I was recently thinking about some o f the best foods of different types and cuisines that I’ve had over the years. I decided to make a partial list of those that have most exemplified my culinary satisfaction. It’s not all inclusive my any means, but represents those foods, times, and places that have meant the most to over the years.
My all-time favorite hamburgers came from a little diner on Glenway Avenue in Western Hills in Cincinnati, Ohio called Nell’s Diner. When I was in college and short on money, I’d go to Nell’s and the head waitress, named Lucy, would let me peel and cut potatoes for the french frier in exchange for a burger with the works and a basket of perfect fries. Nothing ever tasted so good as those burgers and fries.
My favorite pizza of all-time is still the Sicilian from La Rosa’s Italian Restaurant, also in Western Hills in Cincinnati. I couldn’t get enough of them, and only wish that they still made them, but over the years they have disappeared from the La Rosa’s menu as that single restaurant has grown into a regional chain. What set the Sicilian apart was the fact that they used no tomato sauce. The pie was baked with your choice of toppings, on top of a bed of fresh grated mozzarella and a chewy but crisp crust. When it came to the table, the server would pour as much hot olive oil over top of the pizza as you wanted. I’ve never had another pizza like it.
The best meatloaf I’ve ever had, and this includes that of my own dear old grandmother, can be had at the Village Inn in Allegan, Michigan. It is made from an extremely finely ground blend of pork, lamb, and beef, lightly seasoned, and baked to perfection, topped off with a tangy ketchup sauce. For around six dollars you get the meatloaf, two sides, and home made style rolls and butter, and it’s almost too much to eat at one sitting.
My favorite chicken is still the open charcoal grilled barbequed chicken my Dad used to make. Liberally slathered with multiple bastings of his own home made sauce, and nearly charred on the outside, it beats any other I’ve ever had, hands down.
The most exotic menu item I’ve ever had, and one of my all-time favorite meals, bar none, was the Wild Game Feast at a hidden away little restaurant in Nashville, Indiana called The Ordinary. It consisted of a healthy portion of sliced and roasted wild turkey breast, one half of a wild pheasant, and a beautifully roasted Bobwhite quail, served with your choice of either baked or mashed potatoes, an additional side of in-season vegetables of your choice, and home made yeast rolls with fresh apple butter. The last time we were there, the meal had been reduced to a much more generic ensemble of commercial birds and no where near as good as it was forty years ago.
My favorite home cooking is still almost anything prepared by my grandmother. She spent nearly all day, every day preparing and/or cooking food, baking, etc. and her skill at what she did still can’t be matched anywhere.
When it comes to delis, I have a real soft spot for Izzy’s Deli in Cincinnati. Their pastrami sandwich was about four inches thick with meat that they made from scratch on their premises, and no one has ever approached their corned beef in my experience, also made right on the premises. Of all the styles of restaurant I miss most in my little corner of the world, it’s a really good kosher deli.
Italian restaurants don’t come any better than 84 East in Holland, Michigan. Their individually prepared spinach and basil pizza, baked in a wood fired oven are sublime, but my usual choice when we eat there is their signature baked spaghetti pie. Even better than it sounds.
Seva is a restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan that serves only vegan foods, and it my favorite restaurant of its type. I can’t get enough of their yam fries, nachos with black beans, or spinach enchiladas. Also, I can’t go there without getting one of their fantastic portobella burgers, smothered in lettuce, tomato, and onion. Really, really good eating, I guarantee.
I grew up with the term, hot dog, meaning the juicy little dog smothered in chili sauce and diced onions and served on a steamed bun that came from the Original Coney Island in Fort Wayne, Indiana. While I seldom eat a hot dog anymore, I still sometimes find myself craving a couple of those bad boys.
The best seafood I’ve ever had came from a little seaside diner in Maine, though I no longer remember its name or exact location. The summer before I went off to college I worked on the railroad. We would go to Maine to drop off coal, steel, etc. and bring back Maine lumber from where we were based in Ohio. Every time we went there the whole crew would end up gorging on fresh lobster, various ocean fish, and boiled corn on the cob and hush puppies. I’ve never had seafood that took my breath away like that did.