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The List

The quest to eat at (almost) every restaurant in Humboldt

Ken Burton and Cindy Moyer are on a mission. Again. For the second time, they are making their way through an alphabetical list of restaurants in Humboldt County — the Journal's online A-Z Restaurant Guide, in fact — and eating at every single one within an hour's drive. Yes, in alphabetical order. The first time it took around seven years. Right now they're deep in the Ls and taking a break while Burton is out of town. The reaction they get when they tell people about their quest is typically, they say, either that it sounds like a great idea or they're nuts. Mostly a bit of both. The rules are simple but draconian in their way. The friends get together weekly, barring trips out of town, and, starting with the AA Bar and Grill, alternate responsibility for arranging a visit to each restaurant. Only the person planning the trip knows where they're going (which requires careful scrolling) and, unless a shop is closed, there's no skipping. Even if they aren't in the mood for Thai that day. Not even if they know a particular café is objectively awful. Despite the geographic limitations that unfortunately eliminate much of Southern Humboldt, Burton admits sometimes the food is not worth the trip. For him, it's no big deal. "I mean, it's a meal, it's not going to kill us," says Burton. "And I like to give places a second chance. And a third chance and fourth chance if we live long enough." It was Moyer's idea to not hit every outpost of a given fast food chain, despite Burton's protest that each Subway, for example, is a little different. "One will be sufficient," she says. Burton, who has written outdoor and other articles for the Journal, is an ornithologist and, unsurprisingly, an avid birder. Over the phone from Roseburg, Oregon, he explains his current project, a study for Oregon State University, documenting creatures and plants at sites affected by logging and wildfire. "Biological field work inevitably involves documenting what's out there," he says, adding that it does make him consider his proclivity toward cataloguing and "if our restaurant game somehow fits into my overall nature." Asked about the possible connection to his hobby, Burton says with some amusement, "I've always been a list maker and a list keeper. ... Birding lends itself to the list-keeping personality. Eating out based on a list…

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