Campus Chowdown Ep. 4: Tios Mexican Cafe (University of Michigan)

We wanted to spice our new episode of Campus Chowdown up, so we invited Guy Fieri to come host the episode.  In the fourth installment of Campus Chowdown, the boys attempt to conquer Mt. Nacheesmo, a five-pound nacho platter, at Tios Mexican Cafe in Ann Arbor.

This was the first challenge that we have featured that was also showcased by Adam Richman on Man v. Food.  He was able to put it down, but will we?

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Thai Hard: A Burger Experiment

Them's some fresh greens.

Them’s some fresh greens.

Anybody who’s been around a kitchen enough knows it’s never wrong to cook with wine. Pour some in the pan, and some in the glass (then repeat as needed). As important as wine is to the process of cooking, I think it’s imperative to cook with good herbs. Now, hold on—don’t go there. Spices, I’m talking spice, girls. What’s a fish taco without cilantro? Bruschetta without basil? Nothing that tickles my fancy, that’s for sure. Herbs provide food with that extra refreshing kick, taking any dish to the next level. It also helps the food taste authentic, giving it the taste of the region. Down in Mexico they love their cilantro, so adding it to tacos creates the nostalgia of cuisine they may have had while vacationing south of the border. Same goes with the cayenne and flavor of Texas barbeque rub, with the right combination of spices, you can create that signature bite.

There’s no denying, I’m totally hooked on food shows like Triple D, Man v Food, and the many adventures of Anthony Bourdain. I credit these shows for getting me passionate, not only about eating unique foods, but preparing them myself. The episodes are like video cookbooks—they literally show you how to create amazing dishes step by step. The other day I saw an episode where Guy Fieri was showcasing a Thai food truck and the chef put together a mouth-watering lamb burger—and put mint and cilantro in with the meat. She then topped the sandwich with some traditional slaw that you often see on Vietnamese and Thai sandwiches. I needed it. The crunch of the slaw, coupled with a refreshing minty burger, set against hot Thai peppers—yes, please. Before I could begin creating an Asian burger of my own, I was judo-chopped with more inspiration after a visit to Detroit’s Green Dot Stables and sampling their Korean slider. It’s a one of a kind burger, the likes of which I have never seen: topped with mild kim chi and peanut butter on the bottom. Somehow this combination of complete opposite flavors comes together perfectly. The hot(ish) kim chi cooled by the peanut butter to create what can only be described as harmony. There was no need to wait; I was ready to get started on my Thai Burger experiment.

Green Dot Stables' Korean Slider (Detroit)

Green Dot Stables’ Korean Slider (Detroit)

When I think of Thai flavors, peanut comes to mind first. Maybe that’s just because Pad Thai comes with peanuts? But I feel like it’s common there, so I was for sure going to follow the Green Dot’s lead and incorporate it into the burger. After doing some research, I had a list of ingredients put together and went out to the market. For the slaw topping, I gathered red peppers, broccoli slaw, garlic, cucumbers, basil, cilantro, ginger (great taste, but a lot of work to peel/grate), and a sweet red chili Thai sauce to marinate it all in for that extra hi-ya. You mix all of that together, add some salt and olive oil then set aside to cool.

Thai Slaw. Red pepper, ginger, cilantro, basil, broccoli slaw, garlic, and cucumber.

Thai Slaw. Red pepper, ginger, cilantro, basil, broccoli slaw, garlic, and cucumber.

Ordinary mayo wasn’t going to cut it with this theme, so something funky had to be created. That’s where the magic of cilantro comes into play. I’m a big supporter of cilantro. If cilantro cologne were a thing, I’d probably buy it. For this mayo concoction, there wasn’t a lot of creativity needed. Just add some cilantro and basil to the mayo, a squeeze of limejuice, light olive oil and throw that bad lad in the fridge—don’t serve warm mayo, homie (cc: Michael Scott).

Ooo white death.

Ooo white death.

