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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ssam Burger- Asians Make Burgers Too

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and those not familiar with Yosemite Sam

Ssam Burger will become to the burger what Hankook Taqueria has become to tacos.  An unassuming location with less than stellar aesthetics, but just incredible food.  With the common theme that both are run by visionary and hard working Koreans.

Ssam is the perfect example of what culinary "fusion" is.  They take something as iconic as the Hamburger to new heights by adding some traditional Korean twists.  The movie parallel would be putting an 80 year old Dirty Harry into an Asian neighborhood as they did in Grand Torino.  It's a risk but the payoff is well worth it.  If you haven't seen Grand Torino, it's Eastwood's funniest effort out of his many iconic roles.

So when my wife (who is the antithesis of a foodie) proclaims last night that "this is the best burger I have ever had in my life," I knew Ssam was onto something here.

For the record, she ate the Aloha Burger with Korean BBQ Angus Beef and Bacon, Caramelized Pineapples and Sriracha Mayo.

Behold the Aloha Burger
I have at least sampled four of their burgers.  Both the Seoul and Kimcheese Burgers come with their secret Ssam sauce.  I have no idea what this Ssam sauce is, but I'm pretty sure it is too good to be legal.  I may become the A-Roid of food bloggers if I'm tested for this stuff.

But both the Seoul and Kimcheese were delicious.  If you like Kimchi, the relish on the Kimcheese should quench your needs.  If you want to try the sesame arugula, go with the Seoul.

Kimcheese Burger
The 4th Burger I sampled was the Kinoko Burger with Blue Cheese, Shitake Mushrooms and Chimichurri Sauce.  If you love Blue Cheese and Shitake Shrooms, this is your bag baby.  The sauce has nothing to do with Mary Poppins.

For the side, I highly recommend the sweet potato chips.  They are as good as the sweet potato fries at Einsteins on Juniper.  But fair warning, their food is packed with juice.  It will be a multiple napkin ordeal.

So run, do not walk here.  It's really that good.  As I'm working on the taco tournament, I am realizing I will have to do the Hamburger tournament again in the next year or two with all of these outstanding burgers that I keep finding.  I would also like to think Heather Sheets for getting me off my ass and trying Ssam Burger.

But I am remiss in not getting the story behind their name.  According to Wikipedia it's a Korean leaf wrap.  That's unfortunate, since I was hoping it was named after a famous Sam.

For example, if I ever opened up a bar, I would name it "Mayday Malones" after Sam Malone from Cheers.  Not only is he one of the iconic characters in sitcom history, he apparently wears one of the iconic hair pieces of all time as well.

Sam Malone was also a humanitiarian.

Or maybe they named it after Samuel L Jackson?  Here's his classic kids book narration.

Or maybe Yosemite Sam?  This never gets old

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Today's Footnote:  The Taco Tournament is coming.  Life has gotten in the way of it, but I have to try a couple of more places before I start.  I am 90% sure I am going to name the four divisions after action heroes.  If you haven't read it, go to and check out Simmons breakdown of the great action heroes.  It's great pop culture writing that I hope one day to aspire too.  Right now I think I'm going with the Dirty Harry, John J. Rambo, Terminator and Bruce Lee as our divisions.  But it could all change.  I may get John McClain in there.  And with that, I leave you with this.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tacos La Villa in Smyrna, GA

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and those who think "On the Border" is authentic.

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As we embark upon our research find Atlanta's Best Taco and build our brackets, I started reading about Tacos La Villa and just how authentic it was.  So today we went by to check it out.

First, know their tacos are naked and smaller (insert joke here).  You can put the "fixin's" on yourself.  And I had no idea what most of the accouterments were.  I consider that a great thing.

Mystery Sauces beat Mystery Meats any day of the week
So I ordered five tacos.  Here they are in their pure simplicity:
Five Taco's came to $5.50, that is not a typo
I had read that their best taco was the Chorizo (center).  That was my 2nd favorite, but still great.  The Al Pastor (top left), was by far my favorite.  The Al Pastor is heavily marinated pork.  It was greasy magic on a tortilla.

Then there was the decor and clientele.  When I say "all walks of life," I'm not talking about the County Fair "all walks of life" crowd.

Tacos La Villa attracts, white collar and blue collar alike.  Lawyers and doctors sitting next to painters and plumbers.  For the love of god Cats and Dogs were playing in the streets! It is truly a melting pot.

It is in what was a former Quizno's.  How do I know?  They still have Quizno's signage!  Seriously.  Then they have this bizarre Elvis display.  Mexicano's love the King?  Who knew?

I'm not shitting you, this was on the wall
So "Don't be Cruel" to yourself and make a trip to Tacos La Villa!  I would give you a link, but shockingly they do not have a website.

And thank you to everyone giving us taco suggestions.  Keep'em coming.  I'm fairly busy right now, so the tournament may be slightly delayed............but the research continues!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cinco y Diez in Athens, GA

Warning:  The following may be inappropriate for children under the age of 13 and those who don't enjoy roasted oysters

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Our latest adventure brought us back to Athens, GA for a speaking engagement.  You know I will always wrap a great meal around any type of traveling.  We also invited some of our Grady School Advertising students as well.  In fact my man Elliot Strauss, who created our new logo, was in attendance.  The food pics were also taken by my mentee Cara.  So if you notice the food pics are much improved, that's why.

These students are so much more responsible than I was, which is setting the bar fairly low
Cinco y Diez is the latest collaboration between Hugh Acheson and Melissa Clegg whom brought us five & ten.  They brought on board Whitney Otawka, former executive chef at Farm 255, who was featured on Bravo’s “Top Chef."

We started out with the roasted oysters with adobo butter and masa crumble.  It was delicious.  Not quite Drago's in New Orleans, but probably as good as you could get east of the Mississippi. My love affair with oysters goes back to 4th grade, so I started on these things early.  I feel bad for folks that can't eat any incarnation of one of natures best foods.  I definitely have fallen for roasted oysters, though raw is still the best way to go.

It's as good as it looks
The ceviche with red snapper was good too and packed a nice little punch.

The Huarache might have been my favorite dish of the night.  I was chorizo, potato, salsa verde, quail egg and ricotta.

MVP of the night
I also ordered the Braised Neck Lamb Barbacoa Taco and that was friggin' delicious.  It may have to go into the "Best Taco" contest I've been threatening to have for the last year.  It was so good, and I might have had a few drinks at this point, I forgot to get a picture.

Aesthetically they did a wonderful job.  Here are a couple of more pics.

Overall, this was a great dining experience.  If you are in Athens and are looking for something a little different and a nice latin flair, Cinco y Diaz should be your choice.

Today's Footnote:  Athen's is a great culinary town.  I still have yet to hit 5 & 10, which will have to be my next stop when I'm back there later this spring.

Below is a shot with some of our Mentee's from UGA this year.  If you are in advertising and are interested being an Advertisting Mentor starting in August, please feel free to contact me.  This pic was taken from a fundraiser we did for Mary Lindemulder who lost her leg in Atlanta's January snow storm.  To find out how you can help Mary go to or

We are still looking for a new Tournament to do.  "Best Taco in Atlanta" seems to be the clubhouse leader.  Let me know your thoughts.