Mike Winston’s Best Meals of 2015

Yes, I know this year-end list is beyond belated. Actually, I'm probably over a month late. Normally, I'm not one to make these kinds of excuses, but my life has been pretty hectic lately.As you may or may not know, I'm getting married in a couple of months, so my time has recently come at an extreme premium and I haven't been able to commit as much attention as I'd like to this little publication obsession. With that being said, over the next couple of months, I'll be playing around with post style and formatting a bit in an attempt to find new ways to rapidly pump out awesome food articles with fewer publishing limitations on my end. Please feel free to give me feedback on the new content — I'm planning to review this little experiment in a few months and we can take it from there.

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A Wild, Wacky, Happy-Go-Lucky Hot Doggery in NOLA

This is probably the most bizarrely happy-go-lucky place anywhere on the entire planet. On this day, torrential rain was falling from the sky, the shop's WiFi was out so the normal music source was unusable, and many of the ingredients had not and were not going to be delivered. But, that couldn't hold the Dat Dog staff down – it's not in their nature. In fact, from the moment I laid my eyes upon that gigantic, two-story, neon, multicolored building on New Orleans' Magazine Street, I knew there was something special about the place. I think passing through those Heinz mustard-colored doors functioned as a sort of portal to a comically super-happy alternate dimension.

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Mike Winston’s Best Bites of 2014

What a year!! I did something like this last year too, but oh boy was 2014 a doozy. I started off living in NYC, then a started a new job that whisked me off the San Francisco and Silicon Valley for a few months before ultimately relocating to San Francisco permanently. And along the way, I squeezed in a couple of vacations too.Sooooo, I did a LOT of epic eating this year. And truth be told, I found it particularly difficult to narrow down my list as concisely as last year's, but I somehow managed. So, without further ado, I present the winners (and runner-ups) broken down by category. I tried to cluster similar dish types together, but really they are in no particular order. Let's begin!And if you wanna hear about the 2014's Best Cocktails, read more here.

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Serious Sausage Sandwiches & Epic Meats at 4505 Butcher in the Mission

*Editor's Note: I'm sad to report that this butcher shop is no longer open.4505 Butcher Shop is a big deal in SF. Formerly an extremely popular farmers market stall, this brick-and-mortar shop functions primarily as a permanent place to purchase really high-quality meats for home use. But, beyond the gorgeous cuts of steak and other game meats sold, they also make a variety of awesome sausages and hot dogs in-house. In fact, I hear that's really how they made their name and became so popular.All of their hot dogs, sausages, and cuts of meat are made sustainably from animals raised locally in Northern California and come with a glowing reputation for being some of the very best butchery around. In fact, these days there are many bars and fine dining establishments that proudly serve 4505 bacon-studded hot dogs in a variety of fancy preparations.

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All-American Specialty Hot Dogs at Super Duper Weenie in Fairfield, CT

Amy and I have always been hot dog lovers. All it really takes is a simple, well-cooked, snappy mustard covered link and we'll be perfectly happy, but give us something crazier and we're bound to fall head over heels.On this particular weekend, we found ourselves in the Westport, Connecticut area for a wedding and *gasp* got hungry for some lunch. A quick search of the surrounding area and we came across Super Duper Weenie in Fairfield where they serve a vast menu spanning the many regional hot dog topping styles and preparations across the US. How could we possibly pass on the chance to check a place like this out?

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Epic Organic Hot Dogs & Sausages Reign Supreme at Underdog in the Inner Sunset

DSC_4830_editWhat would the Fourth of July be without hot dogs? I'd say NOTHING. Yeah sure, you could eat a hamburger or a steak or something, but for me there's nothing more essential than a grilled hot dog or sausage on a bun to celebrate America. If you live in San Francisco and you want the very best, you better take a trek out to the remote Inner Sunset neighborhood to get your fill at Underdog.

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Come for the Hot Dogs, Stay for the Mac & Cheese at Dogmatic
Come for the Hot Dogs, Stay for the Mac & Cheese at Dogmatic

Come for the Hot Dogs, Stay for the Mac & Cheese at Dogmatic

DSC_2069_edit*Editor's Note: I'm sad to report that this restaurant is not longer open.Along the Greenwich Village strip of MacDougal between Bleecker and 3rd Street, there is an extraordinary density of fast, cheap eateries and college-focused sports bars. This probably developed as a direct result of its proximity to the heart of NYU.Even with so many choices, I still always get excited when new additions arrive. For instance, this week I was treated to the opening of Dogmatic, a diminutive, pristine, bright white, glowing shop with a small and unique menu that recently relocated from the Union Square area. The menu consists mostly of hot dogs and hamburgers and claims to make "naturally good fast food".

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Hot Dog Insanity at Los Perros Locos LES
Hot Dog Insanity at Los Perros Locos LES

Hot Dog Insanity at Los Perros Locos LES

*Editor's Note: I'm sad to report that this restaurant is no longer open.What's the craziest meal you've ever had in New York? I know, there's many types of crazy meals, whether it involves something outside your comfort zone like organ meat or a perhaps it's a meal served in pure darkness. But, I'm talking about a different kind of crazy. The kind that makes you stop at ask what kind of clinically insane person thought up the menu. The kind that makes you actually utter 'what the fuck' out loud. Well, this is it. This is some of the most out-there food I've found in NYC and honestly, I don't know anywhere else in the US quite like it either. Even the name of the shop foreshadows the wackiness to come. Welcome to Los Perros Locos. If you haven't already guessed, they served over-the-top hot dog varieties.

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