Food Truck Dossier: Aloha Streatery

Food Truck: Aloha Streatery

My First Thought: "Oooh, food truck plate lunch?"

Reality: To paraphrase the one and only Sir-Mix-A-Lot, "I like baked buns and a bit of rice/No other brahs can deny." Aloha Streatery has a focused selection of golden baked buns with various fillings and a couple of generally healthier rice-based dishes

Toddling Toward Three: A Second Year Blogiversary Post

Surprise, surprise - two years and this blog is still alive and kicking. I can't rightfully say whether I expected this or not, but I am quite happy to still be pounding on the keyboard on a regular basis cranking out these blog posts

My posting pace that first year was rather surprising and highly unsustainable (over 150 posts that first year) - for someone whose bills get paid by other time-consuming sources, that just wasn't going to workout in the long run. This year, I aimed for a more sustainable two posts per week and hit that mark pretty much on the mark; as Goldilocks might say, that number was "just right."

I could get into really specific detail about the breakdown of these posts, but that would be highly boring so I won't. Suffice it to say, the posts are nicely broken up mainly among Columbus-based eateries, beer and brewery related posts and travels from both within and outside of Ohio. Mix in some music events, local attractions and festivals, and my continuing ice cream journeys, and it made for a pretty nice cornucopia of topics covered this year.

Ice Cream Chronicles (Year 3): My Name Is Joe, and I Love Ice Cream

Joe Biden goes down on some scoops of ice cream recently at the
Jeni's Ice Cream location at Columbus' North Market
(photo source:
"Hi, I'm Joe Biden, and I love ice cream."

This simple statement made my heart go a flutter, knowing that the Vice-President and I share two things: the same first name and a love of ice cream. A bonus cherry on top for the love of Columbus-area ice cream, as demonstrated last week with his trip to Jeni's for a waffle cone and a couple scoops.

Of course, I have nowhere near the personal cachet as the Veep, but I choose to ignore that factor in issuing this invite to Joe to join me for ice cream.  Heck, I'll even pay for that sweet treat - just give me the word Joe, and we're all set.

And while I would prefer it to be in the state of Ohio (we have plenty of awesome ice cream candidates here), I am willing to take it on the road, as my spouse and I did not too long ago. Maybe these two places will whet the Veep's appetite:

Southern Road Trip: Best of the Rest (Pt. 2)

Yes, there's more! We hit a plethora of noteworthy eateries on our road trip that didn't get previously covered in my previous Southern Travels posts - the second and final part of this mini-series continues below:

San Antonio - B&B Smokehouse

The third item food item that my spouse agreed we had to have while we were in Texas (outside of kolaches and crawfish) was BBQ beef brisket. San Antonio's B&B Smokehouse, located in the Harlandale section of town, proved it had the chops to serve this area staple.

An old-timer in San Antonio's BBQ scene (starting in 1958 as Hal's Drive-in and Bar-B-Que), B&B offers a few twists beyond the traditional BBQ menu in its mains (po-boy sandwiches, burgers and chicken tenders area available) as well as their sides (onion rings and creamed corn). Even the condiments were also diverse: bottles of traditional sriracha and sambal oelek stood right next to their hot sauce and balsamic vinegar counterparts.

Southern Road Trip: Best of the Rest (Pt. 1)

As much ground as the previous couple of weeks of Southern road trip blog posts covered, not every place we visited made it in. However, that by no stretch of the imagination means that they aren't worthy of a mention. These next couple of posts touch on an eatery from each of the major cities we encountered during this road trip that we found to be worth the consideration at the very least.

I know I can't personally start the day without a good cup of coffee, but the following two places add much more to the equation other than that caffeinated elixir.

Dallas - Cuban Dulceria International Bakery & Cafe
A longstanding Dallas-area tradition, the Vasquez family has been serving their Cuban specialties to Dallas-area residents since 1979. They may have remained pretty much only on the radar of the locals, but a couple of unrelated pushes from as different spheres of fame as you can imagine (President Barack Obama efforts to normalizing Cuban relations and a Khloe Kardashian reference to cortaditos) has bumped into modest eatery much higher onto the culinary radar. In fact, the demand created has encouraged the owners to open up a second location in the area.

