Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Culinary Crimes Against Humanity: A Hot Dog Stuffed Crust Pizza!

As you may or may not have noticed but we here at the Tucson Homeskillet are a brave/dumb lot. Eating the worst rated burrito in town, going to strip clubs for the free food...this normally doesn't equal a strong mental constitution nor sympathy for the stomach. But, whatever. If it involves interesting or unusual food here in Tucson, coming from a chain restaurant or local hub, we will rise to the challenge and give you an honest report.

Even if it (almost) kills us.

So when we got word that a long running corporate pizza operation decided to stuff their crusts with variations of depression, we took it upon ourselves to see what was going on and, more importantly, why in the name of all that is sacred are they doing this to us. I mean, we can kind of see garlic bread stuff crusts, that "almost" makes sense, but this particular blend of hate and mockery shook the food loving foundation that was built around this silly website, literally, to our core and we just had to see, and taste, for ourselves if it is and was as horrifying as it seems.

Talking about the hot dog stuffed crust pizza.

God send death!
It seems of late that the powers that be in corporate kitchens are either A) so freakin' high that they keep coming up with concoctions such as this because they have infinite resources and why the hell not or B) they are simply trying to destroy mankind.

Honestly, it seems a little of both. Perhaps this particular pizza conglomerate has some meth'd out wizard locked away in some tower somewhere where he juggles pots filled with random ingredients and high powered drugs because they keep doing this to us on a fairly regular basis.

I mean, okay, like I said before, I can kind of see a cheesy garlicky stuffed crust pizza; it's sort of in the same ballpark, aka "Italian". But to foist upon the sweaty masses a pizza crust filled with hog part tube meat just seems a little extraneous. No wonder the rest of the world hates us and our obesity rate is higher than those that graduate from's because of crap like this. Am I right?

Oh well. It's food and there's a few of these places in Tucson, so...why not? Let's eat us some hot dog stuffed crust pizza shall we?

As if the mummy toe lookin' weiner nub is trying to say: "If you have any mercy, please kill me now."

So the Homeskillet gathered up at our favorite watering hole, then suckered, I mean..."enlisted" a couple of our good friends, brought with us one veggie and one peperoni hot dog stuffed crust pizzas, set them out and let loose the taste test. A few brave souls putting their life on the line just so the public can be safe from such poisonous treachery against you, your family and your butt.

God bless these soldiers sent from fooder heaven!

Anyway, here are the hot dog stuffed crust pizza eaters and their stories.

First up is:

Our favorite bartender shares a taste of the "challenging" and, shall we say, "creative" when it comes to gastro festivities with us such as ranch dressing dipped pretzels, literally anything involving meat and potato chips with flavors such as "Waffle House", "Democracy" and "Grandpappy's Shoe Horn". So, honestly, I wasn't too surprised when after she bit into it and took a bite of the hot dog crust, she made this face:

And here is what she had to say about it:

"I was prepared for Hell to be unleashed upon my taste buds. But, instead, I got a surprisingly 'not bad' flavor explosion in my mouth. Way to up your game corporate pizza place!"

Okay. So that's one opinion so far and it was a pretty favorable one. Not bad. But what about someone that is not as adventurous or deviant when it comes to eating wacky food?

It looms, like crying children in the night...

Next up, we have:

To be honest with you Anna had no idea that she was going to be taking part in a pizza eating event. She was just here with her sister, to have a nice time, when suddenly, WHAM!, here comes a chunky 40 something year old Metalhead with a piece of greasy pizza with lil doggers crammed in the crust.

At first she was hesitant, but then she loosened up, took a bite and had this to say:

"I thought I was going to have a stroke. But it just reminded me of hot dog crescent rolls stuck to the end of a bad piece of pizza. First I ate the pizza, then I ate the hot dog bites and it was like two meals in one! Is that....good?"

It's great. Really, you all are doing so good.

Like the Emperor saying to Luke: "You...want...this?"

So far, so...not bad. It seems the first two eaters deemed the pizza "passable" if not slightly "relatively okay".

But we carry on! And next up to the greasy plate is:

For a guy who likes him some good ol' Nordic Black Metal and anything Zakk Wylde touches, JB seemed out of sorts about doing this. C'mon man! Do you think axe wielding Vikings would be a-scared of some cheese and tomato spread topped bread lined with artificial hog grindings served with a mustard dippin' sauce? (I forgot to mention that didn't I? Yeah. This noise came with a mustard dipping sauce. Sorry.)

Dogs, pizza, glop and alcohol in repose
Well, he finally gave in, ate a slice, stared out into the abyss and had this expression on his face for quite some time:

(cue ambient black vortex sound here)

JB's take on the whole hot dog stuffed crust pizza extravaganza?

A silent gaze that only read: "I am either going to kill Metal Mark for making me do this or retreat to the whispering hills where I can live in peace and religious freedom so far far away from food items such as this..."

