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Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives reviews?

There are so many DDD joints and Guy seems to love them all, that I'm trying for a national Top-10 (or Top-20) or national Must See/Eat list compiled by an independent reviewer, a blogger, magazine, or simply diners/eaters.

Or, is there a way of searching/sorting Chowhound by "DDD"?

Thanks in advance for any guidance.

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  1. Sorry, I don't know of any. And I understand why you want that, as I have been to a few of the places on the show, and some are good, some merely ok, and at least one fantastic.

    As to the "fantastic", I can say with certainty that the Red Iguana in Salt Lake has to be on any top-10 list, because that place is amazing.

    15 Replies
    1. re: LurkerDan

      I think it is a great show. It dispels the image of heartless chains taking over. There are still mom and pops that truly prepare food with love, and he helps locate them for us. Sometimes it's amazing to see what goes on in the kitchen. And he is always upbeat and cheerful. I like that, too, light entertainment and useful.

      1. re: Veggo

        I agree: Guy serves a great purpose in bringing these unique diners to our attention.

      2. re: LurkerDan

        LurkerDan, thanks for mentioning Red Iguana. I'd never heard of it.

        I checked out their menu just now, and it's really intriguing.

        What would you say are the best dishes at the Red Iguana?

        A buddy and I are planning a major road trip in about a year, and we might go through SLC, so this spot is now on my radar.

        1. re: SimSportPlyr

          On another thread Red Iguana was praised for it's chile relleno.

          1. re: Veggo

            Thanks for the hint. I now see there are several CH threads for that mention the Red Iguana.

          2. re: SimSportPlyr

            Any of their mole dishes are spectacular. So many places have just one mole, the mole negro, yet they have such an assortment. I really enjoy the puntas de filetes, but like I said, all of the mole dishes are amazing. I don't think it's on the menu, but you can ask them for a mole sampler, which is just a plate with a little dollop of each sauce on it that you can taste with chips, before deciding what to order.

            I cannot imagine going to Salt Lake City and NOT eating at the Red Iguana. Note that there are a couple of Red Iguanas near each other, but both are the same and run by the same folks. There is also an establishment in SLC called the Blue Iguana; it may be ok, but it is not the same, and not run by that family.

            1. re: LurkerDan

              Thanks, Dan.

              It's nice to know of the sampler option. That sounds like the way to go.

              1. re: LurkerDan

                My wife orders puntas de filetes every time we go to Red Iguana. I vary with my order but it's almost always mole.

              2. re: SimSportPlyr

                Red Iguanna is fantastic! Everything is good but the mole's are especially good - my favorite is the mole negro. Enjoy!

                1. re: SimSportPlyr

                  Red Iguana! Their verde and amarillo mole are simply amazing. I grew up on the border and, while the relleno is great, it doesn't compare to the two mole dishes. I live in Austin and my sister lives in SLC. She is required to bring me some every time she visits and it's the first and last stop when I visit her.

                  1. re: amysuehere

                    Curious. Is Red Iguana a diner, drive-in or dive?

                      1. re: c oliver

                        I think you'd have to say it's a dive, even though it's not really.

                  2. re: LurkerDan

                    That's interesting! Didn't get to Red Iguana yet , but I LOVED the fish taco place.

                    And how about that one with the hand pulled noodles? I think it was someplace I thought I was not likely to find myself, but then I never thought I'd find myself in SLC.

                  3. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. RED Iguana! Absolutely. I was there (at least once, maybe twice) in about 2002. My wife and I were giving a talk at a conference there , in Salt Lake City, staying at the Marriott-I think it may be the original Marriott. Anyway, we were there with our then 2 or 3 year old son, so,despite the time lag, I recall many details.

                    What I remember most is the variety of Mole's: it was fantastic. I don't remember exactly which one I had, but I suspect it was the Mole Negro. As I recal, my wife had a Mole Coloradito (I remember the almonds). I have no ides what my 3 year old son ate. One of my colleagues noted that he'd like to stay in Salt Lake City for a couple of weeks, just to try each mole.

                    So, then we were off to Boise, to visit my wife's family. When we returned to SLC, to fly home, we ate at their other place, closer to the airport. It's been a while (12 years), but my recollection is that the downtown place was phenomenal; the place near the airport (Red Iguana I, perhaps?) was popular, crowded, but not quite as good (foodwise) as the original.

                    1 Reply
                    1. I really can't stand him so haven't watched in a few years. But he did visit Schellville Grill in Sonoma, CA.


