Tag Archives: roadfood

Nick’s Nest, Holyoke, Mass.

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This past summer Raven and I dined at two restaurants in Western Massachusetts that have been open for so many years that my grandparents had actually dined there back when they were dating in their youth: the Student Prince and Nick’s Nest. And what I learned is that both of these badass places have been stayin’ alive by the strength of their unique and delicious offerings, upon which nostalgia is just the mustard on the dog.

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This paragraph is for hotdog lovers. Coming from somebody who loves roadfood in general, hotdogs in specific, and has a laser-like focus on eating hotdogs, for a decade in Chicago, and two plus decades on the East Coast: you have to go to Nick’s Nest for the hotdog. The Nick’s Nest dog is has a unique golden buttery umami-ful flavor profile, with a gentle snap, on toasted bun, that’s in complete harmony with their signature chili.

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The cheese fries are awesome. What else is there to say? Nick’s Nest is old school counter service. The speed of the hotdogs means although you are able to eat for a full meal, the efficiency may make it feel more like a snack. I’m not a doctor, but I would prescribe at least a minute of breathing deeply after each hotdog is ingested, to allow the brain to best absorb the gentle snap of hotdog satisfaction.

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And then order some ice cream.

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La Michoacana

La Michoacana pilsen chicago 18th blue island 3rdarm arthur mullen mangonada

The intersection of 18th, Loomis and Blue Island is the perfect place for an ice cream stand, and La Michoacana fits that role like destiny.

La Michoacana pilsen chicago 18th blue island 3rdarm arthur mullen mangonada

The place is brightly lit and clean, but we all know the real reason to go is La Michoacana’s amazing mangonadas (sweet, refreshing, spicy, limey, salty, damn) and liquados… nevermind so many flavors of delicious paletas!

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Superdawg Equinox

sunday equinox chicago superdawg sunset hotdog 3rdarm

On the equinox, Raven and I drove up to the drive-in and she had her first Superdawg. It was a beautiful Sunday evening, the start of spring.

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Afterwards we stopped at the last large newstand in the city, and browsed magazines. We worked up enough appetite to share fresh cut French fries and a milkshake at Susie’s on the way home.

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First Slice Pie Cafe

3rdarm roly poly cat maine coon cat arthur mullen chicago 3rdarm xoco manager rick bayless whitney burke alabama north side first slice pie cafe french silk

I adventured all the way up to the far North side, beyond Devon Ave, to the part of the city where the grid breaks down and I no longer recognize whether I’m in Chicago or Skokie, or even which way is the lake. It was a journey to hang with my friend Whitney, to go to Target and bring her cat to the vet with my car.

3rdarm roly poly cat maine coon cat arthur mullen chicago 3rdarm xoco manager rick bayless whitney burke alabama north side first slice pie cafe french silk

We stopped for lunch at cafe that came recommended for its pie. Not that I was up late the night before obsessing over pie in my pajamas… OK I was. I really wanted some pie.  First Slice Pie Cafe puts out an excellent slice. Based on my friend’s Southern background, we shared a huge slice of French Silk. The chocolate mousse was silky as advertised.

3rdarm roly poly cat maine coon cat arthur mullen chicago 3rdarm xoco manager rick bayless whitney burke alabama north side first slice pie cafe french silk

To balance the sweet with the savory, we shared a ham sandwich with melted Wisconsin cheddar and sundried tomato. I love how soft (yet still toasty warm) the bread it came on was. Thank you internet for a great recommendation for pie! My name is Arthur and I’m a pie addict.

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Pontual

tiago mexica portugal porto lisbon alheira francescinha little frenchy with egg pontual snack bar cafe late night munchies 3rdarm

Following my early morning adventure, I returned to the hotel to knock out. Regrettably, I did not text my friend, who was worried all day. I finally awoke to loud rapping on the door to my room. It was dark outside. Groggily, I got out of bed and greeted Tiago, my friend and colleague from Chicago, who was on the other side! As a younger man, Tiago graduated from hospitality school in Porto. Now he had taken time away from his family visit in Lisbon, woke my sorry ass up and was ready to show me the old stomping grounds.

tiago mexica portugal porto lisbon alheira francescinha little frenchy with egg pontual snack bar cafe late night munchies 3rdarm

Tiago was hungry so we looked into good late night snack bars. Ironically enough, we chose Café Pontual: Pontual means “punctual” in Portuguese. Unironically, the snacks here are delicious. We had Porto’s signature sandwich, the little Frenchy, made even more decadent with the addition of an over easy egg running into the slow-cooked tomato – beer sauce. We also shared a plate of alheira, pork-free poultry sausage invented by the Jews during the Inquisition.

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Reenergized by Pontual’s midnight munchies, I texted my friend to apologize and let her know that I was alive and well, happily eating unhealthy food again.  Tiago had a beer. I was too late to be punctual, but I was not too late for late night snacks at Pontual.

