The Unvegan

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LA Mag’s Best New Restaurants 2017
The Best of 2016
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Ron Swanson: Unvegan Hero

A Hunger for Crave Burger

So many things happening here.
So many things happening here.

Highlands Ranch is a crazy distant suburb of Denver, which typically means chain restaurants galore. And that’s pretty much what I found, but I also found a place called Crave Burger that was anything but “chainy.” It felt like the kind of burger place I would open if I were ballsy enough to open a restaurant. The menu was loaded with all sorts of crazy and inventive burgers including toppings like peanut butter, jalapeno poppers and fried white cheddar and eventually I found mine.

Going Bleu at The Red Lion

Blue, like cheese.
Bleu, like cheese.

Vail, Colorado may be a beautiful place, but it is certainly not a place to go if you’re on a budget. Lift tickets are crazy expensive and the food isn’t much cheaper. But there are a couple more reasonable places in town and The Red Lion is one of them. As you might expect, The Red Lion is a British Pub and has your classic pub fare. When it came to my meal, I only really had eyes for the burgers.

A Touch of Canada at The Kroft

Canada goes down south.
Canada goes down south.

There can be no doubt that I am a man who loves his poutine. In a lot of senses I am a purist, but when a place gets the right kind of creative I can get behind it. The Kroft in Tustin, Orange County started lighting up my social media feed months ago with some beautiful food pics. It took a while to find an excuse to get down there, but when I did I couldn’t help but make a stop.

LA Mag’s Best New Restaurants 2017

Burnin' for you!
Burnin’ for you!

The latest issue of Los Angeles Magazine boasts an impressive list of the 10 Best New Restaurants in LA. But the magazine went one step further and set up a celebration at the Architecture and Design Museum downtown to feature a number of them, as well as a few other restaurants. Thus, I made my way there to see what passes for “best” and “new” these days. Here are the highlights:

What’ll Ya Have at The Varsity?

Can you guess which side is mine?
Can you guess which side is mine?

Every city has its share of iconic places to eat. In Atlanta, one of those places goes by the name of The Varsity and has been around since 1928. They still do the paper hat thing and the people taking orders are famous for asking “What’ll Ya Have?” As far as the food goes, it’s basically what you would expect from 1928: hot dogs, burgers, fries and onion rings.

But these weren’t just any burgers and dogs, they come in the chili-cheese variety and the slaw variety. I went with a chili-cheese dog, chili-cheese burger and onion rings. I made sure that the burger and dog wouldn’t include any veggies and then added a Frosted orange because it just felt like the right thing to do.

This is what I'll have.
This is what I’ll have.

The result was a greasy, amazing throwback meal. The hot dog was classic and snappy, while the cheese was just a straight up American slice and the chili was super beefy with no wasteful beans (and really very little texture to speak of). To some that may not sound like a good thing, but it’s reminiscent of the coney dog spots around Detroit that I grew up going to. It couldn’t compete with the coney dogs, but I may be a bit biased.

Those onion rings, by the way, were pretty glorious. They were fried to the oblivion that renders them barely onion-y and that batter was delicious. The only trouble was that I couldn’t find anything to dip them in. Ketchup didn’t really do them justice, but I couldn’t find the ranch that probably would have sealed the deal. Regardless, they were a force to be reckoned with.

The Varsity is not one of those places that will blow you away with unique and surprising flavors, and if you’re not from Atlanta, it might be lacking in the bonus seasoning that nostalgia brings. Nonetheless, I ate it all up and enjoyed every moment.

A Whole Lotta Ribs on ‘Cue

One half rib cage, please.
One half rib cage, please.

When you travel for business, you don’t really stop to think about just how much food you’re taking in. Thus, I felt it necessary to follow up my first BBQ dinner in Alpharetta, Georgia with another one. This time I went to ‘Cue and split ribs and brisket in an attempt to get enough meat to compare to the night prior at Smokejack.

Meat Stacks at Smokejack BBQ

Sidejack.
Sidejack.

Alpharetta, Georgia isn’t exactly a food blogger’s destination of choice. Yet, when the day job sends you off to such an exotic place, you make do. And that’s what I did when I made my way to Smokejack, a BBQ that I hoped would represent The South well. Smokejack is located in what can best be described as Alpharetta’s Main Street (because it is), and while all the other restaurants nearby looked good, Smokejack just drew me in.