Sherman's Food Adventures

Notorious P.I.G.

After a full day at Yellowstone (probably not enough, needed 2 days at least!) and an overnight in Bozeman, it was time to make our way back home.  Our plan for the day was to drive west through Montana, then a small section of Idaho and ending for the day in Spokane, Washington.  Prior to that, we had a scheduled stop in Missoula, Montana for some lunch.   I guess we weren't the only ones with that plan as the place was packed and we settled on a table inside with crappy lighting.  Hence the below-average pics from my smartphone.

We ended up getting the Old Joe Platter where we could chose any 3 sandwiches plus a full slab of ribs and 4 sides for $52.00.  A good deal if you ask me!  So we ended up with the Tri-Tip Sirloin with Deviled Egg Potato Salad. as well as the Beef Brisket with Slaw.  They didn't mess around with the meats as they piled it on the soft ciabatta.  Smoky and tender, the tri-tip was not as dry as it appeared.  Loved the eggy potato salad as it was creamy with bits of tender potato. As for the brisket, it was also tender with enough moisture that it wasn't chewy.  Lots of smokiness and seasoning from the caramelized rub.  Slaw was fresh and crunchy.

Despite being super skeptical, we got the Turkey sandwich with Smoked Gouda Mac n' Cheese.  Normally, smoked turkey can be dry and lifeless, but this was super moist and dare I say, juicy.  It was flavorful and ultimately (gasp), our favorite of the bunch.  The side of mac was delicious with the silky smokiness of the cheese.  Yes, this was the best sammie, but the Full Slab of Ribs were also very good.  The meat fell off the bone yet retained its texture.  It was tender with a balanced amount of smoke and only the slightest effect from the rub.  A thin layer of tangy BBQ sauce added just enough moisture and added taste.  No wonder the place was so busy, the food was very good and the prices even better!  Great choice for a quick lunch while passing through.

The Good:
- Fair pricing
- Super-friendly service
- Well-prepared meats

The Bad:
- Seating is a bit limited, so you need to wait
- Parking was surprisingly hard to find

Roost Fried Chicken

I've always had Yellowstone National Park on my bucket list and every year that passed by, it seemed to be forgotten, with other destinations taking precedent.  So when we had the chance to add it to our already long road trip, it wasn't a very hard decision.  Despite the crowds, we thoroughly enjoyed the diverse ecological spots in the park and spent the entire day exploring.  As such, our desire to hit up Triple D's featured restaurant, Roost Fried Chicken, in Bozeman appeared to be impossible as it would be closed by the time we got there.  Viv did her best driving, making up a tonne of time and we actually made it just before last call.

Of course we had Fried Chicken on our minds as I ordered the whole bird Southern style with 2 biscuits and 2 large sides.  If there was any question about the freshness, it was all answered by our nearly 30-minute wait.  We weren't bothered by it since the chicken was very good.  Crunchy and fairly well-seasoned, the batter was on point with rendered skin.  Most of the chicken was juicy except the breast was a touch on the drier side.  We didn't like the biscuits as they were dry and hard.  The side of Broccoli with cheese was terrible as it was woefully overdone.  However, the Loaded Grits were creamy and thick with lots of cheese, bacon and green onion on top.  We weren't able to get the mac n' cheese since they were sold out for the night.

To get a taste of spice, we also got the Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich with lettuce, comeback sauce and pickles.  This was rather saucy and indeed had a kick.  I wouldn't say it was super spicy though.  Chicken was tender and almost juicy while the batter still had a slight crunch.  We got a side of fries with it and it was hot and crunchy.  Also added the coleslaw and it was freshly crunchy albeit rather bland.  In general, the chicken at Roost was pretty solid and definitely hit the spot after a long day at Yellowstone.  Too bad about being so late as we missed some of the other items (as they were sold out).  Maybe that is why the broccoli was so terrible (at the day).

The Good:
- Solid fried chicken
- Good service
- Fair pricing

The Bad:
- Some sides were meh
- Long wait, but chicken is made from scratch

Red Iguana

When I was originally planning this road trip, I had considered making the long drive from Bryce Canyon to West Yellowstone in one day.  Hey, it was only 8 hours according to Google Maps!  Upon reflection, it really would've made for driving purgatory, especially in the heat of summer.  Furthermore, the kids might've planned a mutiny as a result.  So back to the drawing board and it was clear that we should really stop in Salt Lake City.  We ended up visiting their most famous attraction in Temple Square and then heading out for eats at one of their most popular restaurants - the Red Iguana.