The meat is where things start to really get interesting. Following the recipe of the food truck lady, you start by adding some mint to the ground meat. Not much is needed; mint can be pretty strong (although recommended on dates). Green onions then get added to the party, along with some crumbled Sriracha kettle chips for flavor and to use as a binding agent within the meat. Finish by adding some additional sweet red chili sauce to the equation, mix it all together, and get the grill a-going. When ready, apply peanut butter to the bottom bun, grill the top bun and add your cilantro mayo, then place the burger and top with the slaw mix. If you listen closely, you can hear your taste buds thanking you after each bite.

Finished product.

Finished product.

As Guy would say, these burgers were bomb-dot-com, on point, and approved by the Mayor of Flavortown. You almost forget that you’re eating a burger, because the unique flavors combine to create an entirely different eating experience. You now have all the ingredients needed to make it happen, or I encourage you to watch an episode to get inspired to re-create something on your own.

Union Woodshop: A BBQ Smoke Session

Woodshop

When you tell somebody that you’re from Clarkston (Michigan), you’ll likely receive one of two responses: something about Pine Knob (or as the suits would call it ,“DTE Energy Music Theatre”) or something about The Union’s mac and cheese. It may be a small town, but it’s got spotlight eats. The Union’s mac and cheese is so good that you can’t take your eyes off of it to notice Kid Rock at the table next to you. (he’s a regular, the dude’s got good taste for…good taste). It’s so good that the competition is desperate to get their hands on the recipe—having been caught literally trying to get their hands on the recipe. The Union’s grub, interesting ambience (being built inside an old church) and friendly staff led to such great success that the team was able to open a second restaurant (and later a third, and a fourth) next door, the Union Woodshop. The Woodshop offers a different menu than its sister restaurant, focusing on my favorite of all the foods; and since Valentine’s Day is meant to be spent surrounded by what you love, I got some BBQ.

If the Woodshop was a dude, he’d be bearded, sporting a button-up plaid shirt, half-rim glasses, a beanie, but also, like, really good at fixing cars. If that imagery doesn’t work for you, it’s a hipster’s log cabin, with great craft brews, wood-fire pizzas, and mouth-watering, Guy Fieri endorsed smoked ‘que. Like Guy demonstrates on Triple D, my go-to order is the Porker—because what goes better with pork, than more pork? Ground pork patty, house-made hot link, and maple smoked bacon combined with explosive pickled chilies, smoked cheddar, and some South Carolina mayo spread. With all that pig no wonder Porky had a stutter. Poor guy was scared s***less.

A poor phone photo of the Porker.

A poor phone photo of the Porker.

If all of that pork makes you feel like a pig, the wood-fire pizzas are always on point. I’d recommend the Woodshop pizza, their version of the BBQ chicken pizza. In addition to the smoked chicken, you get pulled pork, brisket, onions, and a tangy Memphis sauce. The other pizzas are good, too; but I have a hard time going to a BBQ joint and not getting BBQ. It’s a sin, certainly a regret (for the secular).

tea jar

Food isn’t the only highlight of the place, however. Upstairs is also, in my opinion, the “hottest” bar in town. Now, that’s not saying much because there are only, like, three or four bars in town—but it’s still really cool! The music is hip, the feng shui is peaceful, and I fall in love with every server, but that’s just me. There are so many reasons to go to the Woodshop, make it happen.

Grand Rapids: Michigan’s Grub Capital

The Green Well Gastropub in Grand Rapids

The Green Well Gastropub in Grand Rapids

Detroit is making a comeback.  It’s picking up the pieces (of rubble) and rebuilding after decades of urban blight, white flight, and corruption.  Now, the city is looking for an identity change, a new way to brand itself in a positive light; to find the perfect model that Detroit should follow, you don’t have to look very far.

Grand Rapids is where it’s at, there’s no doubt about it.  Being a Spartan, I love Lansing–but, as a city, it doesn’t hold a candle to Grand Rapids.  I have no problem admitting Ann Arbor is a beautiful place, but is too, let’s call it, quaint next to the urban-feel you get in Grand Rapids.  Having said that, with all three of those previously mentioned cities being college towns, you won’t have a hard time finding fun in any of these areas–but when you sit down to eat, you’ll see what really makes Grand Rapids so…can I say grand?