                      We're usually in Sonoma over Christmas and it's one of the places we have breakfast. It's good to very good.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: c oliver

                        c. oliver -

                        Thanks for the reply.

                        I go to Sonoma from time to time, so I might be able to visit Schellville Grill.

                        I was trying to figure out how many DDD joints Guy has featured. I figure it's roughly 17 seasons times 13 episodes per season times about 2.5 joints per episode. That's what, around 550 joints?

                        I'm trying to figure out if there's a way to distill it all down to the best of the best without having to watch each episode.

                      2. You can trying just searching DDD on the boards that you are interested in or the entire site.

                        It's more tedious, but you can look at http://www.flavortownusa.com/states to get a list of the restaurants that he as visited and then do individual restaurant searches on the region board.

                        A quick glance at the location in MA and MD (the states I'm most familiar with), a good number of the places are well received on Chowhound.

                        19 Replies
                        1. re: viperlush

                          Thanks for the suggestion, viperlush.

                          I might try that.

                            1. re: viperlush

                              That list is a good indication of why more detailed analysis is a good idea. Of the places in CO he's reviewed that I have been to, none are bad. But if someone was coming to Boulder and looking for cheap grub, Foolish Craig's and the Sink would not be the joints I'd send them to.

                              It's probably a good list to rely on in terms of not having awful food, and sometimes getting great food. But closer scrutiny is required if you want only great food.

                              1. re: LurkerDan

                                That's such a good point. One of the places he visited in Reno isn't ever awful but it isn't ever particularly good. But, of course, he loved it. I wouldn't hold him up as a great judge of quality so, yeah, finding other recs would be my first suggestion.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  c oliver, I suspect that he always gives positive reviews so that future joints will welcome him into their kitchen.

                                  He's trying to sell a product, the show, not be an independent reviewer.

                                  At least, that's my take on it.

                                  1. re: SimSportPlyr

                                    And we're pretty much talking LCD - lowest common denominator food. Designed to please the masses. That's why I don't watch FN anymore...but that's a different thread.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      Well, that's not entirely fair. Some of the places, it's obvious that the food is exceptional (and some, I'm sure, it's exceptional but not necessarily obvious to a TV viewer). I'd hardly call the Red Iguana LCD food, for example. But yes, the nature of the show means that some of it is going to be basic comfort food, and the nature of it being a TV show designed to highlight these places means he's always going to be enthusiastic regardless of quality.

                                      1. re: LurkerDan

                                        The food is always made from scratch, with love. Anyone who doesn't watch the show shouldn't trash the show. It is not Sysco stuff designed to please the masses.

                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          Can't tell if you're being sarcastic, but some of the restaurants featured most definitely rely heavily on the Sysco truck.

                                          That's ok, not every place needs to be offering scratch-made-free-range-organic-no-hormone-gluten-free-no-factory-farming food. I want my omelet to cost in the single digits, after all!

                                          1. re: LurkerDan

                                            If it's good enough for Thomas Keller, I'm not turning my nose up :)


                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              Good point, it is probably a bit cliche to turn your nose up at the use of "Sysco" ingredients. There's not really an automatic harm in it, and restaurants are businesses after all, needing to control food costs. But there certainly are #10 cans in view at some of the restaurants, and those restaurants didn't can those items themselves.

                                              1. re: LurkerDan

                                                And those #10 cans may just be larger versions of what I use at home, i.e., tomatoes. If Sysco alone is selling to 400,000 restaurants in the US (and there are Sysco-equivalents), then you know that the majority of those ARE mom and pops and not Thomas Keller equivalents. I just can't connect the dots between DDDs and cooked from scratch.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  i don't understand what you mean by not being able to "connect the dots."

                                                  if you watch the show, you can see (especially in earlier episodes where there was more cooking and less bullshit) which cooks use what ingredients.

                                                  1. re: linus

                                                    I guess I don't know what is meant by "cooked from scratch" especially if people are saying Sysco-typed foods aren't used.

                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                      it is a nebulous term, i'll agree.
                                                      i think you can kinda sorta tell if you watch the cooking. some of the folks use a lot of bulk ground dried spices, colouring agents and soup bases, some don't.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        Obviously, there isn't a definition. Is it cooking from scratch if someone makes their own pasta sauce from canned ingredients (versus using canned pasta sauce)? Or should one be chopping tomatoes to claim that one is cooking from scratch? Some of the joints grind their own meat, and others obviously buy pre-ground. Are both cooking from scratch?

