that the modern market upstairs doesn’t sell (that market has no fresh meat of fish sections, just frozen). So for instance, the meat market down in the basement has: tripe, tendons, small intestines, pigs ears, ox-tails, duck, wagyu beef, and shoulder-blade steaks. In a way this makes in that the market’s smelly meat and fish sections are not up in the shiny clean section adjacent to places selling clothes, etc., but are down in the basement, bothering no one.

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… that said, I had difficulty understanding how their seafood section was able to complete, considering their clientele were from the looks of it, mostly Asian (who take freshness in their seafood way more seriously than westerners do); and considering just how nearby this market is to Sydney’s seafood market, which is just a short ride away from Paddy’s by light rail

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And the seafood here is well… NOT so fresh… the eyes of the fish was all clouded and bulging, and the flesh didn’t even look firm… so how this seafood place stays open considering a predominately Chinese clientele, I don’t know.

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Adjacent to the food section of Paddy’s there’s a stall that sells every form of uniform a person might night need, from Chef’s and waiter’s uniforms to construction worker’s safety gear. And beyond that is ….

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the flea market!!! THIS section of Paddy’s is what makes it a mecca for the tourist in the tourist in the know…  these guys have pretty much everything a tourist might need from really high quality and affordable leather goods — These guys had HIGH quality leather men’s belts for about $30 AUD/$20 USD… best prices I’ve seen on comparable belts in the USA was $35.

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I got a particular hoot out of their Ned Kelly statue out front — he’s sort of the Jessie James of Australia. After having learned about him in via some general Australian history books, they all mention him, and then reading the Booker Prize winning novel, the “True History of the Kelly Gang” … so that I pretty much knew as much about his as the average Aussie, I was lucky enough to pass through Ned Kelly’s Home town Glenrowan last year, which of course. The statue basically shows the home-made armor he crafted for himself before his final showdown with police — where he was completely outnumbered.

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There’s no shortage of new ageie, paganie, stuff scattered throughout the market, including scented candles, crystals, incense, taro card and palm readers, massage and reflexology booths, etc., you name it

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There’s sexy costumes and kinky wear for folks who are getting ready for things like Sydney’s Mardi Gras/Gay pride festival in March — which I was lucky enough to attend last year.

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There’s hats and clothes of all variety, and no shortage of suitcases for sale to load them into — so you shouldn’t be restricted by the fullness of your luggage when you came here

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And probably the MOST common shop in this section… I counted at least 5 of them but I’m guessing there’s more … and this doesn’t include ALL the places selling Australian T-shirts… there’s more than a few….  are shops selling souvenirs for tourists… everything from the obligatory boomerangs, to the grotesque … furry kangaroo balls attached to a back scratcher, all crammed together into a small space, so that’s kind of hard to find what you’re looking for or even really see what’s being sold.

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BUT, and this is a big BUT… all of that is just on the ground floor of the building. I suggest taking the elevator upstairs and checking out the modern multilevel Asian/tourist focused shopping mall that’s sitting on top of Paddies.

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YUP, THIS is what’s sitting on top of that, and it’s like a different world. This mall is like every mall in South Korean. Granted, it’s a modern shopping mall so on the surface not so different … but here’s the thing… the whole time I was walking around it I kept feeling like I was back in South Korea, and I mean at the mall that was located across the street from my house when I worked there as a professor.  All the types of products and stores you see in Korea were on sale here. I kept feeling like if I lived in Australia, and went to visit Korea, I’d be sad cause I’d be like… everything here is what’s for sale at Market City in Haymarket…. And then I saw THIS store… UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_20e5.jpg

And I was like, “Oh my God I AM in Korea!!! 100%!!” …. this proved it to me. Giordano is a REALLY common brand there, and I was, I shit you not, actually wearing one of their T-shirt the first day I first found this store…. I’ve got BOXES of their clothing stored back in Chicago that I had shlepped back with me when I moved home after dad died.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_20e3.jpg

That said, my favorite part of this mall is the food courts on the first floor of this building that are full of highly authentic, highly affordable, Asian treats aimed at tourists visiting from Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and China…

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Look at all the people in these photos… I was one of the VERY FEW White people here… the place is like being in Asia

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They even have a Hakata/Fukuoka style Ramen place

On the Top floor of the building there is a whole collection of sit down restaurants, that are AS authentic, and where again you’ll find very few white people having a meal

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Up there, they have a conveyor belt sushi place that I had fallen in love with. I could stuff myself silly with really fresh sushi, for only about $20 US, which is ridiculously cheap… for sushi

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Thai Again, a homestyle Thai restaurant in Nelly Bay, Magnetic Island, Queensland, Australia

Located in Nelly Bay on Queensland’s Magnetic Island (Townsville) in an unimpressive looking building adjacent to a grocery store is a little family owned Thai restaurant called “Thai Again” … which has REALLY good food, if questionable service.  The woman who runs the place is from Northern Thailand, and the food she cooks is ‘home-style’ Thai like you’d find at restaurants in small towns in Thailand, and is quite tasty — albeit with the heat modified to local tastes.

