I have been coming to Tucson for over twenty years and have never tried a Sonoran Hot Dog. Recently I have been reading Anthony Bourdain’s books, Kitchen Confidential and The Nasty Bits, in which he advocates seeking out the authentic cooking of the place you are visiting.
It was raining, unusual in Tucson, but we parked behind the cart and the tent that covered it and ordered our hot dogs with everything. It was one of the best hot dogs that I have ever eaten; even better than those at The Dog House in Albuquerque, of Breaking Bad fame.
Two hot dogs, two drinks came to $6. We ate in at picnic tables. There was one cook who turned out hot dogs in minutes, complete with hot peppers.
The hot dog wrapped in bacon and in a special bun has onions, tomatoes, salsa, mayo, mustard and cheese. The Sonoran Hot Dog is unique to Tucson with over 200 places serving them; mostly from carts or food trucks parked in vacant lots. I have discovered a few in Albuquerque, but have not tried them yet.
Well worth the trip. Now, every time we come to Tucson, a Sonoran Hot Dog will be on the menu.
TWO (Traveling While Old) requires food. I don’t eat in fancy restaurants; and, I am cheap and dress “old.” McDonald’s is good for the “senior coffee” and the free Wi-Fi, and there are lots of other places that you might find more interesting than fast food hangouts.
Off-the-wall alternatives are available. Here are ten to consider. Use the internet to find times and locations.
1. Hospitals: Long hours, usually healthful food, but almost always a fried option. In Albuquerque try University of New Mexico Hospitals, cafeteria.
2. Universities: They have to feed students, faculty and staff and have a variety of food and long hours. The prices are reasonable and it is fun to see what you looked like fifty years ago. You can also find cheap movies, lectures and other activities. Parking is a pain, consider the bus; many have free shuttles to free parking. Certainly out of your comfort zone.
3. Museums: The US is catching up to Europe with museum cafes and restaurants. Visit exhibits and discover special events. When you search for the museum, check for cafes and menus. Plan a meal there; and, look for unique menus and specials tied to art. It may surprise you. And, frequently they have wine.
4. Cooking Schools: Every large town has a cooking school; attend, learn something and eat what you cook. I took my 14- year-old granddaughter to Paris and the thing she seemed to like best was the cooking school. She learned to make macaroons and received a box to take home to her parents. In Paris, sign up in advance.
5. Food Trucks: You can spot them parked on vacant lots, along the street, or at shopping centers. They are fancier than the usual hot dog carts found in downtown areas. Web pages list food trucks and give you a location and time. In Albuquerque on Wednesday noon they gather at the Talin Market, in the International Zone. The market is worth a visit just to see the variety of foods. Don’t be afraid. Move outside your comfort zone. Food trucks offer a variety of foods, often cooked by creative new chefs who can’t afford a fixed site.
7. Senior Centers: All towns have Senior Centers. You can usually find a cup of coffee, breakfast and lunch, although you may have to order lunch a day in advance. You can eat cheap food with other old people. There is usually a bulletin board that lists things to do; day trips, computer help, etc. You may have to join, but that is usually cheap. I have never had any problem just walking in and looking around; having a twenty cent cup of coffee and a twenty-five cent box of popcorn. I have also discovered cheap trips where I don’t have to do the driving. Think Crown Point rug auction.
8. Whole Foods: Groceries, but also – sandwiches – salad bar – prepared foods and a place to sit and eat. The food is good, varied and available all day. Good for a coffee and a bagel in the morning; sandwiches for lunch, salad bar, and a whole variety of food for dinner, to eat in or take back to your motel room, along with a bottle of wine in Albuquerque and Tucson. At 73 you don’t want to be picked up for DWI after a few glasses of wine at a restaurant. Watching a movie in your hotel room with a good bottle of wine, and a variety of food from the deli is not all bad; besides they have nice deserts. Most motel rooms are quieter than restaurants.
9. Diners, Drive Ins and Dives: This show on the Food Network takes you to places all over the country. Interesting to visit, a mini-goal for your trip, and, you can always check them out on-line. I have enjoyed the ones that I have visited, both in Albuquerque and Florida.
