6 Reasons to Not Be a Vegetarian (...In My Opinion)

So I've been noticing that my entries have been starting to focus as much on food as on activities, which isn't really all that surprising.  After all, looking at me and my godlike physique (I'm of course referring to the god Bacchus) one can safely assume I'm more inclined to eating than to other more active activities.  More forkful than snorkel; more hork than hike; more likely to break fast than geocache; more likely to snarf than to do something active that sort of rhymes with "snarf"; that's me.

So, to that end, I'm listing here for my enjoyment (and possibly yours; but let's be honest -- if this blog were for YOUR enjoyment I'd try harder to post here more often) some of the top meals involving meaty goodness that I've had, where I've had them, and other items of interest.  As my Yelp! profile says, I am a carnesseuir, and while I've enjoyed my share of vegetarian meals (Indian dishes coming immediately to mind) I really prefer meals involving something that had parents.  Heirloom tomatoes don't cut it.  Heirloom tomato slices on a big honkin' burger, on the other hand, are acceptable.

#6: AJ Spur's, Buellton, CA
I'll be honest -- this is a decent steakhouse, but it's more about the quantity than the quality here.  I mean, the steaks are pretty darn good, but the beef is elevated as it's propped up substantially by baked beans, a large salad, side dishes larger than DeNiro's resume, huge drinks in gimmick light-up glasses shaped like boots (Ooh -- LEDs!), and an after-dinner aperitif to make the drive home more exciting; all served quickly by friendly staff as you sit beneath enough stuffed animal heads to make PETA riot.

The Solvang area is known for the quaint Danish village and for Andersen's Pea Soup (and -- at least for us -- for the Chumash Indian casino only minutes away), but AJ Spur's is one of the places we visit when we're down this way.  Not quite good enough to make the Top 5, but good enough to be mentioned.

#5: Texas Roadhouse, Union City, CA
Yes, this is a restaurant chain, but don't let that stop you from trying this place out.  Very high quality steaks (Lucie prefers the New York, while I opt for the ribeye) that come in sizes ranging from a petite 12-ounce to Let's-Flip-The-Flintstones'-Car huge, cooked very simply and very well (although in my case, "very well" means "rare"), with two large sides, yeast rolls that are frighteningly addictive especially with the accompanying honey butter, buckets (literally!) of roasted peanuts in the shell, and margaritas that come in glasses the size of shot puts (and almost as dangerous.)

A hint if you go here -- order the sweet potato loaded with brown sugar and toasted marshmallows.  Save it for last and eat it for dessert.

#4: QN4U, Clovis, CA
Okay, I've only been here once, but my brother-in-law swears by this place (and even has a table with his name on it -- a nice brass plaque showing both their appreciation and his obsession nicely.)  The one time I was here, though, I had the "Texas Tommie", a meal that frightened my wife, astonished onlookers, entertained the heck out of me, made angioplasty centers within a hundred and twenty mile radius perk up expectantly, and quite possibly caused a disturbance in the Force.

It's a foot-long hot dog, stuffed with jalapeño peppers and cheddar cheese, wrapped in bacon and deep fried, and smothered with onions, bell peppers, more jalapeños, and spicy brown mustard.  It overflows one's buns in more ways than one, and when paired with the macaroni and cheese is NOT a meal for the health conscious or faint of heart.

I want another one, but I think I'm not allowed to by anyone who knows and loves me.

#3: Samba Brazilian Steakhouse, Las Vegas, NV
I'll be honest -- I don't remember too much specifically about this place, since we last went in 2006, but other Brazilian churrascarias we've visited since then (a nonaffiliated Samba in Fresno and Maceio in San Jose) have been about as good; it's as much about the concept as it is about the specific eatery for this one.  An impressive/daunting assortment of freshly grilled meats is continuously toured throughout the restaurant, and you can pick and choose as you like until you're well past sated and verging on explosively full.  The Samba in Las Vegas had sirloin, roast pork and pineapple, Huli Huli style chicken, monkfish, turkey, sausage and peppers, bacon wrapped chicken, and some pretty darn succulent lamb; the Fresno variant had both garlic chicken and parmesan chicken which were fantastic; Maceio in San Jose countered with bacon-wrapped filet mignon, chipotle spiced short ribs, and awesome grilled pineapple dusted with cinnamon.

Maceio is closest to us; Samba in Vegas was from my memory the tastiest; but so far I haven't had a bad meal at a churrascaria yet.  They're expensive, they're extravagant, and they're only really cost-effective if you overeat in excess; but they're pretty darn groovy chow as well.  And what happens in Vegas, sometimes gets blogged about.

#2: Hot City BBQ, Los Baños, CA
This should be rightly listed as #1 on my list, but Alexander's wins by the obscure You-Can't-Compete-With-Kobe ruling.  In all other categories, though, I'm going with Hot City.

Incredibly friendly staff, tiny hole-in-the-wall atmosphere, a great combination of spicy and sweet in their barbecue sauce, and very nicely cooked meats.  The pulled pork is moist and full of flavor, the chicken tastes just like grilled chicken, the ribs vary from above average to excellent, the French dip sandwiches are excellent (Lucie likes the tri-tip French dip; I prefer the prime rib variant), the hot links are spicy and flavorful without being so hot you can't enjoy the flavor, and the steak is flat-out incredible.

It's a generous cut ribeye, cooked to perfection (for me, a nicely seared Pittsburgh rare) and served still sizzling with a baked potato, surprisingly gourmet salad, and a few pieces of grilled French bread; seasoned very simply with salt and a sprinkle of parsley on top, they allow the meat itself to have all the spotlight, and rightfully so.

Use the bread as a sponge to soak up the leftover meat juices when you're done, use the fat you remove from the steak to flavor the baked potato, and -- I cannot stress this enough -- keep coming back here to eat.  A small hole in the wall restaurant, hidden from the main thoroughfare, without much signage showing the location; this place is a hidden gem that deserves to survive, and prosper, and grow.  And keep providing us with the top-notch beefy awesome we've grown to love.

#1: Alexander's Steakhouse, Cupertino, CA
Still the most expensive meal we've ever had, and still one of the best as well; we haven't gone back since our first visit in June 2007 but still remember this place fondly.  We keep making plans to go back, but for one reason or another the plans have fallen through, and that's a shame.

I mean, the fact that we haven't returned has definitely been kinder on our finances, but sometimes being incredibly overly extravagant is totally worth the months of ramen that follow.