Manliest Restaurants Golf Trail
Men's Health / Travel Channel, 11/11
Fat Guy Foreword : When I first saw the Travel Channel Food Paradise special on the Manliest Restaurants in the U.S., I thought, 'What a great idea!' Then I realized it was taken from a contest/list in Men's Health magazine. The irony hit me immediately: ' Wait a minute, this list of probably the least healthy restaurants in the country was sponsored by a magazine dedicated to promoting... the health of men? ' After reading the magazine's version of the list, I realized that 'manly' could also be defined as a Rat Pack-style throwback joint, an unpretentious D.C. power lunch spot, or a great place to impress a beautiful woman (though they do get borderline squirrelly with their definition of "manly" on their L.A. swing). Anyway, I'm not gonna complain about the source... Here's a list of the most manly places to chow down in the country (paired with the manliest nearby golf course by Fat Guy as usual... And I couldn't resist throwing in a short list of my own nominations for Manliest Restaurant as a bonus).
Speed Dog, Roxbury, MA
Why it’s nominated: All-beef hot dogs covered with BBQ sauce, mustard, chili and raw onions, sold from a food truck in the middle of an industrial park. Trust us here.
What they make: First, the hardware: The hot dogs are custom-made for Speed’s owner, Greg Gale, by one of America’s oldest butchers, Grote & Weigel. Weighing in at nearly a half-pound a piece, these pork and beef torpedoes are contained by a casing that, when grilled, snaps with each jaw-unhinging bite. Before tossing the dogs on the grill (no dirty-water dogging it here), Gale simmers them in an apple cider and brown sugar marinade to boost their flavors. The software? Here’s where Speed’s earns its cred: Gale makes everything from scratch—the BBQ sauce, the cranberry relish, the chili sauce—even the mustard. What now, Heinz?
The scene: When Speed’s first opened in 1975, it sat in the middle of a bustling meat market. The market closed. Speed’s stayed open. Now fathers make the drive to split a dog with their sons after a ballgame. Hungry commuters stop by to fuel up before tackling I-93. If you’re lucky enough to find an open picnic table, join them. Otherwise just pop a squat on the curb, roll up your sleeves, and dig in. It’s not fancy. No one’s expecting you to be either.
Quote: "I sell the best hot dogs in the country. There’s no better hot dog out there," says Gale.
42 Newmarket Square
Roxbury, MA, 02118
Play: The Speed Dog is just south of South Boston, very near Ryder Cup venue The Country Club at Brookline. All of us hot-dog eating public course schmos should head south to Granite Links in Quincy.
New York City, NY
A Taste Of Seafood , NYC, NY
Why it’s nominated: DMV-like lines, tacky nautical décor, and thick wafts of burbling fryer oil—all of which are worth it for the crunch of the ultimate fried whiting sandwich. It’s local people eating local food, without pretentiousness. This is what they mean by soul food.
What they make: This is a straight-up southern style fish joint, which means anything that swims, be it catfish, porgy, or whiting, takes a bath in a fryer before it hits the wax paper. They offer steamed clams and crab legs here, too, but if you’re looking for options on the lighter side, it’s best you stick to the frou frou fare down in the East Village. This is Harlem, buddy, and in Harlem you order a white fish sandwich. That’s a fillet of white fish, breaded, fried skin-on for extra crispness, barely contained between two pieces of white bread, doused liberally with hot sauce and slathered in tartar sauce. Skip the chips and order a side of fried okra instead. Chase it with an iced tea and a hunk of red velvet cake and there will be few things better all day—maybe all week.
The scene: The dining room has all the allure of submarine cabin and any potential ambiance is commandeered by the giant fryers in the restaurant’s open kitchen, which fire like depth charges every time a basket of fillets hits the oil. The charm of A Taste of Seafood—the real character—comes from the clientele, the majority seasoned Harlem denizens with an occasional hipster trying to satisfy a whitefish jones. The customers pump loose change into a nicked-up jukebox filled with Mississippi rhythm and blues.
59 E 125th Street
New York, NY 10035
Patsy's Pizzeria , NYC, NY
Why it’s nominated: Piping-hot, paper-thin slices of crispy, coal-charred cheese pizza served at a no-frills Harlem storefront for only $1.75 each. While plenty of places offer cheap slices, Patsy’s offers some of the best in the country. Plus, because it’s just a hole-in-the-wall stop you can grab a slice on the quick.
What they make: Arguing over who has the best pizza in New York City is futile. Although the pool of contenders rarely changes, consensus is impossible. Patsy’s is one of those contenders and has been making coal-oven pizzas for more than 75 years. The tomato sauce is sweet and applied with restraint, the creamy mozzarella oozes with flavor, and the crust is slightly blackened and blistered from smoldering coals in brick ovens that exceed 1,000 degrees, baking pies in fewer than five minutes. Yeah, this ain’t exactly Pizza Hut. And unlike at other New York City favorites (think Lombardi’s, Grimaldi’s, John’s of Bleeker) you can pop in for a single slice of cheese if you don’t want to sit down and order a whole pie.
The scene: If you do want to sit down and eat in the actual restaurant, you should. It’s a great Italian joint and one of the last vestiges of Italian Harlem. But that’s not why we picked this pizzeria. Instead, go past the main entrance and you’ll find a little alcove attached to the same green, weathered façade. There’s not much to it: a neon Patsy’s sign, a counter with a register, a graffiti-covered soda machine, fresh cheese pies behind glass, stacks of pizza boxes, and a heap of coal tucked underneath a medieval-looking oven. This is the heart of Patsy’s, where the pizza magic happens. If it’s your first time, you have to try a slice of plain cheese. No, you need to try a slice of plain cheese. Simplicity, brother, is what good food is all about.
Quote: “Did you ever have Pizza at Patsy’s at 117th street? The greatest in the world. There ain’t nothing like that. I don’t care where the hell you go. All over Italy you ain’t never get anything like that.” —Frank Sinatra
2287 First Avenue
New York, NY 10035
Keen's Steakhouse , NYC, NY
Why it’s nominated: No-nonsense steakhouse fare served against a Victorian backdrop with more than 125 years of New York history.
What they make: No meat enters the kitchen without first receiving Keens’ stamp of approval. Literally. Chef Bill Rodgers and his staff patrol the meat market with a copper stamp, branding with edible ink only the most pristine cuts of USDA prime protein. Of the beef, some 6,000 pounds will enter a dry-age locker every week to replenish the sirloins, T-bones, and porterhouses sold to Keens’ steak-loving clientele. For more adventurous carnivores, there’s the eminent mutton chop, a boot-size hunk of meat flanked by fatty ribbons of mature lamb and pierced through the center by a crest-shaped slice of bone. The menu is straightforward, free from ostentatious rhetoric or flowery descriptions. Sure the blue cheese dressing is made in-house with imported Stilton cheese, but you don’t need to know that. The philosophy here is simple: Customers don’t care how hard you worked to make the meal. They only care that it tastes good.
The scene: Stepping into Keens moves you from a loud, dusty street in Manhattan’s Garment District to a series of mahogany bars and tables set in tranquil rooms, the walls of which are lined with newspaper clippings and presidential memorabilia dating back to the restaurant’s 1885 beginning. You’ll also notice the long-stemmed churchwarden pipes, some 90,000 of them used at times by men like Theodore Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan, and Babe Ruth. If Keens feels at all like a gentleman’s club, it’s because it once was. Women weren’t allowed to enter, and men would hold their pipes with the restaurant so they could smoke when they stopped in. Thankfully smoking is no longer tolerated and women come and go as they please, but Keens’ still distinguishes itself as a devotee of old-world eccentrics through a collection of nearly 300 single-malt scotches. Feel free to drain a tumbler as you wait for your steak.
Quote: “We don’t rest on accolades from days gone by,” says chef Bill Rodgers. “We serve the best beef available and season it minimally. We’re not trying to reinvent the steakhouse concept.”
72 West 36 Street
New York, NY, 10018
Fette Sau , Brooklyn, NY
Why it’s nominated: It’s a former ironworker’s shop, refitted with long picnic tables, giant smokers, and a bourbon bar. And it serves some of the best BBQ north of the Mason-Dixon.
What they make: Central-Texas-style barbecue (dry rub, no sauce), with standard cuts like ribs and brisket along with next-wave choices like beef cheeks and pork belly. They’ll even do smoked prime rib cooked to a juicy medium-rare. And don’t forget the sides: Options include half-sour pickles, German potato salad, and burnt end baked beans.
The scene: Noisy, crowded, and casual. Hungry hipsters chow down on just-smoked sausage next to credentialed BBQ barons looking—but not finding—a reason to be skeptical of a barbecue joint in Brooklyn. Stand in line and choose from the array of barbecued meats at the counter (order by weight). They’ll lay your meal out on a half-sheet pan lined with butcher paper for you to take to the table. Oh, and don’t forget to send a buddy to the bar for growlers of beer and shots of bourbon. Then sit at one of the picnic tables, take in the butchery charts and antique tools lining the walls, take a deep breath, and dig in.
Quote: “It’s a party-like atmosphere at Fette Sau. Almost like your family’s Thanksgiving,” says Fette Sau owner Joe Carroll.
354 Metropolitan Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11211
Play: I hate to go with the obvious, but it's too much of a layup to ignore. Head for the torturous, walking-only, extremely manly public U.S. Open venue Bethpage Black .
Abbott's Lobster In The Rough , Noank, CT
Why it’s nominated: Picture this: You’re seated at a wooden picnic table overlooking the ocean at seven o'clock one summer evening, an Atlantic breeze on your face and a tumbler of scotch on the rocks at your side. Yachts crisscross the harbor and your lady returns from the order window with your dinner. You crack your knuckles, take a breath—and tear with all 10 fingers into the lobster on your plate, butter and crustacean juices splashing onto your shirt, as you shovel handful after glorious handful of sweet lobster meat into your mouth. That's Abbott's, my friends.
What they make: The lobster is king here. They’re steamed, not boiled, so the water doesn't permeate the shell and dull its flavor. Abbott’s will sell you the suckers in sizes up to 10 pounds, big enough to make Ahab blush. Abbott’s lobster rolls, legendary around New England, are a quarter-pound of succulent meat tossed with creamy butter and mounded on a round, toasted bun. Or, if you really have your sea legs under you, try the full New England seafood feast in one sitting: clam chowder, shrimp in the shell, a big bowl of steamers and mussels, and lobster, not to mention potato chips and coleslaw. Drop the anchor, captain—we're gonna be harborside a while.
