The Best Meal You Ever Had .... The Great Meal Discussion

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I recently came across the following article that made me think about a topic for discussion here on Enworld-


It really is heartwarming when someone decides to spread their wings ... and it pays off! But it made me think ... what is the best meal I ever had? And, concurrently, I thought it would be a good topic for conversation so that other people could share their thoughts and talk about the truly transcendent meals that they have enjoyed, as well.

Of course, we will need to channel this discussion a little. So I'm going to post some rules / guidelines for you to follow. After all, there MUST BE ORDER! Of course, in saying that, I fully assume that at least half the response will either ignore that, or complain about the existence of rules. You can't tell me what to do! Still, there is a reason for them. Try and be constructive.

Topic: What is the best meal you have had?

Rules-

1. It must be a meal you have eaten.

This should be obvious, I hope. But this doesn't include food you've seen on television, or that time you had a reservation at El Bulli and it was cancelled, or a delicious smell of donuts. It was something that you put in your belly.

2. It was a restaurant meal / meal you paid for.

The intent of this rule is simple- I don't want to hear about a meal you made, or about how your mother makes the best spaghetti ever (whatever ... yo mama's cooking is so nasty, the flies got together and fixed the holes in the window screens). I'd like to hear about a meal that you had at a restaurant that you paid for (or that is normally paid for, but you had a gift card, or were comp'd, or whatever).

3(a). Don't yelp this (money don't matter).

Have you ever read yelp, or some other restaurant review site, and seen something like this- "The burger was the best burger I ever had. It exploded into a constellation of flavors that I still dream about. In my entire life, I will never, ever, ever have a burger like this. But they also charge 50 cents more than the McDonalds down the street, so ... 3 stars." We get it- cost does matter. We live in the real world. But for purposes of this thread, pretend you are a slightly richer Jeff Bezos, and money does not come into the equation whatsoever. This is about the best meal you've had, not about your thriftiness.

3(b). Don't hipster this.

We all love that hole-in-the-wall pho joint. Or that BBQ roadside stand that serves amazing brisket. If that's truly the best meal you've had, go for it! But don't just pick an obscure place just because it's obscure.

4. This isn't about the subjective experience around the meal.

This is kind of the last, catch-all rule. We're looking for the best meals - obviously, food is very subjective. Your experience will be colored by all sorts of things going on. But ... don't list something just because you were hiking all day and it's the first meal you had. Or it's the restaurant you were at when you learned you received a promotion. Or the place you were at the last time your friend group was altogether. Feel free to put in any heart-warming stories, but try and put in the best meal you've had.


Bonus Topic: What would you choose for your last meal?

If you'd like, also put in your choice for a "last meal." If you're unfamiliar with the concept (or it's too grizzly), think of it in this way- if you could choose one meal, of any type, with anything, to eat, what would it be? There are no constraints for this other than what you can physically fit inside of you in a sitting. You can choose either generic descriptors (Fried Chicken) or specific examples (White Castle Sliders).
 

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aco175

Legend
I remember right before graduating from Ranger School we came back from field training and was in the phase between the school part and graduating part where we had some time off and it was not as structured. We left base and stopped at the first fast food place we found which happened to be the Burger King on the main part of post. I had 2 double cheeseburgers and 2 fires with a large Coke. An hour later we stopped for pizza before coming back to the base for supper.

Likely not my best meal ever, but my most memorable one after loosing 30 pounds.

Last meal? Maybe a whole cheesecake with cherry sauce.
 

Ryujin

Legend
It was after 2:00am, in downtown Toronto, after getting kicked out of the club. Some friends and I stumbled into a little hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant just off Spadina Ave, in Chinatown, that had no business (almost literally) being open at that hour. Pretty much like an American style diner, but in Cantonese. They put on a real spread for us and we were there for hours. It wasn't the fake Cantonese stuff that you get at a fast food Chinese restaurant either, but far more authentic. Clearly not made for whiny North Americans who can't take a little heat in their food. i think that we tipped about 50% and it still wasn't all that expensive, considering that there were 6 of us.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
So- my answers to the my post!