Featured on Triple-D's, I guess we had to eat here?  Get the double reference?  Nevermind...  Anyways, we arrived early and not only snagged a parking spot, we secured a table within minutes.  Before we got to the food (and it took awhile since the menu was so long!), a basket of Tortilla Chips and fresh salsa hit the table.  Hey these were good being crispy and light while the salsa had a real nice kick.  To help me decide which of the Moles I would ultimately order, they brought out a plate with all of them for me to sample.  These included from the top left: Verde, Coloradito, Red Pipen, Almond, Negro, Amarillo, Poblano and Mango in the middle.  Each had their own unique qualities including the smoky nuttiness of the negro and sweet aromatics of the poblano.  Bright and mild, the verde tasted like it appeared while the coloradito was nutty with depth of spice.  The red pippen was salty and nutty whereas the mango was sweet with a prawn-like aftertaste.  Lastly, the almond exhibited pumpkin and the associated fall spices.

I ended up choosing the Amarillo with turkey and a side of Spanish rice, refried beans and flour tortillas.  If we focus solely on the mole, it was fantastic.  So much depth and balanced spice from the aji and habenero chilis.  Sweetness was provided by the golden raisins as well as the tomatoes.  This went really well with the tortillas.  However, I wasn't a huge fan of the turkey as it was pretty dry.  Yes, I do understand turkey can be lean, but this was not all that appealing in my opinion.  Viv decided on the Tostadas de Tinga de Pollo.  This consisted of shredded chicken atop a tostada with refried beans, lettuce, cheese, crema and salsa.  By visuals alone, it was obvious this would be one of the lighter dishes.  The chicken was tender and mildly spiced while the crunch of the lettuce and crema kept things fresh and bright.

My son went for their signature dish being the Puntas de Filete a la Nortena or top sirloin strips sauteed with bacon, jalapeno, onions and fresh tomatoes atop almond mole.  This was another huge portion consisting of meaty sirloin with a surprisingly mild array of flavors.  Maybe I was expecting something more impactful, but nevertheless, it was tasty.  There was an aromatic nuttiness to the dish accented by the slightest touch of spice and fattiness from the bacon.  For my daughter, she went for the other featured item being the Enchilada Nuevo Mexico.  It featured seasoned beef cooked with corn kernels, potatoes and spices topped with sauce made from dried chili guajillo, jack cheese and egg.  This was actually pretty spicy and she needed quite a bit of water on the side.  Hence, it resulted in a full-bodied flavor that was a bit smoky and plenty rich.  Again, this was a huge portion as it also came with rice and refried beans.  As evidenced in the pictures, they don't mess around when it comes to portion sizes.  We thought the food was pretty solid, yet at the same time, not sure if we would wait in line for it.

The Good:
- Huge portions
- Friendly people
- Big menu

The Bad:
- Good, but not worth the lineup IMO

Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant

To say we did a lot of driving on this road trip would be a understatement.  Most of it was pretty boring with nothing interesting to see or do.  Furthermore, the choice of restaurants was so poor on our drive from Fremont to LA, we didn't even bother stopping!  So on the leg that involved heading from Bryce Canyon over to Salt Lake City, we already knew that fast food might be our only hope.  However, I had a silly idea...  Why don't we stop in Fillmore and eat a Chinese buffet?  Viv looked at me blankly.   Yes, this was not exactly the most appetizing nor smartest idea I've even come up with.  But I made enough of a case for it and therefore we stopped at Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant...  in the middle of nowhere...

When we arrived, a big tour bus carrying Chinese tourists was just leaving, so I guess it was a good sign???  Well, the place definitely could use some TLC, especially the washrooms, but oh well we were committed to eating there.  There were 2 buffet stations with an array of usual items and a few strange ones mixed in.  One of which was the pig's feet as well as pig's stomach.  Personally I love both, but I'm not sure how many others would agree with me.  They were fine with little gaminess and the desired texture of gelatinous while tender.  Some more familiar items included fried chicken wings, fried rice and beef & broccoli.  Nothing remarkable about any of them except that the wings were pretty large, juicy inside and crispy on the outside.

