UPDATE: Schmidt’s Sausage Haus, Columbus, Ohio

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It’s time for another update post, this one referencing one of the most popular blogs I’ve ever done, that being Schmidt’s Sausage Haus in German Village in Columbus, Ohio. If you’d like to see the original, you can find it here. As is the case with update posts, these will not follow the traditional format and will just focus on what’s new on our most recent visit. This is meant to tie in with the original post.

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If you remember the original, you’ll know that one of the most famous things about Schmidt’s is the half-pound cream puffs. On my first visit, I had the chocolate peanut butter, and found it simply sublime. The chocolate was perfect on the pastry, and the peanut butter cream was just incredible. That was back in 2012, and I’ve talked about it quite a lot since then. Of course, 2012 was before Amy lived with me, so she wasn’t there for that first trip and made no secret of the fact that she wanted to experience a cream puff for herself. Like any good significant other, I promised her that when we got an opportunity, she would get her cream puff. As luck would have it, this year we needed to go to Ohio to get our wedding rings, and my beloved Seattle Sounders happened to land a match at Columbus on a Saturday evening in May. Opportunity knocked, and it was time to fulfill a promise.

Luckily, the cream puff was the part of my promise that she focused on, because when we arrived at Schmidt’s 90 minutes prior to kickoff, we learned that the wait for a table was going to be over an hour. Like I said last time, lines get long here, but I hadn’t counted on them being that long. As much as I love Schmidt’s sausages (especially the Milder Mama), the Sounders were the priority (hey, I am a proud member of the Emerald City Supporters), and it was time to call an audible.

Fortunately, there’s no wait for Schmidt’s desserts. The only issue is that when there’s no meal attached to them, they happen to cost a lot more. Actually, they tend to be double the price, jumping from $3 with the Autobahn buffet to $6 on their own. That’s quite a difference, and it’s a cost that you’d expect from a high-end restaurant’s dessert menu. But given that we are talking about a jumbo half-pound cream puff, this isn’t an ordinary dessert. If you remember from last time, Schmidt’s always has three options: the aforementioned chocolate peanut butter, vanilla and chocolate. A fourth option exists, but it’s a rotating seasonal flavor, so it’s never for sure what it will be. Having had the chocolate peanut butter before, I knew that this time, I wanted to try something new, and knowing Amy, I had a pretty good feeling that this trip would allow me to experience all three of Schmidt’s crown jewel desserts.

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She’s a chocolate lover through and through, which meant I knew she wanted chocolate, leaving me to go for the vanilla. Like I’ve said before, one of the many things I love about her is that we can work together seamlessly to allow ourselves to try a little of everything.

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One taste was all it took for Amy to understand what I’ve known for three years: these things are magical. First, there’s the design, as Schmidt’s covers the cream puff in powdered sugar and whatever toppings it deems appropriate for the flavors, and oh, the flavors are something special. The chocolate filling in this thing was incredibly rich, with the creamy, fluffy texture of a mousse. The chocolate has the strong flavor that hints at dark chocolate being used to make it, and if that’s the case, that would be something even more unique than it already is. I’ll be honest, it’s better than the peanut butter cream puff. This is dessert perfection.

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How about my vanilla? Just take a look at all that cream. The vanilla’s flavor is very pronounced from first bite to last, giving it that smooth taste that shows vanilla is anything but vanilla. This cream puff works beautifully with the shell, allowing you to get some of all the elements of the cream puff in each bite if you choose. If you’re not concerned with the pastry, then just go for the cream and the sugar. This is like the world’s best whipped cream on steroids, the texture is incredible and so is the taste. Wow, these things are worth every penny.

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So which one is the best? Honestly, it’s a tough call, but I have to give it to the chocolate. The texture and flavor combination is just so perfect that every bite is simply wonderful. The pastry holds everything together, and the cream is amazing. The chocolate peanut butter marks second on my list, putting the vanilla in the most outstanding last place of all-time. Seriously, the vanilla is incredible, it just happens to be paired with two desserts that are even better. Honestly, these cream puffs are as if there was a soccer group created of Chelsea, Juventus, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Someone outstanding has to finish last with such a stacked lineup, and unfortunately for the vanilla, that’s the hand it was dealt. It’s still an absolutely amazing dessert.

Someday, we’ll have enough time for Amy to experience the savory part of Schmidt’s, which is also incredible. But man, those cream puffs are something extra special. They’re easily three of the best desserts I’ve ever had in my life, and it’s honestly worth driving from anywhere for one of these. If nothing else, you’ve got to try one of these cream puffs if you’re in Columbus.

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Katzinger’s Delicatessen, Columbus, Ohio

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I’ll be honest: I’m not very big on celebrity endorsements. Maybe I’m jaded because I’ve seen how celebrities will say one thing, and then reverse course a week later, such as at the 2004 Olympics when U.S. gymnast Carly Patterson famously said she couldn’t really have McDonald’s while training (despite officially endorsing the Golden Arches), then talked about the health benefits of McDonald’s a week later. Wonder what changed her mind?

Or maybe it’s because I grew up in the era where television and sports exploded into a full and total partnership, which led to Michael Jordan advertising virtually every product under the sun, up to and including batteries, which have absolutely nothing to do with basketball. Jordan was so ridiculous that after winning the gold medal at the 1992 Olympics (do you get the sense that I don’t much care for the Olympics?), he draped an American flag over his shoulder for the medal presentation…to cover up the Reebok logo on his jacket, because he had a contract with Nike. Whatever the reason, I’ve always figured that when a celebrity gives an opinion, it has a good chance of being fiction, done either to help a friend or for a truckload of money. As a result, I’ve always taken endorsements by celebrities with a handful of salt, rather than a grain.

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When it comes to food endorsements, however, the rules change a little. They don’t change at all for advertisements, of course, because there’s still money involved. No matter what Bobby Flay says about this Greek yogurt being the best he’s ever used, he’s still being paid by their people to say that (and I’ve never used Greek yogurt in a recipe anyway). But they do change for restaurant-centric television shows, because to those programs, credibility is a must. If an expert such as Simon Majumdar or Alton Brown proclaims a restaurant wonderful when they know it isn’t in order to help a friend and the public soundly rejects it, their endorsement carries less weight in the future, which leads to reduced roles. In this day and age, it’s become easier than ever for serious foodies to test the claims of the experts, so there’s a lot of incentive for them to tell the truth now.