Grand Rapids is very liberal, to sum up its population: the city is young, dreadlocked, and studying graphic design at GVSU.  That creative nature and earth-friendly attitude really comes out with the food scene that has developed in the area recently. Most restaurants are going local and organic, giving the city a comfortable community feel.  The beer you’re drinking, the bread you’re eating, and the person cooking it up for you are all local.  If you’re into microbrews, then walking through the city is like your own personal tour of Wonka.  Last weekend, I made a trip to the city with the sole purpose of grubbing down on some out-of-the-box eats and sharing some recommendations with you so you can go check it out for yourself.  Farm-to-table isn’t the only kind of grub you’ll find on your culinary crusade of Grand Rapids.  The city has an eclectic mix of ethnic cuisine: Mexican, Dutch, Italian, Mediterranean, fresh markets, anything you could want to eat is within reach. With limited time in town, I had to make choices on where I wanted to eat, so I opted to try all new places.  So, this meant I that, today, I would not be showcasing San Chez, a tapas bistro, and home of my favorite sandwich ever–EVER: the Pork Belly and Pretzel B.L.T. Sandwich. Sweet, succulent, glazed pork belly, contrasted with cold, creamy apple slaw, fresh tomato, topped with a spicy jalapeño honey mustard, all enclosed in a steamy pretzel bun.  So good that it hurt to write all of that.  I do my best to sample all of the food showcased on the Travel Channel’s Man v Food and Adam Richman’s Best Sandiwch in America, and this sandwich truly trumps the field.  This “only new restaurants” rule also meant I would not be going to another personal favorite, Marie Catrib’s–home of outstanding food that you don’t feel guilty devouring because it’s healthy and made from scratch.  Definitely check out their falafel and desserts.

Good meals are something meant to be shared, and not eaten alone, so my dad and I arrived to town for a late dinner and decided to hit up the Green Well Gastropub.  I may be a sucker, but I always get excited about places that refer to themselves as gastropubs.  Some may consider gastronomy a snobby, bourgeois way to label food; but to me, it means you’re going to get something unique–and the Green Well menu is one of a kind. They have wines made exclusively for them by a local winery (Black Star Farms) and fresh baked bread baked right in town.  Oh, that bread.  We started with an order of their Breads & Spreads and were blown away. Great artesian breads, but the spreads were the talking point.  Three spreads were given with the assortment of breads: a curry lentil dip, that was the perfect mix of spice creating layers of different tastes in the mouth; a blueberry jalapeño spread, an amazing union of heat from the pepper and cool from the yogurt-esque blueberry, interesting take on taste similar to the hot wing-ranch/bleu cheese combo; then, there was the tomato basil dip, perfect for a cool and crisp bite between the spicier spreads.

The Green Well's Bread & Spread (Dips: curry lentil, tomato basil, and blueberry jalapeño)

The Green Well’s Bread & Spread (Dips: curry lentil, tomato basil, and blueberry jalapeño)

The appetizer was good enough to make a meal, but the carbs seemed a bit overwhelming so a real meal was to be had.  I cannot recall the last time I was that overwhelmed looking at a menu.  Everything sounded good.  Korean braised beef and noodles? Yes, please. Fish tacos? All day. Chicken and Waffles, too? After many internal battles and episodes of cognitive dissonance, I finally made up my mind and ordered the Cuban Sandwich and pops went with the Green Well Pad Thai with braised beef.

The Green Well Cuban Sandwich

The Green Well Cuban Sandwich

Despite the plethora of other great choices on the menu, I did not regret my choice for a minute.  It was the type of sandwich where before you even clamp your teeth down you get the rush of flavors to the mouth.  You could probably sit there and just breathe the sandwich in and get your moneys worth (and you save the calories!).  The spices on the pork merge with the bitterness of the Swiss cheese and tangy sweet mustard to create a gift to the taste buds, ending with a crunch of the fresh local bread. Perfection. After every bite I couldn’t help but let out a muttered “Dammit” or “holy hell.”  It was so good it made me angry that I couldn’t have it in my life every day.  You know a food is up your alley when it’s so good that you roll your eyes.  I don’t know why that happens, but I have no problem with it.

