Hungry stomachs know nothing of white tablecloths and fine wines. When your appetite is bent on destruction, often only the fastest, cheapest—and often greasiest—eats will do. For the sixth year running, WW picked the brains of hot local chefs to find out exactly what kind of inexpensive grub they crave after a long day (or night) in the kitchen.
In the past we've had our chefs profess their love for everything from Low Brow tater tots to Dog House wieners, but this year our manly cooking trio got real down and dirty—Popeyes Chicken dirty.
"Chefs are exposed to all different flavors all day. You've run the gauntlet, so you just want something simple—as simple as a basket of fries. I get outta [Wildwood] around 1 am every night. I live on the west side, right by Zupan's on West Burnside, so there isn't a lot around here. So I head right to the east side. Dots Cafe (2521 SE Clinton St., 235-0203) has the best spicy fries ($3.50); they've got the spicy tofu dipping sauce. Can't go wrong with that.
"[Closer to home] I go to Nob Hill [Bar & Grill](937 NW 23rd Ave., 274-9616). I get the Ambulance Chaser ($5.75)—[a burger topped with] Swiss cheese—and cheap Pabst ($2.25/pint).
"When I'm not working, a lot of the time I end up going to Taqueria Lindo Michoacán(parking lot between Southeast 33rd and 34th avenues at Division Street), right by Kappaya, for burritos al pastor and lengua [beef tongue]. All their corn tortillas—except the one for the burritos—are made to order. [They're] super fluffy, really delicate. They're pretty killer.
"Oh, and go get Vietnamese sandwiches at Cali Sandwiches(6620 NE Glisan St., 254-9842). I get the No. 2, it's got the mix of pâté and sliced ham and pickled carrots ($2.75). Yeah, sandwiches No. 1 and No. 2 are the real good ones. I had a [sandwich there] once that had sliced pig ear in it. That's got a weird texture."
"I really like things that are down and dirty, like Nick's Coney Island (3746 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 235-4024). I get the regular Coney Dog ($5) with onions and all of that. I can't double down or go for the "Home Run" [that's two double dogs]. One is plenty with a couple of beers.
"I also have a soft spot for King Burrito (2924 N Lombard St., 283-9757). I love their cheeseburger: It's thin, greasy, made right there and they put American cheese on it. I know, it's weird. I go with friends and they all get burritos, and I say, 'I gotta get the double cheeseburger!' It's cheap, $1.95 (for a single cheeseburger). [People ask], 'What about Higgins?' and I say, 'Naw, for me it's King.'
"There is this really weird sandwich at Kornblatt's Delicatessen (628 NW 23rd Ave., 242-0055): the chopped liver and hardboiled egg sandwich ($8.25). I go there if I'm hungover, and it cures me every time. I can only eat it three times a year because I know it's kinda wrong, you know? It's just so much flavor in your mouth. It comes on one of those sandwich rolls...soft and mushy. [Get it] without the peppers; it's better without.
"A lot of cooks and chefs are the same way [as me]—they invariably want a burger or fried chicken [after work]. They don't wanna go somewhere and be dazzled. Popeyes Chicken (3120 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 281-8455, and 5939 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 286-4489) is a very guilty pleasure for me. Sometimes I can get my sons [who are 14 and 17] to go with me. Holly [Martinez, Michael's wife and Encanto co-owner] won't go. Well, she will go with me, but she won't eat.
"I like the three-piece 'regular' meal ($5.89), all dark meat—[ordering it] 'spicy' detracts from the experience. And I get mashed potatoes with the weird funky gravy with all the bits of sausage and fat. I don't even know what it is, [but] my mouth understands all these flavors. No biscuit. Sometimes I do the coleslaw, but that's pushing it because it's like eating 8 ounces of mayonnaise. I know [after I eat Popeyes] the rest of the afternoon is, like, nap time on the couch. But that's OK."
"I'm at work about 70 hours a week, so I usually eat ethnic food when I'm not here. I eat the most at ¿Por Que No? (3524 N Mississippi Ave., 467-4149); it's on the same street as us [Lovely Hula Hands]. I mix it up, different kinds of tacos ($2.50)—carnitas or asada. I'm impressed that they use good meat—at most taco trucks you don't know where their meat is coming from [he's referring to where the meat is sourced, not what animal it comes from]. They've got some amazing specials—I had a carnitas and scrambled-eggs torta ($7.50) there that was delicious, and they make really good aguas frescas ($3).
"There's a place on Sandy [Boulevard] called Du's Grill (5365 NE Sandy Blvd., 284-1773). It's like a Korean grill kinda thing. You can get grilled meat—pork or beef or chicken ($6.40-$7.50)—and it comes with rice and this really great little poppyseed dressing [on the salad]. It's a bit of a gut-buster, in a good way. That's one of those places that you go and try not to think too much about what you might be eating.
"There's nowhere in Berkeley [where MacLarty lived for years] that does a sandwich like Viande (735 NW 21st Ave., 221-3012). I was spoiled because I worked there for a while. I love their Italian sandwich ($6.95); the quality of the meat is the main thing. They've just got better ingredients top to bottom."
Wildwood, 1221 NW 21st Ave., 248-9663. Encanto, 5225 N Lombard St., 286-2929. Lovely Hula Hands, 4057 N Mississippi Ave., 445-9910.
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