10. Costco: If you have a card, you can’t beat the hot dog and drink for $1.50.
Look beyond the restaurants in the guide books. Experience the community and learn something new while getting interesting food at a fraction of the cost of a fancy restaurant. Besides, all of the above places are usually fairly quiet, have no music playing, and are convenient. Important if, like the geezer, you are old and deaf.
A final, tongue-in-cheek idea. Large Assisted Living facilities will usually give you a free meal if you listen to the sales pitch and take the tour. You should really take a look at a few of these as they are closer than you think.
Above all, consider sharing a plate; even if it costs you $3.
Last year I attended the Matanza in Belen, NM where I ate my fill of roasted whole hog, beans, chile, and tortillas. This year it is scheduled for January 27, 2018 from 7:00 AM to 3:00 PM at Eagle Park in Belen, NM, about 30 miles South of Albuquerque, NM.
Matanzas involve roasting a whole pig overnight in a pit dug in the ground. It is a celebration for all your family and friends. It involves a lot of home-made food and too much drinking. The first one I attended was when I came to Albuquerque over 50 years ago and was held on Thanksgiving Day. Lou had obtained a 300 pound hog and the night before it was placed in a pit in his backyard, wrapped in wet burlap, and laid on top of a huge bed of coals. The hog was then covered with coals and dirt and left to roast for twelve hours.
It was hoisted out of the pit, unwrapped, and the meat fell off the bones. More beer, pinto beans, tortillas, salad and pork made the Thanksgiving Dinner one that I remember to this day.
The one in Belen is more organized, raising money for charity. It costs $15 and is preceded by judges determining who made the best red chile, pork, tortillas and chicharrones. There are long lines and no shortage of beer. It is best to come early.
You can read about the “World’s Largest Matanza” in the January 2018 issue of New Mexico Magazine. The article, “Whole Hog” by Gwyneth Doland is worth reading. The article also contains recipes if you want to create your own Matanza, and tells you where to buy a whole hog. Go for it.
The 2017 Belen Matanza was the first I attended:
For instructions see the Weekly Alibi
When we travel, we try to seek out non-chain places to eat; and, our recent trip to see our son in Waynesville, NC, led us to MOE’s Barbecue in Asheville, NC, for the third time. It is in an old building, near the Biltmore Mansion, with a large gravel parking lot and is always crowded. There are only about 20 tables inside, you order from the counter, and they call out your name when the food is ready. It has always been good, simple and tasty. You bus your own tables.
This time we shared a brisket sandwich with two sides and a drink. Our son had the rib plate with two sides and a drink. We had to wait for a table and borrowed two chairs for our table. It was out of our comfort zone, but we were with our son who knew of the place and he had taken me there before when I visited.
As usual, I took a few pictures, enjoyed the food and the crowd and thought it would be a good subject for a brief blog post. After lunch, I googled Moe’s Barbecue and much to my surprise discovered that even though Asheville is apparently the original Moe’s, it has expanded. The three boys from the University of Alabama, have expanded this Moe’s to 60 Moe’s around the country, including one in Albuquerque that I was not aware of. So, next week, I will start off the new year by eating at Moe’s in Albuquerque, aware that it is a big business that came out of North Carolina.
You can become a franchisee; the franchise office is in Vail, Colorado; or, you can just order a t-shirt and a hat from the retail site.
I will continue seeking out places out of my comfort zone, but will also check them out.
Trust but verify!
Just because it is a chain, does not mean that it is not good. And, of course, I satisfied myself at the meals there, thinking I was out of my comfort zone, not realizing that there was a Moe’s just a few blocks from me in Albuquerque.
Several times a year we drive the 450 miles from Albuquerque, NM to Tucson, AZ to see our grandchildren. The trip takes about 7 1/2 hours, but since we are retired and have extra time, we explore along the way. In old age, you come to realize that the trip may be as important as the goal.
Between Albuquerque and Tucson, you can find a number of interesting things all in New Mexico and all just off I-25: the Very Large Array Telescopes near Socorro, NM, the Hatch Chile Festival and Sparky’s, SpacePort America, Elephant Butte Lake, and, usually an overnight stop at the Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa, owned by Ted Turner which in addition to providing an interesting Lodge, also provides tours of Ted Turner’s nearby ranches.
Since I originally wrote this, Spaceport America has restarted tours.
The lobby at Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.
