Sunday, January 2, 2011

2010 Year in Food!

Here it is, the much anticipated 2010 Year In Food! Lets get right to the delicious and dirty!

272 times eating out in 104 different places: 26 breakfast, 116 lunch and 130 supper

This was not my best eating year. Having a baby made faster/easier meals a priority and losing a job with some travel and an expense account limited some of the places I visited. So we will start out with where I ate most. It looked like with the addition of a breakfast value menu and Frappes that McDonalds would win for the year. And I ate there 22 times in 2010. And I don’t include stops for just coffee or McDonalds would have been #1 and Starbucks #3. But alas the stars aligned for my favorite fast food restaurant and the last 3 months of the year I had numerous Taco Bell cravings and the year ended with a Taco Bell opening right near our house. 30 trips total.

Taco Bell: 30 I am still the same ol’ me!
McDonalds: 22 I’ve eaten at McDonalds for as little as $1.06.
Dry Bean: 14 We played weekly trivia games there during happy hour, I wouldn’t recommend actually eating here.
Great Dane: 13 A favorite of inlaws and friends alike
Qdoba: 8 Currently the best burritos in Madison after my favorite place went out of business.
Honorable mention goes to Dunkin Donuts which I probably visited 10 times but many were coffee only, Taqueria Guanajuanto (best burritos in town) and Bandit Burrito (3 visits for a pla ce 4 hours away.)

Here are the best places I’ve eaten in 2010. To be eligible for the food of the year you had to not be food of the year in the past and you had to totally kick ass! Here’s a rundown of past food of the year winners:
2007 we had co-winners. Mother Bear’s Pizza in Bloomington, IN is the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. Unfortunately we don’t really have as many reasons to head to Bloomington anymore so in 2010 I didn’t make it once. Rough. The other co-winner is in Breckenridge, CO and I went twice this summer. Empire Burger has the best nachos ever and one of the top 5 burgers. Pretty clutch!
2008 while stopping at a Sonic Restaurant in Des Moines, IA we noticed a little burrito place next door called Bandit Burrito. The menu looked awesome but we had already eaten but marked it down for future reference. The rest is history as it became my single favorite place to eat. Best burritos in the world made from quality fresh ingredients, great prices, outstanding owner and great service. A home run!
2009 marked the Man V Food era. And it made me strive to visit places I’ve seen on the show whenever possible. And I visited 8 of those places last year. And nothing stood out to me more than the breakfast tacos I had at Jack N Grill. So good we went back in 2010. Roasted green chilis are for real and I am sad no one really serves them in Madison.
So in 2010 you can eliminate Bandit Burrito, Empire Burger and Jack N Grill from the running (and Mother Bear’s but we didn’t even visit) but this year’s choice is definitely on par with these can’t-miss establishments. In 2010 the single best thing I ate was once again breakfast, but this year it was Donuts. Top Pot Doughnuts in Seattle, WA is a can’t miss! The donuts are larger than normal but that’s not the appeal. I can’t really explain it but the donuts here are just better than anything else. Quality ingredients make the donuts more expensive but they are more than worth it. They take pride in making the best donuts possible and it shows. In fact it has kind of ruined other donuts for me as these are so good it shows me how average any other donut I’ve ever eaten is. I tried 4 different donuts in 2 trips and I’d rank those as the 4 best donuts I’ve ever had! Top Pot has been featured on many shows including Donut Paradise. We visited another popular dount place (Voodoo Donuts in Portland, OR) a couple days later and I am certain the donuts would’ve been great had I not just had Top Pot.
Man V Food rankings for 2010
1. Cherry Cricket (Denver, CO)– My #3 MVF location last year, I just ordered better this year. Second best burger I’ve ever had (Bartley’s Burger Cottage in Cambridge, MA is #1.)
2. Jethros (Des Moines, IA)- - It wasn’t featured on MVF until this year but has been a favorite since last year. Perhaps the best complete meal I had in 2010 and Nina’s first meat was pork from Jethros.
3. Jack N Grill (Denver, CO)- All the hype in my mind but my breakfast tacos weren’t quite as good as last year. They messed up my order and the fix wasn’t great. Don’t get me wrong, still one of the top 5 meals I had in 2010.
4. Red Mill (Seattle, WA)- The way burgers should be. Red Mill is a Top 5 burger.
5. High Life Lounge (Des Moines, IA)- Take a tater tot and a jalapeño piece, wrap in bacon, repeat a bunch of times, smother with cheese and serve with ranch. Is this heaven? No this is Iowa. My entrée was only ok but I took a risk, other entrees looked better. 5th place out of 9 might not seem like a good number but it was in the top 10 of over 100 places I ate at overall!
6. 5-8 Club (Minneapolis, MN)- More hype than substance. Burgers weren’t as big as I would’ve liked and having cheese in the middle didn’t make it seem extra-cheesy. Don’t get me wrong it was still very good and I’d go back, I’d just order cheese in the middle and cheese on top. Oh yeah and awesome onion rings!
7. Beth’s Café (Seattle, WA)- There big draw is items made with eggs but I hate eggs. Solid breakfast place nonetheless with hashbrown scrambles that have no eggs.
8. Voodoo Donuts (Portland, OR)- We went in the late morning which didn’t help but they were out of many donuts. Tried some weird ones and some standard ones. I will try again if I visit Portland again but the donuts were very average. Fun place to go once though.
9. Quaker Steak (Middleton, WI)- Featured on the Pittsburgh show we have one in Madison. And it gets a little less good each visit. Especially this visit (our only one of the year) as they introduced boneless wings. Terrible. I’d rather have Tyson boneless wings warmed up in a toaster oven. Jess only eats boneless wings so we haven’t went back, but normally they have decent wings and burgers.
Other solid places I ate at in 2010 include:
-Portilos (all over the Chicago area)- The best Italian Beef sandwich I’ve had and top notch hot dogs. Did I mention that they use a piece of chocolate cake in each one of their milkshakes? Great comfort food!
-Dotty’s (Madison, WI)- The best food in Madison with a Top 5 burger (Melting Pot Burger is my choice but with a patty like this, whatever floats your boat works) and the best cheese curds you will find.
-Downstairs at Eric’s (Breckenridge, CO)- I’ve eaten here before and it was decent but it seemed to get better this trip. Tons of options makes everyone in your party happy!
-Hurricane Wings (Winter Haven, FL)- Wings that rank up there with Buffalo Wild Wings but the real sale to me was the homemade chips with a bleu cheese jalapeño dip. One of the best things I put in my mouth all year!
-Pizza Ranch (Baraboo, WI)- I’ve been meaning to try this place for years and we finally did…twice! I realize buffets are for everyone but I love this one. Above average chain pizza (the pizza is a Pizza Hut clone, just a bit better) with a full salad bar. Best dessert pizza. The kicker? On the buffet is awesome fried chicken, with mashed potatoes (both creamy and a loaded cheese and bacon version) with all of the other sides you crave.

