Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

It’s Why We’re Here: Lunch at Taco Rock

There is a graciousness in Pensacola that reminds me of life in the Middle East, although the local Pensacolians would be astounded to be compared with the Middle East. If you look closely, though, you can see the similarities.

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There is politeness and civility toward others, even strangers. When workmen are in your home, you offer them ice water, or iced tea, and you ask about their families before they start work. It seems to us that when we call for help, we get the same service people coming to our house; I don’t think it is an accident.

People chat a little before they get down to business. I think many a Pensacolian would feel comfortable in the souks, sitting and drinking a little tea before they start to discuss the appropriate price level for the bauble they are considering. They ask about a person’s health, and they ask about your family. They take meals to those who are suffering or recovering.

People spend time with family. Families go to church together, families have meals together, families share child rearing. Multi-generations live near one another. People who went to school together more than fifty years ago form their own kind of family, sharing deeply, attending the funerals of one another’s kin. Funerals are well attended. Very Arab, if only they knew.

There are pockets in the United States where you find groups of Arab nationals; Pensacola has these groups, even a discreet mosque or two. There are stores selling international supplies, including zaat’r and sumak and harissa, chana dal, bulger, wuhammara . . . and restaurants billing themselves as ‘Mediterannean’ whose food would be recognizable to those in the Levant and the Gulf.

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There is almost always a breeze off the Gulf to fight the heat and humidity and mosquitoes, and, by the grace of God, there is air conditioning and ice water coming out of the refrigerators. Life is sweet.

Life is all the sweeter because we can get together with our son and his family on the spur of the moment, and end up at a great family place like Taco Rock, where our little grandson can get down when he gets restless, and where there is plenty of time for us to chat, discuss Django Unchained, discuss new developments in entertainment technology, discuss upcoming vacations and arrangements – there is that great luxury of time together, and tasty food at reasonable prices. LOL, this is the Pensacola equivalent of a Michelin Red R, good local cuisine at reasonable prices. Hmmmm, Mexican is probably not qualified as good local food at reasonable prices, but close enough . . .

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He is such a delight, our little grandson, who calls the coming baby “that little girl,” as in “when that little girl comes, I’m going to teach her how to float on her back!”

This week, there is another parade! Pensacola must be the parade capital of the world; so many parades! We’ll pick up our grandson, stand on the corner and wave our arms until they throw us some beads. Great fun and good exercise. ๐Ÿ™‚

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This post is really a great excuse to post some new photos of our grandson ๐Ÿ™‚

June 2, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Relationships, Values | 2 Comments

Taco Rock in Pensacola

AdventureMan has been talking about the Taco Rock for months, and for some reason, we just haven’t made it there until today. I laughed when I first saw it, bright yellow, clearly a family-owned place, the kind of place we love.

“Hey! It’s Taco Buffet Day!” AdventureMan said gleefully. There wasn’t a self-serve buffet set up, that’s not how it works, you tell them what you want, like I said chicken and beef. AdventureMan wanted Al Pastor.

No one hurried us to make our choices. They have a hand printed menu above where you order, and some photos over to the right. The two gals at the order counter were pouring over a couple catalogs. When we were ready to order, they were ready to take our order, but they didn’t hurry us.

Then the cooks went into business; we could see them. They have some of the foods prepped, and then they heat the tortillas, crisp the tostada shells, everything comes hot and fresh to the table.

We saw a lot of customers taking out, there are about 20 seats at small tables inside, and room for maybe 20 more outside. The food is individually prepared. This is not your chain kind of place; it’s a real people kind of place, just where Palafox forks away from Pensacola Highway. Not fancy. No tablecloths. Great authentic tacos, burritos, tamales made and served by people who take pride in their work. ๐Ÿ™‚

I could hear AdventureMan laughing when we got home.

“What’s so funny?” I called from my office to his.

“I’m reading the reviews for Taco Rock,” he laughed, “and they are all positive except for one, and it says ‘Horrible atmosphere. Felt like I was in Mexico.'”

We were dying, we were laughing so hard.

July 31, 2012 Posted by | Cooking, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Experiment, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Restaurant | 5 Comments

Holiday Inn Express, Seattle-Tacoma Airport

AdventureMan and I are what we call “Michelin Red R” people. When we were younger, living in Europe courtesy of Uncle Sam, every now and then – not often enough – AdventureMan would take some leave and we would go off adventuring, all over, but our greatest love was traveling in France.

We always had the latest Michelin, but through the years, we discovered that the fanciest places were not the places we liked the best. We would save up and go to a multiple-starred restaurant, order their speciality, and discover that the food was so rich, even with the small portions, even a three course meal would have us awake in the middle of the night, busy digesting the richness of the food.

We discovered, by trial and error, the Michelin red R, which stands for good local food at reasonable prices. Most of these places, you could order a la carte, and while the food remained rich, we found we could enjoy it more eating less of it.

There was also a red R equivalent in the hotels and inns section, but I think maybe it was a red rocking chair. It’s been a while since we’ve made a big trip into France . . .