Fish Lad's Menu Grand Rapids Downtown Market

Fish Lad’s Menu Grand Rapids Downtown Market

The next morning, I woke up excited for the next venture.  I did some quick research on my phone and found our next chowdown spot–we’d be heading to the Grand Rapids Downtown Market.  To anyone who describes themselves as a foodie, markets are always a utopia, and Grand Rapids didn’t dissapoint.  Everything you’d want to find at a market you could find here.  Fresh produce, butchers, artesian bakers, fresh squeezed juice, sushi, gourmet cheeses, the market is your oyster–they have those, too!  After several laps around the building, stopping to stare at the sausage menu, the taco restaurant, and several other eye grabbing eats I ended at Fish Lad’s.  I can’t see Po’ Boy on a menu and not indulge.  I’m weak like that.  It’s not often that you find a stellar Po’ Boy in Michigan.  I had the option of shrimp, oyster, and soft shell crab; all of them sounded just as amazing as the next so I asked homeboy behind the counter what the go-to is.  Before I could finish the sentence he exclaimed, “Crab. Gotta do the crab.” He looked trustworthy, so I followed his lead and went with the soft shell.  I’ve never had one but it always looks good and I was (and continue to be) intrigued by how one can eat the entire crab shell and all.  It was just as good as I had hoped it would be (paying as much as I did for it).  Each bite a delightful crunch with a fresh seafood flavor that took you out of the frigid Michigan cold and straight to somewhere tropical.  Good seafood makes me nostalgic, I can’t help it.

Fish Lad's Po Boy

Fish Lad’s Po Boy

Take a trip to Grand Rapids, catch a Griffin game, get kicked out of the B.O.B., and find something new to eat.  You won’t regret it. Now we need to take that creative gastronomy innovation going on in Grand Rapids and bring it to Detroit.  Food brings people together, and creating a happening food scene is one way to start bringing in intelligent, young people who want to create something impactful from the ground up.

GR Market Fish

Tacos, juice, and Soft shell crab Po Boy.

Tacos, juice, and Soft shell crab Po Boy.

Coney 2014: Detroit’s Top Dog

Two Big Chiefs from Bob E.'s Super Chief in Pontiac.

Two Big Chiefs from Bob E.’s Super Chief in Pontiac.

Texas has it’s brisket, Chicago is known for deep dish, and in Detroit we have our Coney Dogs. Brought to Michigan in the early 1900’s by Greek immigrants—you know what, forget the history lesson. Hot dog, onions, mustard, and a meaty (typically beanless) chili sauce—experienced veterans go “heavy, heavy.” They’re cheap, never keep you waiting, and a traditional classic—making it the ideal food for the blue-collar Detroiter. Just like any city you may find yourself in, the food is a reflection of its people—and people in Detroit aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves. Like the city, Coney Dogs are simple, disheveled, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Downtown, there are two famous Coney powerhouses, Lafayette and American Coney Island. Next-door neighbors creating a debate among Detroiters that has stretched several generations: who makes the best Coney Dog? It’s a pretty big deal here. The wrong loyalty has been known to end relationships and divide the happiest of homes. Personally, I come from a family with a strong allegiance to Lafayette. If you ever visit, make sure to check out their bathroom—it’s worth the trip. Lafayette and American Coney Island get all the national attention when it comes to Detroit Coney Dogs, but they face a lot of competition. Chains like National Coney Island and Leo’s Coney Island can be found in just about every strip mall in the state. Then, there are the small unheard of Coney joints. The hole in the walls, and well-kept secrets; the types of places even Guy Fieri hasn’t heard of—and it was inside a place like this, about twenty-five minutes outside of the city, that I found Detroit’s best Coney.

