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and outposts of popular restaurants. More than any other reason for visiting Sin City, I wanted to visit notable eateries that I had yet to appreciate.
This particular blog entry, however, is not about Las Vegas: it's about getting there. (Don't worry for those of you actually reading this blog, I will post reviews in the immediate future regarding the restaurants I visited in Las Vegas.) I've traveled the I-15 to Las Vegas many times in my life. Like most people, I've stuck to the well-worn path: I've never bothered to explore places off the highway. I consider myself an adventurous person, so I thought this lack of experience needed correction. Therefore, when I went to Las Vegas this time with "P", I stopped by several culinarily significant landmarks that I learned about after conducting some internet research.
Our first stop was the World's Oldest Operating Del Taco in Barstow, a desert crossroads midway between L.A. and Las Vegas. To get there we had to leave the interstate and find the central business district which was closer to the old railroad depot.
The World's Oldest Operating Del Taco occupies the northeast corner at First Avenue and Hutchison Street. As you can see in the photo above, the paint looked fresh and the sign was without defect; in other words, the restaurant was well-kept. Inside, the dining area was kept in fair condition and, unlike other Del Tacos, there were baskets of hot sauce at the tables.
At the World's Oldest Operating Del Taco, the menu is pretty much the same as all of the other restaurants except for one item that I noticed after some examination: the "Barstow Taco" (photo below). I got the Barstow Taco with a combo that included a beef burrito, French fries, and a fountain drink. (I think it was a #9, around 8 USD.)
How did it taste? Pretty much like it looks. The Barstow Taco was similar to the kind of taco my grade school cafeteria used to serve, except that there was a lavish amount of ground beef in the taco shell. The ground beef was the standard Del Taco variety, so really, there was nothing special about the taco. In addition to the Barstow Taco, I also noticed that there was a tostada only offered at Barstow locations of Del Taco (there are two more locations).
I couldn't believe it when "P" told me that he had never, ever patronized Del Taco in his entire life, even though he grew up and lived in SoCal for the majority of his time on Planet Earth. If I remember correctly, he got a #8: Del Classic Chicken Burrito with drink and fries. I think his reaction was favorable enough.
For the most part, "P" and I enjoyed our lunch. We wanted to move on so we didn't linger too long at Del Taco.
Our second stop was about a half-mile down the road from the World's Oldest Operating Del Taco: the Casa del Desierto Harvey House. The Casa del Desierto Harvey House was part of a chain of railroad oases founded by Fred Harvey, an entrepreneurial restaurateur of the late nineteenth century. In fact, Harvey House is considered to be the first restaurant chain in the United States! (Read more about the Fred Harvey Company here.) Trains would stop at convenient points all over the country, passengers would disembark, and those same passengers would file into Harvey Houses for meals and refreshments. It was a significant part of popular culture. One example: Waitresses working for the Fred Harvey Company were popularly known as "Harvey Girls" and Judy Garland starred in a movie about them. The Casa del Desierto was designed by Mary Colter, the same architect who drew up the plans for several renowned structures at the Grand Canyon.
Apart from the distinctive architecture, I couldn't find any trace of the restaurant at the Casa del Desierto. I peeked through the windows and I saw either unrelated equipment or grand empty spaces. There was only the historical marker in the photo above to tell the story of Harvey House.
Leaving Barstow and heading east along the I-15 brought "P" and I to our next destination: the location of the World's First Del Taco. Although the oldest Del Taco is in Barstow, Del Taco actually began serving customers about thirteen miles east of Barstow, in the unincorporated town of Yermo.
(I'm pointing my index finger toward the sky to indicate that this roadside shack is the location of the first Del Taco.)
Today, all that remains of the original Del Taco is the building and a sign denoting it as the "1st" Del Taco. The current occupant of the building is a business called Tita's Burger Den. I later found out on Yelp! that the food is actually highly rated (a solid four stars), but while I was at the Burger Den, I declined to approach it and place an order because the Burger Den seemed to be a crummy kind of place. I know it's a cliche but don't judge a book by its cover!
The next stop wasn't related to food but "P" and I had to see the World's Tallest Thermometer in Baker, CA. (Well, actually, I had to see it more than "P" did, tee hee.)
(Kinda looks like I'm holding the Thermometer in the palm of my hand, doesn't it? It also looks like someone jammed a flagpole into my head, causing me to wince in pain!)
Pretty tall. The Thermometer was kind of neat but it would've been even better if had been working! And it still wasn't working properly when "P" and I passed by on our way home. (Ahem, Baker Chamber of Commerce!) I think there used to be one of those rip-off souvenir stores in the building at the base of the Thermometer but it was long gone by our arrival.
Once "P" got several shots of me with the Thermometer, we proceeded down Baker Boulevard to Alien Fresh Jerky. Alien Fresh Jerky takes advantage of people's fascination with extraterrestrial life to sell its brand of jerky, Super Mario energy drinks, scorpion lollypops, and mints in an OG Nintendo game controller modeled case, among other gewgaws. Two smallish strips of jerky cost 8 USD so "P" and I didn't buy any: we just used Alien Fresh's restroom. Here's Ddong in your eye, Alien Fresh! (Ask me what Ddong is!)
So that's it for the "Roadtrip to Las Vegas". I think "P" and I had a better journey than if we had simply tried to cross the desert in record time. And there were plenty more sights that we missed like Zzyzx - the last place name in the English language - The Mad Greek, and Emma Jean's Holland Burger in Victorville. That just leaves us something to look forward to the next time we drive the I-15 to Las Vegas!
Last Word: The road less traveled is always the one that is more rewarding. FYI, the next write-up I do will be a review of The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas :)
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