The Holiday Inn Express at the Seattle Tacoma Airport is a red R in my book. I actually have free nights available at a higher priced chain, but we stayed there on our last long trip, and while the surroundings were luxurious, we found we felt crowded, we like more space and we like NOT to have features we really don’t care about. The rooms were actually about the same size as the one I am staying in, but over-furnished, over-stuffed, crowded.

For being by the airport, it was very very quiet. The shuttle picked me up at the airport almost immediately, they had my room and keys all prepared and waiting for me, it was about the fastest I have ever been checked in.

They are refurbishing the hotel and I like it. I got a new room, with serene furnishings, and all the furnishings I need without too many furnishings. I even had my choice of soft or firm pillows – right in the room. The bathroom was about 6 feet by 10 feet, and had a BIG feel, with terrazzo floors and one of those outward swooping shower curtains.

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This is VERY handy, especially if you are tired and don’t want to go out looking for a place to eat, and especially if you are a female traveling alone. I ordered miso soup and salmon teriyaki and had it in under an hour, delivered to my door. There were a huge variety of restaurants to choose from. Wooo HOOO.

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I like a room to have a clock I can see in the middle of the night, with an alarm:

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I would prefer wi-fi, which is available in the lobby, but they provide a cable in the room, so I have no complaints:

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My own little coffee maker, my own little refrigerator, and a little sink and microwave. In the closet is also an ironing board and iron. Yes, it matters to me.

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Nice:
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And didn’t we just read that metal showerheads gather less bacteria than plastic ones?

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Just the right toiletries, not too much, not too little, and a hairdryer. I know it is becoming standard, but even in the nicest hotels sometimes you can get a surprise, and – sometimes they don’t work!

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And, just in case there is something missing, they provide it – complimentary – at the desk. I like the graciousness of that.

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September 17, 2009 Posted by | ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Tools, Travel, Women's Issues | 3 Comments

Hidden Gems: Restaurants We Love in Pensacola

People are flocking to Pensacola, or, actually, to the white sugar sands of Pensacola Beach, where you can breathe Covid-free air, paddle around in the Gulf and maintain distance between your less-than-ten group and the next.

Those flocking are always looking for good places to eat at the end of a long day in the sun. As people who love good places to eat, we are going to share some of the lesser known but delightful places in Pensacola where we eat often. We arrived here ten years ago, and were blown away that this old Southern town had such a variety of restaurants full of different tastes.

If you are not from the South, this is for you: ย Any time you see the words “with a Southern twist” it is code for loaded with fat and sugar. You can’t beat the sweets – think beignets, Southern cakes, think sweet tea. I believe the South does some of the very best desserts in the United States of America.

That Southern twist, however, is one of the reasons that the most obese states in the USA are also in the South. You will find sugar and fat where you least expect it – one time, at a noted Pensacola restaurant where people go to see and be seen, I ordered a side of greens, trying to avoid sugar. When I tasted the greens, I gagged. Whoda thunk that collard greens would be cooked with sugar?

These are places local foodies go:

Blue Dot BBQ,ย 310 N De Villiers St

I’m starting with Blue Dot because it is one of the quirkiest places in Pensacola. In the first place, sometimes they are open, and sometimes they are not. Sometimes when they are open they will answer the phone, and sometimes they will not. Their answering machine gives out a message that says something like “we might be busy or we might be closed, so don’t call again.” Sometimes they have ribs as well as hamburgers, and sometimes they do not. And always, they are packed with people picking up orders. The guy taking the orders keeps them all in his head, and we haven’t seen him mess up a single order.

I had lived here for ten years before I tasted my first Blue Dot hamburger. People here say these are the best hamburgers in the world, pure and simple. I fully enjoyed mine, and I can’t say why. The meat was really good, and the bun was really good, but I can’t put my finger on what made it all so good. It is simple, and it is simply good. Doesn’t come with anything. Doesn’t cost much. And if you’ve lived in Pensacola a long time, Blue Dot is the best kept secret.

New Yorker Deli, 3001 E Cervantes St

I should put a disclaimer on the New Yorker, saying we eat there regularly, like once a week, but the truth is, most of these places I am sharing with you are places we eat regularly, and we don’t get any kickback for saying good things about them. We say good things because they serve good food.

The New Yorker is a deli and restaurant frequented mostly by locals, but get there early. They serve at least eight different home made soups every single day, and a huge variety of salads. They also boast “Pensacola’s best Reuben,” which I can attest to being pretty awesome, and a French Dip Sandwich with some of the best dipping broth I have found. We took a visitor there, they only person I know who could get excited over a liverwurst sandwich, but he is from New York and this was his favorite place in Pensacola. Tuesday they serve Crawfish Etoufee, and if you want to dine in, you had better get there early. Friday, they often have their famous Broccoli Salad.

If you’re looking for dinner on a Friday night, get there early. Yes, they serve wine and beer.

They also have pastas and pizzas. They also have a spectacular selection of desserts. They also have friendly, personal service. We feel so blessed to have a place nearby serving food of this quality.

