FINAL FOUR FOOD: The Flavourtown Bracket Breakdown

Now, Gonzaga didn’t win it all this year, but the Final Four weekend wasn’t a total bust. For one thing, I got to see Sir Charles Barkley jump around to some old-school House of Pain, which is a memory I’ll cherish forever…oh, and I also got to defeat some sweet eats, son! So, in the spirit of the Final Four, I’m pitting my Phoenix meals head-to-head in a Flavourtown showdown, to see whose cuisine reigns supreme. The iron refs can’t possibly screw this one up, can they?

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GLENDALE BRACKET

Gridiron Grill vs. Crave Waffle Sandwich Creations

Now, the lineup for food at University of Phoenix Stadium was longer than Adam Morrison’s NBA career (still love the mullet though, bro!), but the grub itself actually wasn’t bad. On the other hand, Crave Waffle Creations was one of the only places in the Westgate Entertainment District that didn’t have a big line to get in on Championship Monday. One bite of their overly crispy chicken, and I knew why.

WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER: Gridiron Grill

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DOWNTOWN BRACKET

Alice Cooper’stown vs. La Piazza

Now, this one would definitely be the late game, cuz it’s like UNC vs. Oregon in Flavourtown, son! You’ve got Alice Cooper’s sports bar, serving up real-deal BBQ and 22-inch hot dogs up against this funkalicious Triple D Neapolitan-style pizza joint. They’re both number one seeds in my bracket, bro! But while I gotta give Alice the edge for the tuneage, ambiance, and showing hockey on the big screen, the Italian Stallion hits a game-winning three pointer at the buzzer to advance to the Flavourtown Championship!

WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN DINNER: La Piazza

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FLAVOURTOWN TITLE GAME

Gridiron Grill vs. La Piazza

Even though Gridiron Grill had the home court advantage, they still couldn’t compete with the pizza dudes from downtown. La Piazza is draining triples all day, bro–this game’s over at halftime!

WINNER, WINNER, CHICKEN LUNCH AND DINNER: La Piazza

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FINAL FOUR FOOD: Guy Fieri’s favourite pizza place in Phoenix

So, we’re hanging out at La Piazza, this funky Triple D pizza joint in downtown PHX. This place serves up the pizza pies real-deal Neapolitan style from an authentic pizza oven, as well as other real-deal Italian classics, like these saucy, cheesy breadsticks, bro:

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OK, let’s break it down. These Bomb.ca bread nuggets are crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle, fried to perfection. Then you’ve got the Sicilian oregano, pomodorini tomatoes, chunks of Parmesan and basil. And you could probably feed three people with this dish, but it’s just an appetizer in Flavourtown!

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They call this amazing pie the Italian Stallion, and it packs a punch like Sly Stallone and the Family Stone! You’ve got this amazeballs fennel sausage, super-crispy pepperoni, and then prosciutto and sopressata tag-teaming your tastebuds like Owen Hart and the British Bulldog, bro! This is probably one of the top five pizzas I’ve ever had, and I’m pretty sure I’ve had more pizzas in my lifetime than Mark Few has wins at Gonzaga!

(Hey, there’s always next year, right?)

FINAL FOUR FOOD: Four fried chickens and a waffle, son!

So we’re hanging out at Crave Waffle Sandwich Creations, this funky waffle sandwich joint in the Westgate Entertainment District. Most of the bars in the area were packed, but there were still a few seats left at this place–even with five Bud Lights for 10 bucks, bro!

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Now, this place has both kinds of waffles: sweet AND savoury, son! I went with the Southern Hospitality, which piles housemade coleslaw and lettuce on top buttermilk fried chicken strips in a maple glaze. This chicken was extra crispy, but you almost got more breading than chicken. And while the coleslaw was quite tasty, the second half of the sammy was super soggy by the time I picked it up. Still, this wasn’t the worst 11 bucks I’ve ever spent–and did I mention five beers for 10 bucks, bro???

FINAL FOUR FOOD: Feedin’ my Frankenstein at Alice Cooper’s restaurant!

Now, when I heard that Alice Cooper had his own sports bar just a Randy Johnson seagull-destroying fastball from Chase Field, you know I had to be there with bell-bottoms on, bro! This place has got gold records on the wall, NHL hockey(!) on the big screen, and even a signed photo of the 1993 Montreal Canadiens. Not even making this up, mon frère!

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And even though Randy Johnson mighta hung up his ugly-ass purple jersey a few years back, they’ve still got a 22-inch hot dog in his honour called The Big Unit. Whenever one of these bad boys comes outta the kitchen, they ring a bell, and everybody yells “Big Unit!” It’s like a grand slam home run in Flavourtown, son!