With that being the case, a celebrity’s restaurant endorsement in the right setting sparks a feeling of cautious optimism. I’m certainly not going to trust anyone blindly, but if a credible food expert praises a restaurant, my attitude is along the lines of, “OK, that sounds like it could be good…but I want to be the judge of that myself.” Such was the case with Katzinger’s Delicatessen, located on the edge of German Village in Ohio’s state capital of Columbus. Among other things, Columbus is the hometown of Chopped host Ted Allen, who certainly knows a thing or two about the culinary world after the amount of time he has spent hosting one of the Food Network’s signature programs. Recently, while doing one of my many searches, I noticed that during one program, Ted Allen actually proclaimed Katzinger’s to be one of the best places he has ever eaten. Well, that’s not exactly a statement that’s going to be made lightly. This was an endorsement worth exploring for ourselves.

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The first thing to note about Katzinger’s is that this is more than just a restaurant. It’s a legitimate deli that sells multitudes of cheeses, meats and bread. What isn’t made fresh on the premises is delivered fresh each day from as close as possible and made according to Katzinger’s standards. The bread, for example, comes from a bakery in Pittsburgh that makes its bread a certain way only for Katzinger’s, which then slices each loaf when it arrives in Columbus after three hours down Interstate 70. Not as great as if it was made fresh on site, but considering it’s made close by and driven in fresh, still a pretty good sign.

But it’s what’s between the bread that makes a great sandwich, and not only does Katzinger’s deliver here, it also throws in some creative names on top of it. Want a BLT? Here, it’s called Frank’s Reincarnation. Ham and turkey with mustard and mayonnaise? It’s called Sam Lives Here. Make it corned beef and pastrami and add Swiss, and you’ve got Jeff’s Soaring Super Sandwich. I love creative names, and some of these are so in depth that they actually open the door for some commentary. Here are some of my favorites:

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No. 8, Mom and Granny’s Harbor Hero: chicken salad, Muenster, lettuce and tomato on Challah. I wonder how Amy’s mom and grandmother feel about chicken salad?

No. 21, Gene’s Free Lunch: Hot corned beef, roast beef, Swiss, cole slaw and Russian dressing on pumpernickel. If it’s supposed to be Gene’s Free Lunch, why does it cost $12.50?

No. 59, President Bill’s Day At The Deli: Hot corned beef, mustard, Swiss on pumpernickel. Yes, this sandwich was created by President Clinton on one of his visits. Apparently, Bill Clinton is not a big fan of menu restrictions.

No. 65, Rachel and Nicki Got Stuck In A Closet: Beef brisket with barbecue sauce, cole slaw and Swiss. So Rachel and Nicki created a barbecue sandwich in a closet? Well, that’s one way to pass the time while you wait for help.

No. 69, Jack Does The Funky Chicken: Grilled chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and honey mustard on sourdough. Sounds like Jack’s got a good beat going here.

No. 79, Todd Is My Co-Pilot: Grilled chicken, bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado, red onion and homemade ranch dressing on farm bread. So you’re the one flying the plane while Todd’s making a sandwich? Love the sandwich idea, but not sure I want to take that flight.

No. 80, Misty and Stef Rule The World: Bacon, lettuce, sun-dried tomatoes, provolone and pesto mayonnaise on farm bread. Could Misty and Stef really do any worse than our current leaders? I mean, if they can make laws as well as they do sandwiches, they’ve got my vote.

There are no sandwiches with Dan or Amy in them, which is a bit of a disappointment. However, it didn’t really matter, because being the ridiculous planner that I am, I already knew what I needed to experience on this visit: the pastrami Reuben. Officially, the name is No. 39, Bill, Gary and Beuford’s (as a journalist, I love the lack of the Oxford comma) Upper Yough Reuben, which is your classic Reuben with pastrami instead of corned beef. Apparently, the name comes from a contest held where three guys who loved whitewater rafting on the Upper Yough River (which actually goes through Maryland and does not enter Ohio) won the right to name a sandwich, and that’s the name they came up with for what is best described as a pastrami Reuben with either sauerkraut or cole slaw. This is the sandwich that Ted Allen called the best he’d ever had, and I knew that this was what I wanted to experience for myself. To complete my meal, I added a knish, expecting it to be merely a supporting player in this meal.

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Yeah, about that: the knish is absolutely incredible. The classic knish is a mixture of onions and mashed potato inside a pocket of dough, much like a pasty with a different filling. The potato is cooked perfectly, soft and full of flavor, and it really is what makes this side dish something beyond an ordinary side dish. The pastry itself is light and flaky, and you honestly can’t even taste the onions, which made Amy a fan of this as well. This thing is simply amazing, and truthfully, I think it’s better than my sandwich was.

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And that’s really saying something, because this Reuben is a fantastic sandwich. I’m not sure what it is about Ohio and Reubens (or maybe it’s Ohio and sandwiches in general). First, the pastrami is heated up before it’s placed on the sandwich, and the sandwich is further heated by being placed on the grill. This, of course, gives the Swiss cheese the beautiful melt that creates a wonderfully creamy texture and enhances every bite. With the sauerkraut and Russian dressing adding to the flavor of the excellent rye bread, this is simply an awesome sandwich. Apparently, their classic and turkey Reubens are every bit as popular, which is pretty impressive. This sandwich is nothing short of wonderful.

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Amy wasn’t in the mood for a Reuben, and she opted to keep things simple and go for a No. 46, Repast Of The Robber Baron, which is a simple turkey, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. Normally, it comes on rye, but she’s not a fan of rye and opted for challah, which she discovered a taste for on a previous trip. It might be simple, but it’s really good. The turkey is sliced well, flavored perfectly and is moist throughout the way it should be. Nothing says that good food has to be complicated, and this sandwich proves it.

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She also decided to follow my lead with a potato-based side dish, opting for a potato latke with sour cream and applesauce. The main difference here is that for the latke, the potatoes and onions are grated and then deep-fried into a pancake, creating a crispy texture rather than a soft one. I’m not sure why applesauce works so well with a potato pancake, but it really does. This is also awesome, ranking just a notch below my knish in my opinion. I really recommend the knish, which comes in at just $2 with a sandwich to the $3.25 latke, but it’s a matter of preference. Either one is a great choice.

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What we weren’t fans of was the only thing Katzinger’s gives away for free: its pickles. Katzinger’s offers a help-yourself station to both dill and garlic pickles, but we didn’t really enjoy the taste of either one of them. The dill flavor just wasn’t pronounced well, and the garlic gave the pickles kind of a weird taste.

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I’m not sure what it is, but for some reason, they just didn’t work and one each was all we wanted. Truthfully, this isn’t really a bad thing, because a subpar pickle leaves more room for great sandwiches and potato products. That’s a trade I’m happy to make, especially given that the pickles were free. Can you really complain about something free? I can’t.