Gulf Coast Seafood Market and Restaurant, 2250 W 9 Mile Rd

This restaurant is not near-by, and it is high enough on our list that we make the effort to go there often. As part of the renowned Patti family seafood and restaurant empire, it serves some of the best and freshest seafood in the area. The Alaska girl in me gets a craving for some salmon and I give my husband the look that says “take me to (Jonathan’s) for some salmon!” While most of the customers are ordering their baskets or platters with fabulous fried oysters, crab cakes, grouper, catfish or shrimp, we love it that GCSMR will also grill or blacken. This little hidden gem serves what I consider the best salmon in Pensacola, hush puppies to die for, and excellent baked beans. They use sugar where you would expect it – hush puppies, baked beans and sweets – but they also serve steamed broccoli, no sugar.

Shoreline Deli, 1180 W Main St

Just down the street from the famous Joe Patti’s, at the corner of Main and E is the Shoreline Deli and grocery. Not only do we order out, fabulous fresh made sandwiches and salads with a Greek flair, but we also buy our olive oil there, by the gallon, LOL (you think I am kidding, but I am not). While waiting for my order, I buy many of my spices there, fresher than in the supermarkets, think za’atar, sumac, poppy seeds, cardamon, cinnamon sticks, clove, all packaged in small packages (or large, if you need large). ย They have Mediterranean relishes, sweets, condiments, nuts, specialties of all kinds, and a very large selection of Zapp’s potato chips and other local specialties.

Near the cashier, where you get a military discount if you show your ID, is a stand laden with irresistible sweets – think baklava, big chewy cookies, and for my husband, some of the best peanut brittle anywhere.

Taste of Jerusalem, 707 N Pace Blvd Suite B

Ray, the owner, is working on a new location on Cervantes, so check Taste of Jerusalem.com before you head there. The current location is tiny, but well patronized because the food is just SO GOOD. I tell AdventureMan “this is better than some of the Middle Eastern food we used to eat in the Middle East.” Ray is constantly expanding his menu, and there is something for everyone. My vegetarian friends love the two huge Vegetarian Platters, with selections from hummus, baba ghannoush, stuffed grape leaves, Jerusalem salad, felafel, tzatziki, etc. His grill platters and sandwiches are chock full of grilled flavor; lamb, beef, chicken, kebabs, gyros, and shrimp. He also has grilled chickens and platters of biryani and mensaf. His trout is excellent. Join the stream of loyal patrons who marvel that Pensacola has a world class Mediterranean restaurant of this calibre.

Taco Rock 29, 5454 Pensacola Blvd

This is the original Taco Rock, and we love it because the food is so well prepared and so tasty. It is not fancy, and sometimes the air conditioning does not work. It doesn’t deter us. My husband is addicted to their fresh, home-made tamales (pork) and I am a big fan of the Burrito Loco. The food is fresh, hot, comes with a mild or hot salsa. You have your choice of meats in the tacos, tostadas, burritos, etc. The chips are thin and crisp. They have a loyal clientele, and many delivery customers, so sometimes you have to wait. It’s worth it. We love this place.

Seafoods Station, 4796 N. 9th Ave.

My Hawaiian friend introduced me to Poke’ bowls, which I’ve tried at different places every since, but I have found none that I love the way I love the Ahi Tuna Poke’ or the Salmon Poke’ at Seafoods Stations. Lucky for me, my husband has several dishes he loves – the clam platter, the mussels platter, the Cajun Shrimp platter, the Shrimp Stir-Fried noodles. Actually, the menu is so large and varied that everyone we have taken there has found something to love. It is quirky, to us to combine seafood, Vietnamese and Cajun foods, but with the local history of Vietnamese immigrants settling in Louisiana and becoming major players in the shrimp and fish industry, it all makes sense, and the flavors are beautifully combined at Seafoods Station.

Siam Thai, 6403 N 9th Ave

When we first moved to Pensacola and started taking our then-baby grandson out with us, he cut his teeth on foods from Siam Thai. They were always so patient with us, and so kind to our little grandson. Now, we order out from Siam Thai regularly because their food is so well prepared, fresh and full of flavor. In truth, I like some foods spicy, and they make it spicy enough for me.

We love their Spring Rolls, uncooked with shrimp and vermicelli noodles, and a rich peanut sauce to dip in. I love their Grilled Chicken Salad (that’s a full meal right there), and we love their Northern Style Noodles Soup (another full meal, rich in chicken and vegetables in a tasty red chli base). We love their Chicken Cashew Nuts and OMG their Rama Chicken. There are dishes we haven’t tried yet. We mean to, but we go to order and can’t resist those we have had and found to be so delicious. We intend to keep trying ๐Ÿ™‚ and we will enjoy every bite ๐Ÿ™‚

Taqueria Al Asador, 7955 N Davis Hwy

Once solely a food truck, Al Asador has some picnic-style outdoor seating, and now it is even covered. Listed as one of the best food-trucks in the USA, the food at Al Asador is worth every second of the wait in the line to order, and the wait to pick up. Service is speedy, and they have to-go down to a science, with pre-packaged Salvadoran sauces to spice your tacos and tostadas and burritos. One of our favorites is the Chicken Platter (Platillo de Pollo), so much food and we can both eat for under $20. The meat is grilled and smoked on huge grills behind the truck, so the aromas while you wait are sheer heaven.

