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Man Bites Food

10 Deliciously Weird Dishes across the Country

For the following iconic bizarre dishes, beauty is in the eye (or tastebuds) of the beholder. They may not win any Instagram competitions, but they're a testament to American ingenuity and display a devotion to creativity with comfort food. These dishes exist because some visionary chefs and restaurateurs across the country were unafraid to say "YES" to more gravy, French fries, chili and anything else for the sake of inventing some messy and indulgent, but brilliantly weird foods. 

The Garbage Plate, Nick Tahou Hots (Rochester, NY)
Perhaps the country's most famous towering pile of food, the Garbage Plate's origin is widely attributed to Nick Tahou Hots, a Rochester institution since 1918. The base of the dish is always the diner’s choice of two sides — home fries, French fries, macaroni salad or baked beans — topped by your choice of meat — hot dog, hamburger patty, Italian sausage, or chicken tenders. Finally, the whole mixture is dressed with mustard and onions, then doused with Nick’s signature hot sauce.

Garbage Plate 2 

photo credit: Eugene Peretz

Loco Moco, Eggs 'n Things (Honolulu, HI)
A regional Hawaiian delight that can be found throughout the islands (Eggs 'n Things is just one noteworthy purveyor), Moco Loco is a layered dish of fried eggs, a hamburger patty, white rice, brown gravy, and sometimes Spam (ubiquitous in Hawaii) or other meats. 

7 Pound Breakfast Burrito, Jack-n-Grill (Denver, CO) 
Not exactly your padre's grab-and-go, foil-wrapped burrito, Jack-n-Grill's 7 Pound Breakfast Burrito is every bit as intimidating as it sounds, filled with 5 lbs of potatoes, 12 eggs, 1/2 a pound of ham, onions and green chiles (fire-roasted on the premises), then topped with a mound of cheese and their signature green pork chile. The Travel Channel's Adam Richman threw in the towel while attempting to tackle this burrito beast, but if you manage to succeed, your polaroid will have a place on their wall of fame.

The Hot Hamburger, Murphy's Steak House (Bartlesville, OK)
Leave your preconceived notion of a "hamburger" at the door at this Bartlesville institution dating back to 1946. The Hot Hamburger is a gut-busting tradition that layers a generous hamburger steak patty on buttered Texas toast with grilled onions (optional but only a rookie would forego them) and an ungodly amount of fries. The whole thing is smothered in glorious brown gravy. 

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Pastrami Cheese Fries, Kenny & Zuke's Delicatessen (Portland, OR)
Not all loaded fries are created equal. Many spuds become soggy under the weight of chili and a variety of other toppings. But we can totally get behind an over-sized plate of thin, crispy fries topped with a heapin' helpin of Kenny & Zuke's signature pastrami and covered with melted Swiss cheese. Something this extraordinary probably shouldn't be hiding under "Sides" on the menu. 

Chili Six-WayBlue Ash Chili (Cincinnati, OH)
It's difficult to spend any amount of time in Cincinnati without stumbling face first into a plate of chili, be it 3-, 4- or 5-way. Blue Ash takes things a step further with their chili 6-way: that's their signature Cincinnati-style chili (1) on top of spaghetti (2) topped with copious amounts of shredded cheese (3), onions (4), beans (5) and the coup de grâce, fried pickled jalapeno caps (6). 

The Tamale SpreadMcClard's Bar-B-Q (Hot Springs, AR) 
A former favorite of President Clinton (before he went vegan — raise your hand if you saw that coming), McClard's signature item is the Tamale Spread, a heaping pile of food consisting of two open faced tamales covered with Fritos, beans, chopped beef barbeque, and no insignificant amount of cheese and onions. It all combines for one intense, yet strangely delightful flavor. 

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Slayer, Kuma's Corner (Chicago, IL)
This perpetually packed headbangers' hamburger heaven names their innovative burgers after metal bands (Black Sabbath, Mastodon, Pantera, etc). The Slayer might be the most hardcore of its offerings — a bunless spread composed of a 10 oz burger patty, chili, cherry peppers, melted Monterrey Jack, green onions and of course, ANGER (this is actually listed as the final ingredient on the menu). 

