Wednesday, February 12, 2014

This Will Reinforce…

your idea that I have gone over the edge when it comes to TV food programming.

I was lolling on the sofa one Saturday afternoon and watching the Travel Channel when the logo for the TTT Truck Stop appeared on a program entitled "Truck Stop Paradise".

“I know just where that place is!” I exclaimed. “It’s just south of the RV park we stay at when in Tucson.” So a visit to Tucson wouldn’t be complete unless we had one meal at Omar’s Hi-Way Chef at the TTT Truck Stop.
“Omar's Hi-Way Chef is almost too real to be real.

“If you were making a movie about a diner and wanted to shoot on location, you couldn't find a more ideal spot… This long-time Tucson icon is the epitome of truck stop cuisine. Everything you'd need for your epic is there: the horseshoe-shaped counters,
plenty of booths,
a kitchen pass-through that is never empty and portions big enough to get you from Tucson to the Texas state line.

“A full cast of characters is also there for the watching (though it's up to you to find the big name star who'd play the waitress with a heart of gold). Cooks are slinging plates all day. The servers are of a certain age and keep the coffee and the patter coming. Customers range from awkward teens to slow-moving retirees, business people to beefy-armed truck drivers. You'll find regulars and strangers passing through” (Rita Connelly at tucsonweekly.com).

“…the Triple T was founded by Ira T. and Sallie Sue Morris in 1954. In 1966 the truck stop moved from East Benson Hwy to Interstate 10 at the Craycroft exit… In 1996, Omar Ramirez came on board to run the Hi-Way Chef Restaurant. Ramirez is a Tucson native and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and was named Chef of the Year by the Southern Arizona Chefs' Association in 1998” (omarshiwaychef.com).

In order to enter Omar’s, you must walk past Sallie Sue's Gift Shoppe where you can purchase a copy of The New York Times best seller Walter the Farting Dog.
A synopsis of the plot at walmart.com reads: "’Warning: This book may cause flatulence.’ Walter is a fine dog, except for one small problem: he has gas. He can't help it; it's just the way he is. Fortunately, the kids Billy and Betty love him regardless, but Father says he's got to go. Poor Walter, he's going to the dog pound tomorrow. And then, in the night, burglars strike. Walter has his chance to be a hero…” Just what Walter does to save the day is left to our imagination.

And just past Sallie Sue’s is this framed newspaper article with a photo of long time waitress, Anne Hicks,
whose back is to us in the following photo.
And yes, the clientele is a real mix. There was the Voyager Softball team that I think was composed of RV’ers staying at the nearby Voyager RV Resort.
And while they were waiting in line to pay, I heard them discussing some corporate promotion that gave away as prizes trophies, firearms, and grave stones.

Seated in the back dining room was an assemblage of local gendarmes who, when they were seated, prompted one waitress (At a diner like this they are waitresses and not servers. Political correctness be damned.) to say “I’ll wait on these guys. They’re armed.”
We were seated at a booth whose tabletop hints that it may be original to 1966 and were presented with the kind of voluminous
menu that one expects at a truck stop diner. We had both reviewed the on-line menu, and Chuck ordered that truck stop favorite—meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy.
This was certainly an enormous plate of food but what Chuck gained in quantity he lost in quality. When ordering, he asked our waitress if the meatloaf came with a large portion of the mashed potatoes. And you can see that it did. But I swear that they were not peeled and mashed in house. The taste screamed “instant” to me. And the gravy was no better. This obviously came from either a can/jar or a mix. And Chuck thought that the meatloaf itself also had a processed flavor.

I faired much better with my choice of the chorizo burger which was not, as the name might suggest, a burger made entirely of spicy chorizo—which may have been way too much of a good thing.
Rather, this was a half-pound hamburger topped with a most generous amount of chorizo plus, for extra heat, green chilies and pepper jack cheese. And the burger was accompanied by a large serving of very good steak fries. I found myself unable to finish this in one sitting—partly because of the level of spice and partly because of the huge portion size.

I am not sure that I consider Omar’s at TTT to be Truck Stop Paradise. We have had much better truck stop meals over the years and, by comparison, Omar’s only earns 2.5 Addies.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.