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Unquestionably The Absolute Best In America:

j
Joe H. May 22, 2002 12:08 AM

French Fries: Dick's, Spokane, WA (McDonald's original
fries from '50's & '60's. Yes!)
Honorable mention: Arthur Bryant's,
Kansas City, MO (cooked in pure lard)
Thrasher's, Ocean City, MD (on the
boardwalk)
Pizza: tie: Pepe's, New Haven,, CT
Sally's Apizza, New Haven, CT
White Pizza: Arcaro & Gemelli's, Old Forge, PA
Cake: Fresh coconut, K-Paul's, New Orleans, LA (A
serious contender for title of best American
dessert this is served over "Chantilly Whipped
Cream" laced with Courvoisier & Grand Marnier;
the "slice" is six inches thick, moist and heavy
with butter and coconut, cracked fresh for the
cake.)
Pie: Johnny Ray's Cream Pies, Birmingham, ALA (better
than Emeril's Banana Cream)(Excellent chopped Q
also.)
BBQ: Pork: Skylight Inn, Ayden, NC (chopped)
Ardchibald's, Tuscaloosa, ALA (sliced)
Beef: Luling Market, Luling, TX
Clark's, Tioga, TX
(Hall of Fame: Original Kreuz Mkt, Lock-
hart, TX)
(Honorable Mention: Cooper's, Llano &
Louie Mueller, Taylor, TX)
Ribs: McClard's, Hot Springs, ARK (Tie)
Dreamland Drive Inn, Tuscaloosa, AL (Tie)
Lem's, Chicago, IL (Tie)
BBQ Sauce: Roadhouse of Des Plaines, IL. This thick,
textured unlike any other sauce makes even
Arthur Bryant's taste like orange vinegar.
Crab Cakes: Angelina's, Baltimore, MD
(Honorable Mention: Captain's Galley
Crisfield, MD)
Fried Chicken: Stroud's, Kansas City
Hamburger: 4 X 4 Animal Style at In 'n Out, CA, NV, AZ
Charcoal Pit, Wilmington, DE (1/2 lb)(tie)
Kincaid's, Ft. Worth, TX (tie)
Steak: Peter Luger, Brooklyn, NY
(Honorable Mention: Del Frisco's, Orlando-
NOT part of the Lone Star chain but almost
identical to the original from Dallas in the
'80's.)
Fried Clams: Bob's, Kittery, ME (tartar sauce in a tie
breaker over Woodman's of Essex, MA)
Ice Cream: Bart's, Northampton, MA
(Hall of Fame: Al Gelato, North Ave.,
Chicago in early '80's)
Ice Cream (From Store): Out Of A Flower. Tastes
legitimately homemade; priced as such
too @ $7.50 per pint)
Sundae: Graeter's Swiss Sundae, Cincinnati
Frozen Custard: Kopp's, Milwaukee, WI
(Honorable Mention: Carl's, Frede-
ricksburg, VA)
Tex-Mex: Original Ninfa's on Navigation Blvd., Houston
Cal-Mex: Taco Mesa, Costa Mesa, CA
Wine: Leonetti Merlot (year in and year out), WA
Submarine: Whitehouse Special, Atlantic City
Cheesesteak: Whitehouse, Atlantic City (Honorable
mention: Jim's, South St., Philadelphia)
Roast Beef Po Boy: Mother's, New Orleans
Italian Beef: Johnny's, Elmwood Park, IL
Beef on Weck: Schwabl's, Buffalo, NY
BEST OVERALL BEEF SANDWICH: Johnny's, Elmwood Park, IL
(extra hots)
Popcorn: Garrett, Chicago
Fisher's, Rehoboth Beach, DE
Ocean City, MD
Pickle: Guss' Pickles, New York City
Outside of America and best overall: Mrs.
Whyte's, Montreal, CANADA (Sour)
Potato Chips: Kitch'n Cook'd, Maui
Honorable Mention: Zapp's Cajun Craw-
tators, Metairie LA
Pancakes: Polly's, Sugar Hill, NH
Overall breakfast: Diner, Yountville, CA ("deceased")
Hottest Hot Sauce: Blair's Five O'Clock, NJ
Hot Pepper: Mama Lil's Hungarian Goat Peppers,
Seattle, WA
Hot Dog: Zab's (Red Hots), Rochester, NY
Best American Fast Food Restaurant: In 'n Out Burger
Cincinnati Chili: Camp Washington Chili
(With dessert at Graeter's)
Crabs: Jimmy Cantler's, Annapolis, MD
(Honorable Mention: Stoney's, Broome Island,MD
Lobster: Many including Twin Lights, Cape Elizabeth,
ME where you eat on picnic benches at the
edge of the Atlantic ocean.
Fried Shrimp: Herbie K's, Shreveport, LA
Oysters (any kind): Winchell's, Mobile, ALA
Cookie: Original David's Cookies, New York (from '70s)
Bread: Acme, Berkeley (Tie)
Bread Line (Wash., D. C.)(Tie)
Atlantic City Bakery (Sub rolls & dough only)
Drive In: Stewart's, because many of them haven't
changed in 60 years. Single best:
Huntington, WV where people come from 50
miles around and still CRUISE on Saturday
nights. American Graffiti is still alive!
Grocery Store (non gourmet): Wegman's, PA, NY
(honorable mention: Larry's Markets, (Seattle)
Chocolate: Hawaiian Vintage, Maui
Fudge: Bourbon Fudge, Monks of Gethsameni, KY
Overall Absolute Best American Food: Woodring's
Caramel Sauce sold in their stand at Pike Place
Market, Seattle. Unquestionably the most
fattening food available anywhere in America
today; also this handmade, hand stirred ultra
thick almost pure butter caramel sauce has a
flavor that speaks of county fairs and old time
ice cram parlors. Distinct, delicious and
perhaps the single best bite of any American
food today. Well over the top!
Overall Best Uniquely American Restaurant: Skylight
Inn, Ayden, NC. From the moment they open until
the moment they close one man spends the entire
day chopping whole hog bbq with two cleavers
over a wooden block, the same way it has been
done for almost 140 years. It tastes the
same today as it must have in 1865.
Overall Best American Beverage: Guernsey Milk. The richest of all milk. Served ice cold with Toll House cookies-the definitive American meal of childhood.

Personal: Best bite of anything that I have ever tasted in my life: my first bite of a Hot Shoppes Mighty Mo in 1954. The next day I started my first diet.

  1. l
    Lindsay B. May 22, 2002 12:16 AM

    That's an impressive list you've got there. Thanks. What's a Hot Shoppes Mighty Mo, BTW?

    17 Replies
    1. re: Lindsay B.
      f
      flavrmeistr May 22, 2002 11:19 AM

      A primordial Big-Mac, only much better. Hot Shoppes Drive-In might have been only a DC-area thing. The other dominant chain was Topp's, which had a similar
      burger to the Mighty-Mo though I can't remember the
      name of it. The McDonald's back then were few and far
      between (if you can believe it) and were actually pretty good. At least, I thought so at the time. BTW,
      Joe--awesome compendium of chow knowledge, especially
      from the recollections of just one guy. You're a bonafide National Rescource and a public service. Like
      everyone else, there are a few things I would add. But
      I won't, out of respect.

      1. re: flavrmeistr
        j
        Joe H. May 22, 2002 11:32 AM

        Please do add. That's most of my purpose, to find places better than what I listed from those who have tried one of mine.
        Topp's had the Sir Loiner and the first McDonald's was on Richmond Highway in Hybla Valley. The second was on the Rockville Pike. Both had lines consistently out to far end of the Golden Arches during lunch and dinner hours.
        Thanks again for the nice words, sir.

        1. re: Joe H.
          f
          flavrmeistr May 22, 2002 01:39 PM

          Okay, since you asked...

          Best fried chicken--Dixie Chicken in Orlando, FL
          Best crabcakes--That seafood place next to the lighthouse in St. Michael's, MD
          Best fried 'gator--Conchy Joe's in Jensen Beach,FL
          Best steak'n cheese sub (not Philly)-- Mario's on Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA
          Worst pizza--Mario's on Wilson Blvd. Arlington, VA
          Best hot fudge sundae-- Bridgeman's in Duluth, MN
          Best Peking duck--Peking Gourmet, Culmore (Falls Church),VA
          Best drive-in--The Disselfink Gettysburg,PA
          Best masas de puerco--Rey's Cafeteria Hialeah, FL
          Best potato sausage--Sportsman's Lounge Spooner, WI
          Best burger (fried)--Herbert's Deli Palm Beach, FL
          Best burger (wood-grilled)-- Melvin's Barbeque Charleston, SC
          Best cheap steak--Angel's Baytown, TX
          Best stone crab--Joe's Miami Beach, FL
          Best braised short ribs--The Pickwick Tap Room Duluth, MN
          Best smoked kingfish--Mrs. Peters Smokehouse Rio, FL
          Best collards and cornbread--Teach's Community Kitchen
          Overtown (Miami) FL.
          Best barbeque sauce--The Miracle Rib Ft. Pierce, FL
          (vinegary, mildly sweet with a peachy mellow afterburn)
          Best "hot brown" sandwich--Wolf's Tavern Henderson, KY
          Best chiurrasco and mixed grille--Carniceria Argentina
          Hialeah, FL.
          Best tomato sandwich--(my) Aunt Gloria's kitchen Glasgow, MO (around July)

          1. re: flavrmeistr
            j
            Joe H. May 22, 2002 02:04 PM

            Do you mean the Crab Claw in St. Michael's? I'll be in Orlando in a month or so and will try Dixie Chicken but Stroud's is really way over the top. I've been to Joe's Stone Crab and also had the same "hot brown." I totally agree. Disselfink is interesting-I've been there. I liked the Stewart's In Huntington because of the Saturday night cruising and it's a turnaround point. There's also a G-R-E-A-T drive in north of Baltimore (and frozen custard called the Arctic Circle and miniature golf) called the Churchville Drive In that still has working (some times) teletrays. The drive in theatre is right behind it. The whole area there is probably as authentically 1950's as anywhere I've ever been. In fact they also have "cruise ins" occasionally on Saturdays in the summer.
            I've printed out your list and give me some time but...

