I think if you look at the landscape of American dining right now, the hottest restaurants – the hardest to get into – are serving “chef menus”, meaning menus that represent what chefs want to eat after work. So in a lot of ways, that sort of stoner food/drinking food has become the late-night go-to. Stuff that helps sop up the liquor, that’s what’s hot. And that’s a very good thing.
For chefs, the number one late-night drunken cuisine is really spicy Chinese food. That’s the absolute top of the list. Intensely flavoured, really spicy stuff that appeals to jaded palates, sops up the liquor, and wakes you up. At least enough to get you home. The all-time classic is Great N.Y. Noodletown in Chinatown, but if you’re looking for an example of this new kind of food, you can hardly do better than Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco and New York. This is food that’s designed from the get-go to scare the evil out of you: It’s just a whole new dimension of sado-masochistically delicious pain. Not all of it is spicy, but when it is, it’s uncompromising, unrelenting, and merciless. I’ve been with one chef who wasn’t prepared, and he had to get up and run to the bathroom. It was just too much for him. But what’s interesting is that even after that first painful experience, you wake up the next day craving it like a junkie. It’s addictive.
Literally, the first thing I do when I land in Los Angeles – before I even go to the hotel – is stop at the airport In-N-Out Burger, and chances are that on the way out I’m grabbing another one. In New York the closest thing is Shake Shack, which I love. I go twice a week. It’s a great burger prepared fresh by people who give a shit. And that’s huge! The best high-end burger I’ve had in a long time was at Holeman & Finch in Atlanta. They make only two dozen each night at 10, then they ring a bell, and the first lucky customers get them. They’re not fancy; there’s no mango-tomato f–king relish on them. They understand that what’s so glorious about a great American hamburger is good meat, a good bun, and no bullshit.
For the full feature and images grab the March 2014 issue of MAXIM.
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