The perfect food or dining experience is one that combines all the necessary elements – regardless of price or location.
You need a perfectly cooked entrée and sides, served with courtesy and timeliness, in a relaxed atmosphere where people sincerely appreciated your business and act accordingly. In the end, you feel satisfied with the food and believe every penny (and every moment) you spent was well worth it.
I can happen in a major metropolitan area or at a country roadhouse in rural America. The meal can cost $100 per person or $9.95. You can be in and out in five minutes or two hours. It all comes down to total satisfaction.
As a frequent diner, I would sincerely recommend the following places from our various excursions:
Blue Ginger, celebrity chef Ming Tsai’s superb establishment in Wellesley, Mass.
Café du Monde, the undying symbol of New Orleans.
Corky’s, Memphis, Tenn., second best barbecue ever!
Court of Two Sisters, New Orleans’ best setting to eat and the best buffet, which is an injustice to the superb food.
Don’s Drive-In, Traverse City, Mich., an excellent hamburger and the best cherry milk shakes from the Cherry Capitol of the World.
Joe T. Garcia’s, a family-owned Mexican restaurant in Fort Worth that only serves fajitas or enchiladas. That’s it … but that’s enough.
John’s Grill, on Ellis Street in San Francisco, and having the real Maltese Falcon in house only adds to the legend.
Kreuz Market, Lockhart, Texas, the best barbecue ever, EVER and no chicken!
La Fogata, South Texas Tex-Mex food at its best in San Antonio.
Lark’s, Ashland, Ore., located in an historic hotel in a small southern Oregon city, a complete surprise in an area not as well-known but should be.
Lombardi’s, the place in New York City’s Little Italy where pizza was invented. Period.
Peterson’s Ice Cream Company, Oak Park, Ill., with great homemade ice cream and great sandwiches in an old-time soda fountain setting (and it works!).
Ranchman’s Café, in tiny Ponder, Texas (north of Fort Worth), serving THE most perfect chicken fried steak in all the land.
The Parthenon, a great Greek restaurant in Chicago.
The Boiling Pot, a little hole in the wall Cajun place in the Texas Gulf Coast city of Fulton, serving the freshest seafood literally ON your table.
The City Tavern Restaurant, in downtown Philadelphia, like stepping back into history.
The Crab House, on Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf, also in San Francisco, and after eating the broiled crab there, we can’t eat crab anywhere else.
Zingerman’s, a great delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Mich., even if it wasn’t there while I was a UM student.
Special mention to the California fast food chain, In-and-Out, which makes the best damn hamburger of its kind I've ever tasted. Wish they all were like this.