            1. re: Joe H.
              f
              flavrmeistr May 22, 2002 02:36 PM

              I go to Huntingtown every July for classes at Marshall
              U. Way happenin' little town! They have some decent
              little restaurants and, I think, 137 bars. Not bad for
              a city of 50,000. There's a little place up near the
              Uptowner Hotel that sells only two things; chili dogs
              and lard-fried donuts. I can't remember the name of it,
              but it hasn't changed a lick since about 1945. There is also a fairly decent Japanese place downtown, a block
              over from the Radisson. The Dixie Chicken is an Orlando
              landmark, the town having literally grown up around it.
              It's at Orange Ave. and Oak Ridge Dr. A friend of mine's mother worked there back in the 40's and she
              says it hasn't changed one bit. If I could remember the
              name of 1/4 of the places I like, I'd give you a run for your money. It's a fatal flaw as a chowhound.

              1. re: flavrmeistr
                f
                flavrmeistr May 22, 2002 02:45 PM

                Incidently, if you make it to south FL give me a holler
                on the Florida board. We'll do the backstreet tour of
                Hialeah and Miami. Great stuff, Jose.

                1. re: flavrmeistr
                  j
                  Joe H. May 22, 2002 03:44 PM

                  Thank you, sir.

                  Lard fried donuts! God! They must be good!

                  1. re: Joe H.
                    f
                    flavrmeistr May 22, 2002 03:51 PM

                    They are. It's like Homer Price in there.

              2. re: Joe H.
                j
                James Jun 21, 2002 07:19 AM

                Ain't Google great?.....one second of searching led to....

                Big M restaurant and Bel Air drive in Movies in Churchville, MD. They say, "The Big M has been serving Harford County and the surrounding areas since 1952. The Big M is the only remaining Drive In Movie in Harford County" so I guess it's the place you're talking about. (Funny, they should say, "one of the few remaining Drive Ins in the USA.")

                Link: http://www.bigmrestaurant.com/index.htm

                1. re: James
                  j
                  James Jun 21, 2002 07:24 AM

                  And don't forget:

                  "Eat Lunch Free For Your Birthday - ID Required - $8.00 Maximum"

                  1. re: James
                    j
                    Joe H. Jun 21, 2002 11:39 AM

                    I wonder if the miniature golf course and the Artic Circle have different owners?

                    1. re: Joe H.
                      j
                      James Jun 21, 2002 12:57 PM

                      Joe H.,

                      You mentioned in one of your posts using "best of" types of lists as a resource. Do you know of the NJ Star-Ledger's Munchmobile? They drive all over NJ in search of the best of Chowhound type food, often based on recommendations I believe. The online version has archives from the start in 1998.

                      Link: http://www.nj.com/munchmobile/

              3. re: flavrmeistr
                k
                Kim Shook May 23, 2002 09:52 AM

                Oh, Lord, Flav!! Mario's in Arlington. A Mario's ham, steak and cheese sub is the best sandwich I have ever eaten. I was destined to love them, since I recieved them in utero. My mother used to eat the large ones when she was pregnant with me.
                The second best thing about Mario's is standing in line sharing stories with people who have been going there all their lives and now live in East Jesus, Egypt and are back for a sub!
                Same area, sadly no more is the frozen custard stand on Rt. 50 in Falls Church.
                Giffords in Annandale.
                Topps.
                Hot Shoppes.
                The tea room at Lord and Taylor Seven Corners.
                Sigh.............

                1. re: Kim Shook
                  f
                  flavrmeistr May 23, 2002 10:36 AM

                  GW Frozen Custard at Annandale Rd. and Rt.50 was the
                  best. I've never seen any frozen custard like it. Instead of coming out of a tap in a little swirl like
                  every other soft-serve place, it was produced in huge
                  frozen loaves and served by the scoop. And was it good,
                  or what? The butterfat content was through the roof.
                  As for Mario's steak'n cheese, there is no peer. I think it may be the dry slaw, sweet pickle and cherry pepper combination that puts it over the top. Have to
                  hit it at least once whenever I'm back in the area. Sure nice to hear from one of the faithful, Kim!

                  1. re: flavrmeistr
                    j
                    Joe H. May 23, 2002 11:06 AM

                    well, you're not going to like this but I respectfully disagree. Carl's in Fredericksburg, which also has an ElectroFreeze machine from the early 50's, in my opinion, was always better than the Frozen Dairy Bar. Having said that neither of them is/was as good as Klein's in Harrisonburg which is the only other Virginia frozen custard stand with an original ElectroFreeze machine.
                    I honestly believe that Milwaukee Frozen Custard in Chantilly is as good as the Frozen Dairy Bar using a new machine similar to the originals wherein they also scoop the ice cream. Milwaukee uses 11% butterfat and Carl's, I believe, is 10% butterfat. All four (including Klein's and the Frozen Dairy Bar) have very, very little air which gives a heavier consistency to what is essentially a relatively low butterfat product. (Gifford's was 18% butterfat and, a reminder, is still available at York Castle in the 9200 block of Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. The Gifford's in Bethesda is a name and nothing more that was purchased. York Castle didn't buy the name rather Gifford's ice cream maker just moved up the street and opened his own store when Gifford's closed. He uses the EXACT same base and swiss fudge sauce, etc.)
                    I actually had a discussion about this with Al, the owner of Milwaukee Frozen Custard, who is as obsessed with frozen custard as any of us are with anything. He got into talking about Shenandoah Dairy providing the "base" for all of these while his base came from, I believe, a New Jersey dairy.
                    He himself admits that the best frozen custard he has ever had (and myself too) is Kopp's in Milwaukee which is the absolute best on earth. Better than Ted Drewes, better than anything in Buffalo or Rochester.
                    Sixteen per cent butter fat frozen custard is unbelievable combined with so little air. I'll go one step further and say that Kopp's has several flavors that I will pick over any store bought ice cream, gelato, etc. in the world and I've been to Bertillion in Paris and eaten my way through Italy. I've also made ice cream using Lewes Dairy/Chrome Dairy Pasteurized heavy cream and a White Mountain hand cranked freezer and I honestly believe that Kopp's was about as good for some of their flavors as well as the texture and density of the custard.
                    One thing I never like about the Frozen Dairy Bar when they moved to Lee Highway was that their prices went through the roof. Not only was the ambience gone but I thought it was outrageous they were charging something like $3.50 for a pint of frozen custard when Carl's at the same time was $1.95.
                    Kopp's last summer was, I think, about $3.25 but a whole lot richer which dramatically runs up the price.
                    The key to all of these is the machine that you noted wherein the custard comes out in slabs and is scooped.

                    1. re: Joe H.
                      f
                      flavrmeistr May 23, 2002 03:51 PM

                      What's not to like? This is great information.

            2. re: flavrmeistr
              d
              davidjpearlman Jul 19, 2010 08:23 AM

              I think there were also some Hot Shoppes along the New York Thruway into the 1960s.

          2. b
            ben f May 22, 2002 08:23 AM

            That's quite a list Joe... I really enjoyed it.

            even though you're wrong on a couple:

            Thrashers fries really aren't that good anymore, certainly not as good as the fries at Allen & Sons in NC.

            Angelina's is no match for Frank & Sammy's on rt. 50 for crabcakes, and nowhere in annapolis can challenge the crab shacks two blocks over from Ocean Highway on the north end of O.C.