1. Best meal?

This one was really really hard, which is why I didn't answer it immediately. I've been fortunate enough to have had a lot of really good meals. So I'll respond, instead, with a bit of a narrative. I've always loved David Chang, and have sought out his restaurants when possible. And each time, the experience was ... well, fine. Sometimes, in fact, it was less-than-fine (Momofuku in Las Vegas was ... okay, and, TBH, Hell's Kitchen or any one of a number of other Vegas restaurants was better). So it was with some trepidation that I tried his "steak house" concept, Majordomo. It was genuinely good! I got it.

But that's not the winner. The winner is, strangely, Meals by Genet. While it was some time ago, this Ethiopian restaurant in Los Angeles was absolutely amazing. The flavors were insane; to this day, I still seek out Ethiopian food when I travel, but I'm inevitably disappointed when it doesn't live up to the meals I enjoyed at this place. Korean food is deservedly having its day in the sun- hopefully, Ethiopian will follow.

Runnerup- Sarma (Boston). I have to admit, I was a little surprised to enjoy a meal like this in Boston; the dining scene has definitely improved here since it was all about cannoli in the North End and music and m'dammas at the Middle East.


2. Last meal?

I would start with an aperitif of Campari cut with a bit of soda water. Definitely have some grape leaves and baba ganoush w/ fresh baked pita (like eggplant hummus). Khachapuri as well.*

Then for the main course? A Cuban sandwich con croqueta from Enriqueta's Sandwich shop, and a fresh, table-made Caesar salad. To drink? Eh, I could do something awesome or challenging, but for the main course I'm going with something comforting, and that means either Modelo Negra or Murphy's.

Desert? Watermelon. Because I am a man of SIMPLE TASTES. Oh, and a bottle of J. Wray and Nephew overproof 1940s rum. I can dream, right?


*Sure, if khachapuri is an appetizer, I'm struggling to get to the main course. But this is the last meal- I'm getting through it.
 

payn

Legend
There was an old joint locally around here named O'Brien's Decoy. It was a BBQ joint, but not the rusty sax on the wall and bad blues songs in the background joints. It was more themed on hunting. They had duck and pheasant on the menu. A pleasant ambiance too.

The meal was a cup of pheasant wildrice soup, halfrack of ribs, pub mashed potatoes and buttered cranberry bread.

A fantastic meal that I had on numerous occasions. I'd still have it on numerous occasions but they sold it some years ago. The folks who bought it renamed it alley cats, put rusty saxophones on the wall, and piped crappy blues music over the speakers. They lasted about 12 months as the food quality plummeted right along with the experience.

Final meal? Probably surf and turf. A nice NY strip and lobster tail.
 

Dioltach

Legend
I'm a bit of a foodie, so I've eaten some wonderful food around the world. Probably the best meal was last autumn, at a 2-star restaurant called De Lindehof. The chef draws on his Hindustani and Suriname heritage to create a wonderful tasting menu with an amazing blend of spices, combining fine dining with Michelin-standard versions of street food. I'm already saving up for my next visit.
 

jdrakeh

Front Range Warlock
There used to be a place in the town where I grew up called "Job Lunch" - it was a 1950s-style diner, the owner was a right-wing extremist, and the food was almost the unhealthiest in town (topped only by Fred's Drive-In, a Sonic-like eatery that topped almost everything on the menu with liquid nacho cheese). Job, though, had a thing on his menu called a "Fried Veal Sandwich" which consisted of a thin piece of sliced pork loin, breaded and pan-fried, then topped with your choice of either homemade chili or homemade mustard-based relish. They were naughty word amazing.
 

When I think about the best meals I've had, I think back to the ones I still talk about:

London, early 00s - The stilton and button mushroom pie at The Globe pub, washed down with some real ale. My wife and I still speak of this one with awe.

