The natural beauty of Montana can transform the most novice photographer into a wannabe Ansel Adams. I might have a ways to go before I enter the realm of that iconic photographer but I will say that there was no shortage of scenic shots in my Bozeman roll, that’s for sure. Natural beauty was, is and will always be the draw to Bozeman. That being said, everybody likes to eat and our current food renaissance is finding its ways to all corners of the map. What does that mean for Cheap Eats in Bozeman? Definitely a shift in focus to locally sourced foods. Bringing food to the more far reaching parts of the world certainly poses challenges in food costs, so expect the word “local” to be featured prominently as a reflection of necessity. In my three city run in this part of the country, I consumed more than my fair share of Buffalo burgers, so we worked extra hard to showcase the bounty of exotic game in these parts with a freakin Elk burger. Bozeman is a growin’ and changing. And while that might rub some the wrong way, it will ultimately mean more dining options in this grand wilderness. And people eating better is always a good thing. This is a dining scene in the early stages of becoming an exciting and noteworthy one. My advice is to keep your eyes wide open because there are more than a few fancy steak and chophouse sized let downs. And some darn interesting food happening in breweries whose college kid heavy customer base could soon find themselves waiting in a line, shoulder to shoulder, with food obsessed hipsters, and possibly, the next Ansel Adams.
Welcome to the New South.
And in the spirit of the new, let’s get accustomed to calling it the RVA, cuz that’s how the locals do. Oh, you think this is some last second ploy from the tourism board? Then do this: type “RVA Richmond” into Google and you will get hit with all kinds of the “new Richmond”. I’m talking links to Richmond groups associated with strings like reddit, LGBTQ and TEDx. That sound new enough for you?
When it came to Cheap Eats, and really just food, one thing popped into my mind as we researched RVA: Is this the new Charleston? Long held as a darling food town of the South, the comparison of Richmond to Charleston would be inevitable though that’s more a reflection of the mutual size of the two cities in relation to say Atlanta or Nashville. Richmond doesn’t boast the same level of tourism numbers that Charleston does nor tout culinary heavyweights like SNOB or Sean Brock, but that doesn’t mean stuff like that isn’t on the horizon. Look, this is where people like me have a lot of fun: predicting the future of a food scene. So consider this post to be something akin to reporting from Florida during Major League Baseball’s spring training or, maybe a little later, like after the first month of the regular season. The hype has well been out there and now the signs of promise are starting to deliver real numbers or in this case: real entrées.
You have heard of it. The City that gave us the Star Spangled Banner, Edgar Allen Poe, and The Wire. Truth be told my perceptions of Charm City came almost entirely from watching hours and hours of David Simon’s epic series. An urban center in decline, the subsequent flight to the County suburbs, and finally the overall size and demographics of Baltimore, reminded me of my hometown of St. Louis. And I guess that’s what always made me hold an appreciation for the place. I also love their accent. Situated in the Mid Atlantic, Maryland is as far north as the American South gets, they say. “Hey Hon, can I get you anything else?” a waitress asked me in a fictitious diner of my Baltimore imagination. Thanks to the Chesapeake, they have a regional cuisine that’s all their own. I even like their baseball team: The Orioles. Camden Yards is a terrific looking stadium. Yeah, we went to another mid sized city in this Season of Cheap Eats. But I would go to Alaska if it meant taking on tapas like this:
Pittsburgh. The shining blue collar city on the hill. A town that is as big as a city needs to be. Three major sports franchises. Loads of neighborhoods that teem with history, character and characters. And forget about an “accent”, Pittsburghese sometimes seems like its own language. In some ways I wasn’t surprised to find great Cheap Eats here. But I was impressed by how much the city has become a serious food town. Like much of the cities we cover in Season 2 of Cheap Eats, Pittsburgh is a city in transformation, and the food scene is a big part of it. As I look back on the Burgh, I think of an experience that slips in moments of sophistication during a humble feast for the soul. But ya know what? I’ll let the pics just tell you all about that.
That’s right people. Cheap Eats returns with all new episodes December 1st. Fasten your seat belts because this season I take on thirteen cities in search of the best meals for my buck. It’s a season of hidden gems as I roam to cities that often fall off the nation radar as we focused on small to mid sized cities; as big as blue collar Pittsburgh and as tucked away as Bozeman Montana. From a hydroponic tomato garden in Wyoming to farm to table carnitas in Grand Rapids, Michigan, this season of Cheap Eats is straight off the charts!
Try a free sample over at You Tube!
I’m really scratching my head on this one. As I struggle to tickle the keys on my beat to hell 2007 Macbook, I face the stark truth that I am about to give props to the one burger joint in Austin that seems like it came out of the Wachowski brothers’ Matrix trilogy: Hopdoddy Burger Bar. The customers don’t wear nearly the same amount of leather as Carrie Anne Moss, and I’m pretty sure open carry in Austin’s City Limits doesn’t include Matrix level hardware, but the almost too perfect polished feel of the place seems jarring enough for me to take the red pill. In this case, the “red pill” meant taking on three(actually 4) burgers to see how deep Bang for your Burger Buck can go here. And how deep does the rabbit hole go at Hopdoddy? Let’s just say by the end I was waxing poetic on these burgers with the Mad Hatter and Alice.
On paper, places like Hopdoddy are why I began the search for Bang for your Burger Buck. The $10 and up burger trend was shifting burger discourse away from beautifully imperfect burger stands to chef driven concepts dripping with start up cash from dudes in Teslas who just started saying the word “dude” again after a 5 year hiatus post college/grad school. With a full bar, boozy milkshakes and several well positioned monitors blasting ESPN, the temptation to stay awhile and get loose at Hopdoddy is great. $50 later you may find yourself asking how a burger and beer experience bordered on a light sushi dinner. Well, it’s not really a conspiracy on the part of joints like Hopdoddy. They figured out awhile back that people will spend money in all kinds of settings, whether they be quiet white table cloth lined dining rooms or a burger joint with kobe on the menu and kobe highlight reels on the TV. So why should you spend your hard earned buck here? Because in this instance, the crowds indeed gather for good reason: their burgers rock. Their burgers are also all over the map. In fact, it kind of irks me when a burger joint can’t pick one burger version and run with it. In Hopdoddy’s case, they have 12 burgers that showcase extreme topping creations versus that one single interpretation of what they believe a great burger truly is. After an initial dud, I honed in on three burgers that struck me as compelling on their own and fine to compare and contrast. Like shopping for a car or a Mac(hint hint), budget will drive your journey. So here are three great Hopdoddy burgers, in ascending order of Bang for your Burger Buck, that are indeed worthy of your hard earned buck. And I freaking enjoyed eating every one of ’em too.