Mexican Food: Are These America's Top Five Burritos?



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Mexican food is found everywhere across the States, but the best Mexican food dish here is the burrito. Though the burrito may not be traditional Mexican food or come from a traditional Mexican recipe, it is a type of Mexican food that has been adapted to American taste buds; Americans love a good burrito, and so we are always on the lookout for Mexican restaurants that serve some of the best.

All in the name (and delicious taste) of Mexican food, The Daily Meal set out to name the 35 Best Burritos in America, and we’ve decided to bring you the top five burritos worth traveling for. These burritos come from all kinds of Mexican restaurants from across the States.

The list for the 35 Best Burritos in America wasn’t based on the particular Mexican restaurants where you can buy said burritos; instead, this list is based on the burritos themselves.

Additionally, The Daily Meal looked at burritos from all across the country and applied several strict criteria. Are all the ingredients fresh? Is there a good selection of meats and add-ons? Can you customize your order, right down to the amount of crema squeezed on top? Is it renowned by critics and locals alike in its city?

So if you love Mexican food, and you go giddy over a good burrito, be sure to include one of America’s top five burritos on your bucket list.

L’Patron, Chicago: Carne Asada

This neon green Logan Square spot has conquered Chicago’s burrito scene, and the carne asada burrito is a masterpiece.

Papalote Mexican Grill, San Francisco: Carne Asada

Papalote has one of the most delicious burritos you’re bound to ever eat. Start by picking out your choice of four tortillas, and then work your way up to perfection.

The Shed, Santa Fe, N.M.: Green Chile Burrito

The green chile burrito is a simple burrito, but it’s one of the best you’ll ever encounter. This one is topped with the restaurant’s famous green chile sauce, because it’s all about the chile at The Shed.

La Taqueria, San Francisco: Carnitas

This is a place famous for its Mexican food. When it comes to the burrito, either keep it simple and just stick with meat and beans — no rice filler in the burrito here — or upgrade it with all the classic burrito extras.

La Azteca Tortilleria, Los Angeles: Chile Relleno Burrito

The chile relleno burrito at La Azteca Tortilleria is a thing of beauty and a destination unto itself. They offer other options like carnitas and carne asada, but the cheese-stuffed, perfectly fried chile relleno that makes up the bulk of this burrito is what sets it apart, elevating the humble poblano to heights of Tex-Mex greatness (while you’re at it, you might as well have them add some carne asada to it as well). It’s everything you look for in Tex-Mex cuisine all in one perfect bite, and it’s nothing short of the best burrito in America.


Albuquerque&aposs Tasty Top 5: Breakfast Burritos

It’s no secret that New Mexicans are loud and proud of their love for breakfast burritos. To me, a breakfast burrito signifies all that is good about breakfast wrapped up in a delicious bundle that can be taken with one wherever they choose to travel. The beauty of the breakfast burrito is that it exceeds the predetermined time constraints of breakfast, as Albuquerque locals believe they can, and should be consumed any time of day.

What adds to the allure of the breakfast burrito is its rarity. Travel out of the state and it’s almost guaranteed that you won’t find a chile-smothered breakfast burrito like New Mexicans know and love. Whether you prefer yours covered in red or handheld to go with green, Albuquerque has the best breakfast burritos, and these are my top 5 go-to’s.

Frontier

A fan favorite since 1971, Frontier Restaurant serves a simple breakfast burrito with one egg, hash browns, cheddar cheese and green chile wrapped in a fresh-made tortilla. Add bacon, ham, sausage, or carne adovada to your liking and you’re set! A Frontier breakfast burrito brings a sense of nostalgia as it is a classic taste of Albuquerque. Stop by the original location near the University of New Mexico or swing through a Golden Pride (Frontier’s sister restaurant you’ll find throughout the city) drive through and be sure to pick up a 6 pack of frozen sweet rolls on the way out!

The Grove 

If you are in the market for a more trendy culinary experience but still want an authentic New Mexican taste, check out The Grove in downtown Albuquerque. The burrito includes scrambled eggs, tully’s local sausage, goat cheese and green chile wrapped in a fresh tortilla served with a side of roasted tomato jalapeño salsa. Even better, breakfast is served all day.

Weck&aposs

This next place calls their breakfast burritos big for a reason. Bring an empty stomach and perhaps a friend to share with when visiting Weck&aposs. Named Best Breakfast Spot of 2018 by Albuquerque The Magazine, Weck’s serves large portions of New Mexican comfort food. The breakfast burrito is comprised of three scrambled eggs folded inside a flour tortilla, smothered with your choice of red and/or green chile, cheddar and jack cheeses, served with fresh hash browns. Choose from the classic (ham, bacon, sausage or chorizo), the spicy carne, pollo (chicken), or veggie burrito and while you wait try out a cinnamon roll warmed on the grill.

Range Café

To me, one of the most important things about food is the environment in which it is consumed. Enjoying the delicious breakfast burrito from the Range Café surrounded by quirky and creative local art make this spot a favorite. With scrambled eggs, white cheddar, range fries, pinto beans and your choice of chile and tortilla this burrito has it all. Add whatever your heart desires from bacon, sausage, green chile turkey sausage,ꃊrne adovada, or ham.

Twisters

When on the go, a Twisters New Mexican breakfast burrito is a must-have. In fact, the Twisters on Isleta Blvd. is the actual filming location of Los Pollos Hermanos, the famous restaurant from਋reaking Bad. Stop by and pick up a burrito named after New Mexican locations. My personal favorite is the Taos, which features ham, eggs, potatoes, green chile and cheese. You can enjoy this creation hand held or smothered and customize to your liking, perhaps even “Twisters Style”, (smothered with chile and fries). Grab a coffee and warm churro to accompany your burrito and you&aposre ready to start the day.

My top 5 may differ from yours, as there are many other local favorites around the Albuquerque area. Share your own favorites using #TrueABQ! In the meantime, some of my honorable mentions include:


America's Top 10 Favorite Street Foods

Packed with history and regional flair, street food is a culinary gem hidden in plain sight. These days, thanks to the pace of contemporary life, many of us are eating on the run. That's where street food comes in -- these delicious specialties are custom-made for high-speed living. As befits a nation of immigrants, we eat immigrant street food. The 10 street foods that follow were all born abroad but grew up stateside, and there's a distinctly American twist to their fascinating stories. Read on to find out what part of a pizza is native to the New World and how a Jewish guy from Wisconsin made a Greek snack into a classic American street food.

Grind up some chickpeas, add garlic, parsley and coriander, and fry until crunchy. According to some, it's a recipe as old as the Bible. In all likelihood, it's even older, having started out in Egypt as a dish made with fava beans. But even today, falafel's origins are in dispute. Some Israelis claim it as an ancient Jewish food, while many Palestinians bristle at the idea. Cooler heads maintain that falafel is a regional delicacy, not a religious one. But politics are of little consequence when you're standing on the sidewalk at lunchtime waiting for your favorite vendor to wrap some pita bread around a selection of pickled beets, tahini sauce, fresh veggies and, above all, crispy, delicious falafel.

If you live in Chicago, it's a beef frank and you eat it on a poppy seed roll with mustard, relish, onions, pickles, tomatoes and celery salt. If you're in Rochester, N.Y., it's a spicy pork sausage -- split, grilled and nestled in a toasted bun. The varieties are as endless as the stories of its origins. Are they called franks because they were invented in Frankfurt, or are they called wieners because they come from Wien (aka Vienna)? Nobody knows for sure, but one thing's certain: A hot dog's not a hot dog until it's sitting in a bun. And that important innovation is all-American.

Archaeologists have dug ancient pizza ovens out of the ash of Pompeii in southern Italy. But the classic pizza that we've come to know and love wouldn't exist without a little help from the New World. When the tomato was first brought to Europe from South America, the upper classes refused to eat it because they were convinced it was poisonous. But peasants were too poor to be picky, and they started spreading the red fruit on their pies. Several centuries later, fresh basil and mozzarella were added, and the classic pizza Margherita was born. Today, U.S. pizza toppings are as varied as the American palate. From pineapple to pickles, the only limit is your imagination.

Steamed or grilled, filled with beef or rice and beans, all burritos start with the same round, flat flour tortilla. They probably get their name from an old Spanish saying: "If I had a horse, I would go make my fortune, but I only have a little donkey." In Spanish, the word for "little donkey" is "burrito." Like its animal namesake, the burrito can carry anything: beans, rice, sour cream, cheese, avocados, chicken, beef, pork. You name it. In Sonora, Mexico, their likely birthplace, burritos are small, simple affairs, but over the decades, as burritos made their way north and west to their modern day capital, San Francisco, they grew in size and complexity until they became a great Mexican-American delicacy.

The Greek word gyro means "spin," and that makes sense when you think of those huge cones of mystery meat spinning on their axes in sidewalk restaurants around the world. Before it became street fare, the gyro was popular long ago in Greece. Traditionally, these meat cones were made by hand from a combination of beef and lamb trimmings, breadcrumbs and oregano. Then, one day in Milwaukee in the early 1970s, a Jewish-American entrepreneur named (believe it or not) John Garlic was brainstorming with his wife Margaret when they dreamed up the idea of mass-producing that spinning meat. Voila -- Old World met New World to create an enduring street-side favorite.

Legend has it that in the 1930s, the great French chef Charpentier invented crêpes suzette with its signature orange sauce for the future King Edward VII of England. But long before that, it was the favorite food of French peasants. Originating in Brittany in northwest France with the simple ingredients of buckwheat flour, eggs, butter and milk, the crêpe has proven to be one of the most versatile foods ever created. Made on the spot by sidewalk vendors around the world and filled with everything from cheese and ham to strawberries and cream, crêpes are beloved by all.

Frozen cream and sugar: simple, yet perfect. Was it invented in the 1600s in the court of Charles I, or even earlier by the Emperor Nero who sent slaves to fetch ice from the mountains? Actually, the historical record points to ancient China as the birthplace of the world's favorite portable dessert. It was in 1774, on the eve of the American Revolution, that ice cream first arrived in the United States. But it took nearly another century before an ingenious New Jersey woman named Nancy Johnson invented a hand-cranked ice cream maker and America's love affair with that miraculous confection took off. Chocolate or vanilla, scooped or soft-served, in a cone or a cup -- maybe some of ice cream's popularity is due to its versatility. After all, you can opt to sit down to an elaborate banana split concoction, or you can just walk down the sidewalk with a waffle cone and let your favorite flavor melt in your mouth.

This delectable breakfast pastry owes its name to its unusual curvy shape. Once upon a time, Spanish shepherds stuck high in the mountains for days on end became desperate for a treat. Using the limited available ingredients of butter, eggs and flour, they concocted a fried pastry that resembled the horns of the sheep they tended. Those sheep were called churros. In time, that humble shepherds' food made its way to Latin America and then north to the United States. In recent decades, Americans have taken to churros with gusto. Dusted with sugar and served with a steaming cup of hot chocolate, churros make an amazing sidewalk breakfast.