            Also don't forget the concrete shakes at Dayton bros across the b'walk from Thrashers, particularly the cookies and cream.

            and where's the pit beef sandwich mention?

            but seriously, great list.

            ben

            4 Replies
            1. re: ben f
              j
              Joe H. May 22, 2002 11:29 AM

              Ah...exactly the post I was looking for!
              O. C.'s concrete shakes are copied from Ted Drewes which is a St. Louis tradition going back to at least the 20's. They were the first place (with original electrofreeze machines, of course) that actually turned the cup upside down. Spokane's Dick's Drive In has McDonald's original fries which I believe are better than Thrasher's O. C. boardwalk at their best. But I will try Allen and Sons which, if I'm not mistaken, is a bbq joint isn't it?
              I will try Frank and Sammy's in the next three or four weeks but Angelina's is awfully good, better than every other place, in my opinion, that has even claimed to have a great crab cake. By the way, Angelina's crab imperial is even better. But I will go to Frank and Sammy's.
              Cantler's really only has crabs-I don't care for their sides, even their crab cakes or soup. But it's the on the pier ambience with MD jumbos in season that drives it. There are a number of others as good from Stoney's in Broome Island where you sit on a floating barge outdoors to Happy Harbor in Deale, MD to Robertson's in Pope's Creek. There was also a place near Salisbury (or Cambridge, it's been a while) that was a converted chicken coop. I think it was called the Red Barn or something like that.
              I do know the O. C. places and will try them this summer. There's also a Captain's Galley in O. C. but it's not as good as the original in Crisfield.
              Pit Beef? The place I loved closed years ago. That's a topic to introduce on the Balt/DC board for where the best is.
              Thanks again. I will try your suggestions.

              1. re: Joe H.
                b
                ben f May 22, 2002 03:25 PM

                I will try angelina's when I'm in B'more in June. I know what you mean about all those (Michael's) places that claim to have the best crabcakes.

                I had no idea that the concrete was a copy of something from St. Louis. clearly I need to take a trip...

                thanks again for the great list.

                ben

                1. re: ben f
                  j
                  Joe H. May 22, 2002 04:07 PM

                  In the D. C. area try Milwaukee Frozen Custard in Chantilly or Manassas for their version of a concrete. But if you ever go to Milwaukee itself Kopp's is worth going of your way for as is Ted Drewes in St. Louis.

                2. re: Joe H.
                  c
                  Chris S Mar 12, 2004 10:04 AM

                  That would be Chap's, just inside the Baltimore City line, on Pulaski Highway/Route 40. I look forward to having to get my or my SO's car's exhaust tested because it's right around the corner from the inspection station.

              2. a
                Alan H May 22, 2002 08:44 AM

                Nice list, I'll have to hold on to it in case I happen upon any of those locations. I am kind of put off by the notion that ANYTHING can be "Unquestionably the Absolute Best", but I'll throw you a bone and go with it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Alan H
                  j
                  Joe H. May 22, 2002 11:20 AM

                  I love hyperbole. If someone has been to a place I mention and feels another place is better I will try it. I travel 125 days a year throughout the U. S. and Europe doing 12,000 mile driving trips through both continents. I've been doing this for 20 years. Sooner or later I will get there.

                2. k
                  kim shook May 22, 2002 09:41 AM

                  What a great post, Joe! You've given me some great targets!! Also brought back some wonderful memories. Thrasher's ffs are the absolute best I have ever had. One of the joys of my life is introducing people to them - they always start out with the attitude that "fried potatoes are fried potatoes - what's the big deal?". And they end up devotees!
                  Fisher's caramel corn is one of the best things I have ever eaten! I try to tell people about it, but don't have the right words!!
                  How I miss Hot Shoppes! I would love a Mighty Mo or a Teen Twist right now! They also had THE BEST chocolate fudge cake of anyone. And didn't they have a dreamsicle shake or something orange and vanilla?
                  Thanks again, Joe!
                  Kim

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: kim shook
                    j
                    Joe H. May 22, 2002 11:15 AM

                    I had not had McDonald's fries since they were replaced with frozen in 1967. Two years ago I found Dick's in Spokane making them EXACTLY the same way, using 70% animal fat and peeling fresh potatoes themselves, leaving some skin on the outside and then hanging them in baskets after blanching. The McDonald's in Downey, CA has a museum which has photos as well as the recipe for making them. The owner of the Spokane Dick's (different from Seattle) actually worked in a McDonald's in the 50's before opening his restaurant. Thrashers and Bonita's Frites didn't measure up to the original Mcdonald's.
                    But the best french fries that I have ever had anywhere were in Belgium. When I was eating them I actually couldn't believe that America didn't have the best fries.
                    Thanks for the nice words.

                    1. re: kim shook
                      j
                      Joe H. May 22, 2002 11:17 AM

                      You can still get the EXACT SAME HOT FUDGE ICE CREAM CAKE as Hot Shoppes' original at the Charcoal Pit on Route 202 in Wilmington, Delaware. Only this location, not another. This is the original. If you go also get a half pound hamburger which is one of the best in America.

                    2. a
                      Aaron D May 22, 2002 09:50 AM

                      Wow, Joe, you're certainly not one to shy away from superlatives...but no problems here.

                      You left out your risotto, which I made on Sunday and was absolutely terrific. Thanks for the recipe. "Better than anything you can get at a restaurant here in Chicago", according to my lucky in-laws.

                      Cheers,

                      Aaron

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Aaron D
                        j
                        Joe H. May 22, 2002 11:10 AM

                        Aaron, thank you very much. There are very few restaurants that do not take shortcuts and actually have someone who can stand and stir for 15 minutes. Also the cost of dolce and reggiano along with excellent butter (Kay's is $5.95/lb in D. C.)and decent chardonnay. In America it is very rare to find a restaurant that uses carneroli or violane nano.
                        Any risotto made correctly and using absolutely the best ingredients you can find will be better than what you will have in most restaurants.

                      2. c
                        CTer May 22, 2002 11:56 AM

                        WOW! Some list! I cannot state an opinion on most of the entries, but: YOU ARE RIGHT ON THE MARK WITH STROUD'S FRIED CHICKEN. I dream of that stuff.

                        Now I look forward to trying other items all over the country. Thanks!

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: CTer
                          b
                          BeanoCook Jan 22, 2010 03:35 AM

                          Not only the best fried chicken, but the best chicken fried steaks and a top 5 pork chop. I can't hype this place up enough. It will still exceed expectations

                          1. re: BeanoCook
                            Joe H Jan 22, 2010 09:35 AM

                            Thanks, BeanoCook. While I posted this a number of years ago many of the places on it still, for me, remain among the best of their kind.

                            1. re: Joe H
                              johnb Jan 22, 2010 05:12 PM

                              Joe

                              How's about recreating this list, with whatever changes/additions might be needed to make it an even better resource for us all in 2010? A labor of love for you!

                              And you really do need to get to the bakery in Jasper to try those donuts. I'll be there next week so I'll be having some myself.

                              1. re: johnb
                                Joe H Jan 22, 2010 07:26 PM

                                Thank you, John. I'll have at least two trips to Holiday World this year-I KNOW that on at least one of them I'll be stopping for donuts in Jasper!! When I put the list together I was travelling about 200 days per year around the U. S. and had been doing this since the early '80's. Now, I've cut back to about 75 or so. I note this because then, each year I'd try to focus on a different food; i.e. one year I would go after ribs and eat at 15-20 different bbq places in a 30 day period, the next year fried chicken, the next year pizza, etc. Along the way I'd fit in many of the others. I still remember having Kopp's and Ted Drews frozen custard 48 hours apart and Dreamland and McClard's ribs about a day or so apart with Lem's the following day. Now, with less than half of the travel (and a greater focus on calories!!!), I don't have the opportunity to try as many new places or confirm the old ones. I know that some have also changed, i.e. as you know, Angelina's in Baltimore for crab cakes which was sold and now has a mediocre crab cake-at best. I still remember our first meeting at the Narrows. Eight years ago? Wow!

                                My hope is that someone reading this will use my examples as reference points and, having been to the place that I mentioned, perhaps they can compare it to someplace else and will come up with a new place that they feel may be better. If someone has had, say, Kopp's frozen custard in Milwaukee and believes that maybe Michael's in Madison is better I'd like to hear about it with Kopp's the reference point.

                                You are also as sophisticated of a Chowhound as anyone I've ever met plus you've travelled extensively. Your raving about a donut, or Thai food in Vegas or Szechuan in Knoxville..... is worth volumes. I would like to see more travelled, opinionated people use this list as a starting point. We may all benefit from discovering new places as a result.

                                I should also mention that I wrote this BEFORE a number of television shows that featured places like this (i.e. "Diners, Drive Ins and Dives" or Anthony Bourdain). Michael and Jane Stern pretty much owned the market for a lot of these. I'm also guessing that Chowhound and the Sterns were a primary resource for what has ended up on television and elsewhere.

                                1. re: Joe H
                                  johnb Jan 23, 2010 06:12 AM

                                  Joe

                                  Thanks for the vote of confidence but my energy level too has declined over the years, and anyway I never have had the opportunity (or the "chops") to cover the waterfront as you have, but let's all pledge to keep posting and sharing information about these things.

                                  Your mention of Diners Drive-ins and Dives brings up a question in my mind. It seems to me they are finding lots of places that I at least haven't previously heard of or seen written about in places like Chowhound, and I have indeed wondered how they are getting their information (aside from the "readers choice shows they do). If anyone out there knows what their sources are I'd be very interested to know in order to see if I can tap into them better myself. It would also be interesting to know if anyone has tried a few of the DDD places and agrees that as a group they really are all that good.

                                  By the way the Sichuan in Knoxville is now in Charlottesville Va (Taste of China) if anybody is planning to try Chef Chang's cuisine.

                                  1. re: johnb
                                    Bob W Jul 20, 2010 02:12 PM

                                    As many hounds know, but for those who don't, Charlottesville is now in Chang's rear-view mirror as well. Any word on where he is now?

