Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
379 Columbia St
Once in a while I come across a sandwich that becomes seared in my memory for days. Everything I look at reminds me of the amazing meal and all I can talk about is the grubbin experience. I'm happy to say this occurred this weekend after a visit to Defonte's in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Me and my HG pals made a plan to swing by Defonte's earlier in the week and I could barely contain my excitement since then. Defonte's is an old school Italian sandwich place near the water and the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel that is known for their enormous sandwiches and delicious deli meats. Apparently it used to be a favorite for long shoremen back in the day and a popular Italian hangout. Perusing some of the worthless, non-HG food reviews online, I came across very few negative reviews. One "Mrs. B" complained that the sandwiches were "disgustingly huge" and proclaimed she would never return to Defonte's. I feel sorry for Mrs. B and even sorrier for Mr. B who likely will not be returning as well. While she gave Defonte's one star, the review fueled my excitement even further and confirmed that I should avoid all food blogs that are not HG or HG approved. I had set high expectations for Defonte's, but I must say, it did not disappoint.
You'll see to your left my own creation, a take on the Chicago favorite, the Italian beef sandwich. One of Defonte's specialties is their homemade roast beef; a giant roast that simmers all day in a tub of gravy. The sandwich starts with my boy behind the counter ladling the gravy from the roast onto either side of the bun, soaking each side with delicious meat juice. He then slices razor thin pieces of beef off the roast and piles it on top of the bread. Then, another ladle-full of gravy on top of the beef. Next, several slices of provolone cheese are allowed to melt onto the pile of hot roast beef. Finally, the best part, some fresh, spicy, gardiniera mix piled on top. This sandwich was so goddamn good. Mrs. B was right, it was gigantic. Any smaller I would have been severely disappointed.
Defonte's seems to have many favorite sandwiches. My HG pal went with the Defonte's Special, a combination of the hot roast beef, gravy soaked bread, melted mozerella, and crispy fried eggplant. He attested that it was in fact Hard Grubbin at it's finest. I've also heard they make a mean Italian sub, loaded with a variety of choice meats.
These sandwiches captured the true spirit of Hard Grubbin. Delicious flavors in enormous portions. HG author Chip aptly pointed out that even though massive amounts of food had been put into his face, he didn't feel sick, just satisfied. If anything it brought out even more excitement for future hard grubbin excursions.
Being an Italian sandwich store it had all the familiar signed photos of all the cast of The Sopranos. According to Tony himself I need to try their potato and egg. In fact most of the signed photos made it clear that the potato and egg was a must try at this place. No problem Tone, I'll deliver one to my face just for you.
I'm convinced Defonte's will be one of my go to spots for some time to come. I plan on making it my mission to eat everything they have to offer.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
(sans chips, add onion rings). This brah only ate a bagel today. Moved
heavy stuff into Chateau De Kyle today. Must deliver this to face
immediately. 2 PBRs, one Tennessee Tea and more booze to follow.
HG Late-Nite Update:
Commiserating with pals after a long day of moving (i.e. your old roommates vs. your new roommates) is always in order. This brah found himself at the Model Cafe for such a celebration.
To Rob and I's delight, it happened to be a special occasion at the bar. Ken was celebrating a birthday, and Steve (Jinx Brothers) had prepared some BBQ that we summarily applied directly to the face. This dark, murky, and perhaps depressing photo below is of one of the most delectable sandwiches of this year.
Granted, there was some pops and Jager consumed before the sandwich, but this was not your usual, "I made some grub, g'wan and eat it" kind of fare. This was some next level grubbin, in a basic delivery device. Pulled pork, beef, and chicken all in one crock pot of succulent meat stuffs.
Fresh from a meal, not an hour ago, I was not shy to follow Rob over to this HG Paradise and grub down hard. Three of the most arguably delightful meats fought for dominance on a soft roll with sweet & tangy sauce. Cheers, Steve. Nice work.
Let it be stated on HG at this late hour, that Rob and I were not sheepish to force down a Round 2 consisting of 'whatever's in the white crock pot', 'the chili', and 'the cold bean salad'.
Sometimes, after a hard day, God smiles upon you with a surprising triple meat dessert.
Classic late night grubbin situation. Fought my way through a crowd of drunken hipsters to grab the simple pepperoni slice. I was so excited about the slice that I couldn't even wait to take a picture before having a bite. I then hurried home with the grace of a professional speed-walker. I know you all have done it million times; you can't run for fear of dropping the slice, and simply walking home would be ridiculous. It all paid off when I got to jam this thing into my face on my couch and immediately pass out after the last bite.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
A boot may be in order, brah.