The scene: Things haven't changed much here since 1961, when Ernie Abbott decided to open a restaurant on the property that held his lobster pound and cannery. One-time window girl Dierdre Mears owns the place now, but she cooks the lobsters in the same steamers Ol' Ern used. The crowds come in staggering numbers all summer long. There's a dock on property, too, so if you're sick of tourist-heavy highway traffic you can sail up yourself in anything from a dingy to an 80-foot yacht.
Quote: “We put the lobsters on a pan, put 'em in an oven and steam 'em,” Mears says. “That keeps the lobster's natural juices in the shell. Perfect.”
117 Pearl St.
Noank, CT 06340
Play: Shennecosset GC in nearby Groton.
Steve's Prince Of Steaks , Philadephia, PA
Why it’s nominated: Meaty, gooey steaks served with a hearty dose of Philly attitude and a spicy condiment bar that will challenge your heat tolerance.
What they make: Look, if you’re in Philly and you want to do the Pat’s or Geno’s thing, fine. Go have a steak with the mob of other tourists and buy yourself an obligatory T-shirt. Then, when you’re hungry for a real steak, go to Steve’s. This place crafts their sandwiches with real beef (F.U. Steak-umm) sliced atop a missile-like roll and then slathered with whiz and festooned in chopped onions. In case you wanted to test your intestinal fortitude further, you can eat that steak with hot sauce, banana peppers, and whole cherry peppers from the condiment bar. Just don’t order anything except a steak after 11:00 p.m. They won’t serve it to you—no exceptions. You hear?
The scene: The place is a pillbox, lined in stainless steel and illuminated by garish fluorescents. Founded back in 1980, it’s a relative newcomer to the Philly steak scene (Pat’s was established 1930, Geno’s in 1966), but what it lacks in maturity, it makes up for in guts. Choke down your uneasiness, step in line, mentally rehearse your order (“Double-meat, Whiz, with. Double-meat, Whiz, with.”), and then say it quickly to the big guy behind the window. Then, wait until your name is called. Don’t dally. Don’t start taking pictures with your little iPhone. Don’t start screwing off with your friends. Pay attention until your name is called. This is a place for eating, not for messing around. Show some respect, then eat your sandwich.
Quote: “This is a real working man’s steak dinner,” says Steve “Prince” Iliescu, owner of Steve’s for 30 years.
7200 Bustleton Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19149
Play: It's a little bit of a hike, but Steve's is right in the thick of Northeast Philly. So head over the river to Jersey for Scotland Run GC in Williamstown for an X-Box golf adventure carved out of an old sand quarry.
Tiki Bar , Spring Mountain, PA
Why it’s nominated: Prescription-strength Hurricanes and—despite the drinks’ potency—the management trusts you enough to let you grill your own food over open flames.
What they make: Well, technically you make it. The Tiki Bar houses an assortment of fish, shellfish, and meat behind bars with built-in deli cases. You pick your protein, then take it to the gas-powered fire pits, where you season your meats with a variety of spice rubs and sauce, and then grill up your meal according to your standards. Dinner options include sushi-grade tuna, chicken wings, clams, shrimp, steak, mussels, wild boar, and alligator. Too soused to sauce? The Tiki Bar provides grill supervisors just to make sure you don’t screw things up.
The scene: Open only during the summer months, The Tiki Bar packs in locals, from scantily dressed twentysomethings to scantily dressed fiftysomethings. There’s definitely cougar on the menu, if that’s your thing. If it’s not, it very well might be with enough oyster shooters or a few of the drinks the bar calls Newt’s Nightmare in your system. Look like a local yourself: Holler every time the bell rings (someone just ordered another Hurricane) and exchange dirty jokes with the bartenders. Hear the one about the Jimmy Buffet-style bar in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania?
Quote: “Cooking for the ladies on these huge barbies guarantees a lucky night out,” says owner Jim Finegan.
757 Spring Mount Road
Spring Mount, PA, 19478
Play: Tee it up at nearby Lederach GC , a great example of what I call "Modern American Links" architecture.
Fat Guy Note
: The original (and better) Tiki Bar location is about a half hour away in Boyertown PA. The bar is a little more homey and divey, plus the outdoor area overlooks the Manatawney River, giving the Boyertown location a bit more of a Jimmy Buffet feel than the musty A-frame ski-bump lodge vibe of the Spring Mountain location. Near the original, play nearby
Bella Vista GC
Ben's Chili Bowl , Washington D.C.
Why it’s nominated: The half smokes, chili, and décor haven’t changed one damn bit since the place opened back in 1958. They never needed to.
What they make: Call it a hot dog and we’re going to whup you two ways to K Street. A “half smoke” kicks sand in the face of your traditional wiener. It’s beefier, spicier, and a whole lot tastier than anything Hatfield every slapped its tag on. At Ben’s, you order it like long-time patron Bill Cosby did: topped with mustard, onions, and chili. On the side? More chili, straight up, or French fries topped with chili. The viscous, milk-chocolate-colored chili has a tinge of heat and goes best clobbered with cheese and chopped white onions.
The scene: Drop by Ben’s on any given night and you’ll find guys dressed like pimps waiting in line with District officers. You’ll see packs of hipsters co-mingling with interns from the Hill. Ethiopians, Vietnamese, and Salvadorans all call out orders to the frenzied cooks behind the bar. Ben’s is a nexus, which is perhaps why it’s survived the MLK riots, drug wars, and city reconstruction efforts. There’s history everywhere from the photos of celebrities lining the walls, to the clientele, to the carefully calibrated seasoning of their famous chili. You can taste it.
Quote: “We are no frills—just great food and big sizes,” says Nizam Ali, co-owner of Ben Chili Bowl. “We stay open till 2 a.m. weekdays and 4 a.m. on weekends. We even open at 6 a.m. for construction workers, police, fire fighters and other government officials that keep DC running 24/7.”
1213 U Street Northwest
Washington, D.C., 20009-4442
Play: Head over to the University Of Maryland's Golf Course (College Park MD, www.golf.umd.edu ). Named the #1 restoration of 2011 by Golf Inc., and ranked in the Top 25 College Courses by Links Magazine, this course mixes links and parkland elements in a classic 1959 George Cobb design.
Primanti Bros., Pittsburgh, PA
Why it’s nominated: Because sit-down restaurants are for sissies. At Primanti Bros., you order your sandwich with the side dishes stuffed inside it, so you can perform some sort of manual labor with your right hand and eat with your left. The result: a bicep-buster of a sandwich so good you’ll (try to) eat the whole thing.
What they make: Sandwiches stacked with sliced meat and melted cheese in between two slices of freshly baked, thickly sliced Italian bread. Next, Primanti’s packs each one with tomatoes, coleslaw and fresh-cut French fries. No chicken fingers, no hamburgers, and certainly no panini—this is a real man’s sandwich shop.
The scene: Joe Primanti’s now-famous sandwich joint began as a one-cart operation: Primanti himself sold sandwiches to truckers and dockworkers in Pittsburgh’s gritty Strip District during the 1930’s. Legend has it that when the place expanded to a small restaurant in the area, one of the cooks slapped the French fries and coleslaw inside the sandwich; this way, the men wouldn’t lose any time eating as they worked their late-night shifts unloading cargo from the nearby railroads—and it’s been that way ever since. Now, Primanti Bros. has expanded into a booming chain across Pittsburgh, and is practically synonymous with the city itself.
Quote: “It’s just a big, sloppy sandwich,” says Marc Teklinski, director of operations at Primanti Bros. “I mean, I know that there are some females that can finish it, but it’s a big sandwich.”
46 18th Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Play: It's a little ways out of town, but there aren't a ton of spots flat enough for a golf course in the hills surrounding Pittsburgh. Grab your GPS (trust me) and head for Olde Stonewall, a course so hilly you'll wonder how the hell they got the big equipment up to the hilltops to drag around the massive boulders that line fairways and prop up green complexes. Oh, and the clubhouse is a castle. What could be more manly than that?
Big Bad Breakfast , Oxford, MS
Why it’s nominated: It’s a breakfast diner, supercharged. Mississippi’s James Beard award winning chef John Currence serves breakfast in the afternoon and killer burgers in the morning. Particularly appropriate after being over-served at BBB’s neighbor and Currence’s charcuterie-centric gastropub, Snackbar, the night before.
What they make: The menu is a smörgåsbord of organic, locally sourced and freshly made southern cuisine peppered with Currence’s distinct Louisiana flavors. Standouts include Brandy-spiked French toast, house-cured, Tabasco-and-brown-sugar bacon, Coca-Cola brined fried chicken (yes, also available for breakfast!) and fresh omelets stuffed with anything you can find on the menu. And the burgers? Insanely decadent half pounders crafted from a blend of ground beef and bacon. Wash it all down with a milkshake then go home and crawl back into bed.
The scene: BBB is a rustic country style diner complete with velvet Elvis art and American flags on the walls. Currence restaurants are as focused on southern hospitality as much as food, so expect to be well taken care of by his wife, Bess, who works the front of the house. The joint has the feel of a classic American diner, but SERVES food that’s actually worth a damn.
Quote: “Big Bad Breakfast happened because it needed to happen,” says Currence. “I wanted to properly celebrate the most uncelebrated meal of the day, all day.”
719 North Lamar Boulevard
Oxford, MS 38655-3210
Play: Oxford is home to Ole Miss, so tee it up at the Ole Miss Golf Course ( www.olemiss.edu/depts/golf/ ), a 1973 Cary Middlecoff design fresh of a 2008 renovation. Classic tree-lined parkland with water on about half the holes.
Rendezvous Ribs , Memphis, TN
Why it’s nominated: Tender, seasoned ribs so succulent that sauce is only an afterthought and pulled pork sandwiches with the signature Memphis balance of sweet and tangy.
