Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Top 5 Savory Menu Items In America*

Is as the case with all the lists based on my recent road/air/sea trip across America with the lady, the asterisk is there to concede that we obviously did not try every item in every place in every city in every state. That said, I'm sure none of these would out of place on a list made by someone who had. They're all that good.

Before we start a couple of notes. I am not listing anything I've had before (so no Imo's, toasted raviolis, Roscoe's chicken & waffles, Al's Italian beefs, etc.). These are all items we'd never tried before the trip. Also, there are no tacos here (we already kinda covered that arena). Finally, these are all from affordable places. To me, fine dining establishments are a separate category (it's easy to make boutique ingredients taste great).

I'd also like to give some honorable mention shout-outs to items that narrowly missed making the list: the roast pork sandwich at Tommy DiNic's in Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market, the jerk chicken enchilada platter at Cha Cha Chicken in Santa Monica, the clam chowder at Pike Place Chowder in Seattle, the spicy chicken sandwich at NYC's Fuku, the fish 'n' chips at Gordon Ramsey's Fish & Chips in Vegas, 3 PM meatballs at Chego in L.A. and pretty much everything at Hang Ah Dim Sum Tea House in San Francisco.

#5 - Three-piece sweet soy garlic fried chicken at Federal Donuts
1632 Sansom St., Philadelphia (five locations in total)

First off, this was some of the über-crispiest fried chicken I've ever encountered, even after the glaze was drizzled all over it.  Most importantly, it was literally finger-lickin' good and then some. Sadly, we didn't visit until the last day of our trip or we certainly would have gone back to try all the other glazes. And the topper? Your order comes with a fantastic cake donut that tastes ever-so-slightly of cinnamon. It compliments the chicken perfectly. Forget nasty, overrated, overpriced Geno's and Pat's; the true Philly gem is this joint.

#4 - The Cubano at Las Olas Cafe

This dynamic little spot is just a hop and a skip from South Beach and the perfect place to fuel up after a day lazing near the ocean. In fact, we stopped here two straight days. Let's keep it simple: hands down, the best Cuban sandwich I've ever had in my life. The balance of flavor is impeccable. The roast pork is tender as you like, the ham is just a little sweet and salty, the mustard and pickles are at just the right volume, all on crunchy yet soft bread. A true sandwich symphony - and it sure doesn't hurt they fresh squeeze some top-shelf Florida OJ and have rather tasty Key lime slices to go with the sandwich.

#3 - Soup Dumplings at Joe's Shanghai
9 Pell St., Chinatown, Manhattan (three location in total)

You may know by now that I'm an unrepentant Dim Sum whore. It's true, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. These were the most unique dumplings I've tried to date. Picture perfectly steamed noodle wrappers containing crab and pork, plus the kicker: a yummy, beefy broth inside the dumpling. Bags of flavor all day, folks. And as with Los Olas, we came back for an encore sitting the next day after trying these. A quick tip, though: it's best to go in the late afternoon or very early evening, unless you feel like waiting 45 minutes to be seated. Even if you must go at the super-crowded dinner time, it will be worth your wait.

#2 - The Reggie Deluxe at Pine St. Biscuits
125 NE Schuyler St., Portland OR (three locations in total)

The lady likes to joke that, while most people pre-plan by making a list of attractions to visit while on vacation, I make a list of things I want to eat. She's right, though. I totally do that. This was on that list from the moment we decided to make the trek across America and it did not disappoint at all. Picture a light, buttery biscuit sandwich with expertly fried chicken, melted sharp cheddar and smoky bacon, smothered in peppery sausage gravy and topped with a perfectly fried egg. It's a true delectable overload and a standout in a city full of great food. Just thinking about it now, I need a nap. UGH, it's so good.

#1 - Death By Duck at Beer Belly
532 Western Ave., Koreatown, Los Angeles (also a Long Beach location)

For starters, let me say that this is one of the truly great restaurants in the massive L.A. metro area. One peruse over their menu will make anyone lose concentration and they also have a terrific variety of craft beers (and ciders, the lady's favorite).

The clear pièce de résistance here, though, is the item you see teased in the picture at the top of the post. I mentioned my irrational love of dim sum before, but now we'll talk about my drooling crush on duck. I love duck, people. For reals... LOVE. In every shape and form. And the Death By Duck covers most of the best forms in one sinful appetizer. It's crispy duck-fat fries, topped with melt-in-your-mouth duck confit, sprinkled with little bits of duck crackling, served with a raspberry mustard sauce to cut through the decadence with a slightly tart heat. Need I say more?

You can catch a view of the Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives visit to Beer Belly, when Guy Fieri runs frosted-head first into this supreme eat. And then, locals, get your ass over there ASAP. Out-of-towners can put it at the top of their list.

- Greg Seltzer

1 comment:

Dr.Jon said...

I totally do the same thing on vacations gotta make a list of where to eat. So important!