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

Monday, June 15, 2015

Au Cheval

From the Best Burger In America

800 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607

Ever since Kuma's Corner ( people have told me one thing.  "Yah, Kuma's is good, but have you tried Au Cheval.  It's the best"

Challenge accepted.

Here is what I knew about Au Cheval, it is on Randolph which has become the hub of new culinary excellence in Chicago (see Girl and the Goat  It seated only like 40 people.  There would be a long wait. It was a new age diner aka fresh organic ingredients done in masterful ways re-inventing old classics like burgers, omlettes, nachos, and grilled cheese. And there was this burger.  A single is a double.  A double is a triple.  You must get the THICK cut bacon and the fried egg on top.  After all, Au Cheval literally means "on horseback" but in France, if a food on a menu is described with that phrase, it means "a fried egg on top."

And…..well….David Rosengarten of the Huff Post puts it best:

"My mind was simply blown by Au Cheval.
I daresay this is not only my favorite informal restaurant in America... this may well be my favorite restaurant of any kind in America today! I'm there! And so are thousands of others...
Most of them, in fact, are lined up at the door exactly when you want to eat. This is decidedly not a three-star restaurant, with a three-month maneuver to get in. No reservations. As I was putting my name on a list at the front of the house (which can lead to as much as a 2/12 hour wait), I was told that if the owner himself wanted a table he'd have to go through the same waiting list."
Au Cheval was spectacular on every level.  I went with my brother in law and my future sister in law and waited in line for an hour.  We sat at the bar and watched as the masters of this masterful diner worked their masterful magic in the open kitchen.  A wise man once told me that an open kitchen means they are proud of their work and have nothing to hide and is the sign of a phenomenal eating experience.  Why do you think the kitchen at Applebees is behind a granite slab wall. Why do you think Waffle House has an open kitchen.  Excellence in the culinary pantheon. I rest my case.  You just got lawyered like it is 1:57pm on WGN by Perry Mason.

 We got the toasted blueberry muffin with hand whipped butter and jam and it was sublime and fries that were so perfectly overly seasoned that they would stand alone in perfection
But I was here for one thing and one thing only. The burger.  Like Holman Finch (, the burger stands lone on the menu.  They make them by the hundreds.  It is meat, cheese, pickles, and onion.  It is made to perfection and tastes of perfection. The meat is cooked so perfectly and tastes of hevaen.  The cheese is gooey and melts you soul.  The condiment and sauces accompany perfectly but dont overwhelm.  The bun holds up the test of time.  The bacon is the burger's best friend.  The egg is the burger's best man.  They all go together in perfection.  This burger accomplishes what only a handful have.  The Au Cheval Double (REALLY A TRIPLE) Cheeseburger meets all five standards of the perfect burger.  ( The meat, the cheese, the condiments, the sauce, the bun.  Perfect.

This is the best burger in Chicago and in the top 3 of my life..until I got text from my buddy Adam. "DMK is better".


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Muir Woods Trading Company

From Best Thing I Ever Ate

1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941

Let me begin by saying something that is blasphemous, that is atrocious, that is offensive, and un-patriotic.

I do not like grilled cheese.


I despise, loathe, hate the taste, texture, and idea of congealed cheese.  Cheese that is melted and then has been left to room temperature to be cold. GROSS Unless cheese is in its original form cold or so hot that it melts RIGHT as it is served, it's not for me.

Grilled cheese is the epitome of congealed cheese.  Melted cheese that has now set.  It's like the lava flows in Hawaii.  Rock hard fragments of what was once liquid hot queso…I mean magma.

Muir Woods Trading Company is located at the entrance to Muir Woods, a majestic and wonderful national park just outside San Francisco home of magnificent red woods.  A must see.

The trading company is the cafe and the park shop, but it holds a much better secret.

This pace is supposed to have the best grilled cheese and tomato soup, so I said no to hate and gave it a try.  My wife is a grilled cheese afficinando, so this was a must try.

When we told people we were going, they asked "did you try the grilled cheese?"

The ingredients are simple and fresh.  Locally sourced bread, cheese, and veggies. My cousin Danny who was the basis of this blog said "It's shocking.  This is the best cafeteria food in the national park system and it's not that difficult.  It's mind-blowing that no one else has followed suit"

The grilled cheese, known as the Marin Melt, is outstanding.  Hot off the grill.  Melts perfectly (key for me).  Three distinct cheeses that on their own are outstanding, but together match in perfect harmony. Thick cut multigrain bread toasted to perfection.  Tomato soup that warms the soul both with temperature and spice and is the best I have ever had.  Perfect for a cool, damp day, which is common for the area.

You must visit Muir Woods for the grilled cheese and tomato soup…and while you are there take in some of the most incredible scenery in the world.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Martin's BBQ

From Diner's, Drive-In, and Dives and Best BBQ in America

3108 Belmont Blvd, Nashville, TN 37212

The tag line says it all "Not ideal for vegan Bat Mitzvahs"

I grew up in Nashville before it was NASHVILLE! The Nashville I grew up in wasn't the place that make people giddy and excited.  It wasnt the bachelorette party capital of the world.  It wasn't a foodie paradise.  It was just Nashville.  It was the "you wear shoes" comment Nashville. 

Long before the James Beard award winning chefs and hipster craft beer and burgers and ice cream. Long before areas now considered trendy were visions of Green Acres or the Wire.  There was my Nashville.

The Nashville I grew up in had mediocre BBQ at best.  I would get my BBQ fix when we would make our monthly trip to Memphis to see family.  "Why can't we have (insert a Memphis BBQ institution) in Nashville".

