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 agmarks@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

THE BOILING CRAB






From Best Thing I Ever Ate

3377 Wilshire Blvd #115, Los Angeles, CA 90010

Plain and simple, this is my kind of restaurant.  When I die, this place is what heaven will look like if they also served glass bottle coke, bbq, and cheese burgers.  Its simple, straight forward no nonsense deliciousness.  Its a cajun seafood boil.  You walk up, check the board for what they have in season and what they don't.  You get seated, put on a bib, they put down the table cloth which is a plastic sheet.  You order you shellfish. Fried or Boiled?  How many pounds?  What sauce?  What spice? Do you want to add corn, potatoes, and sausage?  They bring it out to you, in its entirety, in a big plastic bag.  You dig in.  No utensils.  Just your hands.  You do all the work. The Dexter style covered table is your work bench, make as much of a mess as you like.  Ketchup on the table. Yup!  Shells on the table. Yup!  Napkins all over! Yup! It is perfection in my mind.  The perfect meal.  The perfect shellfish.  The perfect sauce. The perfect spice.  Perfection.  

I only hate that it took me this long to find heaven.


LUKSHON







FROM BEST THING I EVER ATE AND BEST WINGS IN AMERICA


3239 helms ave. culver city, california 90232


This place is great and inventive and a culinary experience and a delight.  The head chef, Sang Yoon, is the same guy who brought you Father's Office gastropub, which is next door to this place.  You know, the place with the insane burger that was voted one of the best burgers in the world by Esquire magazine.  You know, the place with the insane burger that has a very strict non-modification policy, which prohibits substitutions or additions such as ketchup. There also is no-hostess or kids allowed.  This is that Chef Yoon's Asian concept.  It was wonderful.  The concept is to share a bunch of different items among a group of people (they recommend three items per person to share), but Albert doesn't share (well), so I went alone, and got the three items I wanted.  The lobster bahn mi roll, the blue crab fried rice, and the reason for coming, the spicy chicken pops.  

I was able to sit at the diner style table overlooking the open kitchen.  I watched as my bahn mi was prepared no more than a few inches from me.  I watched as my fried rice was prepared in a wok just a few feet beyond that while my spicy chicken pops fried to perfection behind that.  A wonderful atmosphere and environment.

The lobster bahn mi roll was exactly like the traditional lobster roll from the northeast crab and lobster shacks.  Lobster meat, tossed in mayo, on a butter roll.  However, the wonderful twist with this dish is that the pig ear terrine ( French forcemeat loaf similar to a pâté) added to the sandwich and the slaw added was of a spicy green papaya.  Delightful and refreshing…and demolished in one bite.

The blue crab fried rice was your classic fried rice in a bowl with a hearty and healthy portion of shredded blue crab added in. It was exactly what I had imagined it would be and it was exactly what I wanted to it to be, and many times that is reassuring, reaffirming, and comforting.  It is what I wanted and it was what I wanted.

The spicy chicken pops.  The reason for my culinary adventure to this diner table.   The title of the dish is perfection as is the dish itself.  These are not wings in any sort. They are actual pops, like a lolipop.  You hold the bone like a stick and eat the "pop" of chicken meat off the top, taking minutes for each one to ensure you get every piece of delicious meat.  It begins with marinating wings in a mixture of ginger, garlic, scallions, onions, Chinese light soy sauce and kecap manis, an intense, dark, sweet Indonesian sauce. The marinated wings are dusted with flour, deep-fried twice in peanut oil and tossed in a sauce made with kecap manis and soy sauce, black vinegar, ginger, garlic, scallions and onions. The fantastically sticky wings are then finished with Yoon’s own spicy Sichuan salt. It is a wonderful "labor-intensive reinterpretation of the buffalo wing glazed with sweet Indonesian soy sauce and Sichuan peppercorns." (Jonathan Gold).

