July 2017 Culinary Depot Blog Posts

    Hibachi Restaurants – Good Times and Great Food

    Written by: J. Vigotsky


    In Japanese culture, hibachis are containers that are made of heatproof material and hold burning charcoal. Surprisingly, they traditionally aren’t used for cooking. But in the United States, hibachi is associated with drop-in Teppanyaki griddles that are commonly integrated into dining tables. Many diners gather around the table to watch a master chef not only cook on these griddles, but also perform. Popular throughout the country, Hibachi-style restaurants offer unique, interactive dining experiences. The following are just a few reasons why Hibachi restaurants are so popular:




    hibachi restaurants - community


    A hibachi restaurant table fosters community like few dining experiences can. You’ll sit down with a large group that consists of either friends, family, or total strangers. Diners share meals, toast drinks, and excitedly cheer on the master chef who performs right in front of them. Great for meeting new people or catching up with old friends, this type of atmosphere ideal for a social night out at a restaurant.




    hibachi restaurants - fire


    The cooking of each hibachi meal starts the same way: a chef uses a squeeze bottle to cover the griddle with oil then ignites it all in one glorious inferno. Diners “Ooh” and “Ahh” at the flame that signals the beginning of their meal experience. Once the fire dies down, a chef does what he does best: cook with the dramatic flair of a Broadway performer.




    hibachi restaurants - theater


    The master chefs who operate the Teppanyaki griddles at hibachi restaurants are more than just skilled chefs. Cooking with style, these chefs boast enough charisma to keep diners captivated by their theatrical performance. Whether they’re igniting fires, creating onion volcanoes, juggling turners, cracking jokes, or catching food atop their chef hats, hibachi chefs are showmen who know that providing delicious food is only half their job. If you like attempting to catch food or sake in your mouth—or watching other people attempt to catch food or sake in their mouths—the opportunity will surely arise at a hibachi restaurant.




    hibachi restaurants - sake bottles and cups


    Where there’s hibachi, there’s almost always sake. Also known as Japanese rice wine, sake is the national beverage of Japan and more similar to beer than wine in how it’s prepared. The beverage usually comes in authentic sake cups and bottles that are white, ceramic, and have a distinctly Eastern style. Sake can be served chilled, heated, or at room temperature. The proper serving temperature usually depends on the exact type of sake being consumed.


    Culture and Décor


    hibachi restaurants - culture and decor


    Hibachi restaurants are usually steeped in traditional Japanese culture. Minimalistic architecture is accompanied by traditional ornaments and color schemes. Delicate lighting enables patrons to focus entirely on their meal, their fellow diners, and the experience. Hot towels that have been warmed via towel steamers can be found at many of these establishments. Some meals also come with Chinese soup spoons and sauce dishes that include several distinct sauces. Whether you prefer soy sauce, duck sauce, or hot and spicy sauce, there will be something that satisfies your particular taste.




    hibachi restaurants - chef


    Watching a professional chef work his magic right in front of you helps demystify the cooking process a little bit. While you might not quite be able to put on the same type of show as these highly skilled chefs, you can surely pick up a tip or two that’ll help you cook in your own kitchen. Even if you’re too busy chatting with friends or drinking sake to pick up on any game-changing skills, you’ll at least be able to see with your own two eyes that there’s nothing overly complicated about cooking hibachi-type dishes.


    Delicious Meals


    hibachi restaurants - delicious meals


    Hibachi meals usually start with either white or fried rice. Rather than watch the rice warm in a commercial rice cooker, you’ll get to see the chef cook rice right on the Teppanyaki griddle. Next up are noodles and some type of protein-dense dish: chicken, pork, beef, and fish are all common choices. Finally, a serving of vegetables adds some nutritional punch to the meal.



    There are plenty of reasons to eat at any hibachi restaurant. If you’re looking for a delicious meal and a fun time out with friends, you can’t go wrong by opting for hibachi.

