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

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. 

THE BURGER CHECKLIST






THE KEY TO A GREAT BURGER FALLS IN THE "ALBERT MARKS PEFECT BURGER CHECKLIST"

A BURGER MUST HAVE 5 CRUCIAL, VITAL, IMPERATIVE CHECKPOINTS THAT MAKE IT TRULY GREAT, OUTSTANDING, EPIC, MINDBLOWING, AND PHENOMENAL.

1.  THE MEAT:  THE BURGER MUST BE PERFECTLY PREPPED, SEASONED, COOKED, AND SERVED HOT!



2. THE CHEESE: MUST BE MELTED, NOT THROWN ON TOP AT THE LAST MOMENT.




3. THE TOPPINGS: MUST COMPLIMENT AND ENHANCE THE BURGER EXPERIENCE, NOT OVERWHELM OR LEAVE ANYTHING TO BE DESIRED


4. THE SAUCES: MUST COMPLIMENT AND ENHANCE THE BURGER EXPERIENCE, NOT OVERWHELM OR LEAVE ANYTHING TO BE DESIRED


5. THE BUN: MUST SUPPORT, COMPLIMENT, AND ENHANCE THE BURGER EXPERIENCE.  IT CANNOT FALL APART OR LOSE ITS INTEGRITY AND FOUNDATION BECAUSE OF THE CONTENTS IT HOLDS INSIDE.


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.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Best BBQ In Nashville







903 Gleaves St, Nashville, TN 37203

http://peglegporker.com/

People ask me all the time about where they should go for food in Nashville, and my answer is always the same.  Peg Leg Porker.  The best ribs, best pulled pork, and EASILY best sauce.  And BBQ Nachos.  The ribs are dry rub, so not my normal go-to, but with sides of sauce to dip it, it's perfect. It's not a question, it's not a competition.  This place is the best BBQ in the city and cannot be missed.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

THE BOILING CRAB






From Best Thing I Ever Ate

3377 Wilshire Blvd #115, Los Angeles, CA 90010

http://theboilingcrab.com/

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.