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Here’s what else it gives you more room for: dessert. Yes, in addition to their array of sandwiches, salads (with homemade dressing), soups (Ted Allen claims the chicken noodle soup is the best possible side, although it would be hard as heck to beat the knish) and sides, Katzinger’s also offers homemade pies, cakes and other good stuff. Seeing that, I decided to do what I usually do, which is pick the most pronounced peanut butter and chocolate flavor and go with that.

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If nothing else, that’s something I apparently have in common with my future mother-in-law and sister-in-law. So of course, that meant going for a slice of chocolate peanut butter pie.

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This time, however, I might have ruined it for all future experiences, because this pie was even better than the knish. The filling is pure peanut butter taste, with the perfect light whipped texture that you expect from a silk pie. Just the peanut butter on its own is amazing, but Katzinger’s then adds a wonderful chocolate ganache that provides a contrast in style and a perfect complement the the peanut butter. The finish is an Oreo crust, which was so good that Amy decided to go for the crust quickly to make sure she got some of it. Truthfully, I had to stop myself from ordering a second knish in order to get this pie, and I am so thankful that I did. Wow, was this amazing.

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Amy opted for a homemade chocolate chip cookie, which was also incredible. Both of us prefer cookies that are fresh out of the oven and have the chips melting when you break them apart, but this was so good that we loved it even with it being cold. The cookie is soft, flavorful and very chocolate-filled. Man, if you could get one of these fresh out of the oven, it might even rival the pie.

I’m not sure what it is that makes German Village the home of great restaurants in Columbus, but there’s no doubt after my third visit, German Village is the place to go for some incredible meals in Ohio’s state capital. If it’s between two slices, involves a potato or it’s sweet, there’s a good chance that you’re going to find it at Katzinger’s and it’s going to be an amazing experience. Well done, Ted Allen, well done.

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Recap

Time to go: Brunch, lunch or dinner. Katzinger’s is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and opens an hour earlier on weekends.

Wait during my visit: None. We came on a Sunday, so it wasn’t crowded.

Location: Katzinger’s is located at 475 South Third Street in Columbus, Ohio, right at the beginning of German Village.

Cost: On the pricey side for sure. Katzinger’s stuffs their sandwiches to be pretty full, which means that the sandwiches will not come cheap. Only one sandwich on the menu is under $10, with most being $11-13 for a regular and $13-15 for a deli-size, which is double the size of the regular. Most desserts cost around $3, as do most sides, which makes the $2 knish an absolute steal.

Parking: This can be tricky. Katzinger’s does have a small lot near the restaurant, but it doesn’t look big enough for a large crowd. If you can’t get in the lot, you’ll be stuck trying to find somewhere in German Village…and that isn’t a particularly enjoyable challenge.

Seating arrangement: Tables and chairs

Website: Katzinger’s

Specialty items: Pastrami Reuben, peanut butter pie, knish

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Katzinger's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Hash House A Go Go, San Diego/Chicago/Las Vegas

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I’ll be honest: if I hadn’t taken a look at their website, I never would have guessed that San Diego is the original home of Hash House A Go Go. It’s not that the city isn’t known for great food. On the contrary, San Diego is an excellent food city, one that I hope to get to sooner rather than later. However, when one thinks of San Diego’s cuisine, what usually comes to mind includes seafood, Mexican, Asian, tri-tip barbecue and possibly pizza.

Creative farm food that specializes in the unexpected, on the other hand, seems to fit much better with Las Vegas, a city that goes all-in on doing the unexpected in an attempt to bring in the tourists and get them to leave without their money. Sin City is where I first encountered Hash House A Go Go, which at the time was located inside Imperial Palace, which might have been the best bargain on the Las Vegas Strip back in 2010 when I stayed there for three nights…and spent $54 total. Yes, an $18 a night hotel, one of the best things about Las Vegas.

Unfortunately, Imperial Palace no longer exists (it now operates under the name The Linq), but Hash House has done nothing but thrive in the 15 years since Craig Beardslee and Johnny Rivera came together to create a menu that includes creativity, uniqueness and some of the largest, most fresh and highest quality brunch items there are. That was true five years ago when I experienced it for the first time in Vegas, which made it one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had when I experienced one of their scrambles in 2010. Ever since that, I’d wanted to get back to Hash House, and when I saw that its operations had expanded to Chicago, a mere three hours away from myself and Amy, I knew this was something that I needed to share with my lovely fiancee.

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The first thing to know about Hash House is that they don’t do what’s expected here by any stretch of the imagination. Honestly, you wouldn’t expect the expected from a place that bills itself as “Twisted Farm Food”. For example, among their pancake roster, only the traditional buttermilk and apple cinnamon could be considered standard. The rest include options such as strawberry frosted flake, blueberry pecan, brown sugar banana, blackberry granola, butterscotch almond, mango coconut and Snickers. I can honestly say I’ve never seen any of those flavors with pancakes, even at the most creative breakfast places, which meant that these were a must-try.

However, the second thing to know about Hash House is that these portions are HUGE. We found out the hard way because as usual, we couldn’t decide between sweet and savory and decided to try both by each placing an order for an entree and sharing a Snickers pancake. Usually, this strategy has worked pretty well for us in the past. This time, however, the waiter laughed and said, “Are you sure about that order? That’s a lot of food.” Well, that’s quite a warning, but we decided that the idea was too good to pass up.

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Turned out, he wasn’t kidding. Yeah, that pancake literally covers an entire plate that stretched from my spot to Amy’s beverage, and both of us immediately realized what we’d done as soon as the pancake came out. This thing is a meal in itself, which is why they charge $8 for it. You know, in retrospect, that was kind of a flashing neon warning sign that we were placing a breakfast order that might be enough to feed the state of Delaware.

But one bite told us that it was completely worth it, because this is one amazing pancake. The batter is light, fluffy and holds together beautifully, and the chunks of Snickers spread throughout put it over the top. I love the taste of chocolate and peanuts, and the combination basically turns this into a chocolate chip pancake with chunky peanut butter, which is something incredible. No, we didn’t come close to finishing because of how much we had in front of us, but we really, really wanted to, because this was incredible.

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That said, it wasn’t even the best thing that we had, because this time, I knew that I had to try Hash House’s specialty: the sage fried chicken benedict. Yeah, there’s no part of that sentence that I didn’t like. What makes this thing special is pretty much everything, but it starts with what might be the best thing on the menu, the foundation of griddled mashed potatoes.

Yes, mashed potatoes placed on the griddle and cooked to perfection, giving them an extra crispiness while keeping the fluffy texture that always comes with good mashed potatoes. Plus, the flavors of the benedict soak into the potatoes, taking it to a higher level. With the potatoes in place, Hash House then adds biscuits, fresh spinach, bacon, tomato, eggs and fried chicken, the last of which is coated in corn flakes for a slightly sweet crunch. Griddled mozzarella is added, and then the whole thing is covered with a chipotle cream sauce.