For hundreds of years, aristocrats savored delicate webs of sugar spun by elite chefs, but for regular people, that sweet, melt-in-your-mouth sensation was far too expensive. Then, in 1897, John C. Wharton and William Morrison invented a machine that melted and spun the sugar with ease. In 1904, they brought their machine to the St. Louis World's Fair, where it was a huge success. In the 1970s, a further innovation fully automated the process all the way through packaging the confection in paper or plastic bags. Today, it's hard to imagine a street fair without those pink, azure and ultramarine clouds of what used to be called fairy floss.


The Most Life-Changing Burrito in America Is.

The original El Farolito opened in 1982 at the heart of San Francisco's Mission District. It's a self-proclaimed hole in the wall, with no frills and no pretensions to being anything but a quality spot for great Mexican food. El Farolito stays open late, and on many nights, the line will snake past the jukebox blaring Mexican music, spilling outdoors. According to one manager, El Farolito becomes a Mission District afterparty spot once the clock strikes midnight. "A lot of people, young and old, come here to get a burrito after the bar," he says. El Farolito is noisy, lively, and friendly, and they dish out burritos made in endless combinations. But there's "no fancy presentation &mdash it's just a burrito wrapped in aluminum foil. We might not be the best place for a first date." Unless your significant other is awesome.

The management demurs from considering themselves the best burrito-makers in America, but they do maintain a commitment to freshness and consistency. "People might consider us the best, but more importantly, we're on the most consistent," says the manager. Quality ingredients make the food what it is, and El Farolito buys all their ingredients from the same carrier, no matter the price. Customization is key, too &mdash El Farolito offers seven different meats, including carne asada, lengua, and carnitas, along with a litany of fresh toppings that can be wrapped in any combination for a burrito, taco or torta. "You can go creative and wild with the menu," the manager says. "I usually create my own burrito differently each time."

The full results of the poll are below. If you have any fond memories of late nights at El Farolito, please do share them in the comments.


I'm Todd Wilbur, Chronic Food Hacker

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Braised and shredded pork shoulder is a staple of Mexican cuisine that Chipotle prepares with a simple blend of flavors, and a surprising ingredient you may not have expected: juniper berries. Once you track those down (they’re easy to find online), the berries are combined with thyme and bay leaves in a braising liquid that will transform your own pork roast into an easily shreddable thing of beauty in under 3 hours. Then you can use your freshly cloned carnitas on tacos, in burritos, or in a bowl over rice and beans just like they do in the restaurant.

When picking your pork roast, try to find one without too much fat. If your roast has a thick cap of fat on it, trim off the excess. You want some fat in your braising liquid, but if the cap of fat is too thick, it may not fully render down and you’ll get chunks of fat in the shred.

It’s often assumed that the pork butt is from the rear end of the pig, even though cuts from the back region already have a name: ham. The pork butt, also known as a Boston butt, is cut from the other end, the upper shoulder of the pig. It’s called a “butt” because in pre-Revolutionary War New England the roasts were stored and transported in barrels called “butts”, and the confusing name stuck.

Menu Description: "Quickly-cooked steak with scallions and garlic."

Beef lovers go crazy over this one at the restaurant. Flank steak is cut into bite-sized chunks against the grain, then it's lightly dusted with potato starch (in our case we'll use cornstarch), flash-fried in oil, and doused with an amazing sweet soy garlic sauce. The beef comes out tender as can be, and the simple sauce sings to your taste buds. I designed this recipe to use a wok, but if you don't have one a saute pan will suffice (you may need to add more oil to the pan to cover the beef in the flash-frying step). P. F. Chang's secret sauce is what makes this dish so good, and it's versatile. If you don't dig beef, you can substitute with chicken. Or you can brush it on grilled salmon.

I've cloned a lot of the best dishes from P.F. Chang's. Click here to see if I coped your favorite.

I never thought dinner rolls were something I could get excited about until I got my hand into the breadbasket at Texas Roadhouse. The rolls are fresh out of the oven and they hit the table when you do, so there’s no waiting to tear into a magnificently gooey sweet roll topped with soft cinnamon butter. The first bite you take will make you think of a fresh cinnamon roll, and then you can’t stop eating it. And when the first roll’s gone, you are powerless to resist grabbing for just one more. But it’s never just one more. It’s two or three more, plus a few extra to take home for tomorrow.

Discovering the secret to making rolls at home that taste as good as the real ones involved making numerous batches of dough, each one sweeter than the last (sweetened with sugar, not honey—I checked), until a very sticky batch, proofed for 2 hours, produced exactly what I was looking for. You can make the dough with a stand mixer or a handheld one, the only difference being that you must knead the dough by hand without a stand mixer. When working with the dough add a little bit of flour at a time to keep it from sticking, and just know that the dough will be less sticky and more workable after the first rise.

Roll the dough out and measure it as specified here, and after a final proofing and a quick bake—plus a generous brushing of butter on the tops—you will produce dinner rolls that look and taste just like the best rolls I’ve had at any famous American dinner chain.

Getting a table at the 123-year-old original Rao’s restaurant in New York City is next to impossible. The tables are “owned” by regulars who schedule their meals months in advance, so every table is full every night, and that’s the way it’s been for the last 38 years. The only way an outsider would get to taste the restaurant’s fresh marinara sauce is to be invited by a regular.

If that isn’t in the stars for you, you could buy a bottle of the sauce at your local market (if they even have it). It won't be fresh, and it's likely to be the most expensive sauce in the store, but it still has that great Rao's taste. An even better solution is to copy the sauce for yourself using this new and very easy hack.

The current co-owner of Rao’s, Frank Pellegrino Jr., told Bon Appetit in 2015 that the famous marinara sauce was created by his grandmother many years ago, and the sauce you buy in stores is the same recipe served in his restaurants. The ingredients are common, but correctly choosing the main ingredient—tomatoes—is important. Try to find San Marzano-style whole canned tomatoes, preferably from Italy. They are a little more expensive than typical canned tomatoes, but they will give you some great sauce.

After 30 minutes of cooking, you’ll end up with about the same amount of sauce as in a large jar of the real thing. Your version will likely be just a little bit brighter and better than the bottled stuff, thanks to the fresh ingredients. But now you can eat it anytime you want, with no reservations, at a table you own.

You might also like my #1 recipe of 2019, Texas Roadhouse Rolls.

The talented chefs at Benihana cook food on hibachi grills with flair and charisma, treating the preparation like a tiny stage show. They juggle salt and pepper shakers, trim food with lightning speed, and flip the shrimp and mushrooms perfectly onto serving plates or into their tall chef's hat.

One of the side dishes that everyone seems to love is the fried rice. At Benihana this dish is prepared by chefs with precooked rice on open hibachi grills, and is ordered a la cart to complement any Benihana entree, including Hibachi Steak and Chicken. I like when the rice is thrown onto the hot hibachi grill and seems to come alive as it sizzles and dances around like a bunch of little jumping beans. Okay, so I'm easily amused.

This Benihana Japanese fried rice recipe will go well with just about any Japanese entree and can be partially prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until the rest of the meal is close to done.

El Pollo Loco, or "The Crazy Chicken," has been growing like mad since it crossed over the border into the United States from Mexico. Francisco Ochoa unknowingly started a food phenomenon internacional in 1975 when he took a family recipe for chicken marinade and opened a small roadside restaurante in Gusave, Mexico. He soon had 90 stores in 20 cities throughout Mexico. The first El Pollo Loco in the United States opened in Los Angeles in December 1980 and was an immediate success. It was only three years later that Ochoa got the attention of bigwigs at Dennys, Inc., who offered him $11.3 million for his U.S. operations. Ochoa took the deal, and El Pollo Loco grew from 17 to more than 200 outlets over the following decade.

Re-create the whole El Pollo Loco experience at home with my copycat recipes for avocado salsa, pinto beans, Spanish rice, and bbq black beans.

Crafting a clone of Olive Garden’s signature Lasagna Classico became the perfect opportunity to create a beautiful multi-layered lasagna hack recipe that uses up the whole box of lasagna noodles and fills the baking pan all the way to the top. This Top Secret Recipe makes a lasagna that tips the scale at nearly 10 pounds and will feed hungry mouths for days, with every delicious layer copied directly from the carefully dissected Olive Garden original.

I found a few credible bits of intel in a video of an Olive Garden chef demonstrating what he claims is the real formula on a midday news show, but the recipe was abbreviated for TV and the chef left out some crucial information. One ingredient he conspicuously left out of the recipe is the secret layer of Cheddar cheese located near the middle of the stack. I wasn’t expecting to find Cheddar in lasagna, but when I carefully separated the layers from several servings of the original dish, there was the golden melted cheesy goodness in every slice.

This clone recipe will make enough for 8 big portions, but if you make slightly smaller slices this is easily enough food to fill twelve lasagna-loving bellies. If you like lasagna, you're going to love this version.

Browse my other Olive Garden clone recipes here.

In early 1985, restaurateur Rich Komen felt there was a specialty niche in convenience-food service just waiting to be filled. His idea was to create an efficient outlet that could serve freshly made cinnamon rolls in shopping malls throughout the country. It took nine months for Komen and his staff to develop a cinnamon roll recipe he knew customers would consider the "freshest, gooiest, and most mouthwatering cinnamon roll ever tasted." The concept was tested for the first time in Seattle's Sea-Tac mall later that year, with workers mixing, proofing, rolling, and baking the rolls in full view of customers. Now, more than 626 outlets later, Cinnabon has become the fastest-growing cinnamon roll bakery in the world.

To get their Extra Crispy Chicken so crispy KFC breads the chicken two times. This double breading gives the chicken its ultra craggy exterior and extra crunch, which is a different texture than the less crispy Original Recipe Chicken that’s breaded just once and pressure fried.

As with my KFC Original Recipe hack, we must first brine the chicken to give it flavor and moisture all the way through, like the real thing, then the chicken is double breaded and deep fried until golden brown. KFC uses small chickens which cook faster, but small chickens can be hard to find. If your chicken parts are on the large side, they may not cook all the way through in the 12 to 15 minutes of frying I’m specifying here. To be sure your chicken is cooked, start frying with the thickest pieces, like the breasts, then park them in a 300-degree oven while you finish with the smaller pieces. This will keep the chicken warm and crispy, and more importantly, ensure that they are cooked perfectly all the way through.

On my CMT show Top Secret Recipe I chatted with Winston Shelton, a long-time friend of KFC founder Harland Sanders. Winston saw the Colonel's handwritten secret recipe for the Original Recipe chicken, and he told me one of the secret ingredients is Tellicherry black pepper. It's a more expensive, better-tasting black pepper that comes from the Malabar coast in India, and you should use it here if you can find it. Winston pulled me aside and whispered this secret to me when he thought we were off-camera, but our microphones and very alert cameramen caught the whole thing, and we aired it.

I first published this hack in Even More Top Secret Recipes, but recently applied some newly acquired secrets and tips to make this much-improved version of one of the most familiar fried chicken recipes in the world.

This recipe was our #2 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).

