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Last supper

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel full.

Greg Elwell February 29th, 2012

The problem with the end of the world is not all the volcanoes spewing lava and the plagues of locusts, frogs and (wild guess, here) wildebeests. Sure, the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse and 76 Trombones and probably Nic Cage as Ghost Rider are bad, but you know what’s worse?

Nobody is going to want to make me food.

Think about it: Everybody is going to be huddling with their families, remembering the good times and praying that the end will be relatively painless. But not a one of them will be interested in exchanging a perfectly cooked medium-rare ribeye, shrimp cocktail, garlic scalloped potatoes and freshly sautéed greens for my money.

And so, if the end of the world is really coming this year, as some suggest, we must enjoy ourselves in advance. These are my pre- Armageddon requirements.

Soup from Rococo Restaurant & Fine Wine
2824 N. Pennsylvania, 528-2824
12252 N. May, 212-4577

When anybody asks me about my favorite restaurants, I think of Rococo. It’s a lovely space — comfortable, inviting — and the staff is excellent. But it could be a drafty building with concrete benches and surly waitresses and I’d still go in for that soup.

“I’ve always said you can tell a good restaurant by their soup,” said owner Bruce Rinehart. “We take special care to really build the flavor in layers. My love of soups and sauces goes back to the beginning of my career.”

There’s always clam chowder and lobster bisque on the menu and both are fine choices, but the daily soups are the real draw: beef and three onion; cream of spinach with a citrus twist; hearty crab gumbo. A steaming bowl of soup is great in the winter, but I’ll order it during the dog days of summer, too. Weather be damned! Bring me great soup.

A cheeseburger from Nic's Grill
1201 N. Pennsylvania, 524-0999

This one could actually work out great for end times. The threat of falling asteroids might clear out the always prodigious lines at Nic’s. Plus, owner Justin Nicholas is the kind of not-rain-nor-sleet-nor-screaming-skulls kind of guy who might just rather serve up burgers and fries to loyal customers than huddle in the corner.

“If they say it’s the end of the world, I’ll probably be here,” said Nicholas. “I’ll be cooking and taking $20 bets that it doesn’t really happen.”

(If I have time, I’d also get over there for breakfast. Nothing like two eggs fried easy with a big, honking pork chop or a Western omelet the size of your head to get you ready to meet your maker.)

The Special Italian from Hobby's Hoagies
325 N. Walker, 605-3131

Blame my youth, during which I ate at Hobby’s every other day for a year, but I’d have to get one more taste of those sandwiches. It starts with the bread, baked fresh and perfect. The crust isn’t tough, but there’s a chew to it, a pull. Inside it’s soft and soaks up the juices of the meats (capocollo, ham and salami, in the Special Italian). Add in provolone cheese, lettuce, onions and that heavenly sweet and spicy cherry pepper mash and you’ve got a sandwich I’d take to the ends of the earth.

The Deep Fork trifecta
The Deep Fork Group has my number. Literally. Sometimes they just call and whisper the ingredients of their dishes. It’s filthy. And it works.

At Cafe Nova, 4308 N. Western, it’s the gourmet tots. It’s hard to improve upon fried balls of shredded potato, but adding ham and Parmesan cheese is a good start. Then at Deep Fork proper, 5418 N. Western, try the spinach and cheese ravioli, which come doused in browned butter and tender duck confit. It can’t be good for you, but when the world’s about to blow up and the thetans are released, who cares?

Oh, but I can’t forget the Wedge on Western Avenue or in Deep Deuce. That’s a meal I want to eat again and again. Wedge bread with hummus and tapenade, a plate of The Beet Goes On salad and a Truffle Shuffle to finish it off. Do they allow take-out boxes in heaven? What about hell?

Tacos Calvillo at Abel’s
5822 N.W. 50th, 491-0911

You know, I can’t forget Mexican food. No, seriously, I can’t forget it. It haunts my dreams. And the dish that appears most often in those hazy, slumber-induced visions is Tacos Calvillo. The menu says it’s beef, but after eating the dish about 50 times, I’m pretty sure it’s angel meat.

Hey, don’t look so horrified. You think angels won’t be falling from the sky during Ragnarök? Of course they will! So what if Abel’s has an inside line on them now? The point is, it’s delicious. Tiny tortillas, covered in this sweet, succulent meat with a plate full of fried onions and limes to dress it all up.

Writing this has made me so grateful that the world’s probably not ending. And not just because I wouldn’t get paid, but because it’s made me realize how many great dishes and restaurants our fair city hosts. Picking one burger, one pizza, one plate of sushi, one steak, one anything is nearly impossible. There are too many great options.

So even though Armageddon isn’t imminent, it’s clear that if I’m going to try everything I want, I better get a move on.

Photo by Mark Hancock

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