But as appealing as shoving a 22-inch sausage straight down my piehole might sound, it didn’t seem like such a good idea at 11 am. So instead, I went with the Welcome to My Nightmare Nachos:

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These chips were topped with cheese sauce, jalapeños, cheese and Alice’s signature Nightmare chili–which was much more bean than beef. And the cheese-sauce to real-cheese ratio was about 3-to-1, which was a bit of a bummer bro! These nachos were not the stuff that dreams are made of…

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Of course, one does not simply walk in to Alice Cooper’stown and only eat nachos! Now, I coulda gone with the No More Mr. Nice Guy Chicken Pasta, or the School’s Out for Summer St. Louis Style Ribs, but instead I opted for the Billion Dollar BLT, baby!

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This classic, simple dish helped cleanse my palate after all the chili n jalapeños and nacho cheese. Just a basic BLT, but with a whole pile of crispy bacon, cooked perfectly, on Texas Toast…or so they say. If that’s Texas Toast, then I’m Yokozuna, son! More like Texas Toast on a diet! But the Ballad of Dwight French Fries were Super Duper Alice Cooper crispy n delicious, and this dish won’t set ya back a cool billion–it’s only $9.99, my little bronies!

And hey, you gotta love a place that plays Spoonman by Soundgarden, Judith by A Perfect Circle and Rush’s Tom Sawyer all within a half hour. I was air-drumming like Neil Peart on Percocets, dude! Not a single Alice Cooper song on the stereo the entire time I was there, though!!!!

FINAL FOUR FOOD: Double cheeseburger, chili cheese fries…and a Diet Coke

I told you Gonzaga was going all the way, bro!!! Well, OK, they lost to Carolina in the NCAA Final, so I probably owe Eric Church a cold one or two. But as soon as the Zags punched their ticket to Phoenix for the Final Four, so did the Triple B Crew. And you know we’re not (just) loading up on carbs before the game, dude! So, over the next few days, we’re rolling out the Final Four of funky fresh Phoenician eateries…can you smell what the desert is cookin’?

So, after watching the Zags beat the Cocks in an epic game on Saturday, I went to grab some grub, bro. But there were so many people on the concourse, that I could only go as far as the closest concession stand–the Gridiron Grill.

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By this point I hadn’t eaten anything since airport food at 8 am, so you know I went BIG. Why have a burger when you can get a double cheeseburger, bro? And why settle for fries when chilli cheese fries are on the menu? Of course, I washed it all down with an extra large Diet Coke, cuz I’m counting my calories…still counting…OK, so maybe I can’t count that high.

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OK, let’s break it down. The burger patties are nice and meaty, although they’re well beyond medium well. The pickles add some freshness, and the cheese is as processed as a clinical procedure. The fries are thick ‘n crispy, but when you pour concession stand chilli on em and put concession stand cheese on top, this dish is a hot mess and a half, dudeson!!!

Taco bout March Madness—AYCE tacos in Waterloo!

So, we’re hanging out at Taco Farm, this funky, family-owned joint in Uptown Waterloo, where they’re serving up all-you-can-eat tacos once a week for Waddle Out Wednesdays. And this ain’t some shitty, mystery-meat in a yellow shell type deal, either—this is a real-deal multicourse meal, dude! They make the tortillas right in front of your face, and you can top them with seven different kinds of proteins—well, make that six different kinds. They were all sold out of calamari by the time the Triple B crew rolled up. Hey man, the traffic on the 401 was far beyond driven!

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So we’re kicking it off with the crispy fried chicken—cuz I didn’t get enough fried chicken tacos last weekend. And we’re topping it off with pickled cabbage, salsa verde, Mexican corn and queso fresco! Yo quiero about seven more of these, bro!

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Next up, we’ve got the cornmeal crusted whitefish. Dude, cornmeal crusted whitefish was my nickname at swim camp! This one is super crunchy, with the breading adding a nice texture to the light, crisp fish.

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Now, this beef and potato ragu was so far outta bounds, it snuck into the locker room and stole Tom Brady’s jersey, bro! Picture a rich, hearty beef and potato stew…but in a taco. There’s nothing wrong with that at all!

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And then we’ve got the garlic pulled chicken. You could really taste the grill marks on this one, with a nice BBQ-style texture. This one goes great with corn and cabbage…and surprisingly well with pineapple!

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Now this one was a personal Flavourtown favourite: Say hello to my little friend pork hominy stew! You’ve got rich, meaty chunks of pork, some hominy grains, a couple carrots, maybe a potato or two… Bro, I would eat this off a flip-flop!

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It must suck to be vegan at a place like this. All these tasty taco toppings to choose from, and the only one you can eat is the black bean frijoles. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loves me some frijoles, but they’re best served as a side dish, not the star of the show. But hey, now if you pile some of that pulled chicken on top, it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame, bro!!!!

Now, if you think I only ate six tacos for $19.99, you must be loco en la cabeza, hermano! You know me and the crew, we went back for seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths and sixths…but after that, we totally still had room for dessert! And when we heard that they had not one kind, but two kinds of churros, it was totally time to go all Charles Barkley on that shit!

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Now, I gotta say, I was a little disappointed that they put the Mexican chocolate and the dolce de leche on the plate, and not inside the churro itself. But if you’re gonna serve me some deep-fried, battered dough with chocolate on the side, I won’t ever say no to that one, bro!!!!!!!!!