The other section featured a mish mash of things including orange chicken, tomato and eggs, spicy garlic eggplant, spring rolls, stir-fried thick noodles, mushrooms, tofu, fried rice, shanghai bak choy and mustard greens.  If we had to rate the appearance of the food on scale of 1-to-10, I would give it a 5.  Yah, not the most appealing food to look at but it did eat okay.  The noodles were not overly greasy while being chewy and mildly seasoned.  The veggies were mostly overdone except for the broccoli.  Seasoning on that was also rather conservative.  On the other hand, the eggplant was fairly garlicky and spicy.  We weren't super fond of the orange chicken as it was a bit dry with a soggy exterior.  It also could've been more impactful as it lacked tang.

At the very least, there was variety and the food was fairly traditional, which was surprising.  There was no question that the food wasn't outstanding, yet it was not terrible either.  Considering its location, I guess one shouldn't expect too much.  Now the place used to be a lot cheaper, so we didn't feel that the pricing was necessary inexpensive either (given the variety and quality of food).  Ultimately, it did the job for us and we didn't have to go for some random fast food.

The Good:
- It's okay given the circumstances
- People seemed pretty nice
- Some traditional Chinese dishes

The Bad:
- Not as cheap as you might think
- The place needs a deep cleaning

Stone Hearth Grill

Sometimes, when traveling in relatively remote and sparsely populated locations, the only options for eats are either fast food outlets or local spots that may or may not be good.  So after an awesome visit to Bryce Canyon National Park (love those hoodoos!), we were on our way to nearby Tropic, Utah.  Now one wouldn't expect anything great to eat in such a small sleepy town right?  Wrong.  Nestled far away from the main street (conveniently named Main Street), Stone Hearth Grill bills itself as fine dining.  We were seated out on the patio overlooking the fabulous hills of Utah.

We started things off with the House-Made Bread that looked and ate like focaccia except without the herbs.  It was pan-seared aggressively with butter making the exterior crispy, nutty and of course buttery.  The side of miso butter with black and white sesame on top was full of umaminess and fermented saltiness.  Such a simple creation, but full of flavor and texture.  Next, we had the Burrata atop of ripe tomato.  It was finished off with thinly sliced zucchini and a chive oil and balsamic reduction.  First of all, the burrata was fresh and at its creamy best.  Secondly, the tomato was plump and delicious while the balsamic added a sweet tanginess.

For my main, I had the Chinese Red Duck & Scallop featuring a braised duck leg, grilled scallop, broccolini, corn and miso puree, green onion and ginger relish and prawn chips.  At first, I was apprehensive in ordering this, but it turned out to be pretty tasty.  The five spiced duck leg did its best impersonation of duck confit with tender gelatinous meat.  It was full-flavored featuring crispy skin and rendered fat.  I thought the corn puree to be a touch too sweet, but it was a nice counter balance to the saltiness of the duck.  Medium-rare and plump, the sweet scallop was perfect.  My daughter wasn't really hungry and ended up with kid's Pan Seared Trout with Yukon gold potato puree and broccolini.  Barely cooked through, the trout was perfectly tender and moist.  Loved how they didn't overcook the broccolini either.

Viv ended up with the Roasted Poblano Relleno with cashew butter, red cabbage, avocado, salsa verde, apple, toasted seeds and cilantro.  There was a lot going on in this gluten-free and vegan selection.  Yes, you read it right, this was vegan and it was actually quite good.  Beyond the tender roasted pepper, the cashew butter was smooth and "cheese-like".  There was no spice to the dish other than the salsa verde.  However, the rest of the ingredients offered up plenty of other flavors.  My son didn't stray far from his usual with the 12oz New York Steak prepared a perfect medium-rare.  It was tender and meaty while nicely seasoned by an aromatic and bright taragon butter.   Mash was the same as my daughter's dish and the broccolini was still crunchy.

For dessert, we shared the Vanilla Cheesecake with blueberry compote as well as the Lemon Tart with berries and raspberry sauce.  Creamy and NY style, the cheesecake had just the right amount of vanilla and sweetness.   Normally, blueberries are rather subtle, but the compote here was impactful, slightly tangy and purposefully sweet.  As for the tart, the lemon curd was the right viscosity and appealingly tangy.  It was not overly sweet while the tart shell was firm enough for a great mouth-feel.  Now this was a surprisingly delicious meal in the middle of nowhere.  I guess if you look hard enough, there is good food to be found, even in the strangest of places...