Brews Cruising (Pt. 4): Back Home to the Locals

Winter was pretty much a no-show this year in Ohio...or so we thought
Like the dog referenced in the Devo song "Freedom of Choice," the Ohio weather can't make up its mind. On an otherwise uneventful return from the Music City to end our vacation, the cold hand slap of a winter that was many days late and several dollars short was more than evident (an actual dusting of snow would arrive the next day.)

Despite the chill and the long hours in the car, we were intent on dropping by two more breweries to close out our trip, each being a unique example of how the Columbus craft beer has grown over the past year.

Brews Cruising (Pt. 3): The Killer B(eer)s and a Brew Named Sue

Murals on buildings in Houston's East End, an area of town which
reminded me of Columbus's Franklinton neighborhood
Columbus Ohio's craft brew scene has been centered on a mutually beneficial relationship between brewery and food truck. New craft brewery sans food service opens up, and soon after a rotation of regular food trucks is in place to provide the food. As we found out, Houston's 8th Wonder Brewing put a little twist on the scenario: beer-loving owner of established food truck decides to set up a brewery.

The brainchild of the folks of the long-standing Eatsie Boys Food Truck, 8th Wonder lies in the industrial East End section of Houston (with the skyline of Downtown Houston lurking, folks in Columbus in for a visit may be reminded of the Franklinton neighborhood.) The brewery's name is a reference to the Astrodome, dubbed "The Eighth Wonder of the World" at its opening in 1965. In case you wondered, the Astrodome still stands generally unused, remaining in limbo as county taxpayers battle over what to do with this iconic structure.

Once you get within the extremely non-descript warehouse where this brewery resides (the only real initial clue you've arrived at the right place lies in the brewery's logoed vehicles outside), the full homage to the Astrodome unfolds. Plenty of memorabilia related to the building lies within including the original floor used for the 1971 NCAA Final Four basketball tournament and a large panoramic picture of the original interior. In an additional neat touch, the wall behind the tap area neatly mimics the Astrodome's outline.

The traditional colors of the Houston Astros MLB team are also quite noticeable; fans of that team may harken back to the Killer B's (Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and, later, Lance Berkman) or older vintage stars like Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richard and Jose Cruz. They may be even old enough to have seen them play under the team's original name (the Colt 45's.)

An even more expansive outdoor space, replete with benches, pétanque courts and cornhole boards, and a disc golf course lies to the back. This ample elbow room comes in quite handy when the Astros or Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo are hosting a home game - their stadiums lie mere blocks away from the brewery.

The brewery sports a unique token based system that is advantageous for regulars (a pint glass that allows you cheaper pours in the future provided you bring it), but as we were just driving through, we opted for traditional beer flights. All our beers were quite enjoyable, with our standouts being Rocket Fuel Porter with Vietnamese Coffee, the Hopston English-style IPA, and their flagship Alternate Universe Altbier.

Of course, you can't not go to 8th Wonder and not visit the food truck that started it all. The Eatsie Boys truck camps out "eight days a week" behind the brewery and offers a Houston-area twist on various finger foods, sandwiches and wraps. We're big fans of fried pickles, and the version the Eatsie Boys puts out is not only plentiful, but also one of the tastiest versions we've ever consumed.

8th Wonder Brewery
2202 Dallas St (Google Maps)
Houston, TX 77003
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800 miles removed and a couple days later, we dropped by perhaps Tennessee's largest and most well-known craft brewery, plopped firmly within Nashville's popular Gulch neighborhood, as a way to kick back and relax from that day's sightseeing.

Opened up in 2003, Yazoo Brewing (actually named after a river in Mississippi next to which owners Linus and Lila Hall got married) is very familiar to fans of Columbus' Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. Their collaboration frozen confection flavor Yazoo Sue with Rosemary Bar Nuts, made with the brewery's well-regarded smoked porter Sue quickly became a best seller when it was first released in scoop shops in 2013.

Yazoo moved into their current taproom space in 2010. I personally try to make some comparison to other brewery spaces I've encounter, but Yazoo's is pretty unique in that regard. The interior's slew of elements, including but not exclusive to the tap area, painted cement block walls, lots of brewery swag, plenty of art work and a variety pack of tables, chairs, and church pews, may not sound cohesive but actually just works well together. It's easy to see why people bring in their favorite eats (Yazoo allows outside food to be brought into their space) to hang around for a couple hours with friends and family.