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Photo above is of their menu, to give you an idea

There’s outdoor seating (which is what we opted for) in a fairly beautiful jungle like setting, as well as a limited amount of indoor air-conditioned. That said, the interior of the place is pretty drab and unimpressive — a bit like a diner really, so if the humidity doesn’t bother you (and you’ve remembered to put on something to discourage the mosquitos… I strongly suggest sitting outdoors.

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My Tom Yom soup,

That said, the waitresses seem to take an “out of sight out of mind” attitude, and one of them got snippy with me if I got tired of waiting and actually went in to remind her she had customers outside …. and this was an evening when we had all the time in the world and were in no rush at all and having a nice conversation, but it was STILL taking way too long to get any attention.

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I ordered the Tom Yom soup $19.90 AUD/$21.48 (remember in Australia you don’t add tax or tip) — which seemed a bit expensive but it turned out to be a ‘to be shared’ portion that was loaded with four HUGE shrimps, big slices of squid, and a full fillet of some sort of white fish… so easily a meal in itself. Unlike the Tom Yum in Thailand, which of the sort of hot that it creeps up on you and by the third spoonful your ears will turn red … this stuff was more flavorful than hot, but she puts in great big slabs of fresh red pepper (HOT) which you can nibble on if you’re so inclined — I pulled them out immediately.

[HEH, so I put in the amount about an hour ago, and it was 21 USD, which told me the US dollar had suddenly weakened against the Aussie one by a bit … and now an hour later it is saying $14 USD — ah the joys of international currency. Trump, bless his soul, is making the markets go hay wire]

I also ordered the Satay Chicken, which is coated in a sort of curry, and served with peanut sauce for $13.90 AUD, which was also very good.

My travel partner is a vegetarian. On a back page they had TWO vegan options listed, that both had MEAT in them… one had duck and I forget what the 2nd was. He was more than a bit miffed… however when the waitress came he said, “Can I have a green curry that made vegetarian, so like with Tofu?” and she said no problem. So I guess the trick in this case is to just say that… He, by the way, was VERY happy with his dish. Being Australian he’s gone to Thailand often, and said this was just like what you’d expect in small towns up at the north end of it.

That said, the restaurant is BYOB, only open for dinner, and it is STRONGLY suggested that you reserve in advance. The reality is that there are not many restaurants on Magnetic Island, so calling in advance is almost always a good idea, especially for dinner.  ALSO, and I found this true for EVERY restaurant we at while on the island, be prepared for the kitchens to be SLOW… and this place is no exception. I strongly suggest giving kids and sugar sensitive adults a snack before going out to dinner on this island.

 

Harry’s Café de Wheels (Haymarket location), Sydney Australia

Updated: Harry’s Café de Wheels, which first opened in 1938, is a 70-year-old Australian pie company with 13 different locations (the owner is clearly not superstitious) around the Sydney area that is considered so iconic that its original food cart is housed in the nearby Powerhouse Museum. Of these, seven keep true to the company’s food truck architecture — hence the “Café de Wheels” moniker.

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All the tourist books say Harry’s Café  is one of those MUST do things while in Sydney things. According to Wikipedia celebrities visiting Sydney who have made a point of stopping to eat here have included,  Frank SinatraRobert Mitchum, Marlene Dietrich, and even Colonel Sanders.  I learned about it before coming on this trip, while watching food channel episodes about things you HAD to try while in visiting Sydney, describing it as “authentic Sydney eats”. In keeping with my exploration of Australian Pies during my visit last year, which are sort of one of the national dishes …  and as such I felt I had to at least TRY Harry’s “spécialité de la Maison” so to speak

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2044.jpgTheirs is the tiger which is one of their pies covered and mashed potatoes which is then covered and mushy peas which is in covered in gravy. I left it to the woman working there to choose the most appropriate pie and she said it hat to be the beef one. Looking at it, from what I can tell their topping defeats the essential purpose of a Aussie pie that makes it different from … let’s say an American Pot pie… which is the Aussie incarnation of it is supposed to be easy to eat by holding it in your hands, like a sandwich …. sort of….