    Top Reasons You'll Love Vulcan's New VEG Gas Fryer

    Top Reasons You'll Love Vulcan's New VEG Gas Fryer


    New from Vulcan: an ENERGY STAR® certified 35-pound value gas fryer. What’s all the hype about?  Read below for the top reasons why every foodservice operator needs a VEG fryer in their kitchen.


    High Productivity

    The VEG fryer is ideal for cooking frozen appetizers, French fries, wings and much more.  With a production capacity of 56.8 lbs./hr., the VEG cooks 10 lbs. more per hour than a standard economy fryer.  That results in more fried products per hour with faster ticket times for your customers. 


    vulcan chart


    Energy Efficiency

    The VEG gas fryer has a cooking efficiency rating of 50%, meaning it meets the requirements to earn ENERGY STAR® certification.  Not only do energy efficient fryers offer shorter cook times and higher production rates, they save money on your utility bill.  The ENERGY STAR website states, “A standard sized electric fryer that has earned the ENERGY STAR can save 2,390 kWh/year. This equates to a savings of $245 annually on your utility bill.”

    Source: https://www.energystar.gov/


    Value Pricepoint

    Vulcan’s VEG fryer is an efficient and productive fryer.  What makes it even more appealing?  It is available at a competitive and value price.  Add in the potential rebate savings for being ENERGY STAR® certified (up to $1900 in some states) and you’re walking out the door paying less for the VEG fryer than a standard economy fryer.  Now that’s getting a deal!


    Free New Equipment Checkout

    As a bonus, the VEG comes with a New Equipment Checkout by Hobart Service free of charge. This means a Vulcan product expert will ensure that the fryer has been properly installed (assembled, leveled, connected, adjusted, calibrated, etc.) and is operating correctly.  This results in a greater peace of mind for the kitchen operator, as well as reduced service calls.

    To learn more about Vulcan’s ENERGY STAR certified, VEG gas fryer, click here.


    Most Unique Restaurants in the U.S.

    Most Unique Restaurants in the U.S.


    Dining out at a restaurant with friends and family is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Everyone has his or her favorite spot—whether that’s a cheap hole in the wall or an elegant but pricy restaurant. But some people crave—above all else—new experiences at interesting establishments. The following is a list of just some of the most unique restaurants in the United States.


    The SafeHouse – Milwaukee, WI – Chicago, IL


    most unique restaurants in the u.s. safehouse milwaukee


    This secret agent-themed restaurant provides an interactive dining experience that’s not found anywhere else. Requiring diners to say a top secret password to gain entrance, the SafeHouse also allows customers to earn their way into the restaurant by doing something silly. Patrons at the bar watch a TV that displays customers attempting to gain clearance by dancing, hoola hooping, or clucking like a chicken—all in the name of fun.

    Once inside, diners get to experience moving walls, rotating tables, spy-themed memorabilia, and a cell door from a KGB prison. Martinis at the SafeHouse are shaken—not stirred—by being sent through a 600 ft. nomadic tube that travels around the bar. Secret passages, entrances, and exits fill the restaurant, always keeping patrons on their toes. While the SafeHouse’s menu only consisted of bar food when the establishment first opened, the restaurant has evolved to offer delicious fresh Atlantic salmon and ethnic foods like Bangkok Chicken Satay.

    The SafeHouse in Milwaukee has been a pillar of the community since 1966. However, David Baldwin—the restaurant’s founder—retired in 2015 and sold the restaurant. Consequently, a SafeHouse opened in downtown Chicago earlier this year. By all accounts, the Chicago restaurant is just as impressive as the original in Milwaukee.


    Ninja New York – New York, NY


    most interesting restaurants in the u.s. - ninja new york


    Serving traditional Japanese dishes and sushi, Ninja New York provides diners with a distinct setting that transports them to a different time and place. The restaurant’s interior is meticulously designed to reflect a ninja village of feudal days, giving the restaurant a one-of-a-kind ambiance. Featuring stone walls, mysterious mazes, clever contraptions and magicians, this underground eatery requires its servers to dress as ninjas. Make sure to keep an eye out for them, as the ninja servers are notorious for sneaking up on diners.