Lukshon is great.  I highly recommend not being an anti-social freak and going alone out of fear of not being able to get in or get a good seat or get the dish you want out of a unwarranted fear they may run out, and go with friends.  Everything on the menu is delicious, so do as they suggest an try a bunch of different things, but makes sure the spicy 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Ben's Chili Bowl









Man vs. Food, 28th Best Place to Chowdown in America


1213 U St. NW, Washington, DC 20009



The nations capital.  Home of back door politics, scandals, espionage, back stabbing, and the most famous chili stand in America, Ben's Chili Bowl.  This place is a legend, a landmark an institution, a capital.  Standing the test of time, through riots, fires, revolution, and renaissance, Ben's has been a staple, a cornerstone, a rock of consistency and constant-cy.  No matter what has gone on in the town, no matter who is in charge, Ben's has been there.  Ben's is what is great about America, at the end of the day, after all the yelling, screaming, and aggressiveness, passive or not, everyone at the end oft he day, no matter their race, background, orientation, religion, loves a great chili cheese burger/hot dog/fries and a soda. 

Ben's is a chili landmark.  Walk up, order, sit at the bar, fill yourself, and get out.  And the food warms the soul, the heart, and the belly.  Burgers, hot dogs, fries. It is simple at its core in a town more complex as the days go by.  The half-smoke dog is the staple and the dish for which they are known, and it does not disappoint.  Sober or intoxicated.  Day or night.  Summer or winter.  Democrat or republican.  No natter what is going on or down outside the windows of Ben's, there is always a constant and consistent feeling of welcome and calm within the doors of this culinary landmark. No stress, just chili and cheese covered meats and potatoes.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Holeman & Finch Public House




From Best Thing I Ever Ate, Best Food Ever, Best Burger in America, and every single travel and food magazine to ever exist on the face of the planet.



2277 Peachtree Road Northeast Atlanta, GA 30309
The Burger.

"We all need to make time for a burger once in a while."- Erica Durance

That's all it reads on the menu is 'The Burger'.

"I always want to find the best burger in town."- Dennis Quaid

No substitutions. No exclusions. No add ons. 



"You can find your way across this country using burger joints the way a navigator uses stars."-Charles Kuralt


The one burger I have been waiting, basically my whole life, to try.

"I enjoy the burger joint the same way I enjoy fancy meals."- Aby Rosen

The very top of my culinary bucket list.

The Holman-Finch Burger. The most elusive culinary item in the world.  The urban legends drape this masterpiece in a shroud of mystery.  They only make 24.  They don't tell you when its available.  People get there at open and wait until they close to try and get one.  They are the most desired food in Atlanta.  Truly both a myth and a legend. An endeavour, an experience, an adventure, an expedition, a culinary masterpiece.

My beloved friend Evan Remer will tell you that I use the words "epic", "best", "game changer", "incredible", "fantastic", "favorite", "amazing", "fabulous" are often and freely as words like "the", "and", "it", and "food".  I am a overly optimistic food blogger.  I don't feel the need to crap on places like people on Yelp or food critics who get paid to do so.  I support local business and culinary genius.  I want to share the great culinary experiences with you.  I want you to be able to enjoy what I have enjoyed.  Food is meant to be loved and shared by all and thus I feel the need to only express the loves I have had in the culinary world.

And I love the great burgers of the culinary world. I love to share my stories of the great burgers of the culinary world and love to have them shared with me. And there have been a lot of them….

I called the Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago "a landmark…incredible..a institution, an experience, a land mark, and a cannot miss culinary and cultural experience"

I called Fat Mo's in Nashville  "a extraordinary culinary extravaganza"

I called Pie N' Burger in Pasadena "as good as it gets without being too much.  It is simple, American, incredible comfort food."

I called Burger Up in Nashville "fantastic"

I called Rotiers in Nashville "phenomenal"

I called the White Spot in Charlottesville "perfect"

I called Apple Pan in LA "delicious"

I called Rockit in Chicago "phenomenal"

I called Sobelman's in Milwaukee "outstanding"

I called Sobelman's in Milwaukee "great"

I called "Terry's Turf" in Cincinnati "most unique burger experience I have ever had in my life.  This place is outrageous and outstanding"

I called Cherry Cricket in Denver "really great"

I called Kuma's Corner in Chicago a "top 3 burger of my life"

I called Hodad's in San Diego "wonderful"

I called Bobby's Burger Palace in Vegas "amazing"