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Me, eating a pie last year

and THIS collection of slop you definitely cannot eat while holding it in your hands.

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That said, the beef pie the “Tiger topping” was sitting upon, was exceptionally bland except for the flavor of pepper.  Seriously, it was the only flavor that stood out. If you eat the mushy peas by themselves you can taste those, essentially fresh green peas pureed — (and nothing like the British version which has to start from a tin to taste right), but the flavor of Harry’s peas are subtle enough that its easy to see how they are overwhelmed by the pepper in the pie….. and if you eat the mashed potatoes with gravy again the whole thing is kind of bland because the gravy is a bit bland ……  

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So in effect… the individual parts are actually stronger alone than as a whole and as such… the dish is a major fail. The meal was in fact so underwhelming that once I got done doing the taste analysis I threw the rest of it out. Definitively not worth the calories. This had me looking at the other options on the menu but… there’s that pesky diet I have to maintain for medical reasons… so I didn’t order something else. V3kDNpD+QKmw%uwscIHaLw_thumb_bb98.jpg

Update: Talked to a few Aussie friend about having gone here, current and former residents of Sydney, and they were amused I went. According to them, Yes it’s a Sydney tradition… but usually at 2 am when you’re drunk and need a serious amount of fat in your system to help you sober up. None of them considered it ‘good food.’

Kind of sad actually… I’m from Chicago where we take our hotdogs seriously, eat Italian beef & sausage sandwiches, often dipped in gravy and created the deep dish pizza and take it seriously….  these foods are all fatty, sure… but GOOD! While Italian beef and Pizza might sound Italian, the reality is they were, as eaten, created locally… it’s at best Italian influenced… but it’s local. AND… it’s SO good that all of these dishes are worth the calorie hit. Honestly the more I try “Aussie” food the less impressed I am.

There’s good food in Australia, only almost all of it is foreign ethnic.

ALSO… went to the Powerhouse museum and asked where the Harry’s original food van was. First I was told “no we don’t have it” and then I found out they did, but it was in deep storage and is never displayed…

Fisherman’s Wharf Seafood Restaurant, Sydney Australia

Located on the 2nd floor of the main building of the Sydney Fish Market, is a Chinese restaurant that is open 365 days a year, including holidays, and while it specializes in seafood (well why wouldn’t they?) also serves Dim Sum/Yum cha every day until 3pm.

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Dim Sum is one of my guilty pleasures. If you’ve ever googled the nutritional information on it you know that EVEN if you just choose the steamed options and avoid the fried, the fat content on these things are truly horrifying — to the extent that the Hong Kong Government has been trying to dissuade its populace from their dim sum addition. So don’t fool yourself…

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In Chinese “what fresh fish do you have” translates to “what do you have that is swimming”

but that said, if you’re a dim sum fan looking for it while in Australia, you need to know that Australians, for some reason, prefer the term Yum Cha to Dim Sum, which is how it described in pretty much every other country I’ve been to. (This is true to the extent that some Aussies won’t know what you’re talking about if you say Dim Sum, and if you’re trying to find a place near you that serves it, you’ll need to try searching BOTH terms on yelp and elsewhere — as it’s listed as two separate things). To explain the confusion: according to Wikipedia, “Yum cha (飲茶) in Cantonese Chinese literally means “drink tea”… in Cantonese, dim sum (點心) refers to the range of small dishes, whereas yum cha refers to the entire meal.” So that considered… the British tradition of doing “high tea,” (something I’ve done fairly regularly during my travels) is probably borrowed (along with Tea) from the Chinese tradition of Yum Cha.

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I’ve been in Australia about a month now… and the first week I was here I went to The Fish Markets, and when I wrote the blog post about it I mentioned having learned (while writing the post) that there was a Chinese restaurant on the building’s 2nd floor which I had missed (the day I was there I came down with a bad cold, which I most likely had picked up on the flight over, ah the joys of travel) … three weeks later I moved Airbnb’s, only to find myself a straight bus ride away from the Fish markets… and decided to rectify this.

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The entrance is a single doorway leading to steep staircase at the far end of building. There is an elevator but it is NOT the one that’s easy to find at the front of the building where everyone enters. That one leads to the administrative/business floor an there’s no through walkway from there to the restaurant. You have to go outside, keep walking to the back-end of the building and in an entry way — that looks like you MUST be in the wrong place — is an elevator that is VERY VERY VERY slow, but will take you up to the restaurant.

