8 Chefs Dish On The One Menu Item They’ll Always Try

Can’t decide on what to order for delivery? We asked some of our chef partners for the one item they’ll always try if it pops up on a menu. Their picks run the gamut — from meatballs to uni.

Christine and Josh of Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Chicago

Fries. Forever and always. Preferably with some variety of cheese. There has to be a good balance of crispy exterior and mushy interior. Overcooked or undercooked fries are so disappointing. Over-salted fries cannot be saved and make fry lovers so sad. Toppings need to have ample coverage — not just the top fries. If a dipping sauce is provided, it should be balanced and full flavored, smooth enough to hold onto the fries but not so thin so it doesn’t coat. Clearly, I have thought a lot (read: too much) about this.

— Christine Cikowski, Co-Chef/Co-Owner Honey Butter Fried Chicken Chicago

In season tomatoes — like a Caprese salad. It’s super simple, but when tomatoes are at their peak in late summer there is nothing better. I always check for simplicity — a perfectly ripe, in season tomato needs very little, maybe a sprinkle of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. I’m really disappointed when they are overdressed with a lot of balsamic or other vinegar — a perfect tomato is already plenty acidic and bright. I also check the temperature of a fresh tomato. I want to eat them as though they were just in the sun. I really dislike when they are ice cold — you can’t taste anything when they’re chilled.

— Josh Kulp, Co-Chef/Co-Owner Honey Butter Fried Chicken Chicago

A croissant and espresso. It’s simple, but displays consistency. For a croissant, you are looking for a golden exterior with flaky layers, and inside “honeycomb” crumb, very lightweight for it’s size, and that perfect smell of the fermentation when you break inside. For coffee, it’s about the mouthfeel, smoothness, acidity, and it not being over roasted.

— Dominque Ansel, Chef/Owner Dominique Ansel Kitchen NYC

Chef-Owner Dominique Ansel of Dominique Ansel Kitchen, NYC

If I see any masa products I have to try them. Masa is the base of our tortillas and so many of the things we serve in our restaurants. I always try tortillas — looking for texture, moisture and flavor. Masa should be puffy and moist to result in a soft tortilla.

— Gonzalo Guzman, Chef/Owner Nopalito San Francisco

James Whitehead of Fist of Flour, East Bay SF

I would have to say meatballs. In any form, hands down. We make ours by hand from scratch, and I’m always doing research on other chef’s meatballs. There has to be enough bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and eggs to keep them moist through a pre cook and reheat process. Ample sauce should also be employed so I can use the bread to sop up the extras. My favorite preparation is putting the meatballs in a cast iron or clay oven dish, layered with tomato sauce and shaved parmesan, and baked in the wood fired oven till melted and crispy. Done, all I need is a fork.

— James Whitehead, Chef/Owner Fist of Flour East Bay SF

If I’m going out for sushi, I always ask for scallop or uni. When it’s quality, you can taste the ocean in your mouth, and that is priceless.

— Zhiyu Lai, Co-Owner Nom Wah Nolita NYC

Kimchi. The process of making Kimchi is laborious, but with that comes many opportunities to be creative with the recipe. For example, our Kimchi is made with apples and oranges, giving it a natural sweet taste. I would judge other Kimchis by its uniqueness — my favorite is my mom’s yogurt Kimchi!

— Sisters Chi Moon and Jessica Oh, Co-Owners Bowl’d BBQ Group East Bay SF

Kevin Kramer of Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop, Philadelphia

My go to sandwich if it’s on the menu is definitely a turkey club. I would judge the quality of the tomato and the turkey needs to be roasted in house. I guess the best version would have to have a fried egg on it, and some herb mayo.

— Kevin Kramer, Chef-Owner Woodrow’s Sandwich Shop Philadelphia

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