What's there to an onion ring? A little vegetable, a little batter, a whole lot of oil, and there you have it. Unless you're at Dillon's. Then you've got an onion ring that's outrageous, over the top, and oh-so-wonderful.

These are absolutely some of the most delightful crispy critters we've ever chewed on. It amazes us how decadent a stark pairing of vegetable and batter can be; the sweet onion rounds practically float off our polka-dot tablecloth under their joyously greaseless coating. We can dip them in the ancho chile sauce (think spicy Thousand Island dressing) that's served alongside, but these rings don't need gilding of any kind.

"Home of the Windy City Slider," the Chicago Hamburger Company's sign reads, and yes, the shop makes a mighty good burger. But it's worth a trip all the way to Chi-town just for this company's French fries. If you think fries are all the same, you've been sleepwalking through fast-food joints. Wake up and sample these spuds. Magnificent models of potato, these are piping hot, skinless, generously salted and crisp-edged. Like any proud potato, though, they've got to be eaten fresh from the kitchen -- to transport the delicate sticks too far would be tater torture. A generous sackful sets you back a mere $1.29, and for just 50 cents more, you can gild the fries with cheese or chili. Save your two bits, though. Fries this good don't even need ketchup.

What's a cowboy steak, unless it's made by real cowboys? At Rawhide Steakhouse, the place is swarming with 'em -- manning the mesquite broiler, plucking guitars onstage in the dining room, and shooting each other to pieces in faux showdowns outside on Main Street.

We think Rawhide Wild West Town is a kick, with its dirt street, boardwalks, haunted hotel, general store, "widowmaker" mechanical bull, covered wagons, clown days and more. The star of the show, though, is Rawhide's steaks. Surprise -- the kitchen's under the direction of celebrity chef Michael DeMaria (Michael's at the Citadel), and his finesse shines in beefy flavor. Choose your cut: 16-ounce cowboy T-bone, 12-ounce New York strip, 10-ounce top sirloin, 24-ounce porterhouse, 14-ounce rib eye, or the slightly more dainty tender filet. Steaks come with all the fixin's -- tossed garden salad, all-you-can-eat cowboy beans, a daily side dish, and ranch toast. For Rawhide's cowboy steaks, we say "Yeehaw!"

The bar at Eddie's is pretty enough to eat, all fashion and fun in a "Moroccan living room" kind of style, with plush chaises and overstuffed chairs. But much better to chow down on are the best nibbles in town -- sumac-grilled lamb chops with mint hummus, spicy "mo' rockin'" shrimp with chewy honey dough balls, and Sonoran crab cakes with spunky red-pepper aioli, to name a few. But our hearts really beat faster for the horseradish mashed potato-stuffed shrimp with cactus pear and five-peppercorn ranch dip. Our eyes brighten as we alight on crispy chicken-stuffed spaghettini egg rolls with spicy peanut sauce. And we practically melt for golden-toasted seafood ravioli, slicked with apricot-voodoo glaze. With such superb starters, at Eddie's we never want to finish.
When we were kids, we couldn't stand liver. Then we discovered foie gras, and now we can't get enough. Of course, this isn't just your everyday liver, but a type that's been a prized delicacy since Roman times. The goose variety that's served here has been force-fed until the bird's liver weighs as much as two pounds. Bad news for the goose, good news for us.

Though Valencia Lane changes its menus with the seasons, its foie gras shows up regularly, and is always prepared simply. One of our favorite preparations here has it expertly seared, partnered with a few thimbles of flavorful pineapple chutney, dots of tart 100-year-old balsamic, and a little hill of radish sprouts. It's a remarkable explosion of complementary textures and flavors that has us licking the plate. Long live Valencia Lane's liver!

It's 1 a.m. on the weekend, and the bars have closed. We're hungry -- and nothing helps soothe a martini-molested belly like pizza. No problem; we've got Slices, serving until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. We could scarf a whole pie, but would probably regret it in the morning. Instead, we'll go by the slice, selected from a variety of 19-inch rounds. We order piece by piece; these suspects are unusually large and filling, and often just one or two slabs will do us. Thin-crusted and tasty, the slices are salvation to our overimbibing -- a potato, bacon and Cheddar concoction, baked eggplant with roasted red pepper, chicken parmigiana and the best: meatball pizza. Sometimes you've just got to grab a slice of life and savor it.

Pizza isn't fast food. At least not in the eyes of chef Chris Bianco. A co-founder of the Valley's only Slow Food chapter, Bianco supports the European-inspired ideal of using only ingredients available from local artisan producers.

This means select produce from boutiques like Victory Farms, an organic empire that produces amazing micro mizuna, a salad green that tastes of mild mustard; micro arugula, a joyously bitter salad green; and, of course, the tastiest, most tempting tomatoes of which a pizza could dream.

Whatever the topping, each pie is fired in a wood-burning oven. It's worth the wait, and wait you will -- this bistro is packed every night, with no reservations accepted.

Here's wishing all men pizza on Earth -- straight from Pizzeria Bianco.

When you're really hungry, don't mess around. Get a large pie from Western Pizza. The 18-inch monster will leave you pushing back from the table, gorged, happy, and with enough leftovers to feast on for a few more meals. At almost three inches thick and tipping the scales at close to 20 pounds, these pies tackle even an offensive lineman's appetite. We're not sure how this place makes money, piling on the toppings for its Western Round-Up -- mushrooms, pepperoni, salami, ham, peppers and onions under an entire cow's worth of mozzarella for $18.50. There's no going to bed hungry, either. Western Pizza stays open until 3 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 1 a.m. other days. It even delivers late, too, from 32nd to 64th streets and Thomas to McDonald roads.

New York-style pizza is a precise pie. It needs to be huge, as big as a bicycle wheel. Its crust must be thin and foldable. It needs to be baked fresh, and just the littlest bit greasy. It can only be basic -- red sauce, mozzarella, and traditional toppings (no barbecue chicken or pesto potato need apply). And, it must, absolutely must, be available by the slice all day long.

At 4 Brothers, we can count on having more than a half-dozen varieties displayed in their pans on the long order counter. Our favorite is the Napoli Special, loaded with spicy Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, black olives, green peppers and extra cheese. Slices get a quick warming in the oven (not a microwave), and a couple of bucks later, we're on our way, humming a sausage-scented "New York, New York" under our breaths.

Goats in Scottsdale's posh Fifth Avenue arts district? It's true, except these curried critters reside in stew pots, waiting for the next guest to order them off the menu at Callaloo. Perhaps the most abundant comfort food to be found in the Caribbean, goat stew is a classic one-pot meal designed to disguise the tough chew of animals aged past their usefulness. The stewing allows flavors and textures to merge, enhancing all the ingredients. Here, the goat meat is a quality cut, braised in chunks, seasoned and simmered in a thick, pleasantly gritty curry with morro (pigeon peas and rice), bits of bacon and plantains. Topping it all off is a fistful of callaloo, steamed taro root leaves that resemble bitter spinach. There's no question: Callaloo has got our goat.

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