    Bors Hede Inne – Carnation, WA


    most unique restaurants in the u.s. - bors hede inne


    Located in Camlann Medieval Village, which recreates rural life in 14th century England, the Bors Hede Inne gives diners the opportunity to eat a meal that would have been served hundreds of years ago. The restaurant uses recipes directly from medieval cookbooks, offering rust stones, salad, fenberry pie, salmon, roast pork, and chicken. Servers always dress, speak, and act in the character of a medieval inn-keeper. While cell phones and forks are strictly forbidden, spoons and knives are available for use. A mistrel intermittently serenades diners during meals with traditional music. Eating at the Bors Hede Inne is a sure-fire way to have a distinctly unique dining experience.


    Opaque – San Francisco, CA – Los Angeles, CA – San Diego, CA - New York, NY – Dallas, TX


    most unique restaurants in the u.s. opaque restaurant


    Opaque offers a pitch-dark setting combined with delicious food. The idea is that since a patron can’t see, his sense of taste will heightened—allowing him to better appreciate the restaurant’s food. Servers at Opaque are all blind or sight impaired, making them uniquely qualified to help patrons navigate this “Dining in the Dark” experience.

    After starting as a west coast phenomenon, Opaque soon moved to Dallas and New York City. But even before it hit the west coast, dining in the dark was popular in European cities like Berlin, Paris, and Vienna. Not only does the dark setting enhance the flavor of food, but it also minimizes distractions and allows for great conversation between diners.


    The Varsity – Atlanta, GA


    most unique restaurants in the U.S. - the varsity


    Ubiquitous throughout Atlanta, The Varsity is a 7-restaurant chain whose main branch is the largest fast food drive-in restaurant in the world. Spanning five blocks, this juggernaut of a fast food joint can seat over 800 customers inside and has space for about 600 cars. It serves all-American meals like hot dogs, burgers, sandwiches, and chicken. The Varsity initially targeted college campuses but soon evolved into something much bigger. Attracting U.S. presidents like Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama while they were in office, the fast food chain is known for its unofficial slogan of “What’ll ya have?”   


    The White Horse Tavern – Newport, RI  


    most unique restaurants in the u.s. - the white horse tavern


    The oldest bar in America, the White Horse Tavern was built in 1652 and founded in 1673. With a rich history that includes sheltering pirates, this tavern briefly became a boardinghouse before falling into disarray and being restored as a bar/restaurant the 1950s. Today, the two-story watering hole serves delicious food on both floors. Its bar is still going strong, offering drinks like the Darn and Stormy—which combines Gosling’s Dark Rum and ginger beer. The White Horse Tavern deserves to be on the bucket list of every serious bar enthusiast.


    The Airplane Restaurant – Colorado Springs, CO


    most unique restaurants in the u.s. the airplane restaurant


    This aviation-themed restaurant is the perfect dining establishment for airplane lovers. With room for 42 diners inside a Boeing KC-97 that was built in 1953, The Airplane Restaurant is also somewhat of an aviation museum. Hundreds of pictures, artifacts, and memorabilia are scattered throughout the restaurant. If you have time, make sure to stop by the cockpit for an impressive look at where the pilots used to operate the aircraft.


    The Catacombs – Mount Joy, PA


    the catacombs


    This unique restaurant is located in a stone-lined vault that’s 43 feet below street level. Part of the historic Bube’s Brewery, the Catacombs offers an upscale dining experience along with a large selection of cocktails and wines. A rotating selection of house-brewed and draft beer is also available. Before sitting down to eat, you’ll be given a brief educational tour of the brewery. With both traditional and gourmet dishes on the menu, the Catacombs has something for everyone.



    These are just a few of the most unique restaurants in the United States. If you’re looking for a truly distinct experience, you can’t go wrong with any of these options. There are surely hundreds of more unique restaurants around the country that aren’t listed here, so make explore other options as well.

