Here at Black Ink, we probably love food as much (If not more) than we love our jobs! I know I certainly "hunger" for a good meal in an enjoyable setting, especially when on the road and living out of my suitcase. One of the perks of the job is traveling the country (and World) while enjoying and exploring new cities and going on new adventures. So I thought it would be fun to take a step away from gratuitous marketing efforts and posts about work to try and talk about something near and dear to ALL of our hearts ... Food. I thought it would be fun to talk about my (right now) 5 Favorite spots to eat at across the USA. This list is not intended to be a top 5 of ANYTHING cohesive, but each of the establishments offers something truly unique. More than anything, I desire uniqueness and originality in an establishment that I frequently patron, a cool or even creepy story here or there certainly doesn't hurt. So without further delay, I would like to present to you My "Top 5" Favorite Dining experiences in the US (currently) ....
#5 Hi Boy Burgers
It was in the summer of 2015 that I was introduced to the glory that is Hi Boy Burgers. I was in Kansas City with the Rolling Stones and we needed to bring in some burgers for the crew, as we were going to be working later than expected and we had no food. My friend Bart who was a local to Kansas City said that there was a Hi Boy about 1/2 a mile away from Arrowhead Stadium. With no further endorsement other than Geographic Location, I agreed. I then asked Bart if he thought anybody would be upset with the quality of what we were getting, he just chuckled at me, assuring me everyone would be just fine. We ordered 25 burgers for about 15 people. All 25 burgers were absolutely destroyed.
I received a burger, but didn't get around to eating it for about an hour after the fact, it was still glorious. I had been burned by aged In-N-Out burgers too many times to think that I could eat it later, but I did, and I was rewarded. About two days later I was driving away from the Stadium and decided I wanted to go back and try it Fresh from the Drive In. I ordered a 1/4 lb. Hi Boy Burger w/ Onion Rings and a Banana Shake (summer special). What happened next was a life changing combination. The combo of a fresh Char-Style burger off a Griddle that is almost 60 years old with Made-From-Scratch Onion Rings and a Smooth and Cooling Banana Shake has become my now GO-TO order EVERY time I am in Kansas City. It's simple, It's tasty and it's unpretentious. It's perfect, just the way it is.
#4 The Southern
It was early Fall 2014, just after the harvest, I was in Nashville getting ready to Leave with Luke Bryan on his yearly "Farm Tour" where we take two weeks every year and producer and perform concerts in farming communities and rural communities all over the South and Midwest. It's a total blast and some of my favorite touring memories and experiences. The night prior to the tour, my friends Tommy and Chris were also in Nashville with me and recommended going to "The Southern" for dinner (as it's one of Tommy's Favorites and we HAVE to eat there every time were in town together). So I delightfully agreed, anxious to see what we were getting into. Upon arriving at the restaurant I was transported into a Southern Hospitality-Food Paradise. Featuring a state-of-the-art, shuck-to-order oyster bar, a real wood-fired grill, locally-grown produce, deliciously tender meats and directly-sourced, sustainable seafood, The Southern does an amazing job of combining indigenous flavors with exotic ingredients to offer an authentically southern experience with a twist. The Southern’s cuisine brings a southern sensibility to dishes from around the world. With influences ranging from the Gulf Coast to the Caribbean; from Nova Scotia to North Carolina, the menu at The Southern is truly “south of somewhere” as their motto indicates.
Now it's worth mentioning I have been back about 5 times since my first visit in 2014. I literally can't think of anything else while I am in Nashville. The menu is fantastic, however, the REAL star of the menu isn't the Seafood (it's fantastic), it isn't the cuts of meat (they're sublime and aged to perfection), no, it's the APPETIZERS! Listen, I can understand your hesitance, but just hear me out. They have these BLUE CHEESE and SIRLOIN BISCUITS. They put the Blue Cheese INTO the biscuit batter. I almost cried the first time I had them, as it was that moving of an experience. Truly. Furthermore, the Deviled Eggs and Pickled Vegetables are a "Must Have". These are NOT your Aunt Carol's Deviled Eggs's recipe from 1967 (Sorry aunt Carol). However, just about everything on the Menu is fantastic, as is their Wine Selection and Custom Hand Crafted Cocktails. The Southern will not disappoint, and did I mention it is the Brain-Child of Tom Morales who started his Career in Back-Stage Rock and Roll Catering. I guess thats one of the many reasons I love it here so much!