Tender Royale, Pepperfire (Nashville, TN)
A relative newcomer to Nashville's hot chicken scene, Pepperfire does not withhold the heat when it comes to their take on the pan-fried, cayenne-crusted bird. Their most unique contribution, however, is the Tender Royale, a deep-fried grilled cheese with melted pepperjack oozing out the edges that is then topped with three sizable tongue-torching hot chicken tenders. The cayenne dusting lightly coats the bread of the grilled cheese for quite the taste sensation — fork and knife it, lest you make a bigger mess.

The Big WoodyBilly's Blue Duck BBQ (Liberal, Kansas)
A Liberal local favorite for barbecue, burgers and Tex-Mex offerings, Billy's is the home of the behemoth Big Woody — a 10-inch Hebrew National hot dog that's deep-fried, wrapped in a tortilla, and smothered in chili, cheese and onions (sour cream is optional).  

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Pizza Pilgrimage: Burt's Place outside Chicago

Some claim that they've never had a bad piece of pizza. And though my childhood memories of roller rink concessions prevent me from agreeing wholeheartedly with that sentiment, I'll concede that it's difficult to make such a great food truly bad. Not only that, but decent pizza can be found in just about any town, big or small. But for our pizza obsessed nation, finding a "decent" pie is not good enough. Countless blogs, forums and sites across the interwebs are dedicated to the discovering the best new pizza parlors and upholding the merits of the most legendary pie purveyors. Of the latter, there are a few places held with particular reverence. Some combination of obscurity, eccentricity, meticulousness, and (usually) undeniable quality makes these places irresistible to pizza pilgrims willing to wait in long lines, put up with odd hours or venture off the beaten path for transcendent pizza. I've waited out the line at  Frank Pepe in New Haven for ultra-thin crust tomato pies and the white clam pizza from the coal-fired ovens. I've made the trek to Midwood (Brooklyn), only to arrive at Di Fara during Dominic DeMarco's naptime (when the restaurant closes for 2 hours). I waited. It was worth it. My latest pizza adventure with a high degree of difficulty/obscurity took me to Burt's Place in Morton Grove, a suburb northeast of Chicago. 

Just a few quick words on the Burt behind Burt's Place. That would be Burt Katz, the white-bearded septuagenarian who has been in the Chicago pizza making racket since the 1960's (his beard dates back almost as far). Most notably, he started Gulliver's and Pequod's before selling them and opening Burt's Place in 1989. Katz and his friendly wife Sharon by and large run the kitchen and dining room with the help of a few others. 

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There was no line spilling out the door at Burt's Place. If you aren't looking for it, you might not even notice it, tucked away on a relatively quiet suburban street. There was no line because Burt's Place is reservations only (a week in advance is suggested). And if you think that's peculiar pizza protocol, they take it a step further: you're supposed to place your order in advance as well. From a practical perspective, Chicago-style pizza takes an eternity to cook, so this merely cuts down on the customers' waiting time. The procedures in place do add to the mystique and slightly exclusive feel, though. This theme continued as the host shot us an incredulous look at the door when we incorrectly guessed the name under which the reservation was made (the guy who secured our reservation came late). Mercifully, we got it right on the third try, and the man allowed us to proceed into the small, dark dining room and to our booth. The walls are covered with old telephones, clocks, microphones and ancient radio equipment. Only 7 or 8 booths line the walls with a couple of tables in the middle where no one sat. After a round of beers arrived, as well as a large salad for the whole table, our pre-ordered pies arrived a mere 10 minutes after we had been seated. After the server doled out slices, he placed the pizza pans on the tables in the middle of the room, where he could access them whenever he spied an empty plate. As for the pizza, it's not quite like any other Chicago-style pie you'll encounter. Sure, the caramelized crust shares some similarities to that of Pequod's (which I'm still a big fan of, for the record), perfectly browned around the edges and medium-thick. But it's less buttery than your average pan pizza, and it retains its delightful spongy texture, unlike some Chicago-style pies which collapse under the weight of toppings piled high. They also don't cover their pies with layers and layers of cheese. In fact, there might have been more sauce than cheese on any given slice - no complaints here: I'm a sauce guy. Toppings were also top-notch, from pepperoni and fresh cut vegetables to their superior sausage. Perhaps the best part: this hefty Chicago-style pizza did not result in a food coma or regret. Though certainly a hearty meal, the members of my dining party and I did not leave feeling like we required a nap or wouldn't be able to eat for days. This is a testament to their superior ingredients and light touch with the butter and cheese. 