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Holy cow, this thing is awesome. The chicken is cooked perfectly and works beautifully with every ingredient, especially the chipotle cream sauce. The sauce penetrates every part of this dish, which creates both a creamy and spicy taste that creates the good kind of pain from start to finish. The bacon is cooked to Amy’s liking, hot and crispy, while the spinach, tomatoes and cheese help keep this dish from crossing the line from good pain to blistering regret. We’ve made two visits here now, with each of us going for this dish once because of how awesome it is. Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the size of this meal, as this benedict is so gigantic that it needs a large steak knife to hold it all together. Pretty incredible.

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On our first visit, Amy opted to go for the lunch side of brunch, opting for a salmon sandwich with chili mayonnaise, avocado and tomato. Sound simple? Maybe, but the taste is incredible. The salmon is wonderful with the cornmeal coating that they bread it with, and the chili mayonnaise works just as well with the salmon as it does with good sushi.

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Throw in the wheat bread and the vegetables, and you’ve got a great experience that might actually be somewhat healthy at the same time, at least before you get to the mountain of fries that comes with it on what has to be described as an absolutely beautiful plate. That’s another sign of how they do things differently at Hash House, everything with the food is done perfectly to the last detail.

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For our second visit, while Amy opted for the benedict, I decided that it was time to revisit the scramble I’d had five years earlier, opting for ham, cheddar and spinach along with my griddled mash. Honestly, that griddled mash is one of the best things I’ve ever had, with or without the benedict and the cream sauce. I’ve never once had one of the hashes here, mainly because those come with crispy potatoes instead of the griddled mash…and I’m actually someone who normally enjoys crispy potatoes/home fries over just about any other form of breakfast potatoes. These mashed potatoes are just that good.

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So is the scramble, which is loaded with toppings from start to finish. The most important thing about a scramble is the balance between the eggs and the toppings. Too much of the eggs and the toppings get completely lost and might as well not be even there, while too many toppings cause it to be nothing more than a loose-jointed collection of toppings that lacks the eggs to hold them together. The proper scramble, therefore, features every element in the bite with the toppings each bringing something to the table. That’s exactly what happens here, as the fresh spinach and salty ham pairs well with the creaminess of the melted cheese and the flavor and texture of the eggs. It’s hard for breakfast to get better than this.

My one regret here is that unfortunately, in our two experiences here, the service simply has not matched the quality of the food. On both occasions, we’ve received a server who started off attentive, but eventually forgot we existed, forcing us to wait a while for drinks or ask other servers for help. That’s really sad for a restaurant of this quality to have issues with its servers like this, and it’s really the only flaw we’ve found here. Basically, we’ve yet to have a server that will be anywhere close to reaching the Jimmy Lopez Hall of Fame.

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But when it comes to breakfast, Hash House knows what it’s doing for sure. From the griddled mash to the awesome scrambles to the sheer awesomeness that is the fried chicken benedict, there really isn’t anything here that’s going to be bad. No matter where it is, you can pretty much guarantee high quality food with a little creativity thrown in, and that’s a great way to start any day.

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Recap

Time to go: Brunch. Although Hash House does stay open late in most locations and does have a dinner menu, it’s known for breakfast food. It does lunch well too, but breakfast is the star.

Wait during my visit: None. Sometimes you might have a wait, but we’ve been lucky so far.

Location: Hash House a Go Go’s original location is at 3628 Fifth Avenue in San Diego, while the location we’ve been to is at 1212 North State Street in Chicago. I’ve also been to the location inside what is now the Linq at 3535 Las Vegas Boulevard in Las Vegas, and Orlando and Uncasville, Conn., also have locations.

Cost: Expensive. The fried chicken benedict costs $15, and many other dishes check in at around $8-12. That’s high for breakfast, but it’s also very much worth it. Definitely plan on about $15-20 per person, though, and more if you care to partake in a mimosa or another of Hash House’s alcoholic beverages.

Parking: This will range from “available” to “don’t even think about it” depending on where you go. In Vegas, it’s definitely available but probably unnecessary. Here’s one thing to know about the strip: the casino wants you spending money on fun stuff, not boring stuff. That means games, shows, food, drinks, luxury accomodations and entertainment. It does not mean parking. I’m pretty sure that parking at Vegas casinos is always free on the Strip, and since the Linq is in the center, you can just park at your hotel and walk there if you’re not staying there.

In Chicago, there’s almost no parking to be had. Your best bet is to take the Red Line of CTA to the Clark/Division stop just north of the Loop, then walk two blocks east to State Street and head slightly north. Much more simple to do that than try for a spot on a Chicago street.

Seating arrangement: Tables, chairs and booths, depending on where you are in the restaurant.

Website: Hash House a Go Go

Specialty Items: Fried chicken benedict, scrambles

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Hash House a Go Go on Urbanspoon

Hickory Park Restaurant Co., Ames, Iowa

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When the time came to take college visits, one of the main things I remember my mother talking about quite frequently was the importance of the college town. Whenever we went to any college on either mine or my siblings’ wish lists, my mother’s main priority was to see the college town portion of the city. At the time, I didn’t honestly understand the fascination. To me, the town was secondary, the college was the main reason I was interested.

Now that I’ve been able to do some traveling across the country and seen a lot for myself, I can understand why the college town meant so much to her. It’s because the presence of all of those college kids means that the town has to be able to cater to them. Even though college kids don’t have a lot of money, they also don’t have a lot of willpower when it comes to spending. They want to be able to go out on the weekends, and if they’re not able to do that, that’s going to cause a real problem.

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As a result, when it comes to the restaurant scene, college towns often punch far above their weight in terms of offering quality. Granted, some of them should, such as Columbus and Madison, because they’re legitimate cities on their own (and they’re actually the capitals of Ohio and Wisconsin respectively) and should have good food scenes. But then you get a place like Ames, Iowa, which is really an afterthought in the Hawkeye State, or at least it would be if not for it being the home of Iowa State University.

Ames is only home to 60,000 people and lives in the shadow of the state capital of Des Moines (40 miles to the north, but admittedly, Des Moines casts quite a large shadow over the rest of Iowa), but this college town has some legitimate options for Cyclones to visit. Creative pizzas convinced Man vs. Food to include an Ames restaurant in its Des Moines episode, and Iowa State’s football press box features what might be the best-kept secret in the sport: its wonderful buttermilk brownies. Those things are so good that I can only conclude that Iowa State is not smart enough to give them to football recruits; otherwise, the Cyclones would be dominating the Big 12 instead of languishing at the bottom of the table.