                        2. z
                          zim May 22, 2002 12:31 PM

                          Joe,

                          thanks for the great list. I am impressed by its depth, breadth, and eccentricity/uniqueness.

                          I am very intrigued by the des plaines roadhouse you mentioned. As a lover of bryant's sauce (and tapatio hot sauce which to me has quite a bit of similarity), It is very definitely on my list of places to try - how's the food the sauce is upon?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: zim
                            j
                            Joe H. May 22, 2002 01:56 PM

                            The sauce won the K. C. BBQ Cookoff ("People's Choice Award") three years in a row and a whole bunch of other competitions. I've never had it is a restaurant only what I make at home. It's the only bbq sauce I've ever seen that I can spoon out of a bottle and eat by itself-it's almost like a kind of chutney. You can buy it over the internet if you go to one of the search engines.

                          2. d
                            Danna May 22, 2002 01:48 PM

                            Where might Ayden, N.C. be located, more generally?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Danna
                              j
                              Joe H. May 22, 2002 01:54 PM

                              Ten miles south of Greenville in eastern N. C. or about 40 miles eaast of I 95 half way down it.

                            2. s
                              Stanley Stephan May 22, 2002 02:28 PM

                              Wow! I nominate you for the Chowhound Hall of Fame.

                              If you are ever in Waterbury, CT have a Nardelli's Grinder. Unique pickles and just a hunk of good Italian meat and bread. It's been a few years, Nardelli's has expanded, but everyone assures me they are still the best.

                              About the fried clams, have you ever had the one's at Turks in West Haven, CT?

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Stanley Stephan
                                j
                                Joe H. May 22, 2002 04:06 PM

                                Yes, I have been to Turks! I just like Bob's because of the homemade tartar sauce and their frying (while no better than say, Woodman's) is still almost like high art and greaseless. But the grinder now there's something that I haven't found a great one yet. Great suggestion, thanks.

                              2. h
                                Hunter May 22, 2002 02:52 PM

                                Damn, now I have to start traveling again and try all of these. Oh well. By the way, if you're ever in southern Alabama (or as we called it L.A. - lower Alabama), try Dobbs Barbecue in Dothan. Very old and VERY good. Rivals Dreamland in Tuscaloosa (on your list I belive),which by the way I love. Don't let that get out though, I'm an Auburn graduate.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Hunter
                                  j
                                  Joe H. May 22, 2002 04:03 PM

                                  Part of the appeal of Dreamland is the ambience...or lack thereof. Does Dobbs have a personality like Dreamland? Archiblad's sliced pork is awfully good, too, and I know that Hazelhurst probably prefers their ribs over Dreamland's. My problem is that I can't remember ever having Archibald's ribs. I liked the pork so much I'd get a pound or so of it with some cheap white bread and didn't want to waste the calories on anything else.

                                  1. re: Joe H.
                                    h
                                    Hunter May 22, 2002 06:14 PM

                                    Trust me, given your opinions, you'd LOVE Dobbs. Personally I think it has less ambience if only b/c Dreamland has gotten the attention it's gotten. But you be the judge.

                                    1. re: Hunter
                                      j
                                      Joe H. May 22, 2002 06:35 PM

                                      Sir, thank you. You will be kindly thought of in several weeks since I will actually be driving through that part of Alabama on business. This is one of my reasons for this post: I leave on an 8,000 mile U. S. driving trip in about ten days which will take me from D. C. north to Montreal west to Denver and south through New Orleans back to D. C. Then I fly to the West Coast, rent a car and drive from San Diego to Seattle.

                                2. m
                                  mc michael May 22, 2002 03:14 PM

                                  Your list makes my mouth water. Sadly, outside of burgers, fries and merlot, there don't seem to be many candidates on the left coast. Surely, this list can be supplemented to round out the story. Ciao.

                                  12 Replies
                                  1. re: mc michael
                                    j
                                    Joe H. May 22, 2002 04:00 PM

                                    Hmmm. Taco Mesa in Costa Mesa, Acme Bread, Mama Lil's Hot Peppers from Seattle along with the caramel sauce at Pike Place I considered to be the best American food. I spend about 25 days a year on the West Coast and have done my best to eat from San Diego to Santa Barbara to Walla Walla. I probably do have an eastern prejudice because I've spent considerably more time there. But over the years I've really tried to check out every place that I could that was reputed to be the best of their kind using city magazines ("Best of..."), USA Today, newspapers, recommendations, even Roadfood (that I have also contributed to several times over the years) etc.
                                    But part of the reason I did this was to find out out other places perhaps better than ones that I mentioned. If someone has been to Spokane's Dick's and had their french fries and feels that so and so's are better, well, it may take a year or two but I'll go to so and so. Several years ago USA Today had a list of five or six great hamburger joints around the country. I've now been to most of them including some not on that list like Cassell's, Apple Pan, Nation's and Tommy's. I just think that In 'n Out's 4 X 4 animal style and two others (Texas, Delaware) are better.
                                    This is really kind of an amateurish attempt to start a "Best of America" with hope of perhaps finding better from educated chowhounds.
                                    But I do like Taco Mesa (Sunset Magazine called it the best fast food Mexican west of the Mississippi) better than Super Taco Rico in Santa Barbara which is awfully good in its own right-most of the time.
                                    I'm really not focusing on more formal restaurants such as the French Laundry, Gary Danko (one of the best meals I ever had with a lengthy post several months ago), Chinois on Main (one of my favorites anywhere), Herb Farm (the original before the fire which had an incredible gingerbread house kind of ambience and a one year wait for a table).
                                    I'll argue the Leonetti Merlot long into the night, though. Especially while drinking it!
                                    But please any of your own suggestions if you've been to any of these and feel that you know one better. I will go but it just may take a while.

                                    1. re: Joe H.
                                      m
                                      mc michael May 22, 2002 04:20 PM

                                      Wow, the breadth of your undertaking is awesome. If you want to get a lot of suggestions, check the LA & SF boards. Seems like a week doesn't go by when there are not debates in LA about tacos, burritos, crab cakes, burgers, hot dogs, chicken, shwarma, tarna, falafel, ice cream/gelato, chicken fried steaks, pizza, fries, steaks, subs, BBQ, etc., etc. It's understandable that you are not touching "formal" dining. OTOH, I note a distinct lack of Asian and other ethnic food on the your list. We could get into all sorts of stuff about Chinese, Japanese, sushi in particular, Thai, etc. Let us know the broad parameters and I'm sure the Hounds will chime in with favorites.

                                      1. re: mc michael
                                        j
                                        Joe H. May 22, 2002 06:30 PM

                                        I had an encounter with a live Alaskan crab at a restaurant in Vancouver that has since become legendary.

                                        1. re: Joe H.
                                          m
                                          mc michael May 24, 2002 01:46 PM

                                          If you want something that's nearly alive, try Bu San, 203 N. Western Ave., LA. Korean Seafood, freshly prepared.

                                          1. re: mc michael
                                            j
                                            Joe H. May 24, 2002 03:49 PM

                                            I have a thing about live seafood. Do you see my post on the D. C. board about my Vancouver experience with a live Alaskan King Crab? It's about a month back and I had about 50 or 60 responses.

                                            1. re: Joe H.
                                              m
                                              mc michael May 24, 2002 04:43 PM

                                              So, though you like a beautiful mess, even you have your limits! Sounds right to me. Ciao.

                                      2. re: Joe H.
                                        m
                                        mc michael May 23, 2002 01:42 PM

                                        Joe, you seem dedicated and somewhere I noted you are going to be driving up the coast so I'm offering these suggestions, noting that they may not be your absolute best but worthy of consideration/comparison. All are in Los Angeles/East LA, most in central LA, Hollywood and Silverlake with a few downtown (Senor Fish, Grand Central). The Hollenbeck Burrito at El Tepeyac, 812 N. Evergreen, East LA. The Hamburger Platter (ask for medium rare) at Thai American Express Cafe, 2903 Rowena, LA. A pastrami sandwich at Langer's Deli, 704 S. Alvarado, LA. Armenian Chicken at Zankou Chicken, 5065 W. Sunset Bl, LA. Carne Asada Burrito and banana leaf wrapped tamale at Yuca's, 2056 Hillhurst, LA. The General's Soup at Sanamluang Cafe and cocoanut "balls" from the parking lot at 5170 Hollywood Bl, LA. Camerones Negros and corn chowder at Cha Cha Cha, 656 N. Virgil, LA. Jayburger (chili cheese burger) at Jay's Jayburger, 4481 Santa Monica Bl, LA. Gorditas, various tacos at Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, LA. Fish Tacos at Senor Fish, 422 E. First St., LA. Chicken & waffles at Roscoe's Chicken N Waffles, 1518 Gower, LA. Sandwiches generally at Say Cheese, 2800 Hyperion Ave, LA. I know you've expressed a preference for In N Out but a Fatburger "on the char" (as opposed to fried) at Fatburger, 1611 N. Vermont and other locations is at least as good (ask for "the Deal" includes good fries). Mexican plates, specials at La Bonita, 5253 Santa Monica Bl, LA. Eat well.

