Every year, Independence Day weekend brings out my cravings for the good ol' flavors of America. Smoky, succulent meat, sticky barbeque sauce, fried catfish, Cajun seasonings and an endless flow of Arnold Palmers. Who needs fireworks with a lineup like that?
If you, like me, love big bold flavors in the heat of summer, don't break a sweat looking for the good stuff - I've got you covered with these American comfort food classics.
Pinnacle of pulled pork
At the Whole Hog, sandwiches arrive at your table wrapped up like presents in shiny white butcher paper. But it's not enough to contain the aroma coming from the plump packages, that, when torn into, reveal layers of coarsely chopped meat dripping with juices, crisp fixin's, and just enough sauce to make you bounce in your seat a little.
Rarely do food items taste as good as they look; however these voluptuous sandwiches, from first sight to first raging mouthful, break the mold and should be worshipped accordingly.
It's all about the star of the show - that eight-hour, hickory smoked pork, chopped and sauced to order. You'll never want any of that overly wet, sloppy joe excuse for pulled pork again after one taste at this hog heaven.
Choose from either sticky-sweet Kansas City or zesty yellow mustard Carolina style to complement your half pound pork sandwich. There's a lineup of southerny sides, too, like mac 'n' cheese and collard greens. Besides sandwiches and other meaty presentations, there are also specials on ribs Friday through Sunday. Pro tip: This small-batch business on Park Boulevard at Robinson Avenue is so hot right now, it can temporarily run out of pulled pork; call ahead to avoid heartbreak.
Feast like Cajun kings and queens
In an unsuspecting part of town - namely, on Viewridge Avenue in a Kearny Mesa business park - Bud's Louisiana Café is nonstop busy with clientele who are addicted to its soulful dishes like Cajun jambalaya and crawfish etouffee. It doesn't get any more delicious than shrimp and grits here, with perfectly cooked shellfish in otherworldly tomato-cream gravy infused with tasso ham alongside smooth, cheesy grits. It's over the top wonderful, and wait staff is quick to pick up on eyes rolling back, offering sliced toasted bread, with butter, for sopping up every last drop of the precious ham gravy.
Po boy sandwiches are also a hit here; go for the classic fried catfish, with the mild, flaky fish crusted with cornmeal on a baguette with tartar sauce, lettuce, tomato and pickles. Be sure to save room for a house-made dessert, like the boozy and divine bananas foster crème brulee.
Amy T. Granite is a dauntless eater who has written about food in San Diego since 2006. You can follow Granite and her tasty adventures on Twitter and Instagram @saysgranite. Send your mouth-watering ideas to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.