What they make: The guys at The Rendezvous know that true Memphis barbecue doesn’t rely on heavy-handed seasoning or vats of sauce—it’s about top-quality meat and time-tested technique. Their world-famous loin back ribs (Elvis loved ‘em) are grilled, naked, over a charcoal pit for 2 hours and then basted with vinegar, water, and a blend of Greek and Canjun seasonings. Their legendary pork BBQ cooks for 14 hours. This isn’t TV dinner fare, men. It’s food that takes sweat equity—and it shows.
The scene: The Rendezvous isn’t like the chain barbecue joints that dot the Mississippi: You won’t find a neon-lit cartoon pig dancing on the wall, or cutesy phrases like “finger-licking good.” Hell, you might not find the restaurant, period. It’s tucked inside the basement of a downtown Memphis building, accessible only through an alleyway across from the Peabody Hotel. Since its birth in 1948, the Rendezvous has expanded from 80 seats to about 750, and has added five charcoal pits to its open-style kitchen. (It was a tavern until the ‘50s, when founder Charles Vergos found his first charcoal chute in the basement.) The place is nothing fancy: A planked wooden bar bisects the expansive, dimly lit room, and the tables are covered with red-checkered tablecloths, as you’d expect at any respectable barbecue joint. The walls are a literal museum of Memphis history, hung with thousands of local artifacts—a signed copy of W.C. Handy’s Memphis Blues, regional art, antique guns, whiskey bottles, Elvis memorabilia—and an old jukebox cranks out everything from Sinatra to Styx. On any given night, you’ll see folks in both tuxedos and overalls—and that’s fine, though owner John Vergos does have one rule: No damn wife beaters.
Quote: “People want to get into too much philosophical detail about barbecue. From my perspective, there are two things that make barbecue special—and two things only. One, it tastes really good. And two, it never goes out of style,” says John Vergos, co-owner of the Rendezvous, and the son of founder Charles Vergos.
52 S. 2nd Street
Memphis, TN 38103
Gus' World Famous Fried Chicken , Memphis TN
Why it’s nominated: Eating piece after piece of steaming-hot, crispy fried chicken from this world-famous, no-frills joint is about as close as you can get to a religious experience without visiting Graceland.
What they make: Did we mention this place makes fried chicken? Sure, they have sides like coleslaw and baked beans, but the birds are the main event: Gus’s goes through 200 tons every year. The batter’s a little salty, a little spicy, and plenty crunchy, and the meat is beyond juicy. Got your hands dirty? Wipe them off on a piece of white bread. “Hot chicken and cold beer—there’s nothing better,” says the owner of Gus’s Memphis location, Wendy McCrory.
The scene: The original Gus’s was a little shack built in 1973 in Mason, Tennessee. Their Memphis location is equally bare bones: 18 or 19 tables, a very diverse crowd, and a jukebox with BB King and Muddy Waters. “You can be John McCain or a trolley driver. We get every end of the spectrum. We’ve been known to have a couple dance parties—and they were not planned,” says McCrory.
Quote: “There’s no question that Gus’s is a dive. No frills, stick to what you do best kind of place. There’s a line before we open the doors pretty much every day,” says McCrory.
See Gus's Facebook Page
310 S. Front Street
Memphis, TN 38103
Play: If there's something seemingly unmanly about playing a course owned by Memphis native and pop star Justin Timberlake, then think about it this way: The guy has bedded a bevy of Hollywood starlets alot hotter than you've ever had. Tee it up at Timberlake's tough test, Mirimichi GC .
Bone's Steakhouse , Atlanta GA
Why it’s nominated: Steaks so good they’ll convert a vegan, and old-school service that makes every customer feel like they own a private jet and a black book filled with supermodels. And, come on, the place is named Bone’s.
What they make: Steak. Also, steak. And have you tried the steak? There’s no signature cut, says co-owner Susan DeRose, no ludicrously marked-up brand of beef that’s forced upon you in the name of a house specialty. “We’re kind of about what you want,” DeRose says. So what’s your pleasure: the 14-oz filet mignon, or perhaps the 20-oz dry-aged rib eye, both of which are served bone-in for more flavor? Or maybe you’d prefer the porterhouse for two, or the New York strip? For indecisive types, there’s also a mixed grill with a filet, plus lamb and pheasant sausage. And for curious oenophiles, a wine list distributed via iPad. “You can scroll to whatever region you want, whatever price you want,” DeRose says, “and then you can go in to find the story of the vineyard, or of that particular wine.”
The scene: First have the valet park your car. Then straighten your tie, because Bone’s is the kind of place where you want to wear a tie—you don’t have to, you want to. This restaurant is a temple of gentility. It has the glow of a speakeasy, the civility of a country club, and the seclusion of a bank vault. You are treated less like a customer and more like a partner at a white-shoe law firm. “When we opened, since we didn’t know anything about the business, we ran it more the way life was like in Southern homes in those days,” DeRose says, “those days” being 1979. The kitchen staff now combines for more than 135 years of service. “We still have the same dishwasher we opened with. The same grill people. A lot of the same waiters.” Is it any wonder service is so good? After 10 years on staff, waiters get a Rolex. After 20, they earn a trip to Vegas—an appropriate reward from a steakhouse named after craps dice.
Quote: “We’ve heard people say before, ‘It’s a New York steakhouse,’ and that surprises us,” DeRose says. “We think it’s a very Southern steakhouse. New York, they’re kind of mean to ya.”
3130 Piedmont Road NE
Atlanta, GA., 30305
Play: What could be tougher than a collection of the toughest holes from various Jack Nicklaus designs at Bear's Best Atlanta . Some of the homage holes are Muirfield Village's 12th and the 15th from the Champion course at PGA National.
Blue Ridge Brewing Company , Greenville SC
Why it’s nominated: Fantastic small-batch brewed beers, served as they should be: with a lodge-like atmosphere and a menu stocked with proteins that were shot in the woods.
What they make: Beer. Tasty, tasty beer. Blue Ridge employs a copper-clad, Hungarian-made brewing system, imported malts from England and Canada, and hops from Germany and Belgium to whip up its beer. Lacking in your daily vegetable and hot sauce requirements? Order one of three spicy-as-all-hell Bloody Mary’s. Most brewpubs serve up a few burgers and maybe a pizza or two. No slacking here. Blue Ridge’s game platter lets you pick three meats from a menu that includes venison, antelope, quail, buffalo, wild boar and duck. What beer goes best with boar? Decisions, decisions...
The scene: Back in the '90s, proprietor Bob Hiller visited a few brewpubs on a trip to the Northwest and thought, hey, South Carolina could use one of these. One problem: State regulations at the time barred the production and sale of alcohol on the same property. That didn't deter Hiller: He lobbed the legislature to change the law. Government, zero. Beer, one. Now the tanks proudly line front of the restaurant. Blue Ridge even has a brewer on premises named Johannes. Johannes! Enjoy that hard-earned beer at the long wood bar or, if the weather’s nice, at one of the outdoor tables lining the sidewalk.
Quote: “I grilled a whole rabbit for dinner last night,” says Hiller. Rabbit’s on his menu, too, in a meat pie and as an option in the meat sampler.
217 N. Main St.
Greenville, SC 29601
), a former Nationwide Tour site that sports plenty of carries over a mountain brook that twists through the layout.
Alabama Jack's , Homestead FL
Why it’s nominated: Floating on a pair of barges just outside the Keys, Alabama Jack’s embodies the no-frills spirit of old Florida. You won’t even find A/C in this joint. Real men seek refreshment—and solace from the mosquitoes—at the bar where dinged-up license plates hang in tribute to out-of-staters who've dutifully made the pilgrimage to this open-air honky-tonk outpost since 1947.
What they make: A large road sign boldly stakes claim to the region’s best conch fritters, a crispy Caribbean seafood snack. Order them as an appetizer or a meal with sides like coleslaw and potato salad. Deep-fried seafood, no surprise, fills out most of the menu’s real estate. Locals talk up the crab cakes, clam baskets, and fried fish sandwich—a filet of grouper or snapper caught in Key Largo and served on a fresh-baked roll with pickles, lettuce, tomato, and lime. Pair them up with one of the local brews—the Key West Lager and Sunset Ale are among the most popular on tap—and wander in search of shade.
The scene: Sea-Doos and Harley Davidsons strike an eye-grabbing peace accord outside, especially on Sundays when Jack’s draws crowds of nearly 300 people (and just as many motorcycles) for afternoon performances by Card Sound Machine, the in-house honky-tonk band for the past 27 years. Expect to see clogging and line dancing, and arrive by 1:00 p.m. if you want a table. The low-rent digs—patio-style chairs and tables, plastic forks and knives—just add to Jack’s gritty charm. Pop outside for perfect views of the gorgeous two-story mangroves lining the canal, but go heavy on the mosquito repellent.
58000 Card Sound Road
Homestead, FL 33030
Play: What could be more manly than playing Doral's Blue Monster ? (No laying up on 18 though).
New Orleans LA
The American Sector , New Orleans LA
Why it’s nominated: For its updated American comfort food dishes—some based on military meals—served inside The National World War II Museum.
What they make: To understand The American Sector’s menu, you have to know executive chef John Besh’s backstory. During the first Gulf War, Besh spent his days patrolling the Kuwait-Saudi border as a Marine. At night, in his tent, he scribbled down recipe ideas, which he kept for a restaurant he wanted to open when he returned home. No, Besh isn’t serving MRE’s at Sector. He’s reinventing American classics: Short rib “Sloppy Joes” on Kaiser rolls. Housemade bologna with spicy chow-chow relish. Even rabbit pate served in a vessel reminiscent of a ration tin. For the kids? Grilled cheese in a throwback lunch box. For the adults? Vintage cocktails ranging from Singapore Slings to Planter’s Punches. Everybody’s happy.
The scene: The American Sector has an industrial vibe, with polished steel, exposed light bulbs, and artwork of vintage airplanes lining the walls. A rectangular bar holds its position in the middle of the restaurant, from where servers pick up Tiki drinks and balance them on trays with beef tongue sandwiches and mason jars filled with pickles. Families filter in from the museum during daytime hours and the bar fills up with downtown suits during happy hour.
Quote: “We cook fun, rustic food for heroes. Enough said,” says John Besh.