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Once up there they’ll seat you (try to get one with the view of the bridge… and if it’s before 3pm there are dim sum carts to choose you lunch from… or you can order off the menu.

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That said, it was some of the best Dim Sum I have had in a while — especially for outside of China. Everything was very fresh, and since most of their clientele are Chinese… who are way more discriminating about Dim Sum than the rest of planet is, its sort of to be expected. The turnip cake, which is one of my favorite things but is usually made badly, was the best I’ve had in years.

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Ann’s Chicken Fry House & Gift Shop: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Located on Route 66 in Oklahoma city, Ann’s Chicken Fry House & Gift Shop is touted on all of the “what to do on route 66” sites as one of the MUST-sees if you want to have that classic 66 experience, and the best Chicken Fried Steak in town. In retrospect, I was really annoyed to discover that the place only opened up in 1971 (i.e, barely a historic 66 restaurant, if at all), and I didn’t really enjoy my meal… NOT worth the calories.

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First, Let’s keep in mind, that I-44 was bypassing Route 66 in Oklahoma city as early as 1958, when it was first built to link it to Saint Lewis. In fact the interstate STARTED there, and then worked itself out sideways… That said, HISTORICALLY even though 66 hit its cultural hey-day in the early 1960’s, and wasn’t officially disbanded till 1985, by the late 1960’s/early 1970’s it had essentially been made irrelevant. By the late 1980’s, when I tried driving parts of it, it was sort of an impossible struggle  — and it’s revival as a scenic byway (the program officially began in 1991) really didn’t start till 1990. As such, I’m sorry, but for Ann’s place falls right into the years of 66 irrelevance as anything other than highways that people don’t even think of AS highways because of just how many paved roads there now were, and their function eclipse by the expressways. As such, for Ann’s to promote itself as an authentic route 66 business is kind of false advertising. I’m sorry but it is. That, and, to add insult to injury, it isn’t even considered one of Oklahoma city’s better restaurants by any of the locals (seriously, read Yelp, or any of those other sites) … i.e., it’s essentially a MAJOR tourist trap and nothing more.

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That said… Be warned, they are a CASH ONLY business… they do NOT accept credit cards. (The mind boggles)…. and they are closed on Sundays and Mondays… Their specialty is supposed to be the chicken fried steak… so that is what I ordered… but I didn’t take any photos of it (it looked like chicken fried steak, and there was nothing impressive about the plating)….

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that it was much better than the previous order of the stuff I’d had along the route — And I ate so much chicken fried steak over the few weeks I was doing 66 that when I got back to Chicago my liver numbers had once again spiked.

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Chicken Fried Steak is one of my very favorite dishes, so I HAD to try ever one of the places that was advertised as offering the best example of the stuff.

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One day someone should count up the number of Route 66 restaurants that tout their Chicken Fried Steak as the best in the city or the best in the state, or the best along the route …. the number of restaurants is probably very high…

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but, all said and done, 9 times out of 10 when I’ve eaten it at these places I’ve been seriously let down to discover it is still just a hamburger fried in chicken batter … and RARELY, is it the much tastier and more expensive pounded filet-of-steak — and personally I’m spoiled; I MUCH prefer it when it’s a piece of steak that’s been pounded —- I love how in republican states they will insist that somehow its NOT a hamburger, and will call it ground steak as though somehow that isn’t just hamburger without a bun. And I’m sorry but hamburgers, no matter how good, don’t taste like steak. So NO, I do not really suggest their Chicken Fried Steak.

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That said, I DO suggest finding an excuse to go inside the place as the interior is very kitschy and fun. Its one of those place where not only will they allow you to write on the walls…. they’ll even hand you the pen

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That and, according to the owner, her husband (R.I.P.) had been kind a huge Star Wars fan, hence all the high-priced paraphernalia of the sort I’ve always lusted over but would never purchase because … “where would I put it?” UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_2023.jpg … well I guess if you own a kitschy tourist trap restaurant… you can legally deduct it as a business expense.

