I ate dog meat in Vietnam

All photos by Zachary Fagenson
Dog meat, herbs, fish sauce.
No I don't know what breed it was. Yes, I know I'm disgusting. It tastes mostly like overcooked lamb. The worst part is actually the mushy gray fermented shrimp sauce that smells like a bowl of anchovies left to bake in the sun for six months.

Now that your basic questions about dog meat, thit cho (pronounced teet-choh) in Vietnamese, are out of the way we can dig a little deeper

In northern Vietnam dog meat is a common, even celebratory meal fare. It is safest, I'm told, to eat at restaurants that specialize in it. It's not uncommon for the poor to dig up a recently deceased Snoopy or pull a stray off the street and sell it to the highest bidder eager to make an extra buck.

In a country where a plate of grilled pork meatballs or chicken thighs sprinkled with rock sugar and fish sauce might cost you a dollar or two, a plate of dog meat with ribbons of fat and skin attached to each will cost you seven.

Easy to find, not for the squeamish.
North Vietnam's taste for dog (and cat) meat stems from yearlong famine that took place there in 1944 and 45, long before work began on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and hippies burned their draft cards.

"Look around," my guide told me on a drive through rice paddies en route to Ha Long Bay. "You don't see any wild animals."

Somewhere between 400,000 and 2 million people died when Vietnam's then colonial master, France, forced its agrarian economy into one to support the war effort.

Desperate to survive the Vietnamese ate anything that moved. And today much of it can still be found on the street. In and around Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam (also called Saigon) thit cay (rat meat) is the preferred obscure protein.

Yet it was dog meat that became the most sought after.

For the first timer, it would be easiest to down for the tucked into a crispy baguette with chilies and a small field of greens, but that's too good to be true. It comes as a heaping grey pile, skin and fat attached, next to a basket of herbs, a small bowl of fish sauce with diced chilies and the aforementioned shrimp sauce.

Luck for you thit cho is always consumed with a bottle eye-crossing rice wine. Dig in.

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Chivas Express in Miami Lakes Offers BOGO Bandeja Paisa Wednesdays

Categories: Cheap Eats

The carne molida (ground beef) option.

We don't often (or ever, really) refer to Miami Lakes as a culinary mecca, but the amazing deal we stumbled upon at Chivas, a gem inconspicuously located in a nondescript strip mall right off the Palmetto Expressway, is definitely worth mentioning.

Although the restaurant specializes in Colombian food, Chivas also offers Latin cuisine -- a catch-all phrase being used more and more as restaurants compete for customers in a city where Latin restaurants are ubiquitous. We've come across fritangas offering medianoches and Cuban restaurants offering salpicon (a dry, finely ground beef featured in Nicaraguan cuisine). Miami's Hispanic eateries are suffering from identity crises -- all in the name of diversification.

On Wednesdays, Chivas offers one of the best dining specials anywhere in the city: a bandeja paisa BOGO. For only $9.49 plus tax, you get not one bandeja paisa, but two. Yes, two -- meaning you and a friend can each enjoy a full, delicious meal loaded with protein for the paltry sum of $5 apiece.

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Ten Reasons South Miami Is the Best Dining Neighborhood

Fine and fashionable restaurants have been opening in South Beach, downtown, midtown, and the Design District for years. These areas seem to attract all the major chefs. So why venture to South Miami and nearby Pinecrest? Well, down here, you won't find many major openings, but you will find reasonably priced local favorites, including a wide selection of Asian and Cuban joints. Read on to find out why you should make the trip.

See also: Ten Reasons North Beach Is Miami's Best Dining Neighborhood

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Blackbrick Offers $10 Lunch Special Featuring Local Produce

Categories: Cheap Eats

Inside Blackbrick in midtown
Romanesco is a funny-looking vegetable. It's pale green like Gak and covered in tiny spikes. It looks like broccoli's edgy cousin and tastes like a grassier version of cauliflower. It is stunning.

Have you tried it before? Because if you haven't, now's a good time. The locally-grown brassica is available at Blackbrick in midtown. Owner Richard Hales is offering it as a part of his new $10 lunch special.