#3 MomoFuku Noodle Bar
I was first introduced to the Momofuku restaurant line through my fandom of Chef "David Chang". I constantly watched his program "Mind of a Chef" on PBS and thought it was wonderful (as I grew up watching PBS cooking shows and still consider them the Gold Standard of cooking programs). So when I learned about his Momofoku (Japanese for "Lucky Peach") restaurants, I just had to go. I am a Ramen Lover. In the debate of Ramen of Pho I'm team Ramen all the way (although I do love Pho). So when I was touring through NYC with Drum TAO I took the opportunity to grab a few tour friends, head over to the Noodle Bar on my day off and see if I could get in. The trip started in a cab ride, as most
Manhattan based stories do, however, when we pulled up to the restaurant on a cold February day, I was less than enthusiastic about the line I saw outside in the cold. I approached the door, none-the-less and went in to see just how ridiculous the line was about to be. I had committed to this, so, in all reality I was going to wait it out, no matter how long it took. But something happened as I walked to the Host stand, I made eye contact with the Host, as our eyes locked, I saw the expression on his face become immediately jubilant. As I got to the stand all I said was a simple "Hello". He immedietely cut me off and responded by saying "It's so nice to see you again, I'll get you a table RIGHT AWAY". He wasn't joking, despite 20 other people waiting, I and my friends were seated immediately. It was apparent to me, that we were in a classic case of mistaken identity, although in this instance, I think I was being mistaken for a celebrity. Although I don't know who. After seated, I promptly ordered the Pork Ramen w/ the Pork Buns. The buns arrived first, I was absolutely blown away, I could eat three plates of these things. They were that good. When the Ramen showed up, I could barely contain my happiness, it was sublime. Warm, delicious and elegant. Just amazing comfort food. We weren't there long, as we absolutely destroyed our food. There was however, the issue of mistaken identity, so I decided, in order to keep whoever the Host thought I was in good standing with the Host, I better act accordingly. So, as I left I shook the guys hand and slipped him a $20. He took the tip and told me that EVERYTIME I come back, he's got me covered. I really wish I could find out who exactly he thinks I am.
#2 The Pit BBQ
I first discovered The Pit from watching BBQ challenges on Cable TV. Their Pit-Master was routinely placing in the Top 3 at competition, and as a BBQ Connoisseur, when I was in town a few years ago, I told myself "You need to check this out". I have been continually rewarded with some of the best Carolina style BBQ ever since. North Carolina is known for its legendary barbecue joints. The Pit proudly continues this tradition by serving authentic whole-hog, pit-cooked barbecue in downtown Raleigh's warehouse district. A celebration of all of the great culinary offerings of the Old North State, The Pit has made a name for itself as the destination for the state's signature cuisine. Every time I go, my order is the same: Fried Mac N Cheese Balls w/ a Triple Meat Sampler with Collards and Baked Beans served with a Sweet Tea. It's more than I can handle in one sitting, and I think that's kind of the point, to ensure I get to enjoy this for at minimum, two meals. It's uncanny, however, I think that the leftovers on Day 2, taste even better than right out of the kitchen on Day One. Anyone that knows good BBQ, will tell you, that's a sign of quality. I would tend to agree.
#1 The Pacific Dining Car
Los Angeles, CA
Anyone who has ever done shows in Downtown Los Angeles will tell you that after the show is over, your choices for late night food are pretty sparse. Even sparser, options for an upscale, quiet dinner with great service and selection. Enter "Pacific Dining Car". The Pacific Dining Car was born in a railway train car parked on a rented lot in downtown Los Angeles and continues to be family-run for 4 generations through today. It's like stepping back in time to a younger and newer Los Angeles. You can literally trace time back through this restaurant via your experience. It's magical. I ALWAYS get the 30 day aged Bone-In Rib Eye, Medium, with a Bleu Cheese and fresh Peppercorn crust. Accompanied by Garlic Mashed Potatoes and a House Wedge Salad. It's truly sublime. For me, the accommodations (typically late at night), mixed with the excellent choices of aged cuts and a hospitable attitude that you will struggle to find elsewhere in Downtown Los Angeles, make this, my FAVORITE go-to spot for late night (and prime time) eats and treats in Los Angeles.
Treat Yo Self. :)
I hope you've enjoyed this little run-down as much as I enjoyed sharing it. Let us know what your favorite place to eat is in your city, chances are, we'll be there soon!!
- John K.