There's been quite a bit of complaining about 2016 lately. You log on to social media in any form and it doesn't take any time at all before someone is filing a complaint about the events of the past year. Yes, of course, we lost a shocking number of legendary artists and public figures. We also lived through one of the most contentious political battles in American history. Regardless of what side of the room you sit on. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.
Personally, I feel very fortunate to hide out in the "toy department" of journalism. When you see real-life tragedy on the news every day, it has a way of rendering my take on a particular meal somewhat insignificant. Still, I believe diversions - like sports - are necessary to help us get through the days and weeks that make up this thing we call life. Not a day goes by that I don't consider myself the luckiest man in the world for carving out a little niche here in our area, being able to share with you where you might just "Eat It and Like It."
So with that as a backdrop, I thought I'd share the top seven things I ate in 2016. Some are local, some are not. My job takes me on the road quite a bit. I find some great eats here there and everywhere.
If you are a regular reader, then you know they are not a ranking. Simply a list of seven things that should you have the opportunity to enjoy, you very much should. And I will start with one of Savannah's most consistent restaurants.
Shrimp and Grits at Cotton & Rye in Savannah
Shrimp and grits are tricky around here. To be truthful, I've had people recommend their favorites to me, but I try them and absolutely hate them.
Still though, when they are good, they are so incredibly good. To the point where I ordered some in Orlando earlier this month just to see how that particular spot spun it and they were awful - $26 awful.
My point is when you find great shrimp and grits, they can become addictive. I've made no secret this year of how much I love what they do at Cotton & Rye with theirs. Although it is listed as an appetizer on the menu, you can ask for a special entree-sized portion, and it is the perfect balance of creamy, tasty and shrimpy bite.
You might even be wise to wear yoga pants when you go for it, guys and gals. Now there's a visual, huh?
Dry-Aged New York Strip at Halls Chophouse in Charleston
By now, most people know I am a steak guy. They sure do come up a lot when I am out to eat. That is fine. Not going to hide it. If I have a say on what my final meal on this planet will be, it will be a New York strip. Probably with broccoli or Brussels sprouts and a great glass of wine.
I've enjoyed some great ones over the years, my favorites being some of the iconic joints in New York City. Earlier this year, I had the dry-aged strip from Halls Chophouse in Charleston. Very easily one of the best cuts I've had South of Sayerville, N.J. Absolutely fantastic.
The entire dining experience was equally as fantastic, with a member of the Hall family always at the door to greet their guests and walk them to their table. It's old-school service at its best. Loved everything about it.
Locally, I should mention that the dry-aged steaks at Smith Brothers Butcher Shop are very, very good. I've purchased them a couple of times to grill at home. Quality product there.
Lastly, I will give a shout-out to the espresso-rubbed rib eye I enjoyed at 45 Bistro on Broughton Street. That was very good and certainly worth a mention here.
Doughnuts from A Squad Bake Shop in Savannah
I've heard a lot of people in Savannah mention to me that we don't really have "A doughnut game." This is true. We don't really have a "brunch game" either. Getting there, certainly, but not quite. That's a story for another day.
A couple of months ago, it was suggested to me I try the doughnuts being sold at PERC Coffee Roasters on Broad Street downtown. I got there to find out they are only sold on Fridays. Long story short, I found myself slithering around Savannah like the Grinch in search of these doughnuts. I found them at the aforementioned Smith Brothers Butcher Shop.
A Squad Bake Shop has a Facebook page and a phone number. Not much else. You can certainly special order some, but to try them first, you will have to stop in at one of the spots I've mentioned. They are some of the best doughnuts I've had in the last five years.
Don't tell anyone, but there is an episode of "Eat It and Like It" coming up on doughnuts. I think A Squad will be featured. I know the host, he told me. Trust me. Please try them.
La Casa Del Mofongo in New York City
Those of us who get to New York with any regularity and love great food can find ourselves OD-ing on great stuff every time we are in the city.
Don't believe me? Ask either of the Gottlieb brothers the next time you see them how many places they can hit in one day while eating their way through Manhattan. I would say it's kind of gross, but I've done it myself.
This past October, a friend took me around to try a few of his favorite spots. We had Korean spicy cumin lamb with handmade noodles. We had a Cuban sandwich with cilantro sauce (yeah, I did laugh at him on that one). We had some kind of Indian street sandwich made with chicken and vegetables. All of it within two hours. Then we went to the pub for pints and Liverpool football. A grand afternoon.
The highlight of the day, though, was dinner that night at a very popular Dominican spot in Washington Heights. La Casa Del Mofongo is like a TGI Friday's of Dominican food. Succulent pork, red beans, yellow rice and a few other things I don't remember. One of the best meals I've had in years. Let alone, 2016. I had to mention it.
Burger at the Omni Resort on Hilton Head Island
Yeah, I know, it's all the way over there on Hilton Head. Most of us know there is great food on that island. A lot of great food. Sometimes you find it in the hotels.
I will be honest, I had no expectation for this burger I was given inside of the sports grill at the Omni Resort. Beautiful space by the way, 20 seconds off of the beach. One bite and I was hooked. My daughter took a bite of hers and started to laugh. Yes, it was that good. Very much worth stopping in for one if you find yourself on the island for one reason or another.
On this side of the river, if you haven't tried the patty melt Mashama Bailey offers for lunch at The Grey, shame on you.
Whiskey, Wine and Wildlife on Jekyll Island
I think we know by now that I wouldn't mention an entire food festival if it wasn't off-the-charts good. The first "W3," as we call it, was back in April. Bad weather forced Friday night's events indoors down at The Westin Jekyll Island. It turned out to be maybe the best thing that happened to that event.
From Southern Soul BBQ's perfection to the Jekyll Island Club's magical scallops, the night was nothing short of amazing. At the Saturday main event, my wife approached me and said, "I attend a lot these events with you, but I have to say, this one was the best by far." It was that good. And it just so happens to be back from Feb. 9-12. Go to whiskeywineandwildlife.com for details.
Ribs at B's Cracklin' BBQ in Savannah
I'm going to use this space to offer up a confession. I like B's Cracklin' BBQ. I really do. The first time I went, I tried the pulled pork. Very good. The second time I went, I had the brisket and the chicken. Very much enjoyed them both as well.
But it wasn't until the BBQ Masters event at the Savannah Food & Wine Festival that I had the chance to try their ribs. To be fair, I was offered some that had just come off of the fire, so they were piping hot and about as tender as you might expect. Yes, I thought I'd like them, but those are the best ribs in Savannah. The. Best. Ribs. Period.
If you haven't tried them yet, don't be a Jesse. Take a ride to the Southside and getcha some.
See you on TV,