Further Adventures in Mt. Shasta ~

10 08 2008

Yes, I’m going to torment us with another trip to Mt. Shasta…the scenery and energy are fabulous, even though they’re a foodie’s nightmare.  The good news?  Black Bear Diner was open…so we at least had a little good food! LOL!

We left late on a Sunday afternoon…not the best of times to dine anywhere.  Sunday and Monday evenings are loss leaders, and many places close their doors for one day or the other just for that reason.  We weren’t quite hungry enough to warrant stopping off in Chico; plus we’d just gotten on the road.   Chico is the last reasonably exciting source for food until one gets another 60 miles north to Redding, which doesn’t wave any culinary banners either.  For some reason, Chico accepts inventive dining fare…maybe it’s the college. Farther north, you’re talking farmers. Meat. Potatoes. Don’t mess with it.  So, being even slightly hungry and leaving town on Sunday afternoon was moderately foolish.

Traveling north, we pass through Chico, outlying farm lands and communities, eventually the town of Corning, followed by Red Bluff, Cottonwood, Anderson up to Redding.  Corning is home of The Olive Pit – can you guess a lot of olives are grown and processed here?  However…olives as an entrée item…thank you, no.  Red Bluff is home to the chain-gang.  I think every restaurant I’ve seen there (so far) is part of a chain.  We pulled off there, but there was no parking which wasn’t in direct sun, and we had Jasmine with us.  Can’t cook the doggie.  I’m not sure what’s in Cottonwood, other than that’s where the CHP has a truck scale, so I know to watch my speed through there.  Sorry folks…  Anderson is home to the only Outlet mall in the far north of California.  It is not, however, a food mecca.  And yet…we pulled off.  I don’t know why…one of those “whispers” I suppose.  I cruised a block and we found an A & W Root Beer stand…truly a vanishing breed, and I love root beer.  Don’t get too worried.  I also prefer one major cola product over the other, and won’t drink the other.  I can taste the difference, and I have a preference. But root beer…mmmmm~  As we were trying to find our way around to get back to the freeway, we stumbled across a Northern Calif. Mexican food chain…Casa Ramos.  We’d attempted to eat at the Corning version, but there was NO shade.  Here, there was plenty of shade, and we could put Jasmine far enough away from the front door so as not to feel nervous about her rather HIGH-pitched yapping.   She only yips and yaps a few minutes.  Once she knows it isn’t going to help.

Casa Ramos is like any chain.  There are good and not so good restaurants.  Their first restaurant was built in Yreka, CA in 2005.  We’ve been dining at their original Chico location since about 2006.  So far, we’ve found we like this chain pretty reliably.  They serve authentic food that (usually) tastes very good, and their portions are immense.  We’re both fond of the Borrego (braised lamb shanks), and they always have a special that’s more food than we can both eat!  Sold.  Dinner on Sunday night was a reasonable success!!

Monday, we awoke incredibly late.  I won’t even say.  Just to get coffee without someone looking strangely at us, we went to Black Bear Diner…where they serve breakfast all day, every day. LOL!!  Another chain…This one originated in Mt. Shasta, CA.  We haven’t frequented many of their restaurants, but we know they’re out there.  At their home restaurant in Mt. Shasta, I’ve never had a complaint…well…not much of one!  We did need to serve ourselves coffee on Tuesday…but we were back in the “dining room” so we could get to it!  Back to Monday…  After fortifying ourselves for the better part of the day, we were off exploring!  We came home tired and hungry in the evening, and at 7-something, every place in town was packed.  We by-passed several places we’ve already been; took a look at Mike & Tony’s…an Italian menu, but it felt like a bit more of a dinner house than we were ready for.  We were in tourist-wear.  After taking about 45 minutes off dinner-hunting to let the restaurants breathe out, we drove through again.  By this time, we had a couple of ideas.  We headed to the Burger Express for the obvious and broasted chicken.  They were already closed. Oops.  Ok…on to Mike & Tony’s…a little fancy for shorts and T’s.  Remember…we’d been headed out for burgers.  We drove the length of town and saw everything that was there….and back.  We pulled into Billy Goat’s Tavern, just to see if the kitchen was still open…YES!  With 5 minutes to spare.  We promptly ordered 2 softshelled crab BLT’s and garlic fries, and called it good.  Yes…whole soft-shell crabs, breaded, deep fried, BLT’d and WOW.  That’s some serious YUM!  This was a great place for us.  They have 2 open air decks. We chose the back, Jasmine was welcome (leashed) to hang out with us, so the whole family was together.  Not bad for a Monday!

