Last week, during a trip to Southern California to visit relatives, my niece took us to her favorite vegan cafe in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Highland Park. I loved the vegan chilaquiles, but my grandson barely touched his vegan mac-and-cheese. (Even at age 2, he must have realized it was not real cheese.)
Later that day, I joined my niece’s husband in a 15-minute drive to Grand Central Market in downtown L.A. to pick up some supper.
After ordering chicken and curry takeout from a Thai food stand, Chris told me we should grab a couple tacos while we waited. Living in California most of my life, I’m always up for tacos, but what he introduced me to was beyond the norm.
A small tortilla was jam-packed with pork of a fabulous tenderness and flavor. Looking up at the chart above the counter, I figured out what we were eating: Pork belly.
Next door to that taco shop was a booth selling German Currywurst sausage. Those were just a few of the dozens of food booths at Grand Central, which has served downtown L.A. since before my father rode the street cars with his mother to buy groceries there in the 1920s and ‘30s.
Selma, of course, is not Los Angeles, for which I am grateful. We tend to judge and compare cities in various ways: Shopping opportunities, housing costs, traffic, freeway access, crime rate, quality of schools, air quality, number of parks, proximity to family, etc. etc.
I always add one more factor: Yum quotient.
How good a restaurant town in Selma? You could get a lot of opinions on that, but our city rose in my estimation when Poke Cubed opened recently in the shopping center at Whitson and Floral, across the parking lot from Save Mart.
I fell in love with poke (po-kay) — cubes of raw fish mixed with other goodies — while in Hawaii a few years ago. Best description is a “sushi salad bowl.”
Then, a couple of poke shops opened in Fresno and Clovis, so I tried out one of them. But north Fresno and Clovis are a bit far-flung for my “grab a lunch” zone. Poke Cubed isn’t, and I plan to become a regular.
So I have added it to my list of favorite places to nosh in Selma. That roster includes G’s, Cho’s, Rodolfo’s and Rosa Linda’s. And I love the takeout barbecue at Grapewood Grill. We buy pizza from Papa Murphy’s and hamburgers from Burger Time in our neighborhood.
No doubt all of you also have a “favorites” list. I know Cattleman’s, Sal’s, Golden Dragon, China Garden, Me & Ed’s and Spike & Rail are popular eateries, and Selma is full of small neighborhood Mexican restaurants. Add an Armenian Bistro, brunch cafe and a steakhouse downtown, an Indian restaurant on Whitson, some sandwich, pizza and burger joints and the national chains and you have plenty of opportunities for your dining pleasure.
Still, I never thought I would find poke in Selma. Poke Cubed is connected to Fresno’s iconic Central Fish Company, which I frequented for years when I worked nearby at the Fresno Bee.
I remember the excitement in Selma a year or so ago when Chipotle’s opened in the new strip mall near Walmart. Poke Cubed didn’t have much fanfare when it opened, but I was super excited.
That’s the thing about eating. Everyone has different tastes. One man’s barbecue is another man’s posole. One person’s greasy burger is another’s green salad.
Of all the things that divide us, food is the thing that unites us. We all love to eat, trying to find that magical balance of taste and nutrition. Our favorite family gatherings revolve around the kitchen and the dining table, right?
Since my wife and I retired, we eat most of our meals at home. As I have become a more versatile cook and a more savvy shopper, my culinary palate has expanded.
Still, old habits are hard to break. We have our favorite breakfasts, our go-to sandwiches and our old standards for supper.
There are several motivations involved in dining out. We are too tired or lazy to cook, we want to have a meal out with family and friends, or we are looking for new tasty experiences.
Dining also is one of the best things about travel. The smells and flavors of a place are every bit as important to the travel experience as its beaches, museums, shops and historical sights.
So I’ll let you all ponder my original question: How do you rate Selma as a restaurant town? It’s an answer as individual as chocolate v. pickles.
And I’ll finish with one more question: Now that I can eat raw salmon or tuna in Selma, where can I find a pork belly taco?