Menu Description: "Here they are in all their lip-smacking, award-winning glory: Buffalo, New York-style chicken wings spun in your favorite signature sauce."

Since Buffalo, New York was too far away, Jim Disbrow and Scott Lowery satisfied their overwhelming craving in 1981 by opening a spicy chicken wing restaurant close to home in Kent, Ohio. With signature sauces and a festive atmosphere, the chain has now evolved from a college campus sports bar with wings to a family restaurant with over 300 units. While frying chicken wings is no real secret—simply drop them in hot shortening for about 10 minutes—the delicious spicy sauces make the wings special. There are 12 varieties of sauce available to coat your crispy chicken parts at the chain, and I'm presenting clones for the more traditional flavors. These sauces are very thick, almost like dressing or dip, so we'll use an emulsifying technique that will ensure a creamy final product where the oil won't separate from the other ingredients. Here is the chicken wing cooking and coating technique, followed by clones for the most popular sauces: Spicy Garlic, Medium and Hot. The sauce recipes might look the same at first, but each has slight variations make your sauce hotter or milder by adjusting the level of cayenne pepper. You can find Frank's pepper sauce by the other hot sauces in your market. If you can't find that brand, you can also use Crystal Louisiana hot sauce.

Menu Description: "Spicy, shredded beef, braised with our own chipotle adobo, cumin, cloves, garlic and oregano."

The original Mexican dish barbacoa was traditionally prepared by cooking almost any kind of meat goat, fish, chicken, or cow cheek meat, to name just a few, in a pit covered with leaves over low heat for many hours, until tender. When the dish made its way into the United States via Texas the word transformed into "barbecue" and the preparation changed to incorporate above-ground techniques such as smoking and grilling. The good news is that we can recreate the beef barbacoa that Chipotle has made popular on its ginormous burritos without digging any holes in our backyard or tracking down a local source for fresh cow faces. After braising about 30 pounds of chuck roasts, I finally discovered the perfect clone with a taste-alike adobo sauce that fills your roast with flavor as it slowly cooks to a fork-tender delicacy on your stovetop over 5 to 6 hours. Part of the secret for great adobo sauce is toasting whole cumin seeds and cloves and then grinding them in a coffee grinder (measure the spices after grinding them). Since the braising process takes so long, start early in the day and get ready for a big dinner, because I've also included clones here for Chipotle's pico de gallo, pinto beans, and delicious cilantro-lime rice to make your burritos complete. You can add your choice of cheese, plus guacamole and sour cream for a super-deluxe clone version.

The 729-unit chain did not start its life as Qdoba. When the Mexican food chain was first founded by Robert Miller and Anthony Hauser in Denver, Colorado in 1995, it was called Zuma Mexican Grill, named after a friend’s cat. As it turned out, a restaurant in Boston had that same name and threatened to sue, so the partners changed the name to Z-Teca. It wasn’t long before two different restaurants threatened to sue for that name—Z’Tejas in Arizona and Azteca in Washington—and the partners were forced to change the name yet again. This time they called their restaurant Qdoba, a completely made-up name that was unlikely to be used by anyone else.

A signature item and consistent top seller is this marinated adobo chicken, offered as a main ingredient in most of the chain’s selections. Make this chicken by marinating thigh meat for a couple of days in the secret adobo sauce (a worker there told me they let it soak for up to 8 days), then grill and chop. Use the flavorful chicken in burritos, tacos, bowls, on nachos, and in tortilla soup.

I bet your craving some Qdoba Fiery Habanero Salsa right about now. Get my recipe here.

Braised Beef Pasta Menu Description: “Slow-simmered meat sauce with tender braised beef and Italian sausage, tossed with ruffled pappardelle pasta and a touch of alfredo sauce—just like Nonna’s recipe.”

It’s a mistake to assume that a recipe posted to a restaurant chain’s website is the real recipe for the food served there. I’ve found this to be the case with many Olive Garden recipes, and this one is no exception. A widely circulated recipe that claims to duplicate the chain’s classic Bolognese actually originated on Olive Garden’s own website, and if you make that recipe you’ll be disappointed when the final product doesn’t even come close to the real deal. I won’t get into all the specifics of the things wrong with that recipe (too much wine, save some of that for drinking!), but at first glance it’s easy to see that a few important ingredients found in traditional Bolognese sauces are conspicuously missing, including milk, basil, lemon, and nutmeg.

I incorporated all those missing ingredients into this new hack recipe, tweaked a few other things, and then tested several methods of braising the beef so that it comes out perfectly tender: covered, uncovered, and a combo. The technique I settled on was cooking the sauce covered for 2 hours, then uncovered for 1 additional hour so that the sauce reduces and the beef transforms into a fork-flakeable flavor bomb. Yes, it comes from Olive Garden, but this Bolognese is better than any I’ve had at restaurants that charge twice as much, like Rao’s where the meat is ground, not braised, and they hit you up for $30.

As a side note, Olive Garden’s menu says the dish comes with ruffled pappardelle pasta, but it’s actually mafaldine, a narrower noodle with curly edges (shown in the top right corner of the photo). Pappardelle, which is the traditional pasta to serve with Bolognese, is a very wide noodle with straight edges, and it’s more familiar than mafaldine, so perhaps that’s why the menu fudges this fact. In the end, it doesn’t really matter which pasta you choose. Just know that a wide noodle works best. Even fettuccine is good here.

For the little bit of alfredo sauce spooned into the middle of the dish I went with a premade bottled sauce to save time. You can also make this from scratch if you like (I’ve got a great hack for Olive Garden’s Alfredo Sauce), but it’s such a small amount that premade sauce in either a chilled tub from the deli section or in a bottle off the shelf works great here.

This recipe was our #3 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1) KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).


As previously warned, avocados don’t quit. Evening salmon avocado roll orders have so far been up 244% this year compared to 2019. Even at dinnertime, these sneaky fruits find their way into your blood pressure-lowering salmon roll.

Take-out orders for moo shu pork have so far increased 266% in popularity this year. Asian food was one of the food categories dinners missed most during quarantine.


An Unlikely Burrito Is The First To Make It To The Finals

This week is a matchup of the winners from each region in the Poblano Quadrant. To recap: Lolita&rsquos Taco Shop won its group in Southern California for the quality of its California-style burrito, crisp fries and all around good flavor. Taqueria Tlaxcalli pulled through from a group of new and worthy New York City contenders with a delicious carne asada. The Pantry Restaurant in Santa Fe excelled at a New Mexico classic, the adovada burrito with green chile. And finally, with all-around solid flavor and presentation, Breakfast Burritos Anonymous in Houston was the lone breakfast burrito to advance to our second round.

I started this eating tour with The Pantry as the favorite to win even though Taqueria Tlaxicalli outscored it in the first round, 91-88. How could that be? Chalk it up to the human part of this process. My expectations of the New Mexico burrito were so high that I slightly underrated it (and perhaps did the opposite with the New York burrito). Score or no score, going into Round 2, I liked The Pantry&rsquos burrito best.

When Dolores and Joaquin Farfan opened their first restaurant 40 years ago in Chula Vista, California, fries were an afterthought on a menu of classic, fast-food Mexican dishes. Today, with five Lolita&rsquos Taco Shop locations scattered around the San Diego area, the best-selling item on the menu is a burrito stuffed with french fries.

Since the restaurant opened in 1984, it has grown to become an incorporated business owned by the Farfans and their six children. In a recent phone conversation, eldest son Joaquin Farfan III told me that when they added &ldquoCalifornia&rdquo burritos (which I selected as the best burrito at Lolita&rsquos) to their menu about 12 years ago, they sold five to 10 of the specialty burritos a week. Now they sell close to 30,000 a month.

It began as a novelty item, something only kids and students ordered, according to Farfan III. &ldquoNow everyone gets them &mdash grandmas, grandpas, parents. We sell more California than carne asada burritos.&rdquo That&rsquos a bold statement in San Diego, which has bizarrely claimed the ubiquitous carne asada burrito as a local specialty.

Farfan says Lolita&rsquos was the first in the San Diego area to carry California burritos (though there are other restaurants who say this, and other burritos have gone by that name). His story: He and his brother got the idea from a restaurant in Arizona that served burritos with fries. They asked themselves, &ldquoWhat would happen if we put a steak dinner inside a tortilla?&rdquo and voila! Carne asada, potato, sour cream and cheddar cheese wrapped up in a tortilla.

This would explain why avocado or guacamole isn&rsquot automatically included, though I still think the dreamy green goodness is essential to the flavor balance. Lolita&rsquos entered the Burrito Bracket with a high Value Over Replacement Burrito (VORB) score (14.5) and it was the favorite California-style burrito of regional expert Gustavo Arellano, so I had high expectations on my first visit. Although it scored a very respectable 88, it wasn���t all that I&rsquod hoped for the flavors weren&rsquot quite there and it was sloppily built.

When I went back to Lolita&rsquos for Round 2, I had a completely different eating experience. On this trip, I arrived mid-afternoon instead of at lunch hour, and the ingredients were robust in flavor and more thoughtfully combined. The carne asada was heavy with the scent and taste of freshly ground pepper. The french fries were golden brown and crisp, the flour tortilla was thick enough to have a crispy outer shell and a soft interior. Meanwhile, the sour cream was tart and creamy and the avocado rich and buttery. Lolita&rsquos California burrito may be a recent creation, but this is one for the ages, and it suddenly became a contender to advance to Round 3.

When I asked Farfan whether he considered burritos a Mexican dish, he told me absolutely. The tortilla wrap offered a way to eat food and leftovers without needing utensils. &ldquoThe irony,&rdquo he said, &ldquois that nowadays you have these monster burritos that require a fork and knife to get through them.&rdquo

Mauricio Gomez moved to the United States when he was 17, working mostly as a waiter and bartender in New York City. After 15 years working in the restaurant industry, he still couldn&rsquot find any decent Mexican food in the city, nothing that resembled the food his mother and grandmother made or the flavors of his native Mexico City.

New York, according to Gomez, was full of Mexican restaurants serving the same dishes, mostly with little flavor. He found bars and cheap food, but nowhere he wanted to eat at the end of a long day, and certainly not with his family. So he opened his own restaurant in Parkchester in the Bronx, an eight-minute walk from where he lives with his wife and daughters.

Gomez says he&rsquos disappointed that Mexicans know so little about their history and wants to highlight the heritage of his country. That explains the name of his restaurant, Taqueria Tlaxcalli. &ldquoTlaxcalli&rdquo is the Nahuatl word for &ldquotortilla&rdquo (even though it&rsquos too hard for most people to pronounce, it&rsquos worth the curiosity it arouses, he says). Gomez&rsquos emphasis on Mexico&rsquos heritage also shows on the restaurant&rsquos interior walls, where a Piedra del Sol, commonly referred to as the Aztec Calendar, is painted. And yet the most popular item at his restaurant is the burrito, a dish rarely served in Mexico&rsquos southern states, and not one he grew up with. &ldquoYou adapt to where you are, the food where you live. In America people like burritos, so we have to make burritos,&rdquo he said.