The take home: Making onion rings at home? Besh says: “As a Southerner, I’d be remiss if I didn’t think that Georgia’s Vidalia onion is perhaps the best variety of onion for a ring. Mainly in part due to their fleshy texture and so-sweet flavor.”
945 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA, 70130
Casamento's , New Orleans LA
Why it’s nominated: It’s been family-owned since 1919 and, like a fine wine, Neil Young’s music, or your money market account, this place only improves with time. Think of it as a living lesson of dedication.
What they make: Fried catfish dinners, fried chicken, oyster stew, raw oysters, seafood gumbo, fried soft shell crabs, six-layer chocolate cake, and—true to their Italian origins—a damn good plate of spaghetti and meatballs. But the main event here is Casamento’s oyster loaf. The chef takes two thick pieces of Texas toast, browns them over an open flame, and then dresses them with a sluice of mayo and bracing pickles. Between the slices go a pile of local oysters, breaded in cornmeal and fried in lard. The crunch from the toast, the juiciness of the fresh oysters, the creaminess of the pickles—this is Gulf Coast eating at its finest.
The scene: CJ Casamento owns the place now. He inherited Casamento’s from his grandfather, Joe, who built the building and covered it with white and green Italian tile. It’s like eating at the bottom of a swimming pool, says CJ, but, hey, it makes the place easy to clean. This is a no-tablecloth, down-home, southern-hospitality NOLA joint, so relax. There’s no rush. Just take it all in.
Quote: “We’re not fine dining anything like that, it’s basically like a neighborhood restaurant with a family atmosphere,” says Casamento.
4330 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA, 70115
Parkway Bakery & Tavern , New Orleans LA
Why it’s nominated: We’re well aware this is going to rile up some locals, but here goes: This place has the best po’boys in all of NOLA. Grab a stool, order a large shrimp and an Abita, and you’ll see things our way.
What they make: The po’boy has become the Philly cheesesteak of New Orleans—only a few places do it right, but every monkey’s uncle says they serve the best. The sandwich, a thick French roll split and stuffed with roast beef or something fried and scattered with lettuce, tomato, and mayo, is as crave-inducing as it sounds, but only when done right. Here’s a general rule: If a place says they sell the best of anything, they don’t. The only boasting Parkway does is on their menu, which is stuffed with po’boy varieties including (but not limited to): fried shrimp, fried catfish, grilled alligator sausage, corned beef, BBQ beef, fried potato, grilled ham, turkey breast, or hamburger. Every roll is baked on site and ordering a large will put you out of commission for the rest of the afternoon.
The scene: It’s crowded during peak hours for the right reason: Locals are craving some legit grub instead of point-and-shoot-laden tourists hoping to buy a T-shirt after stumbling out of the French Quarter. Parkway offers ample seating, either the sit-down restaurant inside, or outside on the patio on the off chance that a breeze is gliding down Hagan Avenue. If you can find space to rest your elbows on the table, we suggest planting them down and tackling the po’boy two-handed. You’re going to make a mess, and probably end up over-indulging, but that’s what New Orleans is all about, isn’t it?
Quote: “We’re exclusively a po’boy shop. We don’t do anything else. We don’t need to,” says Jay Nix, Parkway’s owner.
538 Hagan Ave
New Orleans, LA 70119
Play: The previous site of the Zurich Classic, English Turn Golf & Country Club , is an exacting Jack Nicklaus layout. Its mature oaks and plantation-style elegance survived Katrina quite nicely. Tiered greens, forced carries, water on every hole and a relentless, tournament-deciding final hole—471 yards into the wind—create all the drama you need. [ T&L Golf ]
Highlands Bar & Grill , Birmingham AL
Why it’s nominated: It takes a chef with rare confidence and ability to successfully marry the south side of Birmingham with the south of France. The result? One of the South’s finest restaurants, complete with the kind of bar that could make better men of us all.
What they make: Owner and head chef Frank Stitt could have rested on the laurels of 10 James Beard nominations, including three straight for Outstanding Restaurant, the highest honor in the business. Lucky for you, Alabama’s native son continues to innovate, adding Southern-inspired touches like Chilton County peach marmalade to French staples like foie gras. Local flavors include stone-ground organic grits, baked with sautéed mushrooms, country ham, Parmesan cheese, and served in a butter sauce with sherry vinegar and wine. For our money, however, you can’t beat the hickory grilled beef filet, served with wilted greens and new potatoes roasted in duck fat. If those decisions sound tough, wait until you crack the 20-page wine menu. Rather than fret over the vino, take Stitt’s advice and go with the Alabama Sunset, a signature cocktail made with crushed blackberries, brandy, and Prosecco.
The scene: Don Draper would beam with pride at the spectacular sight of the Highland’s massive bar, a wide horseshoe-shaped slab of three-inch Alabama white marble where bookies once conducted business over muddled, ice-cold martinis. Men in business suits still congregate daily for happy hour, as bartenders in starched white shirts and dark ties hand-shuck oysters and mix cocktails amidst the aroma of fresh-squeezed oranges and lemons. Couples, meanwhile, retreat to the relative quiet of the adjacent dining room with its wide mirrors and authentic vintage French posters.
2011 11th Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35205
Play: You're right in the heart of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (named Best Buddy Trip by numerous golf mags), so head out of Birmingham on I-20 towards Silver Lakes GC in Glencoe, with three 9's named Backbreaker, Mindbreaker, and Heartbreaker , playing to slopes as high as 151. The par 4's are particularly nasty, with uphill forced tee carries as a main feature. The Backbreaker/ Mindbreaker combo was named the #22 Toughest Course in America by Golf Digest 2007: "The first of three courses on our list from Alabama's mighty, merciless Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. The names of the nines say it all. There's also a third nine, called the Mindbreaker. When we played here, we thought of some other names for these courses, too."
Kuma's Corner , Chicago IL
Why it’s nominated: Succulent ground beef burgers made fresh; unexpected harmonies among the moshpit of flavors mashed together—all formed in the crucible of creation long before boutique burger trend was given birth. Plus, hefty doses of gnarly heavy metal.
What they make: At Kuma's, a steely stomach’s a prerequisite, whether you've chosen the Lair of the Minotaur (caramelized onions, pancetta, brie, bourbon-soaked pears), the Iron Maiden (avocado, cherry peppers, pepper jack cheese, chipotle mayo), or the Plague Bringer (roasted garlic mayo, tortilla strips, house made hot sauce, fresh garlic, pepper jack cheese, sliced jalapenos). Come to think of it, a defibrillator might not hurt, either.
The scene: Some restaurants are meant for contemplative moments, polite conversation, and maybe a nice cold glass of Chablis. Kuma's Corner is not one of these restaurants. Consider the gruff ground rules you'll find placarded on menus and throughout the propaganda, from the warning that the establishment's proprietors—bearing the requisite tattoos, piercings, and road-weary comportment—will not "put on the game bro," to the opprobrium on music requests. Then there's the music itself, a thick carpet of aggressively loud sound, all of it angry and most of it drawn from the darkest reaches of the heavy metal canon. Would the gentleman like some Sabbath with his Slayer? Kuma's corner isn't for dates (unless she has some serious tattoos), and it most certainly isn't for business (unless, you know, you're one of several death metal bands that frequent the place). It's a mess hall for demons, an evil temple to the manliest food in America, a haunt for axemen, bikers, and groupies. Come get some.
Quote: From Kuma’s Corner’s website, explaining the restaurant’s name: “As the Tyrant’s eyes flickered red and hooks spewed forth from his hands and horns from his ears, Kuma now knew her opponent. As the Tyrant reeled to strike, Kuma reacted. With a flash of insight and the knowledge of the world, Kuma used the last of her powers to transform into an Akita. Lunging at her foe, she took a chunk from his steel clad neck. The bite was so strong and deep it tore out the tyrants spine, with the brain still attached.”
2900 West Belmont Avenue
Chicago, IL 60618-5804
The Publican , Chicago IL
Why it’s nominated: An ambitious recreation of an old-school public house, The Publican is whatever you want it to be. An impressive restaurant to share a seafood platter on a second date? Check. Pre-game beer bar for pork rinds and obscure Belgian ale before you hit United Center? Check. Serious carnivorous destination with plenty of “nose-to-tail” options? You got it.
What they make: Start with the seafood half of the menu—plenty of simple, gutsy options like halibut crudo, fried smelts, and shrimp boil. Then move on to the meat: Unfussy but expertly cooked versions of blood sausage, spicy steak tartare, country ribs, and ham steak “in hay”—all made with meat from local, sustainable farms. And don’t forget to order the pork rinds (“They’re our ode to spicy Cheetos,” says Chef Brian Huston). And don’t forget to ask resident beer geek Michael Machavina for some beer advice—they’ve got at least 12 beers on draft and 70 choices by the bottle. “We think food goes better with beer than with wine,” Huston says.
The scene: Throwback but modern. The walls are covered with illustrations of pigs, the spherical lamps that hang from the ceiling are inspired by old taverns, but the place feels fresh. Booths line the sides of the space, while the center bar area is filled with counter-height tables. “It’s a great mix of people who are either going to a game or having an anniversary,” says Huston. “At those standup tables, you often see two groups sharing a table. The best is when they start eating off each other plates.” The price point is also carefully calibrated: “My friends don’t need to have a date. They can come in and have a beer or mussels and not break the bank.”
Quote: “It’s basically a beer hall, but a modern one,” says Huston.
837 West Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607
Play: It's hosted the PGA Tour for years, and it doesn't get much longer or tougher than Cog Hill's #4 Dubsdread course .
Ole's Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge , Paxton NE
Why it’s nominated: Most bars decorate the walls with sports memorabilia. Not Ole’s. The former barkeep and owner, Ole Herstedt, has his place decked out in more than 200 taxidermy trophies of animals he killed and brought back to his small-town bar.
What they make: At face value Ole’s is a meat and potatoes joint, but dive into the menu and you’ll see a broad, diner-style selection. Among the offerings are a BLT, turkey melt, Cajun chicken pasta, shrimp salad, and Rocky Mountain oysters. That said, it’s the fried chicken, burgers, and steaks that keep the local corn and cattle community coming back to fill their guts.