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The Sydney Fish Markets, Pyrmont, Sydney NSW Australia

Anyone who is a fan of fish (as in eating it) should consider a few hours at the Sydney Fish Markets, located in the Pyrmont neighborhood of the Greater Sydney area. According to their site, they are the largest market “of their kind” in the southern hemisphere (but that’s actually a very vague statement, so I’m not sure what it means exactly). That said, the place is fairly large, a bit labyrinth like, and offers an almost overwhelming number of options to the first time visitor (so reading a blog post like this before going really could help you make some decisions). While I’m guessing at these numbers, the place seemed to be 50% a full-fledged fish market offering freshly caught raw fish (or what the Aussies call “wet fish”), about 40% is fast-food food stalls where you can gorge-out on pre-cooked (displayed) fishy delights till you need to loosen your pants, and about 10% is normal sit down restaurants (for the boring) that specialize in fish — most of which are Chinese food (as most of the tourists here seem to be Chinese).

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As you walk around, especially if you get there earlier in the morning (before 11am), you quickly realize that this place is a bona-fide fish market, in that it is the city’s wholesale (i.e. bulk sales) hub for product to restaurants, and other businesses, as well as offering retail sales (small sales) to the public. I’ve been to a few “fisherman’s wharfs” over the past few years, and till now they’ve all degraded into tourist traps… that is not the case here. The auctions of the morning’s catch begin at around 6:30 am, while the on site restaurants and other shops intended for the public open up for business a few hours later, at 9am and close at 4pm.

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If you walk around the various shops long enough (and peak into corners) you’ll find all sorts of workers de-scaling and filleting ….fullsizeoutput_4f76.jpeg

and deboning some of the freshest fish I’ve ever seen for sale to the public….

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…as well as folks who are busy shucking oysters. And, if you pay attention you’ll begin to realize what isn’t there…  namely, ANY of that fishy smell that one comes to expect around places that sell ‘fresh’ fish… which usually isn’t actually all that fresh… and ALL of the fish here are clear of eye and firm of flesh in a way you just don’t see much of anymore — which tells you just how fresh they are — to an extent one rarely sees at the even the fish stores with the best offerings… this place is just BETTER and fresher.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1eb1.jpgLike I said, about half of the market is a market… as in you can buy an impressive variety of fresh fish to take home and cook. This type is broken into a variety of shops that are scattered around the fish market area.

De Costi Seafood

De Costi Seafood, which is not in the main building (but rather is in a sort of strip mall that lines one side) was the first of these shops that I entered…

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In addition to fish to cook, De Costi’s sells a small amount of ‘prepared’ fish that you could eat as you sit outside while sitting along the bay… such as the ever popular sashimi, which I soon learned pretty much every one of the fresh fish shops offered. This, you can either buy in pre-cut sets designed for one person (usually of the most popular salmon/tuna mixes), or you can ask them to assemble platters of the stuff for your family/group (there is a minimum number of grams of each fish that you have to buy to qualify for this service)

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An older woman is slicing up sashimi trade salmon while a younger worker watches

Although MOST of the customers go for the salmon or the tuna (and as such about half the case was just of those two), in the other end of the case was a wide array of choices that included local cuttlefish, imported surf clams from Canada and scallops from Japan.

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In addition to Sashimi, De Costi offers some other foods you could buy and eat including pre-cooked lobster, smoked salmon, fish pâtés, and shucked oysters on the half-shell… as well as some semi-prepared foods, like “marinara” mixes (combinations of raw seafood) for you to take home and cook at home, with pasta, or in seafood soups and stews.

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But for the most part De Costi’s is about raw fish… of every shape and variety that the Australian shores offer.

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De Costi’s is however just one of about five different stores in the Market that sell to the public.

Musumeci’s Seafood

Another is Musumeci’s Seafood, and this is one of the few shops located in a separate building.

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Of ALL the shops it’s the only one I found to be handing out samples (from the woman standing behind the little table in the middle of the picture above). These “tasties” were of their smoked and/or roasted salmon, and pâtés made from salmon or trout.

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Once inside the offerings were pretty similar to what I found at De Costi’s, only they seemed to have more in the way of shellfish and less in the way of the scaled variety … and what fish they did have looked a little, the worse for wear… just not quite AS fresh… but that could have been because the facilities upon which they were displayed all looked a little long in the tooth

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And this store seemed to focus a much larger percentage of their counter space than De Costi had, on the sashimi trade, with more in the way of pre-sliced combo offerings and side dishes like seaweed salad… so more aimed at the tourists than the cooks… I think…

Claudio’s Quality Seafoods,

Hidden behind Musumeci’s (closer to the water) is another store by the name of Claudio’s Quality Seafoods, which to me looked better and fresher (more akin to De Costi) in terms of their fish…

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and this place had an even better shellfish selection than Musumeci’s had (so the best of both worlds so to speak), a variety of which was being sold pre-cooked (and of course they had the obligatory sashimi as well)…. and it is also where I found the guys in red doing the filleting in the picture at the top of the blog… (I was beginning to think that the presence of folks visibly filleting seafood is one of the attributes you want to keep an eye out for when judging these places. If you can’t see anyone actually prepping fish for sale… move on to the next store.