Do not, we learned from experience, go on a Saturday. The line is very long.

You have to know what you are looking for. Al Asador is co-located with a Shell gas station, north of I-10. Drive north on Davis, do a U-turn at Olive Road and get in the right hand lane to exit soon, when you see the Shell Station. There is additional parking over in front of a warehouse on the right hand side of Blackwell Road. Al Asador is worth the trouble.

Ozone Pizza Pub, 1010 N 12th Ave #111

We think Ozone has the best pizzas in town, and the best thin crusts. I love that the pizzas are really Italian in style – not too much red sauce, not too much cheese, not too much crust, and fresh ingredients with a lot of flavor. I love the Pesto Vecchio and the La Bianco, my husband loves the Nutty Idea, our grandchildren love the Carnivore, my daughter in law loves the Root Down Salad and we love the Greek salad – one is enough to share, when also eating pizza.

I will admit, I also love that it is in a re-purposed old building, once a hospital, now housing two restaurants and several businesses. Ozone has loyal and fervent customers, passionate and ready to defend Ozone as the best Pizza in town (and one of the best bar scenes).

Joe Patti’s Seafoods, 524 South B Street

Just off Main, you can’t miss the huge sign or the flag, Joe Patti’s is a Pensacola landmark and institution. It is not a restaurant – well, maybe you can eat some sushi in the back – but there is a Joey Patti’s restaurant nearby serving a lot of heavily fried delicious fresh seafood.

I mention Joe Patti’s because I would dare to say that everyone in Pensacola shops there – some occasionally and some more frequently. Joe Patti’s has all the variety of fresh seafood you can imagine. It also has specialty food items you can’t find any where else.

For us, we are addicted to Joe Patti’s gumbo, although once I ordered clam chowder by accident and it was every bit as good, it is just, frankly, I can make chowder that good, but I cannot equal Joe Patti’s gumbo. We order it by the quart and grab a baguette of his delicious sourdough bread to go with it. Sometimes I can’t resist one of their specialty cheeses, even though I know it is bad for me, Joe Patti carries some really delicious cheeses. Oh. And ice cream and cakes. A whole display case of them. And a variety of seafood salads. Anything you could want for an elegant picnic, including wines, you can find at Joe Patti’s.

Do not go on Christmas Eve day; even early in the morning, there is a line a couple blocks long when it opens. If you MUST go on Christmas Eve, be sure you have ordered your oysters at least a week in advance.

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Above are some of our very favorite, most frequented places. I will remind you that I have lived in countries designated by our fearless leader as “$#*!holes” and I am willing to overlook things more dainty women might object to. Most of these places are not elegant. You don’t even have to take off your shorts and sandals – they are Florida casual. Of course, right now, in the age of COVID, we are not eating out, but we are very religiously taking out; we want to support our hard working friends in the restaurant business.

Having said that, now and then you want to dress a little and celebrate. I will share four of the more known restaurants we like, and why.

Flounders Chowder House,ย 800 Quietwater Beach Road

Well, just kidding, take those pearls back off and get back into shorts and sandals, Flounders is casual, but more expensive, and part of a chain, but a local chain we really like because we find their food excellent.

The first thing we love at Flounders Chowder House is . . . the chowder. It is exceptional. It is full of seafood, not the least bit skimpy. My husband orders the grilled grouper sandwich, which comes with the most sinfully delicious fries ever. I am not supposed to eat fries. They are really bad for me. If I am going to eat fries, I eat a couple or five or so off my husband’s plate. They are so crisp and so tasty, must be all that fat and salt. I usually order the Baja Fish Tacos, fried and served with abundant pico de gallo, yes, fried, but so GOOD. If I am better behaved, I order the grilled shrimp salad or the Caeser with grilled shrimp.

The food is excellent, every time. You can also get good drinks and good wine there (we see it flowing like water, and many a well-oiled customer), often live mellow music, and always a fresh Gulf Breeze, even on the days with the heaviest humidity. Flounders is a treat.

McGuires Irish Pub Pensacola,ย 600 E Gregory St

I am pretty sure McGuires and Flounders are owned by the same company. Every now and then, AdventureMan and I get a craving for a good steak. We know what we want, just a little filet with a heavy crushed pepper crust. We know where to go – McGuire’s.

McGuires is not a hidden gem; it is well publicized and well known. There are lines outside to get in. We usually go in winter, or on a parade day when everyone is somewhere else. It is very pubby – dark wood interior, Irish music, live Irish singers, tables close together, large crowds of people calling out to one another, it is noisy. There are dollar bills tacked to the ceiling, everywhere. You really don’t have to dress, although some do, some are coming from events, but many are still in their beach clothes, it’s that kind of mixture.

