When it comes to eating out, the Americans really know what's up. Whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks or coffee, they've got it covered from the free refills (a rarity back in Ireland) to the comparatively low prices, to the super-efficient takeout/drive-thru services. Since I arrived at our new apartment, I have been cooking my own dinners but mostly eating lunch out. I've discovered a couple of new places on this trip, and though I lived out here for a few years and have been back about ten times since, there are new places constantly popping up for me to try out. I have a penchant for photographing my food, so I decided to show you guys what I've been eating, using pictorial documentation (for anyone who is interested in seeing more of my culinary adventures, feel free to follow me on Instagram where I document most of my particularly aesthetically pleasing meals, my username is @lauramorley). (I'm going to rate these restaurants like they do on Yelp! with $ meaning inexpensive, $$ meaning mid-priced and $$$ meaning expensive.)
Chipotle Mexican Grill ($)
Amazing, delicious, fresh, healthy Mexican food at affordable prices is exactly what I'm usually looking for when lunch time is nearing in California. I guess Chipotle must be a pretty new chain because I love Mexican food, yet I have never been there before this summer. I've been there five or six times over the past fortnight, and have ordered the same thing every time: barbacoa burrito bowl. This is basically a burrito without the tortilla part, which suits me perfectly because I usually scavenge the filling out of my burritos and leave the wrap part behind anyway. The bowl comes with a pile of white or brown rice, your choice of black or pinto beans, meat, salsa, sour cream and a mound of cheese.
Panera Bread Company ($$)
As far as I know, Panera has been around for a while, I had just never been there before. Last week, on a visit to see some old friends, we popped into Panera for lunch. Panera serves soup, sandwiches and salads, or you can get a lunch deal with which you can choose two of the above. I chose the half salad/half sandwich combo and it was so delicious I don't think that I can verbally do it justice. The sandwich half of my lunch was chicken caesar, which was juicy chicken breast, asiago cheese, tomato, lettuce, red onion (I removed this) and Caesar dressing on cheesy bread. For the salad part, I decided on the strawberry poppyseed and chicken salad, and I'm just going to put it out there: it was the best salad I've ever had. It was a chicken and lettuce tossed in poppyseed dressing, but what made it really unusual was the fact that it was tossed with fresh strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, mandarin oranges and pecans. All this was served with a chunk of sourdough baguette, so needless to say I left feeling absolutely stuffed.
In 'N' Out Burger ($)
In 'N' Out Burger is probably my favourite fast food chain in California. Located only on the west coast (in fact, it's almost an institution over here!), eating an In 'N' Out Burger meal literally feels like you're eating the food out of the Frosty Palace in Grease. The burgers come wrapped in paper and the fries come in a little cardboard bucket. Though it may not be the healthiest lunch choice, In 'N' Out burger is a must every once in a while, as it really is an experience. My food here is shown in the box they give you if you want to eat your food in the car (even though I didn't). In 'N' Out really keep it simple, offering only a few options when it comes to their burgers, fries and shakes, and this, in my opinion, is the secret to their long-lived success.
Frozen yogurt is a huge trend over here in the U.S., but has yet to hit Ireland in a big way. Though we do have one or two yogurt places back home (I'd recommend Yogism in George's Street Arcade if you're looking for a good one!) it's nowhere near as popular as it is over here. There are yogurt places everywhere in California, on every street corner, in every food court. Personally, I prefer frozen yogurt to ice cream. Though it is less indulgent, it's healthier, smoother and in my opinion, tastier. The yogurt place near my apartment in Berkeley is called Yogurtland, and needless to say, I've been going there nearly everyday. It's also really inexpensive, the giant cup of yogurt pictured below only cost me about $4. This picture is a perfect example of what I usually get: passion fruit and dragon fruit yogurt, topped with fresh strawberries, kiwi, mango, pineapple and coconut flakes.
Snacks from Trader Joes ($)
Trader Joes is an amazing supermarket. A little bit like the old Marks & Spencer before they sold outside brands, Trader Joes only sells its own name brand. This supermarket is packed full of organic, free-range and fresh produce, as well as healthy snacks, juices and great dried fruit. I've been snacking almost exclusively from Trader Joes since I got here, mostly because I can do so (almost) guilt free. Below are a couple of my favourite snack choices. (From left to right, back to front: peach pops, lime fruit floes, snapea crisps, peanut butter filled pretzels, pita bread, white and yellow nectarines, mixed berry applesauce and dried mango).