PjchkQ79QSi4xQU36h1ezwI also saw something at Claudio’s Quality Seafoods that I didn’t notice anywhere else in the market, shark steaks for sale. They have this large piece of shark sitting there. They can’t show the whole thing since small ones are about 10 feet long, and really big ones can be as large as 20 feet. Instead they put out this very large slab, and then you tell them how many “steaks” you want, and they cut them off with something akin to a chain saw. (I didn’t actually SEE a slice being cut, but rather there was a local taking around a group of Asian visitors … a small handful of people… and I overheard him describing the process to them.)

Peter’s Sydney Fish Market

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That said… From all of the reviews that I read before coming here (which I think I agree with), Peter’s Sydney Fish Market is considered the best of all the shops in the entire Market. It has a very large and bright location within the prime real estate of the main building and sells almost (pretty much) EVERYTHING that all of the other fish stores sell… both cooked and raw… and in addition includes almost all of the most popular dishes that the food stalls have on offer (although, based on my personal observations, it sells the duplicated dishes at a slower rate, so the food stalls cooked offerings might be more recently prepared — that said, there are dishes here you can’t find elsewhere and these dishes therefore move faster).

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In the center of the store Peters offers a VERY large selection of fresh fish and unlike the other places in the market that sell the same, Peters will even cook your fish for you, but for a fee….(in the USA stores that do this, usually do it for free, but ok)… But, I noticed that fee varies with, is the fish already filetted or not… if not, it costs about $5 AUD more per kilogram.

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And on top of that Peter’s offer a whole variety of ways that it can be cooked…. stir fried, grilled or steamed … and spices and flavorings with which your choice can be cooked… and there are also side dishes on offer.

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But this was only the start of what Peters offered in terms of prepared foods…. you could also have them prepare shellfish to order, or chose from their pre-cooked offerings….UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1edf.jpg

Among the shellfish you could buy (already cooked), was something I had heard about on a travel Food Channel show, ‘Australian bugs’. From what I learned from the show, these are shellfish that are picked up by accident, i.e., garbage fish that are not considered desirable by the fish trade, that Aussies have taken to eating as a “local dish” that no one else eats

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[… ironically, even though the gelatinous Blobfish, which you do see for sale in Korean fish-markets, originates in Australian waters, I didn’t see ANY of it for sale in the Sydney Fish Market … (that said, my best friend in Korea referred to blobfish as almost inedible… but said that Koreans during The War were so desperate for food that they had figured out a way of processing its flesh with chemicals to make it so)… ]

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Blobfish for sale in a food market in Masan, South Gyeongsang, South Korea when I visited in 2013

In addition to cooked fish, Peter’s offers a not only the obligatory Sashimi option, but also sells pre-prepared sushi for $2.50 AUD each… allowing you to pick and choose from their offerings which pieces you wanted in your set. Be Warned, I noticed — and confirmed this by asking — that once noon rolled around, no new sushi offerings were added, and you will be stuck with what was left over from the morning. So, if you want sushi from Peter’s, buy it early… [That said, one of the food court places offers a much more limited selection of cooked sushi that’s sold adjacent to its hot food (blech), and there is also a nondescript hole-in-the-wall sushi joint within the main building called, “Sushi Bar at the Fish Market”, which makes it to order, but from my observations — I left at around 12:30 did barely any business other than selling drinks during the early part of the day]

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The woman on the right is teaching the younger male worker how to debone the fish

In addition, Peter’s was selling freshly made before your eyes “Aburi” shellfish … which translates to flame seared … these are scallops completely covered in cheese and other stuff… and hence so far off my diet that I couldn’t taste them…. Almost all of the food stalls sell the same, but these seemed to be the only ones that were grilled to order.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1ee1.jpg

 

Nickolas’s Seafood

The only major competitor to Peter’s is probably Nickolas’s Seafood, which to my eye was sort of a 30% fresh/wet fish and was by far more, like almost 70% a cooked foods sort of place….

