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Indianapolis in Requiem

Cheap Eats, Midwest By January 24, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , , No Comments

If Grand Rapids was the gentle small town reminder of my Midwestern roots and why this part of the country is just so darn livable, Indianapolis was that pause and a “huh” you drop when you step into a city in “fly over country” and are taken back by a sprawling, diverse urban landscape. Gentrification ain’t just a real estate buzz word in Brooklyn, San Francisco or Silver Lake(LA), it is happening wherever it can. Case in point: Goose The Market. Like so many places we featured in Season Two of Cheap Eats, this beaut of an artisanal butcher shop and deli was fueled by a dream, funded with modest means and holds a zip code that might drive your car insurance rates up. Or at least it did; the neighborhood that Goose calls nest(or home) is Fall Creek Place, and like the Indy food scene, its an up and comer. Being in a Midwest city, we knew there would be some iconic Meat and Potato fare to be had. But there were a few “pause and a huh” moments to be had in the form of some Asian eats that would be a stand out in San Fran, along with with some chef driven, farm to table Midwest fare that you knew was going play a lead role in your Indy diet. Speaking of diets, it’s time to put yours on pause and peep the Cheap Eats in Indianapolis.


Grand Rapids, Michigan in Requiem

Cheap Eats, Midwest By January 18, 2017 Tags: , , , , , , , 6 Comments

That smile on my face(along with the best carnitas torta I have ever had) serves as an instant reminder on how happy I would be to return to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Now this is no slight against the other cities we have visited in Cheap Eats, from the no brainers like beautiful Bozeman and Jackson Hole to towns I would love to catch my beloved St. Louis Cardinals play(I’m looking at you Pittsburgh). Its just that to be frank: Grand Rapids was a head scratcher. I had never been there, let alone Michigan, which made my expectations a bit of a blank canvas. A beautiful thing it is to travel to a place you have never been, without any expectation. It allows for the unforseeable to take hold of you; like Grand Rapids rousing my dormant Midwestern roots. Unless you are a sun drenched Californian or Floridian who fusses when the thermometer dips below 65, you gotta love Autumn in a place like Michigan. Now I did log in 20 years in Los Angeles but I have never been afraid of putting on a winter coat, it’s the sunshine that always made me an advocate for Southern California. Thankfully we had a few sunny days there, certainly enough for me to summon back the Fall days of my youth, growing up in St. Louis MO. For the five days I spent there, Grand Rapids reminded me that I grew up in the Midwest by virtue of weather and environment. And as much as I feel drawn to the bright lights of major metropolitan areas, instantly bonding with all that teeming culture and diversity and forever willing to put up with the downers you hear on the nightly news reports, I am a Midwesterner by birth and rearing.  The colors of the Fall will forever feel like my childhood. Which is a lovely memory and all but add that to the aforementioned Carnitas Torta, and folks, I’m smiling all the way back to Gerald R. Ford International Airport.


Pittsburgh in Requiem

Cheap Eats, Midwest By December 5, 2016 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

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.


Blueberry Hill – St. Louis, MO

Burgers, Midwest By February 10, 2016 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: 7oz ground chuck, soft spread cheddar , green leaf lettuce, thick cut tomato, onion and pickle
the bucks: $7.45
the coordinates: St. Louis, MO

Like great barbecue, great burgers stir our emotions. Unlike exquisite nigiri sushi or a three hour tasting menu that moves at the elegant pace of a ballet, many great burgers do not receive Michelin stars. Rather they are satisfied with lifelong customers, some who may even consider taking their progeny to these hallowed establishments as a rite of passage. Blueberry Hill in St. Louis is very much that type of burger establishment, though for me it might just fall short of the whole “rite of passage” part. Still, when it comes to Bang for your Burger Buck and being a local burger treasure, I feel compelled to include their 7oz of ground chuck into this collection. And frankly after almost 15 years of overcooked burgers in Los Angeles(Umami Burger really changed the game), I will always tip my cap to a Midwest joint that has been nailing medium rare the whole damn time.


Matt’s Bar – Minneapolis, MN

Burgers, Midwest By July 2, 2015 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: The Jucy Lucy: a burger stuffed with american cheese, topped with grilled onions and thinly sliced pickle
the bucks: $6.75
the coordinates: Minneapolis, Minnesota

The search for Bang for your Burger Buck can certainly take you places. You may find yourself so deep in the hood your Spidey Sense might be tingling to the tune of a scene from Training Day. Or you could find yourself smack dab in the middle of fly over country, at a modest looking neighborhood bar that somehow has drawn the likes of major Food TV personalities and the President of the United States. Like the slogan of the site says – it’s about the journey as much as it is about the burger. Cheap Eats, and certainly great burgers, come in unexpected places. And speaking of, this is one solid griddled to perfection serving of ground chuck, stuffed with American Cheese for $6.75. Like the City of Minneapolis, the Jucy Lucy at Matt’s Bar seems like a quick read. But after you sink your teeth into both burger and the city, you will find that what seems to be antiquated food traditions, are in actuality paying dividends in our current foodie renaissance. Before I get too carried away with all that let’s talk about how the Jucy Lucy at Matt’s Bar evokes White Castle and why that is actually a good thing.


Carl’s Drive In – St. Louis, MO

Burgers, Midwest By January 5, 2015 No Comments

The Vitals:
the burger: griddled triple cheeseburger with bacon, lettuce and tomato
the bucks: $6.80
the coordinates: St. Louis, MO

To dine at Carl’s Drive In is as fundamental an American dining experience as having a Nathan’s Dog on Coney island, or parking yourself at a roadside stand in Mississippi for some BBQ. The parking lot is studded with soccer moms who have, perhaps under mild duress from their cargo of adolescent athletes, made a pit stop after practice. The customers are as well seasoned as the griddle that churns out the burgers. To sit on one of those ten treasured bar stools in this tiny restaurant is as much an American rite of passage as was passing through Ellis Island in the beginning of the 20th Century. If ever there was a burger stand whose humble and compact interior could draw parallels to Sukiyobashi Jiro, then it truly must be Carl’s Drive In, nestled in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri. Yup, I really do love this place and so far all I have brought up is the freakin ambiance.