-Comeback of the year: It’s hard to argue with Taco Bell and the new $.99 chicken burrito. 2 of these cravable burritos made for a great (and healthy by fast food standards) lunch for just over 2 bucks with tax. Honorable mention: Dunkin Donuts

-Worst of the year: Three definite candidates but I can’t decide so I am going with all three. Big Red’s Cheesesteaks in Madison says it’s authentic right in the title. If this is authentic I am not interested in visiting Philly anytime soon. Rainin’ Ribs in Seattle is a tent on the lake. I just felt weird the whole time I was there, the food wasn’t bad but wasn’t that good either. Pappy’s Grill in Lakeland FL. I made my parents go 40 minutes each way to eat here. They didn’t have anything that people were talking about on the internet and the food was slightly below average.
-Most unique dining experience: I sure didn’t go to any place like Casa Bonita or the Old Salty Dog in 2010. Jess and I did however go to the Epcot Food & Wine festival this year. And we ate and drank our way around the Epcot World Showcase! Totally awesome! HM: High Life Lounge
Best New Madison Chain: Fuzzy’s Taco Shop- I went twice, once it was awesome and once it was decent. I could see myself going 2-3 times a year or more depending on what they offer.
Food Notes:

-Only one Waffle House Trip this year....but a good one! 11/12/2010. Nina's favorite food? Waffles!
-Nina's first year included her first trip to Daylight Donuts! A Breckenridge must and one of the three best places I've been to for donuts!

-Oh how the mighty have fallen. Sonic is almost 2 years old in Madison but I don't know if it will even survive the winter. The novelty is gone and it is almost forgotten. The Java Chillers are definitely the way to go and the breakfast is solid. But the food is worse than Culvers (which I am not a huge fan of anyways) and the location is weird (for me and most.)
-Only a couple visits each to Sonic, Chilis and Abuelos. Past favorites have just kind of went downhill.

-2010 the year of the donut! These cider donuts from the Des Moines farmers' market is the best donut east of Seattle! Seriously, take a summer weekend trip to Des Moines already!
-2010 was also the year for coffee. Record amounts of Starbucks visits for sure.
-A sad year for Red Robin. Their first restaurant ever in Seattle closed. Nina was sad that they shuttered their doors before she even got a chance.

-I don't really have a total number for wineries I visited this year (over a dozen) it was definitely the best wine year we've ever had!

-Dave & Busters now in Milwaukee! Best Cheesesteak around!

-I miss you Taqueria Guanajuanto. Biggest burritos in town. Not very mexican tasting with limited spices but tasted mostly like a cheesesteak burrito. And even too filling for me!

2011 is now here and these are the trends I'd like to see in my diet!
-I weigh the same as I did last year at this time although I lost weight in the summer and gained it back in the fall. I'd like to weigh less next year. Which means:
-I'd like to eat out less in 2011. Physically inactivity and diet have snowballed with a few nagging injuries I've had for the past 3-4 years. But this year it needs to end
-I'd like to get a lot more local. I feel Madison is an extrememly overrated food city but this year I want to check out other peoples' favorites and see what's good and bad about Madison food. What are your favorite places and why?
-Experts are predicting that value menus at fast food places will start fading away. As will me eating at those places if that is true. I eat fast food because it is cheap.
Thanks for reading! Hope you had a great 2010 of eating and that 2011 satisfies your appetite!


  1. What a great review!! There are some exciting places that I can't wait to try. Here's to 2011!!!

  2. Mmmmm...yummy! I had so much fun eating our way through 2010. I'm sad I missed out on some of your field trips with Nina, but I know there will be plenty of eating to be had in 2011!