The Endless Road Trip — San Diego’s Top 10 Eats: 4. The Veggie Burger Comes Full Circle

Once upon a time, veggie burgers were merely a last-resort option for lonely vegetarians at BBQs or meat-centric restaurants that didn’t have a single other flesh-free entree. As we know, they’ve come a long way since then. Now, faux burgers are less likely to be be a poor man’s meat substitute, and more often something inventive enough that even a human carnivore would want to eat.

My second San Diego food truck stop took me to MIHO Gastrotruck. I had heard good things about their carnitas tacos and pork belly bahn mi, but one particular thing on the chalkboard menu caught my eye:

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The Endless Road Trip — San Diego’s Top 10 Eats: 3. Pacos

To be honest, I went to California with a mission to eat the best and craziest tacos I could find, and I like to think I succeeded. I won’t argue that scrambled eggs and pork belly are both awesome inside a tortilla, but I’ve definitely found the best breakfast tacos, ever.

I’ve already expressed my love for R Gang Eatery after they served me the <best tater tots ever>. But you know, after BS and I consumed an entire basket of fried potatoes and cheese, we just couldn’t resist ordering what sounded like the best breakfast item ever: pacos. That’s right, pancake tacos.

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The Endless Road Trip — San Diego’s Top 10 Eats: 2. Tostada Loca

As has been mentioned many times previously on ES, I have a crazy addiction.

Because I am so obsessed with bringing you, dear readers, news of the outrageous and over-the-top food world, I always, always, always have to order the craziest thing on the menu. If the item actually has the word “crazy” in its name, it’s just over.

The well-reviewed Mariscos German Taco Truck (that’s pronounced her-man, they’re Mexican, not some kind of weird Bavarian taco truck) in San Diego had tons of exciting, classy menu items on the day that I went. There were smoked marlin tacos. There was shrimp ceviche. There was calamari. There was also something called “tostada loca,” so I pretty much had no choice.

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The Endless Road Trip — San Diego’s Top 10 Eats 1. Pickle Tater Tots

I’m probably not in the majority when I say I don’t love tater tots. I mean, I don’t dislike them; they are fried potatoes after all. On their own I just find them greasy and kind of boring. They never hold salt the way I want them to and are more often than not soggy; I’d prefer fries or home fries any day.

Imagine my surprise when BS and I sat down at R Gang Eatery in San Diego, the laid-back base of Top Chef’s Rich Sweeney, and were offered a slew of stuffed tater tots. After some debate (do we want foie at 10am?) we ordered the craziest ones (clearly) — tater tots filled with pickles and cheese. They were the first thing to come out of the kitchen, and let’s be honest, we both stared at them for a minute before touching them. Were we really going to eat pickles and cheese as breakfast?

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Top 10 New Foods at the 2010 State Fairs

With all due respect to George Washington Carver, America’s greatest food inventions have all originated in one place — the state fair. From cotton candy to corn dogs to deep-fried Coke, the enterprising folks at America’s state and county fairs top themselves year after year. Some observers thought state fair cooks had hit their peak last year, when the Texas State Fair debuted Deep Fried Butter. But in 2010, they outdid themselves once again, proving that if it’s edible, it’s even better battered and fried. From coast to coast (but mostly in the middle) here are our top ten favorite finds:

10. Hash Brown Hot Dog  – San Diego County Fair

hash brown dog

Hot dogs with french fries is a pretty fantastic lunch, but boy it takes a lot of effort to transport all those individual fries from the plate to your mouth. If only we could get the hot dog and the potato to be one cohesive unit, preferably arranged on a stick. Thank you, San Diego. Thank you. (Photo: It’s Holly)

9. Deep-Fried Cheddar-Bacon Mashed Potatoes…On a Stick  – Minnesota State Fair

potatoes

Sorry, San Diego — did you really think you could best the Midwest at spuds-on-a-stick? Here, Minnesota achieves the state fair trifecta — potatoes, pork and cheese — all deep fried, all on a stick. For more of Minnesota’s many, many state fair foods, check out Baking Junkie’s heart-stopping food crawl through the MN State Fair. (Photo: Baking Junkie)

8. Garbage Burger – Indiana State Fair

garbage burger

It’s the great state fair dilemma. Should pork be the basis of your dish — or a topping? In Indiana, this is not a problem. Behold the garbage burger — a deep-fried pork patty topped with a healthy serving of pulled pork. Why settle for one pig when you can have two? See more at The Hot Cookie. (Photo: Sarah Richcreek)