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But one of the older members of that food scene is also one of the best: Hickory Park Restaurant Co., located in downtown (or as close to downtown as it has) Ames. Since 1970, Hickory Park has been the place to go for sandwiches, barbecue and ice cream in Ames, and its standards haven’t slipped at all over 45 years. On the contrary, ever since David Wheelock opened Hickory Park, he’s had to close his doors and relocate twice…because the building he operated in wasn’t big enough to meet the demand.

When Hickory Park opened in 1970, Wheelock was setting up shop in a previously failed barbecue restaurant’s building that had capacity for between 60 and 80 people. He decided that he could succeed where the previous restaurant had failed by sticking with barbecue and adding ice cream to the mix, and somehow or another, it worked. In fact, it worked so well that in 1981, Wheelock closed his first location and opened a new one that featured 250 seats, hoping to appease his customers that found themselves waiting an hour or more for a table.

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It worked, but not in the way Wheelock intended. Instead, 16 years later, he found that he needed even more space and closed his second location for a location that almost doubled the space of the second…and it still hasn’t been enough to satisfy the demand. Even today, the waits at Hickory Park can get quite long. In a town of 60,000 people, that’s pretty dang impressive, and that says that this was a place Amy and I had to check out.

As expected, we got caught in the lengthy wait when we entered the building, but it really could have been a lot worse. The wait system is different here, as rather than the usual pagers, Hickory Park will give out numbers to each group and invite five or six numbers at a time to line up to be seated. One hard and fast rule here is that you can get a number at any time, but you can’t sit down until your party is complete. That’s one way to keep the line moving, and it works quite nicely.

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Once you get into your seat, you quickly find out that Hickory Park is basically where restaurant meets old-style ice cream fountain. This is the first place I’ve ever been that puts a phosphate on the menu, although interestingly enough, our waitress chose to talk us out of ordering it. When we asked what one was, she told us verbatim, “It’s really gross.”

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Undeterred, Amy was still curious, so we were given a free sample of a bubble gum phosphate, which actually didn’t suck as bad as the waitress suggested. Turns out, a phosphate is a sour flavored soda, so if you can handle sour, this might be a decent way to go. For me, I just thought it was okay, but still, considering what was suggested, okay isn’t bad at all.

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The main things we came for were dinner and ice cream, and here, we had some high expectations. We decided to start off with a breaded variety plate, which includes mushrooms, cauliflower, onion rings and cheese curds breaded and fried to perfection. Basically, the four items go from the healthy things to the unhealthy, with the cheese curds definitely not going to win any health food awards any time soon. But all four of them have two things in common: great breading and great taste.

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When you fry anything, no matter what it is, the breading is crucial. It’s got to stick to the thing being fried, and it’s got to actually add something to the thing being fried. Too much breading can overpower the thing that’s been fried, which is made even worse when a breading isn’t seasoned properly. This breading, however, worked wonderfully. Light, crispy, not too crunchy, not too oily, not too soft and not flavorless. This was good, and the vegetables and cheese were all excellent as well. This is something I’d order again, and I don’t say that about a lot of fried appetizers. Amy and I were very pleased with these.

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As far as dinner goes, there’s one major special here: garbage. Specifically and thankfully, the Garbage Burger, which features an array of toppings that would put a lot of other burgers to shame. Bacon, Swiss, American, mushrooms, sauerkraut and ham combine to form the Garbage Burger, which could probably also be called PETA’s Nightmare. There’s three kinds of meat and two kinds of cheese on this burger, which makes for one interesting experience. Of course, I knew this was the one to get.

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It’s pretty awesome. Really, the ham and the sauerkraut stand out here, as the ham is cooked well and merges well with the flavors, while the sauerkraut provides a decent texture change and a major flavor change. On top of that, the burger is absolutely nailed perfectly. There’s a lot to like about this burger. Really, the only negative here is with the mushrooms. For some reason, Hickory Park doesn’t treat the mushrooms with the respect they deserve when they’re thrown on to the Garbage Burger. Everything else is grilled properly, flavored properly and heated to the right temperature. But the mushrooms honestly have the taste and texture of the canned mushrooms you can find in the canned vegetable aisle at any grocery store. I’m sorry, but that’s not what mushrooms are supposed to be in a restaurant. They’re supposed to have a different texture and taste than the canned version, usually in a pretty noticeable way.

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Amy, never a fan of burgers, opted to go with a different kind of garbage meal: the deli sandwich. Once again, this list reads like some pretty impressive ingredients: ham, turkey, bacon, kraut, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, topped with some hard-boiled egg slices. Normally, it comes with beef, but Amy, of course, has no interest in beef and asked to have it removed. Again, this sandwich is excellent because for some reason, the flavors work. It’s so hard to integrate kraut into a sandwich and have it not suck, but Hickory Park manages to pull it off for the most part.

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I say ‘for the most part’ because this sandwich also suffers from mushroom issues. On the Garbage Deli sandwich, the mushrooms aren’t treated any better than they are on the burger. To their credit, they use fresh mushrooms and not canned mushrooms on the deli sandwich. To their discredit, the mushrooms are not sauteed or flavored. They’re just sliced and served. I have no problem with raw mushrooms and enjoy eating them, but on a deli sandwich, raw mushrooms just don’t work with the rest of the sandwich. The flavors have to work together, and not sauteeing the mushrooms damages that cooperation.

But otherwise, that’s about the only thing wrong with what we found here. The sides are decent, but not fantastic, mainly because only a few of them are actually prepared in-house. That’s because Wheelock’s philosophy from the beginning has been that if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all, and he’s stuck with that to this day. Only the salads and barbecue beans are made in the restaurant, so there won’t be anything memorable about the fries or the mashed potatoes, which are real but not mashed in house.. Heck, it might be a better idea to just ditch them entirely in order to save room for the ice cream, because that is definitely worth sticking around for at Hickory Park.

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Basically, they focus on taking ice cream they know is good and turning it into some awesome sundaes. There are no fewer than 54 on the menu at Hickory Park, and some of these sound pretty awesome. In order to make the process easier, Hickory Park breaks their sundaes up into categories, such as Peanut Lovers and Candy Bar Sundaes. Some of the selections include the the Streusel Coffee Cake (coffee ice cream on top of streusel coffee cake), Thin Mint (mint chip ice cream mixed with Oreos and topped with a hard chocolate shell), the Golden Roof (vanilla topped with butterscotch and peanuts), the Pink Panther (vanilla and peppermint ice cream) and what I’m sure would be my future mother-in-law and sister-in-law’s favorite, the PB Paradise (fudge brownie topped with peanut butter fudge ice cream, hot fudge and more peanut butter. Wow.

