Ready to embark on a culinary adventure? There is no shortage of inventive, out-of-the-box, and just plain weird food in California and Arizona. Expand your palate with 12 of the most wildly weird (and wildly delicious!) eats in the West.
1. Sonoran Hot Dog
We’ve written about the Sonoran hot dog in our Tucson City Guide, and this list wouldn’t be complete without giving it a mention. Wrapped in bacon, served on a toasted sweet bun, and topped with pinto beans, onion, tomato, salsa, mustard, mayo, and a variety of other condiments, the Sonoran dog puts other regional hot dogs to shame. Aqui Con El Nene, El Guero Canelo, and Nogales are three standouts, but you can find delicious Sonoran hot dogs throughout Southern Arizona.
2. The Squeezeburger
Every mouthwatering third-pounder comes with as much cheese as meat at this burger joint in Sacramento, CA. Squeeze Burger began as a 12-seat hole in the wall where you quite literally have to squeeze in to find a seat and now has three locations in Sactown. So, what exactly is a Squeezeburger? A burger cooked on a flat top griddle topped with a heaping handful of shredded cheese that results in an overflow of crispy, bubbly cheese referred to as the “skirt.” It’s juicy, messy, and packed with flavor—everything you want in a burger.
3. Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream
Jalapeño Corn Bread, Government Cheese, and Salt and Pepper. These are just a few of the unusual flavors on the roster at Humphry Slocombe, a beloved Bay Area ice cream shop. Their signature flavor (and most popular) is Secret Breakfast, a tantalizing combination of bourbon and cornflakes. Don’t worry if you’re more of a chocolate or vanilla type of person—Humphry Slocombe has plenty of creative flavors that are still delicious. Their menu changes monthly, so there is always an opportunity to try something new.
4. Rattlesnake & Rabbit Sausage
Sure, you’ve probably eaten bratwurst, andouille, or chorizo. But what about rattlesnake and rabbit sausage? Wurstküche in Los Angeles specializes in exotic sausage, including a rattlesnake and rabbit option that tastes buttery with a slightly spicy flavor thanks to jalapeño peppers. Don’t worry—the restaurant also offers a variety of traditional and gourmet options.
5. Carne Seca
El Charro Café is the oldest family-run Mexican restaurant in Tucson, and it’s best known for carne seca (“dried meat” in Spanish). This unique air-drying process can only be done in Tucson because of its unique atmosphere. If you think the finished product would taste something like shoe leather, you’re sorely mistaken. After 24 hours, the perfectly tender meat has absorbed the flavors of Southern Arizona, similar to how wine absorbs the terroir. You can enjoy carne seca in many of El Charro’s house specialties, including enchiladas and quesadillas.
6. Deep-Fried Fluffernutter Sandwich
Take a simple peanut butter sandwich. Slather on some marshmallow crème. Add a few slices of fresh banana. Deep fry it. That’s the deep-fried fluffernutter sandwich at Black Market Liquor Bar in Studio City, CA. Who knew this classic combo could taste even more delicious?
7. Kao Piek San
Kao Piek San is a Lao-style pho that is more spicy and sour than Vietnamese pho, and you can try it at Green Papaya. The Lao and Thai street food restaurant has locations in Sacramento and Stockton, CA, and it began as a food truck, which it still operates. Kao piek san is a warm, nourishing dish made with a flavorful chicken broth, thick, homemade rice noodles, and topped with cilantro, green onions, and fried garlic.
8 and 9. Peanut Butter Crunch Burger & Bacon Ice Cream
You wouldn’t know it, but there’s a pretty fantastic gourmet diner hiding in a warehouse district in Bakersfield, CA. Moo Creamery serves up a range of delicious, inventive dishes, including their famous Peanut Butter Crunch Burger: a homemade brioche bun topped with bacon jam, peanut butter, pepper relish, and homemade potato chips. It’s just the right amount of sweet and savory.
And with a name like “Moo Creamery,” you know this spot has to have ice cream. While they’ve mastered classic flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and cookies and cream, Bacon Love is a favorite among regulars. Here, a sweet maple base is the glue that holds a generous crumble of candied bacon together. You’ve got to taste it to believe it!
Menudo is a traditional Mexican soup made with beef tripe, tendons, and hominy, and garnished with onion, cilantro, and lime. It takes hours to prepare and has a gamey flavor even the most adventurous of foodies may find difficult to stomach. If that’s the case, try birria, a spicy stew traditionally made from goat, which is a staple of Mexican cuisine. Try menudo for yourself at Taqueria Pico de Gallo or Maico’s, both in Tucson.
11. Fried Rattlesnake
If you’re in the desert, you’ve got to eat like you’re in the desert. Rustler’s Rooste in Phoenix tempts daring diners with fried rattlesnake served with a side of prickly pear cactus fries and chipotle ranch. It’s said to taste like chicken. Really!
12. Matterhorn Cake
Have a serious sugar craving? You’ll want to try the Matterhorn cake at Sweet Surrender in Bakersfield. OK, it’s more decadent than daring compared the other dishes on this list, but after working your way through tripe and rattlesnake, you deserve a reward. Sweet Surrender’s famous Matterhorn cake has three dense, fudgy layers of chocolate cake generously covered with rich buttercream frosting and chocolate shavings. Your sweet tooth doesn’t stand a chance.
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