I called Umami in LA "AMAZING AND A MUST GO FOR ANY BURGER FANATIC OR FOODIE! THE BURGERS ARE INVENTIVE AND PERFECTION"
I called Father's Office in LA "awesome"

I called the Grill 'Em All in LA "delicious"

I called Matt's Bar in Minneapolis "incredible"

I called the Vortex in Atlanta "amazingly awesome"

I called Thurman's in Columbus "THE BEST BURGER I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE....TO THIS DAY...NOTHING COMES CLOSE OR EVEN COMPARES...I HAVE HAD THOUSANDS OF BURGERS...ASK MY CHOLESTEROL LEVELS...BUT NOTHING COMES CLOSE TO HOW AMAZING THIS PLACE IS..IT HAUNTS ME HOW INCREDIBLE THIS PLACE IS!!!

EVERYTHING ABOVE WAS, IS, AND WILL FOREVER BE 100% TRUE AND ACCURATE AND I WOULD TESTIFY TO THE LEGITIMACY OF ALL THESE STATEMENTS UNDER OATH IN THE SUPREME COURT!!!

HOWEVER, ON THIS DAY, FEBRUARY 9TH, 2015.  I HAVE COME TO ONE CONCLUSION. THE SEARCH FOR THE BEST BURGER IN AMERICA IS OVER BY A LANDSLIDE…

THE HOLEMAN FINCH BURGER IS LEGITIMATELY CULINARY PERFECTION.  

THE HOLEMAN FINCH BURGER IS THE BEST IN AMERICA AND THE BEST I HAVE EVER HAD. HANDS DOWN, NO QUESTIONS ASKED, NO DEBATE ABOUT IT.  THE BEST.  EVER!

ALL THE STORIES ARE TRUE. ALL THE RUMORS ARE TRUE. ALL THE LEGENDS ARE TRUE

THIS IS THE MOST PERFECT BURGER. PERFECT MEAT. PERFECTLY COOKED MEAT (THEY DONT ASK HOW YOU WANT IT COOKED). PERFECT CHEESE, PERFECTLY MELTED CHEESE. PERFECT COOKED ONIONS. PERFECT SAUCES.

EVERYTHING IS MADE OR GROWN IN HOUSE FROM THE GROUND BEEF TO THE BUNS TO THE PICKLES AND SAUCES.

A DOUBLE STACK BURGER. 

BUN, BURGER, GRILLED ONION, BURGER, CHEESE PICKLE.

MY HOLEMAN FINCH BURGER EXPERIENCE CAN BE SIMPLY EXPLAINED BY ONE OF MY FAVORITE TV CHARACTERS OF ALL TIME, MARSHALL ERIKSEN, IN ONE OF MY FAVORITE EPISODES OF ALL TIME, BEST BURGER IN NYC, OF ONE OF MY FAVORITE TV SHOWS OF ALL TIME, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER"

"Just a Burger? Just a burger. It’s so much more than "just a burger." I mean…that first bite—oh, what heaven that first bite is. The bun, like a butter freckled breast of an angel, resting gently on the perfectly melted cheese and sauteed onions, flavors mingling in a seductive pas de deux. And then…a pickle! The most playful little pickle! A patty of ground beef so exquisite, swirling in your mouth, breaking apart, and combining again in a fugue of sweets and savor so delightful. This is no mere sandwich of grilled meat and toasted bread.  This is God, speaking to us in food."

I DOCUMENTED MY FIRST BITE, AND MY REACTION SPEAKS MORE THAN ANY WORDS I CAN SAY.  A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS, BUT A VIDEO IS WORTH A INFINITY.

video


THE ONLY WORDS THAT NEED TO BE SAID IS THAT THIS IS THE BEST BURGER I HAVE EVER HAD AND COULD EVER DREAM OF, AND THEREFOR IT IS THE BEST IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.

NEVER AGAIN WILL I OR CAN I SAY "BEST BUGER EVER" BECAUSE THERE IS NO WAY I CAN IMAGINE ANYTHING TOPPING THIS…BUT I AM OPEN TO THE CHALLENGE

PS-THE HOLEMAN FINCH BURGER IS NOW ON THE MENU PERMANENTLY.

