One of the best parts about working with food and beverage clients across the country is the travel - or more accurately, the eating that goes along with all of that travel. Here are a bunch of the best things I ate this year - I'm sure I've forgotten some, but these really stood out...rather than try and rank these, I've just listed them chronologically:
Black's BBQ - Lockhart, Texas
I can't imagine anything they could do to improve on this. A recent brisket that we had from Snow's BBQ in Lexington, TX came close, but I think Black's is still the winner.
Moonlite Inn - Owensboro, Kentucky
Mostly served in Kentucky, nobody does mutton better than Moonlite.
Company Burger - New Orleans, Louisiana
Chef leaves Atlanta's Holeman & Finch for New Orleans, opens burger shop, immediately establishes reputation for best burger in town. We agree.
Eleven Madison Park - New York, New York
As far as our 'fancy' meals went this year, Eleven Madison Park was at the top. We particularly enjoyed taking a tour of the kitchen and having them make us a couple of cocktails in the midst of all the chefs' hubbub.
Skylight Inn - Ayden, North Carolina
After spending time with pitmaster Sam Jones over the years at various BBQ events around the country, we finally made it to Skylight Inn. While it's impossible to name the best thing we ate all year, this pork sandwich may have been it.
Taqueria Chapala Jalisco - San Antonio, Texas
Cheese Enchilada, Barbacoa Taco, Refried Beans
Perfect Tex-Mex in what looks to be a former Pizza Hut on a side street in San Antonio. This whole meal was about $4.
Solly's - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
That white stuff on top of the beef is a couple of tablespoons of butter, seconds before melting - and coating the beef, bun and entire plate. Don't tell my doctor.
Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen - Memphis, Tennessee
The chefs from Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen had a party when our pal Tien Ho came to Memphis to cook at their restaurant's anniversary dinner. The porchetta that they cooked at the party was by far the best version I've ever had.
Hog & Hominy - Memphis, Tennessee
The Andrew Michael guys recently opened their second restaurant - Hog & Hominy. The day after we had that porchetta above, they served us a perfect pepperoni pizza.
Nick Melvin (cooking at Muss & Turner's Heritage BBQ event) - Atlanta, Georgia
Pig Head Gumbo
Not sure what to say about this one - the name says it all - gumbo made with pig head. It was amazing.
Marcus Hinton - Wiggins, Mississippi
Our friend Sean decided to have a music festival in rural Mississippi, featuring a bunch of his favorite bands playing in his yard. Luckily for us, he also got his friend Marcus to smoke a ton of ribs for the party. As far as I know, Marcus doesn't have a restaurant, but he absolutely should.
White Trolley Cafe - Corinth, Mississippi
Read up on the slugburger here. I was told by slugburger authority Pat Martin that this is the place to get them - who are we to argue? I could have easily eaten six of these.
El Chino Marinero - Avenue Benito Juarez, Mexico
Shrimp & Fish Tacos
Wandering around on a trip to Mexico looking for breakfast one morning, we came across this little stand - some of the best shrimp tacos I've had. We ordered a second breakfast of the same tacos as soon as we finished the first breakfast.
Seersucker - Brooklyn, New York
Black Pepper Ricotta Dumplings
Ate this so fast that I forgot to take a picture. We've been fortunate to spend time with owners Rob and Kerry this year, who in addition to running one of our favorite places, are easily two of the most hospitable people in the business. Go see them soon.
And since the restaurants below make my list every year, I'm retiring them - just assume in upcoming years that we went to all of these places, and they were stellar:
Sushi Yasuda (anything they feel like serving you)- New York, NY
The Spotted Pig (Roquefort burger) - New York, NY
Minetta Tavern (Black Label burger) - New York, NY