Adam Richman eats food for a living. Lots of it. As the intrepid host of the Travel Channel's Man v. Food, Richman takes on feats of consumption—the country's hottest curry, a 72-ounce steak, a 10-pound super-stuffed pizza—in cities around the nation. It's both an exercise in indulgence and a showcase for the foods that separate Charleston, S.C., from Columbus, Ohio, and Austin from Atlanta. But Richman isn't just into volume: For the past decade, the 36-year-old New Yorker has cultivated strategies and techniques for nosing out authentic fare anywhere he goes.
You've just landed in an unfamiliar city. How do you zero in on the best food?
First, I'll do some recon before I leave. I'll send out an open question on Twitter and then check out Yelp, because I feel like you're getting "the people's" opinion that way. Once I get there, I avoid advice from concierges and cabbies, because they may have an ulterior motive to send you someplace. Instead, I go to the service-industry workers: the bellhops, the cleaning ladies, the guys who work in the parking garage.
So what's the last great recommendation you got from a bellhop?
I was in Baltimore for the show, and we were planning to eat crab at Obrycki's, a place everyone knows. I got into a conversation at my hotel with two bellmen and a housekeeper, and they told me about G&M, out in a suburb called Linthicum Heights. The crab cakes were a revelation; they had a texture similar to quiche (gandmcrabcakes.com, from $17). The waitresses were chill and friendly—not like at a tourist trap, where they just want to turn tables. It was Baltimore at its most real.
What's the most interesting food city in America?
It's a three-way tie. Austin, because it's a center of Tejano culture and Tex-Mex cuisine, as well as an amazing barbecue town. Portland, Ore., because of the fresh produce and seafood, the Saturday Market, which is the best food market in the country, and Voodoo Doughnut, where you can get a Bacon Maple Bar (a maple-syrup-glazed doughnut topped with bacon). And last, Charleston, S.C., because of the Gullah Low Country cuisine, which weaves seafood into classic Southern food better than anywhere else.
All travelers overeat once in a while—and pay for it later. How do you handle "the burn?"
Zantac. I'm one with the mighty Z.
"My Last Meal"
I would start with a couple of stone crab claws from Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant in Miami Beach, Fla. (joesstonecrab.com); then some slow-roasted pork from Brasa in Minneapolis (brasa.us); and one link of Bahama Mama sausage from Schmidt's in Columbus, Ohio (schmidthaus.com). Man, this is tough...then some king crab from Alaska, like from Humpy's Great Alaskan Alehouse in Anchorage (humpys.com); the guacamole from Austin's Juan In A Million (juaninamillion.com); half of an Al's Italian beef sandwich in Chicago (alsbeef.com); and a taco from Lucha Libre in San Diego (tacosmackdown.com). Look, if it's my last meal, trust me, I will put all my eating challenges to shame. I'll eat for a week.
Man v. Food airs on the Travel Channel Wednesdays at 10 p.m. Follow Richman at twitter.com/adamrichman.