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Saturday, June 29, 2013

THE Final Four: Atlanta's Best Hamburgers

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 or those that do not watch Mad Men

Mad Men may be the best show on TV.  If it's not, I believe it has some of the best writing and it definitely has the best character development. Only the writing on the Newsroom on HBO compares.  The character development is so deep, I imagine writing for this show would be lots of fun.

I find my favorite characters are the anti-heroes, Stringer Bell, Omar Little, Vic Mackey, Tony Soprano, Walter White, Jack Shepherd, Sonny Crockett, Larry David and of course Don Draper.  All are hard to root for, but we find ourselves hoping they persevere. Even Larry David.  They all often times strive to arrive at the right conclusion, but most of the time fail miserably.  I guess that's what makes them both interesting and layered.
Omar Little, "You come at the King, you best not miss...."
If you know me "The Wire" is my favorite show of all time, but Curb is my favorite comedy of all time with all due respect to "Cheers" which is a close 2nd.
The funniest and most uncomfortable show on TV
Enough of my ramblings, here is The Dry Rub's Final Four:

The Sinatra Division:
Upscale and cool restaurants all serve hamburgers. Here are the two Blue Eye finalists:
Holeman & Finch beats out the King + Duke. Foodies everywhere can now release their collective breath. Holeman & Finch may be the Don Draper of burgers, but King + Duke is the Bob Benson. Bob (Spoiler Alert!) could easily be the next Don Draper, a man with a false identity, but the plan and cunning to be succesful. Truth be told, I LOVE the K+D burger. For two days, I was going to pick this burger over H&F, but I realized it couldn't happen...........yet. Bill Cowen had the K+D burger last Monday and commented, "it tastes like a steak, you really don't have to add anything to it."
It was so good, I started eating it before I remembered to take a picture!
James Wolk, whom plays Bob Benson does an incredible job.  I've seen him in a few things now and I truly believe he will be a breakout start once he gets the appropriate vehicle.
I admire you now, but watch your back
The Hippie Cow Division:
We are so hypocritical, we want our cows to be vegetarians, but we'll eat the hell out of that cow.

Miller Union's "Daily Grind" takes down Bocado. Miller Union is the Peggy Olson of our group. By far the most talented and hardest working member of Sterling, Draper and Cooper, but is often overlooked. The best will not be overlooked here. Bocado's offering would be the Megan Draper of burgers. Great looking, you want to be there, but in the end just falls a little short. It's a delicious burger and to be honest, I'm not a fan of the double patty, but this is one of Atlanta's finest offerings. Though guest burger critic Alecia Taylor commented on Bocado "They have weak table settings." We had a great birthday lunch here for burger panelist Marybeth Harden last week. I encourage you to try Bocado if you haven't.

Bocado makes a great burger
Come to Bocado, you'll love it
The Clark W. Griswold Division:
Gas up the car and check the tires.  You may have to travel a little bit, but it's worth the trip.
The Highland Tap Burger takes down Muss and Turners.  Muss and Turners offering is great and one of my favorites, but The Tap's (Brasstown Beef) Steak Burger is an Atlantan classic.  

Added bacon, cheese and mushrooms because I could
The Highland Tap is the Roger Sterling of venues. Classic and it's okay to have a martini here at 1130a.  I may or may not have had a drink here at lunch Friday, but let's say I did, I would choose "The Tap."  Muss and Turner is more of the Pete Campbell.  Talented, but never respected.  I feel the M & T's OTP status may give them the same feeling.  

My mentee from the University of Georgia, Maria Bouloukos, loved the Tap and said, "My dad would love it here."  I'm not sure how to take that.............Joe Carroll at the lunch said, "You are eating the winner."
"Driver to the Highland Tap, stat"
The David Hasselhoff/ Botox Division:
It's not what's on the inside that counts, it's how you look.

In a mild upset, Grindhouse Burgers takes down the Vortex, whom would be the Bert Cooper of the burger world, the veteran and de facto leader of the group.  Many on the burger committee will not be happy, but Grindhouse in a relatively short time has created a great product, a great venue and can accommodate people from all walks of life.  I see hipsters, professionals and families all congregating here.  And with the Vortex's method of operation, I doubt they really give a shit either.  Grindhouse would definitely be the Joan Holloway, gorgeous with lots of aesthetic "assets."
What would these guys do in today's non-smoking work era?