7.  Deep-Fried Frito Pie – Texas State Fair

frito pie

No other state takes this season as seriously as Texas, the good people who started the deep-fried everything movement with their corn dog in 1942 and haven’t looked back since. Earlier this week, ES told you about frito pies — those delicious piles of chili-topped corn chips. One guess what Texas has gone and done to ’em. (Photo: Texas Fried Frito Pie)

6. Deep Fried Klondike Bar – San Diego State Fair

deep fried klondike bar

California continues its surprisingly strong showing by having the cojones to throw a chocolate-covered ice cream bar in the deep fryer. This one’s more concept than execution, because not so surprisingly, it’s a total disaster to eat. My Burning Kitchen has more. (Photo: My Burning Kitchen)

Next: Top 5 New Foods at the 2010 State Fairs

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March Madness: America’s Top 10 Drunk College Foods

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With the NCAA basketball tournament tipping off this afternoon, America’s brightest young minds are poised to spend the next month doing what they do best: getting drunk and yelling at television screens. When all the blood, sweat, tears – and beer – are swept off the court, the nation’s 18 million college students will be left in search of one thing: some grease to soak it all up.

While you were finalizing your bracket picks, Endless Simmer carefully evaluated the tournament field to compile this list of the tournament’s Top 10 Colleges – ranked by the drunk food they have to offer their hungry, hungry students. Eat that, U.S. News and World Report.

10. University of Wisconsin – Mac ‘n Cheese Pizza
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Photo: J&J Blog

Oh maaaan, I need some pizza. Cheesy pizza. Mmmm, cheese. No, wait, I want mac and cheese. Oooh! Pizza with mac and cheese on top! That’s what I want.

If you have ever said or heard a statement like this, you are almost certainly a drunk college student. Also, you probably live in Wisconsin.

The Badgers may have been dissed by the selection committee (29-4 can’t get you a no #2 seed??) but Wisconsin never was as good at sports as they are at creative use of cheese. Madison drunks flock to Ian’s Pizza for this gooey, magnificent creation that just couldn’t come from any other state.

9. Rutgers – Fat Darell
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Photo: AP

Don Imus’ not-so-favorite team is back in the women’s tourney as a Number 2 seed, while the Rutgers men were sent packing after a miserable season at the bottom of the Big East.

But don’t feel too bad for the Scarlet Knights – they can always console themselves back on campus with a Jersey summer full of Fat Darrells, a behemoth of a sandwich that solves the drunk’s eternal dilemma of “Do I want chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, or French fries?”

The answer: a resounding “all three,” piled high on a sub role and topped off with marinara sauce. I’d tell you more about it but I’m a little short of breath and I feel a painful shooting sensation in my arm.

8. Purdue – The Duane Purvis All-American
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Photo: Flick User Horsepj

You can be forgiven if you didn’t know the name of Purdue’s All-American half-back/full-back from their undefeated 1932 football team. But you should damn well know the burger that bears his name.

The Triple XXX Family Restaurant in West Lafayette, Indiana serves up this decidedly unwholesome Boilermaker classic: 100% sirloin patty with lettuce, tomato, pickle, Spanish onions, and….wait for it…peanut butter. Only a drunk or Elvis – perhaps only a drunk Elvis – could fully appreciate this brilliance.

7. University of San Diego – Filiberto’s Carne Asada Burrito
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Photo: Flickr user buckofive

The San Diego Toreros may not be a household name – in fact, if you google the phrase University of San Diego team, the first hit is the school’s mock trial club. Scroll down to the bottom of the results page to find the bball squad, who shocked favorites Gonzaga and St. Mary’s to steal the WCC title and a berth in the big dance this year.

But that’s not what has these young fellows so excited; they’re just pumped up about this steak-filled beauty. USD students have shown the dirt cheap, gigantic burritos from Filiberto’s so much love that the chain has expanded to towns throughout Cali and Arizona, but U Study Drunk loyalists still swear by the original.

6. University of Pittsburgh – The South Side Slope
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Photo: Roadfood.com

For some reason, Polish cuisine has never quite caught on in the United States. And that reason is the simple fact that it doesn’t come between two slices of bread.

Pitt saloon Fatheads has a solution to this problem, and its name is the South Side Slope. A giant kielbasa topped with fried pierogies, grilled onions, American cheese and something called horsey sauce. Don’t ask, just eat.

Next: Top 5 America’s Top Drunk College Foods

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