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 9:37am on February 6th, 2014, THE LIST HAS 2,163 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, October 15, 2014

KENNY AND ZIGGY DELI










FROM DINER'S, DRIVE-IN'S, AND DIVES


2327 Post Oak Blvd, Houston, TX 77056

This is a carbon copy of the large scale diner style Jewish deli.  GIANT menu, giant drinks, pickles on the table, broadway posters. Carnegie in NYC or Factors in LA. and it is exactly what it's suppose to be. Big portions fresh made everything. Houston is lucky to have this joint. This is the place to go for real deal deli and try something different. You will love this place. Mazel tov!!! 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pequod's






From Best Pizza in America

8520 Fernald Ave, Morton Grove, IL 60053

Chicago pizza is a unique artform.  It is also a polarizing gastrointestinal experience.  Either you love it or you hate it, there is no "It was fine" or "I don't care what we have for dinner…deep dish pizza. Sure" purgatory kind of response.  And like most heated food feuds and duels and wars, locals stake their claim to their favorite, all doing it the same, but a little different.  The cheese, the sauce (sauce or stewed tomatoes), the crust (corn or butter or none).  Each characteristic lends itself to the great debate of which is the best deep dish in Chicago.  The tourists take Uno, Gino, and Giordanno.  The family says Lou's.  However there is one pizza in Chicago that brings up memories of hanging out with friends before, during, or after a school event. Pequod's.  My father-in-law grew up across the street from Pequod's and one night, I asked him if we could go to Pequod's.  He smiled and said "Pequod's.  I havent been there in YEARS! Now you are talking!" Ranked with Lou's as the best deep dish in Chicago, Pequod's is a urban myth, legend, and rite of passage.  Two locations.  That's it.  A dive bar feel. Dingy, dark, plastic table cloths.  Drinks in large plastic cups.  It's your ideal pizza shop.  But the pizza…my god the pizza.   They do something no other place in Chicago does.  They dont fit the crust and dough to the pan, they leave about an inch of space…..to allow for a cheesy overflow.  When the pizza is perfectly cooked, the cheese overflows down this tiny crevasse and overtakes the back of the many times naked crust, and it gets burned and crunchy and delicious.  Every bite has a cheesy, crunchy, bite. It is a wonderfully amazing deep dish pizza. 

Want to be scoffed at by locals and called a tourist..go to Uno's, Gino's, or Girodanno's

Want to be deloved by locals…go to Lou's

Want to be respected by locals…go to Pequod's

Monday, October 13, 2014

Tony's Pizza Napoletana









From Pizza Paradise and Best Pizza in America


1570 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94133


"Pizza Margherita" – (San Marzano tomato sauce with sea salt, fresh basil and fresh mozzarella fior de latte topped with extra virgin olive oil baked in a wood-burning brick oven) "White Pie" (pizza with clams and garlic), "The California" (pizza with mozzarella, a combo of Calabrese and Sorano peppers, caramelized deep-fried onions, hand-sliced Piave cheese and North Beach honey)"

Remember the origin of the list. The inspiration.  The muse.  My cousins Danny and Sarah?  Well, we met for pizza at this Pizza Paradise in the Golden Gate city! This place boasts 11 time world championship winning Margherita pizza.   This place is a pizza palace and paradise.  They have every regional speciality pizza from around the world.  Magheritta from San Marzano (which is easily the most outstanding pizza I have ever had).  Sicilian from Sicily.  White Pie from the northeast.  All with a NoCal spin.  This place is phenomenal and worth the very long wait.  99.9% of the time when you go for pizza, you are locked into the style that the emporium makes, yet at Tony's, the wide variety allow you to pick your favorite style of pizza and indulge on your favorite style of pizza made in world class form with world class quality ingredients and craft.  


*Go with a big group and get 3-4 different varieties because they are all so different and unique.

Pizano's






From Pizza Paradise


864 N State St, Chicago, IL 60610

"Chicago-style deep dish pizza – "Rudy Special" (2-inch thick crust, handmade dough, fresh whole-milk mozzarella cheese slices, specially-made sausage and mushrooms baked in aged cast iron pans), Chicago thin-crust pizza"

For a city that prides itself on its signature deep dish, Chicago has no shortage of thin crust too!  However, unlike its adversary in New York, which prefers a normal crust, when Chicago says thin crust..they mean THIN crust.  Cracker thin! Crispy!  With the perfect amount of sauce and cheese.  Chicago does pizza to both extremes….extremely thick or extremely thin! 

