Mike Winston’s Best Bites of 2013

Given the number of insanely delicious things I’ve eaten over the past year, selecting the best of the bunch is a very difficult task. Over on Foodspotting I’ve released a long version that’s over 200 items long which includes every single dish jaw-dropping dish from the last year. Here, instead, I’ve chosen the very best in select categories. In no particular order, let’s begin!
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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

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*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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Bohemian: Secret Door, Secret Phone Number, Japanese Speakeasy
A Japanese Speakeasy Date Night Restaurant at Bohemian

Bohemian: Secret Door, Secret Phone Number, Japanese Speakeasy

I’m gonna let you in on one of New York’s best-hidden secrets. Located in the NoHo area, there’s an unmarked, members-only restaurant that doesn’t even list its phone number publicly. Even if you can manage to get your hands on Bohemian‘s phone number you’ll still need a referral to land a reservation. Seriously, when I called, the first question I was confronted with was “How did you get this number?” However, once you’ve breached their defenses and joined the ranks of their inner circle, you’ll be treated to one of the most interesting, sexy, refined meals you can find in NYC.

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Michael Goes West (Texas): Big Bend Park & Marathon Edition

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After Marfa, our next stop is supposed to send us southward to Terlingua and into Big Bend State Park for a river tour down the Rio Grande. I woke up that morning in our Marfa airstream trailer to the never ending clatter of rain striking our tin roof. I immediately picked up my phone and called up the folks at Big Bend River Tours to find out if our river tour would be canceled due to unsafe weather, but was quickly assured that it was completely clear down in Terlingua. Somehow, considering the fact that we’d had nothing but rain for five straight days, I found that hard to believe, but I held out hope.

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Huge, Cheap Burgers & Fries at Joy Burger Bar in NYC
Joy Burger Bar Review

Huge, Cheap Burgers & Fries at Joy Burger Bar in NYC

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So here’s the scenario: A weeknight on my own, no responsibilities, and no idea what I feel like doing with the night. I’m not really in the mood for anything in particular and not quite hungry yet so I head home from work to sort out my gameplan. I have an interesting idea about how to choose my evening’s activity. I flip on the TV, tune it to The Food Network and let whatever is on guide my dinner decision. Guy Fieri’s Dinner, Drive-ins, and Dives happens to be on and they are in Narragansett, Rhode Island at Crazy Burger Cafe & Juice Bar. The owner Michael Maxon is a real character making insane burgers while also making insane gibberishy sounds effects. Burger. Done. I pull up Foursquare Explore and type in “burger” and let it guide the rest of my decision. Up comes Joy Burger Bar, a place I’ve never been to that I saved to my todo list that’s only a few blocks away. Joy Burger it is.

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Really Awesome, Funky Burgers at Umami Burger in NYC
Umami Burger Review

Really Awesome, Funky Burgers at Umami Burger in NYC

Ah yes, Umami Burger. I had been so anxious to try this food since I first heard about their burgers inciting drool up and down the West Coast. “Umami”, the 5th sense of taste, is an indescribable savory richness that Adam Fleischman, Umami Burger’s owner, claims to have invented a number of recipes around. Personally, I’m a huge fan of meaty, savory, salty foods so this sounded absolutely perfect to me.

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