When you begin planning a getaway, it’s an unfortunate realization that no matter how hard you look on a map you won’t ever find the illustrious Shangri-la that is Flavortown. Who wouldn’t want to venture to a destination filled with amazing restaurants, Hawaiian-shirt wearing dudes with sunglasses hanging off the backs of their heads, and enough blonde hair bleach to make even the Kardashian family cringe? Flavortown is out-of-bounds special, but the population is only one: Guy Fieri.
Fieri made a name for himself on his super popular show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives where he took viewers all across the country to visit local mom-and-pop eateries that slung some super unique dishes. All anyone could do was drool every time the host popped off those shades and took a massive bite into every dish. The best part was Fieri specifically highlighted places that weren’t chains or well above the average Joe’s tax bracket. These were spots anyone could visit and shell out an affordable amount of money to feast like Fieri. He always had the common man covered, and that’s why he’s such a draw.
Over the course of the show, Fieri traveled to hundreds of unique places and helped put them on the culinary map. And, as you can imagine, he dove head-first into some pretty wild stuff. The kind of food that leaves you scratching your head, while at the same time working up the appetite to plan a trip ASAP.
Inside Out Grilled Cheese
Grilled cheese sandwiches are hard to beat. When you’re stuck in a culinary quandary about what you want for dinner (or lunch, or breakfast), you can always fire up a quick and easy grilled cheese sandwich for something delicious and filling. Sure, it may not be the most health-conscious decision you can make, but sometimes you just have to shove that worry about caloric intake aside and treat yourself. In today’s bustling world of stress, you’ve earned it.
Naturally, a guy like Fieri is no stranger to these sandwiches. But, he wanted to step out of his grilled cheese comfort zone and try a new spin on the already-incredible item, so he gave Herm’s Inn a visit. Located in Logan, Utah, this place was a huge hit with the locals, so the host knew right off the bat they were doing something right. When Fieri’s spidey senses start tingling you know he’s in for something special, and it came in the form of the restaurant’s Inside Out Grilled Cheese.
Instead of simply putting the cheese between two slices of toasted bread, both sides of the bread received a handful of shredded cheese. The shreds on the outside of the bread crisped up for a crunchy top and bottom layer. Then guacamole, black beans, and Sriracha were spooned on top of the gooey middle cheese. There was only one thing left to do: Take a bite and smile wide.
Peanut Butter Burger
There are certain staple burger toppings deserving of a resting place on any burger patty: lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. Of course, people stray from the basics all the time and add their own unique flavor combinations, but usually when you read any list of burger fixings on a menu you nod your head in approval. However, once peanut butter creeps its way into the list you might pause in bewilderment. Wait a second, peanut butter on a burger? Aside from pairing it with jelly (and chocolate, of course), it seems like there are few other uses for it. However, a spot called Sabores International Cuisine in Logan, Utah, thought differently.
The Mexican-born head chef at Sabores knows his way around food. Not only did he run kitchens in his home country but he even cooked for President Ronald Reagan. His resume is rock solid, which is why the addition of peanut butter on his burger means customers should trust that his unconventional pairing actually works. The burger is pretty much a basic bacon cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, onions, and spicy mayonnaise. But, the peanut butter adds a new level of nutty goodness, that Fieri points out is similar to a "Thai peanut dipping sauce" on satay. Next time you grill burgers, maybe add peanut butter to the collection of table condiments.
Seafood Totem Pole
The art of stacking food so high on a plate that it teeter-totters back and forth precariously but never collapses is an art. Some people have what it takes to harness their inner Tetris champion and finagle everything at just the right angles, and others end up with a tumbling mess to clean up after the attempt. Luckily, at Seither’s Seafood, the people in the kitchen are particularly talented at stacking food — especially seafood. And, when Fieri arrived with his appetite growling, they were prepared to blow him away with their Seafood Totem Pole.
The vibrant spray-painted artwork that adorns the outside of Seither’s lets you know you’re in for a groovy time when you enter. The head chef, Jason Seither, grew up in the Louisiana Bayou, and he brings all of that authentic Cajun flavor to many of his dishes. And, nothing says Cajun cooking quite like his famous totem pole of culinary magnificence. The base of the structure is two scoops of housemade crab stuffing with a fat puck of golden fried eggplant sandwiched between them. Then, an entire softshell crab sits atop that before it all gets a thorough ladling of cream sauce. To ensure the pole remains as "totemy" as possible, a shrimp skewer is thrust into the top. Another ladle of sauce is added, as well as a downpour of grated parmesan cheese.