And when it comes to the extreme of thin crust, Pizano's is the best! Perfect crisp, perfect sauce, perfect cheese, well done and done well.

Oh, apparantaly they have deep dish too…but for that stick to Lou's

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Burger UP




From America's Best Burger

2901 12th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37204

"What you're getting: "The Woodstock"  If you don't like their local beef topped with Benton's bacon, white cheddar, and Jack Daniel's ketchup, it would make me very sad. And angry. But mostly sad."

The Nashville I know is kind, gentle, calm, caring with a Southern twang, drawl, and spice.  I had grown used to the slower pace of life, the warm summers and mild winters, and the satisfaction that the best burger in town came from a dive or a walk-up stand where you get everything in a paper bag that becomes translucent within five minutes of recieving your order from the grease of the fries packed inside.....

That's the Nashville I knew...

And then the "Nashville is the hottest city in America" came out, and my beloved little country town became a hub and mecca of popularity, parties, and Southern draw.  The moment I had realized that Nashville was going through a major change in its personality was when Burger Up opened.  A once run down network, 12th avenue was once run down, grafiti filled, and ridden with poverty, but now, with Burger Up as its anchor, this place is the most popular neighborhood in town.  Burger Up was Nashville's first gourmet burger.  Farm to table.  Organic. Grass fed.  Made from scratch.  Craft beer.  Handcut fries.  Frankly, delicious.  Sometimes change is tough to except, but if change brings a place like Burger Up, I am all for it!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Dagwood's







From America's Best Sandwich Shops

116 S Indiana Ave, Bloomington, IN 47408

"You gotta get: The Dagwood. To share a name with famous glutton Dagwood Bumstead, a sandwich joint’s gotta have some serious chutzpah, and that’s just the case with this Indiana University fixture. The composition mayo-based “special sauce” is a source of constant debate, but every patron agrees that the stuff is “like crack” when added to their fresh-baked sandwiches, whose standard size is so behemoth that a classic BLT piled high with slabs of bacon is considered a snack. Also, it’s on campus. Wow."

All the great college towns must have a great local bar scene, great pizza, great burgers, and great sandwiches, and for my alma mater IU, Dagwood's fills the requirements for the great sandwiches.  In a town that can feel overrun by JJ and Subway, Dagwood's stands alone of Btown's premier local sandwich haven and heaven.  It is right on campus!  The bread is great, meat is piled sky high, and the options or toppings and sauces are endless.  A truly wonderful institution of gluttonous and gastrointestinal wonder among a truly wonderful institution of higher learning and socializing!

Rotiers




From America's Best Burgers

2413 Elliston Pl, Nashville, TN 37203

"What you're getting: Bacon cheeseburger on French bread
I once asked my Dad, a Vandy grad, if he remembered what I ordered the first time he took me to Rotier's in high school; the way he told me that I better have gotten the bacon cheeseburger implied I’d soon be disowned if that wasn't the case. The spot is famous for its meat-and-three, but the signature burger is still the main draw. It comes on fresh-baked, crusty French bread thats soft, chewy inside soaks up the gooey cheese and juices of the burger in a way that’ll make you'll start questioning why you always grab buns at the store instead. And while my dad's dating ritual of a burger, bottled Stroh's, and fries with my mom may be from the '70s, the meal is timeless."


I grew up in Nashville.  Born and raised there with a eight year layover in Louisville (also an incredible city).  I have, do, and will always love Nashville.  I loved Nashville when people would say "You're from Nashville.  I see you wear shoes and know how to use indoor plumbing" as opposed to the "OMFG I LOVE NASHVILLE I HAD MY BACHELOR/BACHELORETTE PARTY THERE! I WANNA MOVE THERE" craze of the last five years.

Nashville has its BBQ, soul food, and hot chicken.  Nashville has its institutions of each from Peg Leg Porker, Monells, Loveless, and Princes. But there is one restaurant that defines Nashville at its core, at its heart, at its soul. Rotiers.  A dark, dingy, dive pub that serves the most phenomenal cheese burgers.  When I met with my college counselor for the first time in high school, he asked me if I was to take someone from out of town to a restaurant in Nashville to define the city, what would it be.  I said "Rotiers" without hesitation.  Everyone has a Rotiers story.  Everyone has a Rotiers memory.  Everyone has a Rotiers moment.  Rotiers is perfect Nashville. Quiet, comfortable, loving, caring, Southern drawl and charm, with a lot of grease, a glass bottle coke, and a side of fries.

PS-I have been told that if you dare to wander away from the burger, the soul food is some of the best in the city.