My arteries harden just looking at this
Here is the updated Bracket:

Today's Footnote:
I have my annual blood work done in the middle of this hamburger tournament and somehow my cholesterol is fine.  People were in shock.  In fact it's lower than it's ever been in my adult life.  I've stopped drinking sodas and started taking "Juice Plus" a couple of years ago.  If I started exercising more, I could give John Hamm a run for his money.  At least in the drinking category. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Silver Skillet: Midtown Atlanta's Breakfast Tradition

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and those looking for the new "hip" breakfast spot

The Silver Skillet is basically the Springsteen of breakfast joints.  It's been around since 1956 (Springsteen picked up his first guitar in 1962) and today The Silver Skillet has lines out the door with their great and unchanged menu on the weekends while "The Boss" is still selling out his three hour shows.  I have a hard time imagining a world without either.

When you arrive at the Silver Skillet, there will almost certainly be await and there is no hostess or number taking.  The line to get a table is 100% dependant on the honor system.

If you come on the weekend, bring your appetite, but more importantly bring your patience
Historically, there may not be a more important culinary landmark in Atlanta.  It's been in many TV Shows, featured on Diners Drive-in and Dives, Music Video's, National News Programs and many movies.  The two most well known is "Remember the Titans," and the soon to be released "Anchorman 2."

Even the walls ooze with history
The staff are all "veterans."  They all do an incredible job at making you feel like a regular even if it is your first time.  The kitchen is efficient and you are never waiting on your food.

The patrons are a true collage of soceity.  There are nearby Georgia Tech Students, tourists or locals such as myself and my daughter.
My Belle loves her biscuits and bacon
The music playing is all 60's and 70's R&B like the 8 track they put in in 1974 is stuck in the player and they couldn't get it out. Which is more than fine.  I'll take my Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye with my coffee.
"Hey man, is that Freedom Rock Man?"
The menu is what we would be best described as "greasy spoon" food.  Their four featured dishes all come with eggs, grits and your choice of biscuits or toast.  You can't come here and get the toast. Jump in and get their biscuits.  The "Southern Breakfast" features battered and fried pork chops with a thick white gravy.  Their signature dish is their "Skillet Country Ham" with true southern "red eye gravy," it's both delicious but prepare to be thirsty for the next few hours.  The other two are the Corned Beef Hash and Hamburger Steak.  I would stick with the first two for the best experience.

Country Ham and Red Eye Gravy
And they supposedly also offer omelets and a lunch menu, but I've never gotten below the first fold.  To me, that would be like ordering Tequila at Fado, or even worse, something other than a burger at the Vortex.  When in Rome, correct?
They are serving their 4th generation today.
Atlanta does breakfast right.  The West Egg, Java Jive, Ria's Bluebird, Dakota Blue, Murphy's and the Highland Bakery are all delicious and they are GREAT places for breakfast.  But if you want a true slice of Atlanta prior to 12 noon, go to the Silver Skillet.  It may not be the hippest, healthiest or newest offering, but it is Atlanta's most authentic offering.

Today's Footnote:
If you like R&B, you have to tune into Paladia's "Daryl's House."  It's filmed at Daryl Hall's farm house in Connecticut and he brings in well known musicians to jam.  It has a very intimate feel to it and some of the conversations over lunch and between songs bring a great amount of levity to the show.

Here he is with Smokey Robinson performing "Tears of a Clown"
With Cee Lo performing "I Can't Go for That"
With Smokey again performing "Sarah Smile"

Friday, June 21, 2013

Atlanta's Best Hamburger: Round 1 FINAL with Sopranos Tribute

Warning:  The following may not be appropriate for children under the age of 13 and those who don't recognize the brilliance of James Gandolfini

At the end of the last blog, I wrote the following:

The Writers Guild of America came out with the best 50 written TV shows of all time and it's a great list. "The Sopranos" were #1 and it's hard to argue with any TV show that brought "Big Pussy" into the mainstream vernacular.

