Pork Chop John’s is a Butte, Montana Original

They sell burgers and such, but at Pork Chop John's you want to head straight for the signature pork chop sandwiches

They sell burgers and such, but at Pork Chop John’s you’ll want to head straight for the signature pork chop sandwiches

Butte, Montana may be best known for its copper mining legacy, but it can also boast not one but two regional food specialties. One is the English mining import, the Cornish pasty. The second, which it can perhaps claim as its own, is the pork chop sandwich, a deep-fried, burger-like creation immortalized by a couple of local institutions and with a 90-year history.

In the interests of research, I venture into Pork Chop John’s to sample this invention. It’s a fast-food place, where I approach the counter and order my pork puck, topped with onion, pickle and a thick coat of regular mustard.

The heart of the beast is the boneless pork-sirloin chop, lightly breaded and battered. It’s then flash fried to provide a surface crunch to the softer but still chewy centre. Call it a poor man’s schnitzel. The pedestrian bun’s only duty is to not fall apart.

Hope you like mustard on your pork chop sandwich

Hope you like mustard on your pork chop sandwich

You can throw a cooked egg aboard for another 50 cents, but why sabotage the pure porcine experience? Overall, it’s quick, reasonably affordable at $4 and small enough to keep the cholesterol levels in check.

Maybe that’s sufficient reason to knock the porch chop sandwich off your culinary bucket list. And if you get hooked, you can always have a box of 50 frozen pork chops shipped to your door.

Pork Chop John’s
2400 Harrison Avenue, Butte, Montana (one other Butte location)
Monday to Saturday 10:30 am-10:30 pm. Closed Sunday
John's Pork Chop Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

KoMex is Fusion Gone Wild in Las Vegas

At KoMex Express, the fries adopt the flags of several nationalities

At KoMex Express, the fries adopt the flags of several nationalities

As the name suggests, KoMex Fusion is all about mixing ethnic cuisines. Obviously, there’s a Korean component—witness kimchi and bulgogi—and Mexican standards like enchiladas and burritos, along with some cross-breeding of the two at this little strip-mall diner in Las Vegas. Chimichanga with marinated cabbage anyone?

But at KoMex, the boundaries have been further expanded to embrace Chinese (wonton soup) and American cuisine. All this comes together in my Bulgogi fries—with melted mozza, meat, pico de gallo, jalapenos and Korean hot sauce all soaking into a mound of fries. It’s a surprisingly good, filling amalgamation. The substantial order is only $6 and, along with complementary chips, salsa and guacamole, is a substantial lunch.

The owners are in the throes of expanding their boundaries beyond Vegas. Here’s hoping they don’t lose that grunge attitude of experimentation at their flagship shop.

KoMex Fusion
633 North Decatur Boulevard (one other Las Vegas location)
Monday to Saturday 11 am-8 pm. Closed Sunday
KoMex Fusion on Urbanspoon

Bachi Burger in Vegas Puts Asian Twist on American Classic

 

Bachi Burger's glorious wagyu patty, loaded with onion rings and an egg

Bachi Burger’s glorious wagyu patty, loaded with onion rings and an egg

When I see oxtail chili fries on the menu, I know I’m in for a decidedly different dining experience. And Bachi Burger certainly delivers, bringing an Asian twist to American classics like burgers, fries (there’s also a truffle version) and sliders—here converted to a steamed bun containing, say, Peking-style duck. The list of cocktails and beers also includes drinks like black milk tea and cherry yuzu soda.

My miyagi-sans burger features a wagyu patty that is rich, moist and just past the advertised medium pink. The crispy onion rings and thick pieces of caramelized bacon provide some crunch to offset the fried egg and splash of chili mayo.

The poor Taiwanese-style sweet bun takes a bit of a mauling, and I eventually resort to knife and fork to savour small bites. This is one great, complex burger, and I’m glad there’s no cheese, lettuce or other paraphernalia to distract me.

Bachi Burger
470 East Windmill Lane (two other Las Vegas locations)
Sunday-Monday 11 am-11 pm, Tuesday to Thursday 11 am-midnight, Friday-Saturday 11 am-1 am
Bachi Burger on Urbanspoon

Keeping Customers Happy in Ashton, Idaho, the World’s Seed-Potato Capital

Talk about cute: Coffeecake served inside a mug at Chocolate Moose Royale in Ashton, Idaho

Talk about cute: Coffeecake served inside a mug at Chocolate Moose Royale in Ashton, Idaho

As she hands me my Americano, the barista in Chocolate Moose Royale looks at me expectantly and says, “Let me know if you like it.” Why? “I’ve been told to ask that.” What a concept: Customer satisfaction.

