Archive for April, 2012
Good morning Internet! I am writing you a short note to let you know that I will miss you for the next few days. You see, I am getting on a boat for the Bahamas to see some guy and some girl get hitched.
This means two things:
1. I won’t be able to access teh Interwebz. As of about 2:00 PM today, I won’t be answering my phone and I’ll be counting the moments until I lose signal from any sort of cell tower.
2. I totally get to rock my new hipster hat on the boat while listening to music on my iPhone.
Expect pictures and other zany stuff when I return (and, yes, I still have to post the Tokyo DisneySEA stories from Japan; I know.)
[In "The Count" voice] Seventeen! Seventeen MAN V. FOOD locations! AH! AH! AH! AH!
- Philippe the Original in Los Angeles, California
- Orochon Ramen in Los Angeles, California
- Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream in Indianapolis, Indiana
- Al’s #1 Italian Beef in Chicago, Illinois
- Edward’s Drive-In in Indianapolis, Indiana
- Big Pie in the Sky Pizzeria in Kennesaw, Georgia
- La Moon in Miami, Florida
- Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami, Florida
- The Old Salty Dog in Sarasota, Florida
- Hot N Juicy Crawfish in Las Vegas, Nevada
- The NASCAR Cafe in Las Vegas, Nevada
- Shula’s Steak House in Miami, Florida
- Gladys Knight And Ron Winans’ Chicken And Waffles in Atlanta, Georgia
- The Jack-N-Grill in Denver, Colorado
- The Buckhorn Exhange in Denver, Colorado
- The Vortex in Atlanta, Georgia
Yes, the show is off the air. Yes, Adam Richman has moved on to other projects. Yes, I am still tracking down locations.
AND YES, THEY CONTINUE TO BE AWESOME.
When I landed in Los Angeles for my trip in early March, I immediately went from LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) to the pick up my rental car. This time, though, I tried a different company: Hertz.
(Trust me, this is important to the whole Man v. Food thing. Stay with me.)
Before flying out, I signed up for their rewards program and rented the same thing I always rent: economy class something or other with all the insurance on it because (duh) it’s California and their traffic sucks. The guy at the counter was really nice when I picked up my car and noticed I was a new Hertz reward program member. He asked if I was the only driver and I answered yes and explained I was in town for the weekend on business. They guy grinned and said that he would like to give me a free upgrade. Who was I to say no? Here’s what he gave me:
That’s right – a brand new red convertible Mustang. That thing didn’t even have 300 miles on it when I started the engine.
Now, getting this car significantly reduced my stress regarding driving in California – not just because it is an AWESOME set of wheels, but because I own a similar car back home. Thus I was VERY familiar with operating the vehicle and felt much better navigating the local highways without trying to remember where the A/C controls are.
Back to my story about food: the last day in town, Marc from the SPJA asked if I would mind driving down to San Diego for the evening to meet his wife and have dinner. I said that would be fine, but I had one request: we visit a Man v. Food location. Marc explained that he already had a place picked out that was legendary in San Diego… some BBQ place. Willing to compromise, though, he looked up the Man v. Food website to see what locations were listed for San Diego.
No compromise was needed. His “legendary BBQ place” was none other than Phil’s BBQ – a featured location from MvF fame.
After the afternoon meeting/open house was complete, we hit the road. This is that part where the car comes in – part of enjoying a meal is enjoying the time spent having the meal. Something as simple as the drive to and from a restaurant can sometimes make all the difference in the world.
In this case, the drive was legen…
wait for it…
I put the top down on the Mustang since it was a clear night. The weather was cool and I drove down the Pacific Coast Highway from Anaheim to San Diego. Along the way I watched mountains to my left and the ocean to my right as I cruised along the asphalt. As a “road trip” kind of guy I was in absolute heaven. It was breathtaking.
We made it to Phil’s BBQ and there was a line out the door that extended around the building. Seriously. People were waiting in line to get into this place because the food was allegedly THAT GOOD. I was stunned. I remember waiting in lines to check these places out before (like the line at Philippe’s) but this was just insane.
Right about now you are probably asking, “Tom, you’re such a camera junkie with your cell phone, why isn’t there a photo of this supposed line for your readers to see?”
You ever see the movie Goodfellas? (If not, you fail at life. Go see it right now.) In the movie, there is a famous scene where Henry is taking his future wife out to dinner to a really popular restaurant. Because of who he is, though, he doesn’t wait in line. Instead, he takes her around back and they walk into the kitchen and he says hi to everyone as they walk by. By the time they get into the restaurant, someone has set up a table for them. This footage is one of the most famous steady cam shots in film history. You can see it here: http://youtu.be/3Sr-vxVaY_M
Well, it turns out that Marc has known the staff and Phil for years. We walked around the side of the building and entered through one of the exits. Just like Henry Hill, Marc said hello to each server and hostess and referred to them by name. He was the Goodfella of BBQ. I was simultaneously amazed and impressed.
