Eat It, America!
Have an incurable disease? Owe the Mob money? About to drive off a cliff? Before you croak, stick any of the following delicacies in your mouth and die a happier, slightly fatter man. Enjoy!
Sexiest Sandwich Named After A Dude
On the bar menu at this upscale eatery, the humble Reuben goes high art ($14): house-cured pastrami, beets vinaigrette instead of kraut, and artisanal Gouda.
From the banks of the Tennessee River, the Hagy family has been dishing out America’s best catfish ever since 1938. Start with a half-slab of baby-back ribs, followed by the Southern-style fried whole catfish. The legendary fish is all you can eat ($12), but you’ll want to save some room for a slice of the cracklike lemon rub pie.
Arnold’s Country Kitchen
To true-blue American foodies, Nashville is as much the home of the Meat and Three as it is the home of country music. And no one does it better than Jack Arnold, who whips your mouth into a tizzy for $8 an order. You really can’t go wrong with any combo of one meat and three sides, but if we had to pick, we’d go for roast beef with mac’n’cheese, turnip greens, and mashed potatoes. And cornbread. And banana pudding. And maybe a slice of chess pie. Then we’d go back for seconds.
Pair with: Fresh lemonade.
Babb Bar Cattle Baron Supper Club
Consuming 28 ounces of steak is not for the weak of stomach, but the rib eye ($30) at Babb Bar Cattle Baron —a log-and-antlers joint situated between Glacier National Park and the Canadian border—makes the battle to swallow a breeze. The rich, addictive marinade means the nearly two pounds of red meat vanishes with alarming speed. (Don’t even think about the 35-ounce T-bone unless you have a death wish.)
Pair with: Moose Drool Brown Ale.
Biggest Bunch Of Bologna
Primanti Bros. ¿
If this Iron City sandwich mecca’s jumbo bologna and cheese ($6) topped with tomato, cole slaw, and fries (yes, on the sandwich) sounds slim, double the meat and cheese and ask for an egg on top. Cardiac arrest never tasted so good.
Blue Ridge Pig ¿
You’ll know you’ve arrived at hog heaven when you spot the shack with a giant pig-shaped fuel tank on the roof. Get the pulled pork platter with mustard-based cole slaw and potato salad, plus limeade that tastes like it’s been smoked, too ($10). When you get home, you’ll smell the smoke on your clothes. Don’t eat them.
Lorelei restaurant & cabana bar
At this relaxed seafood shack on Florida Bay, the conch fritters ($8.25) prove what we’ve always suspected: Frying makes everything taste better. Seasoned with island spices, butter-battered, and served with Lorelei’s signature Out Island sauce, they’re as light and salty as the sea. Finally, Florida does something right.
Pair with: Rum punch.
Seven Tastiest Sins
If it’s good enough for Barack to take his first lady on V-Day, it’s good enough for you. The components of the seven-course degustation menu change daily, but you will no doubt be served fish, pork, venison, or pasta and the best cheese course on the planet. Go for the wine pairings. The only downside is the price—$220 per person. But amortized over seven courses, it’s only $31 per bite. Bargain.
The Lonesome Dove
Fort Worth, TX
Wild-game-loving chef Tim Love puts a haute spin on down-home fair. What does that mean? Kangaroo nachos ($12). Built with avocado salsa, boursin cheese, and blue corn chips, the tender slices of rare, squablike ’roo loin just scream “G’day, partner!”
Pair with: Jalapeño cucumber margaritas.
Mama’s Fish House
Warning: Once you hit this idyllic spot for the fresh-caught mahimahi stuffed with lobster, crab, and Maui onion and baked in a macadamia nut crust ($54), you will never be able to walk into Long John Silver’s again.
Most Loyal Dog
The Chicago hot dog ($1.75), like Oprah, is a world unto itself. Here’s the deal: an all-beef wiener served on a steamed poppy-seed bun with yellow mustard, green relish, caramelized onions, tomatoes, a pickle spear, and a wee bit of celery salt. Go on Fridays and Saturdays, when they serve their duck-fat fries ($3.50).
Abbott’s Lobster in-the-Rough
You’ll need a do-over at the pearly gates if you fail to eat a hot lobster roll at Abbott’s ($13.50): generous portions of buttery lobster, no doubt caught inches away, served on a hot, buttered sesame seed bun. Scarf it at a dockside picnic table, and bring your cooler. Abbott’s is not only seasonal (May through September); it’s BYOB.