Nacho Cheese-Chip Coated Chicken
Chicken is such a versatile ingredient. It pairs well with so many different sauces and marinades, and you can cook it in more than a dozen different ways. If you find yourself spinning the roulette wheel in Reno, Nevada, however, you should do your appetite — and curiosity — a huge favor and head to Full Belly Deli where you can find chicken done differently. Here, customers rave about the poultry that’s deep-fried in a crunchy coating of nacho cheese chips, so Fieri just had to dabble.
Aside from the unique way of frying the chicken, the sandwich itself is pretty standard (although the bread has jalapeños and toasted cheddar baked into it). Romaine lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, pickles, and spicy Southwest sauce already set you on course for a good time, but once that breaded chicken is sliced and gently laid onto the bun, everything changes. It seems like the nacho cheese chips don’t exactly take a front seat to the other ingredients, but the intense crunch they offer gives the sandwich an extraordinary mouthfeel. Instead of munching down a bag of chips alongside a sandwich, Full Belly Deli offers diners a two-in-one experience delicious enough to take anyone’s mind off that losing bet they made at the casino.
Burger Made Entirely From Bacon
Just hearing the word "bacon" is enough to rumble anyone’s appetite (sorry vegetarians, this stuff is good). Throwing a few slices onto a sandwich or crumbling a handful into pasta kicks a dish up from 10 to 11 instantly. Anyone’s who’s seen bacon at the supermarket — which is likely everyone — knows it comes in packaged strips for easy cooking. But, if you go to a butcher, you can buy a whole slab of the stuff to cut yourself. When Fieri stepped into Dr. Field Goods Kitchen, even he wasn’t prepared for the goliath portion of bacon they had ready to hack away at.
Head Chef Josh Gerwin wanted to do something different when it came to his menu, and he knew bacon would play a role. But, not only does bacon just play a role, on one of his burgers, it’s the entire performance. He smokes a massive slab of bacon with applewood for six hours to ensure every inch is tender. Then he grinds up the finished product and molds it into patties. That’s right, the entire burger is bacon, not just a few measly strips on top. Heirloom tomatoes, organic greens, and mayonnaise are all it needs after that — the chef doesn’t want anything standing in the way of the rich patty flavor. Like any great performance, it’s worthy of a standing ovation afterward.
Duck Tongue Tacos
There’s something about food you can eat with your hands that appeals to the kid inside all of us. This is what makes tacos so great. Not only can you stuff them full of whatever you want, but picking them up in your hands lets you know you’re in control, and everyone wants to take the steering wheel when it comes to their food. Fieri is a guy who loves to get down and dirty with his food, so he had to try the tacos from Extra Virgin when he was in Kansas City, Missouri. But these weren’t normal tacos. These things were stuffed with duck tongues.
To say Michael Smith, head chef at Extra Virgin, knows what he’s doing is an understatement. Ever heard of the James Beard Award? Yeah, this guy’s got one, and he proves why in all the Mediterranean tapas he serves his customers. He took a risk when he put duck tongue tacos on the menu, but alas, the endeavor proved more than fruitful. If customers saw the raw tongues before they were cooked, they might think twice about indulging, but that’s why the magic of the kitchen stays in the kitchen. Once the tongues cook for a few hours in a mixture of spices, they look just like any other pulled meat. The tacos are stuffed with the duck, then topped with pickled onions and queso fresco. So simple, yet so unique.
Crab Cake Grilled Cheese
Whoever’s idea it was to take ground crab and mold it into fryable patties deserves a medal. Not everyone wants to tackle the hard exoskeleton of a crustacean when they’re hungry, and that’s where these little hockey pucks of oceanic delight come marching in to rid them of any worry. Crab cakes are amazing on their own, but if you ever tried a crab cake patty on a bun with a little lettuce, tomato, and tartar sauce, you know they work wonders as a sandwich, as well. But, you know where else those crab cakes work? Smack dab in the middle of a grilled cheese. That’s why Fieri visited the Grilled Cheese & Crab Cake Company in Somers Point, New Jersey.
Fieri watches in awe as Head Chef Steve Novak adds a plethora of ingredients in a big tub that eventually becomes the jumbo lump crab meat’s binding agent. Once the binding agent is mixed and the crab meat is dumped in, the whole tub is placed in a fridge to solidify. Then, it’s off to the races. A heaping scoop of the mixture is flattened on the grill while two fluffy pieces of toast are layered with Monterey Jack cheese and tomatoes. In no time at all, the patty joins the party and viola! According to Fieri, the crab cake is "a little bit creamier than most people expect," but that’s never a bad thing.