THUS – no photo of the line. There wasn’t time.
Suddenly we were inside and seated. Marc went to order (you do so at the counter) and asked what I wanted. I deferred to his taste and told him to get me something the place was known for. He did and after a short time, this arrived in front of me:
The first thing to remember about BBQ is that you can have the best meat in the world, but the taste and experience can be destroyed in an instant if you don’t have good sauce. Phil’s has OMGAMAZINGMYMOUTHISEXPLODINGINECSTASY SAUCE. I’m not exaggerating, folks. I bought some of it and flew it home to Florida where is sitting in my refrigerator and taken out on “special occasions.” (Kind of like the nice bottle of wine you keep for holidays and guests.)
The sauce was tangy, spicy (but not too spicy,) and smokey all at the same time. Added to the fact that the chicken on the plate was some of the best, juiciest, most brilliantly prepared chicken I had ever had made sure that Phil’s lived up to the expectation set by seeing that line out the door.
Phil’s BBQ has extraordinary food that is matched by its service. All the staff were nice, personable, and eager to make sure our drinks were filled and our meals were great. The next time I find myself in San Diego I plan on going back.
Before leaving for Japan in March, I took another trip to Los Angeles to attend meetings for Project Anime. While there, I fit in a couple of exciting meals local to the area. First was an insanely unique Asian pastry place called the 85°C Bakery Cafe (http://www.85cafe.us/). We went there for breakfast and the place was CARB-O-RAMA. Check it out:
I got an Iced Peach Green Tea with Lychee Jelly and some spongy sweet pastries. It was probably bad for me in every way imaginable, but it was SO GOOD.
After working and going to meetings, I asked the SPJA crew if they’d mind hitting another local Anaheim location for dinner. You see, as long as I’ve known Joey Snackpants he has RAVED about the famous Knott’s Berry Farm chicken dinner. Each time I’ve gone to Los Angeles he’s asked, without fail, if I managed to stop by and partake in the fried yardwalker goodness.
This time I made it happen.
Winner winner CHICKEN MOTHER FUCKING DINNER, BITCHES!!!
Was it legendary? I wouldn’t go that far. It was a good homestyle fried chicken dinner, though, and I enjoyed it. The breast was juicy; the mashed potatoes were… mashed; and the atmosphere was flawless. It felt like an old style restaurant where “mom” is in the back cooking. Good times.
The next morning I took the time to drive up to Hollywood to see the single most important star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame from the BIGGEST movie star of all time:
(You can see all of my touristy photos from that morning here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomcroom/sets/72157629863938689/)
Between meetings that day, we stopped by my “must have” place in California for lunch: In-N-Out Burger. I had heard legends of the secret menu and on this trip I decided to try one of these notorious concoctions. Behold, my double double animal style:
The verdict? I wasn’t all that impressed. Piling all the extra toppings drowns out the amazing taste of the burger and fries underneath. I’ll stick to the original orders from now on.
I did visit one more amazing place for food on this trip, but…
It is a Man v. Food location.
Thus, a post singularly about that place will be forthcoming. Stay tuned!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
In late elementary school and middle school I suffered from an overabundance of intelligence made worse by my insatiable addiction to reading. Unlike most of my peers in the geek industry, I wasn’t really into comic books. I read some Star Wars (because it was STAR WARS) and the occasional limited series (like Transformers, which after the limited series, was NOT a limited series.) I read books without pictures… with two notable exceptions:
Bloom County and Calvin & Hobbes.
Over the past few months I read all five volumes of “The Bloom County Library.” Doing so was amazing for two reasons:
1. NOSTALGIA. Before the Internet, pop culture existed in print. Bloom County reflected the world of celebrity, technology, commercialism, and politics similar to the snark of today’s websites and memes. It was intelligent, funny, and you can’t go wrong with seeing the world through the eyes of a hypersensitive penguin. My favorite? The adventures of hacker and online pirate Oliver wreaking havoc via a dial up model on a monochrome monitor.
2. COMMENTARY. Berkeley Breathed took the time to add anecdotes on various comics in the library. Some of them have to do with eighties pop culture. Others have to do with his processes as a writer and artist and his dealings with the newspaper industry.
Watching old movies brings back memories. Reading something as insightful as Bloom County brings back more than just the memories; it immerses you in an era.
I am glad I own these because I *will* read them again.
Day four in Japan started the same way most of the mornings in Japan started for me (once I made that special discovery in Shinagawa Station.)
