Best BBQ in Tuscaloosa: Archibald & Woodrow’s

April 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Matt Bell, Tyler Gobble, and I pulled into Tuscaloosa yesterday for the first stop of the Over the Top Tour just in time for our stomachs to start gnoshing on themselves. Fourth tour mate Brian Oliu, having now lived in the Tusc for about 5 years, has had plenty of time to survey the various BBQ offerings of the city, and promptly took us to his favorite: Archibald & Woodrow’s Barbeque.

Legit

I forgot my camera on last night’s excursion into BBQ and the Tuscaloosa literary scene, so you’re just going to have to deal with these shitty iPhone shots. Really though, as the picture above attests, this place isn’t so much about looking pretty; it’s about some damn good BBQ. And that’s what Archibald’s is. This place affords no other term than this: “Legit.”

Our server came prompt to our table to take drinks, and when I heard Brian order a “sweet tea,” my mouth went wet. How had I forgotten about southern sweet tea? It came to me in an unassuming Styrofoam cup, and I swear it tasted like I was suckling straight from the teat of the Lord. I’d sucked down 2 cups by the time my plate arrived, a “small rib mixed dinner” of 3 baby back ribs, a pile of pulled pork, mac n’ cheese, and fried green tomatoes.

Small rib mixed dinner: baby back ribs, pulled pork, and 2 sides of your choice.

The meat was dripping in a thin, tangy vinegar sauce, much different than the thicker ketchup & molasses sauces of the Midwest, and I’d argue better. It had a mild heat on it that worked perfectly with the tang and the smoke of the meat. The ribs felt apart in my hands and the pulled pork disintegrated as soon as it touched my teeth.

As for the sides, I’ve never really liked fried green tomatoes until now. I ordered them actually on a whim because they were a vegetable that wasn’t a potato, and I’m not particularly partial to collared greens. The mac n’ cheese was the creamiest I’ve ever put in my face and had a twist on its flavor that I couldn’t quite figure out.

A last rad thing about Archibald’s as a BBQ joint is they thought to offer a vegetarian plate, basically a choice of 4 sides, but it’s a demographic most BBQs overlook. Of course, a vegetarian could a la carte a dinner from their sides, but that Archibald’s thought to include it on their menu shows they’re not just about the carnivores. Luckily not the case here because Bell is a vegetarian, and still went away happy and glad and needing a cigarette.

Good work, Tuscaloosa. ROLLTIDE!

Locally Grown Gardens

March 19, 2012 § 9 Comments

That right there is pork pulled right. That right there is 1 of 2 dishes available at Locally Grown Gardens, a “year round farmers market” and eatery owned by Chef Ron Harris, who runs the joint and bakes the best damn sugar cream pie you’ve ever put in your face.

Actually, let’s be honest, he makes a lot of the best damn [insert food here] you’ve ever put in your face. Along with the above picture pulled pork, you can get the “other thing on the menu” salmon salad (another Garden-goer had ordered this and it looked amazing, but I wasn’t going to get all up in his grill with my camera), various baked goods depending on the season, produce from around Indiana, a well-stocked root beer collection, a selection of oils and vinegars and honeys and syrups and and and–basically everything stocked in this small, repurposed service station is the best of what it is. You can even grab a bundle or 4 of firewood for your next backyard campfire.

Locally Grown is right around the corner from my house at 54th & the Monon, which is at once awesome and dangerous. It’s handy for great local produce if I haven’t made it to a farmers market lately, but I basically want to spend all my money there and just have Chef cook for me all the time. I would also like to own everything in his kitchen/dining corner of the market.

Including his dining area/library/sun room.

If you’re in the south Broad Ripple area and you’ve not made it a point to stop in to LCG, get thee to there. If you haven’t had lunch or dinner yet, do so. Enjoy the reggae that Chef Harris enjoys, and chill out in the sun room and eat what he has for you. It is good. It is all so so good.

The Inspector General: Ming’s Wok, Carmel, IN

February 22, 2012 § 2 Comments

This is the first of a new series I’m calling The Inspector General, where I go in search of the best General Tso’s Chicken, and I’m starting with the first of 2 Chinese joints in the Indy area whose Tso’s I consider top of the class, 5-star Generals: Ming’s Wok in Carmel, IN. (The other is Niasa Pan-Asian Cafe in Fountain Square. Stay tuned.)

