It was hot. Miss Dish was riding down the bus mall and when she came to the cluster of food carts on Southwest 5th Avenue and Stark Street, she passed a sign that was more than a little shocking: "Bacon Caramel Milkshakes." She made her way to Johnny Ray's Grill to find out if this was some specific regional dish that had yet to make her acquaintance.
Owner Ellis Brabley, 37, had about four people cooking up everything from eggs to grits to hamburgers in his tiny trailer. Ellis and his whole staff were sweating, so Miss Dish passed along the kitchen trick imparted to her by a wise cook when Li'l Dish worked at her mother's small restaurant: Take a few bandanas, wet them, put them in the freezer and the next day tie one around your temples when it gets scorching. Ellis seemed to like the suggestion--he wiped his forehead and said, "Well, the devil used to work here, but he quit because he couldn't stand the heat."
When Miss Dish asked Ellis' pre-teen daughter, Jasmine (who, the tip jar notes is trying to raise funds for braces), about the bacon shake, her face lit up--"You want one? I make them the best." Not quite so fast, young'un--Miss Dish needs some facts.
Ellis, who has six kids and works at night with developmentally disabled adults, started jawing about the bacon-caramel milkshake having been born when Alexander Hamilton ("a pig farmer") and Thomas Jefferson ("the inventor of ice cream") got in a fight and someone's bacon landed in the other's ice cream. Uh, right, Ellis. Miss Dish didn't looked convinced, so Ellis leaned forward and whispered, "Or, it could have happened when I yelled an order and said, 'make a caramel shake,' and it was interpreted as 'bacon-caramel shake."
The day before, Ellis had offered a free burger to anyone who bought the bacon-caramel shake. He got six takers. Never one to shy away from a culinary adventure, Miss Dish plunked down her $2.50 for some extreme eating. The shake was rich and thick with a vanilla ice-cream base. Swirled throughout were bacon bits, with a rasher crumbled on top. She took a sip. It was much more understated than she'd imagined. At first, all that came across was the sweetness of the vanilla ice cream. Then, startlingly quickly, came a briny aftertaste from the bacon. The sweet and salty commingled, sort of like a chocolate-covered pretzel. It was interesting for sure and might catch on among the macho food brigade who snub their noses at heart-friendly fare. For Miss Dish, it will be an infrequent indulgence, but she's glad that it's there, right underneath what Johnny Ray's calls the "Vegetarian Ecstasy" section of its menu.