    8 Crazy Food Challenges

    Written by: J. Vigotsky


    Have a big appetite? Ever feel like no matter how much you eat, your stomach always wants more? Well if the following crazy food challenges can’t satisfy your appetite, nothing will! Put your stomach to the test by attempting to complete one or multiple of these eating challenges.


    The Kitchen Sink Challenge – The San Francisco Creamery Co. – Walnut Creek, CA


    8 crazy food challenges - kitchen sink challenge


    The Kitchen Sink is a decadent creation that’s made with 8 scoops of ice cream, 8 servings of toppings, 3 bananas, a mountain of whipped cream, and topped with chopped toasted almonds and cherries. A popular choice for birthdays and other celebrations, the intimidating ice cream sundae is ordinarily recommended for up to 6 people. It costs $49.95 and is so big it’s served in an actual sink. For those daring enough to tackle the whole sink by themselves, free ice cream for a year awaits.

    The rules are simple: an eater has 30 minutes to consume every last drip of ice cream. Once eating has begun, bathroom breaks are off limits. So make sure to go beforehand. An employee will monitor the challenge, updating eaters on the amount of time remaining. Should you emerge from the challenge victorious, you’ll be entitled to a free ice cream sundae each day for the next year. Unfortunately, the sundaes are non-transferrable, and only the winner can redeem them.


    The Mt. Olympus Challenge – Clinton Station Diner – Clinton, NJ


    8 crazy food challenges - mt. olympus challenge


    This 50 lb. burger gives you and four of your most ambitious friends the opportunity to demonstrate appetite supremacy. If your team can successfully devour the $130 burger in under 3 hours, it will come free of charge. If you don’t know four other eaters who can measure up to your own high eating standards, there are smaller—yet still comically large—burgers at the Clinton Station Diner. The Zeus weighs 7 lbs. and is free if you finish it in less than three hours, while the Atlas weighs 3 lbs. and is free if finished in 2 hours or less. These burgers can also be eaten with a partner, but you’ll have half as much time to finish them.  


    Big Fat Fatty – Fat Sal’s Deli – Multiple Locations, CA


    8 crazy food challenges - big fat fatty


    An exercise in gluttony, the Big Fat Fatty from Fat Sal’s Deli can be had for $49.99. If you can consume the enormous hoagie in 40 minutes or less, it’ll be on the house. The sandwich weighs 12 pounds and features cheesesteak, pastrami, chicken fingers, bacon, mozzarella sticks, fried eggs, jalapeno poppers, fries, onion rings, chili, cheese burgers, and sauces—all stacked atop a 27-inch piece of garlic bread. While few people have ever finished the sub, those who did were allowed to create and name a custom sandwich for Sal’s menu.


    The 7-Pound Breakfast Burrito Challenge – Jack-N-Grill – Denver, CO


    8 crazy food challenges - 7 pound burrito challenge 


    This mammoth Tex-Mex inspired breakfast burrito measures 12"L x 6"W x 4"H and weighs in at a hefty 7 lbs. About 1 out of every 20 brave souls who attempt to eat the burrito succeeds, getting the burrito for free and earning a spot on the Jack-N-Grill’s Wall of Fame. The breakfast burrito consists of 5 lbs. of hash browns, 12 scrambled eggs, a whole onion, and fire-roasted green chilies. Topped with New Mexico pork green chili and cheese, this $24 burrito is the breakfast of competitive eating champions.


    72 Oz. Steak Challenge – The Big Texan Steak Ranch – Amarillo, TX


    8 crazy food challenges - 72 oz. steak challenge


    While this is not the toughest food challenge on the list, it’s certainly the most well know. Around since the 1960s, the 72 Oz. Steak Challenge skyrocketed in popularity during in the early 1990s. In addition to putting down the huge steak, eaters are also required to consume a buttered roll, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, beans, and a salad—all in under one hour. The side dishes allegedly arose from a steak-eating contest that The Big Texan Steak Ranch held in the 1960s. After scarfing down two 1 lb. steaks in the first ten minutes, the contest winner requested the aforementioned side dishes before eating more steak.