Together with three chefs who work at the restaurant, he created a menu that covers two sides of a long page (though if they have the ingredients, the kitchen is happy to make just about anything you ask for), with items and flavors that are traditional with a twist. The burritos in particular are an elegant take on a classic.

The Burrito Selection Committee included Tlaxicalli in the bracket despite a lukewarm VORB score. Members of the committee had eaten tacos there and enjoyed them, and reviews from Michelin and The New York Times raised hopes about what I might find. Three other New York burrito joints made it into the bracket, but my 12 burritoless years in the city left me skeptical that I&rsquod find anything noteworthy. I was floored when Tlaxcalli scored a 91 in Round 1, just narrowly beating out Mission Cantina (which was only a couple of months old and scored a respectable 88). When I returned for Round 2, with 70 burritos under my belt, I was still skeptical that it could hold up, especially against one of San Diego&rsquos finest.

On this second visit, I sat in the back and watched through the open kitchen as men worked the grill and turned out plate after plate of burrito goodness. As with my first visit, a quartet of sauces was painted across the burrito&rsquos top, packed with flavor and color. The carne asada, a deep burgundy, was creamy and tender. Bits of vegetable tucked in among the rice and black beans added crunch and flavor. It was just as good as I remembered it, slightly better even. The burrito itself was perhaps secondary to the spectrum of flavors, and yet it was constructed so that every bite is perfect.

While the rest of the country is having a food truck renaissance, Houston &mdash a city with no zoning codes 1 in a state that touts its lack of regulation &mdash has some of the strictest laws regarding food trucks of anywhere in the country.

City ordinances are vast and varied, and make it nearly impossible for a food truck culture to flourish. The city bans trucks with propane tanks from the downtown unless a fire marshal is on board at all times of operation (a city council member called such trucks a bomb threat). All food trucks must be within 500 feet of a flushable toilet. No two trucks can be parked less than 60 feet apart (i.e. no food truck meetups or street parties). My personal favorite is that they can&rsquot park near existing seating (no city parks, no benches, no picnic tables). In recent years, vendors have organized and created their own association to try and change some of the rules.

So when Jimmy Ruckman found a place to park his Breakfast Burritos Anonymous truck, he was ecstatic. He&rsquod spent three months with friend and co-founder Travis Wiper in Wiper&rsquos mother&rsquos kitchen creating recipes. Ruckman graduated from the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Houston, while Wiper had a degree in restaurant management. No one else in town was serving breakfast burritos from a truck, but Ruckman knew, &ldquoIf I&rsquom not on your way to work, you&rsquore not going to stop,&rdquo and he couldn&rsquot park his truck downtown.

Ruckman and Wiper have since parted ways, and Ruckman is thinking about a second BBA, or a shaved ice truck. &ldquoI&rsquom the black sheep of the family my brothers and sisters all graduated top 10 in their class,&rdquo Ruckman told me. &ldquoAll I can do is cook.&rdquo

The first time I visited, it had taken me a day to track down the elusive truck, but this time it was right where I&rsquod left it, in the parking lot of Inversion Coffee at the Art League Houston building. Another truck occupies the space during lunch and dinner, giving BBA just four hours (from 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.) to serve enough customers to stay afloat. Ruckman opted not to include air-conditioning in the truck because an enormous exhaust fan in the roof pulls the cold air straight out, making it expensive to cool. It looked hot inside on a sweltering Texas morning.

I ordered the same burrito I&rsquod eaten on my first visit: sage pork sausage, potato, eggs, green chile, cheese (they&rsquore now using a cheddar/Monterey Jack combination), tomato, avocado and Mama&rsquos salsa. Ruckman handed me my order with an arm tattooed with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Master Splinter the burrito came wrapped tightly in tinfoil, inside a paper bag. It was just as good as the first time, a compact bundle full of fresh flavors. The salsa splashed juice everywhere. Creamy avocado and fluffy eggs sidled up next to tiny morsels of grilled potato. The green chiles were still shy, peeking out but holding back their flavor.

This is a great burrito for any old Tuesday, and I really appreciate its size for a morning on-the-way-to-work breakfast. But it can&rsquot quite keep up with the other greats in this group.

When The Pantry Restaurant opened in Santa Fe in 1948, it was on the edge of the city, surrounded by motor lodges and dirt roads. Today its location is somewhere in the middle of the sprawling desert city, but The Pantry really hasn&rsquot changed much. The restaurant is on its seventh or eighth owner, but the menu has largely stayed the same.

The current owners, Stan Singley and his son Michael, purchased it in 2001. The elder Singley was retired from decades managing restaurants. Michael started working there as a busboy in high school and on weekends home from college at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He then attended Le Cordon Bleu in Scottsdale, Arizona, in order to learn his way around the kitchen. &ldquoI don&rsquot fancy myself a chef, &rdquo he told me. &ldquoI could go back there and work with the guys, but the food is all them.&rdquo

The Singleys made very few changes when they purchased the restaurant, tweaking recipes, but mostly focusing on service and efficiency. Their efforts show on the broad smiles of the waitstaff, the pace at which water and coffee are refilled, and the homey feel of the restaurant.

I visited most recently on a busy Sunday morning, in the throes of brunch. I was alone, so I sat at the pink and white Formica bar at the front of the restaurant. I ordered an adovada burrito with green and chatted with the women next to me. One was back in town after several months away, and desperate to get some &ldquoreal chile.&rdquo The Pantry was the only place that would do, she told me.

The platter came, with cheese oozy and bubbly on top, not the crisp broiled cheese from the last visit. The rice and refried beans were far better this time, the beans creamy in flavor and chunky in texture. But the adovada that had blown me away on my previous trip just wasn&rsquot the same. The sauce was salty, and the chunks of meat felt large and overbearing within the thin tortilla. The burrito I&rsquod eaten in Round 1 would have made it to the finals, but this wasn&rsquot The Pantry&rsquos A game. The points lost on the protein this round will keep it from advancing. Still, it&rsquos a burrito I&rsquod drive hours through the desert to eat.

Taqueria Tlaxcalli came in as the underdog, but it&rsquos headed to the finals with a dish born in Mexico City and raised in NYC.


Taco John’s ® is Kicking Off Cinco de Mayo Early With A Five-Day Fiesta

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (April 14, 2021)– Who says Cinco de Mayo has to be one day? Taco John’s is celebrating Cinco de Mayo in a way that only the originators of Taco Tuesday ® can … with a five-day Taco de Mayo celebration!

That’s right. Taco John’s is starting the party early with a bigger. bolder. better. five-day fiesta of incredible value.

During the special celebration, from May 1-5, Taco John’s will offer five beef softshell tacos for just $5.55. But these aren’t just any tacos. These bold tacos are made with 100% American beef, fresh lettuce, cheddar cheese and signature mild sauce, all loaded into a soft, warm flour tortilla. Is your mouth watering yet?

What: Taco John’s is celebrating Cinco de Mayo early by hosting a five-day fiesta of incredible value. During the celebration, guests can enjoy five beef softshell tacos for just $5.55.

When: May 1-5

Where: All Taco John’s locations systemwide. To find the restaurant nearest you, visit locations.tacojohns.com.

“You can’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo without tacos,” said Chief Marketing Officer Barry Westrum. “And as the true taco experts, we are starting the fiesta early and dedicating five days to celebrating the holiday by offering our one-of-a-kind tacos at an incredible value. Five days of enjoying five of our beef softshell tacos for less than $6 … it doesn’t get better than that. Happy Cinco de Mayo!”

At Taco John’s, there’s no time to siesta, only fiesta! So, head over to your nearest Taco John’s May 1-5 to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with bold, delicious tacos. You won’t regret it.

With its fusion of distinctive flavors and south-of-the-border spices, the Taco John’smenu offers several signature items, including Meat & Potato Burritos, Stuffed Grilled Tacos and Potato Olés ® . Taco John’sfeatures signature specials likeTaco Tuesday ® and discounted breakfast burritos on Wake Up Wednesday! ® Download the Taco John’s App and like Taco John’s Facebook page for exclusive deals.

About Taco John’s®

Founded in 1969 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Taco John’s® has been serving bigger. bolder. better. flavors for more than 50 years. Now, Taco John’s operates and franchises nearly 400 restaurants in 22 states – making it one of the largest Mexican quick-service restaurant brands in America. With bold originals like Potato Olés®, Taco John’s knows how to Olé The Day. Taco John’s prides itself on serving generous portions of its signature menu items that are made-to-order using fresh, high-quality ingredients, seasonings and sauces. The brand was listed No. 2 in the “Mexican Food” category on Entrepreneur’s “Top Food Franchises of 2020.” Taco John’s is led by CEO Jim Creel who was recently named one of “The Most Influential Restaurant CEOs in the Country” by Nation’s Restaurant News. For more information, visit tacojohns.com and followTaco John’s on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Taco Bell Beat Out Chipotle As America's Favorite Mexican Restaurant

In what can only be described as a huge slap in the face to our Southernmost neighbor, America just declared Taco Bell its favorite Mexican restaurant. Yes: French fries served with nacho cheese and tacos wrapped in Doritos tortillas are the marks of great Latin cuisine here in the good ol' U.S. of A.

To be fair, authentic restaurants weren't really given a fighting chance. The Harris Poll EquiTrend Study only gave participants six mainstream options: Taco Bell, Chipotle, Moe's Southwest Grill, Qdoba, Baja Fresh, and Del Taco. Moe's was America's number one Mexican restaurant brand in 2017 and 2016, and before that Chipotle ranked tops. In the 30 years since this EquiTrend Study launched, Taco Bell never took the top spot &mdash so major congratulations are in order.

The chains were judged on three qualities: familiarity, quality, and future consideration. When the responses were added up, Taco Bell prevailed. &ldquoTaco Bell&rsquos marketing is ubiquitous, so it wasn&rsquot surprising to me that they came out on top this year,&rdquo Amir Kanpurwala, the survey director, told Yahoo! Finance.

Honestly we're not all that surprised at the news: People getting married at Taco Bell and tattooing themselves with the chain's logo. The stats are there, too: The Bell led the charge in new product launches last year, with menu items including the Naked Egg Taco and the Nacho Fries. The latter was Taco Bell's most successful launch to date. Plus, they didn't give anyone a food-borne illnesses.

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I'm Todd Wilbur, Chronic Food Hacker

For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

Menu Description: "Spicy, shredded beef, braised with our own chipotle adobo, cumin, cloves, garlic and oregano."

