There are some who swear by a greasy breakfast for a hangover. But what if it's already past the dreaded 11:00 a.m. cutoff by the time you roll out? No worries — you can still catch the sunrise at Surfside Burger Shack (445 Fifth St., Eureka). The Sunrise burger, that is ($7.95). Humboldt grassfed with a fistful of bacon, pepper jack cheese and a fried egg. And maple syrup. The bacon is substantial (no skimpy slice, this portion could fill a BLT) and the pepper-speckled egg is cooked but still runny enough to basically act as a sauce — a rich boost to the grilled flavor of the meat. Get the syrup on the side and just try it on a bite. Really. It's like when the your breakfast sausage rolls into a pool of syrup and you're sitting there at the table secretly happy inside, telling no one.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
Somewhere in there is a burger.
Another $3 gets fries or rings or "frings," the half and half option. A voice, a reasonable voice, is telling you not to do this. But the fries are hand-cut (fresh, unfrozen potatoes!) with the skins on and the rings are dipped in homemade batter whipped up daily. All are fried to a caramel brown because this is not a delicate zucchini blossom — this is a plate of fries and rings piled like a collapsed mine on top of a burger that would give a cardiologist the sweats. Also the mind-expanding discovery of a fry (or a ring!) dipped in syrup — hot and cold, sweet and salty, crisp and sticky — is something you have to experience, especially if you are a person who sometimes accidentally drops a fry into your milkshake.
A reader emailed a hot tip that sent us to Pachanga (1802 Fifth St., Eureka) for jalapeño poppers ($9.50). Aren't they all kind of the same? Push away all those unhappy memories of TGI Friday's and its frozen and fried heartburn bullets.
Pachanga's arrive four-to-a-plate and looking like stunted corn dogs. The thick cornmeal batter is savory and crunchy outside and soft and moist inside, like a quality hush puppy. Cozied within are fresh chilies, fat and deep green, roasted daily for a whiff of smoky charring while maintaining their crispness. There's a bite, of course, but it's mellowed by the roasting, and the ribs and seeds are completely removed and replaced by stretchy, white queso blanco. Be not afraid. Feel not ripped off, either, as one order of these little wonders is substantial enough to share, and the accompanying cheese sauce with peppers and tomatoes will not go to waste.
Some people can't even look at food after Thanksgiving. But you're better than that. There is a lot to distract you at Shamus T Bones (1911 Truesdale St., Eureka), what with the sparking Tesla coil, the judgmental taxidermy and the controversially boiled ribs.
Take the advice of another Journal tipster and focus your attention instead on a plate of Walla Walla onion rings ($7.99). The world's most honest waiter informed us these rings, unlike the frozen ones you get as a side, are freshly beer battered and fried. The Walla Walla is one of those large, sweet onions, the flavor of which comes through since the batter has little salt. Sprinkle if you must, or better yet dip your piping hot rings in a little ranch or the house barbecue sauce. But the crust is just as it should be, brown and crunchy and plenty of it, a nice contrast to the tender onion underneath. And it's meatless, so that mounted buck can drop the pissy stare, thank you.
Toni's Thai truck is no more. Its cook has returned to Thailand, leaving us bereft of green curry and jasmine rice on wheels. The shiny red truck has been transformed into the Redwood Local, parked at Seventh and I Street in Arcata. Embrace the change and the meta-weirdness of truck stop fare from a truck. The fried chicken and waffles are solid, despite not being from scratch ($7.59, $2 for country sausage gravy). The joy is in being able to get hot waffles curbside. That's how they do it in Belgium, which the International Human Rights Indicator Rankings put at eighth in the world, right up there with those Nordic countries full of safe cars, high-design furniture and smoked salmon. Street waffles: sign of a just society.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
Potato thins with bacon: the love child of nachos and potato skins.
But the show-stopper is a paper tray of potato thins ($4.99). Not as thin as potato chips, the slim slices of spud are deep-fried until soft with a crisp edge of brown skin here and there, and topped with sour cream and scallions. For $1.99, you can add a handful of chopped bacon. Do not live a life of regret. Add the bacon. They are like the love child of potato skins and nachos. They are best hot, so have your own little tailgate at one of the picnic tables. Even if we are all the way down at 18 on those human rights rankings, this is the taste of America.
Nothing ever got worse because somebody spooned mascarpone cheese on it. It's like the missing link between whipped cream and cream cheese. Thanks, Italy. Case in point: the French toast at Benbow Inn ($14; 445 Lake Benbow Drive, Garberville). If the weather's nice, order it on the veranda overlooking the bridge. Just nibble at the biscuits and scones that come out with your coffee and have a moment of silence for your Paleo friends, because their sacrifice is real. Thick slabs of Texas toast (oh, Texas, I can't stay mad at you), already crisp and buttery outside, hot and custardy inside, are topped with a hefty scoop of mascarpone blended into whipped cream, balancing the tartness of fresh raspberries. The fluffy dollop glides meltingly down the ramp of bread, threatening to mingle with the applewood-smoked bacon and making you forget all about that little cup of syrup to the side of your plate.