The Good:
- Proteins were on point
- No lack of flavor
- Very nice people

The Bad:
- Not sure about the side of ginger and onion condiment with the duck
- Location is remote, you actually need to know where you are going

Birdhouse

So our original plan was to eat at the Birdhouse for lunch and then Big John's BBQ for dinner.  That got switched around since the Birdhouse didn't open until much later.  So after our lunch at Big John's we visited the stunning Lower Antelope Canyon via Ken's Tours.  That was an awesome experience even though it was completely sweltering outside.  Make sure you make a reservation because you cannot visit the canyon without a guide because it is on Navejo land.  Okay, back to the Birdhouse...  Let's just say their A/C units couldn't keep up with the heat and once again, we were dining "hot" once again.  

We ended up ordering the Whole Chicken Family Meal that came with 2 large sides. Consisting of 8 pieces of wings, drumsticks, thighs and breasts, this was enough for the 4 of us.  We found the batter to be decently seasoned, but not impactful.  It was crispy and fairly well-rendered except for some of the flabbier parts of the skin.  Underneath, the meat was moist but not juicy.  With that being said, the breast meat wasn't exactly dry either.  As for our sides, we chose the Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli Salad and added a Mac n' Cheese.   The mash was pretty creamy with a pale-looking gravy.  Taste-wise, this wasn't anything to write home about.  Spiked with bacon, red onion and mayo, the broccoli salad was fresh and crunchy.  We've made something like this at home before, but had added dried cranberries.  This probably needed it for some balance.  Pretty basic, but ultimately good, the mac n' cheese was cheesy enough with al dente macaroni.

To ensure we had enough good, we tacked on an order of Fries as well.  These crinkle cut fries were served hot and crispy.  They were also lightly seasoned which meant ketchup wasn't necessary.  Moreover, there wasn't a whole lot of grease to them either.  As you can pretty much guess, the food at the Birdhouse was more-than-acceptable at a reasonable price.  Definitely did the job and the kids enjoyed it.  They really need to fix the A/C though as it was uncomfortable sitting inside and eating fried chicken in 100+ heat.

The Good:
- Reasonably-priced
- Decent
- Nice people

The Bad:
- A/C needs to be stronger
- Chicken could use more seasoning (mind you, we could've gotten spicy)

Big John's Texas BBQ

After we were done at Zion, we made our way over to Page, Arizona for 2 of the most spectacular sights in North America, if not the world.  The first would be Horseshoe Bend and its absolutely frightening drop if one got too close to the edge.  Secondly, we made a reservation at the famous Antelope Canyon (can only visit with a tour company as it is on Navejo land).  Of course we couldn't do all this without provisions, so we had a few places in mind including Big John's Texas BBQ.  This was supposed to be our dinner destination, but since our choice for lunch wasn't open, we flipped them on our schedule.

Once again, the kids weren't that hungry possibly due to the 100+ degrees Fahrenheit temperatures.   Just like at Zion, we decided to sit outside instead of the shock of A/C and then out into the heat.  So they both ended up ordering off the kids menu that featured smaller portions.  My son went for the Beef Brisket Sandwich and my daughter had the Pulled Pork Sandwich.  With all things considered, they were indeed smaller than the regular version but more than adequate.  By visuals alone, one would assume that the meats were dry.  That wasn't really the case as both fell in between dry and moist.  Furthermore, they were not sauced, so once we added the BBQ sauce, the meats were fine.  There was a noted smokiness that wasn't too strong.  Viv did go for the regular-sized Beef Brisket Sandwich and yep, it was massive.  Lots of tender smoked brisket that was slightly more moist than the kid's version.  Probably just the luck of the cut.

In my mind, I only had one option on the menu which was The Sampler.  The plate consisted of beef brisket, pulled pork, spicy link sausage and baby back pork ribs.  I really enjoyed the ribs as the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender with a balanced smoke.  The bark was tasty on its own from the rub and char.  Definitely spicy, the pork link had a nice snap and wasn't overfly greasy.  On the side, the cowboy beans were pretty good with bits of brisket while the potato salad was creamy and eggy.  Also on the table was a big bucket of Peanuts, which I proceeded to eat addictively.  Don't throw the shells on the floor thought.  That's not how they do it there!  In the end, we were full and satisfied while not spending too much cash.  A great place for a family to dine in the Page area.

The Good:
- Reasonably priced
- Solid BBQ
- Lots of seating (if you don't mind sitting outside)

The Bad:
- Meats could've been a bit more moist, but it wasn't a deal-breaker