The original Mexican dish barbacoa was traditionally prepared by cooking almost any kind of meat goat, fish, chicken, or cow cheek meat, to name just a few, in a pit covered with leaves over low heat for many hours, until tender. When the dish made its way into the United States via Texas the word transformed into "barbecue" and the preparation changed to incorporate above-ground techniques such as smoking and grilling. The good news is that we can recreate the beef barbacoa that Chipotle has made popular on its ginormous burritos without digging any holes in our backyard or tracking down a local source for fresh cow faces. After braising about 30 pounds of chuck roasts, I finally discovered the perfect Chipotle Mexican Grill barbacoa burrito copycat recipe with a taste-alike adobo sauce that fills your roast with flavor as it slowly cooks to a fork-tender delicacy on your stovetop over 5 to 6 hours. Part of the secret for great adobo sauce is toasting whole cumin seeds and cloves and then grinding them in a coffee grinder (measure the spices after grinding them). Since the braising process takes so long, start early in the day and get ready for a big dinner, because I've also included clones here for Chipotle's pico de gallo, pinto beans, and delicious cilantro-lime rice to make your burritos complete. You can add your choice of cheese, plus guacamole and sour cream for a super-deluxe clone version. If you prefer chicken burritos, head on over to my clone recipe for Qdoba Grilled Adobo Chicken.

El Pollo Loco, or "The Crazy Chicken," has been growing like mad since it crossed over the border into the United States from Mexico. Francisco Ochoa unknowingly started a food phenomenon internacional in 1975 when he took a family recipe for chicken marinade and opened a small roadside restaurante in Gusave, Mexico. He soon had 90 stores in 20 cities throughout Mexico. The first El Pollo Loco in the United States opened in Los Angeles in December 1980 and was an immediate success. It was only three years later that Ochoa got the attention of bigwigs at Dennys, Inc., who offered him $11.3 million for his U.S. operations. Ochoa took the deal, and El Pollo Loco grew from 17 to more than 200 outlets over the following decade.

Re-create the whole El Pollo Loco experience at home with my copycat recipes for avocado salsa, pinto beans, Spanish rice, and bbq black beans.

To copy Taco Bell's most famous burrito at home you first must assemble the meaty foundation of many of the chain's top-selling products: the spiced ground beef. Toss it and seven other tasty ingredients into a large flour tortilla and fold using the same technique as taught to new recruits to the chain. Add your favorite hot sauce for a bit of heat, or clone a Taco Bell hot sauce, such as the Taco Bell Fire Border Sauce with the clone recipe here.

Just like the pro chefs use. A secret blend of herbs and spices that will make your homemade steaks taste like they came from a famous steakhouse chain. All-natural. Contains no MSG or preservatives. Great for anyone who likes a truly amazing steak.

Top Secret Steak Rub is created by Food Hacker Todd Wilbur who has spent the last 30 years reverse-engineering popular menu items at the most-loved restaurant chains across America. By identifying the herbs, spices and other ingredients that make great restaurant food taste so good, Todd created this custom Top Secret Steak Rub to help you make restaurant-style steaks at home. All it takes is just a few shakes. Then cook the steaks your favorite way.

7-ounce bottle. Money back guarantee. Kosher certified. Gluten-free.

Menu Description: "Our award-winning Baby Back Ribs are slow-roasted, then basted with Jim Beam Bourbon BBQ Sauce and finished on our Mesquite grill."

When your crew bites into these baby backs they'll savor meat so tender and juicy that it slides right off the bone. The slow braising cooks the ribs to perfection, while the quick grilling adds the finishing char and smoky flavor. But the most important component to any decent rack of ribs is a sauce that's filled with flavor, and this version of Roadhouse Grill's award-wining sauce is good stuff. I ordered the ribs naked (without sauce) so that I could see if there was any detectable rub added before cooking and I didn't find anything other than salt and a lot of coarse black pepper. So that's the way I designed the recipe, and it works.

Now, how about a copycat Roadhouse Grill Roadhouse Rita to wash down those ribs.

Anyone who loves Olive Garden is probably also a big fan of the bottomless basket of warm, garlicky breadsticks served before each meal at the huge Italian casual chain. My guess is that the breadsticks are proofed, and then sent to each restaurant where they are baked until golden brown, brushed with butter and sprinkled with garlic salt. Getting the bread just right for a good Olive Garden breadstick recipe was tricky—I tried several different amounts of yeast in all-purpose flour, but then settled on bread flour to give these breadsticks the same chewy bite as the originals. The two-stage rising process is also a crucial step in this much requested homemade Olive Garden breadstick recipe. Also check out our Olive Garden Italian salad dressing recipe.

A couple years ago Taco Bell and Kraft Foods got together to produce a line of products—everything from taco kits to salsas and spice mixes—all stamped with the familiar Taco Bell logo and available in supermarkets across the country. The idea was a winner, and now the Taco Bell line of products is among Kraft's top sellers. The clone of this mix, made with a combination of common spices and cornstarch, can be kept indefinitely until your brain's fajita-craving neurons begin firing. When you're set to cook, you'll need some chicken, a bell pepper, and an onion, then follow the same prep instructions you find on the package of the real thing.

Top your fajitas off with one Taco Bell's famous sauces from my recipes here.

Dave Thomas, Wendy's late founder, started serving this chili in 1969, the year the first Wendy's opened its doors. Over the years the recipe has changed a bit, but this Wendy's copycat chili recipe is a great version of the one served in the early 90s. Try topping it with some chopped onion and Cheddar cheese, just as you can request in the restaurant.

Now, on to the Wendy's Hot Chili Seasoning copycat recipe.

The easy-melting, individually-wrapped Kraft Cheddar Singles are a perfect secret ingredient for this Panera Bread broccoli cheddar soup recipe that's served at this top soup stop. In this clone, fresh broccoli is first steamed, then diced into little bits before you combine it with chicken broth, half-and-half, shredded carrot, and onion. Now you're just 30 minutes away from soup spoon go-time.

Click here for more of my copycat Panera Bread recipes.

It took chefs several years to develop what would eventually become KFC's most clucked about new product launch in the chain's 57-year history. With between 70 to 180 calories and four to nine grams of fat, depending on the piece, the new un-fried chicken is being called "KFC's second secret recipe," and "a defining moment in our brand's storied history" in a company press release. The secret recipe for the new grilled chicken is now stored on an encrypted computer flash drive next to the Colonel's handwritten original fried chicken recipe in an electronic safe at KFC company headquarters. Oprah Winfrey featured the chicken on her talk show and gave away so many coupons for free grilled chicken meals that some customers waited in lines for over an hour and half, and several stores ran out and had to offer rain checks. Company spokesperson Laurie Schalow told the Associated Press that KFC has never seen such a huge response to any promotion. "It's unprecedented in our more than 50 years," she said. "It beats anything we've ever done."

When I heard about all the commotion over this new secret recipe I immediately locked myself up in the underground lab with a 12-piece bucket of the new grilled chicken, plus a sample I obtained of the proprietary seasoning blend, and got right to work. After days of nibbling through what amounts to a small flock of hens, I'm happy to bring you this amazing cloned version of this fast food phenomenon so that you can now reproduce it in your own kitchen. Find the smallest chicken you can for this KFC grilled chicken copycat recipe, since KFC uses young hens. Or better yet save some dough by finding a small whole chicken and cut it up yourself. The secret preparation process requires that you marinate (brine) your chicken for a couple hours in a salt and MSG solution. This will make the chicken moist all of the way through and give it great flavor. After the chicken has brined, it's brushed with liquid smoke-flavored oil that will not only make the seasoning stick to the chicken, but will also ensure that the chicken doesn't stick to the pan. The liquid smoke in the oil gives the chicken a smoky flavor as if it had been cooked on an open flame barbecue grill.

The grilled chicken at KFC is probably cooked on ribbed metal plates in specially designed convection ovens to get those grill marks. I duplicated that process using an oven-safe grill pan, searing the chicken first on the stovetop to add the grill marks, then cooking the chicken through in the oven. If you don't have a grill pan or a grill plate, you can just sear the chicken in any large oven safe saute pan. If you have a convection function on your oven you should definitely use it, but the recipe will still work in a standard oven with the temperature set just a little bit higher. After baking the chicken for 20 minutes on each side, you're ready to dive into your own 8-piece bucket of delicious indoor grilled chicken that's as tasty as the fried stuff, but without all the fat.

Menu Description: "Loaded with cheddar cheese and bacon. Served with sour cream and chives."

Perfume salesman Alan Stillman was a single guy in New York City in 1965, looking for a way to meet women who lived in his neighborhood. He figured out a way to get their attention: buy a broken-down beer joint in the area, jazz it up, and call it "The T.G.I.F." to attract the career crowd. Within a week, police had barricaded the area to control crowds flocking to Alan's new restaurant. The restaurant made $1 million in its first year—a lot of dough back then. Soon restaurateurs across the country were imitating the concept.

In 1974 T.G.I. Friday's invented an appetizer that would also be copied by many in the following years. Potato skins are still the most popular item on the T.G.I. Friday's menu, with nearly 4 million orders served every year. The recipe has the added benefit of providing you with leftover baked potato ready for mashing.

T.G.I Friday's has several popular dishes. See if I cloned your favorites here.

Menu Description: "Our flour tortilla is packed with sauteed chicken, sausage, bruschetta marinara, bacon and oozing with Monterey Jack cheese. We coat it with Parmesan, and pan-fry it to a crispy, golden brown, then drizzle it with balsamic glaze."

Italy meets Mexico in this new hit appetizer that combines a cheese-filled tortilla with ingredients you wouldn't usually find inside a quesadilla, including Friday's bruschetta marinara. Parmesan cheese is crusted on the outside of the tortilla, and the balsamic glaze drizzle is the perfect finishing touch. This is an awesome party dish appetizer since the whole recipe makes 4 quesadillas that can each be sliced into as many as 8 pieces.

You may not know that the delicious "pizzas" you get from the world's largest Mexican food chain have 36 grams of fat. If you like Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza as much as I do, you'll be happy to know that you can make a home version with only 10 grams of fat, and fewer calories, too.

The secret fat savings come from baking, rather than frying, the flour tortillas. You'll also say "adios" to much of the fat by using reduced-fat Cheddar and Jack cheeses. I picked reduced-fat for these, because the fat-free stuff does not melt well when the pizza is baked.

Nutrition Facts
Serving size–1 pizza
Total servings–4
Calories per serving–427 (Original–570)
Fat per serving–10g (Original–36g)

Source: Top Secret Recipes Lite by Todd Wilbur.

This is a simple recipe to clone the contents of the seasoning packet that bears the Taco Bell logo found in most grocery stores these days. You probably expect the seasoning mix to make meat that tastes exactly like the stuff you get at the big chain. Well, not exactly. It's more like the popular Lawry's taco seasoning mix, which still makes good spiced ground meat, and works great for a tasty bunch of tacos.

The little red packets of viscous hot sauce at the fast food giant have a cult following of rabid fans who will do whatever it takes to get their hands on large quantities. One such fan of the sauce commented online, "Are there any Wendy's employees or managers out there who will mail me an entire case of Hot Chili Seasoning? I swear this is not a joke. I love the stuff. I tip extra cash to Wendy's workers to get big handfuls of the stuff." Well, there's really no need to tip any Wendy's employees, because now you can clone as much of the spicy sauce as you want in your own kitchen with this Top Secret Recipe.