The scene: Paxton is a town of about 600 people, located between the North and South Platte Rivers. Ole grew up there and won the bar on a bet with some old boy from Julesburg, CO. In 1988, he sold the place to Tim Holzfaster, who converted one room to a kitchen but preserved everything else—the stuffed animals, vinyl-covered booths, and of course, Ole’s prize-winning bar. Until shortly before his death in 1996, Ole used to sit at that bar with a Seagram’s VO and Coke, regaling customers with stories from his hunts. The man himself is gone, but his legacy is still the driving force behind everything in the restaurant. On a typical night the bar’s lined with local corn farmers with fond memories of Ole. Just ask and they’ll tell you all about him.
Quote: “Ole’s is really a museum to the American sportsman; I’m just the curator now,” says Holzfaster. “The atmosphere is the same today as it was 75 years ago. There’s nothing fancy about it.”
123 N. Oak Street
Paxton, NE 69155
Play: It's a half hours' hike from Ole's, but it's a flat no-traffic drive to Bayside GC ( , Brule). The front nine is a bayside, windswept links, while the back climbs into the hills with breathtaking, dramatic hole designs with manly names like "Forever" and "Humility".
Jethro's BBQ , Des Moines IA
Why it’s nominated: But rarely can you stare down as intimidating as Jethro's four-pound sandwich” should be “But rarely can you stare down a sandwich as intimidating as Jethro's four-pound behemoth.
What they make: The brisket, baby-back ribs, smoked chicken and other stand-bys are slow-cooked in a 750-pound wood-fired smoker—18 hours, in the case of the pulled pork—and brushed with one of a dozen or so homemade BBQ sauces. But the headliner is the aforementioned four-pound “Adam Emmenecker”, named after a former Drake University hardcourt star who frequented Jethro's during his playing days. The sandwich is piled a foot high with tenderloin, ground chuck, brisket, applewood bacon, buffalo chicken tenders, fried cheese, melted cheddar cheese and white cheddar sauce. Jethro’s makes a damn good plate of wings, too, for the less ambitious.
The scene: The owners say Jethro Bodine of “Beverly Hillbillies” fame fled the smog of L.A. in 2008 to open a smokehouse and sports bar, complete with yokel décor, in Des Moines' hip Drake neighborhood. If you count a jersey or two in your weekly wardrobe or brought a transistor radio to your sister's wedding, you'll feel right at home at Jethro's. The place is packed with big-screen TVs, each with its own satellite beaming in matches from around the world. And check out the Wall of Shame covered floor to ceiling with the bloated, disgraced faces of the hundreds who failed the Emmenecker challenge. There’s agony in defeat, but glory in the attempt.
Quote: “What we try to do—and I think we accomplish very well—is bring a real barbecue feel with a sports bar theme,” Iannarelli says.
3100 Forest Ave.
Des Moines, IA 50311
Play: The Legacy GC is nestled within beautiful central Iowa rolling terrain with water hazards on 9 holes and risk/reward par-5's.
The Gopher Bar , East St. Paul MN
Why it’s nominated: Coney Island hot dogs slathered with meat sauce, cheap pitchers of beer, and their curt slogan: "Sit down, shut up and wait your f*cking turn.”
What they make: There’s your typical dive bar fare: tostadas, French fries, fried ravioli, jalapeno poppers, and so on. But the famous Coney Island dog is the main event, topped with mustard, meat sauce, and onions. The dog’s inside a grilled bun and served on a paper boat. Order it “wit cheese” for the full, wonderful, caloric-bomb experience.
The scene: Don’t expect respect. "No f-ing checks," "No f-ing credit cards," read the signs behind the bar. "Good shit?" owner George Kappas might ask as you polish off a Coney. Locals watch Twins games on a pair of TVs and take photos of themselves under a giant moose head. This place isn’t for tourists and it’s not for dates. It’s for chowing down and drinking up. After a few cheap, cold ones, that’s when the Coney seems like a good idea.
Quote: Wife and co-owner Cheri Kappas makes the case for this joint in six words: “It’s a beer and shot bar.”
241 7th Street
East Saint Paul, MN 55101-2346
Play: The Ridges at Sand Creek . "A brilliant young layout. 11 holes are laid into thick woods below a ridge. The rest are links-style creations on higher, more open terrain. Sand Creek winds itself through several holes, with wetlands and well-placed bunkers in play." [ Golf Magazine ]
Dos Amigos , Odessa TX
Why it’s nominated: Ronnie Lewis, former small-time burrito vendor, grew his operation into a gigantic bull riding arena, concert venue, bar and restaurant. Yeehaw.
What they make: Green enchiladas made with fresh green chilies are the specialty of the house, along with Tex-Mex classics like burritos, enchiladas, fajitas, and nachos. There are also fried and raw oysters on the menu—which may not be the best option should you happen to be one of the bull riders in competition.
The scene: There are concerts to watch—sometimes from tables placed in the dirt, where you can drink your beer and eat cook-it-yourself ribeye off a mesquite grill. Most nights, the place is packed with denim-wearing Texans outfitted in their dancing boots, tipping back enough Lone Star to make bad ideas seem like great ones. Our best advice is to eat up, drink up, and fall in line.
Quote: “Good food and fun, bull rides, and the best live music concerts in West Texas.”
4700 Golder Ave.
Odessa, TX 79764
Play: Odessa TX isn't exactly a hotbed of golf, so brave the 22-mile trek to Ranchland Hills GC one town over in Midland. Flat West Texas vistas compliment an old school, Hogan-esque vibe, with shimmering ponds and tree-lined fairways.
Maple & Motor , Dallas TX
Why it’s nominated: Packs of guys and families alike gather inside a nondescript little building in Dallas so short and squat it looks like it has a flat-top haircut, kicking it to the jukebox and chomping thick jalapeno-cheddar burgers and brisket sandwiches.
What they make: There’s fried baloney, brisket sandwiches, and, of course, burgers cooked on a seasoned griddle and topped with a thick slab of bacon, cheddar and jalapenos. Burgers come “pink” or “not pink.” We recommend pink. And don’t let the snarky menu fool you—this place takes their burgers seriously. It’s rare that you find a dive bar that sears their burgers in clarified butter.
The scene: The co-owner, Jack Perkins, looks like The Dude from The Big Lebowski. And he has attitude—he’s known for personally firing back against customers’ negative Yelp reviews. You can bring your family, but a sign warns that “all unattended children will be given a cup of espresso.” You’d be just as likely to see a biker, or a bunch of dudes throwing back pints of PBR and feasting upon burgers after a baseball game. Amidst the classic neon beer signs, an old-school jukebox, and the BS-ing going on around the bar, you’ll feel like ordering another round. And another...
Quote: “The place is a throwback to a cleaner, simpler time. Every bite is designed to spark a memory of the best times of your life,” says Perkins.
4810 Maple Ave.
Bob's Steak & Chop House , Dallas TX
Why it’s nominated: It’s a classic steak joint where rich men with outsized egos feast upon hunks of prime beef with beautiful women of almost unfair proportions. It’s Texas, in every sense of the word.
What they make: Bone-in rib eyes, porterhouses, and New York strips broiled at 1,100°F, until the crust has crisped, the flavorful fat has melted, and the flesh has become so tender you barely have to chew. And—just in case, you needed a little something extra to nosh on—there’s a centerpiece of whole pickles at every table. Speaking of pickling, the drinks aren’t bad either.
The scene: You will see someone famous at Bob’s. And if you do not, you will certainly see someone who’s very rich. Business moguls, athletes, and oilmen all settle behind the crisp, white linens with tumblers of liquor the same color as the dark wood lining the dining room. But Bob’s isn’t snooty. The real business here is eating. Do that well and you’ve earned your reservation.
Quote: “We’ve been around since 1993 and everything about us is still big and bold,” says Ken Kuczwaj says, manager of the original Bob’s.
4300 Lemmon Avenue
Dallas, Texas, 75219
Play: Local Tour pro Hunter Mahan digs Dallas National GC , a Tom Fazio design. "The best thing about it is the landscape. Most of Dallas is flat, but this course has beautiful elevation changes. It's also one of the best-conditioned courses I've played, and it has a real low-key club atmosphere."
El Guero Canelo , Tuscon AZ
Why it’s nominated: Incredible, family-recipe Tex-Mex dishes and the best Sonoran hot dogs north of the border. Plus, the occasional live mariachi band.
What they make: The menu’s simple. There are char-grilled quesadillas, burritos with cabbage and beans, tortas, and the legendary Sonoran hot dog. If you’re unfamiliar, a Sonoran is a hot dog, wrapped in bacon, stuffed inside a large, soft Mexican roll and adorned with jalapeno sauce, mayo, chopped tomatoes, beans, avocado, mustard and more. The Contreras family prides themselves on fresh ingredients (no canned refried beans here, buddy). Dishes are scattered with grilled green onions, thinly sliced fresh radishes, minced cilantro, and wedges of bright-green limes. Think of it as an artist’s palette for your palate.
The scene: When El Guero Canelo first opened in 1993, it was a taco stand barely bigger than most Tex-Mex restaurants’ storerooms. That’s where owner Daniel Contreras developed his unique approach to carne asada and perfected the rest of his recipes. The clientele soon followed and Contreras expanding his stand to include a shaded seating area, a storefront painted in the colors of the Mexican flag, and a toppings bar. You’ll stand in line, yes, but while doing so you’ll also meet locals during their food breaks, tourists passing through, and maybe even a member of the Contreras family, who still own and operate the place.
Quote: “We serve good food in big portions. Just look at our Very Mucho Burrito—a lot of men have a hard time finishing it,” says Contreras.
5201 S 12th Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85706
Play: It's a big ticket greens fee, but there's no more manly test than Dove Mountain's Saguaro and Tortolita nines , used for the World Golf Match Play Championships. Tough Jack Nicklaus desert target holes and severly undulating greens compliment course conditions that have been compared to Augusta National (no easy task in the Arizona desert).
The Salt Lick BBQ , Driftwood TX
Why it’s nominated: BBQ bonafides are subjective, with consensus scattered into fierce factions—the vinegar zealots, the dry-rubbers, the tomato-based titans; even the South Carolinian mustard mavens. Yet many of the country’s finest practitioners of the craft agree that the Texas Hill Country region houses an unparalleled collection of greats, and that the Salt Lick’s succulent sausages, brisket, and ribs are especially worth the trip.