The food is relentlessly good. I admire that McGuires can provide continuously good food, across the menu, from drinks to desserts, and maintain a high standard of excellence. Our steaks are perfect, every single time.

Fisherman’s Corner, 13486 Perdido Key Dr

We are getting up to my two all time favorite Pensacola restaurants here, and we drive for 45 minutes to get to Fisherman’s Corner. We take our house guests there. It is that good.

Every thing we have tried at Fisherman’s Corner, we love. We always start with their hand-dipped peppered onion rings. If your group is hungry, order two or more; they are gone in a heartbeat. My favorite entree is the Creole Linguine, which I cannot eat because it is too rich, so my beloved AdventureMan will order it (well, he loves it, too) and give me a couple bites. I adore the Cioppino, honestly one of the best I have ever eaten, anywhere, but it is not often available at lunch and sometimes not at dinner.

Fisherman’s Corner is like that. They don’t keep a huge freezer full of frozen stuff, their food is fresh and if it is not available fresh, then it won’t be available. You learn to live with that small inconvenience because holy smokes, the food is so incredibly good. Their smoked tuna – when available – is awesome. Their grilled tuna or grilled tuna salad – when available – is awesome.

We were first taken there by a member of one of Pensacola’s first families. We would never have found it if she hadn’t taken us there because you have to leave the road off to the right just before you cross the Theodore Baars bridge to Perdito Key, Drive down that road and you come to Fisherman’s Corner and it kind of looks like a bait shop, except for all the cars in front, and maybe even people waiting outside to get in. If you are able, better to make a reservation.

Their bread pudding dessert and their Key Lime Pie are also very good, and they serve some excellent wines. AdventureMan takes me there for events, like anniversaries or maybe because it’s Saturday. A few people dress. Most put on clean shorts and a clean shirt at the very least. It’s a nice place, but still Florida, where people are going to wear what they want to wear.

 

The Grand Marlin Pensacola Beach, 400 Pensacola Beach Blvd., Pensacola Beach

Every now and then, you just need a night at The Grand Marlin. When you need everything – good food, great service, lovely surrounding, you need to be at The Grand Marlin.

No matter where you eat, you have a view of Escambia Bay. No matter when you go, you know that the wait staff here are the best the area has to offer, and they really like working at the Grand Marlin.

I am absolutely crazy about their TGM BBQ Shrimp. It is an appetizer, only six shrimp, but six very large shrimp in an exquisite sauce, with an excellent garlic bread. It is a savory BBQ sauce; I think they must use a couple sticks of butter in it but they say it’s the beer that makes it so good. We discovered with COVID that we could take it home, warm it up and serve it over angel hair pasta and it was exquisitely satisfying. The grilled salmon BLT is divine. Both of those are available from Curbside service.

For the times when we can dine in, we have never had a bad meal. I love the Cioppino, I love the Crab Cakes, I love the grilled salmon. Most of all, I just love being there, I love the totality of the experience with good food, good wines and a nice atmosphere combining with a lovely drive across two bridges and maybe even a sunset. The Grand Marlin is an experience, not just a meal.

If you find a place you love, or try one of the above and like it, please share below the name of the restaurant and what you ate that impressed you. I love it when one of these entries becomes useful to a lot of people. You can help make that happen.

June 20, 2020 Posted by | Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Entertainment, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant | Leave a comment

Taqueria Olgy in Pensacola

Some of our friends have no idea what life is like in places like Qatar and Kuwait, it’s like they think we lived in tents in the desert. They don’t know about all the sky scraping apartment blocks, the spacious villas – and they don’t know about the ubiquity of take-out food and good restaurants. We could find almost everything we wanted, and reveled in the variety, the only thing we could not get was genuine Mexican food. You could go to Chili’s or Taco Bell, but for the real deal? No where.

So in Pensacola, we are blessed to have several very good Mexican restaurants, the Cal-Mex and the Tex-Mex kind, where sour cream and lettuce and guacamole bless every plate, but every now and then, we look for where the Mexicans are eating – and we found a new one, well, new to us, and not too far away.

 

Taqueria Olgy is in a small strip mall just south of Beverly on “W” street. It’s the first mall on your left as you drive south and you had better keep your eyes wide open or you will miss it; the signage is not that significant.

 

Inside, it is very spacious, maybe two strip mall sections that have merged, lots of booths, and lots of loyal customers. The menus are in English, and there are photos everywhere to help you choose. We were there at lunch and had the lunch specials. I haven’t had a chile relleno for a long time, so I choose the #1 special, a chili relleno and a taco (you could choose the kind of meat) Al Pastore. Oh YUMMMMM.

 

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AdventureMan had the taco plate and said his was also really good. He liked it so much that while I was with the group last week, he went back and had the soup of the day and the #1 chile relleno with taco that I had.

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We are still huge Taco Rock fans, but hey, it’s August, the temperatures are in the soaring and searing mode, and Taqueria Olgys is also well air conditioned. We feel so blessed to have such great authentic places to choose from.