TEXAS STYLE BBQ SHOWDOWN: Franklin (Austin, TX) vs. Adamson (Toronto, ON)

Now, there’s no doot aboot it, Adamson Barbecue is my favourite BBQ joint in The Big Smoke. I’ve eaten every single kind of meat on the menu, and they’re all honky-tonk redonkadonk, son! I always used to say Adamson had the best beef brisket I’ve ever tried, but then I went down to Franklin Barbecue in Austin, and now I’m not so sure anymore. Their brisket is so outta bounds, people line up all around the block, bro!

So now, while the taste of sweet, sweet Texas brisket is still fresh in my memory, I had to hit up Adamson again so I could figure out which was the best BBQ joint I’ve ever been to in my lifetime. We’re looking at everything from the food, to the line, to the music on the stereo. So who’s got the most bodacious, beefalicious barbecue, bro? Let’s take a look at the tale of the tape!

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COMFORT FACTOR

Location: Adamson is sorta in the middle of nowhere. If you don’t live in South Leaside, and you don’t drive, it’s about a 30-minute bus ride from the closest subway station. Now, East 11th Street in Austin isn’t Sixth Street…but it is only five streets away.

ADVANTAGE: FRANKLIN

Lineup: Adamson opens at 11. I got there just after 11, and waited in line for over an hour. Franklin also opens at 11. I got there just after 9, and waited in line for over five hours!

HUGE ADVANTAGE: ADAMSON

Music: When you go to Franklin, you get proper Texas BBQ music–five hours of fiddle-driven classic country from the greats like Willie, Merle and Johnny. Now, the thing I always hated about Adamson’s was that they used to play really loud rap music when you were there. But today, we were greeted by tunes like “Wild Horses,” “Man in Black” and other country music classics. Sounds like somebody finally got the memo!

THIS ONE IS NOW A DRAW.

Seating: The seating at Adamson is mostly wooden chairs and picnic tables. The only picnic tables you’ll find at Franklin are outside–their indoor seating is a little more comfortable.

ADVANTAGE: FRANKLIN

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FOOD

Beef brisket: Now, it turns out that Adamson actually uses the exact same brisket from the same cows as Franklin. As their pitmaster says, if they cook it right, it should be just as good as down south. And I gotta say, it’s really, really close. These were far and away the two best briskets I’ve ever had. Maybe the only way to truly compare them would be to eat them both at the exact same time. They’re both super-tender, juicy lucy, melt-in-your mouth… Of course, you gotta order it fatty. Fatty brisket was my nickname in high school, bro! So, whose brisket is better? I might just hafta give it to Franklin, by a nose. Cuz hey, I’m pretty sure anything tastes better after lining up five hours for it!

ADVANTAGE: FRANKLIN

Pulled pork: The pulled pork at Franklin tastes how you expect pulled pork to be. Tender, succulent, and goes great with BBQ sauce. But at Adamson, their pulled pork has a nice, peppery taste so you don’t even need no sauce, bro!

ADVANTAGE: ADAMSON

Sausage: At Franklin, it seems the sausage is sort of an afterthought. It’s like “Well, you’re all sold out of ribs ‘n turkey, so I guess I’ll get some sausage?” But at Adamson, you definitely want to add a jalapeno cheddar smokie to your order–even if you’re already getting a three-meat plate!

ADVANTAGE: ADAMSON

Drinks: Franklin serves local Texas craft beer, and they’ll even sell it to you when you’re waiting in line, as long as you remain on the property. Adamson only has a soda fountain…but to their credit, you can get Big Red from it.

ADVANTAGE: FRANKLIN

Dessert: Although I didn’t take it out of the package before taking that photo, the Lemon Chess pie at Franklin is pretty darn tasty. I’d say it’s fairly comparable to Adamson’s coconut cream pie, which you see above. But this one time at Adamson, I had this sweet potato pie that was shut-the-back-door bananas. So I gotta give the edge to Adamson.

ADVANTAGE: ADAMSON

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Now, even after all that deliberation, I’m not sure there’s a clear winner here. The fact is, both of these places are really, really good. If you only visit one BBQ joint in Toronto, it’s gotta be Adamson. There are a couple other places I’d recommend, but only if you’re down for dinner. (Adamson, not unlike most BBQ joints in Texas, only serves food until they sell out–which is usually before 3 pm.)

On the other hand, if you’re ever in Austin, you’ll have to get up really, really early to eat at Franklin. I was one of the last ones through, and I didn’t eat until 2:30. Plus, they were sold out of pork ribs, beef ribs and turkey already. Clearly, I needed to be there before 8. Now, Franklin is a total tailgate experience, like a culinary Heavy Metal Parking Lot in Flavourtown. I think it’s worth checking out at least once–just don’t be like the brosephs who got so wastey-faced that they were kicked out once they got to the front of the line and didn’t even get any brisket!!!!!!!