4732 N Lincoln Ave
Grubbing options at this German-themed beer hall include schnitzels and sausages of all kinds, topped in kraut and caramelized onions galore. One particularly boss staple is steak tartare, a suspect combination of a raw egg, raw onions and raw ground beef, served stacked in a bowl for the customer to season and mix to their liking, thus starting the inevitable process of vomiting and/or extreme gastrointestinal drama. I usually pass on this tempting opportunity.
To be blunt, the rather bland grub alone will not blow you away; kind of like a Medieval Times meal, the intention is there but the main attraction has nothing to do with the quality of the grub. I also realize that for most of the Brauhaus patrons, said main attraction is most likely the lively dancefloor revelry to the sound of polka music from a trio of three seriously old dudes in lederhosen. However, take one look out at the tables and you'll see the real boozebags getting down with some serious boots.
One might assume that only the most special of occasions would justify a boot, but this is not so. While a trip to the Brauhaus can undoubtedly set a birthday or bridal shower off right, a boot can also transform an ordinary Wednesday night into an extraordinary night in hard drinkin.
The hefty $45 deposit per boot may initially seem excessive, but on further reflection is totally reasonable considering the intense level of hard dining going down. Celebratory cries such as 'DRINK THE FUCKING BOOT' and 'BOOTS BRAH' are commonplace among patrons. Walking among tables, one may overhear such popular phrases as 'DAS BOOT' or 'I'm fucking annihilated'.
I can attest that a boot is best when shared, passed around a table of brahs and consumed in one fell swoop, to be immediately followed by another. Although this almost definitely ensures someone at the table will get sick, the participants accept this risk with idiotic smiles on their faces, marveling at the size of the vessel they are preparing to battle.
And obviously yes, the first thing I did upon recovering the next day was to immediately scour eBay in hopes of securing a boot of mine own. Large crystal vases have even been implemented as improvised boots at hard socializing events, yet none elicit the same rush as conquering a Brauhaus vessel in its amber glory.
At right: Chicago's Liz Ransford shows a boot who's boss, ignoring the size ratio of the intimidating boot to her own petite frame and destroying it with one hand.
Monday, March 23, 2009
3800 N Pulaski (2 blocks south of Irving Park Road)
This brah seconds Mazen's review(below) of an amazing grubbery, however it would be sacrilege to omit any mention of their sides, which on occasion steal the show. Don't blame Mazen for this oversight; as a connoisseur and long-time practitioner of the 'XL sandwich only' or 'double meat' method, Mazen often misses the opportunity to sample an establishment's peripheral offerings. Is he so entranced by the deliciousness of a beef? Pastrami tunnel-vision? Judge not-- a brah has to be true to himself and this is the path Mazen has chosen.
Back to the grub. Smoque cooks up some of the best beans I've ever had(with chunks of brisket mixed in), killer mac and cheese(don't let the portion size deter you), and a peach cobbler to end all cobblers. While sweets might register as an afterthought to a brah after jamming 2 pounds of delicious BBQ in his face, Smoque's small peach cobbler sets you up CORRECT for an afternoon of hard recovery on the couch.
Their proprietary BBQ sauce is really something special, a tangy vinegar-based nectar with just the right amount of kick to set that sandwich off. They always supply a small side of the sauce for sandwich dipping, because apparently these owners know exactly what a brah needs to properly get his grub on.
If this place delivered I would give it an A+ in the hangover category. But as leaving the house the morning after a night of hard socializing is not always a wise move, Pizza Hut still reigns in this realm.*
Also worthy of note is the bullshit tendency of this place to run out of meat items, often in descending order of deliciousness. Pulled pork always goes first, then sliced brisket, then St. Louis style ribs. If you've had that mouth-watering pulled pork on the brain all week, don't fuck around and go early enough to ensure you get the sandwich you deserve.
