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The CBH Test

I love having breakfast at a diner. While a chain restaurant (Bob Evans, Perkins, IHOP) is good, there is nothing like finding a joint…a slop house…a diner. You drive up to it and may find that it is a hole in the wall. The open sign may be handwritten. The register is likely at the counter and the space behind the counter is crammed with items taking every available inch of space. If you are lucky, the menu is on the wall with names like “Frank’s special” and “Garbage Omelette”. The “special” should never be more than $3.49 and your choice of toast is included. If you walk in and there isn’t a line of hashbrowns on the grill, you’re in the wrong place.

The first time in a joint like this is a test. While there may be good items on the menu (gyro omelette, chili and eggs), I scan for corned beef hash (CBH) and eggs. This is my “go-to” dish to test if the place is a real diner or just going through the motions. For those who are unfamiliar, CBH is simply bits of corned beef, potatoes and occasionally onions. While not a tough dish, minor variations matter.

Let’s say they bring this out.

This is not good. It may smell good, but I can tell you they didn’t make the corned beef or the hash. This is where they got it.

Looks innocent enough. At least until you take it out of the can.

How come it doesn’t look like the picture on the can?!?!?

There is a place that I will sometimes stop on my way into the office to pick up breakfast that really does it right. They make their own corned beef and every day make hash.

The have small chunks of corned beef and diced potatoes. Fried up to perfection!

When you speak of corned beef in Cleveland, one and only one restaurant comes up, Slyman’s. While a joint itself, it has hosted presidents and hundreds of Hollywood and sports legends over the years. Every year on St. Patrick’s day, they sell thousands of pounds of corned beef sandwiches. Their CBH is fantastic.

While I don’t often make it at home, I insure I have extra ingredients left over from the Irish Egg Rolls to make some. This is deli corned beef sliced thin and diced, and shredded hash browns. Yum!

Do you have a “go to” test dish for the places you go? Know of a great dive that makes their own CBH? Let me hear about it.

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Categories: Breakfast, Eating Out, Recipes

Author:The Ranting Chef

Check out the best recipes at rantingchef.com

66 Comments on “The CBH Test”

  1. April 1, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    I could not agree with you more! Corned Beef Hash is the true test of the breakfast menu at the local greasy spoon. I used to live in a town with a small “railcar” diner in the heart of town. It had been owned and operated by the same husband-wife team for 50 years. The corned beef hash arrived with a crunchy crust form the flat top and a taste that coudl not be matched by anything in a can. When they retired they sold it to their son who promptly replaced the cbh with canned slop. He sold it back to his parents with in a year. They sold it again and again the cbh failed the taste test.

    Sad because it certainly costs no more to make it right than to open a can and it is just a little time spent at the flat top to get it right.

    So few places have good corned beef hash now….

  2. April 1, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    I love your blog! The meals you make looks so amazing!

  3. April 1, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    eeoo, that looks quite nasty when cold and in the can.. my test breakfast dish is eggs benedict! c

  4. April 1, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    If I didn’t already follow your blog, this post would have demanded that I start. My husband makes fun of me because I always get at least a side of cbh at every diner. I only get the full plate if I know they make it from scratch. I will, however eat the canned stuff – I just don’t like to pay $8.00 for it when I can get it for $1.00 at the store. Another test item for me is French Toast. It’s kind of hard to screw up, but if it’s mushy and slimy in the middle, they did it wrong. It has to be set up and firm in the middle.

  5. April 1, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    My go to is “southern style biscuits and gravy.” If they have “Red Eye” gravy they earn extra points. But CBH is another good choice. Now off to cook breakfast.

  6. April 1, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    I am down with the CBH test.

  7. April 1, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Eggs over hard. Do you know that so many places can’t do eggs over hard. I used to live right next to a place called The Diner. It was one of those tiny, train car shaped places. Only open for Breakfast and Lunch. Perfect eggs over hard. Lovely had browns. Chicken fried steak for only 5$ and that might have been the most expensive breakfast item. The lunch time burgers were more. But my Go To item is the eggs.

  8. April 1, 2012 at 11:45 am #

    Oh man! I loved this post. You are so right (and that canned corned beef hash? omg. no. gross!)
    My “go to” dish is French Toast. It has to be made with challah bread–slightly stale to really soak up the egg. I can never have french toast out because nobody makes it with challah EXCEPT in certain places in NYC usually in a Jewish neighborhood. There was a diner in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, within walking distance of my in-laws, that served challah (they pronounced it “holly”) french toast. Your post made me think of this today. It was a really good memory. Thanks! And your CBH looks to die for.

  9. April 1, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    My Go-To as a cheese burger …

  10. April 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    Gravy is another one for me. If it doesn’t taste ‘homemade’ and is glossy, watery or has a tinge of anything even remotely representing a pre-mix, I won’t go back. Gravy from scratch is a must for my diner breakfast to be completely satisfying (& my homemade b&g too).

    The CBH looks divine! You’re making me hungry for some good diner food!