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Really MOST of what they had, was cooked stuff for the tourist market, like at the food stalls… although like Peter’s it has sushi, but not as much…

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but Nicholas’s distinct product seemed to be these very pretty platters of seafood (the little plastic containers hold the Aussie version of cocktail sauce which is heavy on the mayo… blech). The scallop platter may seem over-priced, but scallops sticks at Doyle’s or Christy’s with five on a stick were $10 AUD… so you sort of have to do the math… and you can of course take home the shells if so wish.

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While Peter’s seemed to specialize in fresh (or what the Aussies refer to as wet) fish, Nickolas’s seemed to do more “swimming” shellfish. While there I saw this almost comical event when a customer came in wanting to buy a six ginormous lobsters… which when taken out of the tanks and laid on the floor for the customer to inspect… who then started skittering around said floor and freaked out this little girl.

Pre-cooked foods only options

So, like I said before, while all of the above options also sold food you can eat on the spot such as the obligatory sashimi…. or cooked lobster or sushi in some cased, about 40% of Sydney’s Fish Market consists fast-food type stalls [not made to order restaurants], where you can pick from the displayed pre-made fish delicacies (although most also have some stuff cooked to order, usually for larger family sized trays, etc). So for instance, adjacent to De Costi’s in the strip mall type area is the…

Salty Squid

Salty Squid, which while they do make a few things fresh (burgers and the like, for those who do not like fish), is essentially no different than a fried fish fast-food place…

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Doles

Inside the main building you have Doles, which is the first such shop you’ll notice as you enter the building as it’s at the very entrance…. here they have a food stall sets up that sells flame grilled fresh fish on a stick…

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This was hands down my favorite of the places because they don’t smother it in oil, and will even do with completely without oil if you ask… even corn on the cob (with no butter)… very healthy food.

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Right behind this stall they have a larger restaurant set up that sells oysters, and all foods unhealthy … either deep-fried or smothered in cheese or cream sauce… which in my mind utterly defeats the point of eating sea food.

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Across the hallway from Doyles, still at the front entrance is

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Christie’s Sea Foods

Christie’s Sea Foods  is yet another food court/stall type business whose dishes vary from deep-fried to grilled — but I noticed a lot of oil added to their grilled foods

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Christie’s Sea Foods

Fish Market Cafe

and adjacent to Christie’s is The Fish Market Cafe — which to me looked to be the least healthy of all of them, but also probably the most popular of these places, as it seemed to be doing the most business in selling prepared foods.

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Sushi Doughnuts and Tacos (in a deep fried seaweed shell coated in panko )

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While most of the customers opted to sit indoor to eat their food, the fish market is directly adjacent to the water and there is seating outside for those who want to enjoy a view with their food.IMG_0956

That said, there are more than a few seagulls and such who hang out at this location, who are fairly aggressive birds who will happily steal your food from you (some on-line sources I read said that it’s not unknown for them to dive bomb you for it), which is why almost every table is covered with an umbrella or located inside a sort of tent… they’re there to help protect your lunch from the bird, not you from the sun.

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if you ARE intending to make a meal of it, the ONLY cooked veggies I saw were carbs… your choices are corn on the cob … which I had… rice or noodles… if you want veggies or fruit with your meal, at the far end of the market there’s a small fruit and veggies market that also offers up things like fruit salad and chocolate covered fruit.

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For your dessert options there is also a bakery and coffee shop inside the main building. And for those in your party who do not like fish... (in addition to the burgers at the Salty Squid) there’s an Italian deli that will make sandwiches. … That said if your traveling companion is like mine, a vegetarian… well those folks should pretty much just stay home because this place will most likely just offend them.

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Sit down Restaurants:

and about 10% sit down restaurants where you order from the menu like normal. Two of these are located on the same strip mall type building that De Costi’s is located, just past the Salty Squid fast food joint… that said, neither of these seemed to be doing a load of business during the whole time I was there (and I was there till 12:30).  The Third is a restaurant I only discovered after when doing this blog, and looks like someplace I’d like to try… Fisherman’s Wharf Seafood is a fancy Chinese place located on the 2nd floor of the Market’s main building (initially, I didn’t made it to the 2nd floor) and during the market’s open hours/lunch they do DIM SUM… yo mama!!! Monday to Friday : 11am – 3pm  Saturday and Sunday : 10am – 3pm  I checked it out later in this trip and did a separate review.

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The only one I took photos of was the Sea Emperor… which wasn’t doing much more business as 12:30 than it had at 11:00 which when I took the above photos.