The ingredients listed on the real Hot Chili Seasoning are water, corn syrup, salt, distilled vinegar, natural flavors, xanthan gum, and extractives of paprika. We'll use many of those same ingredients for our clone, but we'll substitute gelatin for the xanthan gum (a thickener) to get the slightly gooey consistency right. For the natural flavor and color we'll use cayenne pepper, cumin, paprika, and garlic powder, then filter the particles out with a fine wire-mesh strainer after they've contributed what the sauce needs.

This recipe makes 5 ounces of sauce— just the right amount to fit nicely into a used hot sauce bottle—and costs just pennies to make.

Menu Description: "Tender, crispy wild gulf shrimp tossed in a creamy, spicy sauce."

Bonefish Grill proudly refers to this appetizer as the "house specialty." And why not, it's an attractive dish with bang-up flavor, especially if you like your food on the spicy side. The heat in this Bang Bang Shrimp recipe comes from the secret sauce blend that's flavored with chili garlic sauce, also known as sambal. You can find this bright red sauce where the Asian foods in your market—and while you're there, pick up some rice vinegar. Once the sauce is made, you coat the shrimp in a simple seasoned breading, fry them to a nice golden brown, toss them gently in the sauce, and then serve them up on a bed of mixed greens to hungry folks who, hopefully, have a cool drink nearby to mellow the sting.

You might also like my recipes for Bonefish Grill's Saucy Shrimp and Citrus Herb Vinaigrette.

Getting a table at the 123-year-old original Rao’s restaurant in New York City is next to impossible. The tables are “owned” by regulars who schedule their meals months in advance, so every table is full every night, and that’s the way it’s been for the last 38 years. The only way an outsider would get to taste the restaurant’s fresh marinara sauce is to be invited by a regular.

If that isn’t in the stars for you, you could buy a bottle of the sauce at your local market (if they even have it). It won't be fresh, and it's likely to be the most expensive sauce in the store, but it still has that great Rao's taste. An even better solution is to copy the sauce for yourself using this new and very easy hack.

The current co-owner of Rao’s, Frank Pellegrino Jr., told Bon Appetit in 2015 that the famous marinara sauce was created by his grandmother many years ago, and the sauce you buy in stores is the same recipe served in his restaurants. The ingredients are common, but correctly choosing the main ingredient—tomatoes—is important. Try to find San Marzano-style whole canned tomatoes, preferably from Italy. They are a little more expensive than typical canned tomatoes, but they will give you some great sauce.

After 30 minutes of cooking, you’ll end up with about the same amount of sauce as in a large jar of the real thing. Your version will likely be just a little bit brighter and better than the bottled stuff, thanks to the fresh ingredients. But now you can eat it anytime you want, with no reservations, at a table you own.

You might also like my #1 recipe of 2019, Texas Roadhouse Rolls.

If you like In-N-Out's burger spread, you'll love Top Secret Recipes Secret Burger Spread.

Created by food hacker Todd Wilbur, this sauce is inspired by the secret spread In-N-Out uses on their world-famous hamburgers.

Use it on your own burgers, sandwiches, and wraps.

Ingredients. Vegetable oils, cucumbers, water, tomatoes, white distilled vinegar, eggs, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, salt, onions, sugar, mustard seed, Natural flavors, spices, Xanthan gum, turmeric, preservatives, lemon juice, garlic, citric acid, paprika, annatto.

Nutrition Facts: Serving Size 1 tbsp. Servings per container 26. Amount per serving: Calories 70, Total Fat 7g, Cholesterol 5mg, Sodium 135mg, Total Carbohydrate 1g, Dietary Fiber 0g, Total Sugars 1g, Protein 0g.

A requirement of any visit to Chicago is eating at least one slice of deep dish pizza in the city that perfected it. Deep dish pizza quickly became a Chicago staple after Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo opened the first Pizzeria Uno in 1943 and served a hearty new style of pizza constructed in a high-rimmed cake pan. The yeast crust was tender and flakey, like a pastry, and the cheese was layered under the sauce so that it wouldn’t burn in a hot oven for the long cooking time.

While researching a home hack of this now-iconic recipe, I discovered an unexpected technique that I hadn’t seen in other deep dish recipes. Employees told me the pizza crusts are partially cooked each morning to cut down on the wait time for customers. Before the restaurant opens each day, cooks press the dough into a pan and then sprinkle it with a little shredded cheese. The shells are then partially baked and set aside. Later, when an order comes in, the pizza is built into one of the par-baked crusts and finished off. This way customers get their food faster, and the tables turn over quicker.

Copying that delicious, flakey crust was the task that took me the longest. After two weeks of baking, I finally settled on a formula that was a mash-up of yeast dough and pie crust and made a perfectly tender deep dish crust, with great flavor that exactly mimicked the original. If you like Uno, you will love this.

Regarding the cheese: be sure your cheese is at room temperature, not cold, or it may not melt all the way through. Also, it’s best if you buy cheese by the block and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded cheese is dusted with cornstarch so that the shreds don’t stick together in the bag, and it won’t melt as smoothly as cheese you shred by hand.

This recipe will make enough sauce for two pizzas. I just thought you should know that in case you get the urge to make another deep dish after this one disappears.

This recipe was our #4 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1) KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).

Popeyes Famous Fried Chicken and Biscuits has become the third-largest quick-service chicken chain in the world in the twenty-two years since its first store opened in New Orleans in 1972. (KFC has the number-one slot, followed by Church's Chicken). Since then, the chain has grown to 813 units, with many of them overseas in Germany, Japan, Jamaica, Honduras, Guam, and Korea.

Cayenne pepper and white pepper bring the heat to this crispy fried chicken hack.

Did you like this recipe? Get your hands on my secret recipe for Popeyes Chicken Sandwich and other Popeyes dishes here.

This delicious crispy chicken in a citrusy sweet-and-sour chicken is the most popular dish at the huge Chinese take-out chain. Panda Express cooks all of its food in woks. If you don't have one of those, you can use a heavy skillet or a large saute pan.

Menu Description: "Here they are in all their lip-smacking, award-winning glory: Buffalo, New York-style chicken wings spun in your favorite signature sauce."

Since Buffalo, New York was too far away, Jim Disbrow and Scott Lowery satisfied their overwhelming craving in 1981 by opening a spicy chicken wing restaurant close to home in Kent, Ohio. With signature sauces and a festive atmosphere, the chain has now evolved from a college campus sports bar with wings to a family restaurant with over 300 units. While frying chicken wings is no real secret—simply drop them in hot shortening for about 10 minutes—the delicious spicy sauces make the wings special. There are 12 varieties of sauce available to coat your crispy chicken parts at the chain, and I'm presenting clones for the more traditional flavors. These sauces are very thick, almost like dressing or dip, so we'll use an emulsifying technique that will ensure a creamy final product where the oil won't separate from the other ingredients. Here is the chicken wing cooking and coating technique, followed by clones for the most popular sauces: Spicy Garlic, Medium and Hot. The sauce recipes might look the same at first, but each has slight variations make your sauce hotter or milder by adjusting the level of cayenne pepper. You can find Frank's pepper sauce by the other hot sauces in your market. If you can't find that brand, you can also use Crystal Louisiana hot sauce.

Two friendly Atlanta, Georgia neighbors built the first Waffle House in 1955. With the dimpled breakfast hotcake as a signature item, the privately held chain grew into 20 Southern U.S. states. Today tasty food at rock-bottom prices, plus 24-hours-a-day service, makes Waffle House a regular stop for devoted customers any time of the day or night. And don't even think about referring to your server as a waitress—they're called "associates."

For the best clone of the 50-year-old secret waffle recipe you should chill the batter overnight in the fridge, just as they do in each of the restaurants. But sometimes you can't wait. If you need instant gratification, the recipe still works if you make the waffles the same day. Wait for at least 15 to 20 minutes before using the batter so that it can thicken a bit. That'll give you time to dust off the waffle iron and heat it up.

How about some homemade Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sausage to go with those waffles? Check out all of my famous breakfast copycat recipes here.

The year 1963 was a big one in McDonald's history. The 500th McDonald's restaurant opened in Toledo, Ohio, and Hamburger University graduated its 500th student. It was in that same year that McDonald's served its one billionth hamburger in grand fashion on The Art Linkletter Show. Ronald McDonald also made his debut that year in Washington, D.C., and the Fillet-O-Fish sandwich was introduced as the first new menu addition since the restaurant chain opened in 1948.

Have you ever wanted to make McDonald's French Fries? Find more McDonald's recipes here.

Update 8/4/19: Current versions of this sandwich come with the bun untoasted. For a classic version, make yours as described below, or skip step 2. Be sure to microwave your finished sandwich for 10-15 seconds to warm up your bun, and steam the sandwich before serving.

If those cute little cookie peddlers aren't posted outside the market, it may be tough to get your hands on these—the most popular cookies sold by the Girl Scouts every spring. One out of every four boxes of cookies sold by the girls is Thin Mints. This hack Girl Scout cookie thin mint recipe uses an improved version of the chocolate wafers created for the Oreo cookie clone in the second TSR book More Top Secret Recipes. That recipe creates 108 cookie wafers, so when you're done dipping, you'll have the equivalent of three boxes of the Girl Scout Cookies favorite. That's why you bought those extra cookie sheets, right? You could, of course, reduce this thin mint recipe by baking only one-third of the cookie dough for the wafers and then reducing the coating ingredients by one-third, giving you a total of 36 cookies. But that may not be enough to last you until next spring.

Click here for more of your favorite Girl Scout Cookies.

Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

Update 11/16/17 : You can make an even better clone using a chocolate product that wasn't available when I created this recipe. Rather than using the semi-sweet chocolate chips combined with shortening and peppermint for coating the cookies, use Ghirardelli Dark Melting Wafers. You will need 2 10-ounce bags of the chips, mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract (and no shortening). Melt the chocolate the same way, and dip the cookies as instructed.

They're the world's most famous French fries, responsible for one-third of all U.S. French fry sales, and many say they're the best. These fried spud strips are so popular that Burger King even changed its own recipe to better compete with the secret formula from Mickey D's. One-quarter of all meals served today in American restaurants come with fries a fact that thrills restaurateurs since fries are the most profitable menu item in the food industry. Proper preparation steps were developed by McDonald's to minimize in-store preparation time, while producing a fry that is soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. This clone requires a two-step frying process to replicate the same qualities: the fries are par-fried, frozen, then fried once more to crispy just before serving. Be sure to use a slicer to cut the fries for a consistent thickness (1/4-inch is perfect) and for a cooking result that will make them just like the real thing. As for the rumor that you must soak the fries in sugar water to help them turn golden brown, I also found that not to be necessary. If the potatoes have properly developed they contain enough sugar on their own to make a good clone with great color.

Now, how about a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder to go with those fries? Click here for a list of all my McDonald's copycat recipes.

The redesigned Kahlua Coffee Liqueur labels now says "Rum and Coffee Liqueur," which is a helpful description when creating a clone version of the famous cordial. This text was not on the bottle 30 years ago when I made my first version of this liqueur using vodka—not rum. So, back into the lab went I, to create an improved version of the drink with rum, just like the label says.