Barely Legal Cuban
Las Olas Café
If Tony Montana were alive today, he’d take his yayo-caked mug to Las Olas and dig into the best Cuban sandwich in the non-commie world ($5). It’s tough to screw up a pressed foot-long stuffed with ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard, but the über-fresh ingredients and lovely locale make this the place to beat, mang.
Lotus of Siam
Las Vegas, NV
Located in a strip mall a mile from the bright lights, Lotus of Siam serves up mouth-numbing fantasticness. Start with the Nam Kao Tod (minced sausage mixed with green onion, fresh chili, ginger, peanut, crispy rice and lime, $8) before moving on to the Sua Rong Hai (charbroiled beef in spicy sauce, $14). Your burning tongue will help you forget the grand you dropped at the blackjack table.
New York City
Japan. Lost the war, but convinced us to eat raw fish. Go figure. Ponder this conundrum while enjoying the procession of sublime surprises that is the tasting menu ($120) at 15 East. No Iron Chef double-fried spicy mayo theatrics here. Just clean, perfect flavors. And steamed giant clam.
If Monk’s eponymous moules selection ($20) steamed with Belgian beer, white wine, garlic, and parsley doesn’t blow your balls off, the fries dipped into their bourbon mayo will.
Most Famous Wienie
Coney Island, NY
Until you’ve chewed a Nathan’s frank, particularly from its landmark Coney Island locale, you simply have not eaten a wiener ($2.75). Nab one at an airport or movie theater, and if you close your eyes you can see a tranny in clear heels tripping on the boardwalk.
Breakfast Of Kings
Sing San Francisco, CA
A millennium ago, dim sum was pre-pared solely for Chinese emperors. Today regular fat-asses can join the hot-pocket parade, the best of which is here. They serve dozens of varieties, but those in the know grab the “Shanghai”—minced pork, scallion, and ginger, steamed in their own broth—when they roll by ($11). Have your napkin at the ready.
Best Place To Eat An Entire Animal
Phillips Seafood House
Ocean City, MD
At Phillips you get one Chesapeake Bay soft shell ($10), deep-fried till it’s crunchy on the outside, tangy and soft on the inside, on any bread you want. Fixin’s—tartar sauce, lettuce, tomato—come on the side, and it’s an extra buck for fries. Maryland folk don’t like anything interfering with their crabs. You shouldn’t, either.
Located across the street from the legendary Usinger’s Famous Sausage, Brat House serves up ¿a juicy, all-pork sausage—plain or piled with onions, sauerkraut, and cheese—and your choice of ¿side for the righteous price of $7. Our rec? The baked beans made with ground sirloin and bacon.
Pair with: Dual nine-ounce mugs of ice-cold Schlitz. Then, for the love of God, eat a breath mint.
Best Mud Bugs
Louisiana superchef Donald Link calls Cajun patriarch “Hawk” Arcenaux’s crustaceans “the best crawfish anywhere.” The coup de grace: the crawfish boil (market price), a sloppy, savory, down-home feast.
The Original Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana ¿
New Haven, CT
Prepare for us to sing the praises of a pizza that has no sauce and no mozzarella on it. Ready? The white clam pie at Pepe’s ($24). Every bite is a journey into garlicky clam juicy joy. Each pie is lovingly heaped with garlic-and-olive-oil-bathed clams, then sent into a brick oven until the insanely delicious dough is toasted to slightly charred perfection. Mama mia!
The jacketed waiters are there to help you ambush your arteries. Let them. The order: 16 oz. bone-in fillet, rare, with sides of king crab mac’n’cheese, onion rings, and green beans ($80).
Q Roadhouse & BBQ
Jackson Hole, WY
Exec chef Roger Freedman turns out a life-changing honey-beer brined pork chop, which he pairs with buttery fennel-apple potato gratin and sweet-and-sour cabbage ($20). ¿Pair with: Snake River Pale Ale on tap.
Tracy’s King Crab Shack
You’ll understand why men risk their lives to pull king crabs out of the Bering Sea as you gorge yourself into oblivion on bucket after bucket of meaty claws drenched in melted butter ($49) at this dockside stand. The purest wild king crab you’ll ever crack.