Fair enough. So we just left JB to his own personal reassessment of all of the choices he has made in life and we move on to:

Giggling most of the time at the prospect of eating such turd-osity, Rizz was actually kind of excited to explore the furthest reaches of corporate sponsored rampage and dove in once the pizza was within her reach.

The RiZzA, going for it...

First the pizza. Then the dog slab. Then this:

Please note JB still not looking too well after his encounter with the pizza. Pray for him...

And the result?

That's the look of a woman who was about to eat poison but was happy that it was in fact not. And here is what she had to say about it:

"I really wanted to hate this and was almost certain that I would, but...I don't. What does that say about me?

I live!

"The crust was almost croissant like, not too chewy and not too doughy. The pizza was...meh. Pretty unremarkable. That being said, that's pretty much my response to most pizza being that it's pretty hard to fxxk up pizza. The dogs were terrible, visually; they looked hauntingly like cooked toes. But dipped in that hockey mustard? Not half bad. I wouldn't order it myself, but....if it was around, I'd get down on some toe crusted 'za again. Shamefully."

"See, I told you I wouldn't be that bad." Shut up pizza!

Wow. My plan to thwart the corporate hate train of drippy food muck has not gotten the results I wanted. Folks seem to dig the hot dog stuffed crust pizza, if not tolerate it. I was a little shocked. This assignment felt like an easy one, one that would have me snark my way all through the meters and set notions that a lame chain store pizza dotted with hot dog nibbles would provide enough regurgitation fodder that this whole dumb blog would be slathered with laughable bits and easy lampooning of the fare.

But, no. Not really. My friends seem to like it enough to not despise me enough because I put them through the Tucson Homeskillet "I dare you to eat this" ringer. So it seemed set, the hot dog stuffed crust pizza was not terrible. Huh.

Of course, now it was my turn:

Yep. Here I am about to bite into my first slice of the pizza. I was a little nervous (and, actually, a little hungry) but I had organized this treaty tryst and now I had to belly up to the beast and do my duty.

Which end to I start at first? Does it matter?

I ate the pizza. I ate the dogs. I dipped them in the mustard dip. I did. I ate the whole thing.

And here is my take on the whole thing:

(Note: no change of expression)

Yeah. The face says it all. The pizza is just fast food style with nibblets of franks at the end that you can tear off and eat as a separate entity or combine the two to create a haphazard monopoly of flavor crash that any half baked dorm room couch jockey would deem "not mad at this situation going on here right now."

Didn't hate it. Didn't really like it. It was and is what is was and is. So I decided to leave it at that. A shrug and a closing of the pizza box. On to the next food challenge...

But not until we get a real opinion on the whole hot dog stuffed crust pizza business. The one true overlord of all things eating that goes on within the Tucson Homeskillet.

I'm talking about:

That's right. Our cat. I set a piece in front of her and with her usual glare after I subject her to another mess of food sadness, she just looked up at me and said:

(Light meowing) Which translated to:
"Tonight, when you sleep, I will straight murder you."

 You're welcome Lil Poundcake. I love you too...

Camera and Typing
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Late July, 2015

Metal Influence
SLAYER, "God Hates Us All"

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Tucson Homeskillet Food Truck Spotlight: Presenting the Zany Beaver!

But before I get around to answering that age old question, let me tell you how I discovered not only poutine, but one of the best food trucks here in Tucson.

It was a chilly early autumn evening, She-Ra and I were at the pub when a shiny white van pulled up outside. The bartender informed us that a new food truck had volunteered to feed the hungry and cold drinking patrons inside.

"It's poutine", said the bartender. "Ever hear of it?"

Luckily, we have. Being big time cooks and fooders, we knew it was a Canadian comfort food which consisted of fries covered in gravy and topped with cheese curds. Sounds weird right? Yeah, we thought so too. But being not only food adventurous we were also quite hungry, so we went out to the truck to see what was going on.

The truck was called the Zany Beaver, the name alone made me love them immediately. It was run by a nice middle aged couple and they not only offered up the standard poutine fare, but also ones topped with bacon, and pulled pork and chicken and bacon and....wait, did I mention bacon already? Ah, who cares! Fries, gravy, cheese and bacon. Sold! So we placed our order and waited inside.

After a few minutes, the lady working the front window delivered two heaping bowls of the stuff. From the crisp night air, steam rose off the curds and gravy, the bacon glistened in the moonlight and fresh cut fries jutted out from under the weight of the toppings like a deep fried tentacled seabeast waiting to be devoured. It didn't take long for us to fork up, tuck in and go for it.

Let me tell was glorious. For some divine reason, all of those flavors and components, together, freaking worked like a magical chalice of joy and carbs. It did not take long for us to become mega fans of not only poutine, but of the Zany Beaver.