In our 70’s the Sierra Grande Lodge gets us out of our comfort zone, which is good, if at times unnerving. I haven’t had bison in 63 years, when I had it at Philmont Scout Ranch, at the end of a 37 day trek at age 14. The restaurant serves bison burgers, bison rib-eye, and if you just want to test the water, 4 ounces of bison steak in a great pasta dish. You can eat indoors or out; the patio is great:
The Lodge, like many other places in T or C has it’s own hot springs. There are indoor spas and an outdoor one. The naturally hot water has made T or C a destination for a thousand years. It used to be called Hot Springs, NM until it won a 1950 radio show contest hosted by Ralph Edwards, and changed its name.
We like the outdoor spa; private but open to the stars. In our 70’s we are out of our comfort zone for nude bathing; and it may even be pornographic, but a half-hour soak removes a lot of age-related soreness and is included in the price of your room.
Outdoor hot springs spa as Sierra Grande Lodge.
Next time you travel to see your grandkids, look around you, take your time, and try to get out of your “old” comfort zone. You may learn something new.
The point is; especially at your age, you should be interested in the journey, not the END of the journey.
I am addicted to restuarants while travelling and since we spend a lot of time in Indian Rocks Beach, Florida, I have three favorite restaurants.
Crabby Bills: Every morning I walk a mile and a half down the beach to Crabby Bill’s, which has been family owned since its founding in 1983. The morning crowd consists of older patrons who are vacationing. or living, near the beach. It is a sports bar, restaurant and hang-out for the under 30 crowd the rest of the day and until 2:00 AM.
The All-American Breakfast is my choice, with 2 eggs, potatoes, crisp bacon and toast for $6. Then it is a mile and a half walk back to the rented condo. In the evening, you can get the menu to go.
Guppy’s: A short walk and excellent food with daily specials; indoors or out. Great fish. The Grouper is expensive as it is over-fished. Small plates and you can share. I get three sides; grilled octopus, spinach and Caesar Salad. Octopus is available thanks to the large Greek community. New Mexico restaurants tend not to serve octopus, so it is always a treat.
A small French restaurant in the edge of Belair and next to Largo and Indian Rocks Beach. Run by a French couple, it is always good and one of our favorite stopping places each time we come.
The lamb shanks can’t be beat. Not always available but when they are, well worth ordering.
Wild Fields: is a gourmet grocery in Largo, Florida. We were drawn to Wild Fields for its selection of meats and fish; but also because of its fringe benefits. One night we took advantage of the meals they cooked to go. It was good but two meals was too much for two old people; so two nights later we went back for the Salmon which we split. Wild Fields cooked it; we picked it up, along with a bottle of wine. We ate it on the balcony while we watched the sunset.
It was a welcome change from the restaurant meals, and easy to prepare when we didn’t have a kitchen full of ingredients. And, better and cheaper than Meals-on-wheels.
You can get an assortment of meats, fish, shish kabobs salads, sandwiches and luscious deserts all prepared for you.
If you are traveling to Albuquerque you should visit the Los Ranchos Growers’ Market on Saturday morning.
The growers’ market is a weekly event, though many towns have different markets on different days.
In Albuquerque, there are several, but my favorite is the Los Ranchos Growers’ Market on North Rio Grande. There are farmers (maybe urban) selling peaches, onions, beets, berries, etc. There are also a number of bakers and several vendors of meats. The mix changes weekly and what is offered changes as crops are picked. Always fresh, never shipped in.
There are also dozens of local crafts people selling jewelry, hats, canes, clothing, etc. Almost anything someone could make at home; especially if they are old and retired. A number of our friends have set up sales tents to sell things they have made. You might even want to consider a new career. Want to sell hats?
Take a look at Hat Academy to learn how. You don’t just have to be a buyer; you can also be a seller. The same goes for any other craft. If nothing else, these markets are a source of creative ideas.
The best part for me is the food. I always stop for a breakfast burrito. For $4.00 I get the # 1 which is a large tortilla filled with eggs, potatoes, crisp bacon and Hatch green chile. Another dollar gets me a cup of coffee and there is a table and a few chairs where I can sit and watch the people go by.
I know that it sounds strange to go to a growers’ market when you are travelling, but it is an interesting bit of local lore and even when you are on the road you need to eat and you may want some fruit to tide you over. I have been to such markets in Taos, Tucson, Waynesville, NC, Washington, DC; not to mention Bulgaria, Armenia and Belgrade. Each has been an interesting experience.
