Last week I decided to drive 6 hours to Davis, CA to adopt a new puppy. Of course any road trip involves careful planning around food. Here’s are some of my highlights from the drive up Highway 99.
My first stop was at Dewars, a candy shop in Bakersfield. This was a Jonathan Gold recommendation – on an episode of Good Food, he mentioned a few spots in Bakersfield. One thing stuck in my mind: nut chews from Dewars. It’s part tootsie roll, part salt water taffy, part Bit-o-Honey (which I think is totally underrated, but that’s another story). They have some wacky flavors (peanut butter and jelly, spumoni), which are pretty good. But I advise you to stick with the originals. My assorted bag of chews really helped me get to my next destination.
At a pit stop in Fresno, I met a guy who works for Foster Farms chickens. After our brief conversation about industrial agriculture, he suggested I stop in Hanford, CA, his hometown. Specifically, Superior Dairy. It’s an old-fashioned ice cream parlor serving incredible fresh flavors – peach ice cream, handmade strawberry sauce with real strawberries, and a banana split to die for. If it weren’t for the long lines of families on their cell phones, I would have thought I was in Mayberry, Pleasantville, or any other 50’s-era main street. While you’re eating your giant cone, take a walk in the park across the street and ponder the surprising architecture of the town.
I’ve never been to a drive-in restaurant. I mean a real drive in where you sit in your car while you order and eat. Keeping with the independently-owned theme, I decided to hit H & W in Merced. It’s a bit rundown from the outside. But that all goes away when you get your burger wrapped in white paper and the ice-cold homemade rootbeer. The day I went, it was surprisingly cool for the Central Valley, so I opted to eat at their outdoor picnic tables. Oh, and the waffle-cut fries are pretty tasty too.
On the way home I stopped for lunch at Don Pepe’s in Fresno. This hole-in-the-wall was jammed. Yelp told me to order the shrimp tacos so I ordered – one spicy and one regular. The tacos were rolled Tijuana-style (like a cone) and were filled with beans (!), rice, guacamole and incredibly tender shrimp. The spicy version had a red salsa too. Since I had another 3 hours to drive, I didn’t partake in their “the works” beers: bottles of beer with lime, salt, hot sauce and topped with a shrimp. The wait was a little long but it was worth it.
And, in case you’re interested, my new dog is Buddy, a 6-month old pit bull mix.