Blue Ash Chili
Blue Ash’s Cincinnati chili five-way ($5.30) is a bed of thin spaghetti with cinnamon-spiked chili, kidney beans, diced onions, and delicate curls of cheddar piled indelicately high on top. Sure, it looks like an orange-haired Muppet, but after that first bite you’d stab Kermit in the neck for another taste.
Most Unexpected BBQ Brilliance
Iowa? Really? This Ames institution churns out the best BBQ sandwich on Earth, though they should consider changing its name: The Saucy Southerner ($4.50) is a daring combo of hickory-smoked beef, pork, and turkey smothered in BBQ sauce. Wash it down with a $7 pitcher of beer, and still buy a condo with your leftover lunch money.
AZ, CA, NV, UT
Follow our drool to burger heaven.
Baton Rouge, LA
Stick your fork in a heaping hearty stew of smoked chicken, roasted duck, and fresh andouille sausage that strikes the perfect mix of steamy spice and smoky sweetness ($10). Best consumed at lunch with all the red-faced, seersuckered attorneys, or on a Friday night with a gaggle of giggly LSU Tiger cheerleaders who instinctively call you “Daddy.”
Clams Most Worthy Of Your Clams
Shaped like a giant takeout container, the Clam Box of Ipswich, 30 miles north of Boston, has been serving locally caught fare since 1938. Your order: the Native Clam Plate ($19), piled high with an obscene helping of large, juicy critters encased in a crisp, salty batter with sides of fries and cole slaw. Bring your own Guinness.
Most Indian cooks use tomato paste for their curry. Not James Beard–nominated chef Vikram Sunderam: He uses fresh tomatoes and dried Kashmiri peppers. Sunderam takes the brick-red gravy and braises his lamb roganjosh ($16) until the meat reaches a consistency that we can only equate with the kiss of a butterfly.
New Orleans, LA
Salami, capicola, and provolone make a fine sandwich. But slather it with a concoction of chopped olives, veggies, garlic, and vinegar, and you’ve got the muffuletta ($13), a salty stairway to heaven.
Foodniks take drastic measures to snare a coveted reservation at Thomas Keller’s temple of gastronomy featuring the world’s most worshiped tasting menus. The nine-course parade ($240) is a series of bewitching small plates, including the extraordinary “oysters and pearls,” Keller’s ode to oysters and caviar.
Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q ¿
Every barbecue geek worth his dry rub knows that Alabama is pork country. So why in tarnation would anyone order the barbecue chicken platter ($7.50) at Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur? Three words: smoke and sauce. The bronzed birds pulled from the brick pits are hickory-smoked and then submerged into an ivory liquid invented by Big Bob himself.
Most Complicated Pork
Falls Church, VA
Thousands of Vietnamese restaurants in America have a menu longer than the Ho Chi Minh Trail, all featuring grilled pork with rice vermicelli. None will be as good as Chef Luong Tran’s ($9). He takes an ultra-fresh approach to this bounty in a bowl. Once all the 101 ingredients—or so it seems—are combined and drizzled with fish sauce, you have, essentially, a rice-noodle version of the entrée salad. Is there a better kind?
The Otherest Other White Meat
New York City
Say what you will about goats: They have pre-irony beards, they like to do it,and they can be, um, gruff. But you’ll never badmouth one again once you’ve tasted its sweet, tender perfection in the Capretta (or baby goat, but that don’t look too cute on a menu) served up at chef Scott Conant’s dining paradiso. $28 will float your goat.
Best Wing Woman
Chapel Hill, NC
Since 1976 this Chapel Hill institution has been clogging arteries with its championship-worthy fried chicken: nut brown, fully crusted hunks of salty yumminess ($10). Don’t forget the biscuits.
Best Reason To Eat Something Old
New York City
Why eat lamb when you could sink your teeth into a mature, meaty hunk of mutton, ringed with a rich layer of fat earned over years of grazing? (13 oz., $25; 26 oz., $45)
La Cumbre Taqueria
San Francisco, CA
Don’t wear your prized I did it all for the wookie tee to La Cumbre. There’s no avoiding spillage with their football-size Mission burrito ($6). Go for carne asada, specify black beans and spicy salsa, and order it “deluxe” for lots of guac and cheese. The meat is chopped to order, resulting in a burrito so good you’ll thank the Virgin Mary (conveniently located in poster form above the door) as you leave.