So, to answer your question, here, my dear readers, is what poutine is:

Owned and operated by Canadian native husband and wife team Craig and Dianne Brewer, the Zany Beaver became a labor of love because both of them had pretty normal jobs before running a successful food truck.

"I worked as a photojournalist for many years with weekly and daily newspapers in Tucson, and Westfield, MA, " Dianne tells me as she hands off a bowl of goodness to a lucky customer. "Ironically I had a weekly food column in Westfield, featuring family favorite recipes that I wrote on. Craig has always worked in I.T., and still does."

I then had to know what was her early influence as far as food and cooking was.

"I would say my dad was a huge influence in cooking," Dianne muses.  "I would watch him throw things together in a pinch and always come up with some amazing meals that I now realize would be classified as stir fry these days. I always loved to dabble and experiment with cooking. Eating wise, I can go far back to my grandmother’s rice pudding. It’s a British dish. To this day it’s still one of my favorite treats. Unfortunately, my grandmother and only one of my aunts took it to their grave, and no one else in the family learned how to replicate it. All my cousins and myself are still trying to figure that one out."

Have some fries with those cheese curds? Yeah man!

With Canada, currently, being a culinary hub and go to location for serious chefs and eaters, I wanted to get her take on what defines Canadian cooking.

"Many, many different dishes. I love Quebecoise tortiere," she says with a flourish and smile. "It is a special meat pie made with ground pork and other ingredients that is prepared for special occasions. There's also salmon pie, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, butter tarts, Nanaimo bars, pouding chomage, (which defines as a poor man’s pie) and, of course, poutine!"

Of course.

Check the poutine skills. Amazing!

 When it came time to quit their jobs and open up a food truck I just had to know...why poutine?

"Why not?", Dianne reacts with a chuckle. "I watched poutine make it’s trip across Canada once it crossed the Quebec border in the 1990’s as the wave continued over to British Columbia. And as it moved down the west coast of America into California, Arizona seemed to be the logical next step."

Dianne serving up poutine realness...


"Poutine starts with a base of French fries, then topped with cheese curds and gravy," she informed when I asked her to define the dish to those not in the know. "Traditionally, in Quebec, this was the go to dish. As it skipped across the country, others added variants to the dish, like meat, etc., and changed the concept. It is basically translated into a mess, but it’s oh so good! Imagine a fully loaded deep fried potato as compared to fries. It’s the same concept. It means good eats with beer after a long night for those who have never experienced this."

Poutine fully loaded!

So now that they knew they wanted to make poutine full time, I then had to know about how the concept came about.

"We were watching a food network show on deep fried anything one night. We made a joke about many things that we could deep fry. Somehow I got onto the concept of how I missed my poutine, and it was like a light went on over both our heads, and the concept was born from there."
Thank you for the concept because this is incredible...

"As for the name, well, my husband had this wacky idea which I’m not even going to delve into as a start," Dianne starts with a wink and nudge. "It was a little bit too risqué for myself. It did involve the word beaver though, as the beaver is actually Canada’s official animal, kind of how the eagle is in America. I knew I wanted that in my name, to communicate to fellow Canadians here. We agonized for months trying to figure out what would work with beaver, and it wasn’t until we were lost on a business trip in Phoenix one Sunday that we saw this billboard on the Interstate 17 advertising “Zany” prices on their product. We believe we got lost for a reason on that trip, because zany just seemed to go so well with beaver, and of course, it reflects some of my personality. We loved it!"
And Tucson loves you!

So Dianne and Craig had a concept, they knew what they wanted to serve up and after getting a name and a truck, their day to day goes something like this:

"Crazy long days," she admits looking a bit tired just talking about it. "Lots of product planning, ordering, and prepping on the truck, then traveling to events. It takes a lot of time. Once we get to the event, it’s either very very busy, or slow. It can be a lot of hurry up and wait, or hurry up and keep that line moving. I have sometimes been up at four in the morning to pick up supplies at the local restaurant supply stores, to finish the day by midnight or even later, when we get extremely busy."

On a busy night, gotta keep the line moving, keep those dupes rolling...

The highs of owning a food truck?

"The highs are working with the foodies (and fooders!) and the enjoyment of watching people as they sample their first poutine." 

And...the lows?

"The lows are the many many hours of off-site work that not everyone is aware of in what it takes to run a small business. A food truck is a small business, it involves accounting, paying taxes, filing tax returns, bookkeeping, budget planning, and great organizational skills to keep it going, as well as looking for and confirming events. One of the major major lows is when equipment on the truck, or something on the truck breaks. It can add up in loss of income and events."

Go face deep in the poutine goodness...

So what's next for the Zany Beaver?

"We have a lot of ideas that we’re tossing around at the moment," she mentions with a knowing glance. "We’re not sure quite what direction we’re heading in though. We fancy the idea of a brick and mortar in time, but we’re not quite sure where in town it would be most successful, and if we’re willing to take that plunge. We’ll just continue to keep on trucking for now."

