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, December 3, 2014

MY FAVORITE RESTAURANT OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES









HUMMUS BEN SIRA
3 Ben Sira, Jerusalem, Israel

There is not a more welcome sight in all the world to my heart, my soul, and my belly than the blue awning of Ben Sira.  It means home, it means, love, it means the best hummus in the world and definitely my favorite meal outside the USA.  It is so simple yet so perfect.  You sit down on picnic tables, order at the counter, and the magic begins.  You order at a bar, where three people are crammed behind preparing the culinary masterpiece.  You grab drinks from the cooler and await the feast.  Pickles, onions, felafel, tomatoes come as your salatim (appetizer), but one would be wise to save them for the hummus.  Hummus is the national food of Israel and the middle east, beloved by all, but argued about by all.  Everyone has their favorite place.  Every town claims to have the best.  Every city, every country.  Ben Sira is my vote.  What makes Ben Sira unique is that it is served warm!  You dip the warm pita into the warm hummus and top it with the salatim I told you to save. I prefer hummus basar which has perfectly season ground beef in it or hummus petriot which has mushrooms in it.


Ben Sira is a must stop for any traveler looking for an incredible home cooked meal.  Home cooked because dining there is like dining with family.  You can feel the love and care put into this place.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pizzeria and Osteria Mozza

















Pizzeria Mozza
641 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Best Pizza In America

Osteria Mozza
6602 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Manliest Restaurant in America

Three James Beard award winning chefs (Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich), two four star restaurants, two life changing, greatest meals of your life kind of experience, one building.

Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza are two of the finest restaurants and meals, not just Italian, you will ever experience in your life. Two of the finest and most beloved restaurants in a city bound by culinary excellence.

Osteria Mozza is as fine dining as it gets.  Open kitchen, mozzarella bar, the most experienced sommelier, and the finest ingredients and dishes.  I have been twice, and both times gotten the same thing, if it aint broke don't fix it.  In terms of Italian cuisine, both traditional or casual, its the finest meal I have ever had, one of the best overall meals of my life. We got Shaved Brussels Sprouts with mint, toasted almonds, pecorino & Parmigiano Reggiano for appetizer and it was phenomenal, Bufala Mozzarella with basil pesto, salsa romesco, tapenade & caperberry relish for our cheese course and it was unforgettable,  Tagliatelle with oxtail ragu for our pasta course and it was sublime and the  Grilled Whole Orata wrapped in radicchio with extra virgin olive oil and Grilled Leg of Lamb with insalata di fregola sarda, mint and yogurt for our main course are some of the outstanding dishes I have had in my life. Like I said the finest Italian meal of my life and one of the finest overall meals of my life.

Pizzeria Mozza is next door, and while it is more casual and hip, it is also one of the finest meals of my life, and easily the best pizza I have ever had.  This place is plain and simple.  Appetizers, salads, and incredibly mind blowing pizza with the best crust I have ever had. We got Fried Squash Blossoms with ricotta and I cannot stop thinking about them or drooling about the thought of them. 
Mozza Caprese for salad course which was simple and perfection on a plate.  Funghi Misti, Fontina, Taleggio & Thyme and a Mozzarella Di Bufala, Tomato, Genovese Basil & Extra Virgin Olive Oil pizza followed.  The cheese is perfection.  The sauce is perfection.  The toppings are perfection.  The pizzas are perfection in terms of doughiness and crunch.  Outstanding on every single level.  Like I have said before, the best pizza meal of my life and easily on the best meals of my life from start to finish! 

If you have the finances and want to experience the best Italian meal of your life and easily one of the best meals of your life, Osteria or Pizzeria Mozza is a cannot, should not be missed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Billy Goat Tavern

 




430 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611

From Best Burgers in America

A simple burgers, chips, and soda shop.  A old school, dimly lit, under the radar, immigrant owned burger shop.  A typical and normal story.  Every town has one.  But one town has the one that started it all.  The Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago.  A local, national, and international icon and landmark is all that can be said about this dark, hidden, burger paradise, tucked underneath the busiest street of the magnificent mile of Michigan Avenue in Chicago.  A must for both locals and tourist.  A burger dive that is famous for its food as well as its overwhelming historical influence on entertainment and sports.  So if you are ever in Chicago, maxing out your credit card on Michigan Avenue, and you are craving a great midday snack, head down the random stairs into the dark, damp, cold underworld of Chicago to a burger paradise steeped in amazing history!