Owner Beth is also willing to help customers concerned about their waistlines. Don’t want a full slice of Ann Oldham’s homemade pie? No problem. You can just order a sliver for $1.65. The inventive baked goods include a red velvet cake and a coffee cake served inside a mug. Enjoy it all in this cozy café inside a restored, century-old hotel in Ashton, Idaho (“World seed-potato capital”), an agricultural town on Highway 20 between Idaho Falls and West Yellowstone.

Chocolate Moose Royale
406 Main Street, Ashton, Idaho
Weekdays 9:30 am-5:30 pm, Saturday 10 am-4 pm. Closed Sunday

If you pine for the days of bobby socks and school fight songs, fret not. Just head straight over to Ashton’s Frostop, a drive-in that’s been providing car-window service for burgers, shakes and root beer floats since it opened in the mid-1960s.

Frostop Drive-In has been providing car-window service since the 1960s.

Frostop Drive-In has been providing car-window service since the 1960s.

Frostop Drive-In
26 North Highway 20, Ashton, Idaho
Daily 10 am-10 pm
Frostop Drive In on Urbanspoon

Parking Lot Grilled Chicken in Yakima, Washington

 

Fresh-grilled chicken at El Parrillon Loco in Yakima, Washington

Fresh-grilled chicken at El Parrillon Loco in Yakima, Washington

I’m looking for a place called El Parrillon Loco, in Yakima, Washington, but damned if I can find it in a strip mall of Mexican joints. But I finally spy what I’m looking for: a parking-lot grill loaded with big pieces of browning chicken. And then, at the attached retail space, I see the name I’m looking for, in small print, above the rest of the title, which is de Tom and Jerry.

Don’t ask me what that name stands for, or much else. “Authenticamente Mexicano” the business card reads. No kidding. After I ask the server a few questions en Englais, she heads to the back for a younger woman whose English is far better than my Spanish.

In any event, it’s not hard to know what to order—a quarter pollo, con arroz y frijoles (rice and beans), along with grilled tortillas for a grand total of $6.29. Nearly everyone in the place has ordered variations of the same thing and are waiting expectantly for the current batch of chicken to come off the grill.

Tending the parking-lot grill

Tending the parking-lot grill

Which gives me time to watch an industrious woman tending the grill. She dumps a bag of charcoal into an attached hopper, shovels glowing embers from said hopper under the grill and whacks cooked chunks of chicken with a cleaver, flipping the resulting smaller pieces with tongs into takeout cardboard boxes.

The finished chicken is so tender and flavourful, I pretty much ignore the perfunctory rice and beans, other than to sample odd mouthfuls seasoned with house-made sauces of varying intensity.

Fall-off-the-bone result

Fall-off-the-bone result

El Parrillon Loco de Tom and Jerry
511 North 1 Street, Yakima, Washington
Open at 10 am till early evening

El Fat Cat Grill Putting a Spin on the Taco Truck

Chef Felix Sanchez mixing Mexican and Asian influences at his El Fat Cat Grill truck Asian fare

Chef Felix Sanchez mixing Mexican and Asian influences at his El Fat Cat Grill truck in Kennewick, Washington

*El Fat Cat Grill is far from your typical taco truck. Yes, the Kennewick, Washington (Tri-Cities) joint does offer tacos, burritos, tostadas and quesadillas. But co-owner and chef Felix Sanchez has mixed Mexican and Asian influences to come up with a splendid menu all his own.

El Fat Cat Grill is a big step beyond your typical taco truck

El Fat Cat Grill is a big step beyond your typical taco truck

Thankfully, the gracious server and friendly fellow customers are most obliging in providing suggestions of what I should order. “I always get the porky adobo”, in a garlic chipotle cream sauce over rice, says one customer. “The burritos, man,” offers a companion.

They look tempting, as does Felix’s take on tortas, the Triple Threat combining pork, ham and bacon. Add some sautéed onions and fixings, and you’ve got a honking big sandwich for $7. The burritos (including one with grilled baby red potatoes) are equally substantial.

I go for the wonderfully named Scary Roy Chilada ($6)—three crispy tortillas smothered in pork, chipotle mole sauce, cotija cheese and jalapeño coleslaw, with some house-made sauce for added heat.

The Scary Roy Chilada is three crispy tortillas smothered in messy goodness

The Scary Roy Chilada is three crispy tortillas smothered in messy goodness

The only problem is these loaded beauties require a handful of napkins, and then some. Think I’ll walk over to the carwash next door.

El Fat Cat Grill
539 North Edison (behind the Edison carwash), Kennewick, Washington
Weekdays 11 am-7 pm. Closed Saturday and Sunday. Cash only
El Fat Cat Grill on Urbanspoon