  11. April 1, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    Wonderful post! As a young cub, my mom cooked up real corned beef hash for breakfast. I was disappointed the first time I ordered it at a diner.(That hasn’t deterred me from loving diners and dives, though!. Thanks for bringing attention back to such a simple dish that really deserves center stage a lot more often than I give it.

  12. April 1, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    I need to share this post with my mom, who is the family’s corned beef hash connoisseur! Not sure she’s heard of Slyman’s. Corky & Lenny’s – sure. And there’s a small diner in Twinsburg that makes their own corned beef and corned beef hash – she swears it’s the best.

  13. April 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    Scrambled eggs, bacon and home fries. Seriously, it’s nearly impossible to screw this up, and any real diner can slap it hot and steamy (and ever so slightly greasy) on your plate in five minutes, but many places just don’t get it right. The plate is too perfect, the eggs too fluffy. I like the egg cloud that’s been ‘folded’ not scrambled. I like the bacon cooked and slightly dry, not too salty and definitely not a wad of wet meat strips. If rye toast is on the choice list, I’m sold!

  14. April 1, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    Killer Post!
    CBH is so high on my list of greatness! I am also a freak for a great diner (of which I have found NONE in Denver)
    I want to come to Cleveland just to eat these places you list :-)

  15. April 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    HeeHee! I thought I was the only one who did the CBH test. But I stopped doing it years ago because I couldn’t find anyone who made it from scratch any more. Hmmm…yeah, right about the time I stopped eating out for breakfast. I was tired of the disappointment. And yeah, Mr Markls, the crunchy crust from the flat top was exactly what I was thinking about when I was reading the article. That’s the true test.

    If I’m going to eat out, they need to cook at least as well as I do.

  16. April 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    I don’t know if it’s just symptomatic of my ‘from the box, from the can, microwaveable’ childhood, but I really haven’t ever enjoyed corned beef hash. It’s probably because it was that nasty opaque log…. Perhaps I oughta give it a try again.

  17. April 1, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Don’t have a go to dish but I guess I should have one. Humm, will have to think about it.

  18. April 1, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    Great post!
    I have to make some CSI to determine if I’m able to make this here is Madrid… ;)

  19. April 1, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

    I don’t have a diner-test (seeing how we don’t really have diners in Germany, anyway), but I know I judge cafes and bakeries by their croissants. While a decent croissant — light, crisp and airy — can be made even from most pre-made “just pop them in the oven at home” products, it’s incredible how many bakeries still give you croissants that taste like cardboard.

    • April 1, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

      So true on the croissants. I never learned how to make real pastry, and I won’t use commercial puff pasty, even though it’s regrettably good, because I feel like it’s cheating. There is only one bakery in all of Tucson with decent croissants and pastries. So I do without, and my waistline is grateful. HeeHee.

  20. April 1, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    Want to hear a horror story? My Mother used to serve the canned CBH to us. She’d open the can, ‘thunk’ it out onto a plate and slice it with a butter knife and say “Eat!”. Mother had a very simple cooking philosopy; ‘from the can, to the pan, to the man in 10 minutes or less’. If she could bypass the pan she considered it a minor victory. I wouldn’t touch the stuff until I rediscovered it while serving in the Navy. The cooks prepared it in the mess decks, and it wasn’t from a can. I’ve been hooked ever since!

  21. April 1, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    Who can eat canned CBH again after seeing your photo of it straight out of the can? All food is as good as the ingredients and fresh ingredients is key. Thanks for another good post.

  22. April 1, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    Eggs over easy. If a diner can’t cook an egg over easy with the right amount of runny-ness in the yolk and a somewhat crisp, but not stale burnt edge, it’s not worth my time.

    • April 4, 2012 at 10:53 am #

      Amen thefloog Amen

      Eggs over easy is sooooo tastey, there are so few places that even understand the meaning of the term or what the eggs should look, taste, act like.
      If a joint can do eggs over easy i will be a customer for life!

      Jeff

      • April 6, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

        And they’re so useful in just about any breakfast dish! I wont order or make huevos rancheros if I can’t have runny yolks to sop up with warm tortillas. :)

  23. artistmum
    April 1, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    Nothing like a yum corned beef and hash with eggs over easy and warm toast on the side for a hearty morning breakfast :)
    Not too many diners where I live but I’ve been to a few in travels along the east coast. Sometimes when you’re real hungry, anything tastes good!
    Happy ranting!

  24. April 1, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    I have not heard of Slyman’s and I’m currently not eating meat (it’s a one-year challenge), but this is tempting me to give up the challenge early. Corned beef hash is one of my two go-to breakfast test dishes (the other is eggs benedict).
    That stuff in the can is very unattractive.

  25. April 1, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    Corned beef hash is one of my all-time favorites. As a matter of fact, I posted my recipe on my blog right after St. Patrick’s Day. I prefer to use leftover corned beef over the deli corned beef (just my preference) but I love it and it is something I do get at our local diner for breakfast. One of my go-to diner meals is usually the chicken salad club sandwich with bacon on rye bread. If they can do that one well, they’re okay in my book.