*Another of life's luxuries Mazen has not experienced in awhile. Currently blacklisted by the only Pizza Hut that delivers to his house due to repeatedly placing arrogant orders at 3AM and passing out before the booty arrives, Mazen is slightly sour about this status and it's best to leave this topic alone.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
So when you're meeting up with friends from outta town for Sunday brunch, who does not want the food to match the jubilation of reconnecting with pals? Nobody. Mediocre brunch is just that, but a great brunch is much more. Unfortunately Hard Grubbers, I must report on just a mediocre one today at Cowgirl (519 Hudson St.-Manhattan). The service was good, but the product was only fair to middling. I had done a preemptive peek at the menu online the night before, and was excited to try this Texas style, West Village haunt. The sausage biscuit with gravy was the item that really caught my eye, and I knew I had to have it. The gravy turned out to be somewhat bland (Cholula helped), but the eggs were tasty. The portion was large and quite filling (no CPC here), but just that: practical, but uninspired. The screwdrivers were a little light on the soup, but the bloody marys were reportedly delicious. Overall it was just OK. Maybe it would be better to check it out under non-brunch settings, when they aren't pushing out hundreds of plates. It was quite busy by the time we were leaving around 1:15pm, with heavy family traffic. This was definitely a brunch I would've hoped to have grubbed just a little bit harder.
Friday, March 20, 2009
One of the first stops we made was to the oldest kaffi house in Reykjavik: Mokka Kaffi where their Sviss Mokka (espresso in hot chocolate) with little choclate shaving is to die for especially when you've just gotten off a plane.
Next stop was the flea market Kolaportio in downtown where inside the cafeteria was one of the best desserts I had the entire trip called Vínarterta. It had a crunchy meringue outside with banana cream filling with rasinettes. Inside the fleamarket you can also purchase rotten shark thats supposed to be eaten on holidays with "Black Death", a liqueur made of caraway seeds. Only the tourists drink the black death now.
Though we were able to spend freely with some things, drinking was still a bit expensive so the tasty and affortable thing to do was to always drink the local brew which we did alot of. You're going to find Viking on tap everywhere, sometimes the only thing on tap.
The other thing that icelanders eat alot of is dried fish. That makes things really stinky. You can find is in chip- like bags inside of gas stations and is particulary good with butter. I've bought it but have yet to try it. We were lucky enough to see the old way of drying the fish out in the countryside where you can smell it from pretty far away.
On the left is the icelandic brown bread made from Rye and buried in the ground to cook. called volcano bread.
Here is where we had some of the traditional icelandic food: Trir frakkar, Baldursgata 14 On the left you'll see smoked puffin. Which was alot like a smoked fish. There also offered reindeer, blubber and organ meat all of which we didn't get.
What we did get was the smoked haddock pictured on the right with a tomato cream sauce which was wonderful.
And then for dessert we got the skyr brulee. Which was really good. Skyr, the icelandic yogurt, was also something we had alot of of. Its a bit like Greek yogurt in its thick consistancy but its made from non fat milk. Anything dairy oriented they made out of Skyr.
I had also tried Whale on my trip offered to me by another table which looked exactly like a steak tip and tasted like one too but a little fishier. I would not really recommend it.
Besides the interesting cusine, I would definitely go back to the beautiful landscape.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I really meant to make a contribution quite some time ago; however, I wasn’t making it to any HG worthy dining spots. THUS, I decided to portray in these photographs, what I deem a very HG sort of event. As you will note in the picture, there are: two bottles of wine, cigarette butts, almonds, shoes, and the river Seine- major components of a boozebag afternoon in Paris. The lack of discrimination on open booze permits this sort of nonsense to occur on a daily basis starting any slightly warm day in spring. Picture us – three ladies- also being asked every five minutes for a « tire-bouchon » (wine opener) cause you know all them frenchies got exactly the same idea. In these photographs I have attempted to illustrate- 1) the scene I have described 2) a sign that demonstrates the current spirit of the moment/ poor attempt to appeal to English speaking tourists. I guess I should mention, after this all went down, we went to a friend’s and made hamburgers with sliced sautéed mushrooms- ketchup/ mustard/ no buns.
729 Thomas St
Awesome bloody maries, delicious breakfasts, great atmosphere; the settings required for a top tier brunch. Blue Heaven in Key West, FL has all three. We were very fortunate to be introduced to Blue Heaven several years ago by HG contributor Uncle B. He told us about a magical brunch spot where chickens ran freely throughout the restaurant. He began to tell us about the food when I put my index finger to his lips and said, "Enough. You had me at chickens."
The restaurant itself is really unique. Huge outdoor dining room lined with tons of tropical plants. A bar sits in the middle of the restaurant with a stage behind it where you can hear all your favorite hippie jams live. On the other side of the bar is an outdoor ping pong table so you can take care of your daily exercise while drinking alcohol and waiting for your table. Roosters, chickens, and cats run freely around the place; they even have a rooster cemetery for all their fallen pals.
