The Unvegan

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Doing the Impossible at The Counter?
Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame 2017
One and Another Citizen Public House
Media Night at SanTan Brewing Company

‘Brisket’

Chomping Down on Chompie’s

Three meats, please!

Creating Jewish deli meat is like a perfect combination of art and science. Some delis have found the ideal balance, while others are more content to satisfy the science part of it all and move on from there. I paid a visit to Chompie’s in Scottsdale to see how it would measure up against my admittedly high standards for Kosher-style delis.

All the Meats at Bootleggers BBQ

Just one look.

It’s hard to make BBQ trendy. It is inherently something that people have very specific expectations for, and anything “new” and good is almost always a minor tweak that makes a real difference. So where can innovation come from? Booze. At least that’s what Bootleggers BBQ in Phoenix was thinking, offering a pretty snazzy modern divey bar that also serves up BBQ. It’s like a gastropub meets a BBQ spot and I was eager to see how the meat would hold up.

Drowning in Sweet Magnolia Smokehouse

Wet.

Like in LA, food trucks are a thing in the Phoenix area. And it makes much more sense here because everything is so damn spread out. Pasadena spoiled me. But I digress. The good news is that my office is all about bringing food trucks in every month (not for free, of course) to mix things up and to keep us from driving literal miles to the nearest food. This last time, it was Sweet Magnolia Smokehouse, serving up BBQ.

Fueling Up at Tom’s Thumb BBQ

Everything you could ever ask for.

Good food is always made better if it’s found in a strange place. You know, like the Cheetos you find in the couch cushion. No, but seriously, like BBQ at a gas station. Such is Tom’s Thumb in Scottsdale. And while it may be more of a restaurant that happens to have a gas station attached than the other way around, that shouldn’t take away from the fact that this is literally a gas station and BBQ place.

This Little Unvegan Went to 3 Pigs BBQ

One pig here.

BBQ is pretty much the best. But the Bay Area is a long way from where the best BBQ is supposed to be. Yet, while there for a quickie trip I made my way to 3 Pigs BBQ in San Carlos. The place definitely has a rustic feel, with an homage to the southern source of great BBQ in the form of an American flag made from Bud and Bud Light beer cans. It seemed like my kind of place and I set to work on ordering.

Wagging the Beef at Vernales

So many things on this burger.

Harbor Springs in Northern Michigan is a long way from Japan, but that doesn’t stop a place called Vernales from sporting a Wagyu Brisket Burger. You see, Vernales is kind of a sports bar masquerading as an upscale restaurant, so it only makes sense that if they are going to serve a burger, it’s going to include some fancy beef. And after a long time looking over the menu, I knew that burger was what I had to have.

Bone Dry at Pit Boss BBQ

Dry Dry.

When I’m in the south, I pretty much need to eat BBQ. Thus, as my trip to Atlanta had nearly reached its conclusion and I hadn’t eaten BBQ yet, I did my best to find a spot close to the airport. Pit Boss came up on the interwebs as a good spot, so I made my way there. It looked and felt old school, which is exactly what I was hoping to find, and judging by the blue collar-looking people I had high hopes.

Plattered Up at Zeke’s Smokehouse

All the things, please.
All the things, please.

What is Montrose? For the first 6+ years I lived in LA I probably would have answered that it is some sort of mythical creature composed of combining a mongoose with an albatross. The fact is that it is neither. Instead, it is a town up near Pasadena, built into the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. And in that town is a restaurant called Zeke’s Smokehouse.

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.

An Extreme Burger at H.H. Cotton’s

An unassuming burger.
An unassuming burger.

San Clemente is a quaint little town on the California coast that is definitely worth a visit. And if you make it down there, you could do a whole lot worse than a visit to H.H. Cotton’s, a gastropub right in the middle of town. We wound up there completely by accident, but then isn’t that the way many great stories begin?

While the little one was distracted by football, I went ahead and ordered The Longhorn, based on my waitress’s recommendation. The Longhorn, by the way, is a burger topped with bacon, chopped brisket, crispy shallots, cheddar and BBQ sauce. As for my side, I opted for fries.