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I was tempted, but I had to stay true to my taste buds, and that meant toffee. I love toffee anything, and with the Toffee Park sitting in my sights, there was no way I wasn’t going to try this thing. Much to my pleasant surprise, I found out that the Toffee Park, which features butter pecan ice cream, caramel and hot fudge, making it a lot like what I had at Sucre, features little pieces of English toffee. English toffee might be my greatest weakness (I LOVE Heath Bars), and there was no way I wasn’t going to enjoy this sundae when I saw what ingredients were involved. I loved every bit of this thing.

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Amy chose to go for the cake, opting for a Pound Cake Delight that mixed chocolate and vanilla ice cream with hot fudge, marshmallow and pound cake. Cake and ice cream just belong together, and this combination was pretty outstanding as well. The flavors just work from beginning to end, and the multiple ice cream flavors make it a different experience as you get deeper into the sundae and the ice creams melt together to meld the flavors. The vanilla wafer also appears to be a special touch on every sundae they serve, and I’m never going to complain about a free vanilla wafer.

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Really, there’s not a lot to complain about here. I would love to see the mushrooms taken care of better, but even with that flaw, that merely downgrades it from “perfect” to “excellent” because of the outstanding ability to succeed with both dinner and dessert. Getting to Ames can be a chore if you’re not already on your way to Minneapolis or Des Moines, but Hickory Park will make sure it’s worth the trip.

Recap

Time to go: The short answer is any time between 10:30 a.m. and 9 p.m., or 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The honest answer is to check Iowa State’s schedule on the day you plan to go. If the Cyclones play a home football or basketball game (and that’s either gender, as women’s basketball was for a while the one sport Iowa State did not totally suck at playing), either plan to wait or don’t go that day.

Wait during my visit: Lengthy. Have hope, it does move somewhat quickly for a waiting area this large, but you still probably won’t be seated right away.

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Location: Hickory Park is located at 1404 South Duff Avenue in Ames, Iowa.

Cost: Not too bad, Hickory Park doesn’t have most of its entrees top $10. Ice cream costs about $3-4 (and you probably don’t need a large, a small each was enough for us). You might escape getting out for $13-14, an excellent value for the cost.

Parking: There’s actually a lot. Hickory Park thought ahead on this one and went with a big lot that can be accessed in two directions. Good work.

Seating arrangement: Mostly tables and booths, pretty standard.

Website: Hickory Park

Specialty items: Garbage burger, sundaes

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Hickory Park on Urbanspoon

Over Easy, Scottsdale, Ariz.

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Good breakfast places can seem to be a dime a dozen, but in reality, they’re really not that easy to find. That’s because while lunch, dinner and dessert can go off in almost infinite directions and work out perfectly, breakfast has more of a narrow scope. The concept of eating breakfast for lunch or dinner is a common one, but the reverse is almost never true, and most places won’t even serve lunch items before a certain time of day. As a result, no matter where you go for breakfast, odds are the menu is going to be built around the same core items in one way or another.

That means that in order to be a great breakfast place, you’ve got to be really good at what you do and you’ve got to be at least a little creative, because even the best bacon, eggs and pancakes can get lost in a sea of like meals if there’s no reason for them to stand out. Whether it’s by using fresh high-brow ingredients such as Brie or stuffing flavors into hash browns to make an already good dish better, the great breakfast places all find a way to separate themselves from the standard fare and make themselves a morning destination.

In the Valley of the Sun, the destination is definitely Over Easy, which has possibly the most perfect name for a breakfast place that I’ve ever seen. Since it opened in 2008, Over Easy has become the place to start your day in the East Valley, which includes the affluent Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale as well as Mesa, Gilbert and college town Tempe, and that’s mainly because when it opened, it had credibility before it had served a single customer.

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That’s because in Phoenix, and especially in the East Valley, the name of chef Aaron May is about as good as it gets on the culinary scene. May has been the brains behind several top restaurants in Scottsdale and Phoenix, and with Over Easy, he simply wanted to try his hand at putting his creativity into the most important meal of the day and see what he could come up with to serve the Valley. Of course, given a background that includes a tapas bar and a burger that was named Arizona’s best before the restaurant’s landlord forced May out to convert the building into housing, expectations of what May could come up with were pretty high, to say the least.

As it turns out, the expectations were well-warranted, because it didn’t take long for May to prove the pundits right. Despite only being open for seven years, Over Easy has already earned national acclaim for some of May’s creations, including landing Food Network’s spot as the best breakfast in the state of Arizona. With those kind of credentials to its name, it didn’t take Amy and I long to decide that a stop here was a necessity when we headed out to the Grand Canyon State.

Figuring out what to get here, however, can be quite the challenge, because May has come up with a menu that features the perfect mix of creativity and quality. First, there’s the sweet stuff. How waffles, pancakes and french toast made it into the breakfast family is a mystery nobody will likely ever solve, but as long as they’re part of the menu, it’s important that they’re done well. In addition to the classics, Over Easy includes a strawberries and cream waffle (seems that it could be called a Wimbledon Waffle), blueberry pancakes with both powdered sugar and maple syrup and pancakes with candy mixed into the batter. The lineup also includes banana french toast with brioche as the bread, something Amy decided she had to try.

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Truthfully, this is a pretty awesome combination. For starters, using brioche as the bread ensures that you’re already working with a sweet foundation even before you get to any of the toppings. When it comes to the toppings, Over Easy doesn’t skimp at all, going heavy on the syrup, bananas, nuts and sugar, creating an incredible taste that’s full of sweet flavor. The large amount of syrup and the egg-based brioche makes sure that every bite is soft and has the gooey and slick texture that a good French toast should have. What’s more, the bananas are caramelized and the pecans appear coated in powdered sugar, which only adds to the flavor. That’s how you take an ordinary dish and make it something special.

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As good as the French toast is, however, you can find good French toast in a lot of places. Over Easy certainly succeeds in putting their own touch on a classic dish and making it memorable, but for something really different that you can’t find anywhere, the only direction to go in is that of the waffle dog.

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What is a waffle dog? Basically, Over Easy has taken the corn dog and turned it into a breakfast food. Given that a corn dog is basically a hot dog wrapped in sweet cornbread batter, this isn’t as big of a stretch as you would think, but it certainly is unique and delicious. Instead of a hot dog, Over Easy uses a link of breakfast sausage, then dips it in waffle batter and fries it, finally topping it with powdered sugar and providing you with syrup to use as you see fit.