                                        1. re: mc michael
                                          j
                                          Joe H. May 23, 2002 03:00 PM

                                          Thank you for the recommendations. I will try several of them. I've been to Fatburger (Redondo Beach, Venice) and really like it especially with the little yellow hot peppers. I just think In 'n Out's 4 X 4 animal style is so far over the top that even a double chili cheese at Tommy's isn't anywhere near as disgustingly delicious. What a glorious mess!
                                          By the way there's a Mexican shack on Lincoln just north of Venice on the left hand side going north that has at least eight to ten people in front of it every time I've ever been by (which is a lot). Do you know the one I mean? I don't know the name and it can't be bigger than a 12 X 12 foot room but the lines never disappear. There's another one down in Redondo like this that I've been to. It was awesome. I mean seriously good. I just can't remember the name.
                                          But I will try several of your recommendations. They sound really good. Thanks again.
                                          Try Taco Mesa if you're ever in Costa Mesa.

                                          1. re: Joe H.
                                            m
                                            mc michael May 23, 2002 04:16 PM

                                            Thanks don't know the Mexican place but I'll see if I can get by there and advise. PS If you like a glorious mess, you'll appreciate the Hollenbeck Burrito.

                                            1. re: mc michael
                                              j
                                              Joe H. May 23, 2002 11:25 PM

                                              For better or worse I seriously relate to glorious messes! Thanks.

                                              1. re: Joe H.
                                                h
                                                Harry V. May 24, 2002 07:05 PM

                                                If glorious messes are your thing, check out the link below.

                                                Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                1. re: Harry V.
                                                  l
                                                  laliz May 5, 2009 12:18 PM

                                                  do not miss El Tepeyac

                                    2. w
                                      wrharper May 22, 2002 06:03 PM

                                      Joe,

                                      That is one amazing list. I can't tell you how glad I am to see the Luling Market on there. Although, truth be told, I'd sometimes eat so much sausage I couldn't get to the beef.

                                      If the rest of your recommendations are as good as the ones I agree with you on, I better hit the road and start eating ASAP.

                                      Russ

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: wrharper
                                        j
                                        Joe H. May 22, 2002 06:29 PM

                                        Thank you, sir. I sure wish I could have some of Luling's brisket tonight! And the place next door that sells Blue Bell ice cream!

                                      2. l
                                        lizmc May 23, 2002 09:03 AM

                                        Thrasher's fries in Ocean City - ymmmm. Definitely key ingredient is the sea air, b/c Thrashers at other locales just aren't as good.
                                        You mentioned Belgian fries -pommes frittes - in another post...reminded me of the absolute best french fries i ever had: Belgian beer tasting dinner at Little Fountain Cafe in DC (Adams Morgan). Which brings me to the query - has anybody tried the place in Manhattan (I think in the village or soho, but I can't quite remember) that serves Belgian fries. I believe its called "Pommes Frittes"? How do they rank?

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: lizmc
                                          t
                                          the rogue May 23, 2002 10:11 AM

                                          They are Good... Not great not terrible... but some of the sauces are fantastic. They make about 30-40 different types and they are all homemade.

                                          1. re: the rogue
                                            l
                                            lizmc May 23, 2002 11:21 AM

                                            i typically like my fries with just salt & pepper, but i'm certainly willing to try some good sauces - particularly if they're homemade. what are your favorites?

                                          2. re: lizmc
                                            j
                                            Joe H. May 23, 2002 10:42 AM

                                            Actually I specified Thrasher's In Ocean City. The mall locations are decent at best. The salt air is an ingredient in the experience but I believe they are actually BETTER at the Boardwalk location Ocean City than, say, Rehoboth Beach.
                                            Dick's in Spokane are clearly the best. In Brussels I am talking about french fries BEFORE the sauce. Benita's in L. A. are interesting at their original Venice location but still not on the level of the best of Belgium. If we are going to consider french fries with sauces then I would actually vote for the old Idora Park amusement park in Youngstown, OH who used fresh cut potatoes with different sauces including cheez whiz. Kennywood has these now at their "Potato Patch" but they pale in comparison to the original Idora spuds. Still good though.
                                            I also believe that Nathan's in Coney Island were better in the '50's and '60's.

                                          3. e
                                            EatDrinkMan May 23, 2002 01:12 PM

                                            I love the fries at Checker's .... much better than McDonald's and its like. (altho McD's is far better than Wendys Burger King etc.)

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: EatDrinkMan
                                              j
                                              Joe H. May 23, 2002 02:50 PM

                                              I'm talking about McDonald's from 35 years ago which are still served at Dick's in Spokane, Washington. These are the original McDonald's fries not the frozen potato that they use today. Checker's french fries are seasoned frozen potatoes.

                                            2. j
                                              Johnny May 23, 2002 03:56 PM

                                              Phenominal list. Although I've never been to Peter Lugar in Brooklyn, I've been to many steakhouses in Chicago. I think the best steakhouse, however, is Coerper's Five O'Clock Club in Milwaukee. Ever been there?

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: Johnny
                                                j
                                                Joe H. May 23, 2002 11:24 PM

                                                No, in fact I've never heard of it. Is it in league with, say, Morton's or Ruth's Chris?

                                                1. re: Joe H.
                                                  j
                                                  Johnny May 24, 2002 04:50 PM

                                                  Morton's and Ruth Chris are higher end and classier, but Coerper's is a find. Coerper's is less expensive and has as good as, if not better beef. It's also alot harder to get reservations. If you want to go, you need call for reservations on Tuesday at 4:00 for the week you want to go. Make sure you have a redial button on your phone because everyone in Milwaukee is trying to make reservations as well. I've dialed the number so much I know it by heart (even though I live near Chicago): 1-414-342-3553.
                                                  They have about eight choices on the menu (assorted cuts of steak, lamb chops, ribs). I know what I'm about to say is saying alot, but I DEFY YOU TO FIND A BETTER STEAK!

                                                  1. re: Johnny
                                                    Joe H May 2, 2009 07:15 AM

                                                    A friend recently mentioned this thread to me which I started seven years ago. It is interesting to go back and look at both the places I listed as well as many who were recommended in subsequent posts. Several of them are out of business and several no longer are as good as they once were, i.e. Angelina's on Harford road in Baltimore which was sold-The Narrows in Kent Island, MD now is my choice for best crab cake. Both Pizzaria Bianco in Phoenix and Pizzaria Mozza in L. A. now compete with Pepe's and Sally's for my choice of America's best pizza. Still, many of these are still around and every bit as good today as they were then.

                                                    If anyone would like to introduce their own opinions for "Unquestionably the Absolute Best in America..."

                                                    1. re: Joe H
                                                      s
                                                      Sean May 2, 2009 07:52 AM

                                                      I miss Zab's, we use to have one here in RI but it closed about 10 years ago...

                                                      1. re: Joe H
                                                        Bob W May 3, 2009 07:47 PM

                                                        Hey Joe, now that Wegmans is here in VA, I'm pleased to say that I completely agree with your choice of Wegmans as best non-gourmet grocery chain.

                                                        Publix in FL is good, Harris-Teeter, which is also now here in VA and is actually my regular market now, is good, but Wegmans is a cut above. Great prices, great house brand products, fresh made subs, in-store bakery, fish, kosher dept, olive bar, etc etc. Just a great store.

                                                        PS nice story in the WaPo Mag. It's an honor to "know" you.

                                                        1. re: Bob W
                                                          Joe H May 3, 2009 09:18 PM

                                                          Thanks, Bob. Really appreciate the nice thoughts! I am also addicted to Wegmans now that it is here!

                                                2. c
                                                  Cinnamon May 3, 2009 10:00 PM

                                                  Nice list. Y'all need to make it out to the Golden State more.

                                                  1. m
                                                    MattInNJ May 4, 2009 06:33 AM

                                                    Nice list, you guys made a zombie thread!!!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: MattInNJ
                                                      Joe H May 4, 2009 05:46 PM

                                                      Please forgive me, MattInNJ, but I still travel far too many days a year and am about to start a major trip around the U. S. which could involve stopping at many of the places noted in this thread. I would love to have updates that might allow me to check these or, perhaps, someplace else that is even better than what I originally listed.

                                                    2. Bob W May 5, 2009 12:51 PM

                                                      Since you mention Emeril's Banana Cream under pies, I have to mention the Banana Cream Pie at the Buckhead Diner in Atlanta. It's been years, but that was some goooooooooood pie!

                                                      The Buckhead would also be a contender in the "house made potato chips" category, along with the Union Square Cafe in NYC.

                                                      Great Buckhead Diner story: I don't know how much of a "scene" the place is any more, but we were there back in the early 90s, when it was really hot. Anyway, some Atlanta Hawks, including then-coach Bobby Weiss, came in to celebrate a big win. The place was really crowded. Coach Weiss kept getting pushed closer and closer to our booth. It was like he was getting backed down towards the basket by a stronger guy. Finally, he ran out of room but kept getting pushed. Soon his big ol' butt was basically hanging over our table. Fortunately the food had not yet arrived.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: Bob W
                                                        Joe H May 5, 2009 02:07 PM

                                                        I've had it! It's been about ten years but I completely forgot about-really, really good banana cream pie, too. Thanks.

