Real Food in Strange Places by Chef Seth MacKenzie (CulinaryAnarchy)

One trend that I can’t help but laugh at is when some ego tripping “Chef” decides he’s going to open some brand new high end “Authentic” insert choice or culture, restaurant. The best part is that most of these guys are young white kids who worked with a few Latino’s and now think they’re hard.

Don’t get me wrong, some of these dudes are legit but they are few and far between at best while the rest of them are guilty of of what can best be described as (I hate this term by the way) “Cultural appropriation”.

Simply put, they don’t have any heart.

They study (mental) and learn all these bizarre recipes but they never really connect with the people or why this food matters. It’s a fucking gimmick. It’s a way to get white people excited about overpriced shit while they feel better about not being a racist because they have that one black friend.

Want real food?

Go to the source and be brave because let me tell you, some of the best food I’ve ever had has been in some of the most sketched out places most of you don’t have the balls to venture to.

Please note, I’ve worked in more places than you have, my current tally being in the low 90’s and this covers everywhere from Hawaii to Maine to Alaska and a ton of places in between. I’ve worked in strip clubs and I’ve worked in places that had ratings from Forbes and awards out the ass.

The point is I know food and I have standards that are higher than I am most of the time.

I’ve been preaching this for years and I’ll say it till I die, great food comes from the heart and has nothing to do with price or location or the number of likes on facebook.

Hands down some of the best Fried Chicken I’ve ever had is from a gas station in Hampton Virginia around the corner from one of my best friends. Every time I go, I know I’m playing Russian Roulette since it’s only a matter of time before my cracker ass get’s shot. Honestly, I think the only reason I don’t get fucked with is they figure if I’m crazy enough to be there, I’m too crazy to bother with and there is some truth in this. The Chicken is worth getting shot over though, I don’t have to be high to eat an 8 piece and I’ve yet to find better in my travels.

Same thing with Pizza, sorta. The place that knocked two of my long standing favorites out of the running is owned by a jackass who I’m 99% sure will call the cops on me if I ever show up again and guess what? I’m going back this summer because it’s worth dealing with the cops and pissing him off for two slices and a coke. Or maybe I can just stand outside and ask strangers to buy it for me, like how I used to get smokes as a kid outside the local 7-11. This is also on the flip side of things since the locals look at me like I’m going to rape and rob them so they don’t fuck with me either.

I won’t get into the BBQ debate right now, that’s a whole other article but I will say that it’s not BBQ unless it’s slow smoked over wood. Those electric things take out the love, they’re too precise and you rely on electronics more than your own senses and this causes a disconnect.

Chef Forrest Warren and Seth

The point is that you can find good BBQ at a lot of places. My Chef runs one of the of the best. But the real dirty good stuff comes from what can best be described as a large shack on a back road in Fayetteville Arkansas. I’ve loved this place for over 15 years and the last time I went back I wasn’t hungry so I only got 2 sandwiches. I took a bit out of one of them as I was leaving and turned around and got 4 more. From the outside it looks like a dive but they make magic at that place.

While I know it’s not the same type of food that you would find in a rural village, Judy Fu’s Snappy Dragon in Seattle has hands down some of the best “Chinese food” that you will find anywhere. Again, I’ve been going there for years and it’s one of three places that I take people when I want great food and service. They’ve never let me down but again, you would drive by the place a dozen times and never guess what’s really going on in that Kitchen.

Want to know the secret? Why these places have made the list and why I’m pointing them out as examples of greatness?


The people at these places love what they do. They don’t scream it or spend much if anything on advertising , they make their point with the food. Every plate, every time. Even the guy at the Pizza shop who’s one of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met is full of love when it comes to the food and is one of my best proteges in the Kitchen, ask him who taught him to make Risotto.

Love can’t be faked, it’s there or it’s not and when it is, all the other bullshit and fancy woodwork and PR don’t mean shit.

Story and Images by Chef Seth MacKenzie of CulinaryAnarchy.

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