It was prophetic for the WGA to recognize this piece of work before the centerpiece of this modern classic passed.

The Sopranos was as transcendent and groundbreaking of a television show as there has ever been.  I was a loyal viewer of the show  every Sunday night when it was on (there were some historically long hiatus').  I will never forget when it first came on and my roommate Jeff Berkman and I were hooked.  The show somehow made us love the unloveable.  Think Archie Bunker on steroids.  Admittedly, I was disappointed in certain seasons and certain episodes I felt meandered a bit much.  And that was before Steve Perry told us to "Don't Stop Believin'."  But as time passed, I really appreciated the finale (and not just because my aunt Michou was in it).

I will tell you this, without Tony Soprano we may not have ever known Walter White (as Bryan Cranston tweeted earlier), Jack Bauer, Vic Mackey, Avon Barksdale and no Stringer Bell and of course no Don Draper (Matthew Weiner was co-executive producer).  I would have missed out on 6 of my 7 favorite adulthood shows (Lost being the 6th).  The show also transformed HBO, and to a large extent cable, into a home for daring shows willing to go against the broadcast standard.

David Chase was basically the Bill Walsh of modern television.  He didn't invent it, but he planted the seeds that define what Mark Cuban now calls the "Golden Age of Television."  No other medium can push the social commentary like television and it's not even close.
Holsten's (the diner from the finale) and Satin Dolls (which was the Bada Bing in the show) paid there respects with the above tributes
Personally (NERD ALERT), I have been the commissioner of MLB, NFL and NBA Fantasy Leagues for 13 years.  The name of each of those leagues?  The Bada Bing. Where men can come together and leave reality at the door.  We have never even considered changing the name.

So we are going to do the rest of the blog as a tribute to the Sopranos.  With all due respect of course.

David Hasselhoff/ Botox Division:

Grindhouse "houses" Flip Burger.

Flip Burger is like "Adriana La Cerva," Christopher Moltisanti's fiancee.  Looks great on the outside, but not enough meat on the inside and they try to look to pretty.  Sorry Richard Blais.  I want my burger to be full size, not some pint size wannabe.  I like your variations on the burger, but bulk it up.  Look at Adriana, she ended up ratting the family out to the FBI until Silvio took her on a ride to the woods.  She tried to be everything for everybody.  That is often the undoing of both Mobster wives and burger joints.
Just like Flip Burger Adriana, you tried to hard
So Grindhouse will have to be Silvio Dante, right?  He's the Consigliere, runs the legitimate business, he killed Adriana and oh yea, is the rhythm guitarist in one of the greatest bands of all time.
“Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact. But maybe everything that dies someday comes back”- The Boss, Atlantic City
Grindhouse's Double Yankee with Bleu Cheese, Thick Cut Bacon and Grilled Onions are to die for.  Take a  look at the picture, dying after eating this may not be that far off base.
Just in case the burger doesn't get me, I'll order the chili cheese fries.  Hello Lipitor
Atlanta fixture The Vortex takes care of Yeah Burger.  Yeah Burger is good, but I'm not sure it's anything special as some people do.  They came into the scene and made a splash, but I'm not convinced they will stay.  Much like Ralph Cifaretto, who played by the enigmatic "Joey Pants."  One of the greatest lines ever  was when Ralph beat his stripper girlfriend to death outside of the club, Tony see's it and proceeds to beat Ralphy to a pulp and tells him "You disrespected The Bing."  Lesson learned?  Not really since he has to kill Ralph later on for burning down their horse stables for insurance money.
You never disrespect The Bing
The Vortex has been in Atlanta 21 years.  And has the coolest front door in town.  Oh yea, and they serve an array of delicious burgers.
Enter at your own risk
Contributor Carl P says "The Vortex has been a "destination" burger for us for years."  Matt G states, "The Vortex is an Atlanta Institution, Yeah Burger just can't compete."

My two favorite offerings they serve are the Four Horsemen and the Black Shroom.  Just like Corrado "Junior" Soprano, they are the wily veterans that when you think they might be out of the game, they still have some moves left.

