Without a doubt, for the first time in my quarter-century career at The World, covering sports was not even close to the most mentioned topic when I was visiting with community members.
I had no idea when Cuisine Editor Ron Jackimowicz asked me one Monday morning if I wanted to do lunch at Warehouse 101 in The Mill Casino-Hotel what we were getting into. What started as an innocent plate of wings turned into a monster.
Probably the question I was asked most often in 2017: “How do you stay so thin when you are eating with Ron every week?”
My patent answer: “I used to run because I love running. Now I run so I can have lunch with Ron.”
And as Ron has previously discussed, by the end of lunch I often was debating how much longer I had to make my Monday run to compensate for that day’s lunch treat.
It’s been fun, for sure. And I’ve gained a new appreciation for how many good eateries we have — especially since we ignored all the stops Ron featured in his 2016 series on Highway 101 dining.
Aside from the food carts we visited at the Coos Bay Farmers Market during the summer, more than 25 weeks we dined at places I had either never been to, never eaten lunch at or not dined in since at least my school days.
I took the series as an opportunity to open my horizons in some ways by trying new things.
There were the burger with pineapple at Spruce Street Grill in Myrtle Point and the pizza with Italian salad dressing in Reedsport (both worked well).
I don’t normally lean toward fish tacos, but Tony’s Crab Shack in Bandon did them quite well.
I had a chance to try a bunch of different styles of slaw, the most interesting probably the version at Miller’s at the Cove with a hint of jalapeno for heat.
One of the other repetitive themes in our lunches became measuring the quality of lunch by the number of napkins I needed to finish the meal. Another was how I often started my meal picking at the fries while trying to figure out just how to attack the main course.
The ribs at The Coach House and my burgers at Yeong’s, Vinny’s and Shake 'N Burger immediately come to mind.
The year featured a lot of burgers, probably because they are my go-to lunch in some form or other. Some were sloppier than others. Some were absurdly huge. All were good, though Shake 'N Burger and Yeong’s will probably always top my list.
But there was so much else to like.
I loved the vegetable-heavy entrees we had at Thai Gourmet and Tai’s Dynasty. I was pleasantly surprised by the Japanese food at Tokyo Bistro, which was a new restaurant for both of us.
And we hit a number of different Hispanic restaurants, all of which were good.
Among the other highlights of the year were the fish and chips at The Boat, the deli sandwich at the Bungalow Market and the monstrous meatballs that came with the spaghetti at Little Italy.
Ron and I have more places we still want to visit, especially in some of the communities outside the Bay Area and I plan to try some different things and some different takes on familiar things.
And I will continue to run because I love running. But if I’m more than 7 or 8 miles into a run, blame Ron.