I used light rum here for the photo because it is more of a neutral taste like the vodka called for in my first version, but since it doesn't include the caramel color added to Kahlua, your drink will come out a lighter shade of brown than the real stuff. However, you can also use dark rum in this recipe, which will add other flavor notes to your finished product, plus caramel color to deepen the shade of your liqueur.

There are many other famous drinks you can make at home! See if I cloned your favorites here.

Menu Description: "Jumbo butterflied shrimp hand-dipped in batter flavored with Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Rum & coconut flakes. Served with pina colada dipping sauce."

Fans of this dish say the best part is the pina colada dipping sauce. And it's true. That sauce is so good you could eat it with a spoon. But the coconut shrimp is pretty awesome too, just on its own. Red Lobster's secret formula includes Captain Morgan's Parrot Bay rum, which sweetens the batter and adds a great coconut flavor (plus you can whip up a nice cocktail with it while you're cooking). Panko breadcrumbs—which give a nice crunch to the shrimp—can be found in the aisle of your market where all the Asian foods are parked. This secret recipe makes two times the size of a serving you get at the Lobster, so there should be enough for everyone. The real thing comes with salsa on the side in addition to the pina colada sauce, but you may not even want to include it.

Find more of your favorite Red Lobster copycat recipes here.

If you like traditional BBQ beans, you've got to love El Pollo Loco's sweet-and-spicy variation with black beans. The light smokiness in this clone comes from bacon fat, then cayenne pepper and green chiles give the beans a Southwestern flavor that's perfect on burritos or as a delicious side. The prep is a breezer, since you conveniently combine two 15-ounce cans of black beans with the other secret ingredients in a saucepan and just let it simmer for an hour or so. When the beans are soft and the mixture is thick, on with the eating.

It's not served every day at Carrabba's Italian Grill, but when this amazing soup is on the menu consider yourself lucky and snag a bowl. It's chock-full of lentils and other good bits of vegetables and herbs, plus there are big chunks of spicy Italian sausage in every bite. Best of all, Carrabba's sausage and lentil soup recipe is a cinch to clone. Most of the work here is just chopping stuff up, including a small ham steak which you can find where the bacon is sold in your market. If you can't find a ham steak, you can slice up some deli ham. Get everything in a pot and let it simmer. In 1 hour you'll have enough hot, chunky soup for at least a dozen cup-size servings. Also enjoy our Carrabba's chicken marsala recipe.

I first created the clone for this Cajun-style recipe back in 1994 for the second TSR book, More Top Secret Recipes, but I've never been overjoyed with the results. After convincing a Popeyes manager to show me the ingredients written on the box of red bean mixture, I determined the only way to accurately clone this one is to include an important ingredient omitted from the first version: pork fat. Emeril Lagasse—a Cajun food master—says, "pork fat rules," and it does. We could get the delicious smoky fat from rendering smoked ham hocks, but that takes too long. The easiest way is to cook 4 or 5 pieces of bacon, save the cooked bacon for another recipe (or eat it!), then use 1/4 cup of the fat for this hack. As for the beans, find red beans (they're smaller than kidney beans) in two 15-ounce cans. If you're having trouble tracking down red beans, red kidney beans will be a fine substitute.

Can't get enough Popeyes? Find all of my recipes here.

You won't find freezers, can openers, or microwave ovens at this national Mexican food chain. Since 1990 Baja Fresh has been serving up great food, made fresh with each order. As you're waiting for your food to come out, that's when you hit up the salsa bar, where you'll find several varieties of delicious fresh salsa, from hot to mild, ready to be spooned into little tubs that you can take to your table or to your car. One of the most popular selections is called Salsa Baja—its medium spiciness, smoky flavor, and deep black color make the salsa unique and mysterious. That is, until now, since I've got a Top Secret formula for you right here. But the recipe wasn't as easy to create as I first thought. I figured the tomatoes would have to be extremely blackened over a hot grill, but I wasn't sure how to get them dark enough to turn the salsa black without the tomatoes getting all mushy and falling apart on the barbecue.

So, I went back to Baja Fresh before they opened to peer through the window to see if I could catch some hot salsa production action. I waited and waited. After several hours as the lunch rush was beginning to wind down and no fresh salsa was in the pipeline, it was time for extreme measures to get things moving. I went in and ordered 30 tubs of Salsa Baja to go, and that did it. I ended up with a big bag filled with 2 gallons of salsa (thankfully they poured those 8-ounce portions into bigger bowls), and the restaurant went immediately into "salsa red alert" to replenished the now-dwindling salsa reserve. It was perfect. As I was grabbing my bag of salsa, a dude come out from the kitchen with a huge box of tomatoes and placed them all on the grill. I ordered a giant Diet Pepsi and parked myself at a close table to watch the process. That's when I discovered the secret. For super-charred tomatoes they start with firm, chilled tomatoes, that aren't too big or too ripe. I also found out that the tomatoes must start roasting on the grill with the stem-side down. The rest was simple.

Menu Description: "Smooth and spicy cheese dip. Served with unlimited crisp tortilla chips."

Many who have tried the original say it's the best queso dip they've ever had, so I had to get on the case. Talking to a store manager I found out that the dip is made with American cheese and a little Parmesan, but the rest of the ingredients were going to have to be determined in the underground lab. When I got down there—using the elevator hidden in a fake outhouse in the corner of a vacant lot—I immediately rinsed the dip in a strainer and discovered bits of spinach, onion and two kinds of peppers. The red pepper, which is responsible for the kick, appeared to be rehydrated dry peppers. It looks like they're red jalapenos, but since the red ones can be hard to find I chopped up some red Fresno peppers and the dip tasted great—full of flavor with a nice spicy kick. Just be sure to remove the inner membranes and seeds from the peppers before you mince them up, or your cool dip may end up packing a lot of heat.

For those who like chili in your cheese dip, check out my copycat Chili's Chili Queso recipe here.

In the early 90's Boston Chicken was rockin' it. The home meal replacement chain's stock was soaring and the lines were filled with hungry customers waiting to sink their teeth into a serving of the chain's delicious rotisserie chicken. So successful was the chain with chicken, that the company quickly decided it was time to introduce other entree selections, the first of which was a delicious barbecue sauce-covered ground sirloin meatloaf. But offering the other entrees presented the company with a dilemma: what to do about the name. The bigwigs decided it was time to change the name to Boston Market, to reflect a wider menu. That meant replacing signs on hundreds of units and retooling the marketing campaigns. That name change, plus rapid expansion of the chain and growth of other similar home-style meal concepts sent the company into a tailspin. By 1988, Boston Market's goose was cooked, and the company filed for bankruptcy. Soon McDonald's stepped in to purchase the company, with the idea of closing many of the stores for good, and slapping Golden Arches on the rest. But that plan was scrapped when, after selling many of the under-performing Boston Markets, the chain began to fly once again. Within a year of the acquisition Boston Market was profitable, and those meals with the home-cooked taste are still being served at over 700 Boston Market restaurants across the country.

How about some of those famous Boston Market side-dishes to go with your copycat meatloaf recipe? I've cloned all the best ones here.

Hope your crew is hungry because this recipe makes four Mexican Pizzas like those served at the Bell: seasoned ground beef and refried beans are sandwiched between two crispy flour tortillas, topped with melted cheddar cheese, salsa, diced tomato, and chopped green onion. Slice it like a pizza and serve it with a smile. Prepare to blow your diners away with this Taco Bell Mexican pizza recipe if they're at all familiar with the real thing.

Try some Diablo, hot, or mild sauce for that authentic Taco Bell experience.

Taco Bell takes the fast food quesadilla into new territory with three different cheeses and a creamy jalapeño sauce, all of which you can now cheerfully re-create in the comfort of your warm kitchen. Gather up the crew, since this easy recipe will make four of the tasty tortilla treats.

How about some homemade Diablo, hot, or mild sauce to go with your quesadilla? Check out all of my Taco Bell copycat recipes here.

Menu Description: "Our appetizing cheese dip with seasoned beef. Served with warm tostada chips."

Take your chips for a dip in this top-secret Chili's skillet queso copycat recipe that comes to your table in a small cast iron skillet along with a big bowl of tortilla chips. A popular recipe that's been circulating calls for combining Velveeta with Hormel no-bean chili. Sure, it's a good start, but there's more to Chili's spicy cheese dip than that. Toss a few other ingredients into the saucepan and after about 20 minutes you'll have a great dip for picnic, party, or game time.

Now, what's for dinner? Check out my other Chili's copycat recipes here.

The biggest difference I find with this copycat Panera french onion soup formula versus other onion soup recipes is the inclusion of a small, almost undetectable, bit of tomato sauce. But rather than opening up a whole can of tomato sauce to use just 1 tablespoon in this home kitchen copy, I found that a squirt of ketchup works perfectly. Panera Bread also makes their soup with just a bit of heat, so we'll add a little Tabasco pepper sauce to the pot to wake everything up. The croutons on top of the soup appear to be made from the chain's focaccia bread that has been buttered, cubed, and toasted until crispy, but you can use any bread you may have on hand. As for the cheese on top, the menu says it's Asiago-Parmesan, but the cheese I tasted was more Asiago than Parmesan, so you'll need to use only Asiago cheese (that's been shaved using a potato peeler) for a great clone.

When you check in at one of more than 250 hotels run by this U.S. chain, you are handed a bag from a warming oven that contains two soft and delicious chocolate chip cookies. This is a tradition that began in the early 80s using a recipe from a small bakery in Atlanta. All of the cookies are baked fresh every day on the hotel premises. The chain claims to give out about 29,000 cookies every day. Raves for the cookies from customers convinced the hotel chain to start selling tins of the cookies online. But if you've got an insatiable chocolate chip cookie urge that can't wait for a package to be delivered, you'll want to try this cloned version. Just be sure to get the cookies out of the oven when they are barely turning brown so that they are soft and chewy in the middle when cool.

Now that you're in the swing of things, try baking more famous cookies from my recipes here.

Update 1/13/17: I like to drop the baking temperature to 325 degrees F for a chewier (better) cookie. Cook for about the same amount of time, 16 to 18 minutes.

Update 4/10/20: In April, Hilton Hotels released the actual recipe for the DoubleTree Hotels Signature Cookie for the first time. You can open that recipe in another window to see how close the real recipe revealed in 2020 comes to this clone recipe I created in 2002.

The talented chefs at Benihana cook food on hibachi grills with flair and charisma, treating the preparation like a tiny stage show. They juggle salt and pepper shakers, trim food with lightning speed, and flip the shrimp and mushrooms perfectly onto serving plates or into their tall chef's hat.

One of the side dishes that everyone seems to love is the fried rice. At Benihana this dish is prepared by chefs with precooked rice on open hibachi grills, and is ordered a la cart to complement any Benihana entree, including Hibachi Steak and Chicken. I like when the rice is thrown onto the hot hibachi grill and seems to come alive as it sizzles and dances around like a bunch of little jumping beans. Okay, so I'm easily amused.