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Utopian Experience

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I am focused on turning my promise of, “2015 the year of the teeth,” into a reality. The clock is counting down but I am on a mission, with dental appointments as far as the eye can see. Next week, my sister is flying in from LA to be on hand for the extraction of my final wisdom teeth.

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This week I got my first root canal. I know myself well enough to know that I am a big talker (maybe not as well known, but I also consider myself a good listener!) At the root canal office, I had a lot of questions for the doctor and her assistant. And I was nervous. I could feel their energy totally improve when they finally jammed all the equipment into my mouth, preventing any more squawking.

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I am pushing myself to complete one big exercise a week. This past weekend I went for a 20 mile round trip bike ride to Superdawg for a hotdog. On the 10 mile ride out, I was shaky from lack of conditioning and food. I was starved by the time I reached Superdawg and had to get 2 hotdogs. On the 10 mile return trip, my sodium levels spiked dramatically, and I momentarily turned into a hotdog myself.

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Clam Rolls

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Here is a quick description of the 3 Lenny & Joe’s locations:

New Haven: table service, awesome seafood, beer and wine, right on the water

Westbrook: table service, awesome seafood, beer and wine, cozy sit-down restaurant

Madison: counter service, awesome seafood, no alcohol but they have soft serve ice cream & there’s a massive outdoor seating area with carousel, located right across Route 1 from state park beach

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The Madison location is the Lenny & Joe’s I have eaten at the most, and it’s my favorite, for the casual nature and the beautiful outdoor seating area, where even Roxie the dog is welcome. There is a full size carousel with all proceeds going to charity, and a separate walk-up counter for soft serve ice cream.

In the summer, Aunty’s favorite is the CT-style lobster rolls (hot buttered lobster on a toasted hotdog bun) and in the colder months, she prefers the fried clam roll with tartar on the side. Either way, there will be indigestion.

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Apple Cider

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Bishop’s Orchard is one of the most badass local, seasonal grocery stores in the country, not just in Connecticut. Their orchard encompasses rolling hills alongside I-95 in Guilford, and on the lower, flatter fields adjacent the Bishops family grows other fruits and berries. These are sold in their natural form, and also transformed into award-winning apple cider donuts, apple coffee cake, cinnamon bread, and more by Bishop’s magical bakers.

bishops orchard guilford farm connecticut james beard wine trail 3rdarm arthur mullen apple coffee cake apple pie cider

When I was feeling a little under the weather, due to seasonal changes, Bishop’s heirloom apple cider brought my health back up to 100%. When I am just feeling down, their small stable of alpacas and llamas never fails to brighten my day. Bishop’s is also a producer of wine and hard cider, and a must-stop visit on the Connecticut wine trail. Just try to plan your visit during off hours, as the secret is clearly out!

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Chicken Parm

 

As the manager of Xoco, I live with a dark secret: my addiction for PQM chicken parm!  Take it from someone who eats at least one awesome torta a day: the PQM chicken parm is a must have sandwich. As in, I must have one just writing this. I need one a week, at least.

  

I love that it comes with Deep River chips. They’re made in Connecticut (where I’m from) and I can’t stop eating them. The pickle is also top notch.  Get the chicken parm.  Everything else is amazing too, it’s just…  Chicken Parm Is The Thing You Cannot Not Get.

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Bluefish Hobo Pack

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I’m a big fan of yelp and an even bigger fan of The Place, my favorite restaurant in Connecticut, maybe the world. It bugs me that The Place’s review average has dropped to 3.5 stars, seemingly on the back of a single one star rating from a night when they were short-staffed. I know that’s the nature of the restaurant business: you’re only as good as your last service.

the place unusual restaurant guilford connecticut 1971 arthur mullen favorite chicago 3rdarm corn clams bluefish

The Place deserves more respect, putting out delicious and unduplicable offerings from a huge backyard firepit since the early seventies! I returned this summer with my aunt for dinner. The clams were briny and spicy, hot off that blazing fire pit. I burned my tongue on a hot clam because I seriously JUST COULD NOT WAIT. The bluefish was one of the best pieces of fish I have ever had: it was unbelievably fresh and cooked to perfection in its hobo pack.

the place unusual restaurant guilford connecticut 1971 arthur mullen favorite chicago 3rdarm corn clams bluefish

The owner (man with beard) was everywhere, making sure all details from the kitchen and in the stump-filled dining room were on point. That’s the recipe for success! It was the best dinner of my summer so far. This the one Place I tell my restaurant industry colleagues in Chicago HAVE to visit when they find themselves on the Connecticut shore.

the place unusual restaurant guilford connecticut 1971 arthur mullen favorite chicago 3rdarm corn clams bluefish

The cooks were super nice (over the top enthusiastic, actually!) to answer a couple questions at the end of dinner about their old school firing board. Basically they’re marking long domino-like tiles with pencil to group tables’ orders into pick-ups. Refreshingly old school, unique and with a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” mentality, just like The Place!

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