    Winners of the Steak Challenge get listed on the 72 Oz. Hall of Fame and receive a full refund for the meal. Those who are unable to finish lose the $72 they paid up front. It’s not necessary to eat the fat, but the restaurant will serve as final judge regarding what qualifies. Eaters are permitted to bring home leftovers should they not finish the steak.


    The Inferno Bowl Challenge – Nitally’s ThaiMex Cuisine – St. Petersburg, FL.


    8 Crazy Food Challenges - inferno bowl at Nitally's


    For eaters who like to test their sweat glands in addition to their stomachs, the Inferno Bowl is the perfect crazy food challenge. Offered by Nitally’s ThaiMex Cuisine, the Inferno Bowl features 48 oz. of soup that’s made from ghost chili and fully capable of setting taste buds ablaze. It must all be consumed in a half hour or less, and eaters are allowed to use ice to cool down the soup’s temperature during the first five minutes. After remaining undefeated through its first 221 challengers, the contest increased its initial $100 prize to $1500 when it became apparent the people were overmatched. That’s when a local man concocted a scientific approach that would redefine what was possible.


    After making quick work of the soup’s solid peppers, the man transferred whatever liquid remained into an empty 2 liter bottle. He quickly chugged the bottle, and the rest is history. The man was not able to keep the soup down for long, leading the restaurant to consider whether challengers should have to retain the food for at least 15 minutes. Thankfully, the challenge is held outdoors to avoid making a mess inside the restaurant.  


    Boss Hog 28" Pizza Challenge – Boss’ Pizza & Chicken – Sioux Falls, SD


    8 crazy food challenges - boss hog pizza pie


    Pair up with your hungriest friend and try to take down this 10 lb. pizza pie. With a 28" diameter, the pie comes with at least three toppings. If consumed in an hour or less, you and your partner receive the $48 pizza pie for free, $200 in restaurant gift certificates, and a spot on the restaurant’s wall of fame.


    The Bacon Bomb Challenge – Paddy’s Long – Chicago, IL


    8 crazy food challengs - bacon bomb challenge


    Intended to serve 6-8 people, this 5 lb. bacon bomb is made of ground sausage, pork, and beef—all wrapped in brown sugar bacon. The bacon bomb is slow cooked on a pig roaster and must be consumed with fries or potato salad in 45 minutes or less. As of September 2015, only 9 people had successfully completed the challenge. For emerging victorious against this crazy food challenge, eaters receive a free t-shirt, a spot on the restaurant’s wall, and the bacon bomb ($70) free of charge.


    A Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest History Lesson

    Written by: J. Vigotsky


    nathan's hot dog eating contest stage


    Independence Day marks the birth of American as a nation. It’s a celebration that often features fireworks, barbecues, swimming pools, friends, and family. But for some people, the Fourth of July is serious business. The Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest returned yesterday for the 101st time. Some of the world’s most ambitious competitive eaters gathered on Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY to test the limits of the human body, mind, and soul. Thousands of eager spectators flocked to Brooklyn to experience the spectacle, and around one-million fans watched the event on TV from the comfort of their own homes.


    The Birth of a Legend


    nathan's hot dog eating contest history lesson









     Urban legend has it that on July 4, 1916, four immigrants got into an argument about which one of them was the most patriotic. To settle the dispute, they all agreed to a hot dog eating competition that would once and for all decide which one of them was the ultimate American patriot. Since then, the hot dog eating contest has taken place every year except 1941 and 1971. The contest was cancelled in each of those years as a protest against war and political unrest, respectively.


    The Next Level


    nathan's hot dog eating contest crowd


    Although the Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest had already been around for over 80 years, it wasn’t until the turn of the Millennium that its popularity skyrocketed. Renowned competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi played a pinnacle role in the contest’s success, eating nearly double the previous world record of 25.5 hot dogs and capturing his first victory in 2001. The Japanese sensation went on to win six consecutive contests from 2001-2006. Kobayashi’s training and eating techniques would revolutionize the sport, leading to influx of other talented eaters who would eventually challenge his dominance.