Since this is the first post, let’s get into some history a la Wikipedia:

General Tso’s chicken is a sweet and spicy, deep-fried chicken dish that is popularly served in North American Chinese restaurants. The dish was unknown in China and other lands home to the Chinese diaspora before it was introduced by chefs returning from the United States. The dish is named after General Tso Tsung-tang, or Zuo Zongtang, a Qing dynasty general and statesman, although this connection is tenuous. He is said to have enjoyed it, and perhaps helped create a dish, but there are no recorded recipes. The real roots of the dish lie in the post 1949 exodus of chefs to the United States. The dish is reported to have been introduced to New York City in the early 1970s as an example of Hunan cooking, though it is not typical of Hunanese cuisine, which is traditionally very spicy and rarely sweet. […]

Traditionally, the dish is made with dark meat chicken such as legs or thighs; however, many higher-end Chinese restaurants use boneless skinless breast meat…Traditional basic ingredients include: Sauce: soy sauce, rice wine, rice wine vinegar, sugar, cornstarch, dried red chili peppers (whole), garlic, MSG. batter/breading: egg, cornstarch. dish: Broccoli, meat (cubed).

So what are we looking for here?

We’re looking for a good sweet/tangy balance with a bit of spice, and I personally like the broccoli garnish for a little bit of veggies. I like a Tso’s that doesn’t turn into a clump of gross in my stomach, that tastes fresh and bright and isn’t a syrupy mess of consistency.

As a baseline Tso’s, Ming’s Wok delivers exactly that, and matched with their pork fried rice, it’s an easy 5-star ringer. Snag the lunch combo for $4.95, or get the dinner combo with some crab rangoon if you’re feeling Carmel-rich.

La Magie Bakery, or If You’re a Free American, The Magic Bakery

February 15, 2012 § 2 Comments

La Magie Bakery was the first place on vacation that took my pants off. Or, knocked my socks off. Or, whatever the hell that phrase is. We went there our first night in Bend, Oregon after chowing on some Soba Noodles, a rather decent Asian place that I wish existed in Indy.

Look at how shiny and new their cafe is.

La Magie is a brand-spanking-new establishment in downtown Bend — quite literally only 10-days old when we walked in the door. The lady behind the counter was regaling us with tales about the chef who had studied in France under some world renowned baker and so on: things other more reputable food bloggers would have probably taken notes on. But I couldn’t stop slobbering all over myself staring at the desserts cooler.

It was pretty well picked through by the time we got there for post-dinner dessert, but I managed to snag a slice of white chocolate and strawberry cake that had chunks of strawberry in the frosting between the layers and good God man! Britt got a brownie that even she couldn’t finish, it was so rich and had the density of a Greek god. (Are those dense? I’m assuming they were.)

Before we left that first night, the counter lady gave us some free samples of a delicious samosa, a curry puff pastry that was [insert drooling sound here], and a croissant that I saved for breakfast the next morning with a little Nutella. I’ve never had a better croissant in my life.

We went back a few days later with the excuse that I needed to shoot some photos, but really, I just wanted more La Magie.

Counter lady remembered us and was excited to see us back, saw me shooting a bunch of photos like a douche and asked if I worked for a publication. Even after I admitted that, “No, I’m just a dude with a 5 week old food blog,” she still offered to stage something for me. But, I declined because evidently I have this poor self-image thing where I don’t think I’m worth the time to actually ask someone stage something for me to photograph.

But I got a couple other decent shots, like this shot of an apple crumb cake and some brioche that we bought for breakfast the next day:

And this shot of a pastry cream swan thing that is just fucking adorable, amirite?

Only in a French bakery.

Counter lady was excited that I wanted to blog about the store, and I thought, “You’re really sweet, and my blog kind of isn’t, so I hope if you find my blog, you appreciate how much I love your store and don’t mind the fuck word.”

Lastly, from what my brother-in-law says, there’s a really high turn over rate of shops like that in Bend, so if you live in, around, or plan to visit Bend anytime soon, you had better fucking go to La Magie, because I want it to still be there the next time I visit. If you don’t, and if it is gone when I return, you are to blame, and I will fight you so hard you will die.

Bring Me Four Fried Chickens and a Coke.