Needless to say, there are plenty of great pizza joints in and around Chicago. You might find a pie you like as well or better than the ones you'll find at Burt's Place. And if you want to watch a Blackhawks or Bears game while sharing pitchers and pizzas with a large, rowdy group of friends, Burt's is not your place. But for a pizza pilgrim, it's well-worth at least one trip for the slightly bizarre but nonetheless delicious experience.

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The Edible Web

Bon Appétit's 10 best new restaurants in America, the no cell phone discount, and considering the Sidecar on today's web roundup. 

Bon Appétit released their annual Hot 10 list of America's Best New Restaurants, including Nashville's The Catbird Seat and Cakes & Ale in Decatur, GA. 

Today in food items that no one asked for: alcoholic sandwiches

There can be only one: Chicagoland burger enthusiasts were baffled by erroneous internet rumors that Kuma's Corner would open a second location in the Woodfield Mall in Schaumberg, reports Serious Eats

Los Angeles restaurant Eva offers a 5% discount to diners that check their cell phones at the door. The real cost: depriving the Instagram community of your old-timey food shots. 

Esquire interviews the barkeep at Hollywood institution  Musso & Frank Grill. Among topics covered: the virtues of the Sidecar, celebrity guests from Rock Hudson to Harrison Ford, and dolts who order cognac with coke (they exist). 

Sidecar Cocktail

Know your classic cocktails. The Sidecar: brandy, triple sec, sweet and sour, and sugar rimming the glass. 

The 2012 James Beard Foundation Awards

The much anticipated 2012 James Beard Restaurant & Chef Awards dropped last evening. Taking home top honors were Boulevard (San Francisco) for Outstanding Restaurant, Tom Douglas for Outstanding Restaurateur (Dahlia Lounge and Etta's in Seattle) and Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park (NYC) for Outstanding Chef (national). The regional winners are listed below. Follow the link for the complete list of 2012 James Beard Awards.

james beard medalBest Chef: Great Lakes
Bruce Sherman
North Pond
Chicago, IL

Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic
Maricel Presilla
Cucharamama
Hoboken, NJ

Best Chef: Midwest
Tory Miller
L'Etoile
Madison, WI

Best Chef: New York City
Michael Anthony
Gramercy Tavern

Best Chef: Northeast
Tim Cushman
O Ya
Boston, MA

Best Chef: Northwest
Matt Dillon
Sitka & Spruce
Seattle, WA

Best Chef: Pacific
Matt Molina
Osteria Mozza
Los Angeles

Best Chef: South
Chris Hastings
Hot and Hot Fish Club
Birmingham, AL

Best Chef: Southeast
Hugh Acheson
Five and Ten
Athens, GA

Linton Hopkins
Restaurant Eugene

Atlanta, GA

Best Chef: Southwest
Paul Qui
Uchiko
Austin, TX

Best New Restaurant
Next
Chicago, IL

The Top 50 Restaurants in the World

Restaurant magazine has announced its annual list of The World's 50 Best Restaurants. Taking top honors again is Noma of Copenhagen. The US doesn't possess a restaurant in the top five, but it does boast the most restaurants on the list with 8 total. They include …

Per Se, NYC (6)

Alinea, Chicago (7)

Eleven Madison Park, NYC (10)

Le Bernadin, NYC (19)

Daniel, NYC (25)

Momofuku Ssam, NYC (37)

The French Laundry, Yountville, CA (43)

Manresa, Los Gatos, CA (48)

 

Not a lot of burger bars, doner kebab stalls or barbecue joints on this list, but who are we to argue with "the opinions and experiences of over 800 international restaurant industry experts." For the complete rundown, follow the link

50 Best

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