Zany Beaver manager Cassie (L) with owner Dianne (R)

"My favorite dish varies on any given day," Dianne admits when I asked what her favorite menu item was. "One day I want to say chicken, then I lean over to bacon, then pork. I guess you can say that the menu was based on all my very favorites. In Quebec they have a specialty deli meat called 'smoked meat'. If ever there was a favorite poutine for me that is it, but unfortunately the ingredients in the brisket inhibit the sale of that product here in America."

For now, we here in Tucson just want to thank the Zany Beaver for even being here. Poutine isn't an everyday dish (well, for some it might be, but you gotta have uncanny gastro-dynamics) but it is a special treat when you see the bright white truck with the smiling beaver on the side. On those particularly cold days here in Tucson, or you've had 5 too many to drink or you wanna bulk up for that hike up to the K2, poutine is the ideal meal to get you motivated. It is luscious, it is decadent, it is dense and it is crazy delicious. The Zany Beaver have this Canadian comfort food on lock down and will most likely be the only real poutine game in town for quite some time. 

And we here at the Tucson Homeskillet, are perfectly alright with that. 


Camera and Typing
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Late July, 2015

Metal Influence
Voivod, "Rrroooaaarrr"

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Tucson Homeskillet Investigates: Free Burger Day at a Strip Club!

Let me just say this one thing: strip clubs and me just haven't gotten along in the past. It's not like I don't like them, I think they are fine but....I also think they are very bizarre.

Why, you may ask. Well, it comes down to one thing basically, something that I have wrestled with many times in the past when I have been, uh, a "patron" of certain gentlemen's clubs, one thing that I just really can't wrap my big yet little brained head around.

There are beautiful naked women dancing all over the place for your entertainment and we just have to sit there as if we are watching an infomercial.

I don't get it. How can dudes just enter a club, slap down some money and then not lose their cool when, uh, "stuff" starts happening to them? It's insane. Now, see...I personally do not want to get in trouble at certain gentlemen's clubs, knowing that most hire very large and intimidating bouncers to deal with those that lose their cool, so I tend to avoid them. BUT, there have been moments in my life, a few to be exact....okay quite a few, where I have been asked, invited or pulled into against my own will, to partake in the affairs of these mentioned certain gentlemen's clubs to enjoy the, uh, "stuff" that goes on in such establishments.

Some results have not been pretty. Let's just say that I have been kicked out twice and have run screaming from one of these arenas of hedonistic pleasures. The rest I was usually hiding behind a couch of some sort, quietly watching the events unfold as if I were a kid alone at home watching a scary movie on TV.

It's the, uh, "over stimulation" you see; I just don't cope well with it. So when this assignment started to take shape I was a little nervous going into. But, to uphold all things virtuous as a dedicated food journalist, I took this particular conquest with a manly gusto that I really did not know had in me.

First though....I would require a little help.

Metal Mark in a strip club? Yeah...he's gonna need some assistance.

The task at hand was such: I had heard that a certain gentlemen's club served up free burgers and fries every Friday from noon-7pm. Are you serious? Food? In a strip club? That's...

No, wait. If I recall, there was a certain gentlemen's club back in San Francisco (which I called home for 12 years before moving to Tucson...not the strip club, the city. Jeeze.) that actually had a chef driven menu and, like, $30 steaks. Okay, so maybe I just never put the two together. Why would I? a strip tease establishment? C'mon man. That's like having an open bar at Disneyland. Sure, the two would go great together it a good idea? The notion about eating free burgers and fries in a place where, uh, "stuff" happens, nearly made my brain become a lint collector in a dryer where I scooped out the left over gray matter from the screen and tossed it into the bin.

OKAY!, I said to myself. I'll do it. But I'm going to need some help. I can't just go into a venture like this on my own. No way. It'd be weird me hiding behind a couch without a group of friends as an anchor for my weirdness. Or what if I just spontaneously combust and leave a mess for the poor employees of the strip club to clean up on a hot Friday afternoon? I'm gonna need a wingman. So, luckily, my good friend Erik, aka Chili, owner and bartender of Danny's Baboquivari lounge here in Tucson (, 2910 E Ft Lowell Rd.) stepped up and said he would help.

He's a brave one that Chili. Give this man a gold star by his name.

So, at around 11:30 on a Friday afternoon, we met up at his bar, consumed a bit of needed pre-strip club antics medication (as noted before) and then drove out to the far reaches of Tucson to eat free burgers and fries in a place that would be writhing with half naked women.

First of all, Chili was the best choice for this assignment for various reasons. #1, he's awesome. #2, like me, he is in his 40s. #3, he is married with kids and I have been engaged for over 10 years, so, basically married. #4, he said he'd do it. And, #5, he said he would drive.