The few times I've been to Blue Heaven there's been a pretty long wait for a table. No problem because the bloody maries are as good as I've ever had. Just the right amount of vodka and spiciness to wake you up while you stare at chickens or dominate the ping pong table.
On my most recent visit to Blue Heaven I had to order the special: Surf and Turf Eggs Benedict. We're talking about lobster and beef tenderloin on an english muffin with a poached egg and their house special key lime hollandaise. This thing is so delicious. The steak was tender and flavorful while the lobster was more succulent than I ever imagined. I'm not even a big fan of hollandaise or benedicts but the key lime hollandaise is really something else. I've heard from others that the pancakes at this place are great as well. They also feature a shrimp and pepper jack cheese omelette as well that sounds amazing but sadly, I can only grub so hard.
All together this place makes for a very satisfying and unique grubbin experience. You probably don't need to hear if from HG because this place seems to be the most popular restaurant in Key West. For good reason because as you learned in school, a hard grubbin breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
328 Washington St
(between Academy Hill Rd & Waldo Ter)
Brighton, MA 02135
Being absolutely jealous of all of the HG options in New York and Chicago at all hours of the day, it inspired me to see what was close by in my neighborhood for some good, hard, deli-style grubbin.
I celebrated a rare weekday off by first going to the dentist, going to lunch, and going to get my taxes 'did.' Let me just say, lunch was the only part of the day where I felt like I wasn't getting my teeth yanked out!
There was an overcast to the afternoon, and the rain started to spit after the dental appointment. Here I was, on Hump Day, just barely holding on to cracking a smile. Mandy & Joe's was a beacon of sunshine on this dreary day.
I mean, look at this 'grandparent's basement' decor: How can this not bring you back to watching Wheel of Fortune with Nana on a February vacation Monday in Wilkes Barre, PA?
I sit down at a low counter at a place frozen in time. I feel I could just say "Malted!" to Brian behind the counter here, and he would say "I thought so, and your usual grilled cheese with a dry tomato and brown mustard, how you like it as well, sir?"
I'd reply with a "'Suppose so...," and this dude already has a blender and his spray Pam both at full blast.
Old men that admire Ian Fleming novels and consider Sean Connery as the 'new' James bond are talking tough stuff in here.
Check out my brah grubbin on eggs here. Fast forward 45 years and this is old Clay grubbin on some yellow scramble.
If you think I'm disrespecting this guy by snapping pics of him at Mandy & Joes, then I applaud you. It's practically all I can think about. This is all about respect and hard grubbin, I am not exploiting my friend here, he just wouldn't be able to understand that if I tried to explain.
I decide on the corned beef when longtime customer Phil walks in and is greeted as I described earlier. "Hey, Phil. We got pie today."
Phil casually, and I am almost certain non-verbally, orders his usual. Phil trades in 2 dimes and a nickel for a fresh quarter and after a trip to the news box, Phil is cracking open the Boston Herald morning edition.
Nostalgia and wondering why people aren't smoking cigarettes in here are not not the only charms of this hallowed diner. Breakfast all day is a major selling point, and there are couples, families, doctors, and regulars filling the seats here daily. I'm sure the menu has not changed in over 10 years, on the philosophy , "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"
My sandwich comes. It's a simple thing, really. Corned Beef marbled with fat, my choice of yellow or brown mustard on a similarly marbled rye and white bread. Think pastrami but cold, and picture it on a plate that you remember eating Hostess chocolate cupcakes off of when it was your birthday in fifth grade. I second guess, and fear I may have made great missteps getting to this point in the meal already, but there was no turning back to get the open face turkey plate or a feta omelet. This is exactly what I want. This is exactly what I need. The 4 pickles are enough (though I usually demand more).
What better way to celebrate a good tooth cleaning than drinking coffee with white sugar and gumming up the in-betweens with salted meats and soft bread? I cannot think of a better way.
A quick call over to my H&R Block rep and I realize I have to bounce. The sandwich made it's way into my belly and I'm leaving an 18% tip for Brian before I ride the bike home to get my papers, full of food, and full of an honest nostalgia.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Duvall St/Key West/FL
This beauty is late night grubbin at its finest. Hot italian sausage with sweet and hot peppers and pickles enjoyed on the street at 3am. May have gone a little to far when I also took down my pal's unfinished sandwich and tried to make a break for an additional hot dog. Luckily I was stopped before it was too late. Results were slightly painful but were quickly relieved with a couple rounds of bloody ping pong (below).