The Hippie Cow Division:

Boccado takes apart Farm Burger.  FB is a decent burger, but like Yeah Burger, I do not know what sets it apart.  It's not aesthetics either.  They make a good product, but don't push the needle too hard towards excellence.  Kind of like Robert "Bobby Bacala" Baccalieri, Jr.  We all had a soft spot for him as he fumbled his way through Juniors supposed alzheimers and his stumbling up the family's ladder.  He just never garnered the overall respect.
President Bacala?
Boccado is just a double patty full of taste that is taking names and also inspired (or ripped off depending on your opinion) by General Muir.  But it stands on it's own is a tough SOB just like my boy like Paulie Walnuts.
The most underrated character on the show
Miller Union has the Johnny "Sack" of burgers.  Lots of substance.  The meat is perfect on their "daily grind" burger.  It's juicy, a good size and it truly melts in your mouth.  So it obviously beats the "General Muir's" offering.  Though I can't wait to try their Pastrami offering.

Unlike the double patty that can be overcooked the quality and width of their burger are what makes the "daily grind" stand apart.
Johnny "Sack" Sacramoni was one of the consistent characters, mirroring the consistence of Miller Unions quality
As the General Muir is more of a Christopher Moltisanti, whom wanted to be Tony, but didn't have the chops as General Muir's burger kind of wants to be Bocado's burger.
Maybe one day kid
Here is your updated bracket:

So now we are down to Atlanta's 8 Best Burgers.  It's time to go to the mattresses.
Fade to Black

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Atlanta's Best Hamburger: Round 1, Day 1

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and people who may confuse the King + Duke and Muss and Turner for bad cop movies

Day one of the first round is over and we have four winners.  Here is the previous article if you missed it:

The Sinatra Division:

Holeman & Finch is probably the "no shit" winner of the day.  I used to work in the One Buckhead Plaza building and the Wisconsin Cheddar  Burger with apple smoked bacon at Chops probably got me through more hangovers than any other burger on this list.  For that I am grateful, but the luck of the draw is their undoing.  Out of all the eliminated burgers this week, Chops would be my favorite.

As for H & F, Jon Gershon said it best, "you know who is winning the tournament, don't you?"  It's going to be a long process, so we shall see.

King + Duke are the newcomers to town, but their dry aged burger "The Duke" is a highlight of their menu.  Take their advice and add the cheese as well.  You're welcome.
If the burger is the essential American food, The Duke was the essential American actor
But as far as manly dishes go, the King and Dukes "The King" Bone in Ribeye and bone marrow has to take the cake.
The King is the Ultimate Man's Dish and  PETA's worst nightmare

7 Lamps is a really good addition, but their time is not here yet.

The Clark W. Griswold Division:

Muss and Turners burger is a Big Green Egg grilled grass-fed beef with roasted poblano pepper, melted cheddar cheese, red onion, house-made cilantro aioli on a French bun.  In my mind, this is what the perfect burger looks like and it took down Ann's Snack Bar's "The Ghetto Burger."  Just don't tell Anne please, since I really do value my life.  The Ghetto Burger is delicious and HUGE, but couldn't hang with Muss and Turner.  Even though, their chili is a great compliment to the Ghetto Burger.

It will be hard to dethrone this M&T burger!

The Highland Tap may be the sentimental favorite of the tournament.  Joe Carroll has already deemed it the winner.  They use Brasstown Beef and it's probably my #2 most used hangover remedy.  The Moxie Burger was delicious, and thank you Carl for introducing me to it, but it was going up against an Atlanta institution.

The Best OTP Burger, The Moxie Burger
Today's Footnote:
The Writers Guild of America came out with the best 50 written TV shows of all time and it's a great list.  "The Soprano's" were #1 and it's hard to argue with any TV show that brought "Big Pussy" into the mainstream vernacular.
As you probably know, I think this should go to David Simon and "The Wire."  Hands down the closest that a television show comes to weaving a literary narrative on the small screen.  Though #9 is respectable.  And who am I to criticize another's list?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Shoya Izakaya: A Slice of Japan in Atlanta

Warning:  The following may not be suitable for children under the age of 13 or those whom have never consumed sake.