What they serve: The Texas-bound traveler’s first chance at a Salt Lick bite comes as a test of sorts, thanks to a branch the Roberts family has set up in Austin’s Bergstrom Airport. But while the aromas of brisket and sausages and BBQ tacos (tacos?) might beckon, the savvy pilgrim abstains, making instead the trek to The Salt Lick’s Hill Country outpost, about 45 minutes outside of Austin. There, the all-you-can-eat family platter offers an earthly version of gustatory transcendence: dry-rubbed ribs, red-ringed brisket, and sausages, all smoked over live oak with maybe some pecan shells or hickory thrown in for a kick. Hell, even the turkey—normally a bit player—holds its own at Salt Lick, and the sides aren’t afterthoughts, either. And while gorging here might hasten the day you’ll meet your maker, some pleasures in life are worth paying for later. For now, settle into a picnic table, grab a plastic fork, and enjoy.
The scene: In 1967, Thurman Roberts, built a barbecue pit with his two sons. Roberts cooked up giant batches of barbecue and wouldn’t return home until everything was sold. Slowly, his customer base and his barbecue pit expanded. Today, large circular smoking pits feed the armies of BBQ fanatics that flock to The Salt Lick’s large communal tables—parishioners at the temple of American BBQ.
Quote: “The burnt ends of the brisket—a work of true, true poetry—crispy, creamy, chewy, salt and sweet,” says Adam Richman, host of Man vs. Food, in reference to The Salt Lick BBQ.
18300 FM 1826
Driftwood, TX 78619
Play: Driftwood is on the outskirts of Austin, a great town for both golf and partying. Tee it up at Barton Creek's Fazio Canyons Course . Fazio routed it through a series of deep limestone canyons with water on most holes, as well as native grasses, wildflowers, and thick woods.
Los Angeles CA
Animal , Los Angeles CA
Why it’s nominated: Because the owners of this restaurant can get away with charging $35 for a Spam burger. And it’s worth it.
What they make: Animal, as its name suggests, is a carnivore’s paradise. Chefs and co-owners Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo aren’t afraid to serve any part of anything below us on the food chain. Given the time of year, the seasonal menu may contain any of the following: pig tails, pig ears, veal brains, rabbit legs, bone marrow, lamb neck, sweetbreads, quail, foie gras, and, yes, Spam. And if you’re still somehow unimpressed, consider their spin on poutine: French fries topped with rich oxtail gravy and cheddar cheese.
The scene: The walls are bare white. The tables are brown. The décor is nondescript. It’s been like this since 2008 when Animal opened, and the biggest complaint from diners is “it’s too loud.” The better to issue wall-resounding moans of satisfaction, we say. Either that or low growls should someone try to eat off of our plate.
Quote: “We get more girls that dine here than guys. That’s why this is the manliest restaurant,” says Shook.
435 N. Fairfax
Los Angeles, CA, 90036
Father's Office , Los Angeles CA
Why it’s nominated: Arguably the best burger in Los Angeles served alongside a lengthy list of craft brews at two perennially packed outposts.
What they make: A damn good burger. One and only one: the Office Burger. And don’t try to change a thing because menu alterations will be politely declined. Father’s Office owner Sang Yoon spent years traveling around the country trying different burger variations before he came up with his proprietary dry-aged ribeye blend, which is topped with caramelized onions, a thick bacon compote, plus some Gruyere and Maytag blue cheese. And what’s especially interesting about this burger is that it’s served atop a French baguette-esque sub-shaped roll, so it looks like a sandwich more than a burger. There are also lamb skewers, oatmeal stout ribs, and because you’re going to be thirsty from that salty, unctuous, cheesy, bacon-y burger situation, why not tap into the bevy of esoteric craft beers offered both on draft and in bottle?
The scene: It depends on which Father’s Office outlet you choose to visit. The original Santa Monica location is nowhere near as shmancy as the newer Culver City space. It’s more like a divey college bar than anything else—minus the exceptional brews (over two dozen on tap) on offer. There’s seasoned wood from heat to toe, it’s cramped, and you will probably want to arrive at 5:00 p.m. sharp to score actually seatage—bar or table. Meanwhile, Father’s Office in Culver City is much more spacious and hipstered-out, there’s that same seasoned wood in a more slick and modern setting.
Quote: “Father’s Office appeals to men because the largest growing segment of craft beer drinkers is women,” says Father’s Office owner Sang Yoon.
3229 Helms Ave.
Los Angeles, CA, 90034
Osteria Mozza , Los Angeles CA
Why it’s nominated: Rustic Italian fare that focuses on the whole animal—from intestine to kidney to ears—served within a space best fit for classy dates or power lunches.
What they make: Don’t come here looking for family-style Italian. This is a different beast conceived by power trio Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Los Angeles’ queen of pastry, Nancy Silverton. Start at the mozzarella bar, where fresh mozzarella is served in a slew of preparations. Then move on to Mozza’s antipasti, which include crispy pig trotters, calf’s liver over polenta, and tripe Parmigiana. If you’re feeling pasta, there’s calf’s brain ravioli, but safer options exist, too, such as duck ragu over gnocchi. Round out your meal with a porcini-encrusted rib eye and call it a night. A good night.
The scene: Dress well, because while L.A. is mostly a casual dining out city, khakis and cashmere dominate this scene. Osteria Mozza is both tasteful and elegant in its simplicity. It feels intimate, but not too intimate. Two reasons to come early: 1) You’ll want to grab a glass of Italian vino pre-dinner and hang at Mozza’s sleek white marble bar, and 2) this place is a mob scene, and chances are your table won’t be ready just yet.
Quote: "Dark wood, leather banquets, giant steaks, pigs feet and rock n' roll—that’s what makes Mozza manly,” says Nancy Silverton.
6602 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Hatfield's , Los Angeles CA
Why it’s nominated: A Melrose Avenue restaurant that is—shockingly—about the food instead of the people who come to eat it. And that food is damn delicious.
What they make: The husband/wife duo Quinn and Karen Hatfield moved their eponymous restaurant to this growing center of culinary gravity to stretch out a bit, and promptly set about resisting the pop-up, quick-serv, Twitter-tracked food truck trends that have been dominating the Los Angeles scene. Quinn runs the kitchen (he’s also a competitive track cyclist, you should know), and Karen handles desserts. She might even bring you your vesper Martini, if you’re lucky. And like any power couple, the Hatfield’s know how to entertain.The food’s well-priced: No $78 steaks here. Try the charred octopus salad, Berkshire pork ravioli, the goat cheese agnolotti, or maybe the Wagyu flatiron steak and beef short rib combo if you’re feeling bold. There’s more than enough to melt in your mouth—maybe the foie, or the semifreddo at dessert?—and the focus stays where it belongs, on the food that’s in front of you, not the glittery excess at the periphery.
The scene: Set aside the taco trucks and the Korean BBQ joints for a minute and consider the gastronomic landscape of Los Angeles: nobody cares about the food, at least not as much as they care about themselves. Sure, celebrity profiles might start, as a rule, with the starlet gingerly nibbling her chevre and endive salad. But the scene’s the thing, more often than not, and the grub—especially at the nicer spots—too often sits outside of the spotlight, an understudy, a B-list actor, the sidekick to the hum and buzz and din and frisson of ego and lighting and—hey, is that DJ in the corner? Not at Hatfield’s. An understated, but highly decorated, outpost on Melrose, Hatfield’s is the place you go in Los Angeles to impress a date. The tables aren’t on top of each other; the art’s good but not distracting; the demure honeycomb light fixtures kick off just enough lumens to put you both in the mood for some grub, and maybe more.
Quote: “I grew up in the South and at home, we always had our own vegetables, homemade bread and the freshest ingredients around,” says Quinn Hatfield. “Now, I try to incorporate that into my cooking by using seasonal California ingredients.”
6703 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA, 90038
Salt's Cure , Los Angeles CA
Why it’s nominated: A small restaurant with big flavor, largely derived from an abundance of house-cured meats and the best pretzel in all of Los Angeles.
What they make: You think you like protein? Chris Phelps and Zak Walters, co-owners of Salt’s Cure, prize the stuff more than a Playboy stolen from dad at age 15. These guys smoke and salt everything from salmon to yellowtail, pig to cow. Their DIY approach extends to that jar of pickled farmers market veggies poised on the bar top, the cuts of meats behind the restaurant’s own butcher shop, and that glorious aforementioned salted soft pretzel.
The scene: Not only is Zak and Chris’ kitchen their laboratory, it’s their demonstration space, too. The best seats in the house circle the open kitchen, where diners can watch the chefs’ meticulous preparations. Long skinny blades slice through the daily raw fish selection. Cleavers divide bone. Paring knifes flit through fresh produce. The experience is gladiatorial, leaving you to feast upon the spoils.
Quote: “We aren't afraid to be feminine,” say owners Chris Phelps and Zak Walters, referring their restaurant’s pickling practices. “That’s what makes us manly.”
7494 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Play: Angeles National was nominated to several Best New Course lists when it debuted in 2008, and is a favorite "hidden gem" of several actors including Will Farell. The golf course is wide and rolling, a desert-style layout where water comes into play on four holes thanks to two lakes. In a rarity of Los Angeles golf, there are no homes or structures flanking the course, and there are surprisingly few bunkers in play – just over 50 in all. Don't get too comfortable with the lack of hazards, though. Environmentally protected areas provide for an abundance of out-of-bounds shots, so bring extra balls and be prepared to find a few extras when searching for your own. [ TravelGolf.com ]
Original Joe's , San Jose, CA
Why it’s nominated: Original Joe’s takes the Olive Garden definition of Italian food, drives it to a secluded back alley in a black car, roughs it up real good, and then makes it promise never to spit on the authenticity of the cuisine ever again.
What they make: Joe’s serves the kind of fare you’d find at Don Corleone’s dinner table. Baseball-sized meatballs, thick-cut lamb chops, calf’s liver with mushrooms—food that’s meant to be talked about, shared, and tasted with close family or loyal compatriots. Joe’s hasn’t told a soul about its secret red sauce recipe since they opened in 1956 and if you ask, well, don’t ask. Just eat.