At around noon-ish we arrived at our destination and, to be quite honest with you, I was really hungry at this moment. Hopefully the free food would be a scant decent enough to quell the gurgling feed me beast that was jiggling my belly. I had heard from those that have been to places like this for the food explain that the free food is pretty bad, pretty small, and usually the, uh, "entertainment" was not A-list. In fact, from a reliable source, I had heard that if certain, uh, "entertainers" became less, uh, "inviting" they were sent here to do their penance.

But as a strident feminist (that's right, food blogging Metalheads can be feminists, just read Caitlin Moran to find out what I'm talking about here) this did not interest me. As a very heterosexual man I was a bit curious but...whatever. Free burgers and fries. In a strip club.

Let's go!

Here we are. Let's see what they got...

This particular place was pretty far from our homes in mid-town Tucson and was right next door to a run down Circle K. It was here that I began to get worried. Perhaps I was in over my head. Now I had dragged a good friend and all around nice family guy down with me. Would risking eyes, stomach and neither regions be worth a dopey article to entertain you good people who read food blogs? Man, I hope so. Because we had made the trek, made the decision and now that we were standing on the precipice of peril, the only choice was to re-ignite that husky man gusto and step inside.

O en to 7pm? Sounds tempting!

Now, here is where things get tricky. See, cameras are not allowed in these certain gentlemen's clubs. It's pretty obvious if you think about it. A dark den of salacious goings on, you think the owners and operators want a bunch of half drunk duders snapping photos all over the place? Yeah, not happening. What if the mayor was here this afternoon and we caught him red trouser'd enjoying the grinding lap sway from some lithesome glitter siren? Like I said, it aint gonna happen.

Knowing this, I had emailed the establishment a few times saying that I was a food reporter doing a take on the free food that is served up in sin mills such as this, but I never got a response. Huh.

As we entered the place the first thing we were hit with was how dark it was. The foyer was only lit by the front door (which was the back door actually...) when it opened or the occasional beam of light that came our way from the disco like main area just a few steps down. We were frisked, we had a metal detector swipe over us, our i.d.s were scanned and processed. Man, these guys don't fool around. Kinda shows you what we are up against. I then told the doorman that we were here from the Tucson Homeskillet and we had emailed the management a few times saying that we would need to take photos of the free burgers and fries. The young man look confused, but after handing him one of my business cards, he said he'd contact a manager and see what he could do.

That was good enough for us. So after passing all of the pre-entrance tests, we made our way down the few steps, into the club and sat at a table.

Chili: a man who is ready for anything...

Our table was front and center of the stage. This particular place was not all that big; only one main stage with a smattering of tables and chairs throughout surrounding it, almost stadium style. A full bar was off to the right and was busy with servers and patrons crowing it. At 12pm on a random Friday afternoon in Tucson, the joint was jumping just a bit more than anticipated. It wasn't busy by any means (I could only imagine what this place is like at midnight, that's when the questionable "all you can eat taco bar" starts up. Yikes...) but there were guys seated and ready all around.

As my eyes adjusted to the darkness that was cut with lazers, strobes, pinwheels and black light, I noticed that the setup wasn't as skeevy as had been implemented. It seemed clean, it seemed rather un-scary, in fact, it was kind of cozy. The chairs were soft and comfy, the servers were nice and, well, articulate, and the performers were like Cirque du Soliel but topless and with a pole. I began to relax. Perhaps I wont freak out and need some couch to shield me from the happenings squelching before my eyes.

Mainly because I couldn't find a couch. So...there's that.

Metal Mark + strip clubs, usually = not awesome...

When our drinks arrived I informed our server what we were here for and that I would need to take pictures. She seemed fine with it but would still have to get the okay from the manager.We ordered the free burgers and fries and awaited a response from the manager. At this time I went to the restroom, when I returned Chili leaned in with some information.

"Hey, so I found the manager," he said over the pounding psuedo-Metal blaring from the house PA, "and he didn't seem too happy about taking pictures. I don't know. It may not happen."

Crap, I thought. How am I to convince the Homeskillet reading public that we actually ate free burgers and fries in an actual strip club without photo proof? I mean, like all 3 or 4 readers out there will not be convinced if I can't get photos of the free burgers. It'll just seem like two 40 something dudes going to a nudie palace and then claiming they ate free stuff.

Nope. I had to get photos.

It took a while but I finally got the attention of what I assumed was a manager. He had on a tie and wore an ear piece while carrying a clipboard. Seemed managerial. I then explained why we were here, that I had been emailing them for a while, then after I handed him my business card he seemed to relax a bit and go along with the gag. The manager claimed that the burgers were "Some of the best in town!", which made me even more excited than I currently was at this juncture. So I sat back down, enjoyed another round as the "artistry" that was unfolding before us on the circular stage near by.

After a while the food arrived. And, to be honest with you, even in the disorienting flashing light near darkness, the burgers looked pretty good. Bigger than I thought. The server placed a basket of freebie goodness in front of us and it was then that I had to ask if I could take pictures of them.