Cheeseburger Fried Rice
Picture this scenario: You’re on the couch binging your favorite Netflix show when suddenly you get a craving. But, not just any craving. One that only a cheeseburger or fried rice can fix. It’s a real Sophie’s choice, and you’re afraid if you make a hasty decision you’ll realize the potential mistake too late. What do you do? Well, if you’re fortunate enough to live near Red’s Chinese in New Orleans, Louisiana, you can pay one price for both. This was something Fieri had to see himself: Cheeseburger Fried Rice.
The very first ingredient Chef Maxwell Darling shows Fieri how to make is a creamy condiment called Awesome Sauce. Right there you know this dish is a winner. The chef then fires up a wok and throws in onions, ground beef, and white rice. He skillfully works the wok side to side ensuring everything cooks perfectly, then he throws in lettuce and tomato — this is cheeseburger fried rice after all. Once the wok work is finished, the whole thing is dumped onto a large plate and topped with nacho cheese sauce, yellow mustard, sesame seeds, pickle chips, and the pièce de résistance, a hefty drizzle of Awesome Sauce. Fieri attacks with chopsticks in hand, and the ear-to-ear smile on his face afterward tells you everything you need to know.
Biscuits And Gravy Burrito
Comfort food does exactly what its name implies. It creates a child-like sense of warmth and belonging, tapping into memories of amazing dishes your parents used to make for you growing up. Biscuits and gravy are the perfect examples. The buttery flaky bread soaked in rich creamy sausage gravy puts you in a food coma of culinary splendor. Well, Full Belly Deli in Reno, Nevada, (the place famous for their Nacho Cheese-Chip Coated chicken sandwich) hit another home run with their twist on that gravy-drenched comfort food. Except they say, "To heck with a fork and a knife! We’re going burrito style!" And it works.
It’s ingenious to put biscuits and gravy in a warm tortilla, and it begs the question of why more places aren’t doing it? The biscuits at Full Belly Deli are made from scratch and flakily pull apart like golden tissue paper. Once their signature chorizo gravy thickens and cooks, the epic construction begins. A dinner-plate-sized tortilla is layered with two pieces of American cheese, crunchy hash browns, and biscuit slices. Then, a massive ladle of gravy arrives and hugs the whole structure. A dextrous tortilla rollup is essential, and the end result is a burrito the size of a small child. It’s handheld comfort food at its finest.
Pig Head Platter
When we see the variety of packaged meat at our grocery stores, we don’t think about the animal it came from. We know animals had to die in order for us to take advantage of that two-for-one rib-eye steak sale happening in aisle five, but we don’t dwell on it. It’s unsettling to remind yourself the burger you’re eating once had a face or the chicken wings you’re snacking on had a mother. However, Vida Cantina in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, doesn’t just want you to think about it. They force you to confront it head-on — literally.
Fieri was on the scene to check out Chef David Vargas’ Pig Head Platter. And, it’s exactly what it sounds like. For those bold enough to stare their meal in its vacant eye sockets and go about business like usual, they’re treated to a delicious pork meal with a variety of housemade salsas and tortillas. Edible flowers are the finishing touch, sprinkled delicately onto the meat. The presentation might feel like it’s straight out of a horror film, but pork lovers need to ditch that hangup and embrace the face!
Oxtail Chili Tots
Tater tots: Oh, how we wish you counted as a healthy helping of starch in our diet! Even people who don’t eat potatoes will cave when faced with a basket of fresh tots. Especially if they’re loaded (seriously, does anyone not go for something if it’s loaded?). Well, Fieri found perhaps one of the richest tater tot dishes imaginable at a place called Belly and Snout in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Their version of "loaded" has an ingredient you never hear when it comes to tater toppings, and that’s why they received a visit from the Mayor of Flavortown.
Oxtail was what Fieri was working with at Belly and Snout. Chef Warren Almeda prides himself on offering a combination of Filipino, Mexican, and American culture in the style of fast food. Oxtail was an important dish for the chef growing up, so it harkens back to his youth. He braises the oxtails in a blend of spices to create a decadent chili that’s tasty enough on its own. When used as the dressing over a freshly fried tater tot salad, though, it’s simply legendary. Not surprisingly, the Mayor agreed.