Now, if only a good Ethiopian restaurant would come to Pensacola . . . ๐Ÿ˜‰

August 26, 2014 Posted by | Cultural, Eating Out, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Restaurant | 3 Comments

The Shrink-Wrapped Pensacola Specialty Pawn Shop Car

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How cool is this? We saw this car at Taco Rock and loved the optical illusion. We also loved it that the car makes a memorable impression; you’ll think of it and you will think Pensacola Specialty Pawn. It’s an effective ad if you remember who the ad is for ๐Ÿ™‚

 

When we walked inside, AdventureMan asked “Whose car is that with the mobster paint job?” and a guy picking up a take-out order grinned and said it was his. He told us it was a shrink-wrap technique – it’s temporary! When you get tired of it and want to try something else, it just peels off and you put something else on. I think that is so totally cool.

 

July 12, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Financial Issues, Humor, Marketing, Pensacola, Technical Issue | | 4 Comments

The Season

Today I had a long list of things to do to start getting ready for our first house-guest of the season. God is good – the day dawned relatively cool, and the humidity is low. I could open the windows and let the cool breezes clean out the stale air-conditioned air we’ve been living with.

We had lunch at Taco Rock, an honest little Mexican food place we love, we are working our way through their menu. Today AdventureMan had tamales, which he said were really good, and I had the Pollo (chicken) plate. Delicious. We sat outside.

We sat outside. . . what amazing words. There are times when the heat in Pensacola is like the heat in Kuwait or Doha; it is so hot and so humid that it is like being slapped in the face. Today . . . we sat outside. It was wonderful.

Things really get cranking in Pensacola in October. The Ballet starts. The Symphony starts. The Opera starts. Every Saturday, there is at least one charity run/walk raising money. Last weekend was the Truck-Pull to benefit Ronald McDonald House (I think I remember that correctly) and the Greek Fest, and the Master Gardener’s Fun Fair, and the Butterfly House Celebration, and the Glass Pumpkin Patch frenzy, and the corn mazes are opening and an Impact 100 event – it is the season. Once the temperatures are regularly below 90ยฐF every day, people start feeling human again and start doing things.

The Pensacola Christmas Parade is December 8th. We’ve taken the Happy Baby, The Happy Toddler, and I can hardly wait to take the Happy Little Boy. He will LOVE the noise of the police and fire engine sirens, he will love the lights and the beads and this year, he can scramble for beads with the other little children. Well, yes, you are right, as much as I enjoy how he loves it, actually, I love it and he is my good excuse to go. ๐Ÿ™‚

Information on the Pensacola Christmas Parade 2012

I plan to enjoy these next few months cooler months as much as I can while they are here ๐Ÿ™‚

October 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Zion National Park to Monument Valley: AZ or UT?

“Look! Look! Grab your camera! Grab your camera!”

“It’s just turkeys,” I grumble to myself, I’m not even settled in the car, I don’t even have my seat belt on and AdventureMan wants me to take photos of turkeys? I take a couple shots, then we head to the lodge and check out.

This time, the camera is in my hands. This time, when we see three turkeys, and two of them are male, trying desperately to get the turkey chick to give them the time of day, so to speak.

 

This was actually a great way to start a day which will have a lot of driving before we reach our goal, Monument Valley, which is sort of in Utah and Sort of in Arizona, or at least the hotel where we are staying is in Arizona, but the road to get to it starts in Utah. Because it is Navaho Nation, they have gone on Daylight Savings Time, in spite of the technicality that they are in Arizona, a peculiar state who does not go on Daylight Savings Time.

Farewell, beautiful Zion.

 

This is the route we will be taking today. Our maps tell us it has some scenic routes. Remember, cell phone coverage is spotty in this area, and physical maps are a really, really good idea.

 

We know where we will stop for breakfast – The Thunderbird, In Mt. Carmel Junction, where we had lunch the day before. It is right on our way. Actually, I had a healthy breakfast, but I had to order this cinnamon roll, which AdventureMan and I nibbled on, and then took the rest with us in case we were stuck somewhere in a remote place and needed some sugar-energy. This roll had a lot of sugar-energy.

 

On the road, after the glory or Arches, and Bryce Canyon, and Zion, we are spoiled. It is harder to appreciate normal beautiful vistas. As we drove through a forest, however, AdventureMan spotted a deer running, not a pronghorn, not a mule deer, we don’t know what it was. I am sorry it is fuzzy; he was running!

Maybe it was a mule deer, now that I see the ears. I am not sure.

We stopped to look at this vast overlook, and I was sort of thinking “ho-hum” when an Asian family drove up, a dad and his three daughters, and the daughters all had iPads and were taking photos and one of them said to me “Just look! This is right out of the old West! Can’t you just see an enormous herd of buffalo stretching all the way to the horizon, and what if they get spooked and stampede??”

And then, I saw them, thousands of buffalo in the valley below, nibbling on the new green grass, stretching to the horizon. I owe that girl. She gave me a great gift, a major shift in perspective.


