California Dreaming: Pictures from my Return Home

After living in Japan for over three years, I finally returned home for a couple weeks in early June. I've been back in the Tokyo area again for two months now, but I've uploaded some of my random photos to share.
 My first stop off the plane: In 'n' Out Burger.
 The Double Double was good. I can get pretty good burgers here, too. But there's something about those fresh french fries that make them second to none! I killed several cravings at once: cheeseburger, french fries, chocolate shake, and root beer.
 Flowers. Pretty.
 Maybe I didn't realize it when I was living in SF, but there are a lot of Japanese restaurants in town. This one is new - it opened after I came to Japan - and pretty close to my house.
 El Toro was my first ethnic food stop. I missed those nachos and fruity aguas frescas!
 I always love the tacos there, but I really wanted some nachos with everything on it. I couldn't finish, but I certainly tried!
 El Toro is located in the Mission District, home to several murals. One particular alley is full of politcal messages.
 Whether or not you agree with the messages each panel has, the artwork is great.
 There is a lot of food in this post, isn't there. Chocolate cream pie was on my list, and my family picked one up somewhere. Just as good as I remember! And I think I had half a dozen Slurpees in the two weeks I was there.
 I was never really attached to Jack in the Box when I lived in California, but they have some more-unique menu items compared to other fast food joints. Curly fries, jalapeno poppers, and some strange version of a taco were my dinner one night.
 This street is a bit of an oxymoron. Go down this street to get to St. Charles Ave. But it's not a through street. This is a pedestrian shortcut not accessible to vehicles.
 It's a little overdone here, but Taraval Pizzeria's cheese pizzas are always tasty. Even with the crispy cheese I enjoyed my light lunch.
 I'd taken public transit to get to the Great America amusement park in the past, but never via BART. The Milbrae stop had this statue of a baseball player inside the station.
 More flowers!
 Speaking of train stations, this was also the first time I used SCVTA light rail to get to Great America. In the past, I took the bus from a nearby Caltrain station. All in all, a pretty easy (though lengthy) way to get to the park from San Francisco. Driving is much faster!
 A couple more desserts! The pumpkin pie was homemade (right, Mom?) and tasty, but that giant chocolate cake slice came from the Safeway grocery store. Cakes in America are much richer than those found here.
 What you see here is my favorite Chinese food, kung pao chicken. This particular version has no vegetables or peanuts in it. That's a ton of chicken in spicy sauce along with a couple servings' worth of white rice. After eating the chicken (and veggies, if I get them) I mix the rice with the remaining sauce to make spicy rice!

Despite being gone for over three years, when I walked into the restaurant the woman working the counter recognized me instantly. That's good service!
 This is a chili cheese dog from somewhere. I wanted a Chicago dog, but my favorite hot dog restaurant shut down and it seems like the entire chain is gone. I don't have a suitable replacement in mind yet. This dog came from A&W, a restaurant chain based on the root beer usually sharing the same space as a KFC. Yes, I got some KFC too (biscuits are yummy!) and a root beer float.
 I asked my mom for a cupcake. I guess I didn't really need it after that big cake slice. So she got me this thing with a plastic high heel decoration. The cupcake was delicious, don't get me wrong. And I kept the high heel. I'm not sure what I'll do with it, but I'm sure it'll make a nice conversation piece at some point.
 I got an awesome sub sandwich from a place on Taraval I had never been to before called Lou's Cafe. The sandwich was filling (actually, it turned into two meals) and really delicious, and they use a really spicy sauce that gives it an even bigger flavor boost.
 Speaking of bread, I took a picture of this. Why? Because it's free bread in a restaurant. You never get that in Japan!
 I got fish and chips toward the end of my stay. This was at a fairly nice cafe, but they were still tasty like the cheap ones. Sometimes "gourmet" food loses the unique flavor that makes cheap grub special.
 Oh, and I did get steak, too. It may not look great (the lighting isn't so good for photos) but Outback Steakhouse has pretty good cuts of meat.
 Yes, I got Krispy Kreme donuts, too.
Amanda, do you read my blog? It was nice to see non-Japanese names on Coke bottles, but I didn't find a Ryan.

As you can see, my return home had a lot of dining adventures. Yes, I did other things - amusement parks, baseball, walking around town, and of course lots of time with my family. But some of those pictures will show up later, and some of those are just for family and friends.

And for my Japanese readers interested in going to America, this might provide some dining ideas you might not have thought of.

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