Boxtys, Sliders & Brats, Oh My

The trip to the NC State Fair last weekend was just the first of the food experiences of the weekend. After some intense football watching, that included channel flipping and dragging out the laptop it was time to grab dinner. The decision was we’d go to a local (Cary, NC) Irish pub named Doherty’s Irish Pub & Restaurant.

The visit started off kind of weird. Unsurprisingly, on a Saturday night they were busy and when we walked in the hostess was just walking back from seating people. She stood there and stared at us for several seconds like she was trying to figure out what her next move should be. She apparently didn’t have much luck because all she could come up with was “Did you need something?” “We thought we might get something to eat,” was my sisters reply. That was much nicer than what was going through my head but she’s nicer than I am so it was good she took the lead. It did seem to get the hostess jumpstarted and she was fast and efficient after that.

Lynn knew what she was getting, the mixed boxty app. The starter side of the menu worked for me too and I selected the pub sliders and smothered blue chips and of course a Guinness to wash everything down.

The boxty looks like street tacos made with potato pancakes. The fillings for the sampler are chicken, brisket and one with mushrooms. From all reports they are quite tasty. My sliders were also a trio of different items, all of them at least good. The chicken was a little disappointing, kind of bland, but OK. The other two were much better. The corned beef with spicy mustard was juicy, salty and very flavorful. A solid second place. The gold medal was for the Guinness braised brisket with horseradish sauce. It was just an excellent, tender slider with a ton of flavor.

The Smothered Blue Chips were, sadly, not blue. On the other hand they were crunchy house made chips smothered with gorgonzola cream, blue cheese crumbles and green onions. They were pungent but pleasant.

The eating continued the next morning when I was on the way out of town headed home. We grabbed breakfast at a local place called Brigs. This wasn’t a new place to me as we’d had several family breakfasts here before. They have an eggs benedict Lynn enjoys. They also have specials and interesting options that I enjoy. Lynn went with her standard and I jumped on one of their seasonal Bavarian themed specials, the bratwurst basket.

The eggs benedict plate was definitely more colorful than my rather monotone plate (at least I had the yellow of butter and yolk to break the off white). I’m not going to spend a lot of time on these except to say that the food is fresh and of good quality (although light on the salt). Also brats are a very valid breakfast option if you haven’t tried them.

It was, on the whole, a good outing for the Culinary_Passport, got in unusual American food, Irish inspired food and German sausage. I know for a fact there’s another brat in my future and I’ll let you know about it next time. Sláinte


Food Truck Friday

This blogs been in the hopper waiting a while since the event was May 3rd. I was meeting a friend and former colleague to catch up and I was in charge of finding a spot with food trucks. After a bit of searching, filtering and decision making our target was the Cabarrus County Food Truck Friday. The event is held at Gibson Mill in Concord and I have to say it was worth the drive.

The parking is around back by the Cabarrus Brewing Co., what a convenient thing. There are plenty of picnic tables with umbrellas outside and some seating in the brewery’s tap room. Another convenience is a satellite bar outside in a corner of the picnic area. The evening temp was just about as good as you could ask for and since I got there first I decided to recon the satellite bar and picked up a Spring Street Blue which was a blueberry wheat beer. It wasn’t bad, the blueberries added some nice color but the flavor I thought was a bit muted.

After a just a bit my friend showed and we toured the food trucks to find out which one was going to receive our patronage. After much consideration Big City Bites was the winner.

We jumped right on their special of 3 sliders and added a side of fries each. As they were taking a while to get the orders up we ventured into the taproom to acquire liquid accompaniment for the meals. Jody went with a bourbon barrel aged ale which looked, smelled and tasted like it meant business. I selected something more on the tropical scale with their The Floor is Guava. I only got that reference as I was writing the blog, initially I just thought is was a weird name but now I get it. In any event, the drink was a sour beer made with, surprise!, guava. The sour actually went pretty well with the sliders, especially the Cubano. Speaking of the sliders.

From left to right they are the Cubano, the Pulled Pork Italiano and the Chicago Italian Beef and anchoring the top of the take out tray were the crispy, well cooked fries. All three of these sandwiches were good and offered a nice variety of tastes. The beef sandwich had some peppers and crumbled cheese and was pretty good but #3 of the trio for me. The pulled pork had green peppers, roasted red peppers, shaved cheese and some tender, moist pork slotting it solidly in second place. As mentioned the Cubano was my favorite with the tender slow roasted pork, ham slices, with Swiss cheese, pickles and tangy mustard pressed and grilled. An excellent choice of meals to go with a years worth of catching up with a friend. Thanks Jody Sneed for sharing the meal and time.

As a postscript I believe they are running the Food Truck Friday every Friday until sometime in October. They had live music, are family and pet friendly so if you’re lost for someplace to eat on a Friday pile the family in the car and explore your food truck options.

FTF – South End

Food Truck Friday

I took a break from the blog for Easter but I did hit Food Truck Friday in South End on Good Friday.  This is a regular event hosted by Sycamore Brewing a local brewery with a nice taproom, beer garden and a big parking lot they corral the trucks in.  Sycamore is on Hawkins Street in Charlotte and this is a very popular event.

The normally quite sufficient parking lot is blocked off for the food trucks and patrons so here’s a caution for anyone planning to go, parking is a bear.  The event is from 5:00pm-10:00pm and I had arranged to meet a friend at 5:30ish and I arrived at 5:20 and it was quickly evident there was going to be a walk in my future.  I drove around for a while before parking at a business off Rampart St. hoping they wouldn’t be the towing kind.  Some of the businesses had signs up explicitly stating they would boot or tow.  Fortunately the weather was good so the short walk wasn’t bad.