AdventureMan said “Why are there so many contrails?” and he was right, there were contrail everywhere. We were close to the Northern side of Grand Canyon, which is still closed at this time of year, so maybe they were planes coming and going out of Phoenix? Maybe the air is so cold that the contrails form more easily? I don’t know, but he is right, the sky is streaked with them.

I think these are the Vermillion Cliffs, fabulous, but . . . we are jaded after the glories we have seen. We drive on.

 

 

We stop for gas in Kayenta, and we go into the Basha Market to buy water. Two things, one is that we have this totally deja vu feeling, like we have been in this shopping area before. AdventureMan says we had lunch at that Subway store, and I kind of remember.ย Second, all the people in the market, mostly local Navaho, have carts full of sugary foods, sodas, sugary cereals, snacks and candy. It’s like the don’t know that sugar is the new poison, that it leads to obesity, that it rots your teeth and inflames your gums. Or they know, and they don’t care.

But we are starving. We see Amigos on the side of the road as we are heading to Monument Valley, and decide to give it a try. As soon as we get inside, we know we are in the right place. There are local people. There is a lunch special up on the blackboard. The smells are wonderful.

AdventureMan had Tostada and Enchilada. See that salsa? That salsa is one of the best salsas we have ever eaten. In the photo it looks red, but it actually was very green.

I had two tacos. The tacos were enough, I didn’t need the rice and beans and I left them, but I did ask for another salsa, it was so good.

We liked Amigos so much that we came back here again for dinner the night after we had been out all day in Monument Valley.

 

The name of our hotel is The View. It is a Navaho owned and operated hotel in Monument Valley proper, where all the tours start. We chose it for so many reasons, for one, because every room has a view, for another, that it is Navaho owned and operated, and last but not least, they advertise that they have some of the best star-gazing because there is no light from nearby cities; there are no nearby cities (Kayenta is about 30 miles away.)

At check-in, we are delighted; the lobby is lovely! It is light and bright and full of art works. We are also chagrined, the receptionist is rude to the people in front of us, and not at all welcoming to us. She wasn’t rude to us, just very businesslike and unsmiling. Maybe she was just having a bad day.

 

This is the area where people met up with their tour guides for the morning, afternoon and evening tours.

 

This is our room. It was lovely. We loved the art work, we loved the very spacious bathroom, and oh my, we loved the view.

 

 

The view, straight out:

 

The view to the right

The view to the left

 

As the late-afternoon sun begins to mellow, the colors morph and darken

 

 

Staying in this hotel is SO worth it.

 

The hotel has a fabulous gift shop, full of lovely jewelry, art items, artifacts. AdventureMan looked at a beautiful knife for our son; the cost was over $500. Oops! They also had more affordable things, one of our grand children’s favorite gifts was a bag of colored rocks, LOL. They had some good books, with Indian legends, written for children, and of course, T-shirts.

 

We ate dinner in The View restaurant, it was packed, full, with lots of families with young children and lots of tourists, some in groups. The servers did their best, but it was chaotic. AdventureMan had the “famous” green chili stew, which he said was not very interesting, and I had a taco salad, which was equally not very interesting. Our breakfast there, the next morning, was equally not very interesting. It was a breakfast buffet with a very limited selection.

There is another downside. During the day, the hotel facilities are dominated by the day-trippers. The hotel area is sort-of separated from the more public areas, but the feeling is chaotic. It all calms down dramatically when the last bus leaves. Wait to visit the gift shop after the teeming hoards have departed.

The upside of The View is the view. The upside is that the view at sunset is gorgeous. The upside is that it truly is magnificent star gazing. The upside is that the sunrise is beyond magnificent.

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Living Conditions, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Zion National Park, Mineral Gulch and the Coral Sand Dunes

Wake up to grandeur in Zion National Park ๐Ÿ™‚

 

It’s a little chilly for breakfast on the terrace, but the inside restaurant is nice, the wait staff is exceptional, professional, helpful and quick. When I saw blueberries available on another dish, and asked the waiter if I could add them to my oatmeal, it was a done deal. Don’t you just love it?


Most of the hiking groups who are tackling the higher peaks have already departed, but there are some elderly hikers getting a later start. We hike, but we are not group hikers. We like to set our own schedule and our own pace, but we admire the groups that have been hiking for years and adapting to one another’s styles. They have a great camaraderie.

We have to take the shuttle to get deeper into the park, so we go all the way to the end. Our plan is to do the Riverwalk hike, then work our way back to the hotel. At this time of the morning, there are only adults, no children. The children arrive on buses, hundreds of school children brought to the park nearing the end of the school year, to show them the wonder of our country’s natural beauty.

The Riverwalk is awesome. It is glorious, and relatively easy, and relatively safe. You reach a point where it says “no wheelchairs beyond this point due to the grade” and realize that even to this point, there have been steady ups and downs.

The beauty is so totally different from Bryce Canyon, we are in another geological era and we are viewing it all from below, rather than from above. This reminds me very much of Yosemite, with Capital Dome, and all the granite. The color mixtures here are wonderful to behold.

You can see that the path is mostly smooth, and paved, with an obstruction here and there to keep it interesting and natural.

