In the city of New Orleans, there are two contenders vying for the enviable title of most iconic sandwich. Sure, the Po' Boy gets a majority of the attention with its vast variety of fillings and multitude of shops specializing in the dish (which all claim to serve the very best). But, for my money (and belly), I'd argue that the Muffuletta should be the NOLA specialty sandwich torch bearer.
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.
There I was, seated inside of a gold-painted shipping container, face-to-face with a live-streaming 23-year-old girl in Havana. What in the world should we talk about? First, names. Then I…
If I were to tell you about a trendy, hipstery pizza place in Texas serving authentic and innovative Neapolitan-style pies, what city do you think it would be in? I bet your first guess would be Austin, but I'm here to show you that this kind of awesomeness can also be found in the extremely underrated Dallas dining scene if you know where to look. The place I'm specifically talking about is located in the Deep Ellum neighborhood, which is basically the Williamsburg of Dallas. It has a thriving live music scene, loads of dive bars, and plenty of interesting casual dining options to explore.
Nestled amongst the many Fauxtalian sidewalk cafes clustered in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, I have managed to find one authentic, non-touristy spot that's actually worthy of your time and money – Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe. Despite the shop's name, it actually doesn't have anything to do with cigars. They say it's just more of a nod to a time when food was prepared fresh every day, the kind of simple, old fashioned Italian food you can still experience at Mario's.
Let me say this up front – I truly do LOVE garlic. But, I still wasn't really sure what to expect from a place that prides itself on being a "garlic restaurant". The Stinking Rose and their garlic-focused menu are very famous – famous enough that I had heard about them long before moving to San Francisco. I knew that pretty much every item on the menu was going to involve garlic, I was just hoping they'd be able to transform and highlight the featured ingredient in interesting and delicious ways. I really wasn't sure if this place was actually going to be good or if the garlic thing was all gimmick and schtick. All I knew for sure was that I had to check it out for myself.
When people ask me what I miss most about New York, the answer pretty much solely correlates to food. There are a lot of things that are better out here in SF, but there's some things that I've found particularly difficult to get my hands on. Specifically, I truly miss my weekly stops in at the old Italian meat and cheese shrines at Di Palo and Alleva in Little Italy. Their prosciutto, mozzarella, porchetta, meatballs, and other sliced meats rank as some of my favorite things to eat in all of New York and it sort of feels like I've lost a part of myself without them in my life. Upon moving to SF, I learned the hard way that finding incredible versions of these simple Italian classics wasn't nearly as easy as it was back east. Sure, SF has North Beach – its own unsatisfying version of Little Italy, but just like New York's Little Italy, most of it is just touristy dreck. In SF, to find the good stuff, you've got attack the city with a little bit more of an informed approach. And that's exactly what brought me to Lucca Delicatessen on this Sunday afternoon.
Another day, another awesome, upscale dinner out in Austin. This place called Odd Duck is the sibling restaurant to chef Bryce Gilmore's also amazing, tasting menu-only hot spot Barley Swine which I had visited only a few night earlier. Similar to Barley Swine, the theme of this meal seemed to be small plates with either a pickled element, runny egg yolks, or both. The menu leans heavily toward Southern gastropub fare with plenty of clean, modern, cheffy flair and even a bit of molecular gastronomy trickery thrown in. The vibe of the decor matches the tone of the food with its use of mismatched country miscellany carefully arranged by an smart, upscale, interior designer's touch. This restaurant is pretty well known in the Austin food scene as one of the more exciting places to have a meal and it makes sense why. It has such an interesting menu that continues to experiment and evolve over time – the fervor is only going to grow as this place continues to get the industry recognition it rightly deserves like the James Beard Award Rising Star nod it just recieved.
With a name like Vikings Giant Subs, I was ready to be utterly blown away by massive sandwich portions. This sub shop has with a very positive reputation that it's built over the past 15 years and I was excited to figure out if it could fill the Meatball Parm void moving from NYC to SF left in my life. On a daily basis, I find myself missing New York's Alleva and their absolutely perfect Meatball Parm so I've been on a constant hunt for its replacement.
Bar Ciccio is the kind of place you could walk by a million times and never notice. It's located on a strip of 6th Avenue that gets ridiculously minimal intentional foot traffic and the shop front is so understated that you probably wouldn't even realize it's open for business. In fact, the place is completely subterranean and is located down a flight of stairs frequently obscured by scaffolding, but to miss this truly authentic Italian joint would be a big mistake.