The Shil-Shul Diaries
The story begins in a cramped booth at the "faux" New York deli 'Noshville' in Nashville TN on a blustry day after thanksgiving November Friday day in 2008. In between my wife, Rachel, and my brother, Michael, I sat across from my "cooler than me" cousins Mark and Sarah, and Sarah's just as cool husband, Danny. Mark, who lives the awesome life being a lawyer living in San Francisco working for Facebook, with his only downfall being his SEVERE lactardation..which has never been medically or scientifically proven to exist in Mark.. Sarah and Danny are foodies from NYC who have tried every dive "chicken finger" hut and "curry on a stick" in the big city. Danny and Sarah had discussed that they were trying to go to as many places from Bobby Flay's 'Throwdown' show as they could, and that there was one in Nashville we had to try.....a place that I had never heard of in my 13 years of living there..I will get to that adventure later.
I got an idea from my cool cousins idea. An idea became a hobby. And the hobby became an obsession. And thus produced the list.....a world-famous spreadsheet...of every restaurant that has ever been featured on Food Network and Travel Channel....every restaurant from the famous shows like "Throwdown", "Man V. Food", "Man v. Food Nation", "Food Feuds", "Food Wars", "Best Thing I Ever Ate", and "Diners Drive-Ins and Dives" to the obscure "Best Food Ever", "Meat and Potatoes", and "101 Best Places to Chowdown", plus my additions of the restaurants of famous chefs and local places of legend. Names, cities, food they are famous for, and addresses. It was and still is an obsession. As of 9:24am on January 7th, 2015, THE LIST HAS 3,116 RESTAURANTS ON IT...WITH A FEW OVERLAPS HERE AND THERE. And then over Pastrami Eggs Benedict at Nate N' Al's Deli in Beverly Hills, Hannah and Andrew, our good friends, gave me the idea of the blog. Document every place I went. And thus, "The Shil-Shul Diaries" was born. I will log the places, the shows they are from, and what I had. So far, every place I have been has been amazing, except two, one being mediocre, and another being down right awful.
If there is a city you have been to, or are going to, or are from and want to know what from my list is in the city, send me a email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
From Best BBQ in America
2310 Packers Ave, Madison, WI 53704
As a southerner, I miss good BBQ. I mean, legit, elbows on the table, need a roll of paper towels, sweet tea, good sides, great meat, and amazing sauce BBQ. Outside of Chicago, there is very little left to be desired for a recent Midwesterner transplant like me. I have come to expect mediocrity and lack of taste, and I have settled on the fact that unless I am in the big city, BBQ will just be mediocre at best for the time being.
That is until i went to Madison and found Smokey Jon's
In a non-descript industrial park, on the outskirts of the perfect balance of hippie commune, co-op loving, liberal epicenter and frat boy, conservative, beer, cheese, and brat loving town known as Madison lies an incredible BBQ find. Madison is a culinary paradise of organic, grass-fed, vegan, ethnic, food cart, is a true southern BBQ mecca. Smokey Jon's quenches every ounce of great BBQ experience I come to expect from my trips home to the south. The portions are outstanding, the meat is amazing, the sauce is out of this world, and the sides are phenomenal. I have been back twice now, and have not been disappointed in any, way, shape or form.
Monday, January 11, 2016
BEST WINGS IN AMERICA
1501 N Jackson St, Milwaukee, WI 53202
What they say: "Points East Pub is "built on the wing." They are famous for one thing and one thing only, their chicken wings, and they do them well. These wings are sauced and then put through the grill to get a perfected smokey flavor."-Thrillist
This tiny sports bar boasts some of the biggest, boldest, and most baddass wings on the planet! Unlike you traditional wing that is fried, Points East chargrills their wings, a tactic and method that I have grown to love. They are still hot and not soggy by the time they get to your plate, which is a risk you take with fried wings. Order food at the bar, grab a seat, and wait your turn. The kitchen is the size of a broom closet (new kitchen under construction), but what they lack in floor space, they make up for in taste and quality. The wings are worth the wait. Drenched in sauce and then cooked. It takes what is "traditional" about wings with frying and then drenching (tossing in sauce) and asks "whats so great about tradition. TRADITION BE DAMNED" and sauces then GRILLS to perfection.
Friday, January 8, 2016
From Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives
3421 N Highland Ave Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Let's begin with the location. One block from the beach. Just off the greatest walking path in America that extends along a majority of LA's beaches. Beach babes and bros pass every minute with their wet suits and surf boards in their convertibles and open air Jeeps. Paradise
And then there is the food. Amazing menu spanning brunch, lunch, dinner, American, Asian, Italian. Amazing sandwiches with amazing fries. Amazing concoctions and creations on outstanding bread with outstanding toppings and sauces. This is a must stop place for lunch if you are in the area, and given how amazing Manhattan Beach is, you should be in the area.
