Cindy’s Diner in Fort Wayne is the classic diner experience. Photo: MadFriars.

Let’s suppose you are not David Jay where looking for a place to eat requires no more effort than opening the locator on your Arby’s app and soon you will be happily enjoying your Jamocha shake.

To put it diplomatically, some of us like a little more variety.

Since this was a popular feature on our Twitter feed during the season the following places are some of the better places to eat up and down the system.

Triple-A      El Paso Chihuahuas:  The L&J Cafe 

El Paso has some of the best Mexican food in the country, and the L&J Cafe might be the best Mexican restaurant – note it is not Tex-Mex – in the city.  Their website states that they are one of the oldest family-owned restaurants in the city.  Two things anyone must try in El Paso is the chile con queso dip and anything with the green chile sauce.

Recommendations:  Green enchiladas, Chile Con Queso Dip, and Tres Leches Cake.  For breakfast try the chilaquiles or the huevos rancheros. 

The green chile enchiladas are not to be missed. Photo: MadFriars

Runners-Up:  You really can’t go wrong with Mexican food here, the locals swear by Kiki’s and Avila’s.  If you want something different go to Cattleman’s Steakhouse.  It’s a bit of a drive but is also an old movie set that is part dude ranch, petting zoo along with being a great place to get an authentic Texas steak experience.

 

 

Double-A:    San Antonio Missions:  Two Brothers Barbeque

With the Missions moving up to Triple-A we will miss visiting San Antonio for the first time since 2007.  While El Paso has the best Mexican food in the system, and maybe in Texas, barbeque in San Antonio is nearly impossible to beat.

Seriously, I love San Diego but barbeque in Texas airports is better than anything in California.  Lockhart, the capital of Texas barbeque which features nationally known restaurants such as Kreuz MarketBlack’s Barbeque and Smitty’s Market, along with my favorite Luling City Market is to the northeast of the city and well worth the drive but in San Antonio, Two Brother Barbeque Market can compare with any of them.

Don’t leave without trying one of the fried pies. Photo: MadFriars

Recommendations: It is traditional Texas barbeque, which means asking for sauce is a great way to piss off everyone who works there.  Then again, you don’t need it.  Get the brisket, with the incredibly unhealthy white bread on the side, a couple Texas-German sausages along with cheese and pickles and prepare to roll out of there; but not before you eat one or two of the fried pies.

Don’t worry it’s worth it.

Runners-Up: I’m not a fan of Tex-Mex and avoiding it in San Antonio is difficult.  An institution in the Alamo City is Mi Tierra Cafe, a Mexican, and bakery that is open 24 hours with a huge menu that will put out quality food at any time.  

I tend to stay away from the River Walk, but there is a good German deli in downtown, Schilos which has been around since 1917.  Texas had a significant German settlement in the early part of its history. particularly in the San Antonio and Hill Country region.  Get the Schnitzel and don’t miss the classic warm German potato salad.

High-A        Lake Elsinore Storm            Annie’s Cafe 

Annie’s is a breakfast and lunch place so most of us when we are driving north on the I-15 to the see the Storm game are going to miss it since it closes at three.  But if you are in the city beforehand it is a great place owned and run by a pair of British expats.  Everything is made to order and fresh.  

Annie’s is an oasis for healthy options such as their Chinese Chicken Salad. Photo: MadFriars.

Recommendations: For breakfast try the English breakfast, omelets or any of the pastries particularly the cinnamon rolls.  You can go back to attempting to eat healthy at lunch – a difficult thing to do at all of these restaurants – with one of their great salads, or say screw it and get the fish ’n chips.  Make sure you save room for pie – the Mixed Berry was outstanding.

Runners-Up:  There are some good taco shops and an In-N-Out Burger right by the freeway entrance.  As a native San Diegan who now lives on the east coast and frequently hears that Five Guys is the In-N-Out of the east coast, let me be of some help on this subject. Comparing the two is like saying that Fernando Tatis, Jr. and Jose Rondon both played shortstop for the San Antonio Missions; both of which are true, just one is a lot better.

Low-A            For Wayne TinCaps            Cindy’s Diner

When you think of what diner’s have looked like in popular culture, Cindy’s is it. A counter-only restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch with a big side of attitude.  Great prices and great food go hand and hand here.  

Recommendations: Go for the iconic garbage – a blend of eggs, potatoes, cheese, onions, and ham – eat that and you are good until dinner.  Also get the corned beef hash or biscuits and gravy.  If you totally want to blow your diet, top it off with a donut and coffee.

Runners-Up: Two restaurants that should not be missed is Fort Wayne’s Famous Coney Island Weiner Stand, where they have midwestern style hot dogs that are steamed with chili on top with a touch of cinnamon.  The burgers, pies and old-time cokes are also worth trying and as TinCaps’ broadcaster, Mike Maahs notes if you spend more than $10 there you really shouldn’t be eating that much.

Powers Hamburgers is one of the system’s best late night options. Photo: MadFriars.

White Castle burgers are famous throughout this region but going to the actual chain is a major disappointment.  Instead, go to Powers Hamburgers – ok, on the advice of cardiologists everywhere go there maybe once a month – and get a sack of small steamed cheeseburgers with fresh onions that are outstanding.

Short-Season        Tri-City Dust Devils            Country Mercantile

Country Mercantile a massive store that offers an amazing array of candy, particularly chocolate, along with a great selection of gourmet sandwiches. Its another place that is a bit of a drive out of town, but worth it.

Recommendations: The meatball sub was outstanding, but the tamales – chicken, beef, or pork should not be missed.  All diets will be destroyed with the amazing variety of chocolates that are offered. Also, a great place to get a salad and they make their own bread.  

County Mercantile’s Tamale plate. Photo: MadFriars.

Runner-Up:  A very close second was Porter’s Real Barbeque, which can favorably compare to Texas.  Get the Burnt Ends or the Jonny Sandwich, pulled pork and homemade smoked bacon, gouda Mac’N Cheese and banana pudding – always a good indicator of a quality barbeque place.   

Spring Training    Peoria, Arizona

There is an In-N-Out and then chain restaurant hell.  It’s a great place to maintain your diet, you won’t be missing anything.

The Padres will move their Double-A team to Amarillo, Texas next year.  A quick trip on the internet indicates that the city is known for its chicken-fried steak, great barbequetacos, and northern Italian cuisine.  We will be there for the baseball and to let you know if the restaurants live up to their reviews.

…and no, I will not be visiting any Arby’s in the future.

 

 

Posted by John Conniff

John grew up in Poway and has written for MadFriars since 2004. He has written articles for Baseball America, FoxSports San Diego, the El Paso Times, San Antonio Express-News, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette and Pacific Daily News in addition to appearing on numerous radio programs and podcasts. He can also break down the best places to eat for all five of the affiliates. There is no best place to eat in Peoria, Arizona.

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