Peter Luger – Brooklyn, NY


Peter Luger
178 Broadway
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 387-7400‎

I recently went on a quest to find the best burger in New York City. For the rest of this week, you’ll have my breakdown of what I discovered. This is post #3 of 5 related to trying out some of the best that New York has to offer. The last review, the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridien is available here . Hope you enjoy the series.

New Yorkers are famous for many things. Pastrami. Pizza. The Yankees. And a very brusque attitude. While visiting New York City over the years, other than some crazy drivers, I haven’t found the “New York” attitude to be all that prevalent. Impatient towards tourists? Often, yes. But unfriendly? Not at all.

One of the bastions of the New York attitude exists at Peter Luger. Famous Brooklyn steakhouse known for surly service, 5 week+ dry aged steak, and an astronomical bill. One Michelin Star. Voted best steak in New York for 24 years by Zagat, what isn’t as well known is they have a burger on their lunch menu. One that many consider to be the best burger in New York + Outer Boroughs.

The first thing you encounter upon walking into Peter Lugers is either crowds of people waiting, or the enormous bar. Everyone ends up at the bar eventually – since even with a reservation, you’re typically made to wait 15-20 minutes. Minimum. It’s not the worst place to be stuck though – reasonable  New York prices for drinks, an ok house label beer and some decent cocktails. If you’re of the male gender – expect some surly comments and banter – not always lighthearted, though it seems quite faux surly for the most part. Ladies are treated very nicely.

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Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice – Honolulu, HI


Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice
525 Kapahulu Ave
Honolulu, HI
(808) 735-8884

One of the several pre-trip, researched spots on my food adventures in Hawaii was Waiola.  It was also noted by someone I know who has a residence in Honolulu that it was along the same road as some others I’d asked him about, so as far as location went, it was perfect.

In a pretty run down looking building, complete with some garish plastic banners and graffiti, Waiola is mainly about the shave ice desserts.  Nothing more refreshing on a hot summer Hawaiian day.  A few other customers came in while we were there, along with a delivery guy who brought in huge cubes of solid ice.

Stepping inside does nothing to improve the sense of it having a dated and in need of a refresh design.  But this is part of the appeal of the place, knowing that despite its popularity and well known name, they haven’t plugged the money into expensive furnishings or makeovers.  At the same time, they’re not avert to plastering the joint with pages from various media publications that have reviewed or profiled the place.

With anywhere from thirty to forty toppings and flavors, Waiola can probably meet any craving you have for a tasty shave ice.  With its distinct soft, fine shavings, I tell you they are addictive.  And you get none of that dreaded “brain freeze” from say a more liquidly-ice concoction.  We tried a trio of flavors.  Pictured above, the adzuki (Japanese sweet bean) and mochi (Japanese rice cake balls) combination.  Easily the version among the three we ordered with the most interesting textures with each bite, and the sweetness was not too strong.

In comparison, this pineapple-flavored very basic shave ice was cleaner in taste profile and probably more refreshing as there was less to have to chew.  The fine shavings once again proved to be excellent – and I enjoyed this one more than the one I had at Island Freeze days earlier, thus confirming that Waiola is one of the best shave ice joints on the island.

Lastly, another Japanese-influenced flavoring in the matcha with mochi provided yet another twist.  Almost like a blended coffee-like drink as the flavoring was “heavier” than just the pineapple syrup of the other dish above.

So as you can see, this was just a sample of a few varieties of shave ice to be had at Waiola.  I’m sure there are many more interesting combinations to choose from, and perhaps if you make a visit, you can try them out for yourself.  If there are any readers who have any recommendations, please do leave them in our comment box for this post!

Waiola Bakery & Shave Ice on Urbanspoon

Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken – Memphis, TN


Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken
310 S Front Street
Memphis, TN 38103-4112
(901) 527-4877

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken (Downtown) on Urbanspoon

Fried Chicken. In my travels, I’ve come across fried chicken in almost every culture. This was definitely surprising to me. Just as surprising, is that it often was really good fried chicken.

By the estimation of my fanatical, fried chicken loving sibling, Korean’s do the best fried chicken. But neither of us have explored a lot of the southern United States, and that’s somewhere that really appreciates their fried chicken.

The Front Street location of Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken is the downtown Memphis location of the original Mason, Tennessee shop. And from the lineups and the crowds, it really is world famous.
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Not much to look at, the place is completely full at all hours of the day. Clean, and tidy, the focus is really on one thing – the chicken. As has been accurately reported in thousands of reviews, this is not fast food. As the saying goes, good food takes time to prepare. And Gus’s serves good chicken!

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Fragrant Wonton – Hualien, TW


Fragrant Wonton (Yishang Bienshi)
42 Sinyi Street
Hualien, Taiwan

(03) 832-6761

Hualien is a small city on the coast of Taiwan, known for some beautiful mountain scenery, and coastal waters. Nearby Taroko Gorge is a burgeoning tourist attraction, and with the completion of the gao-zi – the high speed rail connection, tourists are flooding in from Taipei on a near daily basis. However, scenery aside, culinarily they are famous for two very different dishes – fragrant wontons, and muaji, glutinous rice cakes.  Two must tries when you are in Hualien.

It’s interesting how celebrity endorsement can affect the image of a restaurant. There are two very well known wonton houses in Hualien. The aforementioned Fragrant Wonton, that have been in business for over 70 years, and Dai’s Bienshi, a 3rd generation wonton maker making bienshi (mandarin for wonton) since the Japanese occupation. Dai’s, as a result of being the favorite of a former President, is extremely well known. Foodies generally agree that Fragrant Wonton is better, but it doesn’t have the name recognition and insane lineups.

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The decor inside neither looks like it’s 70 years old, nor like it’s a top wonton place. Channeling the entire cafeteria vibe, you generally order first, grab a table, and sit and wait at one of many clean tables. Napkins are dispensed on the wall (took me a while to find this), and things are kept quite clean. Not surprisingly, it’s almost always busy.

When you go to order, you generally order a number. This represents the number of bowls of wontons you want. One order is pretty substantial for most people, but if you’re a wonton/bienshi  fiend like i am, i suggest two bowls.

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Fragrant wontons are renown for their skins, which are silky smooth, yet strong enough to hold in the succulent juices from the meat. Does 70 years teach you anything? Absolutely. The skins are silky, and wonderfully soft without breaking at all – a big no no and a trick i wish i knew. The pork filling is good – filling the mouth with a blast of warm pork flavour.They are generally filled with the meat from the legs – trotters and shank. This is because the leg meat is generally a bit firmer, leading to a nice texture with some bite without being rubbery, while staying lean. The stock they serve the wontons in are also made of pork bones, spare ribs, and pigs legs, a rich stock that is skimmed repeatedly to get rid of an oiliness. Served with celery leaves and fried onion tops, the result is a nice balance of fragrant, yet slightly neutral soup with a fantastic wonton flavour.

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Overall, these are some really nice wontons.  The cardboard serving vessels and plastic spoons feel a bit off, as i would prefer porcelain – it’s amazing what a difference in texture you feel using a plastic utensil, but that’s a very small quibble.  Im not sure they are good enough to make a special trip to Hualien for, but if you love wontons/bienshi, and you happen to be in the area, don’t leave town without trying Fragrant Wonton.