PPS- WE ALSO HAD THE MOST OUTSTANDING APPETIZERS AND DESSERT. PIMENTO CHEESE, DEVILED EGGS, BACON CARMEL CORN, AND PRETZEL BITES. OUTSTANDING. WE ALSO HAD HOMEMADE ICE CREAM SANDWICHES FOR DESSERT! UM, YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU!










PPPS- THANKS TO PHIL FOR MAKING THIS DREAM COME TRUE (I HEARD RASCAL FLATTS 'MY WISH' PLAYING IN MY HEAD AS I TOOK EACH BITE)

PPPPS-THANKS FOR JORDAN AND ADAM FOR BEING ALONG FOR THE CULINARY ADVENTURE.





Monday, January 26, 2015

HOMINY GRILL








207 Rutledge Ave, Charleston, SC 29403


FROM BEST SOUTHERN FOOD IN AMERICA, MAN VS. FOOD, BEST THING I EVER ATE, #86 ON BEST PLACES TO CHOWDOWN, FOOD PARADISE

THIS PLACE SCREAMED AND TOPPED MY CULINARY BUCKET LIST AND FOR A DAMN GOOD REASON.  WHEN MY FRIEND ASKED WHAT I WANTED TO DO IN CHARLESTON, HOMINY WAS IT.  ANYTHING ELSE WE DID WAS JUST DESSERT, SWEET AND WONDERFUL, BUT HOMINY GRILL WAS THE APPETIZER AND MAIN COURSE OF MY VISIT.

THIS PLACE WAS A MUST FOR ME!  LOOK HOW MANY TIMES IT HAS BEEN FEATURED!!!!!


THIS PLACE IS SOUTHERN FOOD PARADISE! GREAT SERVICE, AMAZING FOOD, AND AN AT HOME CULTURE AND FEEL.  THE RECIPES FEEL LIKE THEY HAVE GONE UNCHANGED FOR YEARS AND FOR DAMN GOOD REASON.

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES FOR APPETIZER AND THE CHARLESTON NASTY BISCUIT WERE MY MEAL FOR THE DAY.  I LOVE FRIED GREEN TOMATOES SO MUCH, WITH A LITTLE AIOLI OR RANCH TO DIP IN.  HOLY SWEET TEA!  AND THE CHARLESTON NASTY BISCUIT IS A GUT BUSTER.  CHICKEN BISCUIT (WHAM BAM THANK YOU MA'AM) WITH CHEDDAR CHEESE DRENCHED IN GRAVY.  THAT'S SOUTHERN FOR NYQUIL.  PUT YOU INTO A HAPPY SLEEP.  WASH IT ALL DOWN WITH SOME SWEET TEA.  YES MA'AM AND YES SIR!!!

THIS PLACE IS A INSTITUTION, A LANDMARK, A MECCA AND FOR DAMN GOOD REASON.  HOMINY GRILL, YOU DID NOT LET THIS SOUTHERN BOY ON THE WEST COAST DOWN!  

THE SHRIMP AND GRITS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE OUT OF THIS WORLD AND A MUST TRY, BUT TO BE HONEST, IM A TOMATO BASED SHRIMP AND GRITS FAN NOT A CHEESE BASED SHRIMP AND GRITS FAN.  ITS PERSON PREFERENCE.

IT'S PLACES LIKE THIS THAT MAKE EVERY PERSON LEAVE WITH A LITTLE DRAWL IN THEIR VOICE.  

BUTCHER AND THE BEE






FROM AMERICA'S BEST SANDWICH.

RANKED #1 IN THRILLIST BEST SANDWICH IN AMERICA.

"WHAT YOU'RE GETTING: Whatever's available
The only BYOB joint in Charleston also makes its finest sandwiches, which you can knock back in a dining room that feels like a friend’s place. Their menu, scrawled on a chalkboard, is constantly changing depending on the region’s local offerings, but always features innovative creations"

ALL I CAN SAY IS THAT THIS WAS HAND DOWN, NO QUESTIONS ASKED, EASILY, WITHOUT ANY FORM OF ARGUMENT OR DEBATE THE BEST LUNCH I HAVE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE.  MOST AMAZING SANDWICH, SIDES, AND DRINK.

