I'm not going to get into too much bs about the past year's eating, except to say that I was pretty fortunate to have some pretty cool cities to visit for b0th work and vacation).
10. Pistacia Vera, Columbus - About a month ago Michael Ruhlman got absolutely ripped by Clevelanders over his gushing blog post on Columbus. Pistacia Vera is an absolutely wonderful bakery located in German Village. This is by far the most meticulously put together bakeshop I think I've ever seen. Sorry Cleveland, I haven't seen anything close to PV in these parts.
9. Sunset Grille, Boston - There were 112 different draft beers on tap. Like the crazy aunt that has chachkis sitting on every flat surface in her home (tops of window panes included), Sunset has managed to shoehorn taps around the perimeter of the space. The food is very affordable, and not your garden variety bar food. I had the pig wings special - excellent! If you go, don't drive.
8. Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burgers, Ann Arbor - The collective flavor of these mid-sized meat balls smashed into patties, topped with whatever you'd like, on a bun that is soft as an angel's pillow makes for one addictive little burger. When I return I'm not holding back. Since I was so overwhelmed by the line, burger combinations, and ordering protocol, I decided to go with a fairly basic burger. The best way to describe the ordering process is that it's very similar to sex, the first time you're about 80% sure of what you're supposed to do - the other 20% comes with experience (or at least I hope it does).
7. Brooks' House of BBQ, Oneanta, NY - I'm a huge fan of Southern Tier Brewery, but Southern Tier chicken? After this summer I'm a fan of that, too. This place has been a local favorite for well over a half a century. As you drive past on the highway way it looks like a building is on fire - that would be Brooks'. The smokehouse is more like a smoke-mansion. I had to walk all the way out to the road and still couldn't fit it in the frame of my 50mm lens. Me + Southern Tier Chicken = Pile of Clean Chicken Bones.
6. Bi Rite Creamery San Francisco - If I designed an ice cream store it would look like Bi Rite. The menu is not overwhelmingly large, but also not too small. Much like Franklin Fountain, high quality local ingredients are at the forefront. I ordered the After School Sundae which included "how the hell did they make these" graham crackers that were the perfect texture (sort of sandy), resulting in an awesome sundae.
5. Sally's Apizza, New Haven - Sally's is old school. It has a bathroom that rivals the one in Transpotting. It's cash only. It lets regulars make reservations while those out of the loop wait in a line outside. They make a pie that is a perfect marriage of bread, cheese, toppings, and most of all the dusty bits of char. (The char should be bottled). They do it at their own pace. On their own terms. And I love it. Everyone should go once in their lifetime.
4. Toronado, San Francisco - Happy hour runs from 12-6pm (actually a happy afternoon). What better way to spend 93 degree un-airconditioned afternoons in San Francisco? If you're like me you spend four straight days drinking Pliny's at $4 a crack. Rosamunde next door does hamburgers on Tuesdays that you can eat at the bar. This is by far the coolest bar I've ever been in (not cool like VTR, but cool in a beer nerd way). I was in here for 3-4 hour stretches and shot the breeze with these guys like I'd known them for years. Epic.
3. King Umberto, Long Island - Two miles down the road from Belmont Park sits a pizza place that invented the Grandma Style pizza. This thin, soft, chewy pizza totally caught me by surprise. Grandma Style falls under the category of "you've got to eat it to know what I'm talking about". All I can say is that you must, must, must try this pizza.
2. Zahav, Philadelphia - We had the opportunity to try Chef Michael Solomonov's cooking at the Alex's Lemonade Stand benefit. We walked away so impressed with his dish that we knew we were coming back to try his Israeli eatery. Zahav gives the venerable Vetri a run for its money. Solomonov hits on all points, from the decor, to the food, to the service. Philadelphia is a monster food destination that continues to open incredible restaurants like this.
1. Fette Sau BBQ, Brooklyn - I had my shirt from the night before wrapped in a plastic bag. I opened my suitcase and said to Regina, "Smell this shirt. Can you smell the smoke? Isn't it amazing?"
Smoke permeates throughout this barbecue joint. Meat is sold by the pound, and put on aluminum sheet pans. Once you've got your food, you plop down at one of a few large indoor communal tables. The bar serves up an incredible variety of beers (Captain Lawrence being one of my favorites) in mason jars. The pork is Berkshire. The music is loud. The vibe is great. Thursdays are whole hog days. I was a little bummed because I missed the Duroc whole hog by a day. This was an absolutely awesome dinner, the smoke, the meat, the beer, the music, the friends. I was totally caught off guard by the whole experience here.