Pontiac’s ‘Bob E.’s Super Chief’ holds a special place in my heart. It’s like that indie song you found a year before it started getting plays on the radio. I’m torn between wanting to tell the world about it, and wanting it all for myself. But enough is enough; people have to know about this place. It’s small, fitting maybe fifty people at its maximum capacity. The ambiance is rustic and old fashion—a very nostalgic feel, how it would look if your Grandma were to open her own diner. It feels a lot like home, and the staff always goes out of their way to make you feel like family. However, it’s not the outstanding service or feng shui that makes Super Chief the Top Dog—it’s their Coney. That Coney and its delicious, grilled, buttery bun. Food Porn is an appropriate name. Hold photographs of their buns next to Nikki’s and see which set really make you salivate. The grilled bun adds a satisfying crunch to start and end each bite in ecstasy.

What else separates Super Chief from its competitors? About six inches. Super Chief specializes in footlongs—the perfect solution to their problem of people devouring their product so quickly. I went today and ordered two. After I finished, another pair didn’t sound too bad. They’re so good they always leave you wanting more. Well, except for that time, inspired by Adam Richman, I boldly proclaimed that I could eat six footlongs in a sitting—so my dad took me up on it. Turns out once you get around four, they lose a lot of appeal.

You can never have just one...

You can never have just one…

If you’re in Detroit and looking for a quick and easy fix, it won’t be hard to find somewhere to chowdown. But if you’re looking for the best Coney around, take the trip to Bob E.’s Super Chief on Walton Road in Pontiac. Make a day of it; turn it into a Harold and Kumar type road trip—a journey to get Super Chief’d.

Bob E.'s Super Chief on Walton Rd. in Pontiac

Bob E.’s Super Chief on Walton Rd. in Pontiac

Happy Birthday, Man

I hate to say it, but it’s very easy to forget a friend’s birthday.  I’m not as active on Facebook as I once was, some friends aren’t even on social media any more, and at times it’s hard to keep track of my own birthday.  On top of that, what constitutes as wishing someone a happy birthday?  Does a Facebook post count?  I’ve had friends get mad at me over not wishing them a happy birthday, in a proper way.  So, I took the Larry David approach to the situation, and made a sketch on the subject.  Here is our new sketch “Happy Birthday, Man.”

Cort’s Choice: 10 Favorite Albums

me and bd

I know I’m going to take some heat for this; so, before I dive in, I want to make it clear this is not a list of the best 10 albums of all-time. This is simply a list of my favorite albums; the ones I could listen to from start to finish without skipping a track. There is not a Beatles album on the list, and despite recognizing them as the greatest band to ever play, there isn’t a specific album I can listen to through and through (with all respect to The White Album). I wanted to compile a list of records that meant a lot to me, personally–something different than what you’ll find on a Rolling Stone top 25. I have always believed that you can tell a lot about a person by their taste in tunes. With that being said, here is my ten favorite albums ever along with three highlighted tracks.

10. Morning View- Incubus

This album takes me back to high-school. Whether I was looking to get pumped up (Wish You Were Here) or mellow out (Are You In?) this album had a track for whatever mood I happened to find myself in. Wish You Were Here was my favorite song growing up, but the highlight of the album is Aqueous Transmission. The use of a Chinese Pipa makes it the most tranquil song I, literally, have ever heard. It’s the perfect song for lying in a hammock taking a day nap, it takes you away as you drift to sleep. As Brandon sings about floating down a river” you can close your eyes and it feels like you’re on the wooden-makeshift raft beside him. If you know me, you know I like chill…and it doesn’t get chiller than Aqueous Transmission.

Highlights: Wish You Were Here, Aqueous Transmission, Are You In?

9. Country Grammar- Nelly

To show diversity…like, in genre, not racial/ethnical…I had to put my favorite rap album on the list. Country Grammar dropped in ’99 and is still getting mad spins on the radio. It was the first album I went out and purchased myself, so it holds a lot of sentimental value. Although, I admit, I had to buy the edited version, but that’s neither here nor there. You know the big hits from CG (Ride Wit Me, Country Grammar, E.I.), but the singles aren’t the only solid songs on the album. As a baseball fan, Batter Up has always been one of my go-to tracks. Murphy Lee’s verse was so confident and oozed swagger “I want my name not–not said but screamed, I went from fantasy to dreams and dreams to bigger things”. Long live Country Grammar, derrty.