OPEN FROM 11AM-3PM AND 11PM-3AM THIS PLACE IS OUTSTANDING IN EVERY WAY.

THIS PLACE IS INCREDIBLE.  TUCKED BEHIND A BOURBON DISTILLERY AND A COFFEE SHOP, THIS PLACE IS THE DEFINING EXAMPLE OF WHERE AMERICAN CULINARY GREATNESS IS HEADED.  INSANELY INVENTIVE AND INCREDIBLE FOOD SERVED IN AN INSANELY INVENTIVE AND INCREDIBLE WAY IN A CASUAL DINING EXPERIENCE

I GOT THE ROAST BEEF AND THE SALT FRIES.  MY WIFE GOT THE CAULIFLOWER GRILLED CHEESE.  FRIENDS GOT THE FRENCH TOAST AND THE BAHN MI.  INCREDIBLE FROM START TO FINISH.

THIS PLACE IS TRULY A MUST STOP FOR ANYONE IN THE AREA.  IT IS INCREDIBLE. IT IS OUTSTANDING.  IT IS FANTASTIC.  IT IS THE BEST I HAVE EVER HAD.

PS- THEY ARE OPENING UP ONE IN MY HOMETOWN OF NASHVILLE.  MY LITTLE TOWN IS GROWING UP SO FAST!

EVO






1075 E Montague Ave, North Charleston, SC 29405

BEST PIZZA IN AMERICA

MY NEW CULINARY DOCUMENTATION OBSESSION IS THE THRILLIST.  THE THRILLIST IS THIS AMAZING WEBSITE THAT KEEPS PEOPLE UP TO DATE ON ALL THE AWESOME THINGS TO DO, DRINK, EAT AND SEE IN A CITY.  FOR ME, MY OBSESSION FALLS ON THEIR WEEKLY "21 BEST (FILL IN FOOD) IN AMERICA".

BURGERS, BBQ, WINGS, STEAK, BURRITO, BRUNCH, DINER, AND IN THIS CASE PIZZA.

THE BIG ONES, THE POPULAR FOODS, THEY RE-DO EVERY YEAR.  LIKE PIZZA

EVO IN CHARLESTON IS THE ONLY PLACE TO BE FEATURED TWICE ON THE "21 BEST PIZZAS IN AMERICA" ARTICLE, FOR 2013 AND 2014.

IN A TOWN THAT IS FOCUSED ON TRADITION AND "HOW IT'S ALWAYS BEEN DONE", EVO BUCKS THIS TRADITION.  IN THE UP AND COMING NORTH CHARLESTON, EVO IS YOUR CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF THE NEXT GENERATION OF CULINARY GREATNESS.  CASUAL,  AMAZING FOOD WITH AMAZING CRAFT BEER.

EVO'S TRIFECTA PIZZA IS THE BEST PIZZA I HAVE EVER HAD.  PERFECTLY COOKED CRUST, PERFECTLY PREPARED SAUCE, PERFECTLY MELTED CHEESE.  TOPPED WITH PEPPERONI, BACON, AND MY FAVORITE PIZZA TOPPING, TINY SAUSAGE CRUMBLES.  NOT GIANT PIECES OF SAUSAGE.  GIANT MEATBALL SIZE PIECES OF SAUSAGE.  I LIKE TINY TINY TINY CRUMBLES.  MR. GATTI'S STYLE (AND IF YOU GET THAT REFERENCE, PAT YOURSELF ON THE BACK).

EVO IS SIGNIFICANT TO THE CITY OF CHARLESTON AS IT SIGNIFIES THAT THE NEXT GENERATION OF CULINARY BRILLIANCE COMING TO THE CITY IS BOTH OVERWHELMINGLY STRONG IN TERMS OR CREATIVITY OF TASTE KEEPING THAT TRADITION ALIVE OF AMAZING FOOD IN THE CITY WHILE BUCKING THE TRADITION OF SNOBBY, 1% ONLY ALLOWED IN TERMS OF BEING ABLE TO ENJOY FINE DINING