                                                        Regardless of the definition, it is obvious that not all DDD joints are created equal, regardless of how much their food is "comfort" or "working class" food. While I'm sure they're all working hard to please, some are clearly paying more attention to the quality of the food. Nothing wrong with acknowledging that.

                                          2. re: LurkerDan

                                            I don't disagree with you. I also know that plenty of my favorite breakfast joints have the food service truck pulling up out back. And that the place in Reno that he visited has it also. That doesn't mean the food doesn't taste great. I guess my point is that I would use other criteria for dining choices than what DDD/GF features. The place I mentioned in Sonoma is good but we have three other places when we visit that area that are better. And we found all on CH. So if I had one breakfast in a community, I'd opt for a CH rec before a feature on his show.

                                            1. re: c oliver

                                              "So if I had one breakfast in a community, I'd opt for a CH rec before a feature on his show."

                                              Absolutely 100% agree.

                                    2. re: LurkerDan

                                      LurkerDan, exactly!

                                      There is apparently a wide variation in quality among the DDD joints, but it's hard to discern that from Guy's shows.

                                  2. He's tough to take (Fieri) but I find the DDD's range from boring schlop (basically chili sauce on spaghetti) to really interesting and well thought out culinary places.

                                    The places that scratch make everything, charcuterie, smoke their own pastrami, duck, etc...even if it is just for simple sandwiches are places I would like to visit.

                                    Places that put grilled cheese sandwiches outside of hamburgers are not.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Owtahear

                                      hey, don't diss chili sauce on spaghetti!!

                                      As for DDD, I have eaten at a few of the places featured and found them good and usually good value for the money. And I agree with those who point out that at least they are local places and not chains, and its good to support them. That being said, when I ate at places on DDD I chose them as much for the dishes featured as the fact that they made the show. I'm always willing to try something that looks good based on ingredients and preparation. My husband will watch the show and pick up on specific cooking techniques and say "let's try that at home." - and we enjoy trying to recreate the dishes. And it is also true that there are places on the show I know about and would NOT consider visiting (either because I have heard from others not-so-good stuff or more likely because they are meat-centric and I am married to non meat eater). And I admit to being curious about the identity of the place in Reno that coliver mentions above...I live in Reno and was not aware of any DDD visits here.

                                      1. re: janetofreno


                                        Gold 'N Silver is the one I was referring to. We used to go occasionally as Bob used to go there when he was in high school. That was the only reason.

                                      2. re: Owtahear

                                        "The places that scratch make everything, charcuterie, smoke their own pastrami, duck, etc...even if it is just for simple sandwiches are places I would like to visit....Places that put grilled cheese sandwiches outside of hamburgers are not."

                                        Owtahear, me too!

                                      3. Here's my biggest DDD pet peeves:

                                        1) Guy Fieri. OK, I can stop there.

                                        Ground Beef (que up "80/20"? with Fiori looking into the camera like he is solving E=MC2)
                                        Oven temp (400deg?)
                                        His fear of eggs. I mean come on, you are a chef!!!

                                        And I hate the joints who basically make hamburger helper with schlop sauce......

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: Owtahear

                                          Fear of eggs?????

                                          I realized also that the place in Sonoma is neither a diner, a drive in or a dive. So how do they qualify these places?

                                          #1 is mine also :)

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            I think Guy said that since the place in Sonoma (and others) ain't a DD or D, they call it a "local favorite" or somewhich like that.

                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                              Well, in a place like Sonoma that could be quite fancy! Not that Schellville Grill is.

                                          2. I don't see Guy "loving them all". He does make comments that some things he tries at some places are servicable, if not great.
                                            The show, and Guy, focus on the one or two things on a menu that are great. If you or I go and order something else... well, in my experience, it's usually a bummer.
                                            That and the few places near me that I have tried, all have been less than exciting.

                                            My list of DDD that I have tried:

                                            White Manna Hamburgers
                                            358 River St
                                            Hackensack, NJ 07601
                                            Thouroughly forgetable.

                                            The Pit Stop
                                            1706 Sunrise Hwy
                                            Merrick, NY 11566
                                            Completely Horrible.

                                            The Sparrow Tavern
                                            24-01 29th Street
                                            LIC, Queens, NY 11102
                                            Hipster spot with good drink and food.
                                            The whole neighborhood is a mecca for great food.
                                            The website lists those lamb ribs at $16, but when the bill came they were $28. As good as they were, that left a bad taste in my mouth.