Highlights: Besides the singles, my favorites were—Luvin’ Me, Batter Up, and Wrap Sumden.

8.Eagles- The Eagles

I remember in 8th grade, our teacher offered extra credit to anyone in the class who could name the highest-selling American band in history. Kids exclaimed their hopeful answers rapidly “The Beatles!” “Billy Joel!” “Aerosmith!” All of us were very, very wrong. Not a single student in the class guessed the Eagles, not even the kid in the patched jean jacket and concert tee. I may not have fully understood at the time, but the Eagles are worth the hype. Countless hits got them to the level they obtained, and it all started with their self-titled debut album. Take It Easy and Witchy Woman kicked this record off on the right foot, setting up one of the greatest easy-listening albums I’ve come across.

Highlights: Take It Easy, Witchy Woman, Tryin’ (most would say Peaceful, Easy, Feeling but I like Tryin’ so it’s going on my list!)

7. The Mollusk- Ween

The Ween split just might have been the saddest break-up I’ve, personally, ever gone through. From the second I heard Ween (it was Mutilated Lips) I knew that it was love. They were weird. They were smart. They were really funny. I couldn’t describe they’re style, it was comparable to no other band. To this day, I still don’t know how to describe Ween, as they can play any genre and constantly change their flavor album to album, and even track to track. Gene Ween had a bit of a dark past and struggled with demons time-to-time (you can google it, I’m not getting into it), and often put it into his songs which made the music feel very real. In songs like Birthday Boy and Baby Bitch I find myself really emphasizing to him and almost feeling his pain in a relatable way. For some reason, their weird always made sense to me. It was hard for me to choose a favorite album to share because they’re my favorite band and all of their albums are special to me. I chose The Mollusk over Chocolate and Cheese because it’s what I started with when I first got into Ween. It has the trippy/psychedelic songs like Mutilated Lips and Buckingham Green and emotional songs like It’s Gonna Be Alright. Compared to C&C, I felt like The Mollusk had a stronger line-up of songs with a deeper assortment, but I will forever second guess my decision (until three months from now when a reader happens to notice #7 has been changed to Chocolate and Cheese).

Highlights: Mutilated Lips, Ocean Man (you may recognize from the Spongebob Movie, Ween also wrote/performed the Loop-de-Loop shoestring song in Spongebob!), It’s Gonna Be Alright

6. Oracular Spectacular- MGMT

When I talk about albums I can listen to without skipping a song, this is one of the first that comes to mind. MGMT has that free-spirit look and sound that I’ve always found inspiring. They have a way to creatively speak their mind through not only their music, but dress. In other words, I love their style and Andrew VanWyngarden is the reason I started wearing long headbands in college and…I’m getting off course, sorry. We used to put on Oracular Spectacular and hangout at my buddy Goatman’s house. Sitting around talking and basking in the tunes. We would have it on an endless loop, we loved it. It had funk, it had jam, it had soul. To me, those are ingredients to the perfect album.

Highlights: Electric Feel, Time to Pretend, Of Moons, Birds, & Monsters

5. Courage to Grow- Rebelution

Courage to Grow is without doubt the most inspiring album on the list. The album is filled with good vibes, and sends a message that motivates you to be yourself and take pride in being alive and being you. My favorite song on the album is Courage to Grow. It has helped pull me out of holes and bad spots, and actually helped inspire me to start writing and doing stand-up. The is filled with motivational lyrics like “there’s nothing in the world that you can’t get; so, don’t fill your life with confusion and regret”. It really helped center that I am in control of my own destiny and that my biggest obstacle at many times is myself. The rest of the album also promotes positivity, like R Way, which takes on teaching causation in schools and Green to Black a clever take on legalization of marijuana. Rebelution got me into the new age-reggae and helped me discover other great bands like SOJA and Iration–all worth checking out.

