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Cafeterias used to be everywhere in this country. (For those who aren’t familiar with the term, they are restaurants that serve you food from a buffet in a line formation, but unlike a buffet, such as those popular in Las Vegas and around the country, you don’t primarily serve yourself). Nowadays they are few and far between. In California in the late 1940s and the 1950s they evolved into a popular style called a hofbrau (from the German word for a royal brewery) probably because they usually served beer as well as hearty food.

The earliest hofbrau that is still open is Tommy’s Joynt in San Francisco. Still wonderfully original and filled with clutter it serves good, filling food at low prices (perhaps the best value in the city). In 1954 the first Harry’s Hof Brau opened in Redwood City, now a small chain of newer hofbraus owned by Harry’s son Larry Kramer (the original Redwood City location is still open but has been remodelled). Famous ball player, coach, and manager Francis ‘Lefty’ O’Doul opened his eponymous hofbrau / sports bar in 1958 in San Francisco (still open and it sill has some charm but every time I go there for some tasty chow it seems there are more TVs than before). And across the bay in Berkeley Brennan’s opened its Irish style hofbrau in 1959 (still owned by the same family, it moved in 2008 into the historic 1913 Southern Pacific Railroad Station next door to the original location, but it’s also filled with more TVs than I can stand).


In 1955 Sam Gordon opened his first Hof Brau in Sacramento at 17th and J streets (it closed in 1993 and became Hamburger Mary’s, then Hamburger Patties, and still has the original chef neon sign from Sam’s Hof Brau). In 1957 Sam Gordon opened another Hof Brau in downtown Sacramento at 815 L St. in a Bavarian theme. Then in 1960 he opened his fancier restaurant, Sam’s Rancho Villa, at 2380 Fair Oaks Blvd., which featured three dining rooms, the Candlelight, the Continental, and the Venetian, and two cocktail lounges, the Capri and the Eden Roc (wow, I would have loved to have seen this place!). Although it was swanky, they still served food cafeteria style. In 1962 he opened Sam’s Plaza Hof Brau in the Plaza Shopping Center at 2500 Watt Ave., the only Sam’s Hof Brau still open in Northern California. The restaurant is mostly original, except for a few TVs by the bar. At the front is the food line with the servers and a big pickle slice decanter. On the right side of the large main dining room is the long bar with a large oil painting of the Golden Spike ceremony when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869.


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Okay, a lot of people will tell you that it’s the sauce not the way the meat is cooked that makes all the different, and if there’s one sauce that every chicken-lovin’ restaurant goer loves it’s the Raisin’ Cane special sauce, which a disgruntled former employee decided to tell everybody about. If you have already caught up with it, try making some of your own using the following recipe:



  1. Combine all ingredients, mix well. Add additional pepper if desired.
  2. You can serve immediately, but it will taste better if the flavours are given the chance to “meld” in the fridge for a few hours (or days) before serving.


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Christie’s restaurant was a beloved eatery in San Antonio for over 50 years before closing in the 90’s. I used to love the neon sign out the front, that featured a fish flipping and flapping on a frying pan as it was being cooked. The food was amazing. But the place was really famous for its remoulade sauce which they’d pop onto a huge lettuce leaf. People still remember it 30-40 years later.  Why not give it a try. But please – read the recipe several times before attempting as this is a demanding recipe. And take care to add the oil one tablespoon at a time.

Chilling time not included in preparation time.
Makes 4 1/2 cups

1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons green bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 cup onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons dry pectin (Sure Jel)
1 teaspoon lemon peel (Spice Islands works well)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon meringue powder (Wilton brand is available at stores that sell cake-decorating items)
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 cup crushed ice
4 large eggs
2 cups soya oil (use regular salad oil if you can’t find soybean)

1) Using food processor blender, finely chop celery, green pepper, carrot and onion until almost grated; set aside.
2) Combine salt, mustard, Sure Jel, lemon peel, cornstarch, meringue powder and paprika in small mixing bowl; set aside.
3) Place ice in large mixer bowl; add dry spice mixture along with eggs, mixing at high speed.
4) When thoroughly mixed and ice has melted, slowly add soybean oil 1 tablespoon at a time while mixing at high speed.
5) Mix until thick (this will take about 40 minutes).
6) Add chopped vegetables and mix about 1-2 minutes until blended.
7) Chill in covered container several hours before serving.

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You’re planning a trip to London and you’re wondering about British food? Well, take it from me, London is not what it used to be back in the dark ol’ days of 1980s when if you elected to go native (instead of McDonald’s) you’d be hard-pressed to find a good meal, whether breakfast or dinner.  London has changed! You might even say that it’s leapt to the top of the great gastronomic capitals on the planet (but then again, you might not). Nevertheless, Brit food has never been cooler, and it’s not just the modern and the ethnic – British classics are being done to a T, both in trendy hotspots and venues that have been going for 100 years or more. A quintessentially British feast awaits you.

Let’s not forget about the Fishy Chips… or rather, the Fission Chips. The first “chippy” – as Brits affectionately call them – is thought to have been established in the Jewish quarter in the East End of London in the mid 19th century and some stalwarts still serve the best. The Golden Hind in Marylebone has passed its 100th birthday and still tops the list for serving fish and chips as they should be – fresh, crisp, and don’t forget the side of yummy mushy peas (yes, really yummy)! With the gleaming chrome 1950s’ frying station and rock-bottom prices this place is sheer nostalgia. For a contemporary take on the classic, chase up Hix’s FishDog, a 1970s’ food truck serving “The Rolls Royce of fish finger sandwiches” (a lovely slab of battered fish in a hot dog bun), and you’ll also get a taste of London’s vibrant street food scene. 