There are rockfalls along the path, giant rockfalls. Anyone with an inkling of imagination can realize how short life can be, how unpredictable, how chaotic.

 

It is so early that the river itself is mostly in the dark.

 

Wonderful plants and flowers find enough nutrients in crevices and eroded places to explode into life.

Look at those trees, clinging to life at the tops of these cliffs!

 

I spotted this, and followed the line up.

AdventureMan, with his sharp eyes, spots an anomaly on the side of the cliff:

We think this is one of the park employees, creating safe climbing areas for those who like to go straight up, using ropes and pitons and you know, climbing stuff.

 

Leaving Zion, we are exploring Mineral Gulch, just outside Zion National Park, where we are told there are pictographs. I will tell you the truth, but do not do what we did, it is not safe. AdventureMan went one way, and I went another. I found a dry stream bed that looked promising, and I followed it.

Doesn’t this look exactly like where pictographs would be?

Or this? Oh, I wish AdventureMan were with me, with his sharp eyes. Even as I am thinking how very wrong and stupid it is to be off exploring separately, not together, I keep going a little further, a little further. Every now and then AdventureMan and I shout back and forth, but it’s been a while since I have heard him. I know I need to go back, I know it, but maybe, just around the corner, are the pictographs.

 

We never found the pictographs. I found a lot of places where I think they should be, but if they were there, I didn’t see them. Hot, tired, dehydrated, we headed for Mt. Carmel Junction, where we found this crazy funky restaurant, and got our orders in just before the Korean tour bus arrived.

Club Sandwich for AdventureMan:

Taco Salad for me. Very different, lots of peppers, lots of salsa. Very tasty, not a lot of beans or meat.

 

AdventureMan has spotted another remote road going to Coral Dunes State Park. I keep thinking we are on the wrong road, and he keeps insisting this is the road, it is the only road it can be. We are not arguing, we are just not on the same page. He was right. We find the Coral Sand Dunes, and they are beautiful.

He has shown me the road on the map, and we THINK we can make it, but his rental is a little low to the ground. I notice that the road number obscures the fact that for four miles, going into Arizona, the road is actually a track. We hold our breath, as the pavement ends, the road turns into washboard, the road forms crevasses, and we just hope the road doesn’t wash away. This is one of the longest four miles ever.

Safely off the track, we hit Springdale, just outside Zion, for ice-dream, and for sandwiches for dinner. They have a mercantile shop with a sandwich shop inside, with gourmet sandwiches. AdventureMan has an Avocado Veggie special, and I have a Reuben, and we find some crazy great T-shirts for all the little ones.

Back in Zion, the light is fading fast.

The horses are being taken back to rest up for the next day.

My feet are sore from the uneven smooth rocks in the creek-bed, and I am still a little dehydrated. Sure wish we had found those petroglyphs.

 

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Eating Out, Environment, Exercise, Food, Geography / Maps, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , | Leave a comment

Ninfa-mania in Baton Rouge

Ninfa’s is separate from the Crown Plaza in Baton Rouge, but plopped smack dab in the parking lot, and, as you read in the previous entry, right under our window, well, sort of.

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When we had no room waiting, we knew we would feel better if we ate lunch. Mexican is always good with us, and the smells emanating from Ninfa’s were mouth-watering.

It’s about noon, and we walk in the door. There’s a gal at the bar, filling small containers of salsas, but no one at reception, and the gal filling salsas doesn’t even look up. No welcome, no explanation . . . . and it goes on and on. There is no one seating customers, who are lining up behind us and asking us what’s going on and WE DON’T KNOW! Finally, one rushed waiter told us that they were all busy cleaning tables and someone would seat us in a minute.

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This was just another chapter on a day every monkey gets his roll in the barrel, and today, we is that monkey.

Soon after, a table was ready and we were seated. From there on, we have no complaints. Our waiter was supurb. He told us we was a former Spanish teacher – I wonder if you make better money waiting tables? I had a couple tacos, and the meat was wonderfully flavored, but . . . very gristly and chewy.

There were two very cool things. One is that when they brought the thin, crispy, fresh cooked chips, they brought three different salsas, a cucumber-y avocado green one, a mild red salsa and a jalapeno one – all good. The second very cool thing was that the tortillas were hand made by the lady you will see pictured below, who was delighted to have her photo taken and grinned from ear to ear.

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So an unhappy as we were to learn that there was going to be a rock concert right underneath our window, we rolled with it. When you’re the monkey in the barrel, just roll.

The music was actually pretty good, although holy smokes, it was loud. And it ended right at ten, so we really didn’t lose any sleep.

Ninfa’s appears very popular. I thought the lunch specials were priced a little high, but hey, this is the big city, compared to Pensacola, and it was packed, so they evidently know what the public is willing to pay. The rice is still in the shape of the scoop that scoops it, and the beans were glue-y. I wish they’d pay a little more for their steak, but their marinade is a wow.

October 23, 2014 Posted by | Customer Service, Eating Out, Restaurant, Travel | , | Leave a comment