After that, Rob, Jason and I caught the train and went in search of BIG EFFIN’ ROBOTS! We found our way to Diver City where the life size Gundam was set up.
That’s right. Life size.
This thing is huge. Check it out:
While walking away, I saw a couple with their two dogs visiting the giant model. It seems that the boyfriend/husband was a huge fan and wanted to take a photo of their two small dogs with the Gundam in the background. I couldn’t resist (being a dog person myself) and I asked if I could get a photo, too. Here it is:
I’m thinking about putting it on I Has A Hot Dog as soon as I think of a caption.
Afterwards we walked around the area for a while. The architecture in Tokyo is nothing short of breathtaking. The buildings aren’t a consistent series of skyscrapers. Instead, each building has its own personality. It’s fun to just walk around and absorb it all.
As we found our way back to the train, we realized that the parking lot we took a shortcut through had more than one purpose…
That’s right: drift racing. You can see the tire marks and, if you look closely, you can see yellow lines painted over the parking spots showing the track. With the limited amount of space in Japan, the residents really due make use of every square foot in as many ways as possible.
Sadly, I did not get to rent a car and drive like a fool while I was over there. Maybe next time.
Before heading to our next location, we stopped back at Tokyo Big Sight (right nearby) to pull some cash from the ATMs there since we knew they took American cards. I decided to pull 20,000.
20,000 yen. Less than $200 America. I took this photo of the screen to reinforce the concept that almost everything you need to get access to in Japan can be found in English.
We hopped back on the train again and started navigating the various systems to find our way to the Imperial Palace. Along the way, we took a subway that featured this sign:
As I explained earlier, Japanese subways are CROWDED. People are pushed up against each other in a tight space and, it seems, some perverts started taking advantage of this. Men would take upskirt photos of young schoolgirls and grope them in the sea of people. Since so many people are crushed together, ladies aren’t able to identify their assailants. Thus, woman only trains were created to help female travelers feel safer.
Moving along, we eventually found out way to the Imperial Palace. It is a large piece of property (read: we walked a lot) that sits smack dab in the middle of Tokyo. Once you follow a number of pathways, you finally see the main building:
I, of course, took the “me in front of it” photo:
While it wasn’t the most exciting part of our adventures in Japan, it was something I was glad I took the time to do. The grounds reminded me of that out of place vibe that Central Park creates in New York City. It’s a nice balance to the intensity of the city that surrounds it.
We confirmed where we were on a nearby map before hitting the subway. More proof of how much English was in Japan:
Yup. We were there.
Onward to Shibuya and Harajuku…
Now, this sign was a little confusing to me. The last time I visited, the restaurant was called “Gladys Knight And Ron Winans’ Chicken And Waffles.” It seems that Ron’s passing in 2005 was the basis for the name change (according to the staff.)
The menu, though, was the same great awesomeness as before. Troy and I both ordered the legendary “Midnight Train.” Check it out:
For dessert? I had the sweet potato cheesecake. There is no photo of that (since I ate it immediately.)
On our way out, I noticed that the mannequin behind the counter still had a “Gladys and Ron’s” t-shirt on it. I asked if they had any more left since the name change. The woman told me that there weren’t any more…
except the one on the mannequin.
Troy asked again to have her clarify, “So that is THE last Gladys & Ron’s t-shirt ever?”
“Yes,” she replied.
OH HELL YES I had to buy it.
It’s a small, so Shannon gets it – but I own the final shirt before the name change. It’s probably not a big deal in the scope of the universe, but it was a big deal to me.
Picking up where I left off on this post.
We took the train from Akihabara back to Shinigawa Station because Rob had to change clothes before we headed off to the Tokyo Anime Fair.
During the brief layover at the hotel I decided to embark on a small and possibly dangerous adventure. You see, I noticed something VERY interesting for sale in the vending machine near my room at the Shinigawa Prince Hotel. Something that (against all better judgement and common sense) I just had to try.
They carried “Florida Orange Juice.”
This particular canned beverage was allegedly a “Prince Hotel Original.”
Armed with 150 yen, I took the plunge with expectable results. Imagine the worst instant orange juice (from concentrate) that you’ve ever had. Now make it slightly more sour and add more water.
Now imagine something worse.
It didn’t kill me, but it was interesting drinking “juice” from a fruit allegedly from my home state halfway across the planet.
After deciding against having my stomach pumped, I walked down to the lobby to meet Rob so we could head back out. It turned out that there was a wedding going on in our hotel. I got a quick photo of the bride:
That’s right: the wedding dress is pink. CUTE!