Of course, you can’t do London justice and not try a meat pie. Ask any Brit what their favourite comfort food is and they’ll probably say a good pie. Classic British pie and mash shops can still be found in the city, proud to be serving in the traditional environment of checkered tiles and wooden booths. Feeling extra brave? Try jellied eel or parsley liquor – but you probably have to grow up with these delicacies to appreciate them! Pie and mash shop, M. Manze (link is external) in Islington offers “the same recipes today as were used in 1902”, and using even better ingredients to meet today’s high standards. For a truly gourmet pie selection, look no further than The Ginger Pig, with various locations around London, using fresh, naturally reared meat from their own farm in Yorkshire, topped with handmade butter pastry. 



However, if olde World charm is what you’re after, you can’t go past Rules, London’s oldest restaurant, established in 1798 – a time when eating in restaurants was strictly for the elite. You’ll see how little has changed (bookings are essential), and the menu is traditional with a capital T, straight out of Downton Abbey. There’s a leaning towards wild game dishes and the restaurant walls are heaving with mounted horns. Save room for their golden syrup sponge pudding with custard – a truly scrumptious traditional British dessert. 



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This is the go-to recipe for hotdog chili sauce at my house and at work. We used to sell hotdogs as a fundraiser for a United Way day here and this chili sold hundreds and hundreds of hotdogs. I make it at home and freeze in meal-size containers and also can it.

Difficulty: Easy

Servings: unlimited!

Cook Time: several hours  


Hamburger 10 lbs.
Tomato Paste 4 cans (the 12 ounce cans)
Black Pepper 2 Tbsp.
Garlic Powder 5 Tbsp.
Dehydrated Onion Flakes 1/2 cup
Fresh Garlic Cloves, minced 1+
Oregano 1 1/2 tsp.
Chili Powder 3/4 cup
Tomato Sauce (29 ounce cans) 2 cans
Ketchup 32 oz.
Prepared Mustard 1/4 cup


Add very hot water to meat (while stirring over medium heat) to break up the meat particles – add as much water as you need – it will cook off. When meat has been broken down into tiny pieces by the hot water, add all the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for a while, stirring often. Taste & adjust seasonings, adding more garlic, onions, etc. as needed. Simmer and taste until desired consistency is reached – it will thicken as it stands, so keeping it a little less thick than you want the finished chili to be is best. Buy brand name tomato products – it does make a difference in this chili. If in doubt about the flavor, make a hotdog & try the chili as you will serve it – that is the best test. If the chili thickens up too much as you use it, add a little water. Don’t go leaner than about 80/20 on the hamburger – the fat adds to the flavor. I like to add some cayenne pepper to mine, some folks add red pepper flakes.

To Can: Fill hot clean jars with hot chili, debubbling and leaving 1″ headspace. Wipe jar rims extremely well. Cap. Process in a Pressure Canner: Pints for 75 minutes, Quarts for 90 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure (adjust if needed for your altitude).  The chili will thicken a little with the canning and the meat will be even finer textured. We like it just fine after canning – I have always canned leftovers of this after cooking a large batch. Might be even better if cooked less and then canned.  Sometimes I cook a pint of this down a little to thicken, add some cumin, and use as a soft taco filling!

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When two Southern guys moved to LA, they found themselves missing real, authentic BBQ. So they opened up a bottle of bourbon, swapped family recipes and came up with a plan to bring their favourite southern-inspired BBQ to the people of Los Angeles.They decided a cross country road trip was in-order to find the best recipes from each of the BBQ hubs of the U.S. Once their journey was complete, they scoured California to find locally grown produce, top quality ingredients and the best meats around. With the flavour of each BBQ hotspot on the menu, they had everything from the meats to the fixin’s. In 2004, the first Baby Blues BBQ opened with an amazing crew and that home-style vibe giving customers quality comfort food, on par with those “fancy” LA restaurants, but with the warm, comforting feel of being at home, wherever that home may be. People loved it so much they’ve since taken their award-winning BBQ and memorable atmosphere to San Francisco and Philadelphia.



What will you find when you walk into any Baby Blues BBQ? A music filled joint with the smell of great food and the friendliness of a party you never want to leave. The regionally inspired menu features all of our favourites — Memphis Ribs, Baby Back Ribs, a Texas-style Beef Brisket, and a North Carolina-style Pulled Pork that we slow-cook in Guinness beer, served with an array of house-made sauces that hail from our travels. We use the freshest produce and best ingredients in our award-winning fixin’s including our Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Collard Greens, and Blues on the Cob. From our delicious appetizers to our signature Banana Pudding, you’ll find the comfort foods you want paired with the atmosphere that embodies Southern hospitality.


Venice: 310.396.7675
W.Hollywood: 323.656.1277
San Francisco: 415.896.4250
Philadelphia: 215.222.4444

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The Pancake Parade is a virtual gustatory institution in Rancho Cordova California. It was making pancakes when I was a high school student there back in the 1960s and it’s still playing host to high school reunions today. This was the place you’d take your date to, before or after the drive-in.  The food was good and the prices, well, the prices were great. And it was always open. Take a peek at what they had on offer back in the day.

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