                                                        1. re: Joe H
                                                          ktmoomau May 5, 2009 02:31 PM

                                                          Joe,

                                                          I enjoyed the article about you in the post. I knew a little about you from your posts on here, especially your help on BBQ near DC for the Fiance, but the article was fun.

                                                          I know this is a super old thread but I wanted to let you know about a couple places you should try:
                                                          Best Waffles- Matt's Big Breakfast Phoenix (they might also make the list for best breakfast ham)
                                                          Best Doughnuts- another lard fried at the Harvest Sale held every October in Garrett County, MD. Fresh hot, fried dough glazed a lot like a fresh krispy kreme but better.
                                                          And if you are ever in Western MD/ Fairmont WV seek out pepperoni rolls they are good stuff. Also Sugar and Spice bakery in Garrett County has the best real Amish baked goods, except for my nannie's down the road, but she doesn't sell them anymore.

                                                          Also a place called The Cabin in WV on the back roads from VA to WV not far from Franklin on Route 22, they have great pie, especially peanut butter, coconut cream and chocolate, so if you ever find yourself in that small part of the world stop, even if you have to save it for later. I am from Western MD and when my brother went to VMI for a year we would stop there and get us pie and get him pie to go, we could never eat a whole piece so we would take the rest to go with us.

                                                          1. re: ktmoomau
                                                            Joe H May 5, 2009 05:05 PM

                                                            Sincere thanks, ktmoomau, I really appreciate the nice words AND your thoughts for where I will go. (I promise, if not this trip then another within the next year or two; having done this for almost 30 years a year or two is not a long time!!!) I revived this thread because-for better or worse-I still travel! I really want to at least try and find places that people are passionate about so I thought that this would give a kind of reference point for recommendations. I've actually heard of the Cabin although I haven't been there-yet!!! But I will go, in fact, around the third or fourth week of June when I am returning from an annual trip. Doughnuts are another interesting topic because there are really, really good donut places in New England. Still, lard fried donuts are worthy of a special trip from Reston, VA (where I live) to Garrett County. Factor in Fall Colors and this could really be special. Thank you!!

                                                      2. j
                                                        joanieloch May 5, 2009 07:30 PM

                                                        Very fun to read your "BESTS". I've been to a few and miss Al Gelatos. Anyone out there ever have fried chicken at Eddie's in New orleans (Eddie has been gone many years, sons never produced). It's my 'best' and we try every place reccomended to find one that competes

                                                        21 Replies
                                                        1. re: joanieloch
                                                          Joe H May 5, 2009 08:09 PM

                                                          Oh, wow!!!!!!!!!!!!! I had Eddie's fried chicken in the early '80's: it was fantastic!!! A good friend of mine who lived on Chartres street took me there. Stroud's in Kansas City was really, really good, too along with the Brookville Hotel in Kansas, but Eddie's was outstanding. There is a place in Nashville that has fried chicken which is marinated in hot pepper that I have never had that is also suppose to be outstanding. Thanks for the memory!

                                                          1. re: Joe H
                                                            ktmoomau May 6, 2009 06:32 AM

                                                            I think this would be a great thread for the DC area... Although I am not sure I have been in DC long enough to do it, I think you are right though Central would win best fries hands down. We have gone there with guests to eat and ordered the fries as an appetizer because they had to eat them.

                                                            1. re: Joe H
                                                              Bob W May 6, 2009 07:28 AM

                                                              The Nashville place is Prince's Hot Chicken. I've been to Nashville exactly once in my life and of course less than an hour after getting off the plane I was standing outside Prince's waiting for it to open at noon. And it never opened that day! There were a bunch of regulars milling about and no one knew what was going on. And this was on a Saturday, they were closed Sunday and Monday, so I never got to try it. I was really p'o'd.

                                                              I had some very good food in Nashville -- meat and three at Swett's, breakfast at Loveless Cafe, etc. -- but I really wanted to try that hot chicken.

                                                              Very underrated fried chicken can be had at Parker's Barbecue in Wilson NC. Now, I love Parker's classic eastern NC cue, but their fried chicken is unbelieveable. (This is deep-fried, not pan-fried). Just amazing stuff.

                                                              1. re: Bob W
                                                                Joe H May 6, 2009 12:27 PM

                                                                I've been to Parker's but am not a fan of their bbq. I didn't even know about their chicken-thanks! For eastern Carolina Q I absolutely love Pete Adkin's Skylight Inn in Ayden-it is phenominal. Bob, your experience at Prince's is just incredible. It's happened to me a number of times at different restaurants and is incredibly frustrating. I've been to Loveless but it's been 15 or more years.

                                                                Ktmoomau, Bob, I believe the best fried chicken in the D. C. area, believe it or not, is at Crisfield's in Silver Spring. Serious. It takes 35-40 minutes to get it because they fry it to order in a black cast iron skillet.

                                                                1. re: Joe H
                                                                  Bob W May 6, 2009 12:42 PM

                                                                  Thanks Joe -- I've been to the Skylight Inn, once. On a drive down to Myrtle Beach, we hit seven barbecues in one day -- and this was in the pre-internet days! I used pages Xeroxed from a long-out-of-print BBQ book as my guide. We hit the last place -- Moore's Old Tyme Barbecue in New Bern -- later in the day than I had planned, resulting in what was easily the scariest car ride in my life, down the unlit US 17. The things we do for good food!

                                                                  Skylight Inn is what I would call barbecue for purists. Interestingly, there's another place in Ayden called Bum's that is also supposed to be very good. Lucky Aydenites!

                                                                  As for my Prince's experience, like you and probably many others on here, what I have learned over years of chowhounding is that s**t happens. You do your research, get your maps, check hours, etc, and you still wind up facing a closed door to a darkened restaurant in a town you might never get to again in your lifetime. ARRRGH!

                                                                  1. re: Bob W
                                                                    Joe H May 6, 2009 03:36 PM

                                                                    We have to talk about bbq sometime! We must!

                                                                    1. re: Joe H
                                                                      johnb May 7, 2009 06:15 AM

                                                                      Joe

                                                                      Good to see this thread revived. Two things. I have tried THREE times to go to Princes in Nashville but have found it closed each time--they have very strange hours, so if you want to give it a shot be sure to check out the hours--for me, I was passing through anyway so had noting to lose by trying--in fact, I'll be making that trip again next week so maybe I'll have still another shot at it. Second thing--on the subject of lard-fried donuts, my hometown bakery, the City Bakery in Jasper, Ind., has lard fried donuts and I have always considered them Jasper's contribution to world gastronomy. As you may know Jasper is only about 25 miles from Santa Claus, so if you get by there on your trip it may be worth a stop. But they generally run out in the mid-to-late morning so you need to be an early bird. Full disclosure: FWIW they did change hands a few years ago and I'm not convinced they are as good as they used to be (what is?), but still worth a detour for sure. If you make it I'd be interested to hear your opinion.

                                                                      I'm in the culinary wasteland that is Myrtle Beach at the moment, but have heard of a few good places. I recall you had some opinions on that too. If you have any recent scoop let me know.

                                                                      I also enjoyed the WaPo piece, and the resulting DonRockwell thread.

                                                                      Stay in touch.

                                                                      1. re: johnb
                                                                        Bob W May 7, 2009 09:55 AM

                                                                        Hey John -- glad to hear I'm not the only hound to get hosed at Prince's. But three times!

                                                                        As for Myrtle Beach, if you'll be there on a Friday or Saturday night, take a drive down to Georgetown and then head east to Moree's barbecue, on the outskirts of Andrews SC (birthplace of Chubby Checker). It's an SC pig-pickin kind of place along the lines of Sweatman's -- pulled pork, hash, ribs, etc. Homemade cake for dessert. We were there several years ago, the price was not quite 6 bucks for AYCE and believe me you'll want to eat a lot. Note: The place is REALLY in the boonies but it's worth it.

                                                                        Cute story: As we were driving off, a family of raccoons was marching single file across the road towards the back of the restaurant. they had very good taste!

                                                                        1. re: Bob W
                                                                          Joe H May 7, 2009 12:48 PM

                                                                          You've been to Sweatman's too? Hmm............

                                                                          1. re: Joe H
                                                                            Bob W May 7, 2009 01:15 PM

                                                                            Oh yeah, that place is outstanding. I used to have to make the drive down I-95 to Florida every once in a while, which facilitated much good chowhounding. For example, Blue Boy Sandwich Shop in Jacksonville (recommended by Mezzrow on the Florida Board) is HOF quality (combined with impressive quantity).

                                                                            Another great drive for chowhounding is I-85 through NC. 200 miles of incredible barbecue. I got to make that drive a few times for dog-related activities (my dogs loved the hushpuppies at Lexington Barbecue).

                                                                            1. re: Bob W
                                                                              Joe H May 7, 2009 01:29 PM

                                                                              Lexington is my favorite western Carolina Q and the hush puppies are really good, even for humans! Haven't been to Blue Boy-yet-but will definitely try it even if it takes me a year or more. Have you eaten any Q in Texas? Specifically Luling or LLano (Cooper's).