The taste is simply amazing. The idea of sweet and savory at the same time isn’t a new one, but when most people think of savory and sweet, sausage is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, given that other pork products have worked well with sweet elements (maple bacon bar, Monte Cristo), it stands to reason that sausage does too, and that’s exactly what happens. The tastes work with and play off each other, creating a perfect bite from start to finish that might seem weird, but is absolutely wonderful. What’s more, Over Easy allows you to order the waffle dogs as your meal or as a complement to your main meal by ordering just one waffle dog instead of the three that come with a full order.

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As tempting as it might be to order three waffle dogs, going with one on the side is definitely the way to go, because that allows you the chance to experience one of Over Easy’s great entrees. After all, this place is called Over Easy for a reason, and that means that coming here and not ordering some kind of egg dish would be a major mistake. The best one just might be the restaurant’s namesake, the Over Easy. When a dish is named after a restaurant, that means one of two things: it’s either really bland, or it’s really awesome.

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The Over Easy definitely falls in the latter category, mainly because of how fresh everything is in this dish. They start with the brioche that’s used in the French toast as a base, then add plenty of sauteed spinach and its natural juices to it. Once that’s done, the dish continues with plenty of bacon and scallions, providing texture, flavor and that little bite that a good dish usually has. The entire thing is topped by two fried eggs, of course coming over easy.

Man, was this amazing. The spinach is really the star of this dish, as it’s sauteed to perfection and works so fantastically with the flowing yolk and the toasted brioche. You’ve got all the bacon you could possibly want and plenty of scallions, so the ideal flavor of this dish is going to be present from first bite to last. This is how breakfast can be done when it’s done right, and there’s a reason this was the dish named Arizona’s best breakfast. If you like spinach and breakfast, you will love the Over Easy.

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And if you love potatoes, as Amy does, then you’ll want to go for the Wolfpack, which takes breakfast as we know it and brings it to the next level. Much like the French toast, the Wolfpack isn’t the kind of dish that wows you with the fact that you haven’t seen it before. Instead, it wows you by being better than the familiar dishes you’ve had before. The Wolfpack has all of its components join together to create a great taste, and it does that in between two layers of hash browns. In between the hash browns, you’ve got bacon, you’ve got cheese and you’ve got eggs the way you want them. At least, you do somewhere under that pile of hash browns, which are awesome in their own right. It’s all cooked perfectly, and the flavors work together so beautifully.

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Given their ability to make flavors work well with the special dishes, it’s not a surprise that they can also make the mundane ones outstanding. Amy’s mother and grandmother each chose to go for a less adventurous but still excellent choice in the two-egg breakfast, which features much of the same things as the Wolfpack, just in a more traditional form. It’s still an excellent flavor, and it’s still totally worth trying.

Really, there isn’t anything bad on this menu, and that’s something that really makes for a great experience to start the day. When it comes down to it, being a great breakfast place comes down to two things, quality and creativity. If you’ve got both, you can take something everyone is familiar with and create one heck of an experience. That’s what makes Over Easy such a gem in the Valley and a required stop in the Grand Canyon State.

Recap

Time to go: Breakfast, obviously. Over Easy’s focus is only on breakfast, and as such, they close their doors at 1 p.m. most days, staying open until 2 p.m. at some locations.

Wait during my visit: None. Scottsdale is a bit out of the way from parts of the rest of the Valley, so the wait isn’t bad.

Location: There are four locations in the area, we visited the location at 9375 East Bell Road in Scottsdale, Ariz, next door to a hockey practice facility operated by the Arizona Coyotes. Phoenix, Gilbert and Mesa also have locations.

Cost: Reasonable. Entrees average about $9 here, so it’s not bad at all for the quality. High-quality, mid-range budget.

Parking: Quite a bit. Being next to the Coyotes’ facility will do that.

Seating arrangement: Mostly tables and chairs or bar seating.

Website: Over Easy

Specialty items: Waffle Dogs, the Over Easy

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Over Easy on Urbanspoon

Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, Inglewood, Calif./Los Angeles

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It’s rare for a dish to start in one location and become the delicacy of a completely different location. Sure, you see dishes transported to different cities and become gems in their new homes, as well as knock-offs of the original that show up under a new name. You can even see a dish named after something in one city become a hit in a completely different city. But when one place creates a dish, it’s usually that city’s dish to call its own for as long as it’s around. You just don’t see dishes start in one place and become associated with another.

But when it comes to the case of chicken and waffles, it really shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that it doesn’t exactly follow the traditional rules. After all, the dish itself doesn’t come close to following the traditional rules. Dinner and breakfast at the same time? Fried poultry and a sweet waffle simultaneously? Not exactly what most people expect from their meals. But that’s what chicken and waffles is, and it’s a combination that has been going strong for decades now. The tradition dates back to at least the 1930’s, when according to legend, restaurant patrons in Harlem, N.Y. began to request both breakfast and dinner at the same time. Apparently, it had something to do with getting off after a night on the town and wanting to get both meals taken care of at the same time.

Whatever reason, people loved the idea, and the Wells Supper Club began offering the combination to its hungry guests. But unlike the city’s rich culture and music scene, chicken and waffles didn’t get the attention quality usually causes. The dish was popular in Harlem, but it wasn’t getting attention outside of the neighborhood. The city of New York just didn’t have space for yet another new iconic dish to add to its ever-growing stable.

But in the 1970’s, Herb Hudson saw an opportunity in bringing the Harlem taste to the west, specifically the city of Los Angeles and its suburbs. Hudson, a Harlem native, was familiar with two things: chicken and waffles, and the business of music and television. If there’s one thing that Los Angeles is known for, it’s celebrities. You pretty much can’t walk half a mile without finding some reference to a celebrity in Los Angeles, and that means that celebrities are definitely the best way to get your business out there in the City of Angels.

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In Hudson’s case, that meant getting them to talk up his business and visit at every opportunity. What he did was pass the word along to celebrities that he had a new chicken and waffles restaurant open called Roscoe’s, and they soon informed other celebrities about the interesting combination. Eventually, celebrities started passing on tips that they would be heading to Roscoe’s, and in a star-crazed city, that’s a sure way to get people to come. Through his own connections and some clever planning, Hudson had his franchise and chicken and waffles had officially become a Los Angeles staple.