                                            84 Hillside Ave
                                            Williston Park, NY 11596
                                            Good Ice Cream, nothing to write home about.
                                            Guy did make an indifferent comment about the marinara sauce here being "simple". No accolades for the food from Guy or the show, but here on CH some say try the pasta with cauliflower.

                                            Defonte's of Brooklyn
                                            379 Columbia Street
                                            Brooklyn, NY 11231
                                            I used to go when I worked in Brooklyn for a summer nearly 20 years ago.
                                            It was EXCELLENT back then... I haven't been since.

                                            11 Replies
                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                              "I don't see Guy "liking them all"."

                                              Admittedly, I have only watched 15-20 episodes, so probably (apparently) I missed the ones where he didn't rave about the food.

                                              1. re: SimSportPlyr

                                                If you don't like Guy or the show, you might only see him "liking" everything.

                                                I like the show. Guy is OK.

                                                I watch it and listen with a keen ear for what he says.

                                                The marinara sauce at Hildebrandt's on one episode, for example, he was less than impressed with. And he showed it.

                                                1. re: Gastronomos

                                                  Outwardly, Guy likes and raves about everything. But it is true, if you watch the show regularly and read between the lines, you can certainly see some more detail. I think it's far easier to tell which places he truly thinks are outstanding than it is to tell which places left him unimpressed, because he still talks positively about those places, so you need to discern that he's not positive enough in his positivity, if that makes sense. That's a weird way to try and draw judgments about places that you have never patronized.

                                                  1. re: LurkerDan

                                                    Just seems like a weird way to plan restaurant eating.

                                                    1. re: LurkerDan

                                                      I agree. I can almost always tell when he likes a place, versus when he's just "meh" about it. If its a double segment one, as in "and after the commercial break we'll be making...." That to me is a good sign. He's usually more enthusiastic and detailed in his praises of the places he really likes, also. I know when the person just gets a "that's some good Mac and cheese, man, keep up the good work" he's not all that impressed.

                                                      1. re: SaraAshley

                                                        When he really likes something he barely talks about it. He just chows down and goes back for seconds.

                                                        The more he praises a dish, particularly if he uses his standard food lexicon, the less he seems to really like it.

                                                      2. re: LurkerDan

                                                        'not positive enough in his positivity'. <- That's a great way to put it!

                                                        LurkerDan, a few weeks ago, I started picking up on that, that he would rave about some dishes, but only say mildly positively things about other dishes.

                                                        Still, I think I learn a lot more about the DDD food from forums than from Guy's show.

                                                        1. re: LurkerDan

                                                          I don't know if I, or anyone, would watch a show where a Guy would eat in a place and say the food sucks and walk out. It works for Robert Irvine cause he "fixes" it. Guy ain't doin' nothin' but eating, commenting and leaving. I "read" his comments and take them how they're served. I see a lot of things he doesn't like. Or like much. Pigs ears and eggs are the least of which that come to mind.

                                                        2. re: Gastronomos

                                                          I don't dislike Guy, actually. I'm essentially neutral about him. I recognize that criticisms others have about Guy, but he doesn't bug me a lot.

                                                          I didn't see the Hildebrandt's episode.

                                                      3. re: Gastronomos

                                                        I will add La Isla in Hoboken to the tri state list. Great food every time I have gone or have had delivery.

                                                        With regards to his stops in New Orleans, Katie's, Surrey's Cafe and Creole Creamery are all excellent.
                                                        He did Parasol's for the roast beef poboy, I think its decent but not the best in New Orleans

                                                      4. I've been to several DDD places, most of them before they were on DDD.

                                                        My nominees for a top 10 or 20 list:

                                                        Red Iguana in SLC(been eating mole there for probably 20 years, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants anywhere)
                                                        Louis Mueller's in Taylor, TX (maybe not the very best BBQ joint in Texas but one of the best)
                                                        Cecilia's in Albuquerque(can be hit and miss but makes my list solely on the quality of the red chile)

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Chimayo Joe

                                                          Chimayo Joe, thanks for the recommendations!!

                                                          I'm adding those to my Must Do List.

                                                          1. re: SimSportPlyr

                                                            If you make it to Central Texas, skip Mueller's and go straight to Franklin's. Mueller's has a lot of charm, but the food has gone downhill of late.

