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.
Torta is Mexican for sandwich and there is a sweet semi-new spot in Pasadena that deals pretty much exclusively in that hand food from south of the border. It’s called Tortugas, and is either a reference to turtles, an island in Haiti or a national park (the dry one). Regardless, the place has a great variety of Mexican sandwiches and one in particular screamed out to my unvegan belly.
Bludso’s in Compton is very often hailed as the best BBQ in LA. Yet, for some reason, a number of people find it difficult to make it to that part of town. Thus, Bludso’s spun off into Hollywood with a bar and que concept that creatively includes a bar along with BBQ. In other words, my long-awaited trip to BBQ heaven (and possibly like real heaven) in Compton was put on hold to make the trip to Hollywood.
I don’t know about other people, but when I tell someone I just went to Las Vegas, the first question is “Where did you stay?” The next question, though, is “Which buffet did you eat at?” Perhaps it’s because I’m a food blogger, but I tend to think it’s because the buffets are just so damn good that gluttony in Vegas is just a more interesting sin than gambling. Thus, on my most recent outing to Vegas the buffet of choice was Wicked Spoon in The Cosmopolitan.
When I visited a couple of friends in Ypsilanti, Michigan, they recommend we head to The Wurst Bar, which is a pun-filled name only made better by the fact that this is right next door. There is a massive amount of beer to choose from, but since I was about to embark on a drive to Pittsburgh, I didn’t think any of that was a good idea. Instead, I focused on which brat to order, and this, too, was a large list to choose from.
In the Twin Cities for a whirlwind couple of days, I found myself at Butcher and the Boar in Minneapolis. As a James Beard Semi-Finalist last year, I was expecting some good things. After seeing they had Take the Back on tap, I knew I was in for something good. Since I was with a couple of other people that supported my unvegan needs and the menu seemed made for sharing, we decided to go in on a few things together.
Some cities have restaurants that have been around since the beginning of forever. In Washington, D.C., that place is Ben’s Chili Bowl, which I believe has been serving up chili since the Lincoln presidency. No? Well Eisenhower is close enough. Our current POTUS has paid the place a visit at least once and according to a sign is one of only two people (aside from his family) that eats free. The other, obviously, is Bill Cosby.
My trip to Ben’s Chili Bowl started out ominously. After waiting in line for more than 30 minutes and marveling at the inefficiency (perhaps some spillover from congress?), I had to run to a show down the street before ordering. Upon my return, however, I snagged a spot at the counter and was (at least in Ben’s Chili Bowl time) quickly waited upon.
I first learned of Legume in Oakland shortly after arriving in Pittsburgh. At the time I was told that the name “Legume” didn’t exactly stand for any sort of vegetarian-ness and meats galore abounded there. In fact, Legume does its best to adhere to a whole-animal policy in which they will do their best to use every morsel of edible goodness in an animal in their dishes. Because of this, their menu often changes and they are prone to running out of dishes.
Disclosure I: David Marcus, one of the owners of Smoke Shack, is my second cousin.
Disclosure II: I’m starting a movement such that cousins are classified only as first or second cousins. How much better is that than trying to figure out your exact relationship to your dad’s first cousin’s son with somethingth-cousin-somethingths-removed? A lot.
Disclosure III: Smoke Shack was legitimately awesome.
Now that my and Unvegan’s journalistic integrity are squarely intact, I can begin the review of my glorious Saturday lunch at Smoke Shack, a BBQ restaurant that opened up about a month ago in Milwaukee’s third ward.
Last week, an unexpected parcel arrived. I immediately suspected anthrax and was ready to detonate it in the street when I noticed it was from my future brother-in-law. For some, this may be further reason to suspect anthrax, but Dustin has never me reason to believe he’d want me dead. I opened it up and found a pair of sausages with an awesome letter welcoming me to the family. Truth be told, had I known sausages were in the mix, I’d have popped the question long ago.
The letter also informed me the sausages came from a friend of a friend of his in New York who had recently started up a sausage company called Charlito’s Cocina. I was excited to try them and although it took me a few days to get to it, I was safe knowing the dry-cured sausages could handle it. But aside from being dry-cured, what kind of sausages were these? The answer is Trufa Seca, which means they were full of black truffle. Aside from that, these were pork through and through with sea salt as the final flavoring ingredient. According to the website, the pork was a heritage breed and pasture-raised, which made me feel even better as I sliced off my first bit.