                                                                              1. re: Joe H
                                                                                Bob W May 7, 2009 02:03 PM

                                                                                The only cue I've ever had in Texas was at Otto's in Houston, the Bush family favorite. I thought it was very good but I know there's much better.

                                                                                I spent a couple of days in the Austin area once but never got to the great cue joints like Black's or Kreuz Market. Darn it.

                                                                                For Blue Boy the one I've been to is the one at the Lem Turner/Norwood exit off 95, north of Jax. Very convenient if you're just passing through. The other locations are more downtown, I think. Mezzrow is justifiably proud of Blue Boy -- it's really unique. They bake their own bread and it shows. And the sandwich maker really takes pride in his work.

                                                                                1. re: Bob W
                                                                                  Joe H May 7, 2009 05:04 PM

                                                                                  Blue Boy is a done deal!!! I'm already thinking of what meeting I can schedule after flying into the JAX airport...(for my business)

                                                                                  Kreuz Market has changed over the years. Black's has, too. For the positive while Kreuz is another matter. Otto's is still a marketing attempt to capitalize on great Q from elsewhere in Texas. I have a very good friend who lives south of Austin and absolutely loves bbq. He and I have been to the Central Market in Luling, but also done trips to Llano, Elgin and a bunch of other places including the Salt Lick in Driftwood which has the feeling (but not the Q) of a great bbq place. I once sat at a table with several people who had never "met a Yankee before in (their) life." Eating bbq.

                                                                                  One day, in the nursing home, I will tell the story of the couple in Driftwood, TX who "had never met a Yankee before."

                                                                                  Anyway, I would argue that the marbled brisket in Luling (perhaps Louie Mueller's, too) is among the best things that I have ever tasted in my life. There is simply nothing like this in the D. C./Baltimore area. Not even the absolute best in Charles county approaches this.

                                                                                  Bob, you should have been with me at the Salt Lick, at the table, when I was told "I have never met a Yankee before..." This was an experience.

                                                                                  1. re: Joe H
                                                                                    Bob W May 8, 2009 06:45 AM

                                                                                    Joe -- the things that happen when we forage for good cue! Check this one out:

                                                                                    A few years back I was driving up I-75 in Georgia so of course I had to stop in Jackson to hit the Fresh-Air Barbecue, which has been open since 1929 and was featured in a NY Times article on great barbecues back around '89 that I carried around with me until it nearly fell apart.

                                                                                    Anyway, I made a left wihen I should have made a right, and soon got lost (very common when I look for barbecue). I stopped at the Jackson Post Office for directions. The postmistress and I started chatting, since my yankee accent clearly gave me away as a non-local. Turns out she was from Providence RI, just like me! She met a "Jawja" boy who was in the Navy in Newport, and he took her back home to Jackson, GA. Unbelievable.

                                                                                    BTW, Fresh-Air had very good barbecue. Haven't been there in years. Apparently they opened some branches that are not very good. But the original might still be good.

                                                                                    1. re: Bob W
                                                                                      Joe H May 8, 2009 09:57 AM

                                                                                      I've been to Fresh Air, maybe ten years ago. Dreamland in Tuscaloosa is like that-at one time I thought they had the best ribs I'd ever tasted. But they opened in Birmingham, later in Atlanta and neither was as good as the original.

                                                                          2. re: Bob W
                                                                            johnb May 7, 2009 06:33 PM

                                                                            Bob

                                                                            Thanks for the tip on Moree's. Maybe we'll be able to try it. Certainly if it's like Sweatman's, which is great. I was there after Tony Bourdain was but before that episode was broadcast. But I doubt it had a major impact anyway.

                                                                            I pass through Nashville on a regular trip I make so it's easy to stop at Prince's, but hard to adjust my schedule. I'll have to just keep trying.

                                                                            1. re: Bob W
                                                                              johnb May 17, 2009 05:43 AM

                                                                              Update on my efforts to eat at Prince's in Nashville. Finally, last Friday, I stopped there and they were open. I ordered a half chicken medium spice (medium based on several posts by others). It takes about 25 minutes since they prepare everything only to order. To kill time I went next door and ordered a fish sandwich. It wasn't bad. Finally the chicken arrived. They gave me a rear quarter and two front quarters--nice of them, and the chicken was the right size, not oversized as so much is these days in the store. Anyway, it's absolutely as good as everyone has said, extremely crispy-crunchy under a spicy sauce with a tiny touch of sweet. Some of the best chicken I've ever had. Worth the journey. I found the medium hot to be quite hot, but since my tongue is old and inured to pain I think I'll go for the really hot next time and see what happens.

                                                                              More news. I'm now in Chicago at a show, so afterward I of course tried to get to Hot Doug's for some duck fat fried french fries. Unfortunately I arrived after closing (is this the story of my life) so I had to switch to Plan B, which was to go to the Silver Palm and try the three little piggies sandwich, so loved by Tony Bourdain. They were slammed, but I waited--I also went for onion rings. Finally it arrived. One taste of an onion ring and, bless my soul it clearly had been fried in lard. I asked the bartender about that (turns out it was he who came up with the sandwich) and not only did he confirm but apparently they fry EVERYTHING in lard, even the pork cutlets and the fish for the tacos etc. In general the place seems to have its act together. Anyway the sandwich is stupendous. A fried cutlet, topped with a big slice of real country ham topped with bacon topped with a fried egg and one of those onion rings and finally some cheese. It was a challenge to get through it but I finally made it. So if you're in the mood for a mindblower sandwich and/or some potentially great fried food, this is your place. I'm going back someday for the fish tacos. BTW, I sat at the bar during the long wait and I can report that they give a good pour, if that's of interest.

                                                                              1. re: johnb
                                                                                Joe H May 17, 2009 06:37 AM

                                                                                John, don't leave without going to Johnny's in the 7400 block of West North Avenue for an Italian Beef.

                                                                                Your comments about Prince's are really interesting and much appreciated. Thank you! My problem with Chicago is that I've been eating at Johnny's for almost 30 years and believe it is the most important meal in Chicago. I also believe it is the best "beef" sandwich I've ever had and this includes Tony Luke's or the White House for a cheesesteak, Mother's for a roast beef with debris, Schwabl's for a roast beef on weck and possibly, just possibly as good as the Central Market in Luling for their brisket. But this last is something I'd really have to think about... With only one meal on some trips I can't give it up.

                                                                                I WILL make it to Prince's.

                                                                            2. re: johnb
                                                                              Joe H May 7, 2009 12:57 PM

                                                                              Thanks, John. We had a chow lunch today at an outstanding Korean restaurant in Annandale, Han Gang, that Steve organized-you should have been there!!!

                                                                              Myrtle Beach is a wasteland but there is a place that I use to take people to which was a lot of fun and fairly good. The big deal was the ambience-it feels for all the world like a back road in Opelousas. Flo's Place: http://www.flosplace.com/

                                                                              As fate would have it I will be at Holiday World on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. I just looked up Jasper on route 213 and will definitely try it- if I have time in the morning. Unfortunately, I'll be landing in Louisville around 10 and a meeting at 11:30 BUT, serious question-is Jasper on Eastern Time or Central? If it's Central I should be able to stop in. Holiday World is Central but Louisville is Eastern. Thanks, John.

                                                                              1. re: Joe H
                                                                                johnb May 7, 2009 06:27 PM

                                                                                Joe

                                                                                Having trouble getting this thing to post--apologize if it turns out to be a double.

                                                                                Jasper is on Eastern, so you might be able to make it. Best way is to exit I-64 at the same exit you'd take for Santa Claus, #63, State road 162. South is SC and HW. North is Ferdinand and Jasper. About a 25 minute drive to the bakery. Don't use US231 at all. Then just retrace your steps down SR162 to get to HW. But call the bakery first to be sure they have some left, tho it's not usually a problem on Saturday. Maybe they will keep some back for you.

                                                                                Janet and I tried Flo's on our last visit, partly on your recommendation then, and it was just as you described. Don't know if we'll make it again this time. We'll see. I posted a request on the South Board and got a few interesting leads.

                                                                                Would have loved to have been at the lunch today--I got the e-mail, but..... Maybe next time in town.

                                                                              2. re: johnb
                                                                                Joe H May 7, 2009 05:12 PM

                                                                                John you need to return to the D. C. area. There a LOT of people here who feel the same way. Or, at the least, you could have a "summer place" in Ashburn...

                                                                  2. ktmoomau May 8, 2009 07:21 AM

                                                                    Joe H.,

                                                                    My Uncle and Brother are going to Kent Island for a fishing trip, he is a big chowhound he lurks on here, but doesn't post. I told him to go to the Narrows for crabcakes. I don't get over that way much anymore now that I don't live in Annapolis, but am hoping to get over that way more this summer. With studying for the bar last summer, then wedding madness I just don't have the weekend time for food that I used to have. But we are eating at some good places on our Honeymoon so should make up for it. Going to the French Laundry then to a bunch of places in Australia. It will be interesting to see what I think after all the reviews I have read. Reading posts about it are like reading about posts from Citronelle so back and forth. But both Fiance and I really wanted to eat there so we will see for ourselves.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: ktmoomau
                                                                      Joe H May 8, 2009 10:17 AM

                                                                      I have been to the FL twice but I believe that what is most significant about it is that now it has become an absolute MUST experience regardless of whether you believe it lives up to the hype or doesn't. But Australia has a restaurant very similar: Tetsuya's. I have not been there but hope to go eventually. http://www.tetsuyas.com/ http://www.amazon.com/dp/1580082947?t...& You could have the incredible opportunity to experience both literally hours or days apart!!

