By Hannah Allen
Greasy spoon, mom n’ pop shop, joint, diner or hole-in-the-wall no one can get enough of these secret little places you feel like no one else knows about. Maybe it’s because it makes you feel nostalgic, maybe it’s because it makes you feel like you know something no one else knows but one thing is for sure and that is if there wasn’t something incredibly special about the actual food itself you wouldn’t be making it a point to pop in each time you’re in that neighborhood. We’ve put together a list of our favorite less-than-well-known favorites.
Once the jumping-off point for the now successful (and relocated) Good 2 Go Taco this literal corner of the only gas station specializing in healthy convenience called the Green Spot is reminiscent of country gas stations where you can order hot meals and sit down to enjoy them with your people. We’re talking grass-fed organic made-to-order burgers and BLTs, huevos rancheros, sweet potato fries and the like. They’ve also got a specialty coffee counter and Kombucha on tap. Seriously so good.
While we wouldn’t want to advise anyone to put their safety at risk for a taco let’s just say that if you were ever willing to do so Chichen Itza would be the place to grab your balls and saunter on in. Possibly a front for something far more interesting than we’d venture to claim here this tiny taqueria has even been known to trade a patron willing to do repairs on their establishment in tacos and beer. The il pastor is to die for, just ask them to go easy on the cilantro which the staff seems to think should be applied liberally. Grab a few cervezas to go and get the hell out of dodge, you’ll understand why people keep going back two bites in.
There’s something to be said for a place that smells like chocolate frosting every time you walk in: DAYAMN! Henk’s Deli is a European style deli hidden behind the giant Half Priced Books on Northwest Highway. You can sit down and order food and then shop in the store section filled with shelves of hard-to-find items from across the pond. All the way in the back is the meat counter filled with unbeatable sausages and salamis next to a bakery case filled with breads, pastries and cakes which, presumably is what they’re doing with that chocolate frosting. While they have an eclectic menu of both familiar and traditional favorites our favorite is the Reuben sandwich with a spicy dill pickle on the side.
As far as Chinese take-out type places go everyone has their own expectations. Sometimes they’re met, sometimes they’re grossly violated and sometimes they’re surpassed. Chef Chu’s menu is made up of typical Americanized Chinese food and lacks sketchy ingredients and mystery meat. The first thing we’ll recommend is the Lo Mein. Not only is it pretty bangin’ upon arrival but it’s absolutely amazing the next day – which is not only the true test of any variety of Lo Mein but the second amazing thing about this spot. There is always enough for the next day. The portion sizes are generous and an entree includes fried rice, egg drop soup and an egg roll. It’s pretty much yum-tastic and well worth the price.
I know it’s a drive but everyone has a cousin or someone that lives south of the county line. When you go to visit them in the sticks get them out of their quaint little mid-century and drive them to Hippie Cowboy. A friendly and creative take on the Americana vibe of small town Texas, this eatery has creatively named dishes that sound like old-school diner short hand. The bonus is the place doesn’t have the corner cutting propensity of small-town diners past when it comes to ingredients. Everything is made in-house especially the slow-simmered Truck Stop Chili which comes topped with cheddar and jack cheese with diced onions. There also are Grab n’ Go dinner options (think prepared foods from Central Market) which can be reserved the day before since the place lists its whole month’s worth of options on the website.