Rome, early 10s - This arugala and gorgonzola pizza, paired probably with some red wine:

1646324249855.png


Whitby, mid 10s - The dressed lobster salad at The Broad Inn, with a glass of cider. What makes this particularly notable is that I wasn't even going to order it originally. My wife and I both ordered the salmon and they only had one left, so I let her have it and went with this instead. I expected a salad with some chunks of lobster in it. What I got was this:

1646324553510.png


As for my last meal, easy. As much sushi as I can fit in my stomach, washed down with either a Boulevardier or a Lena cocktail.
 



Zaukrie

New Publisher
This is a really hard question. I know some places I'll never forget....there was a place in Wisconsin in a former accountant office that was amazing. Pretty sure that chef moved to Superior a couple decades ago.

There are a few spots in Portland, OR where I live now that are amazing, and many more I haven't gone to. Urdaneta is great. Departure.

In MN...Travail is worth a visit. 100%. Now I'm drawing a blank on the names of a few spots (and more than a few no longer exist).
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Best meal

This one was tough. I live in Chicago which has amazing food! and I've been around a bit too!

But, best: Avec on Randolph Street in downtown Chicago. Mediterranean inspired American dining, Chorizo stuffed dates and a simple but amazing focaccia, a cheese plate and a duck dish. Paired with a wine I don't remember (only that it went really well).

Runner up: Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas. I didn't realize what the big deal with foie gras was until I had it there (had it before and thought it was no big deal). And the Robuchon mashed potatoes are REALLY something else, just a truly amazing simple dish. Only reason this wasn't number one was I was expecting a once in a lifetime meal and that's what I got (wheras Avec was a big surprise, though one I return to regularly now).

I'm going to add - most disappointing meal: Craftsteak also in Las Vegas. I LOVE a good steak, and this was supposed to be THE steak place. And best I can say - the steak was fine, definitely not great. I was expecting to be blown away (I love a good steak) and just wasn't.

Last meal:
Appetizer: Salad Olivier with bologna (yes bologna, not anything fancier) made the Russian way, not the fancy French way.

Main: A large plate of Pelmeni (Russian dumplings) made with pork (not chicken and not beef) served soaked in butter and with Sour cream for dipping (hey last meal - who cares about heart disease).

Desert: A PROPER Napoleon cake with custard that is both fluffy and crumbly.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Runner up: Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas. I didn't realize what the big deal with foie gras was until I had it there (had it before and thought it was no big deal). And the Robuchon mashed potatoes are REALLY something else, just a truly amazing simple dish. Only reason this wasn't number one was I was expecting a once in a lifetime meal and that's what I got (wheras Avec was a big surprise, though one I return to regularly now).

I'm going to add - most disappointing meal: Craftsteak also in Las Vegas. I LOVE a good steak, and this was supposed to be THE steak place. And best I can say - the steak was fine, definitely not great. I was expecting to be blown away (I love a good steak) and just wasn't.

Every time I go to Vegas, I blow a ton of money ... and I also spend a bit on fancy dining.

Anyway, it's real hit or miss. Some of the best places will absolutely blow you away, but some of them will be crushing disappointments. And it's not always easy to determine which is which from the reputation.

(Agree with you re: Robuchon, by the way.)
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Anyway, it's real hit or miss. Some of the best places will absolutely blow you away, but some of them will be crushing disappointments. And it's not always easy to determine which is which from the reputation.

Very true about Vegas. But it's not just Vegas, you can't always trust a famous name!

I remember going to a well known chef's restaurant in Boston. The meal wasn't just disappointing it was bordering on inedible.

Still have a clear memory of my wife staring at my not even half eaten plate proclaiming " you're not going to finish that? But you'll eat anything!"
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Best Meal at a Restaurant

I've been to a couple of well known ones, but I don't know if I'd pay as much as it cost to go back and they don't particularly stand out in my memory (there are probably a few others I'm forgetting): Daniel, One if by Land Two if by Sea in NYC; Antoine's, Emeril's, and NOLA in NO; China Chilcano in DC

Two that do...
Brunch at Brennan's in NO
Steak and sides at the Chicago Chop House

I wonder if I'm just more in to comfort food than high cuisine. Before we had our son, we would sometimes do small, good, slightly upscale local Italian places wherever we lived. And there was a Chinese restaurant we really liked where we went to college (had our wedding rehearsal dinner there - it closed 20 years ago I think). A place back home used to have spectacular Swedish pancakes.