"Yeah, sure," she said super casually. The manager guy then returned to our table, patted me on the back and said go ahead and take some pictures. I fumbled for my phone, opened the camera mode and took a picture. The first one I got was so dark you couldn't even make out an outline. Rats, I thought. This is a total bust. They'll never let me take flash photography here, even with all the flashing (of lights) going on all around us.

"No, go ahead and turn on the flash," manager said. "You need to get your picture."

So I did. And glory be, these are what the free burgers look like at the strip club:

Ladies and strip club burgers!

Not too bad right? They were quarter pound burgs with onions, pickles, tomatoes and cheese. Chili and I were dutifully impressed. So we fixed them up to our liking, tucked in and then took a bite.

The result? They were pretty tasty. For reals, the free burgers at the strip club were actually quite good. It wasn't the greatest sandwich I had ever had but considering the location, the fact that they were free, what was going on the stage and all around us, the sensory overload took over and made me go "Mm-mm. This is a tasty burger!"

Here's the thing. Not only were the burgers and fries free but we also got in for free. How did that happen you might ask? Well, in the back of the Tucson Weekly, there is an ad for the establishment and with it a coupon that reads "Free Admission With This Ad". Chili and I both had those lil pieces of paper in our pockets and before we even entered the club, we presented the door guy with them and after the frisking and metal detecting, we got into the club for free.

Free admission. Free burgers and fries. At a strip club.

Why is not every dude aware of this! I'm telling you, if you are over 21, have means to get out to Golf Links and Wilmot on a Friday afternoon, have enough cash for a drink or two, cut out that coupon from the will get into a strip club for free and be fed free burgers and fries. God bless the frikkin' USA.

With that said, at first I wasn't going to reveal where we went because I thought I would be bashing the food, place and the, uh, "entertainment", but after our awesome experience I am proud to say that Raiders Reef (aka the boat that don't float) was a lot of fun.

A good time was had by all. Well, at least Chili and Metal Mark...

After we finished the burgers and another round, we had realized that we were there for over 3 hours. How did that happen? With no lights, no clocks and, well, "things" going on all around, we got distracted, quite easily, and had to pack it in. Chili had some family get away to attend to and I was going to go to Raiders Reef "sister" club, Curves, to get another free burger to round out this assignment.

The thing was...I was full! I'm not kidding. Those burgers and fries filled me up. Holy moley, I was impressed. So after dropping me off at the bar, I got in my car, drove home and took a post free burger and fries at a strip club nap. I'm pretty sure I dreamt of an endless meat and glitter buffet only to wake up and inform my wife She-Ra that I was okay and had made it out alive.

Something almost persuaded me to go back to the club, knowing there was more free food to consume, more "entertainment", all in a cool dark time vortex where I could just while away the hot after noon in the Sonoran desert.

Instead I hung out with the cat, watched "The Muppet Movie", all the while feeling glad I didn't freak out with a belly full of free meat and potatoes.

All was right with the world...

                                       Raiders Reef: 6475 E. Golf Links Rd, Tucson, AZ

Camera and Typing
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Mid July, 2015

Metal Influence
Melvins, "Honey Bucket"

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Tucson Homeskillet presents: The Worst Burrito in Tucson!

Now this particular idea came to me one day while I was at work. It was slow, kind of quiet, and for some reason George Carlin kept running through my mind. I kept hearing in the recess beyond the rusty hamster wheel that is my brain, the comedic legend going on with:

"Somewhere out there is the worst doctor. Has to be. Process of elimination. And the worst part that someone has an appointment to see him tomorrow!"

That notion alone got me to thinking: there has got to be the worst burrito in Tucson. Has to be. Process of elimination. 

And the worst part is...someone is buying one right now!

Why the worst burrito? I don't know. Because it takes a lot to really mess up a burrito. Plus I like burritos so...I got that going for me. 

Immediately I logged onto YELP and started snooping around. All I did was type in "worst burrito", made sure I was in the Tucson, AZ field and hit send. It did not take long to garner a decent list but one particular establishment kept coming up. 

With a consistent rating of one stars, this place had Yelpers saying:

 "I threw away my burrito after the first bite afraid for my health. This place needs to seriously consider their food. GROSS."

"Too bad I can't do 'NO stars!  No stars.....service was clueless, burrito was awful."

"The food quality was subpar. One of my containers had a live ant. Surprise health inspection recommended."

 "Seems they are using left over scraps to fill burritos, avoid this place and save your $."

"It's open on Christmas. This must have been some sort of revenge for not visiting family."

And this goes on and on. So then I got to wondering: Maybe I should go to this place, order one or some of these burritos, eat them and then chronicle my journey with what most folks online are chatting up as "the worst burrito in Tucson". 