Shoya Izakaya is a wonderful Japanese restaurant not to be phonetically confused with "Brother Hezekiah."
"It took me a while to get her goin', but when I did....."
Aesthetically, it is authentically a slice of Japan in Chamblee.  This is the Japanese restaurant meant for the Japanese.  There is no "westernizing"  here.  Though it has no windows, which kind of makes me nervous.  I checked and there were no 20 foot holes in the basement.
The above translates to "The Dry Rub is the Greatest Food Blog in the World"  Trust me on this one
It had been a while since the Dry Rub 4 had been together and unfortunately, we our Russian contingent bail for a work function.  So the renamed "Dry Rub Trio" pulled into Shoya Izakaya.

The location is interesting, it's situated right between Peachtree Industrial and (yes shockingly) Buford Highway, just behind the Brandsmart USA.  It's in what looks like a relatively new shopping center that appears to have a 15% occupancy rate.  So let's just say parking is the least of your worries here.
Spicy Kimchi
For the first time, I ran late to dinner after a rough day at work and my friends had Kimchi and Sticky Mushrooms waiting for me.  The Kimchi was absolutely delicious.  That's what friends are for!

Pre whacko/ psychic (has a psychic ever NOT been insane) Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder and Elton John with a bolo tie?  I'm in.  For good times and bad times, I'll be on your side forever more..........

We ordered enough food for 7 people and we didn't even come close to trying everything we wanted to.  Here are some visual samples of what we had.
Grilled Octopus
Octopus is far superior grilled as to any other method of cooking.  The slightly charred pieces were to die for.
Japanese Bacon
Bacon has to be the universal meat, right?  If there is a society that does incorporate bacon into their culinary tapestry, I feel truly sorry for them.  Like Cleveland Sports fan sorry.  God truly hates Cleveland.
Bizarre looking egg thing with pork and cabbage, with an empty suit in the background
This was Leslie's favorite dish.  She loved it so much she tried to wear it as a crown.

Grilled Eel
If loving eel is wrong, I don't want to be right.  Unagi is my favorite sushi, but I've never had a slab of it grilled like this with a side of thick Japanese BBQ sauce.  I'm not sure how that translates into Japanese and frankly I don't care.  Just don't stop making it!

Octopus Balls, really
We enjoyed this all the way down to the dreaded 7-10 split.  This was basically a fried pastry with octopus in the middle. The wording of the dish is slightly deceiving since it really wasn't octopus testicles.  Come on, I know you're disappointed by that.

We also had homemade Tonkotsu Ramen with creamy pork broth, pork, bamboo shoots and egg and it was absolutely delicious.  First time I've had Ramen were I didn't buy 5 packs for a dollar.  I lived on that for months at a time during college.
Balls and Eggs in the same meal.  Dorothy we aren't in Kansas anymore
While we dined, Atlanta was experiencing some violent storms and the power went out.  It was such a harrowing experience we had to turn to sake to cope.  It was a tough decision, but we decided to wait out the storms.  I now know how they felt on the Santa Maria.

Thankfully, they had a fully stocked Sake bar to waste the time away.  If you have never had a cold unfiltered sake, then you haven't lived life.
Sake it to me baby!
Overall, this was a great restaurant and better experience.  It rivals Enat Ethiopia Cafe in terms of a unique cultural experience.

You can't get this anywhere else in the southeast.  Though it still doesn't compare to the ambiance of Decibel in Manhattan's lower east side.  But the food is the focus here, at Decibel it's the sake.  You can see my blurb near the end of the following blog.

I have a feeling that I will come back with addendum after addendum to this blog because there were SO many more offerings I wanted to try.  My friend Jamie will be my tour guide on the next mission to Shoya since she is a regular.

That got us talking food (shocking I know) and she couldn't think of ONE food she did not like.  I found that hard to believe.  Even I have one food I don't care for, cucumbers.  If I absolutely had to eat them to save the world from a plague, I could suck it up, but it's the one culinary item I always avoid.  Any other foods I avoid are due more to venue than type.  i.e. TGIF or that dump the Cheesecake Factory.

And with that I'm out.  Later this weekend, Round 1, Day 1 of Atlanta's Best Hamburger.