Is that rain? Quick, run into Café Mokka (495 J St., Arcata), slide into a window seat and watch the back garden get all misty. We can't afford to waste wet days anymore, so make your mocha a double ($3.10). There is no pit crew of headset-wearing baristas, and you are not going to slug this down one-handed while you drive. This one comes in a two-hands cup, brimming with homemade whipped cream and dusted with cocoa and sugar. Do you think freshly whipped cream doesn't matter? Well, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion and taste is subjective, but you are wrong. So very wrong. Taste the real thing and think on your sins. There are also no mysterious containers of whatever-the-hell-accino mix and no cloying syrups. Just two shots of espresso, steamed milk and a generous scoop of Guittard chocolate (note the little melted lump at the bottom of the cup) that make for an old-fashioned, bittersweet mocha to sip while you watch the trees drip on the path outside.
Real cream of mushroom soup has been so thoroughly overshadowed by the Warhol-esque army of cans at the market that we no longer remember the original. Instead, we recall the sound of the congealed stuff, its vacuum suck and plop into the pot. Not that we don't love Aunt Martha's green bean casserole when it comes around, or the legion of other back-of-the-can recipes that call for it, but enough. Retrain yourself to expect more.
Frankly, I scooted down to Because Coffee (corner of F and Third streets, Eureka) to get the evangelical fans of the cream of mushroom soup off my back. For $3.75 you get a cup that is really a bowl — earthy and herby with shallots and heavy on the thyme. There's a white wine or sherry flavor and enough minced cremini mushrooms to make a little heap in every spoonful. Best of all, there is cream. Real cream that's not in the least bit goopy.
Sit on the rust velvet sofa with your winkingly mismatched china and pretend you are reading one of the brainy books left on the coffee table. Nobody has to know about the trashy novel on your nightstand or those cans of soup in your cupboard.
In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love the apple fritter at Happy Donuts ($2.75). Jane Austen would forgive me. After all, is this not the Mr. Darcy of doughnuts — Crusty and intimidating, a little puffed up and with no pleasing sprinkles. But the edges and imperfections of this great lump of a thing are encrusted with glaze and dotted with tiny, juicy bits of apple. It's not greasy and leaden, either, but browned and crispy.
This enormous, landed cousin of the humble doughnut is a breakfast food, a dessert, an afternoon coffee treat and, if necessary, a kind of edible shield behind which you could hide your face if, like a moody hero, you were not feeling social. Sharing is probably wise, given the sheer mass of the fritter, but hangry people are not always wise. I'll just have a nibble, you think. Then you reach back into the bag and find it half empty. As Austen wrote of falling in love, "I was in the middle before I knew I had begun."
Loosen your lederhosen — that's a lot of spaetzle.
Now that the US has been punted from the World Cup finals by Belgium, we could use a little comfort food. How about German? Too soon? Off to Stuf't Potato (if you haven't been, don't worry — it's not nearly as food-court as the name suggests) for German and Austrian soul food (3200 South Broadway, Eureka).
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
Schnitzel with a squeeze of lemon.
The Journal has received reliable intel regarding the weiner schnitzel, which sounds like sausage but is actually a pounded, breaded and fried pork cutlet ($11.25 a la carte). It's pinky-thin and tender, with a simple, crisp coating that's balanced by a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of cranberry preserve. On the side (yes, even a la cart) is more contrast in the form of a warm pile of pickley-sweet red cabbage. The fried potatoes are so perfectly browned and seasoned you will forget Americans put ketchup on them. A black pot full of fried spaetzle with a wooden stand showed up in front of the young man from Berlin at the next table ($7.95). I'll have what he's having. Buttery nubs of pasta pan fried with onion, parsley and gruyere cheese and topped with frizzled onion comes off like a none-too-salty Teutonic mac and cheese. It's rustic and satisfying with the earthy and aromatic gruyere. As you dig into your own little cauldron, you might wonder why the Italians spend so much time turning pasta into fancy shapes.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
This is why streudel is one of Julie Andrews' favorite things.
The Berliner recommends the Viennese apple streudel, which arrives hot and dusted with powdered sugar — don't blow on it or you'll cover everyone at your table ($3.95). The crust is soft and flaky on top, caramelized on the bottom and stuffed in the middle with firm, cinnamon spiced apples. Hell, ja.