For foodies, a quick run-down of eateries so far...
Crown Candy Kitchen is a candy store cum soda fountain cum diner which opened in 1913 and which hasn't changed dramatically since. There are only a few booths, more like tiny wooden cubicles, and if there are more than four of you, you might as well head elsewhere. Likewise if you don't like queuing for a table you might as well head elsewhere. The extraordinary thing about this is that Crown Candy is in a pretty desolate corner of town, north of Downtown. Millions of dollars have just been spent by the city in at attempt to rejuvenate the area and nearby there are lots of old stores that have been spiffily renovated but which currently stand empty, waiting to be occupied by boutiques and art galleries. Personally I wish they were becoming shops that actually serve the immediate neighbourhood, like bakeries and butchers, but that doesn't seem likely.
Anyway, the fare at Crown Candy is basic stuff but good. I had a Ruben, which is a toasted corned beef sandwich with sauerkraut and thousand island dressing. The beef is what we Brits called salt beef rather than the stuff from Fray Bentos. The sandwich came with chips (crisps) and a long, salty pickle. However the main courses are merely the prologue to what Crown Candy is really about. Sundaes, shakes and malts (basically a milkshake thickened with malt powder - Ovaltine?) are the reason you can't get a table. I would have had a malt if my birthday-boy heart wasn't already on a sundae. At 24 fluid ounces (one-and-a-half wimpy American pints) each their malts are massive. They have a challenge that has stood since 1913: if you can drink five malts within half an hour you get them free. Only an idiot would try that which is why the bloke off the ludicrous US TV show "Man vs Food" has attempted it. I have no idea if he succeeded and frankly I don't care. As I wrote on this blog back in August, the idea that the enjoyment of food is to be had solely in stuffing as much of the stuff inside your face as you possibly can is so revolting that the show's presenter should be struck down with the heart attack he so richly deserves.
I had the Crown Sundae and jolly good it was too. Two scoops of excellent homemade ice-cream of my choosing, topped with chocolate fudge sauce, pecans, whipped cream and a cherry. I surprised myself by choosing the cherry ice-cream - not normally a flavour I'd plump for - but I'm glad I did as it was very, very good, the cherries large and, well, fruity.
Shaw's Coffee in The Hill, from where I blogged yesterday, is a real find. There is a large roaster right in the middle of the cafe and when they have a roasting session, as they did yesterday afternoon, the doors are flung open and the street fills with with the smell of the the hot beans. Lucy met me after her rehearsal and we wandered down to Amighetti's, an Italian cafe and bakery that is something of a local institution. I couldn't resist the spaghetti with meatballs - as good a barometer of an American-Italian eatery as anything - and for seven bucks got an enormous portion that I couldn't finish, quite. There were four meatballs nearly the size of cricket balls. But they were very good, and every time I said "that's it I'm done" I found myself having another forkful a couple of minutes later.
Despite my distended belly we couldn't resist wandering into their bakery shop after lunch and buying a couple of cannoli "for later". We ate them today and they were much better than you get from Roma in New York, the pastry lighter and the ricotta less cloying.
Finally I have to mention World's Fair Donuts, just east of The Hill. It's an old nondescript looking place, barely more than a shack, but it's charming and, dare I say it, quaint. But not in a self-conscious or deliberate way. Apparently the same people have been working there for the last 30 years or so and they open at four in the morning. It might sound silly to say it's nice to meet a donut seller who's passionate about his work but that's the impression he certainly gave when we stopped for a glazed ring and a glazed-cake. There was an old biddy in front of us who had stepped out of an old Lincoln with Arkansas plates - perhaps she had spotted the shop from the freeway and told her husband (a Vietnam veteran - it said so on his licence plate) to pull over for a box of treats - who was umming and aahing about what to chose, and the server described each nut in turn with what I can only call good old-fashioned courtesy and patience. My glazed ring, perhaps not the most original of choices, was superb. Much better than a Krispy Kreme. It was firmer and less gratingly sweet. I'm going to have to go back. Apparently the buttermilk donuts are to die for and how can I resist a "fried pie", the size and shape of a small pasty, filled with jam or custard? I adore these old businesses and would happily pay over-the-odds to give them my custom, but you get two top-notch donuts for a dollar and who can argue with that?