I met my friend Jody and we did a circuit of the 8 trucks we had to choose from and I decided to try Queen City Sliders but they were having technical difficulties and didn’t take an order for some time that exceeded my patience so I jumped into the line for Tin Kitchen.  These folks have several trucks and a pretty regular schedule so they are easy to find if you need a fix. 

The menu has interesting tacos, quesadillas, nachos & sliders as you can see from the menu below.  I thought hard about the Special but I’d had my mind set for sliders so I decided to go that route.

I got two Korean BBQ sliders and one of the Balsamic Portabella Stack.  It took about 10-15 minutes after ordering for the food to come up but it was worth the wait.

The Korean BBQ sliders were made with beef topped with what they called 30 minute kim-chi and some hoisin sauce on a brioche bun.  The meat was tender and moist with a good flavor, slightly sweet with a hint of spice and more filling than they would appear at first glance.  I got the portabella stack just for variety with fairly low expectations of a meatless slider but was really pleasantly surprised.  The portabellas were balsamic marinated and there were grilled red peppers and fresh mozzarella cheese plus basil and tomato aioli on a brioche bun.  That was so tasty I forgave it for the lack of meat.  The tang of the marinated mushrooms and the mildness of the cheese plus the textures all worked well together and honestly if I was to do it again I might get one BBQ and two portabella sliders.

Jody decided to try out Papi Queso, which has been featured on a previous blog but I will share a shot of the Pig Mac she got.  This is a pulled pork and mac and cheese grilled cheese that was apparently really filling and delicious based on her feedback.  If it was anything like the quality of the sandwich I tried before then they are two for two.

We ate our meals sitting on a low wall between the beer garden and the parking lot.  So here is another caution for those interested in checking out FTF, this is a dog friendly event and that is taken to heart.  The website says dog and child friendly but we saw twice as many dogs as we did children.  Now all of these animals were on leashes and their owners kept them under control pretty well so there were no incidents but I caught a malamute eyeing my sliders pretty hard.

After finishing our food we adjourned to the taproom to try an adult beverage.  The bar was several people deep so it took a few minutes to get to it and get some service.  I opted for their honey toasted amber and Jody got a Windy Hill Orchard peach cider.  They also have some wines for those who go that way.   The beer was decent but not really noteworthy.

We found a small table near a window so we have a view of the live music outside but couldn’t hear much because it was loud in there but we were able to toast a successful venture to expand our palates.

I’ll be hitting Food Truck Friday again this year for sure but I’ll consider a couple of lessons from this trip.  First if the weather isn’t too hot I’ll probably take the light rail to the East/West station with is just a couple of blocks from Sycamore Brewing.  If it is hot then I think trying to get there before 5:00 and trying to find a parking place then or wait until after 6:00 when the other businesses are almost guaranteed to be closed.


Food Truck Friday

New Direction

When I started this blog the focus was, as the title indicates traveling to other countries via my taste buds and sharing the experiences with any who chose to read it.  Well I am just about out of unique country / restaurant combos and the couple I have left are so much better with groups that I’ll have to do some actual planning to make it happen.  At this point I assessed my choices to be; stop doing the blog, only blog if I come across a new restaurant representing a country I hadn’t done, repeat countries with new restaurants or change the focus of the blog.  I don’t want to stop the blog so that left the others and after evaluating them I decided to serve up a combo.  If I find new restaurant /country combos they get added along with a Tell Me More page.  Visiting new restaurants representing old countries will help fill in some weeks and offer a comparison to the already visited restaurants so that will fill in some weeks.  The new part is an additional focus rather than a complete change and as the title didn’t have spoiler tags you probably figured it out.  I’m going to chase down food trucks and check out what they have to offer so I’ll be looking for meals on wheels, roach coaches, street meat, whatever you want to call them and I’ll let you know what I think.

I couldn’t think of a better way to kick it off than Food Truck Friday in downtown Rock Hill.  I only wish I’d started coming out earlier because there’s only one more Friday left and I will be there.  I got to the area just after 6:00 and parking was pretty easy to find within short walking distance.  There was already a nice group of people there and the live music was going.  Yep, dinner and a show.  They cordon off a couple of blocks around Fountain Park and the food trucks park along the streets.

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My first stop was the Beer ID & ticket tent because you can’t walk around trying to make decisions on which mobile kitchen is going to be your source of sustenance without a proper drink.  They beer trucks have some local microbrews and some wee little bottles of wine.  My first try was a Beneford Brewery Irish Honey which was quite tasty and kept me going as I walked up and down in a first pass to see what options I was presented with.

After walking the area I decided to start with a couple of Jamaican Me Crazy Sliders from Street Spice.  I got the pictures of the truck but ate the sliders before I remembered to snap a shot.

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This particular mini burger came with ghost pepper cheese and was on a bed of pineapple slaw and was quite good.  I also got some mac and cheese bites which were the best version of those I’ve ever had.  The outside was a thin crust and inside the cheese was gooey and the noodles were still soft and al dente.  The few other times I’ve tried fried mac and cheese they had been fried so long the noodles were hard and chewy or harder rocklike.

A stop at the beer tent to pick up a truly local Legal Remedy Double IPA and I was walking and enjoying the music and looking for a truck with just a little something to sample and not a full meal.  Hiya did it for me with their fried dumpling special.

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I got 4 kimchi dumplings and 4 fried chicken baby dumplings (I don’t think they were made with baby chickens).  Both were delicious but the kimchi dumplings paired well with the double IPA.  Overall this was a nice experience and I would certainly encourage any of you who can to think about going to October’s Food Truck Friday, I know I’ll be there.