The scene: Founders Louis J. Rocca, Louis J. Rocca Jr, Aurthur Tortore and Anthony Caramangno (we’re not making these named up) opened Original Joe's with a mission: Bring authentic Italian food to the South Bay. To back up their word, they went so far as to transport imported Italian bread from San Francisco to San Jose via Greyhound bus. The tuxedo-adorned servers are professionals, too, carting out armfuls of pasta-laden plates and sizzling steaks. The best part about those steaks? They were broken down by the restaurant’s in-house butcher. Because if you’re going to do something right, as you well know, you have to do it yourself.
Quote: “Joe’s is food for the soul. Some people come here their entire lives and it makes them happy,” said Chris Landon, manager and former waiter at Joe’s for 12 years. “Don’t be afraid to eat food that fills you up and makes you happy.”
Play: You're entering the biosphere of the Bay Area, some of the most expensive real estate and highest cost of living in the country. Buck up for Cinnabar Hills ($105 Prime Time, www.cinnabarhills.com ), 27 holes of classic Northern California hills and scrub trees on the Canyon and Mountain nines, with water a main feature on the Lake nine.
Hog Island Oyster Bar , Napa CA
Why it’s nominated: Shuck-your-own oysters, slurped bay-side and a grilled cheese sandwich that’s worth every hour in the gym you spend working it off.
What they make: Kumamoto, Kusshi, Shinnecock—if these words mean nothing to you, it’s time you school yourself on the fine art of raw oysters, my friend. Few foods offer such a luscious, visceral eating experience as knifing open an oyster shell and sucking the soft, salty bivalves down your gullet. Yes, they serve them baked, but Hog Island is the epicenter for some of the best-tasting raw oysters in the world. To eat them cooked would be like turning down a supermodel’s sultry invitation back to her place—you’d miss the heavenly glory of their nakedness.
The scene: Located about 50 miles north of San Francisco, Hog Island’s oyster farm sits on pristine Tomales Bay. Mounds of mussels, lobsters, and clams nestle atop beds of ice encircling the bar, but the real beauty’s outside, sitting on the picnic tables along on the coast. Grab one, breathe in the bay, and relax, for once. While the staff is on hand to help you shuck the oysters, it’s more fun to grab a shucking tool to have a go at the tasty bastards solo. You may break a sweat, but the best things in life usually involve doing so.
Quote: “He was a bold man that first eat an oyster.” —Jonathan Swift
Half the fun of eating oysters lies in cracking them open yourself. Here’s how:
1. Flip over the oyster so that it’s resting on its rounded side, with the flat side facing up.
2. Press an oyster shucking knife into the pointed end of the flat side (i.e., the hinge) until you feel the ligament pop. Use your other hand to hold the oyster with a towel to protect your skin.
3. Twist the knife and so flat end pops up.
4. Slide the knife along the underside of the flat shell until it comes off.
Marshall, CA 94940
Play: After your fill of oysters and wine, what could be more manly than teeing it up at the favorite local course of Rex Pickett, the guy who wrote the guy movie classic, Sideways . Tee it up at La Purisma . Rex says, " The fifteenth at La Purisima is one of my favorite holes in all of golf. The fifteenth itself is a serpentine par five with a tee box cloaked in a shroud of oak. The tee shot is really a layup for good players because the big dog can take them all the way into the yawning canyon that demarcates the first fairway from the second. When you ride out to the fairway on fifteen, you exit the canyon and the whole course opens up like a Monet landscape. Here at this high point, there is a view of Lompoc and the Pacific in the distance. I've experienced some late afternoons where a low-rolling phalanx of fog moved in so quickly off the frigid waters that by number sixteen I was so engulfed that I had to pick up and go in. Usually, however, I find myself bracing against a three-club wind debating my second shot, also a layup. Yes, it's a two-layup par five, and it's one of the best holes I know. On a windy day (which is nearly every day), it begins a stretch of four holes that may be one of the most punishing finishes in all of California. Number sixteen from the tips plays 436 yards straight into the teeth of the wind to a green that is guarded left, right and back by more dense scrub oak. I've laid up on my second shot there just because I was too terrified to hit a long iron into that green. Number seventeen is a relatively short downhill par three and an almost impossible club selection. It's so ridiculously hard when the wind is blowing that I've seen assistant pros rip their scorecards up after putting multiple shots over the fence and out onto Highway 246. And eighteen is another demanding par four dead into the wind."
San Francisco CA
Wayfare Tavern , San Francisco CA
Why it’s nominated: Because it’s a robber baron’s platonic ideal of a restaurant. Chef-owner Tyler Florence has created a luxurious but rough-and-tumble ode to 1895-era Americana, with top-notch versions of all-American classics like fried chicken and wooden floors made from a Kentucky tobacco barn.
What they make: A killer house burger, made from five different cuts of grass-fed, dry-aged beef and topped with a slab of Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam cheese, roasted onions, and a couple slabs of bacon—all on a specially baked brioche bun that’s a day old to improve its ability to withstand the onslaught of beefy juices. Plus other old-school classics like fried chicken (“I’d put it up against any fried chicken in the country,” Florence says), deviled eggs, and veal chops—and a range of seasonal options.
The scene: Even though the scene reeks of wealth and privilege, you feel comfortable. In the afternoon, stockbrokers crowd the bar, ordering beer and single-malt scotch. In the evening, CEO’s and food enthusiasts from across the country tuck in to a civilized (but not stuffy) meal.
Quote: “I’m a preservationist. Our country’s old enough to have its own cuisine.”
The take-home: For an unforgettable mac and cheese, do what they do at the Wayfare: Use plenty of Vella 18-month dry jack cheese plus some young jack for “stretch”, then top with panko breadcrumbs and amazing smoked olive oil from thesmokedolive.com.
558 Sacramento Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
Taqueria Cancun , San Francisco CA
Why it’s nominated: It’s been voted “best burrito” by SF Weekly 10 years running, but this hole-in-the-wall Mexicali joint offers so much more. Namely an Animal House vibe and horchata in vat-sized cups.
What they make: While other taco joints in SF serve junky America spins on Mexcian food, this place focuses on fresh ingredients. There is no bland, grainy, 85% meat ground beef here. Just tacos, burritos, and enchiladas filled with straight up carne asada, carnitas, pollo, chorizo, and—if you have the cojones—beef tongue, beef head, and beef brains. They also serve scrambled eggs with chorizo no matter what time it is. Their crispy deep-fried tostadas arrive topped with a heaping helping of citrus-tinged ceviche. And the Burrito Mojada (“The Big One”) is the size of your forearm.
The scene: Come during a weekend night to experience The Can in all its glory. It’s loud. It’s packed. You can practically smell the booze cocktail wafting from the hoards of hungry patrons waiting in line, while those lucky enough to grab elbow room at the long tables pack away burritos by the pound. Maybe it’s the location or maybe it’s just the San Franciscan locales, but you’re almost always guaranteed to witness something weird, such as a roaming underwear salesman or, if you’re luckier, the tail end of a bachelorette party night out.
Quote: “Here we use only the freshest ingredients,” said Javier Ramirez, a cook at Taqueria Cancun. “With so many taquerias in the neighborhood, it really helps us stand out from the competition.”
The take home: Most gringos warm tortillas by tossing them in the microwave, which turns the tortillas sweaty and flabby. The better bet: Heat a skillet on high and warm the tortilla until puffed, a few seconds on each side.
2288 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
Play: If Harding Park is good enough to host the President's Cup, it'll be plenty manly enough for your game.
The Brick Pig's House , Oakland CA
Why it’s nominated: Family-made barbecue served with a genuine dose of southern hospitality in the middle of Oakland. Yes, Oakland.
What they make: Hunks of brisket as big as a power lifter’s delts, racks of ribs that glisten with mahogany-colored sauce, and a peach cobbler that’s sweeter than a southern belle. And if you skip out on the coleslaw and corn muffins, we deserve to slap your momma.
The scene: It’s a take-out joint, but they do provide a few picnic tables with park benches should the sultry scent of slow-smoked barbecue cause your knees to weaken. Owners, Barry (Alex) and Carolyn Alexander may even sit down with you before your food arrives, just to keep you company. It’s the same kind of family feeling that inspires their décor: walls lined with receipts showcasing patrons’ names and college graduation majors. Just keep your sauce-stained figures off the counter when paying up—Mrs. Alexander likes to keep a clean house.
Quote: “There are about as many styles of barbecue as there are people cooking it,” said Barry Alexander. Your best bet: Order the house specialty.
5973 Shattuck Ave
Oakland, CA 94609
Play: Tilden Park is on the right side of the bay, with greens fees on the right side of the century mark.
Couloir Restaurant & Bar , Jackson Hole WY
Why it’s nominated: Unpretentious, seasonal and sustainable cuisine with the most amazing views of the Grand Teton Mountain range.
What they make: Seasonal American cuisine with a cowboy slant. The majority of the Couloir’s produce and bread is lassoed from local farmer’s markets and vendors within 250 miles of the resort. (This is the West, ya’all: 250 miles is just around the corner.) And most of their meat comes directly from the incredible Snake River Farms and Double R Ranch in Boise, Idaho. All fish is fresh and wild in order to support environmentally conscious fisheries. “I follow the river run of fish,” says Executive Chef, Wes Hamilton. “So whatever the fishermen are catching, I’m serving.” The food is prepared with little pomp and circumstance. Take the house-smoke buffalo tenderloin for example. It’s served with grilled leek, Swiss chard, and a sweet garlic puree. Needs nothing else.
The scene: Skip the fleece-lined blankets offered in the gondola ride to the restaurant and hike to the restaurant instead. Yes, it’s fancy, but this is Jackson Hole, my friend. Ski boots are passable for formal attire. Have a scotch out on the deck, and then tuck into dinner with a table as close the restaurant’s massive windows, which overlook the surrounding peaks and endless Wyoming sky. Taking a date? There’ve been more than 100 wedding proposals in the four years The Couloir has been open—and not one “No.”
Quote: “The menu is adventurous and is meant to take you out of your comfort zone— which is what Jackson Hole is all about” says Executive Chef Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Wes Hamilton.