 

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard on route 66 in Saint Lewis, Missouri

Ted Drewes is a family owned Frozen custard business and a Saint Lewis Missouri institution. Founded in 1929, it’s Route 66 location is historic, and it has been included on Food shows by the likes of Alton Brown and Bobby Flay, and in 2017 was awarded the title ‘Best ice cream shop in the world’ by Soolnua, a company that every year produces a world-wide “best ice cream” index. (Wikipedia)

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If you’ve never had frozen custard you really need to try it. While the rest of the world is only now discovering it, its capitol” if you will is Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and it is a fairly common treat all throughout American’s Midwest.

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It’s essentially ice cream with egg yolks, and as such has a creamier texture, and can be kept at a warmer temperature without melting than ice cream… all while still managing to have a denser consistency. AND Frozen Custard is lower in fat than Ice Cream is, and as such is a lot lower in calories, while having more protein. Seriously… it’s a win win

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Frozen custard comes in vanilla only… any flavors are added after the fact, cherries, nuts, caramel, what ever you want from their available list… with each extra adding to the price…

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… or from the flavor combos they suggest…

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and then, if you’ve chosen to have a concrete (rather than a sundae or malt, etc.) then, just like in a milk shake, the flavors are blended into the vanilla custard, served in a cup and handed to you…. but they hand it over up-side-down, in order to prove to you just how THICK your treat is

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I ordered the Cardinal Sin, it was very tasty

One thing that I found personally amusing was that Ted Drewes Frozen Custard is KOSHER…  well… most of what they serve is….

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Ariston Cafe, Litchfield, IL

Built in 1935 (and on the National Register of Historic Places), the Ariston Cafe located on Route 66 in Litchfield, Illinois is the longest continuously running cafe along the route’s whole stretch. So I planned my trip so as to include a meal here.

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According to Wikipedia, with the exception of having added a banquet room and a few other minor tweaks, the interior of the Cafe has not been altered substantially since it first opened. In most other locations would be a bad thing, but on Route 66, it’s a selling point.

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As restaurants go it has a highly confused menu; they have: Mexican, Greek, Deli, classic American, Southern, Italian, Steak, and Seafood … with 7 different kinds of fish — where most places would do one or two

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but I guess if you’re a restaurant in a small town you sort of have to be all things to all people. That said, they also have an all you can eat soup and salad bar which had some tasty stuff on it… even if it is kind of seriously old-fashioned.

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I asked the waitress what the difference was between the pond and fillet catfish dishes. The pond catfish is two big catfish served on the bone for $15, while the fillet is one catfish filleted for $14… as two would have been too much food me, I got the fillet… but if I lived nearby I’d have ordered the pond for $15 and taken home leftovers.

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That said, the Catfish was rubbery and had a funny after taste …which I think the chef was trying to hide with all the spices. But with seven different kinds of fish, unless fish is VERY popular in this town, I don’t see how they can be serving anything remotely close to fresh.

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There was a large selection of HUGE slabs of various kinds of cake… but passed. When the owner noted that I was keeping notes about meal, posting to social media, etc., he came over and gave me two postcards and a refrigerator magnet.

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Hoito Finnish Restaurant, Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada

The Hoito is an unimpressive looking but historically important Finnish restaurant located in Thunder Bay Ontario Canada.

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It drew my attention both as being one of the highest ranked restaurants in Thunder Bay on all the customer review websites (pulling four or five stars at each), but all because FINNISH food!!! Seriously how often do see that being offered up.

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My airbnb host asked where I was intending to go for my meal and when I said “that Finnish place, the Hoito”, he said, “Good choice, I love that place.”

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After I arriving there I discovered the Hoito is historically important restaurant, established in 1918 (Wikipedia). Founded by loggers over 100 years ago, and running continuously since then, the restaurant is co-operative and is so deeply embedded in the labor movement that it is considered to be socialist.

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Regular customers buy membership cards that allow them to vote at the Finnish Labor Temple located directly above the restaurant, and until the 1970’s customers could buy meal tickets to if they ate here regularly, and the food was served on long communal tables. This restaurant was even written about in the New York Times.

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I had suolakala (pronounced soo-la-ka-la) which is described as a salted fish sandwich — open-faced. It’s a bit like gravlox, in that it’s cured salmon… only it’s not smoked. Thing is I eat lox sandwiches almost daily so…

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— I HAD wanted kalakeitto (a salmon soup) but they have run out. They are also giving me a single Finnish meatball (to try) … definitely NOT on my diet

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