After double checking with some other review sites, I was convinced. This one location did, indeed, as proclaimed by the general burrito eating public of Tucson, AZ, apparently harbor the worst rated burrito in town. 

As a food writer, sometimes risk taker and all around complete idiot, I put it upon myself to seek out the foulest of the foul and let you know how it really went down. 

Ready? Ok...

Here's the thing, we ( at the Tucson Homeskillet like to have fun and doing a piece such as this is, in my eyes, goofy fun. But seeing as I am still in the early stages of getting my website and point of view out there, and also being a fairly nice guy, I will not give out the real name of the "restaurant". I mean, people do work there, I don't want to come across as too much of a butthead and in the end it just seems like a low blow to just make fun of a place while pointing a finger, giggling. It's not our/my style. I hope you understand. 

So, after saying that, if you really want to know the name of the restaurant, literally just Google "worst burrito in Tucson", or visit Yelp or Zomato and see for yourself. 

Okay. It was a bright, sunny, rather breezy and warm day in Tucson, when I got in the car and drove a good path out of the way to obtain this hated tortilla roll of meat slop and regret. Like a few miles. Man, this burrito better suck major ass or I'm going to get peeved. Finally, I arrived at my destitute destination, the corner of River and La Cholla (another clue) parked the rig and got out. 

You have arrived at your burrito. And may the Mexican food gods have mercy on your stomach...
The area itself was subpar; sort of desolate and acrid and the restaurant was in a broke down strip mall, sandwiched between a low end "vaping" smoke shop and this abandoned bit of furniture.

Seems cozy. And....appropriate.
To be honest I almost considered eating the burrito on that sofa but my better instincts told me that one bodily abuse would suffice for the day. Having to return home with whatever nits and creepys evolved deep in those neo-Southwestern cushions would not make the wife, cat and, well, myself very comfortable for the next few days. So I cleared that idea and went inside.

At 1pm on a Wednesday, what is typically the lunch rush, this is what I was hit with:

(insert wind noise and tumbleweeds)
Nothing. The place was empty. That, dear readers, is always a clue as to what I am about to be privy to. If there is no one here, let for a scant of employees, I suppose the reviews have caught up with them and their reputation is now clearly visible. In a town where you can get a good, if not great, if not outstanding, burrito at all hours why would you waste your hard earned dollars and eat time with something that might give you the sobs of remorse? It's just not worth it, especially here in Tucson. But, still, I had an assignment to fulfill so I bellied up to the counter and placed my order.

Since I was here, I had made the effort, the drive and had a few bucks in my pocket, I decided to be more impartial and order two burritos. Hey man, maybe the guys on the internet have just been eating one particular burrito, the one that sucks donky shafts, with the rest being of edible estate.

I ordered the "California burrito", which promises carne asada, potatoes and pico de gallo. Sounded okay, and seeing that I hail from the golden state I was curious as to why there was no avocado or guacamole on it. Potatoes? Shouldn't that be the Idaho burrito? Whatever. I also ordered the chicken burrito because, for reals, if you screw up a chicken burrito in Tucson there is little to no reason why your eating establishment should even be standing.

After a few minutes, my order was ready and I headed out to sample the wares.

My first impression before eating the food? The service was actually pretty decent. The girl at the counter was friendly and the food arrived rather swiftly. Plus it didn't smell too horrible as I made the lengthy drive home. In fact, I was starting to get really hungry.

Shotgun burritos....
When I got home, first order of business was to see what our cat, Lil Poundcake, thought about the burritos. You know, the cat's keen instinct and sense of smell and all. All she did was lazily look at the paper wrapped meat tubes as if I had just shoved two rolls of fart under her nose. Maybe it was just the post nap sleepy state she was in, but our girl wasn't having it...

Lil Poundcake is already unimpressed...
So I took the two burritos to the kitchen, assessed the pre-damage, and then went for it.

So far, so....good?
The first burrito I decided to sample was the California. Taking a chef knife I split it open to see what I was going to be working with. And this is what I got:

So when did California become associated with potatoes?
Yeah. Potatoes. Lots and lots of potatoes. With a scrim of carne asada. And...where's the pico? I don't see no stinking pico. I want my pico! C'mon man. It really didn't matter too much at that moment because I was quite ravenous. If the burrito was filled with those ants that one dude on Yelp proclaimed were, I'd still tuck in.

Then, the moment of truth: I took a bite and closed my eyes to see if the terror was as vibrant as I anticipated it would be.

And the answer is...not really. Yeah, it was a lot of potato with each bite ratio, nearly nil of carne asada and, as expected, there was no pico de gallo to be found, but it wasn't that bad. Was it because I had only had half a bagel for breakfast and that was, like, hours ago, that I was hungry enough to enjoy even the foulest of the foul? Or was this burrito actually, in a sense, edible? It was both I think. After another bite and my hunger subsided I began to really think deep about this supposed worst burrito in Tucson.