But as powerful as word of mouth and celebrity sightings are, they’re not going to do the trick forever. That might be how Roscoe’s got its foot in the door, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the results you deliver. Fortunately, Hudson wasn’t all sizzle and no steak, or in this case, all breading and no chicken. As time went on, the reason to come to Roscoe’s became less about the celebrity and more about the simple quality of what you were eating. Travel Channel even called it the No. 2 place in the entire country, only losing to Connecticut-based Louis’ Lunch, the restaurant that invented the hamburger. That’s pretty high praise, and that was why Amy and I knew we had to make this trip on our visit to Los Angeles to see Simon. Truthfully, when we sketched this trip out, this was third on the list of what I wanted to accomplish in Los Angeles, behind only seeing my brother and seeing a UCLA basketball game at Pauley Pavilion. When a restaurant gets to No. 2 in the nation, it’s worth seeing what the hype is all about.

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With that being the case, there was only one thing to do when we arrived in Inglewood: order the dish that made this place famous. Truth be told, Roscoe’s actually has several ways that you can order chicken and waffles, with one of the main ones now being the Obama Special, obviously named for the current president. Previously, it was known as the Country Boy, and it consists of three chicken wings, plus either a waffle, potato salad or french fries. If one waffle isn’t enough for you, or if you just aren’t a fan of chicken wings, no problem. The Scoe’s consists of 1/4 chicken plus two waffles, and Herb’s Special ups the ante by making it half a chicken along with two waffles. Both offer solid values.

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Or you can say the heck with the combos and make it an a la carte order, which is what Amy and I chose to do. What can I say, we each like what we like. She’s always going to choose a chicken breast over any other part of the bird, and I’ve always been a fan of the dark meat, because I just find it so much more flavorful than a breast or a wing. Plus, I didn’t feel like taking my chances on only being able to order certain parts of the chicken if I opted for the Scoe’s or Herb’s Special, so I have no idea how ordering 1/4 or 1/2 of a chicken works here. What I do know is that I had an easy call here for a meal: thigh, leg and waffle. Perfect combination right there, and I couldn’t wait to try it.

As soon as I tasted it, I knew that the hype was totally worth it. This combination was simply as good as it gets, and it started with the chicken thigh. I’ve had some of the best chicken in the world, and this wasn’t too far off. It’s perfectly spiced, breaded well and so flavorful. What makes it so good is that it’s juicy but not greasy, a delicate balance that many try but only a select few achieve. The thigh was so good that it actually made the leg redundant. Don’t get me wrong, the leg is quite tasty, but truthfully, I’d rather have had two thighs instead of a thigh and a leg.

But where Roscoe’s really stands out is the waffle. I’ve had outstanding chicken and waffles before, but what makes Roscoe’s even better is the taste of the waffle. Little-known fact about me: I absolutely love the taste of butter pecan flavoring. I’m not the biggest fan of pecans themselves, but something about the butter pecan flavor just absolutely works beautifully. As soon as I drenched my waffle in syrup and took my first bite, I noticed a very familiar flavor permeating throughout the sweet mix of waffle: butter pecan. Perfection right there. The waffle texture is soft, fluffy and absorbs syrup beautifully, providing the perfect combination with the chicken. I loved every bit of my waffle, and really, I would come to Roscoe’s just for the waffle, and yes, I mean I would fly from Davenport to Los Angeles just for a waffle if I could afford it.

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Back on the chicken front, Amy’s chicken breast was just as outstanding as my chicken thighs. Much like the thigh, it was a step behind the absolute top that is Willie Mae’s, but a step behind Willie Mae’s is still pretty dang amazing. The chicken is absolutely wonderful, breaded well, juicy and flavorful. But that was something that she was expecting. What she wasn’t expecting was the quality of the macaroni and cheese that I ordered as a side.

On first glance, the macaroni and cheese is the dark side of Roscoe’s, because the most obvious thing about it is that it’s expensive. When you pay five dollars for macaroni and cheese, you expect a huge portion of it. Instead, it’s a regular-sized side dish. When it comes out, you honestly wonder how in the world it could be worth five bucks. But when you taste it, you realize that it’s worth every cent, because the pasta is perfect and the cheese is both melted throughout and flavored perfectly.

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I’ve never met a macaroni and cheese I didn’t love, and this might be the best I’ve ever had. Amy, on the other hand, hates macaroni and cheese in all forms…except this was her Drover. Much like the whiskey-soaked steak in Nebraska, Amy didn’t hate this macaroni and cheese. When Amy doesn’t hate your macaroni and cheese, you’ve really done a great job with it. The cornbread was also fantastic, having all of the necessary savory and sweet flavors that make up a good cornbread. Soul food is just something special.

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Breaking with our tradition, Simon opted for a chicken sandwich with potato salad, which truthfully is another fine choice. I’ve never been the biggest fan of potato salad (I blame my father for always having it around growing up), but sometimes it works well, and this was one of those times. Potato salad, to be done right, must be creamy and properly spiced, almost always with dill, and this hit the mark. As for the chicken sandwich, this place simply knows chicken, bone or no bone.

Harlem might have been the place that started the idea of chicken and waffles, but it’s Los Angeles that has perfected it. Roscoe’s is what made it mainstream, and that’s because Roscoe’s made it outstanding. It’s really not a stretch to say that you haven’t really been to Los Angeles until you’ve made it to Roscoe’s.

Recap

Time to go: Morning, evening or late night. Roscoe’s opens at 8 a.m. in six of its seven locations and stays open until midnight at five out of seven, with some staying out until as late as 4 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Chicken and waffles are meant to be an evening meal.

Wait during my visit: None. Seven locations and a late trip pretty much means no wait.

Location: We went to the location at 621 West Manchester Boulevard near the former Great Western Forum (which had to be the best corporate name for an arena ever) in Inglewood, Calif. Others exist in Hollywood, Pasadena and Anaheim.

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Cost: It’s not anywhere near as cheap as you’d think. If you stick to chicken and waffles, it’s not expensive at all, running about $10 per person. But when you add sides, that’s where the costs really add up. On the other side of the coin, the sides are worth every cent. Also, skip the Sunrise and Sunset drinks. Lemonade and orange juice mixed together could be a good thing. Paying more than two dollars for lemonade and orange juice mixed together is definitely not.

Parking: It was a challenge, but not too terrible. We just had to grab the last spot in the lot and park.

Seating arrangement: Tables and chairs or booths are your options.

Website: Roscoe’s

Specialty items: Chicken, waffles, macaroni and cheese

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Roscoe's House of Chicken & Waffles on Urbanspoon

UPDATE: Gray Bros. Cafeteria, Mooresville, Ind.

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This is a first at Dan vs. Food, as I present my first update post after a return visit to Gray Bros. to try the meatloaf that I missed on visit no. 1. Rather than re-hash everything from the original, I’ve updated the original post with information from the new visit that Amy and I had in November.

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In addition, as you can see, I’ve added some pictures here as a preview for some of the new things we experienced on our return trip. Enjoy.

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Gray Bros. Cafeteria update

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