                                                                      In SF you may want to also try A 16 whose chef Nate Appleman won the James Beard Rising Star Award over Johnny Monis at Komi this year. I have several friends "whose opinions I trust" who have gone and absolutely rave about it.

                                                                      The Narrows also has the best cream of crab soup that I have had, too. (But NOT their vegetable crab which is a disappointment, ONLY the cream of crab.

                                                                      )

                                                                      Have a great Honeymoon!!!!

                                                                    2. m
                                                                      mr99203 May 17, 2009 03:01 PM

                                                                      Joe, have you been back to Spokane for the fries at Dick's lately? I'm wondering if they're still the original recipe.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: mr99203
                                                                        Joe H May 17, 2009 07:02 PM

                                                                        Honestly, it's been two or three years. But the last time I was there I spent almost a half hour talking to the owner and his experiences in trying to secure a McDonald's franchise in the late '50's. (I must mention that then he was probably in his early '80's.) He had a great deal of pride in the way he "still made them" and it seemed almost impossible that there could be any change at all. Still, if he has sold or turned over control much might have changed but I must say that I grew up (I am 62) eating McDonald's french fries in the late '50's and '60's and still remember the commercial they ran in 1967 to try and convince people that their frozen french fries (which were no longer fried in 70% fat and used frozen potatoes for the first time) were as good as the FRENCH FRIES THEY WERE FOUNDED ON. You could still get these fries in Des Plaines, IL until about 1980 or 81 at the original Ray Kroc McD. I had them then which was my first taste in about 15 years. Having "Dick's" fries in 2002 and later in 2005 or 2006 it was amazing: a taste and a texture that I had not forgotten! These really were the same french fries that I grew up with. When I met him and he told me the story it was incredible-he was selling McD original fries and their original shakes made from the original suppliers and the original recipes. I just don't know about today. But several years ago it had not changed.

                                                                        Important point: Dick's in Spokane has no relationship to Dick's in Seattle which, in its own way, is really good, too. But they are different and the food (and french fries) are different.

                                                                        Another important point: several years ago I called McD corporate and after a half hour was finally transferred to a Sr V. P. of something who was probably conscripted to talk to me-I was identified as a "food writer." Then, I had wanted to know "where on the face of the earth I could taste the exact same french fries and milk shake that McDonald's made in the '50's and '60's? I said that I was willing to go to Russia, China, to anywhere where the supply and preparation was the same. I was told by this "Sr. V. P." that there was nowhere, that "McDonald's had developed a better and more consistent potato and milk shake which had been introduced into all of their restaurants worldwide. There might have been variances with the condiments served with the french fries but the actual potato, the actual milkshake was made to a formula "perfected over the years."

                                                                        I took this as the company gospal and booked a ticket to Spokane for what WAS the real McD fries that they started with.

                                                                        I must note here that several years ago Dick's Drive In in Spokane, Washington was recognized by USA Todatythe second highest grossing independent fast food restaurant in America (after Atlanta's Varsity) . As I have mentioned lesewhere there is a contemporary McD two or three blocks down the street from Dick's and it does a small fraction of Dick's business. Please note that Dick's (yes, Spokane's "Dick's") is selling McDonald's ORIGINAL FOOD! There are real numbers to support this claim but perhaps the first step is just showing up on a friday and/or a saturday night and looking at the length of lines and the number of cars circling parking lots for space.

                                                                        Spokane is a real sore spot for McDonald's. It is where Mickey D's original food (a HUGE STATEMENT) scored a clear home run over the "new" McDonald's formulas which they were trying to roll out around the rest of the country. But this was the FIRST place the new McD food was meeting resistence.

                                                                        Ok, where am I going with all this: one day, somewhere, someone will recreate Ray Kroc's original menu and oriignal suppliers and sell them under another name. French fries, milk shakes, hamburgers, they'll all be called something else, something similar to what they oriignally were. And these new stores (similar to Spokane's Dick's) will open near exisiting McDonald's and blow them away. The new stores will essentially sell McDonald's original food while the "new" McD will sell the reworked/repackaged food conceived after 1967 when frozen took over and labor was first considered as too expensive for the production of french fries.

                                                                        I remember McDonald's original food and I am certain that many of the older people reading this too, doo. Not all that dissimilar from In-n-Out Burger a company that still does things the same way today as they did in 1948. Although you can't say this for McD.

                                                                        Perhaps the next step is for someone to report from Dick's in Spokane and their thoughts on the hamburgers, cheeseburgers, french fries and shakes sold there.

                                                                      2. Perilagu Khan Jul 19, 2010 09:22 AM

                                                                        Well, I'm awestruck by Joe's original post. Stunned into timidity, almost. Nevertheless, I'll offer a few humble suggestions:

                                                                        Best Tamales--Chope's (La Mesa, New Mexico)

                                                                        Best Stuffed Jalapenos--Cafe Espana (Las Cruces, New Mexico)

                                                                        Best Thai Hot and Spicy Chicken--Chow Thai (Lubbock, Texas but defunct)

                                                                        Best Pizza--Candela (Trenton, New Jersey) or Shakespeare's (Columbia, Missouri)

                                                                        Best Hot Wangs--One Guy from Italy (Lubbock, Texas)

                                                                        Best Chicken Methi--A Passage to India (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)

                                                                        Best Chicken 65--Maharaja (Lubbock, Texas)

                                                                        Best Spinach Pakoras--Maharaja (Lubbock, Texas)

                                                                        Best Burgers--Alex's (Lubbock, Texas)

                                                                        Best Breakfast Burritos--Burrito Tower (Lubbock, Texas)

                                                                        Best Steak--NY Strip at Hyde Park Grill (Cleveland, Ohio)

                                                                        Best Carnitas--Cancun (Lubbock, Texas)

                                                                        Best Habanero Salsa--Cancun (Lubbock, Texas)

                                                                        Best BBQ Wraps--Big E's (Lubbock, Texas)

                                                                        Best Antipasto Salad--Orlando's (Lubbock, Texas)

                                                                        Best Pasta with Vodka Sauce--Frescos (Cape May, New Jersey)

                                                                        Best Jambalaya--Buzzard Billy's (Waco, Texas)

                                                                        Best Cheesecake--Frenchman Inn (Lubbock, Texas) or maple cheesecake at Addison's (Columbia, Missouri)

                                                                        Best Russian Food--Zhivago's (Ballwin, Missouri)

                                                                        Best Burgundy Portobellas--Atascadero's (Columbia, Missouri defunct)

                                                                        That's obviously Lubbockcentric, but you go with what you know.

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                          Joe H Jul 19, 2010 08:38 PM

                                                                          Lubbock has some absolutely excellent Tex Mex; I've been taken to a couple of mom and pop places by the owners of Joyland over the past several years and now I build trips around returning to Lubbock. I've had the breakfast burritos and they were fantastid!! What is chicken 65? Also, for pasta with Vodka sauce have you had this at Chef Vola's in Atlantic City?

                                                                          Thanks for resurrecting what was once a really interesting thread.

                                                                          1. re: Joe H
                                                                            Perilagu Khan Jul 20, 2010 07:27 AM

                                                                            Well, I can't say I ever expected to see Joyland mentioned on CH! Signs and wonders.

                                                                            Next time you're in the "Hub City," you really should check out Cancun on Slide and Nora's on 34th. Cancun serves cuisine rooted in Jalisco and may just be the best resto in the city. Nora's is just downhome Tex-Mex done to a tee. It's the best of its type in these parts.

                                                                            I don't know too many details on Chicken 65. Luckyfatima could probably tell you more. I do know that it is diced chicken breast cooked in myriad spices and strongly peppered. It also has a read tinge and is served dry. If you like it hot n' spicy, this little number's got you covered.

                                                                            1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                              woodleyparkhound Jul 20, 2010 09:11 AM

                                                                              Interesting... I've had Chicken 65 at Masala Art in DC. I assumed they made up that name as I hadn't heard of it before. I didn't realize it was the accepted name of a dish served in lots of places.

                                                                              1. re: woodleyparkhound
                                                                                Perilagu Khan Jul 20, 2010 09:51 AM

                                                                                I thought the same about Chicken 65 until I researched it a bit on the Internet. The name does not sound particularly Indian, does it?

                                                                                1. re: Perilagu Khan
                                                                                  woodleyparkhound Jul 20, 2010 11:01 AM

                                                                                  Not at all! I just read up a bit on it. It was interesting to read the wiki article which lists all the theories about how it got its name. Apparently no one really knows.

                                                                                  1. re: woodleyparkhound
                                                                                    Perilagu Khan Jul 20, 2010 11:57 AM

                                                                                    Yeah, I just read that article, too. Marinating the chicken 65 days! lol

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