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poofandmook's avatar

Have you ever gotten amazing food from a place you'd never eat in just by looking at it?

Asked by poofandmook (17272points) May 11th, 2010

There’s a deli on the lower east side of Manhattan that is a total dump. Ramshackle shelves, porn magazines in clear view at the door, smells sort of funny. Yet they make the yummiest sandwich; my friend had to twist my arm to try it but I did and now whenever we’re out drinking, wherever it is in the city, we cab it down to that deli for a sandwich.

There’s a Thai place not far from my house… their sign isn’t even distinguishable from the laundromat sign… like you get noodles with your laundry service or something. Their dining room is smaller than my bedroom (and my bedroom isn’t big), is very dark, the carpet is sort of dingy.. and from the outside, it looks like a secret entrance to a mob hideout or something. I went to pick up an order for the first time and almost just went home instead. But the pad Thai? Holy Helen of Troy… freaking amazing.

What dumps have you been to that are closet culinary geniuses?

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15 Answers

SamIAm's avatar

I use yelp a lot to help determine what’s good despite it’s look, or to be prepared. I went to this Chinese place called Sam’s this weekend… it was SO good, despite the very old inside and seemingly mean lady at the front (who ended up being a doll). The food was delicious, not too heavy, and yummm.

xxii's avatar

Plenty of restaurants (“restaurants” is a generous word) in places like Thailand and Indonesia are in horrendous condition but serve amazing food. Some of the best food I’ve had in my life has been from a street stall in Bangkok that would fail even the most lenient hygiene inspections. Needless to say, prices are also unbelievably low.

Even in Singapore, there are outdoor food courts (known as “hawker centres”) that smell like fish, have questionable puddles of water all over the floor…but the food is incredible.

Cruiser's avatar

I don’t know the name of it but while in New Orleans the culinary capital of the world I asked the cabbie for a good place for lunch and he dropped me off at this ramshackle corner building and once in the door I knew we were in for good food as it was full of cops! Best gumbo I had ever had!! YUM!

When on a vacation in Honduras there was this 12’x12’ shack with a tiny 4 burner stove behind the bar that served the most amazing Mahi Mahi! The mango tree out back was the rest room. We sat on Adirondack chairs on the beach with cable reels for a table!

poofandmook's avatar

@Cruiser: The mango tree out back was the rest room. Like, the Charmin commercials where the bear just sits at the base of the tree with a newspaper? O.o

EmpressPixie's avatar

In Chicago, up north, there is this place—the Sunshine Cafe. It doesn’t look like anything special from the outside and in a place like Chicago, I would never bother with it, except that we’d read some really good reviews on Yelp. Inside it’s still nothing special—I mean, a bunch of tables in a medium sized room. You probably can’t get more than 30 people in there. And that might actually be generous. It just doesn’t look like anything. Not nice. Not crappy. Just… nothing.

Anyway, their food is simply amazing—they do homestyle Japanese. It’s just amazing. And cheap and plentiful. But seriously amazing.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

There used to be a Dim Sum restaurant in a San Francisco basement called the Hang Ah Tea Room and if you walked down into it, you’d be tempted to back out. It always reminded me of a rented room set up for bingo night, next to no decoration, color scheme, ancient linoleum tile floor and the bathroom, oh gawd. The bathroom was a door in the corner of the teensy dining room, you might think it was a closet and it probably was at one time but if walked in, you’d have to carefully turn around not to bump yourself on things and looking straight up to the ceiling was a vent to the street. This aside, the limited selection of Dim Sum was better than any other place we’d tried over the years and we patronized Hang Ah for a good 20yrs until no family members wanted to continue it. :( RIP Hang Ah, we sure miss your house concocted chili oil.

reverie's avatar

I’m actually more wary of places that are too fancy-looking. If somewhere can look a bit dodgy, and still remain open and have customers, then it must be doing something right, food-wise. On the other hand, lots of unknowing people can continue to give business to places that look fancy based on the fact that they appear nice, but actually serve bad food. Whilst those places probably get no repeat custom, they can still stay open if people are lured in by attractive appearances.

In the town I used to live in, my two favourite places to eat were probably the most plain and run-down. I actually like eating in tatty, shabby places. I’m not really comfortable with overly formal dining.

Haleth's avatar

It seems like there are so many dives with delicious food that conventional wisdom goes the other way now- that if you really want a delicious meal, you have to be the first one to find the dive before it gets overrun with tourists and suburbanites and they clean it up. An example is a place where I live called Kebeb Palace. It’s a 24-hour place with bright flourescent lights that serves Afghani food, which has the delicious curries and red char-grilled chicken of Indian food with some nice middle-eastern touches. The place is very popular with cab drivers. One side dish you can get there is literally just bone with fat and sauce, but it’s amazing. They have this great yellow curry with bone-in chicken that’s spicy, peppery, and gingery, and you eat it with flatbread, spicy green yogurt sauce, cilantro, and fresh onion. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

My favorite thing is going there after a long night of drinking and chowing down- I mean, this just epic gluttony, like massively stuffing my face. Then every other partier in the DC area got the same idea and before you know it, it’s full of girls in party dresses and high heels and guys in botton-downs and timbs every weekend. Already the prices have gone up, so maybe it’s just a matter of time.

I read city paper all the time, and a lot of their food reviews of dives say things like this. They describe how shabby the place is and then how delicious and cheap the food is and call it something like an “undiscovered gem in a Wheaton strip-mall” or a “tiny bodega next to a shabby hair salon.” Then hordes of people go there, and the next review complains about how American the place has become and how the prices have gone up. Um… they weren’t expecting that?

perspicacious's avatar

Many times. This is why I always ask around when I’m in a new city.

TexasDude's avatar

There is a Mexican restaurant in my town that is literally a hole in the wall.

They have the best damn Mexican food I have ever had though.

MissAusten's avatar

I went to college in southern Indiana, and there was a Mexican place there that looked like the food would send you to the hospital. The decor was very plain, with booths and tables that looked about forty years old. Old, faded sign over the door, dusty windows, laminated menus, cheap tableware…but the best Mexican food ever. It was cheap, so perfect for college students. I’ve never been to a Mexican restaurant that could touch the quality of the food from that dingy little place.

There’s another restaurant in Boston’s North End where I had lunch once and thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I was with a couple of friends, and we were just wandering around. We wanted lunch, but didn’t want to go someplace packed with other tourists. We found this Italian place, which was very small and almost empty. There were only eight or ten tables. The restaurant was very clean and warm-looking, though. The food was just incredible. So fresh with everything cooked perfectly. I wish I could remember the name, or even the street, because I desperately want to go back someday. :(

Kayak8's avatar

In Kobe, Japan there was this little place called Miki. Once our family of 5 was in there, only one additional customer would fit. Hole in the Wall doesn’t even begin to describe it. They served a local specialty called Okinomiyaki that I crave to this day.

It was very common for men to purchase a bottle of alcohol that would be kept on the shelf at the local place and when they placed a drink order, they would get a pour from their own bottle. The shelf contained all these bottles with vertical Kanji last names and my Dad’s in his careful horizontal printing.

talljasperman's avatar

a korean food store… I ended up getting great food…(side ribs yummy)

filmfann's avatar

There is a chinese restaurant down the street, in a building that once had an A&W, with roller skating waitresses and all. Now it looks really seedy, but the food is fantastic.

poofandmook's avatar

actually, yes.. my favorite Chinese place in the area is a dump, it smells horrible, the floor is filthy and coming up in places, and there’s a scary mix of Asian pop culture toys on sale in the glass case. But they make a shrimp dumpling that is to die for.

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