Tony's Cable Car Restaurant.....after all this time
Welcome to let's eat crappy week! Seemed like a great follow-up to comfort food week as one just seems to spiral into the next when you are drowning yourself in emotional eating. Such fun! I'm kicking it off with Tony's Cable Car Restaurant, a place I have walked or 38 Geary bussed by seemingly thousands of times and in each instance I always seem to say to myself, I should really try them sometime. And voila, that time is now.
This place has been here as long as I can remember or at least as long as I've lived in this city. It is kind of a stalwart in town. It is just a tiny little spit of a place with lots of red and yellow laminate and a vibe that truly says "I'm a local greasy spoon." It is really a combo of diner meets hot dog stand as it serves up burgers, fries, shakes, fish and chips and all other manners of grilled and deep fried stuff. Kind of ironic considering this place is right next to Kaiser's main hospital and on my visit there I saw a number of people in blue scrubs saunter in for some take out orders. I mean, you can't eat healthy all the time. Well, you can, but BORING!!
The first thing that greets you is the giant peg board type menu hanging on the wall listing every single thing they have. They also have a number of pictures up on the wall of the food, though a fair number of them are sun faded and don't necessarily make the food look more appealing. I really wanted to tell them they should take new ones with a little better food styling. But that is part of the charm of the place? Took me a minute of two to scan them all and make a decision of what to get. One note if you go, don't stand in front of the order window until you are ready otherwise you might get a few side eyes from the order taker and others behind you. Lesson learned. (FYI--the pricing on the menu includes tax, thus the odd numbers they seem to have)
While I was looking at the menu I was also thinking how I could make this an affordable bite with a combo of sandwich and side. Their prices are less than a number of other spots, though I will say burgers can run up to $8 depending on what you want on it. (cheese, bacon, mushrooms, etc.--that type of thing) Just to be different I decided to do the chili cheese dog with onion rings.
An all beef hot dog covered in cheese, onion and bean and meat chili served on a soft roll. It is a quite large dog and they actually put the cheese under the hot chili to melt it so double props for both. It was a bean specific chili with odd little squares of meat mixed in. I'm guessing it was bits of square chopped burgers or something they mixed in? It wasn't bad, though I'm more of a no beans chili on hot dog person and I did sort of pick them off, though I did it with a plastic knife and fork as this is a super messy dog and there is no way to eat this cleanly with your hands. Plus, they only give you a few napkins when you get your food which are not even close to being enough to hand eat this.
Of course, even with that, this is still pretty much all you want in a chili cheese dog. A juicy beef dog, plenty of cheese and chili and soft hot dog bun soaking up all the grease in the chili. Not only filling, but it hits all the taste flavors you want when you are craving this kind of food. I added a little ketchup and mustard but it is wet enough and not needed unless you really want a little condiment action. For $5 it works pretty well.
But what is a hot dog without a greasy deep fried side to go with and instead of fries, onion rings seemed a fun option.
I have this love hate relationship with onion rings. I love them as a side, yet they are oddly pricey, you don't seem to get many for that price and you never know if the ones you are getting truly are made in house with real onions or the frozen kind with the weird sort of ground onion bits inside. Even when you ask servers which they are they always say, "oh yeah, they are fresh ones." What does that mean?
In Tony's case, seems they are a mix of both. Their menu says they are natural, which means inside the breading is a real circle of onion, but I can tell by the breading these are frozen and not hand dipped things. They are thick and crunchy with a big chunk of onion inside. Though still not exactly like getting a beer battered hand dipped one. And for about $4 I got eight of them. They were okay enough and as a side for the hot dog, do kind of round out the whole fast-ish food aspect of the meal. And of course my let's not worry about eating healthy this week thingy.
Tony's really is exactly what you think it is and the food matches it up and down. Is that a good thing? Kind of depends on what you are looking for in a quick meal. The food is sort of greasy spoon fast food, but in a good way when you want something quick, mostly affordable and filling. It kind of satisfies your craving for old school food. No bells, whistles or gimmicks here. Just cheesy deep fried-ness, because sometimes, it is what you want.