Tuesday was hustle day. We had a lot of ground we wanted to cover this day. We were planning to drive almost to the border through the interior, up to Lava Beds National Monument. We picked up groceries to stash in our chill-pack, and we were off.  Breakfast was once again at Black Bear….hey, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.  I had a small order of biscuits and gravy, and purred. The country gravy was perfect in consistency and flavor, and the biscuits were feather-light. Yes, we had to help ourselves to coffee, but we had plenty of cream and sugar, so what the heck.  Lunch this day was meat, cheese, crackers and fruit at Valentine Cave in Lava Beds.  There was a small area of shade (not much of that up there) where we could park the car, walk Jas and stretch some. We took advantage of that and took time to nosh between driving. We covered a load of territory that day. We visited Medicine Lake and the campgrounds and Lava Beds.  We still haven’t done any exploration of caves…yet another trip!  Dinner on Tuesday was planned at Piemont.  Piemont has a reputation for exceedingly large servings, and good Italian food.  The serving size was probably what turned us away in the end.  We were tired…and hungry, but the time was getting short on the dinner hour in this little town.  Neither of us felt like huge portions or being hovered over.  We drove.  There aren’t a lot of choices…we checked out the Burger Express…mostly a take out place.  There are a few little tables, cramped and crowded or outside, still crowded, and right on the maid drag through town.  Maybe for lunch…  There was room at Billy Goat’s Tavern, but we wanted to broaden our horizons if possible.  There’s a Casa Ramos there, but we’d done that on Sunday.  Lily’s has a good reputation, but…it’s rather on the nice side, and it was also full.  Lai Lai’s…been there…  I can’t say I recommend any Chinese food in Mt. Shasta at all…  Hubster was still leaning toward a burger, so we opted for the Dugout.

The Dugout is a little sports cafe in the shopping center parking lot behind the Black Bear Diner.  If you can find Round Table Pizza (incidentally-a very good RT!), look far to the other side of the lot, and the little place on the side is The Dugout.  It faces out on the frontage of the street that the Best Western hotel is on.  We’ve had breakfast there in the past…decent food, decent value.  Dinner was another experience!

The Dugout is incongruous.  They have SO much going on with their menu and cuisines that they can’t be making a profit.  Seriously.  Think Cuban-style Mexican.  Think Sports-Bar.  Think Dinner house.  Juggle that together and mix it up….you’ve got The Dugout.  Seriously…  Burgers every way you can imagine, including with a hot dog on it.  General sports bar grub – chili, hot wings, fries, onion rings.  Now, toss in a few enchiladas and tacos, and Cuban version specialties as well.  Don’t forget the dinner house fare…fish & shellfish.  Shrimp or fish fillets done in about 6 different way. Steaks…rib eye, sirloin, fillet.  Paella.  Yeah.  Paella.  Hubster had a burger, which was vastly overdone, but he’s learning to accept that now and then.  E coli don’t you know.  I had bacon wrapped shrimp on rice.  We both had items to offer Jasmine to appease her for waiting in the car.  The one thing that totally floored me here was that my accompanying salad was served on my heated dinner plate.  I got a few cold bites, and then it was all hot.  Ick.  I’d eat here again, but I’d watch the time of day and my appetite.  You don’t want to be too hungry going in here.  And don’t expect service if the owner is running the show.  He wants (maybe needs?) to get each table set to go, so he can do other things.  Like schmooze with local law enforcement.  I can see how this spot would be a favorite with the local guys…it reeks of testosterone.

Piemont is still on the “got to” try it list.  We checked out the natural food store, and they’ve got a cafe next door…love to check that out sometime.  Mike & Tony’s has promise.  A shower and change of clothes between adventures for that!  Casa Ramos is on the “try” list.  We haven’t tried this one, and we know the Mexican place, Lalo’s, at the other end of town isn’t Mexican, or very good.  We haven’t tried The Skillet for anything other than breakfast.  And there’s another place down by Hwy. 89 that looked interesting.  And…since I left my pillow in Mt. Shasta, we’ll be headed back soon!

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