This Benihana Japanese fried rice recipe will go well with just about any Japanese entree and can be partially prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until the rest of the meal is close to done.

Menu Description: "It takes half a day to make this perfect combination of onion, celery, carrot and garlic."

Before a skilled chef appears tableside to perform his culinary prestidigitation on the hot hibachi grill at Benihana, you're treated to a tasty bowl of chicken broth-based soup with fried onions, sliced mushrooms and green onions floating cheerfully on top. The restaurant menu claims this soup takes a half a day to make, but we can clone it in a fraction of that time using canned chicken broth (I use Swanson brand). This soup works great as a prelude to your favorite Asian dishes or other Benihana clones since it's so light and won't fill up anyone before the main course. I've included a simple technique here for making the breaded fried onions from scratch (for the most accurate clone), but you can skip that step by substituting French's canned French Fried Onions that are sold in most markets.

Menu Description: "Oven baked with fresh apples and pure Sikiyan cinnamon glaze."

Fresh, high-quality ingredients and traditional recipes are what makes this growing chain a frequent favorite for anyone who stops in. The star of the show is the incredible apple pancake, the chain's signature dish. To make a dead-on clone, Granny Smith apples are sauteed in butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, then allowed to cool for a bit. That way, when the batter is poured into the pan, the apples and glaze stay anchored to the bottom. This technique also prevents the glaze from penetrating into the batter as the pancake bakes since there is now an apple barrier preventing any mixing of the ingredients. When the pancake comes out of the oven it's flipped over onto a plate and the apples are right there on top, dripping with a delicious cinnamon-sugar glaze. You won't need any syrup for this one, that's for sure. Just a light dusting of powdered sugar on top. Then dig into an apple pancake unlike any other.

You may also like my clone recipe for the Original Pancake House German Pancake aka "Dutch Baby".

Joseph Weiss was living in New York with his wife and son when his doctor told him he would need a change of climate to help his asthma. He journeyed to Miami, Florida in 1913 and discovered he was able to breathe again. He quickly moved his family down South and opened his first restaurant, a little lunch counter. Joe's restaurant business exploded in 1921 when he discovered how to cook and serve the stone crabs caught off the coast. Joe boiled the meaty claws and served them chilled with a secret mustard dipping sauce. Today only one pincer is removed from each stone crab, then the crab is tossed back into the ocean where it will regenerate the missing claw in about 2 years. The stone crabs, in addition to several other signature items, made Joe's a Miami hotspot, and these days Joe's restaurants can be found in Chicago and Las Vegas. Here is my take on Joe's amazing giant crab cakes, which are made from lump crab meat, and served as an appetizer or entree at the restaurant. Of course, you can't clone a Joe's crab dish without cloning the secret mustard sauce, so that recipe is here too.

Here are some more clone recipes of other popular dishes from Joe's Stone Crab.

Exclusive signed copy. It's no longer necessary to stand in line for a table at T.G.I. Friday's or Red Lobster, Olive Garden or Outback. You can make the menu items you love right at home—with ingredients from your local supermarket. Included in this book are some of the best-kept restaurant secrets that let you eat in with the great taste of eating out!

In this unique cookbook Todd Wilbur re-creates more than 100 signature dishes from America's most popular chain restaurants—including such hot theme eateries as the Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood.

Wilbur's easy-to-make knock-offs, the product of years of research, are indiscernible from the originals—and the most ingenious way we know of to cut down on the cost of eating out. But watch out, once you start cooking, people may start calling for reservations at your dinner table!

Find out how to make home versions of Applebees Oriental Chicken Salad, Benihana Hibachi Chicken & Steak, California Pizza Kitchen BBQ Chicken Pizza, The Cheesecake Factory Cajun Jambalaya Pasta, Chi-Chi's Sweet Corn Cake, Cracker Barrel Hash Brown Casserole, Hard Rock Cafe Famous Baby Rock Watermelon Ribs, Hooters Buffalo Wings, Marie Callenders Famous Golden Cornbread, Olive Garden Hot Artichoke-Spinach Dip, Outback Steakhouse Alice Springs Chicken, Pizza Hut Original Stuffed Crust Pizza, Planet Hollywood Chicken Crunch, Ruth's Chris Creamed Spinach, T.G.I. Friday's Potato Skins, and many more.

Contents
Applebee's Club House Grill
Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad
Applebee's Pizza Sticks
Applebee's Quesadillas
Applebee's Tijuana "Philly" Steak Sandwich
Benihana Hibachi Chicken
Benihana Hibachi Steak
Benihana Mustard Dipping Sauce
Benihana Ginger Dipping Sauce
Benihana Japanese Fried rice
Bennigan's Buffalo Chicken Sandwich
Bennigan's California Turkey Sandwich
Bennigan's Cookie Mountain Sundae
Big Boy Cream of Broccoli Soup
Big Boy Original Double-Decker Hamburger Classic
Big Boy Club Sandwich
California Pizza Kitchen Original BBQ Chicken Pizza
California Pizza Kitchen Thai Chicken Pizza
California Pizza Kitchen Southwestern Burrito Pizza
Cheesecake Factory Bruschetta
Cheesecake Factory Avocado Eggrolls
Cheesecake Factory Cajun Jambalaya Pasta
Cheesecake Factory Pumpkin Cheesecake
Cheesecake Factory Key Lime Cheesecake
Chi-Chi's Beef Nachos Grande
Chi-Chi's Chicken Nachos Grande
Chi-Chi's Sweet Corn Cake
Chi-Chi's Twice Grilled Barbecue Burrito
Chi-Chi's "Fried" Ice Cream
Chili's Grilled Caribbean Salad
Chili's Fajitas for Two
Chili's Peanut Butter Cheesecake
Cracker Barrel Hash Brown Casserole
Cracker Barrel Eggs-in-the-Basket
Cracker Barrel Chicken & Dumplins
Denny's Scram Slam
Denny's Moons Over My Hammy
Denny's The Super Bird
Dive! Carrot Chips
Dive! Sicilian Sub Rosa
Dive! Brick Oven Mushroom & Turkey Cheese Sub
Dive! S'mores
Hard Rock Cafe Filet Steak Sandwich
Hard Rock Cafe Grilled Vegetable Sandwich
Hard Rock Cafe Famous Baby Rock Watermelon Ribs
Hard Rock Cafe Orange Freeze
Hooters Buffalo Chicken Wings
Hooters Buffalo Shrimp
Hooters Pasta Salad
Houlihan's Houli Fruit Fizz
Houlihan's 'Shrooms
Houlihan's Smashed Potatoes
IHOP Banana Nut Pancakes
IHOP Cheese Blintz
IHOP Fajita Omelette
IHOP French Toast
Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon Amarillo Cheese Fries
Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon Black Bean Soup
Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon Texas Rice
Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon Sweet Bourbon Salmon
Marie Callender's Famous Golden Cornbread
Marie Callender's Chicken Pot Pie
Marie Callender's Banana Cream Pie
Olive Garden Italian Salad Dressing
Olive Garden Hot Artichoke-Spinach Dip
Olive Garden Toscana Soup
Olive Garden Alfredo Pasta
Outback Steakhouse Bloomin' Onion
Outback Steakhouse Gold Coast Coconut Shrimp
Outback Steakhouse Walkabout Soup
Outback Steakhouse Alice Springs Chicken
Perkins Family Restaurants Potato Pancakes
Perkins Family Restaurants Granny's Country Omelette
Perkins Family Restaurants Country Club Omelette
Pizza Hut Original Stuffed Crust Pizza
Pizza Hut Pepperoni & Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza
Pizza Hut TripleDecker Pizza
Planet Hollywood Pizza Bread
Planet Hollywood Chicken Crunch
Planet Hollywood Pot Stickers
Red Lobster Broiled Lobster
Red Lobster Broiled Bacon-Wrapped Scallops
Red Lobster Grilled Scallop & Bacon Skewers
Red Lobster Stuffed Shrimp
Red Lobster Stuffed Mushrooms
Red Robin No-Fire Peppers
Red Robin BBQ Chicken Salad Red Robin Mountain High Mudd Pie
Ruby Tuesday Potato Cheese Soup
Ruby Tuesday Smokey Mountain Chicken
Ruby Tuesday Sonora Chicken Pasta
Ruby Tuesday Strawberry Tallcake for Two
Ruth's Chris Steak House Barbecued Shrimp
Ruth's Chris Steak House Petite Filet
Ruth's Chris Steak House Creamed Spinach
Ruth's Chris Steak House Potatoes Au Gratin
Shoney's Country Fried Steak
Shoney's Slow-Cooked Pot Roast
Shoney's Hot Fudge Cake
Sizzler Cheese Toast
Sizzler Chicken Club Sandwich
Sizzler Southern Fried Shrimp
Stuart Anderson's Black Angus Cheese Garlic Bread
Stuart Anderson's Black Angus Western T-bone
Stuart Anderson's Black Angus Whiskey Pepper Steak
T.G.I. Friday's Potato Skins
T.G.I. Friday's Nine-Layer Dip
T.G.I. Friday's California Chargrilled Turkey Sandwich
T.G.I. Friday's Spicy Cajun Chicken Pasta
T.G.I. Friday's Friday's Smoothies--Gold Medalist
T.G.I. Friday's Friday's Smoothies--Tropical Runner
Tony Roma's World Famous Ribs
Tony Roma's Original Baby Backs
Tony Roma's Carolina Honeys
Tony Roma's Red Hots
Western Sizzlin' "Teriyaki" Chicken Breast

Exclusive signed copy. America's best copycat recipes! Save money and amaze your friends with all-new culinary carbon copies from the Clone Recipe King!

For more than 30 years, Todd Wilbur has been obsessed with reverse-engineering famous foods. Using every day ingredients to replicate signature restaurant dishes at home, Todd shares his delectable discoveries with readers everywhere.

Now, his super-sleuthing taste buds are back to work in the third installment of his mega-bestselling Top Secret Restaurant Recipes series, with 150 sensational new recipes that unlock the delicious formulas for re-creating your favorite dishes from America's most popular restaurant chains. Todd's top secret blueprints and simple step-by-step instructions guarantee great success for even novice cooks. And when preparing these amazing taste-alike dishes at home, you'll be paying up to 75 percent less than eating out!

Find out how to make your own home versions of: Pizza Hut Pan Pizza, T.G.I. Friday's Crispy Green Bean Fries, Buca di Beppo Chicken Limone, Serendipity 3 Frrrozen Hot Chocolate, P.F. Chang's Kung Pao Chicken, Max & Erma's Tortilla Soup, Cracker Barrel Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake, Olive Garden Breadsticks, Cheesecake Factory Fresh Banana Cream Cheesecake, Carrabba's Chicken Bryan, Famous Dave's Corn Muffins, Outback Steakhouse Chocolate Thunder from Down Under, T.G.I. Friday's Jack Daniel's Glazed Ribs, and much, much more.

Simple. Foolproof. Easy to Prepare. And so delicious you'll swear it's the real thing!



Comments:

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