January 31, 2012 § 3 Comments

I know, I know. It’s Super Bowl week, and I live in this year’s host city, so I’m supposed to be posting about Bowl party nacho cheese recipes and buffalo wings and how to make a bread bowl in the shape of a football, but you know what? I don’t give a shit about the Super Bowl. What I do give a shit about, is fried chicken. And I am not alone.

Friends and fellow co-workers, Jim Grey and Sherrel Harris, have embarked upon a mighty quest to find the best damn chicken in the state:

Sherrel visited a restaurant in southeastern Indiana that specialized in fried chicken and visited my office the next day extolling the virtues of this restaurant’s peppery chicken coating. He said, “We ought to go down there one day, you and me.” I said, “I hear there’s a tour you can make through southeastern Indiana, eating fried chicken at a bunch of different restaurants.” He said, “We ought to go all over the state eating fried chicken!” I said, “Yeah!” We began to scheme, and the Indiana Fried Chicken Tour was born.

Jim has been documenting their IFCT over at his blog Down the Road, and the latest installment is The Iron Skillet. No, not that Iron Skillet, with the truck drivers and sting of petrol at the nose, but a classy Iron Skillet that’s been putting out the poultry since 1956.

Jim talks about marinades and brines, different kinds of breading like batter and dredging. The dude knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the country fry. And they get off the beaten path, too, as evident by their visit to this fine establishment: Kountry Kitchen.

So if you live in Indiana and harbor a hard-on for the fried chicken, Jim’s IFCT travelogue is a must for you to follow. Hit it.

Road Food: Mr. Zubs in Akron, or Big, Big Hearts Beat Big, Big Beats.

January 18, 2012 § 2 Comments

Ostensibly, this post is about Mr. Zubs in Akron, Ohio. This is where Nick Sturm, organizer extraordinaire of the Big Big Mess Reading Series took Tyler Gobble, Layne Ransom, Ashley Ford, and me to stuff our stomachs with sustenance to keep us upright through the amazing evening ahead.

Mr. Zubs is a rad little sandwich shop attached at the hip to The Matinee, where you can enjoy a plethora-board of sandwiches named after various iconic movies like the Dirk Diggler (a foot-long hotdog a la Boogie Nights) or the Rick Deckard (a buffalo chicken sandwich named after the protag of Blade Runner). The menu was put together by someone with an obvious boner for typography, though I have to admit, it was a bit daunting due to the sheer size of the menu and the all-caps text. I love the look of it, but there was some readability sacrificed.

The cool part about its Siamese twin situation with The Matinee is you can get some good brew to wash down your sandwiches, which I didn’t notice until we were on our way out, but it’s okay, because I was on the hunt for bourbon. And everyone knows, no beer before liquor if you’re in for a long night.

Ashley and I both put down the above-mentioned Deckard, which was awash in a spicy good buffalo sauce and the bread was perfect. My only complaint is the chicken wasn’t apt to staying in the bun, so I kept having to stuff pieces of chicken back into the sandwich.

Tyler doubled-down with the Hightower (Police Academy), which was a monstrosity of a sandwich containing an abundance of macaroni & cheese and bacon, stuffed between two pieces of toast. Vegetarian options here are plentiful, too, as Layne and our hosts were primarily vegan/vegetarian, and all of them went away happy, though I didn’t take note of what they were scarfing.

I didn’t get any pictures of the food, because I’m new at this whole food blogging thing. Sue me.

So there it is. Mr. Zubs in Akron, OH. A perfectly sound place to get a good sandwich, beer, and some tater tots in northeastern Ohio. You can stop here if all you care about is the food. If you want to hear about the rest of the weekend’s chicanery, hit the jump.
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Soda Sommelier & Reading in Akron

January 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

This post is also a confession that I’ve recently been to Burger King.

I was just poking through my phone and found this photo from a road trip I took with my friends Tyler Gobble and Layne Ransom to the Pygmalion Music Festival. Evidently, Burger King has hired a Soda Sommelier to help customers best pair their soda choice with their Whoppers.

Two words: Triple Whopper

*

Speaking of Tyler and Layne, I will again be road tripping with them next weekend. The three of us, along with Nate Slawson, will be reading in Akron, OH for the Big Big Mess Reading series on January 14. If you’re in the area, you should come drink beer and hang out. I’ll be reading poems and stories, not recipes. I promise.

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