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 shilshuldiaries@gmail.com

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Kuma's Corner










Chicago
2900 West Belmont Chicago, IL, 60618

From Best Thing I Ever AteDiner's Drive-In's and Dives, Manliest Restaurants, Burger Paradise, and Best Burgers in America.

"Burgers named after metal bands. "Kuma Burger" (beef patty with applewood-smoked bacon, cheddar cheese on a pretzel roll topped with a fried egg, red onions and lettuce)"

This place is one of the most incredible casual dining experiences of my life.  Kuma's corner has been on my "want to/have to" list for a long time.  A tiny neighborhood heavy metal/biker bar with insane burgers, what could go wrong!  Urban legend claims that the line on weekends for this tiny dive turned neighborhood phenomenon can reach upwards of 6 hours.  We went on a Wednesday night, and there was no wait.

While this place is known as the "Bovine Genocide" with amazing beer selections and ear blasting music with incredible burgers, there is a secret to Kuma's. Kuma's corner signature appetizer is a create-your-own mac and cheese bowl with a plethora of mix-ins.  This is the best mac and cheese I have ever had.  Better than southern better than anything.  We got bacon and sauteed onions mixed in.  They encourage you put hot sauce, like saracha and tabasco in.  

Onto the burgers.  My god the burgers.  Other than Thurmans in Columbus and Bub burger at Umami, this is the third best burger of my life.  Each burger is 10 oz of perfect meat goodness. The burgers are enormous and so juicy and so perfectly cooked.  The hamburger is the star and the toppings are the compliment.

I got the Neurosis.  Cheddar, swiss, sauteed onion and mushroom.  It is pure perfection.  

Max got the Kuma's.  Cheddar, fried egg, bacon.

Scott got Weekend Nachos. merkts cheddar, jalapeno, pico de gallo, pickled red onion, tortilla strips, cilantro

Erik got goatsnake. herbed goat cheese, poblano corn relish, cholula lemon vinaigrette, buttermilk breaded fried red onion

I cannot stress this enough.  Kuma's corner was one of the greatest casual dining experiences of my life.  Best mac and cheese. top 3 burger.  This place is worth the 6 hour wait.  just incredible!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Phil's BBQ







San Diego

From Man Vs. Food and Best Sandwich in America


3750 Sports Arena Blvd., San Diego, CA 92110
"What you're getting: The El Toro sandwich and a half rack of baby back ribs
San Diego!? California!? To see a place in Southern California make the list might cause some consternation from the purists, but Phil Pace's spot has earned a seat at the table. Combining self-taught recipes for rubs and sauces with traditional mesquite BBQing has netted him a successful mini-empire in SD, and last year, that El Toro tri-tip 'wich was a finalist for Alan Richman's "Best Sandwich in America" (though those same purists might want to just stick to the baby backs)."


On the BBQ scale...this place is amazing....on the BBQ sauce scale...this place is epic

They won't lie to you...they are not known for their meat....

They are known for their sauce...and what a sauce it is...and made the hour and 45 minute wait completly worth it...as did the sweet tea!!

I don't like molassass based sauce, I don't like vinegar based sauce, and I don't like mustard based sauce.  I am a Tennessee boy through and through and I like my sauce the way Tennesseans make it...tomato based with a bit of spice, and this is exactly what type of sauce Phil's have.

The meat is great, the sweet tea is amazing, and the sauce is incredible. The onion rings are pretty epic too. Rather than beer battered or who knows what battered, the onion rings, cut THICK (the way god intended), are corn bread battered, so they are sweet and pretty great.

We (my brother and cousin) ordered two pulled pork sandwiches (El Broham) which came with cole slaw ON IT..the way god intended which was great, El Toro which is chopped Tri-Tip which is a cut of meat specific to California.  It was a tad bit overated as it was featured on best sandwich in America and had no where near enough sauce.  They had options for a sampler of their famous ribs. I got the pork rib, which was drenched in sauce and normal size.  My brother got the beef rib which was dinosaur size and epic!  We got 3 sides and sweet tea.  It was an incredible escape back to Southern BBQ without having to leave California.

Hodad's





San Diego


From Diners, Drive-In's, and Dives


5010 Newport Avenue, San Diego, CA 92107

http://hodadies.com/

I have had amazing burgers (Umami, Plan Check, and Thurmans (which is the best)).

This place is not an amazing burger....but it's a really great burger.  