So I took the burrito into the one room where I knew I could dissertate with objectivity and equity.

The bathroom.

Sitting on the toilet. Sitting on the toilet. And...shoulda flushed it.
It was here that I realized that the California burrito was all filler. And it didn't deliver on it's promise of "pico de gallo". Using potato is a cheat in the food biz because the starchy root is cheap and can easily absorb the flavors of its surrounding components. The potatoes were actually rather toothsome; not exactly crunchy but not exactly cooked all the way through. The loose salsa they provided in plastic ramekins wasn't too shabby to my surprise. In fact, the red sauce had a bit of a kick to it. Luckily that aided in my drab disappointment of the burrito as it wasn't the worst burrito I ever had nor was it the best. Far from the best come to think of it. Trust me, I have had some gnarly burritos in my day. Hoo doggies. This particular burrito might go over well in a state that thinks mega chain taco fast food is in fact "Mexican" food, but here in the old Pueblo it was a lame side show in the great carnival of flavors to be had with burritos.

I wanted HORRIBLE! I got...adequate. Oh well.

"Yeah. No." - Lil Poundcake
So I prayed to the aformentioned Mexican food gods to give me strength, give me hope, give me...well. Either give me a surprisingly good burrito from a location everyone has deemed a shopping cart filled with mournful cheese or give me something so repugnant that all I have to do after is roll down the hill to the sadness buffet where I will happily ingest grout, a McRib and an old terrycloth robe from that creepy neighbor of yours.

I just want burrito extremes here!

God. If you're listenin'...HELP!
Instead, I called upon this god to give me strength to carry on.

Gonna need all the help I can get...
Next up: the chicken burrito.

Alright. Upon first inspection it just looked like big hunks of chicken rolled up in a tortilla. Because, in fact....that's what it was! No if's, and's or but's. Chicken. Tortilla. Got it. Done.

The first bite of the chicken burrito made me oh so happy. Why you may ask?

Because it sucked! Oh man. This flavorless piece of turd poultry was so bland and dry that I had to result to alternative measures to make it somewhat palpable.

The chicken was so stale that maybe adding some water to it might bring it back to some form of moisture. But,alas, it just made the barren heap of protein damp. Crap!

This might help...
It was still too dry. So then I tried adding some moisturizer to it. All that did was act as a weird sour cream, with an emphasis on the sour. And possibly life threatening. It didn't matter. I had finally found what I had been digging for, the cursed beast of the Tucson burrito wasteland.

It was the chicken burrito! THE WORST BURRITO IN TUCSON!

Damn you piece of crap chicken burrito. Damn you!
Stumped but not defeated, I attempted to add a bunch of ingredients to spruce up the gobbled terror of non-awesome. Nothing. Just a heck spread of mutated flavors and textures that did nothing to aid in my gleeful animosity. I mean, Nutella and bacon bits? How can that not work?

The worst burrito vortex is nothing to be contended with...

Still didn't help...
Then I got Mr. T involved. Perhaps he could gut punch it enough to make it somewhat feasible. It just made the T man more pissed off because it actually fought back. And here I thought my man didn't take no jibba jabba from no punk ass burrito.

We were wrong. We were oh....oh so wrong.

I pity the burrito that sucks wet drippy camel balls...

Slightly defeated, I left the chicken burrito out to pasture hoping the summertime wildlife would take it back to its den, nurse it to health and eventually call it one of their own.

All I got was a squirrel who gave me a small clawed thunderfinger after sniffing it a bit.

Really my furry woodland friend? I thought we were bros, bro. Not even in my desperate hour of need did those bushy tailed jackanapes come to my rescue. Fine then. Be that way. You're off my Xmas card list squirrel! See if I care!

Even the squirrels took pity on me...
Feeling sneaky, I then tried to mail it back but all the postman said was: "Not this time Metal Mark! Not this rancid piece of Satan taint. Now you go back home and think about what you were just about to do."

Man. Unprecedented heaviness from my local usually merry mail carrier in the late afternoon.

The postman always rings 'screw you!'
Forget that. The only humane effort on my part then was to burn the thing. My taste buds have already endured enough. My stomach was churning with indignation. My senses were failing as were my bowels (only slightly) so I poured fuel on the poor sumbitch and torched it. Sent it back to Hell where it belonged. Bye wack ass burrito.

Burn! Burn foul demon of flavorless Hell!
In the end, I was sad to see the thing go. I had, indeed, found and (mostly) eaten the worst burrito in Tucson. It was a steady pilgrimage to Flavorless town but my mind and body could not endure any more torment.

In my final moments parting with the burrito, I could faintly hear the ghostly call from beyond...

"I will return... I will return..."

And, it did. About an hour later.

I was, at last, relieved of The Worst Burrito in Tucson.

Typing and Camera
Metal Mark
Early July, 2015

Metal Inspiration
Carcass "Symphonies of Sickness"