    In 2011, the first Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest for Women was introduced. Before then, women always competed with the men. $20,000 in prize money is allocated to both the men and women eating competitions. The prize breakdown is as follows:

    1st Place: $10,000
    2nd Place: $5,000
    3rd Place: $2,500
    4th Place: $1,500
    5th Place: $1,000

    In addition to cash, first place receives a championship belt and trophy. The men’s belt is mustard-yellow, while the women’s belt is pink. 


    The Calm Before the Storm


    nathans hot dog contest weigh in


    The days leading up to each Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest are dominated by excitement for the upcoming event. The New York City mayor makes an appearance at a public weigh-in, where some eating contestants wear extravagant costumes and wild makeup. The festivities continue on the morning of the event, when all eaters board the “bus of champions” and make the trek to Coney Island. Upon arrival, the eaters are introduced independently and draw passionate applause from the crowd. Multi-time contest winner Joey Chestnut routinely makes his entrance atop a sedan chair.


    joey chestnut entrance


    Hot Dog Eating Wall of Fame


    Any competitive eater worth his or her salt knows the only true way to eating immortality is to secure a spot of the Hot Dog Eating Wall of Fame. Located on the same ground where the annual contest takes place, the wall commemorates past contest winners and features a clock that counts down the minutes until the next contest.


     nathans wall of fame


    Hot Dog Eating Controversy


    Like other highly competitive arenas, the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest has had no shortage of controversies. On a couple of occasions, judges have had to step in and review videotape to see whether a contestant has vomited—which would automatically disqualify him. Kobayashi has been reviewed on two separate instances for a possible infraction, but the judges ruled in his favor both times.

    The controversy doesn't step there for Kobayashi. After refusing to sign an exclusive contract with Major League Eating (MLE), the eating legend was not allowed to compete in 2010 and consequently attempted to rush the stage. He was arrested for the act, but a Brooklyn judge dropped all charges. In 2011, Kobayashi’s name was wiped from the all-important Hot Dog Eating Wall of Fame.


    free kobayashi arrested


    A 2003 experiment allowed celebrity eaters to compete against the pros. Former Chicago Bears defensive lineman Willam “The Refrigerator” Perry earned a spot in the contest be devouring twelve hot dogs at a qualifier. Unfortunately, the fridge folded under the pressure of the bright lights. He managed to eat a measly four hot dogs before waving the white flag only five minutes into the contest.


    Rules & Contestants


    Around twenty eaters compete for glutton supremacy. The field consists of the defending champ, winners of regional qualifiers, two wildcards, and special invitees of MLE. The wildcards are the two eaters who had the highest qualifier scores but didn’t win a single qualifier.

    Contestants are allowed to have a beverage of their choice on the hand. Most eaters choose water, which has zero calories and helps enable them to stuff every last morsel of food down their throats. Condiments are also allowed, but contestants know that filling up on mustard, relish, ketchup is a less-than-ideal strategy. A scorekeeper is assigned to each eater and carefully monitors consumption. Eating penalties include a yellow card, which is issued for “messy eating,” and a red card, which is issued for “reversal of fortune”—AKA vomiting.

    In the event of a tie, eaters face off against one another by seeing who can eat five hot dogs the fastest. Further ties result in contestants eating just one dog. Whoever finishes first, wins.


    And Now - Your 2017 Hot Dog Eating Champions…


    Defending his crown and winning his 10th contest overall, Joey Chestnut broke his own Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest record by consuming a whopping 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes.


    joey chestnut 2017 nathans hot dog eating contest champion


    For the women, Miki Sudo earned her fourth straight victory by downing 41 hot dogs—a personal best for the New York product.


    miki sudo 2017 nathan's hot dog eating contest chamion


    Starting Your Own Contest


    If your restaurant or concession stand is interested in offering hot dogs and starting an eating competition of its own, make sure to have the proper hot dog equipment. Commercial hot dog rollers are available in an assortment of sizes, and hot dog merchandisers are ideal for displaying your freshly cooked offerings. 


    nathan's contest