Well, now we do.  The influx of people and culture has also brought an influx of Southern pride and tradition and an obsession with sharing it with the masses.

Thanks to this new wave of popularity, Nashville has had to step up its BBQ game in a big way to keep up with the trends.  The hot chicken, the music, and the BBQ.

Nashville was ranked the "best BBQ city in America" recently.  It wasn't awarded to Nashville because of the BBQ they had, they got the award because of the BBQ they got.  Nashville has become a hub for all things food related.  People brought the best of their talents, skill, and knowledge to Nashville and have set up shop.  

Martin's BBQ is a perfect example and metaphor of what has made Nashville great and unique.

This place is all about the classic southern BBQ experience.  They borrow and perfect methods and sauces from all the regions. Tangy and spicy from Memphis.  Tangy and sweet from Texas.  Mustard base from South Carolina.  Vinegar based from North Carolina.  White sauce from Alabama.  Whatever it is KC does.  They have it all under on roof and they do it right.

The pulled pork is amazing.  The ribs are wonderful.  The sides are phenomenal.  The sweet tea is delicious.  This is exactly what you want from a BBQ restaurant and experience.  This place is amazing, wonderful, phenomenal, and delicious.

Thanks to Martin's, Edleys, Jack's, and the best BBQ in town in my opinion, Peg Leg Porker, Nashville's claim to the best BBQ city in America is not only well deserved but is justified.

PS- The Devil's Nectar sauce is the hottest BBQ sauce I have ever had in my life. 









Baby's Badass Burgers

From Food Wars

Food Truck

I love a food truck.  I love the chase.  I love the intrigue of will we make it or wont we.  I love having to figure out the code of where they will be and when.

Baby's Badass Burgers was one food truck that has been at the top of my list with Kogi.  It took me four years, but finally, I found the pretty pink truck on chilly May evening in Venice.

The wait was worth it.

I got the 'She's Smokin'. 1/2 lb burger, cheddar, BBQ sauce, fried onion. and bacon.   The burger was delicious.  Toppings were great.  The sauce was outstanding.  This was an outstanding burger and I was just sorry that it took me this much time to find, flirt, and court the BBB truck.

McClure's Pickles

From Best Thing I Ever Ate

Any Grocery Store in America

This will be the most easily accessible item on this entire blog.  They are in every and any grocery store in America. Check the deli department where they sell cheese and meat not vacuumed sealed in the display case.  Did they sell out and go corporate. Yes.  Does it make this outstanding product available to the public for a beefed up hipster price of $8.99 a jar.  Yes.  Is it worth every penny? Yes!

I love pickles. I love dill pickles! I love half sour, whole sour, no sour (cucumber).  I love chips, spears, halves, and wholes! I love pickles, but my body and breath, no so much.  My father and I share a distinguishable trait in that pickles stench are maginfied with our breath and musk.  My wife can smell when I have eaten a pickle before she enters the room and will refuse to be in the same vicinity as me once I start talking.  I love pickles, but love my wife and her company more, so I have reduced the number of pickles I eat to almost none.

Except for when she is out of town.

McClures pickles time.

These pickles are amazing.  They are wonderful! They are delicious.  They are exactly what you want in a pickle that you are gonna eat as a snack or with a meal.  Each jar has whole sprigs of dill and whole cloves of garlic.  The garlic is key to the McClures pickles.  Its not all about the dill.  They have many types. Garlic and dill.  Spicy. Spicy Sweet.  They got bloody mary mix. Relish.

Would I put this pickle on a cheeseburger? No.  Does this pickle belong on every deli table across the country ready for you to be the first thing you bite into when you sit down for your matzah ball soup and corned beef on toasted rye with mustard, fat fries, and a giant soda.  Yes!!

Do yourself a favor.  Skip the Vlasic, Claussen, and whatever cheap generic Kroger brand you are going to buy at the store and live a little bit.  Splurge for that jar of McClures pickles.  You, your family, and your friends will thank you…until they smell your breath, or in my case until my wife walks in the front door.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bakesale Betty

From Best Sandwich in America and Sandwich Paradise

5098 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

I love many things when it comes to food.  A good burger.  A good steak.  A good bbq rib or pulled pork sandwich.  A good lobster roll.  A good fajita. A good oyster or shrimp with cocktail sauce.  Like I said, many things.  And I LOVE a good chicken sandwich.  BBQ, fried, grilled, sliced, pulled, whole.  I love a good chicken sandwich, and Bakesale Betty is supposed to have the best in the country.  This place is plain and simple.  A bakery inside a corner shop.  The menu written on the wall daily on butcher paper.  They have no more than 10 items on the menu.  Chicken sandwich, scones, strawberry shortcake.  That's pretty much it.  Take-out only.  You sit out on the street at chairs pulled up to old ironing boards.  You order at a card table and they hand you everything in a brown bag.  The man behind the counter is making the sandwiches just trying to keep up with the demand.

The line around the corner is the dead give away of the legitimacy to the claim of best chicken sandwich in America.  And a totally, 100% hands down, no questions asked legitimate claim.  Plain and simple and perfect.  Great bun, giant piece of perfectly fried buttermilk fried chicken breast with a slaw.  Great great great great. Awesome awesome awesome.  Incredible incredible incredible. With a ice cold can of Coca-cola, its a perfect lunch or snack.  As a lover and obsesser of Heinz Ketchup, I would have loved to add ketchup to this monstrosity of awesome, but I will know to bring my own.  This sandwich belongs on the chicken sandwich Mt. Rushmore with the Chik-fil-A sandwich, Wendy's spicy chicken, and the Portillo's chicken sandwich.