                                                        2. Guy has been to several places in Kansas City. Skip Grinders. I know the owner is one of Guy's buddies but it is average bar food. 2 blocks east of Grinders is The Brick. Guy "loved it." But it really is awesome. It is a dive with great food, a great owner and good times.
                                                          Forte in Vegas is so good we ate there twice on our last trip.
                                                          As for BBQ in KC that he recommends, I will not comment. I am on a BBQ team so I think I should stay out of the typical OK Joe's, Gates, Bryant's discussion.

                                                          1. For the record, I came close to being "star-struck" with Guy.

                                                            In Fall 2011 I was driving across the Lions Gate Bridge here in Vancouver when I spotted a beautiful red '68 Camaro convertible in traffic ahead of me. What was strange was the passenger was standing up in the passenger seat with a big video cam, alternating between shooting in front of, then behind, the car. My brain did a quick 1-2, thinking of a CH thread where we've been told Fieri's in town:


                                                            Led me to conclude on the spot that was his car, being driven by his production crew, over to North Vancouver to visit the Tomahawk Cafe. I tried hard to pull alongside Guy's Camaro while in traffic and managed to stay within a couple of cars' lengths from it. Only much later (after DDD ran the episode) did I realize I was actually caught in their intro footage, in the first two seconds (the white 2004 Subaru Outback wagon in the rightmost lane):


                                                            And also me changing lanes behind them the sideview mirror shot :-)

                                                            I guess in a way I was stalking them !

                                                            1. I've been thinking about this post for a while - but it's finally clicked for me that DDD is a show that I would categorize mostly as a travel program more so than a show about restaurants, cooking or food. Each restaurant that makes it on the show is presented as a great place to visit due to ambiance, service, "local color", and food.

                                                              But because of this, sometimes I think that non-food reasons can heavily impact what makes the show. Every episode of Bourdain's shows that have been shot in places I've lived/visited have featured a range of places I found tasty, mediocre, and in one case awful. In the awful case (Egypt), I feel that it was awful for me because he went with a camera crew, and local guide to essentially what's a tourist location. When you then go as a tourist, you get the full "tourist trap" treatment - and the result was dreadful service, questionably steep prices, and poor food.

                                                              I'm personally a fan of watching DDD, but would definitely double check a restaurant that made it on the show before visiting.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: cresyd

                                                                I don't learn much about places from DDD. But Bourdain's shows teach me a lot about places I've not been. And not to digress far from DDD, I think the shows where Bourdain and his "guide", Amir, were together were the best and funniest.

                                                                1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                  This takes the discussion a bit far afield - but I pretty strongly disagree. Given where I've visited/lived and episodes of Bourdain's that I watched, they've been poor practical travel guides. They're inspiring, but no more a straight guide on "how to visit x" than DDD would be a straight guide on "where to eat when in y". Both require extra verification and planning that go well beyond "let's do everything we've seen on this show!".

                                                                  1. re: cresyd

                                                                    Hmmm, maybe you have some special/VIP access to places that the rest of us don't have, but if you ever go to Uzbekistan I kind of doubt you'd be taking part in an afternoon prayer in a mosque or being invited to attend a traditional Uzbek wedding. Bourdain did that on Season 1 of NR.

                                                                    1. re: LotusRapper

                                                                      I don't think I entirely understand your comment.

                                                                      Is the point that Bourdain's show offers educational moments where he visits events that the average tourist couldn't get to? You could argue that the access Guy gets on DDD (having a chef or owner of a place walk him through the creation of a dish or two) is also quite special/VIP. But then the issue remains what the viewer finds more interesting. Smoking ribs vs attending an Uzbek wedding - different people will have their own ranking of what's more interesting.

                                                                      My point was specifically regarding the food establishments Bourdain features on the show as a guide for where the viewer should think of visiting. I think that a number of food places are chosen due to how they fit within the narrative of the "travel story" he wants to tell more so than the quality of the food. In his Ireland episode, he featured one market in Dublin as part of a "Dublin is a multicultural city" narrative. It was this Middle Eastern/Indian market that I was familiar with when I lived there, and they had prepared food for sale dying beneath heat lamps like hours old samosas. I personally wouldn't recommend eating those as even a mediocre option.

                                                                      I guess my point was that as travel entertainment, I see the two shows occupying the same space. Different people will enjoy one over the other - but neither show is a substitute for a Lonely Planet book/search on CH.