This place is the origin of the curse of the Billy Goat on the Chicago Cubs. "The tavern is also known for its involvement in the Curse of the Billy Goat (also known as the "Cubs Curse"). Owner Sianis brought a pet goat, a tavern mascot, to Game 4 of the 1945 World Series, a home game at Wrigley Field against the Detroit Tigers. Despite paid-for box seat tickets, Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley allegedly ejected Sianis and goat due to the latter's odor. Supposedly, Sianis placed a curse on the team that they would not win another pennant or play in a World Series again."

This place is also the basis for a very famous Saturday Night Live skit.  "Another sign reads: "Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger. No Pepsi. Coke," These words, with Pepsi and Coke in reverse order, were originally spoken and immortalized by John Belushi in, "Olympia Cafe," an early Saturday Night Live sketch that was inspired by the tavern. Belushi said in an interview with Chicago radio icon Steve Dahl that he'd never set foot inside the Billy Goat. It was Bill Murray and sketch writer (and bit player) Don Novello who were the regulars at the Billy Goat."

But above all this place is famous for burgers. Cheeseburgers.  Specifically cheeseburgers only.  This place has a feeling of Wiener Circle.  The guys behind the counter yell at you for ordering wrong.  They have cheeseburgers (cheezborgers). Chips. And Coke.  Nothing else, nothign different.  The burgers are greasy, gooey, and incredible.  Its a institution, an experience, a land mark, and a cannot miss culinary and cultural experience in Chicago.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fat Mo's





2620 Franklin Pike, Nashville, TN 37204

From Best Burger in America

Deep in the heart of Nashville, home of hot chicken, BBQ, fried chicken, southern cooking, and southern hospitality is a burger shop.  Now, if this was just a burger shop, it would blend in, but Fat Mo's is anything but your average burger shop.  This place is the ultimate American dream mom and pop burger shop. The burger destination is the home of the most well seasoned burger in America.  The home of two Middle Eastern immigrants who brought their family, the culture, and lucky for us, their culinary delights with them.  Each burger is seasoned with a plethora of 19...19!!!!! spices that make the smells coming from the bag a aromatic symphony of perfection. It is an experience in and of itself. Drive-thru only.  Bags clear with grease and oil.  Burgers stacked a mile high with dressings flying everywhere!  It is a culinary extravaganza that entices every sense.  The sight of the burger stacked high, the feeling of all the juices running wild with each bite, the smells of the spices and the hot french fries, the sound of the burgers cooking, and the taste.....do I even need to continue...a taste that cannot be replicated or duplicated.  This place is both unique and a landmark to Nashville.  In a town of all America foods from fried chicken to apple pie to BBQ...Fat Mo's puts a spin on the all-American meal...the burger and fries..and the most extraordinary spin it is!

Pie N' Burger






913 E California Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91106

FROM BEST BURGER IN AMERICA

This place is old school.  They have a short, straight to the point menu with the old school prices to match.  They make their soda like it was supposed to be made, by a soda jerk who mixes the syrup with carbonated water.  Their burgers are simple and straight to the point delicious, their fries are perfectly cooked  This place is a landmark, an institution, and throwback to the old school burger shop, before there was gourmet, kale infused amuse bouche burgers, or fries dipped in duck pate burger shops, there was places like this place.  A throwback to the simple day, the good ole days, where your stomach and mind wanted just an amazingly cooked and prepared burger, a plate of hot fries right out of the over, still glistening in oil as hot as liquid hot magma , a piece of pie, and a homemade soda to wash it down.  Pie N' Burger is as good as it gets without being too much.  It is simple, American, incredible comfort food.

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 beloved by locals…go to Lou's

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