3395 Cody Lane
Teton Village, WY 83025
Play: If it's golf season rather than ski season after you stop in for a meal at The Couloir, then play Teton Pines ($160, www.tetonpines.com ). The great outdoors, plenty of lakes, and Rocky Mountain vistas. Despite how manly you'll feel after housing a buffalo tenderloin at Couloir, you'll still feel small compared to the surrounding grandeur of Teton Pinees.
Wolf Lodge Steakhouse , Couer D'Alene, ID
Why it’s nominated: It’s a red saw mill-like wooden shack in the middle of the woods where you eat steak. What’s not to love?
What they make: At this lodge, they cook steaks over an open fire loaded with wood from the tamarack tree, a regional pine. The wood imparts an intense smokiness to meat—adding a layer of flavor even the fanciest of New York steakhouses can’t rival. Fried pickles and Rocky Mountain oysters keep the menu humble. Just remember that Rocky Mountain Oysters are not actually oysters, and that you’d best be feeling particularly, er, ballsy to try them.
The scene: A local favorite since 1939, this place started out as a convenience store, with steaks added to the menu in the 70s. Saunter in and order a pint of Moose Drool—a Montana-made beer that’s a local favorite—or a glass of house Cabernet Sauvignon to pair with your steak. The place usually has a live fire going in the colder months, but the waitresses sporting cowboy hats will keep you warm just as well.
Quote: “The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” —Julia Child
11741 E Frontage Rd
Couer D Alene, ID, 83814
Play: Skip the over-priced, over-the-top Hollywood vibe of famed nearby Couer D'Alene Resort Golf Course for the better value and more manly test at Circling Raven , about half an hour south of Coeur d'Alene on Highway 95. This Gene Bates-designed course asks you to hit driver or 3-wood over a big stretch of native grasses, wetland, a water hazard, or all of the above on many-a-hole. Clear the hazards, and numerous alternate approaches and bailout options open up. Even so, the back-tee Slope is still 144. [ Golf Digest ]
The Snake Pit , Kingston ID
Why it’s nominated: It’s a 131-year-old Idaho brothel turned family-friendly, buffalo burger–slinging bar-restaurant that’s two stories tall, right off a bike path, and looks like it should be guarded by cowboys holding shotguns.
What they make: The most popular items include buffalo burgers and North Fork burgers made with “bacon, cheese, ham, and all the garden stuff,” says owner Joe Peak. There’s also a 12-ounce top sirloin and a 16-ounce bone-in rib steak. For their centennial in 1990, they developed nachos served in a fried potato instead of over tortilla chips—with a choice of taco or fajita meat. There’s a “couple pounds of potatoes” on each plate, Peak says. Good thing this place is at the 47-mile marker of a 72-mile bike ride through the Idaho countryside.
The scene: Almost everything is wooden, with most of the chairs and tables handmade from pine, cedar, red fir and tamarack. Once upon a time, a large bull skull hung on the Snake Pit exterior, with two glowing red lights for eyes. If at least one shone into the night, a lady was available to keep you company. Now families tuck into dinner and adventuresome travelers try Rocky Mountain oysters amidst rows of antique china and faded photos.
Quote: “It’s like taking a step back 100 years,” Peak says proudly. “Our food is just good wholesome food.”
1480 Coeur Dalene River Road
Kingston, ID 83839
Play: It's not far from Coeur d'Alene to the Snake Pit, but let's stay local after filling your gullet with buffalo burger. Tee it up at local Galena Ridge , part of the Silver Mountain Resort ( www.silvermt.com ). It's only a 9-holer, but it's a top-shelf, quintessential mountain layout built into the rolling foothills of the Rockies, with great conditions and unbelievable panoramas. Stay at the resort and kill a day at their indoor waterpark.
Mike's Tavern Chili Parlor , Seattle WA
Why it’s nominated: This old-school Seattle chili parlor is known for chili and beer. There’s not much more a man needs.
What they make: Beef chili is cooked with a family-protected secret spice mix. It’s then poured on top of cooked red beans and strewn with cheddar, onions, and pickled jalapenos. Order it in a bowl, on top of a mound of fries, or piled inside a burger. Mike Semandiris—the great-grandson of the guy with the same name who built the place—and his dad Phil are the only ones who know the recipe. It’s not written down, and they won’t fly on the same airplane, says Semandiris. Seriously.
The scene: It’s been a working man’s bar since the original Mike Semandiris built it in 1939. It’s a place where locals eat elbow-to-elbow at the long wooden bar or in red leather booths, swapping stories as they dig into huge bowls of chili.
Quote: “We get people rolling in for lunch—fisherman, men at the mill—coming by for beer after work. It’s a Cheers-y atmosphere,” says Semandiris. “We know them, they all know us.”
1447 NW Ballard Way
Seattle, WA 98107
Matt's In The Market , Seattle WA
Why it’s nominated: No protein passes through the hands of Chef Chester Gerl’s without adopting big, bold flavors and gutsy presentation. We’re talking lamb gleaming ruby-red and stacked four to a plate and whole fish staring you down on the plate.
What they make: Matt’s chef Chester Gerl pulls no punches. He’ll serve you a stew laced with absinthe, that whole eyes-and-all fish plated as if it were still swimming, pasta with lamb’s neck, or a thick slab of house-made head cheese—a kind of meat jelly made from the head of a pig. Delicious, if you have the chops to try it.
The scene: Some chefs sling the word “local” like it’s just another adjective, bending the definition at will. Matt’s sits smack dab in the middle of Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the warm red glow of the Public Market Center sign flowing through the tall arched windows of the dining room as vendors bustle below. Gerl is the modern equivalent of our ancient hunter/gatherer ancestors, raiding the market daily for fresh food and inspiration that he serves to his loyal patrons without the pomp and circumstance of chefs who only dream of defining “local” the way he does.
Quote: “We are a guys’ restaurant for sure. Lots of protein to be had,” says Gerl.
94 Pike St #32
Seattle, WA 98101-2066
Play: White Horse GC in Indianola, across Puget Sound from Seattle. Think 'Pacific Northwest golf', and this is what you picture. Ancient towering pines, big mountain vistas, and clean fresh air.
Fat Guy's Manliest Restaurants in the U.S.
First off, let me preface my nominations by saying that I agree wholeheartedly with the Men's Health Manliest Restaurant winner, Primanti Bros. in Pittsburgh. There is no more manly spot or better post-bar food out there, anywhere, period. I was also shocked they managed to ferret out one of my local Philly area faves, the grill-your-own Tiki Bar .
Now, on to my own nominations.
Ancor Bar, Buffalo NY. The origin of the Buffalo wing.
Minetta Tavern , NYC, NY. One of New York's best steakhouses, in a former speakeasy, with an upscale but unstuffy atmosphere in a former speakeasy. The burgers are some of the best in the world, and the steaks are even better.
Pat's/Geno's Steaks - South Philly PA. Sure, everyone's heard of them, and it's touristy. But done right, this is almost more about the experience than the food. Ever taken a cab straight from a Philly bar over to Pat's or Geno's with your buddies at 2:45 AM on a windy Saturday night in February? Ever stood in line with the shoveled snow piled up on the edge of the sidewalk for a half hour in a casual jacket too light for deep winter, bouncing up and down and blowing on your hands to keep warm? Ever gotten in a verbal sparring match with the obnoxiously drunk 22-year-old ripped shaved-head South Philly Guido in line behind you, convinced you were going to end up in the hospital, only to somehow end up laughing and shaking hands with the guy? Ever stood leaning up against the building trying to hold half of a rapidly disintegrating cheesesteak with one hand and eat with the other because all the tables were taken at 3:30 AM, and not really caring you were getting it all over your trendy jacket? Then pass out in a cab afterwards and wake up much later with the meter still running in front of your door? That's what Pat's and Geno's are really about. It's as much about the late night experience and drunken crowds as the cheesesteaks. On a sunny summer Friday afternoon, it's just another tourist sandwich.
Christine's Cabaret & Steakhouse (Philadelphia, www.christinescabaret.com ). Where else can you get a great steak served on white table cloths in a classy room with deep round booths while looking out at some fine, barely-clad feminine talent (OK, besides in Vegas)? Christine's features New Vegas decor, tastefully lit bars, classy private areas, and the steakhouse has soundproof walls to dampen the bass thump.
Chickie & Pete's , South Philly PA. Named the #1 Sports Bar In North America by ESPN 2011, in the neighborhood where Rocky was filmed, bellied up elbow-to-elbow with the most passionate/obnoxious/cynical fans in the country, great Buffalo chicken fingers and crab fries, and it's only driver-wedge from the Philly stadium complex.
Coney Island Hot Dog , Johnstown PA. If you're here, you're probably with me and just closed a bar in my hometown. I'll put their dogs--piled high with chili, mustard, and bitter onions--up against anyone's, but it's the Sundowner that's the real post-last-call treat: A burger topped with the same condiment combo, plus a fried egg.
Gray's Coors Tavern , Pueblo CO. Head for Gray's Coors Tavern in Pueblo and o rder a Slopper. Imagine a fried burger bun, piled with anywhere from 2-6 real beef burger patties (your choice), topped with melted cheese and Gray's red or spicier green chile sauce, and served in a bowl with a spoon. Per our 300-pound bartender/waiter dude, "Pueblo is a green chile kinda town," so go local and order the green. It's like authentic-Mexican-Hamburger-Helper-on-steriods, and may have been the best meal I had in Pueblo. In addition, the old school bar at Gray's extends the length of the narrow downtown building, with as much character as any big-city brownstone dive bar .
Wynn Las Vegas' Country Club Bar, Las Vegas NV. Probably the best 19th hole in the country. Imagine a perfect uncrowded grill room overlooking a 38-foot waterfall behind an emerald 18th green, being served by one of the best/coolest bartenders you've ever met, and oh yeah, the joint is also one of Vegas' best steakhouses... and then Mariah Carey walks in. It's happened .
Cathouse Bistro and Lounge @ Luxor , Las Vegas NV. T he only spot in Vegas (or maybe the world, for that matter) that fuses the decadent cuisine of Iron Chef Kerry Simon with a lingerie show, at the bordello-inspired Just try to concentrate on your dinner when the backlit frosted glass window reveals the silhouette of a gorgeous woman dressing herself in lingerie. The whole room oozes seduction . A Maxim favorite.