Highlights: Courage to Grow, Ordinary Girl, Attention Span

4. Moondance- Van Morrison

If I had to choose one word to describe the Moondance album it would be nostalgic. Growing up my parents were big fans of Van and it got passed onto me. His laid-back, soulful vibe is something I’ve always admired. I often find myself wanting to live my life like a Van Morrison song. Visions of taking a nap underneath the shade of a tree in a vast, green, Irish field is a soothing image that his music typically brings. I’ve always felt Van doesn’t get enough love, Moondance in particular. Every song on the album is gold, and his work has inspired many of the greats today. This album seems to have been lost on my generation and if there’s one thing you take away from this read I hope it’s to look into or rediscover Van Morrison. Moondance is filled with classics that effortlessly flow together on the album. I’ve always considered it to be one of the best albums for a road trip because you can put it in and drift away listening to it, use it as background music while you talk with friends, or anything–it’s great for all sorts of settings.

Highlights: And It Stoned Me, Into the Mystic, Crazy Love

3. Loverboy- Brett Dennen

Brett Dennen is my favorite singer/songwriter. On my iTunes top 25 most played songs playlist, I’m pretty sure BD is at least 22 of them. He has a heart of gold and it shows in his music and having the pleasure to have met him it was refreshing to see he was just as genuine and good-hearted in person. Four of the albums on this list of 10 could have been Brett, but I had to mix it up. Hope for the Hopeless, So Much More, his self-titled album, and even his new Smoke and Mirrors albums were strong contenders to make the list. I always find myself switching which album is my favorite. Some days the soul he brings on Hope for the Hopeless in songs like Wrong About Me and Ain’t Gonna Lose You is the best, and others times I like the poetic feel of his old tunes like The One Who Loves You the Most. I went with Loverboy because the songs have a lot of sentimental value for me. I was going through a lot around the time the album came out and songs like Only Rain really helped me find something to relate to and kept my head above water. I had the opportunity to ask Brett to describe Only Rain in one word and he said “Optimism” and that really stuck. Queen of the Westside is probably my favorite track on the album because it’s so funky and unlike anything he’s done before. I’d love to hear more sexy jams like that from him. Sorry for the adjective, but that’s the best way I can describe it.

I’m in his music video at 2:39

Highlights: Queen of the Westside, Comeback Kid, Must Be Losing My Mind

2. Continuum- John Mayer

If he wasn’t so concerned about being a hammy, pop-icon, sex symbol John Mayer could be one of the best musicians of all-time. The guy can shred! Such a talented guitarist and writer. I can’t imagine where he would be if he lost that ego and focused on the tunes alone. When he plays the blues he plays it like the best. Forget the radio, John! Anyways, Continuum showcases his skill set and really separated him from the pack. This is the kind of music he should be making. It’s bluesy, it’s emotional, and it’s honest. It doesn’t get realer than the truth he spills in I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You) and Slow Dancing in a Burning Room is a song that could make even make the manliest man croon and reflect on all the wrong and hurt they’ve caused (maybe not the manliest man but certainly…well, at least, me). This is easily one of my favorite albums of all-time and I can’t name a song on the record that I don’t like. For the record, John Mayer’s live ‘Where the Light Is’ special is something to behold and his best work, but I don’t want to include any collaboratives or ‘best of’s on this list, just the studio albums.

Highlights: Slow Dancing in a Burning Room, I Don’t Trust Myself (With Loving You), Vultures

1. In Between Dreams- Jack Johnson

We have finally reached number one. In Between Dreams is timeless. From start to finish it doesn’t get old and is the easiest of easy listening music. It’s catchy, mellow, and essentially a bath for the soul. It doesn’t matter where you are or who you’re with, In Between Dreams can supply the good vibes and fit any mood. It’s very hard to feel negative or down when this album’s on, it’s very hakuna matata, for lack of a better term. Jack’s lyrics are easy to relate to yet smart enough to make you think. My favorite tunes are the kind you can just put on and everyone can vibe to it and have a good time, and that’s Jack’s specialty. In Between Dreams is one good song to the next, even the slower songs, such as No Other Way, are deep and retain your attention.

Highlights: Better Together, Never Know, Crying Shame