The French dip sandwich you've been ordering everywhere in hope of finding a good one isn't actually French. There, there, mes amis. France can dry its tears on its long list of culinary accomplishments. Or it can stop at Oberon Grill (516 Second St.) to feed its feelings with Nick's French Dip ($12). Somewhere in the back, someone is shaving roasted prime rib onto a baguette and draping it with Swiss cheese and thick bacon. There's a slice of pickle, too, which turns out to be the balancing vinegary bite that's been missing all this time. The meat is so tender and flavorful that if you are craving a steak at lunch this might just do it. (Think back to the bland slab of prime rib you had at that wedding this summer — should we switch to sandwiches for formal events?) The au jus is like a soup with aspirations of gravy — the salty, savory drippings from the roast in which your sandwich and any nearby French fry or crust of bread longs to drown. Oui.
Toni's Thai truck is no more. The 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 streets 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: the sign of a just society.
But the showstopper 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. These thins 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 10 slots lower than Belgium 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 ($14) at Benbow Inn (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, rounding out 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.
Still reminiscing about that thing you ate at that place? Send your piping hot tips to Jennifer@northcoastjournal.com.