Instead of catching a train this time, Rob and I opted to save time and just grab a taxi cab in front of the hotel. Along the way, we spotted something very rare in the streets… an American car. The entire time we were in Japan, I only saw three cars from the United States: a Jeep, an El Camino (yes – an El Camino) and this:
Americans drive Japanese cars by the thousands in the U.S. Japanese drive American cars by the… few. That should speak VOLUMES about the quality of our automobiles.
After a short drive, we made it back to Tokyo Big Sight for T.A.F. 2012 and spent some time looking at the IMPORTANT STUFF before the Tokyo Anime Awards presentation party.
You know – important stuff. Like cute Japanese girls:
And zany costumed mascots:
And more cute Japanese girls:
And more zany costumed mascots:
And even MORE cute Japanese girls:
And even MORE za-…. OMGFG WHAT IS THAT?!?!?!?!?!!
After escaping with our lives, we checked out the kid’s play area. We were tempted to try and sneak onto the cool rides, but we didn’t want to be “those” Americans.
We also took a few minutes to walk down their “Artists Alley.” There we saw some amazingly creative up-and-coming talent showcasing everything from sculptures to animations to paintings and more. We even got stopped on the way out and surveyed about what we thought of all the artists. When asked, I picked this lovely lady as my favorite presentation that I saw there:
Yes – she is sitting on a ladder painting the inside of her booth. Epic.
After the convention closed, we walked to the other side of Tokyo Big Sight where the Tokyo Anime Awards were being hosted. We had been invited to the awards party (read: free food and booze) and it was a great networking opportunity. Many a business card were exchanged with new friends. I also got to swap convention and travel stories with the team from Crunchyroll. They’re a cool group of guys.
Here’s a photo of the awards stage. As expected, I couldn’t understand anything that was being said.
During the event, we were treated to a concert by a popular Japanese musical artist. Based on the little I could make out in conversations, this dude was allegedly huge in the Eighties. You know that phrase “I’m famous in Japan” that people kid about in America? I’m pretty sure is applies to this guy.
Trust me. This is worth at least a few seconds of your time to watch for a myriad of reasons…
AND there you have it.
At this point, we were exhausted. We headed back to our hotels and I actually passed out in my bed when my computer rang.
Note: If you recall, my phone had died in Japan. Thus, I left my laptop logged into Skype in my hotel room for people to call.
Marc called and let me know that he was on his way to our hotel with our new friend Tsuyoshi (whom we’d met through the event) to enjoy an evening of Karaoke. How the hell was I going to turn THAT down?
I got up, put myself back together, and headed to the elevator.
BUT FIRST… let’s talk about pizza. Before leaving for Japan, Shannon and I had a discussion about what sort of non-Japanese food would be offered in Tokyo. We knew that there are American fast food joints thanks to anime and the Internet, but did they have places that served Chinese food? Pizza? Things we are used to getting regularly in the states and aren’t necessarily American?
I asked around before leaving the States and everyone told me the same thing: yes, there are all kinds of food in Japan like that and (more importantly) Japanese pizza sucks.
When we were leaving the convention center earlier that evening (after the Tokyo Anime Awards) we passed a Domino’s pizza guy delivering to Tokyo Big Sight. Amused, I said out loud to the team, “Hey! Check it out. A Domino’s pizza guy in Japan.”
Tsuyoshi, who was with us at the time, turned very serious and looked at me. ”In Japan, the pizza is terrible.” Thus the rumors were reinforced by a local. I became fascinated.
BACK TO KARAOKE:
We went to the Karoake bar at the bottom of my hotel. You pay by the hour and get seated in a small private room where you can order food and drinks and generally make a ass of yourself with your friends. It’s a BIG deal in Japan.
We ordered beer. Lots of it.
Then, I looked on the AWESOME Engrish menu for food…
Near the bottom of the menu (not pictured) I saw it. It was speaking to me… calling to me in Engrish… telling my brain that no – it couldn’t be that bad. I couldn’t resist it. I had to give in.
I ordered Japanese pizza.
RUMOR CONFIRMED: It was terrible. Seriously folks. Look at that thing.
Added note: they serve the pizza with a bottle of Tabasco sauce; I am assuming it is to help kill the taste; it didn’t work.
We spent the night (and into the morning) drinking and eating and singing and singing some more. My friends will tell you that my ability to sing is directly related to the amount of alcohol in my system. (In America, we learned this thanks to the series of Rock Band video games.) It goes something like this:
- SOBER: I sing off key.
- ONE BEER: Still off key, but I sound better to myself.
- TWO BEERS: I can suddenly sing well and on key.
- THREE BEERS: I think I’m Jon Bon Jovi.
- FOUR+ BEERS: I start slurring and singing made up lyrics that only I can understand.