Higher gravity beers are tricky things to deal with for Tennessee brewers: those above 6.25% ABV must be sold in liquor stores (thankfully, this will change slightly for the better in 2017 when a law raising that level to 10% ABV goes into effect.) Yazoo has tread into these waters, receiving a license to produce bigger beers like the previously mentioned Sue as well as quite a few of their wild ale/funky brews.

On this visit, the high-gravity Indomitus Dolium proved to be a nicely potent and boozy Old Ale, but the standout was the much more modest ABV-leveled Zure Bruine Flanders Oud Bruin which made our tart-leaning hearts sing, sporting a complex fruit and caramel base and a nice dry finish. 

We had intended on hanging out for awhile and sampling more brews (we did get in one more in a decent Sly Rye Porter) but alas found out their taproom closes on the early side (8 PM on this day.) I guess we can count ourselves as thwarted in that endeavor, but that will just give us more incentive on our next visit to Nashville to come back for a second round or three.

Yazoo Brewing Company
910 Division St. (Google Maps)
Nashville, TN 37203
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One Hot Prince and the Man in Black

Grimey's, located in Nashville's Edgehill neighborhood, provided us
the chance to look at new and used music alike

Prior to that beckon, my spouse and I had engaged in a combo of toodling on our mobile phones and conversing  over past and future vacation plans. At this point, the latter was diminishing rapidly, but we wanted to make our final hours of freedom in Nashville worthwhile.

My senses, already aroused by the scent of fried foods for the last 40 minutes or so, jumped to attention. The sales ticket indeed matched the number, and I hungrily rambled from our seat to the front counter.

"You ordered the extra hot?" I could feel owner André Prince Jeffries' eyes peering into me.

I nodded, "Yep, one extra hot and an extra extra hot."

"Good. I wanna' keep my eye on you," she replied, "to see if your head explodes."

Onward to the Music City

This is a sign that tasty poor boys are just around the counter
School pride and T-shirts are perfect partners in that there's just about no easier and more visible way to express that love of your alma mater to the world than a cotton shirt with your school's name and colors. However, that visibility, especially when it's attached to a big name college program that emphasizes a certain English-based article (as in part of speech) in their name, is almost certain to  draw attention.

"Hey, it's someone from THE Ohio State University?" The emphasis on the word "the" was over-emphasized to the nth degree, and the loud, lively and largely Cajun-accented give-and-take behind the counter between the kitchen and front area staff picked up noticeably.

"We got THE Ohio State University in the house!"
"You're a long way from home, aren't you?"
"Yes, THE Ohio State University is here!"
"Did you get lost or something?"

While we were a bit flush from the attention, the smiles of the folks around showed us it all in good fun. We shouldn't have expected any less; after all, we were standing smack dab in the middle of Ragin' Cajun country...

Ice Cream Chronicles - New Interactive Map

As you may have noticed, a new interactive Google Map containing all the location and links to all my Ice Cream Chronicles posts is now accessible in the sidebar. This post will remain as a featured post for the foreseeable future.

H-Town Happenings: Beachy Keen and Hibiki Harmony

"Deep in the South of Texas
Not so long ago,
There on a crowded island
In the Gulf of Mexico

It didn't take too much money,
Man, but it sure was nice.
You could dance all night if you felt all right,
Drinking whiskey and throwing dice."
"Balinese" - ZZ Top

A staple of any beach town, pulled taffy is a specialty of La King's Confectionery,
which has been creating sweet treats on Galveston Island since the 1920s
As Columbus-area natives often head south to the Hocking Hills to get away from city life, Houston folks make a similar trek down to the beaches of Galveston Island along the Gulf of Mexico. On a particularly clear and promisingly warm day, we made the similar trek along back roads along Texas Highway 6 to this sandy paradise.

Whether you are weather-attuned or not (we admit to being a couple of weather geeks ourselves), you cannot visit Galveston without the specter of deadly hurricanes in the back of your mind. In 1900, Galveston, then the fourth largest city and the economic powerhouse of the state of Texas, was hit with what is still the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history blew ashore and killed over 6,000 people. Most recently, 2008's Hurricane Ike dealt released its wrath over the area, an mental and economic body blow that the area has only now recovered from. But as noted by this Texas Monthly article on the city, the struggle to best protect "the (most) quintessentially Texan" of cities from here on out is still being debated to this day.