Thursday, January 7, 2016
From Man Vs. Food Nation and #33 on 101 More Places to Chowdown
4156 North Oakland Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53211
Many people say Milwaukee is in the shadow of Chicago, second rate to Chicago, red-headed step child to Chicago.
"If you want a good (insert food here)" But I must say, Milwaukee hold's its own culinary-wise for the most part.
And when it comes to midwest delis, this place is beyond good, its pretty great. IN FACT, I would say after Shapiro's in Indy this is for sure up there. Better than almost any deli in Chicago except the two suburban staples Once Upon A (Insert word here) and Kaufman's"
There are two main delis in town, Jake's and Benji's and everyone likes one or the other, not both. "Jake's is old school" The classic food feud. The best kind of feud in my opinion.
Jake's is one of these delis that set up shop in the early days in the Jewish neighborhood and has stayed put even if the Jewish population hasn't. "Oh Jakes, thank g-d its only open for lunch because it's in the ghetto" says everyone local Milwaukeean (is that what the locals are called?). Bud Selig is rumored to have eaten there everyday...still does apparantly.
Benji's, on the other hand, moved with the times and the customers to the burbs and it is quite wonderful. My wife (the new(est) rabbi in town tried to meet there for dinner and given the amount of congregants who had joined us for dinner by the end, we called it "oneg".
This place is classic, great deli. Casual, fun, menu that could be confused for a college text book. Portions that are the photo of gluttony in the dictionary. I got the Hear O' Israel. "a half-pound sandwich featuring our hand-carved corn beef, pastrami, salami, pepper beef, Swiss cheese, coleslaw and 1000 isle dressing, all piled high on rye. whew!". Outstanding.
If you want a quiet, casual, no frills, giant meal to quench your appetite or warm your soul, Benji's is legit!
Monday, January 4, 2016
From Hot and Spicy Paradise
41 E Superior St, Chicago, IL 60611
This place is a great sports bar with great food. It ranks up there with Barney's in terms of the food matching the atmosphere for a bar (Barney's)
Wings at this place are outstanding and inventive. The Poncho wings are grilled with garlic and cayenne. I love a traditional fried and dipped wing then dipped in ranch, especially with a good sauce, especially right out of the fryer, but I find that they grow soggy quickly. The char-grilled wing is quickly growing on me and the Poncho wing is some of the finest I have ever had (also check out Points East Pub in Milwaukee). They are known for their ghost pepper wings, but that's beyond my pay grade.
Also, one time was subbing for a Sunday School class at Temple Isiah in LA. Taking attendance. Jake Melnick. I say "you know there is a bar in Chicago named Jake Melnicks". Kid says "That place is named after me".
From "Late Night Paradise"
2035 E North Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202
What they say: "Mac N' Cheese Pizza (20-inch dough topped with local mozzarella, boiled elbow macaroni noodles, and homemadecrème fraiche, along with shredded Wisconsin cheddar cheese); Barbecue Brisket & Tater Tots Pizza (topped with local mozzarella, disk-shaped tater tots, and 18-hour smoked beef brisket, drizzled with homemade barbecue sauce)"
Take a moment and think about this answer. What does the perfect pizza look like to you? What would be on it? No two people may have the same answer, nor should they, thats the beauty of food and the beauty of places like Ian's pizza. Pizza comes in many shapes, styles and sizes. Square, round, deep, thin, red sauce, white sauce, clams, veggies, cheese in the crust, hot dog in the crust. But Ian's pizza pushes what the "expectation" of how pizza is supposed to look and taste. to the maximum deliciosuness. Mac n Cheese, steak and fries, kung pao chicken, the options are endless and unexpected. Take a moment now and think about what the perfect pizza would look like to you. Thanks to Ian's, the possibilities and options destroy the barrier of what we know to be "traditional" with pizza making and open up a whole new universe of options.
What would your perfect pizza look and taste like? It may be Ian's next great concoction.
"There's a real misconception in the South about what constitutes a healthy diet. People aren't lining up at the salad bar during lunch hour; they're opting for the 'meat and three and sweet tea' at the corner cafeteria. And that's not good; those cafeteria vegetables aren't really healthy when they're cooked with half a ham hock and butter.
Sounds like a gastronomic journey of greatness to me!