Best of the Best

by Michael Stern

Goetta, which rhymes with feta, is as much a Cincinnati signature dish as five-way chili. A distant relative of scrapple, it is a loaf of pork mixed with steel-cut oats, sliced and fried in butter until crisp-edged and moist within. Historically, it was a way of stretching a minimum amount of meat to feed a large family and in that form, just about every part of the pig could be used. Today’s best scrapple is made from higher-on-the-hog cuts, preferably shoulder. It is listed in local cafes as the fourth breakfast-meat offering (along with bacon,  ham, and sausage), but also can be enjoyed on its own in a sandwich.

Best of the Best

by Michael Stern

Many restaurants serve steak, but some places are dedicated to it. Although no great steak house is cheap, some of the best are extremely informal (like Doe’s Eat Place of Greenville, MS). Roadfood rates a steak house not only on the savor of its beef, but on its side dishes (hash browns, creamed spinach, etc.) and on its unique personality (La Cantina). Here are our favorite dozen.

Best of the Best

by Michael Stern

There’s no point getting into a flame war over which American hot dog is best. It’s impossible, because the nation’s hot dogs are so diverse.  However, we will go out on a limb and make a bucket list of the nation’s greatest hot dogs of every style, and which restaurants serve them. Eat every one of the 30 tube steaks on this itinerary and you will have enjoyed a spectacular, unique taste of America.

Best of the Best

by Michael Stern

Fried chicken is popular all across America and so different everywhere that it is not possible to say what city, state, or region does it best. While the process of making it is relatively simple, every cook has a twist to the recipe, and results vary from four-alarm hot (in Nashville) to country comfort (Indianapolis). Here are a double-dozen great places to enjoy fried chicken in all its myriad variations.

Best of the Best

by Michael Stern

When barbecue migrated up the Mississippi from its homes in the Deep South and in Texas, it took on a new personality — similar to what happened to the blues when they came north. As the blues went electric in St. Louis and Chicago, so barbecue got electrified by sauce. Sauce is a major player in all the great barbecue parlors of Midwestern cities. Here is our choice of one superb barbecue parlor in each of six smoke-pit havens.

Best of the Best

by Jane & Michael Stern

At their best, made from roasted chilies that still have muscular vegetable walls, stuffed with cream-rich molten cheese and haloed in a coat of featherweight batter fried to a fragile crisp, chile rellenos are food of the gods. Nearly all of those encountered in the Southwest are made from mild pods – Anaheims, Big Jims or Poblanos – so the chile experience is far more about their sunshiny flavor than about any kind of ferocious heat. Rellenos usually are served decorated with sauce or salsa cruda, and while cheese is the classic filling, some are stuffed also with brisket, picadillo, or shredded chicken.

Best of the Best

by Jane & Michael Stern

While the old-time boarding house is history, boarding house meals remain a highlight of eating one’s way through the south. Seating usually is communal: friends, family, and strangers gathered around a big table where everything is set out on platters and in bowls. Diners reach, pass, and grab for what they want. It is vital to come to such a meal with a big appetite; it would be wrong to practice moderation.

Best of the Best

by Jane & Michael Stern

Lima beans are known everywhere, loved mostly in the South, and a signature dish of Charleston, South Carolina. Soul food cooks simmer the khaki-colored pods with plenty of pork, the flavor of which transforms them from a mere vegetable into a silky-rich indulgence. These are the places to taste them at their best, in Charleston and beyond.