Last Meal

A slice of my mom's lasagna recipe (with the modifications we've made over the years)
Two squares of a Chicago tavern style pizza with sausage and mushroom's
A few stuffed mushrooms
A good loaf of french bread (sliced and buttered, maybe some garlic)
A side salad (cheese, tomato, etc..) with Caesar dressing

A small slice of chocolate coconut pecan pie
A scoop of spumoni ice cream
A beignet or 1/4 of a funnel cake

A Hefeweissbeier Dunkel (Weihenstephaner?)
A flight or two of small tasting glasses of stouts and porters - including chocolate and coconut ones

Another slice of lasagna if I've stretched it out long enough to still be hungry
 
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South by Southwest

Incorrigible Daydreamer
I was in Jaisalmer for a month in 1991 while finishing college--study abroad stuff. I'd been getting way into my philosophy studies at that point, especially Russell (a god among mortals) and Heidegger (brilliant despite the fact the "hermeneutic circle" is a load of toff), so I did come to the table hungry after a day of reading. Maybe this colored my experience, but from going back there over the next several weeks, I don't think so. I can't remember the restaurant's name, but it was near the Monica Hotel where I stayed in the Old Fort. I got a basic vegetarian thali dish (I'm veg) and something called "desert chai." I still don't know what it was they spiced both the thali and the chai with, but it's what I have used ever since as my measure by which to judge any Indian food. I think the chai had more ginger than usual, but like I said, I honestly don't know. I just know it was good enough to remember it today and still call it the best I've had.
 
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SakanaSensei

Explorer
There's a pizza joint in Fishers, Indiana (just north of Indianapolis) called Rockstone. It has amazing American style wood-fire pizza and amazing breadsticks that pairs well with both their beer cheese and marinara sauce. It's definitely not the fanciest thing I've ever eaten (hello, ryokan stay on top of Mount Asahidake with your seven-course French meal havin' self), but it is 100% the best thing I've ever eaten. My wife and I went there often when we lived in the area.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Some Syrian dishes. Can't remember the name one was a bbq spiced chicken meal the other was a bowl of spiced rice with meat in it and some sort of tangerine based sauce.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Schmoderator
Staff member
Honestly…I can’t answer either question. I can remember some truly incredible dishes I’ve had over the years, but no meal stands out. And I don’t know if I could pick out a single dish of those as supreme.

And my last meal? I’ve asked myself that question many times. The answer I give myself depends on the day.
 

BookTenTiger

He / Him
Great topic!

I've had a lot of wonderful meals, many home-cooked, but to stay on topic I'll choose the one that pops to mind most clearly:

I'd recently moved home after college, and I was reconnecting with old friends. Two of my friends and I were working at the same summer camp (a day camp on a school campus, not a sleepaway camp). We decided to save up our money for a few weeks and go out for a fancy dinner.

We wound up going to a steak place in San Francisco called Bobo's. We bought $60 steaks, a dinner price probably 4 or 5 times what we were used to paying. I remember being absolutely famished when the steak came out.

Bobo's specialized in dry aged beef. They hung their meat and cut it back over weeks and weeks, letting the juices collect (or something to that effect). The result was, well, insanely delicious. I remember taking a bite of my steak and having to close my eyes and savor it. The texture was closer to butter than the chewy meat I was used to. The flavor was just incredible. And I felt so grown up, paying so much for such delicious food.

We all were just laughing at how amazing the steaks were. It was unbelievable, that steak could taste so good.

After dinner, a few of my friends decided to see the movie King of Kong. The next showing was in about an hour, so we found a nearby pub called John Barleycorn's. A guitarist was strumming in the corner, and two more guitarists happened to wander in. They started jamming together as we drank a few beers.

It was an incredible night, centered around an amazing dinner.
 

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