The meat has some form of seasoning that is out of this world, but the toppings DOMINATE the burger which is not what you want.  You ordered a cheeseburger, so the toppings should compliment the burger, not dominate. I didn't order a salad with mayo, mustard, ketchup and meat with cheese. But remember, I have extremely high expectations.

It is a great great great burger. 4 out of 5 spatulas if I actually had a scale...

Albert's



San Diego Zoo


Greatest restaurant in America.  Don't know what they serve....don't know what they are famous for...don't really care...just greatest name and thus greatest restaurant in the world...

Ironically....or coincidentally my mom would say...this place is named for a giant silverback gorilla who died in 1984...

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Animal








Los Angeles

From Best Thing I Ever Ate


435 N. Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA, 90036
I will be honest and blunt.  This place is almost impossible to get into.  I waited six months to go. This place has no sign.  It's just there. 

This was one of the top 3 best meals of my life.  I cannot begin to explain to you how incredible this place was.  I dream of this place at night, and not just of one dish, but of multiple dishes, actually all the dishes...

This place was just.....perfection.

Animal is a gastrointestinal journeymans dream.  It is a culinary mecca.  It is a restaurant kingdom.  It is a meat restaurant with a focus on meat highlighting meat, but in the most inventive and incredible ways imaginable. The owners and chefs take cuts of pieces, organs, disregaded pieces, and make them into something that is nothing short of a masterpiece.  The plates are small and are meant to share, and althought sharing food sends me into a neutrotic spiral of sweats and panic as I worry I won't get enough food, the sharing at this place is required so that you can try as many things as possible.

The menu changes daily.

Animal will go down as one the greatest experiences culinary wise in my life.

I went with two other guys.  The waiter recommended 2 dishes per person, we went with 10 total plus two desserts.

In order down the menu from the night I went (you can keep score on the photo above)
1. Marrow bone, chimichurri, caramelized onions: Bone marrow has been #1 on my food bucket list since I started charting my gastrointestinal journey, and it did not disappoint.  They bring the bone split with everythign inside, and you just scoop and put it all onto a perfectly toasted piece of sourdough.  Amazing!
2. Pig tails, “buffalo style,” celery, ranch: the most creative and messy dish on the list.  The pig tails were meatier than I expected.  Great!
3. Fried cauliflower, tahini, white anchovy, wild rice, lemon: our veggie of the evening and so incredible.  The anchovy gave it a hint of like herring in sour cream which reminds me of meals in the south, a dish my grandmother loves!
4. Beef heart, paprika, dill-crème fraiche, potato, pickled beets: so tender and incredible. the sauce was perfect balance and the potato, which was a potato chip, was a perfect addition.
5. Pig ear, chili, lime, fried egg: not the easiest to eat, but the most creative in terms of flavor.  Perfectly spicy bacon strips is the best way to put it!
6.Barbeque pork belly sandwiches, slaw: Made my southern gentleman belly quite happy, and the pork belly is the most tender I have ever had!
7. Veal brains, vadouvan, apricot puree, carrot: this one was good, not amazing, but good, had a few spices I didn't care for, and my uncle, who is a gastrointestinal doctor I love and trust told me after the fact "avoid neurological matter"...whoooops!
8. Iberico pork secreto, marinated onion, garlic scapes: Picture the most perfectly cooked pork tenderloin, and thats what you get here, with some of the rarest veggies in the world, garlic scapes, which bloom only 3 months of the year
9. Crispy pig head, short grain rice, bulldog sauce, soy egg: Again, avoid the neurological matter!
10. Duck breast, charred cabbage, liptauer, mustard: A late addition to the meal, but probably the best dish of the night.  I have only had duck once before, and now I know, it was greatly overcooked.  This was one of the best dishes I have ever had in my life.  Perfection  This goes on the short list for death row final meal!
11. Poutine, oxtail gravy, cheddar: this is a masterpiece that sticks with you for weeks to come.  Poutine is a canadian dish eaten in the dead of winter to keep warm and fat.  It's fries drenched in gravy and cheese.  This is a rich man's chili cheese fries, and Animal does it best.  Just imagine fries drenched in the finest beef stew of our life covered in the richest cheese of your life....Masterpiece!

Dessert:
Bacon chocolate crunch bar, s&p ice cream: Mindblowing!
Tres leches, dulce de leche: perfect ending!

Let me say this again..and I cannot reiterate it enough!


Animal will go down as one the top 3 greatest food experiences in my life.