See also: Blackbrick in Midtown Serves the Chinese Food You've Been Waiting For

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Krispy Krunchy Chicken: Delicious Fried Chicken in South Beach

Categories: Cheap Eats

Photos by Carina Ost
Crispy and crunchy.
Miami has several good destinations for fried chicken, but nothing beats the hidden places. Maybe it's because we can all walk into Publix and get a box of crisp golden breasts, thighs, wings, and drumsticks. So everything else better be tastier and have some sort of allure.

If you're already in the know about Joe's Take Away fried chicken, we have another South Beach chicken secret to share. Located in a much less iconic place, Krispy Krunchy Chicken resides at So Bee Incorporated on Washington Avenue at 14th Street. It's a fried chicken franchise inside a convenience store, and it serves some seriously delicious bird with a Cajun kick.

See also: Doma Polo Bistro: Now Serving Tapas Towers

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Jerusalem Deli & Cafe in North Miami: Try the Hummus and Baklava

Photos by Carina Ost
Shawarma, schwing!
Cruising on Biscayne Boulevard towards 163rd street in North Miami, Jerusalem Deli & Cafe is undetectable in its strip mall location. But once you discover this holy city-named cafe, you'll be drawn to it forever. After our first encounter, we revisited three times that same week. Now we have plans to go back and eat our way through the menu and salad case.

The pull is fantastic: flavorful, fresh food, friendly service, and affordable prices. Also, the owner -- whose name is Wissam El-Zoor, but goes by Sam -- knows what's up. He gave us a high-five and baklava on the house during our second visit after we correctly guessed he was from Lebanon. One bite of that sweet, sticky, layered, pistachio-dusted pastry and we were instant fans.

See also: Fish Fish in North Miami Serves Classic Fish, Salads, and Treats

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Sweet Dogs: Try the Mac and Cheese Hot Dog

Carina Ost
The mac.
After eating healthy all year -- nearly three weeks! -- we just had to give in to temptation. The Super Bowl is around the corner and junk food is on our minds. It's time to trade in those salads and surrender to the ultimate guilty pleasure: a hot dog.

Thankfully, Sweet Dogs in Flagami serves up some outrageous dogs with decadent toppings, including one with macaroni and cheese.

See also: Ten Best Lunch Specials Under $10

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Ten Best Lunch Specials Under $10

Carina Ost
Barbecue pork, fried rice, and an egg roll for under ten bucks. You're welcome.
Lunch is your afternoon delight, your hump meal, the moment that sets the tone for the second half of your day.

It's not something that should be taken lightly or skipped. And most important, during the workweek, it should never cost more than $10.

What follows are the top ten lunch specials in Miami, so you can keep your stomach full and your wallet a little fatter.

See also: Miami's Top Ten Inexpensive Restaurants

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Chivitoteca in North Beach: Try the Monstrous CharrĂșa Platter

Chivitoteca via Facebook
The monstrous charrĂșa platter at Chivitoteca
If you frequented the now-defunct El Rey del Chivito, you should know there's a new king in town. Chivitoteca recently took over the North Beach space. It has kept most old menu items, added new ones, and dropped some prices.

The word chivito literally translates to "little goat," but that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about a very special Uruguayan sandwich. The history behind the dish varies, but we'll stick with the story printed on the menu.

See also: 15 Steps: Farm-to-Fork at Eden Roc Miami Beach

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Pack Super Market: Crispy, Crunchy Fried Chicken in Little Haiti

Photos by Zachary Fagenson
Fried chicken, rice and peas, and fried plantains at Pack.
The fried chicken at Pack Super Market in Little Haiti isn't something you'd find easily on the island.

Kernizan Philias, who with his family opened the bare-bones market and counter-only eatery on NW 2nd Avenue 16 years ago, said the recipe is based on griot -- fried chunks of pork shoulder.

"It was a family recipe, and we just tried it out before we put it in the market when we opened," says Philias, who goes by the nickname "Kiki."

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