How to find a growers’ market near you; wherever you may be:
On Sunday, my son walked a few blocks in Washington, DC to pick up his box of vegetables and fruit from Hungry Harvest, a non-profit that collects excess food from grocery stores and distributes it to people who pay $15 per box.
Each box contains surplus, not spoiled, food; and, for each box sold, an identical box is donated to a food-bank to be distributed to people who can’t afford fresh vegetables and fruit.
Today’s box contained 4 oranges, 2 large carrots, head of cauliflower, 3 avocados, asparagus, onions, 3 pears, kale, and 2 ears of corn. Enough to feed two people for 5 meals or so
My thought is that it could be a good system for old people. Either for $15 or for free through a food bank. Either way, seniors get needed fruits and vegetables close to where they live.
Maybe other parts of the country should try it.
Eating can be a problem for seniors. You have to shop. You have to prepare. You have to have the right spices and you end up with too much of unusual spices. The result is the same old same old. You are also afraid to try anything new. And, if you qualify for meals-on-wheels, it is usually bland and if you have ever looked in an old person’s freezer you find it crammed with old meals-on-wheels.
We have been trying Blue Apron. We can order it on a weekly basis and get three meals for two people. The box of ingredients arrives by FedEx on Thursday with freezer packs that have always been frozen solid. The box contain everything that you need and in the exact amounts that you need. If it is spicy, you are cautioned to add less of the spice. You also get pictures and instructions on how to prepare the meal in about 30 minutes. The net result is dinner for two, or even three, as the portions are large. It is quick and easy, but does require some concentration; which is not all bad.
The ingredients above, which cost $20 and was delivered on a Thursday, became the following meal on a Friday.
The cost is $60 for three meals for two person each; or ten bucks a meal per person. This includes shipping. The food has always arrived a day early, Thursday instead of Friday, and has always been frozen solid, or cool, depending on the food. Each box has two freezer packs which can be reused, recycled, or given to a friend.
We have tried about 40 meals. Each week you get a selection of three meals which you can choose from six selections; although you are somewhat limited in that you can’t just pick the expensive stuff. Looking ahead a few weeks, the three meals are: Seared Steak and Fingerling Potatoes; Cajun-spiced Chicken; and, Spicy pork and Rice Bowls.
The wine was not included, but Blue Apron has a wine service.
You can also order two meals a week for four people each and have neighbors in.
There are several other services, but we have not tried them.
Best of all, Blue Apron relies on sustainable farming, no food waste and fresh ingredients without additives. They will even help you recycle the boxes and the freezer packs, but I have found that friends who go camping love them.
If you were raised in the Midwest, like me, you recall the simple meal of chicken fried steak, vegetables, salad and potatoes. Ok, so I opted for french fries instead of the mashed potatoes.
This has been an Albuquerque treat since the early 60’s, and is still going strong today. Where else can you get chicken-fried steak for $10.85 or liver and onions for $9.50. In fact in this day of rampant cardiologists, where can you find these Midwestern favorites at all.
Located in Albuquerque at 2nd street and Alameda (9200 2nd NW), it is open from 6;00 AM to 8:00 PM, no liquor, large helpings and a friendly staff that reminds you of home if you come from the Midwest.
When I travel, I like to visit places that remind me of my youth, which I imagine to be a simpler, friendlier time. Perhaps it is not true, but still…. It is what makes genealogy interesting and Murphy’s beats fast food places.
Murphy’s doesn’t have a web site, but you can check out its menu at Zomato.
Wherever you go, look for your roots. Relive the past, if only for a chicken fried steak in a funky cafe.
Now that I am reminiscing, I need to look for something even better with its roots in the Midwest – a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich which will take me back to late nights in college in Iowa. Stay tuned.
You might want to search out favorite foods of your youth.
GOOGLE: Town you are going to +name of food
For example: breaded pork tenderloin +Albuquerque
The menu at Murphy’s doesn’t show a Pork Tenderloin Sandwich.
The search yields M’tuccis restaurant and a” Crispy Green Chile Roasted Pork Tenderloin Sandwich” for lunch at $12; the best of Iowa and New Mexico.