There's nothing quite like a dive.
That's how celebrity chef Guy Fieri views the food universe. Sure, Fieri, a California restaurateur-turned-Food Network favorite (The Next Food Network Star, Guy's Big Bite, Ultimate Recipe Showdown), can probably afford to eat out these days in the fanciest of establishments. But he prefers places with character -- or, better yet, that are run by characters -- where the cooking is hearty, the atmosphere gritty and the lines always out the door.
The spiky-haired Fieri, himself no small character, pays homage to such places in what is arguably his best Food Network series to date, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
The show's simple philosophy?
"If it's funky, we'll find it," says Fieri, who explains that he searches for restaurants that serve "real" food ("I don't care if it's just a chili dog, but let it be a righteous chili dog"), and those that have a story behind them.
We sat down with Fieri on a sweltering morning during the 2008 South Beach Wine & Food Festival -- he was kind enough to offer us a towel so that we could wipe our brow -- and asked him to name a few favorites among the dozens of diners, drive-ins and dives he's profiled.Here are his picks:
2500 S.W. 107th Ave., Miami, Fla.
Puerto Rican cuisine in a luncheonette setting.
"A nondescript joint, run by a family," says Fieri.
But the food?
It was so good, says Fieri, "I just about lost my mind."
The menu is heavy on seafood, but the house favorite is the mofongo, a dish made with mashed fried plantains and any number of additions, from pork to chicken.
3132 Magnolia Ave., Knoxville, Tenn.
Yes, pizza in Tennessee -- in a decades-old establishment run by Greeks, no less.