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

Monday, June 15, 2015

Au Cheval








From the Best Burger In America

800 W Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60607


Ever since Kuma's Corner (http://shilshuldiaries.blogspot.com/2013/06/kumas-corner.html) 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 http://shilshuldiaries.blogspot.com/2015/01/girl-and-goat.html).  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 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 (http://shilshuldiaries.blogspot.com/2015/02/holeman-finch-public-house.html), 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.  (http://shilshuldiaries.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-burger-checklist.html). 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".

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!!



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.

DO NOT HATE ME!!!

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.