  26. shrotz
    April 1, 2012 at 9:46 pm #

    Yummm canned meat… It makes me rethink my brunch choices ^^;
    I like to test new restaurants with the classic eggs benedict; something about a perfectly balanced hollandaise sauce, a slightly runny egg, and a freshly baked English muffin really hits the spot… and my likelihood of coming back! Now if only I could perfect that recipe…

  27. April 1, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    That CBH looks great. Sounds like I’ll have to make a stop at Slyman’s whenever I decide to make that road trip to Cleveland.

  28. April 1, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    Slyman’s is a corned beef legend :)

  29. Matt Henry
    April 1, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    I am curious. I started to read the post and instantly thought of my local diner, Frank’s Diner and their famous Garbage plate. You eaten there? It is excellent and regardless, good post.

  30. April 2, 2012 at 2:02 am #

    When I was a teenager and in my 20’s, it would always be strawberry crepes or waffles. You would think most restaurants that serve breakfast would be able to make both things well, but that’s not the case. When you go out to eat, you expect your ingredients to be fresh. Unfortunately, not all restaurants make things fresh.

  31. April 2, 2012 at 2:06 am #

    Wow, It’s a good post. It inspire me for my lunch box :) Our office just moved to Office Building , we are in 34th floor, it such a hassle to go down stairs to get lunch. Thank you

  32. April 2, 2012 at 2:52 am #

    If you added a big heaping scoop of rice, I would be in love. This is soooo a good breakfast.

  33. April 2, 2012 at 6:38 am #

    I’m not fond of CBH, but I do test a diner’s abilities via their hash browns, which is very similar. If they don’t dice their own potatoes and fry them up crispy and brown, then they’re just not a real diner.

    Great post!

  34. April 2, 2012 at 7:01 am #

    LOVE Diner Breakfasts. Go every weekend I can with my parents. For us, its getting the hashbrowns done extra crispy, and the specials are only worth it when they INCLUDE coffee with their price. Fun post :)

  35. April 2, 2012 at 10:06 am #

    Depends on the cuisine, but minestrone for an Italian place, sausage for a breakfast joint, and chile relleno for a Mexican restaurant.

  36. lmwills1
    April 2, 2012 at 10:24 am #

    Oh how I miss corned beef. Moving from Cleveland to Houston was awesome, but the selection of good delis have dropped to zero. And corned beef is as hard to find as a pot of gold. Sigh. Lol great post.

  37. April 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Great blog! I love a good breakfast…any time of the day. Corned beef, cheesy grits, fried ham/bacon. YUMMY And the best places are definitely those hole in the walls. My hubby spots those at any new city we visit. He says to learn about a city you have to eat like the “real” locals. Our fav spots are those pharmacy/diners with old red vinyl seats.
    Thank you for your great posts. :)

  38. April 2, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    CBH is one of my favorites but I have yet to find it homemade here in my neck of the woods. I’m on a quest now, thanks to you. I’m the only one at home that enjoys it so I wouldn’t take the time to make it homemade just for me.

  39. April 2, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    Oh NOM. CBH is one of the dishes I miss dearly since going vegan. If you’re ever in Chicago, Tre Kronor is an awesome, homey Swedish restaurant that has great CBH.

  40. April 2, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

    Ah, CBH was and is still one of my favorite! The wife always looks at me funny when I order it. This post really stirred up an appetite for it again!

  41. jknitt
    April 2, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    Way back when I used to live in the south I remember frequenting Waffle Houses. They somehow managed to franchise the greasy spoon concept. Many an early morning, and even more late nights, were spent hunched over the counter or crammed in a booth with all your buddies and ordering hashbrowns, “scattered, covered, and chunked.”

  42. April 2, 2012 at 5:24 pm #

    I know biscuits and gravy can be simple, but when made right, I’m in heaven. There’s a great little place in Bozeman, MT called the Stockyard Cafe. Yep, a cafe on a stockyard.

  43. April 2, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    Wonder where we can find CBH in Sydney?

  44. April 2, 2012 at 11:29 pm #

    I LOVE hole in the wall joints! My go to would be hashbrowns and an egg & cheese omelet. Nothing crazy but you’re right, minor variations and it makes a big difference.

  45. sofichick
    April 3, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    So true!! Growing up, we used to eat CBH every weekend it seemed, but I didn’t put too much thought into it because I wasn’t the one cooking it (or opening the can up and seeing it, as I’m sure my parents didn’t make it from scratch). Hole in the wall diners tend to be some of the yummiest places, especially for breakfast any time stuff. I like my CBH made from scratch with two eggs over medium. :)

  46. April 3, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    We are huge fans of breakfast for dinner at my house. My boys are all about omelettes or anything that serves as a vehicle for syrup. The Bacon Slayer will get CBH or biscuits & gravy every time–but only if both are made on site. Me? I like a good (not runny) omelette or loaded “real” hashbrowns.

    Great blog!

  47. April 3, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

    Hash browns. It’s all about the hash browns.

  48. April 3, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    This is a great recipe…that can thing made me shiver! I kid my husband who gets tempted by the photos on the can to actually purchase the stuff and when he did, I found it in the pantry and couldn’t help myself…I drew a scull and crossbones on the label with a speech balloon saying “Me used to love it.”

    I heard him laughing in the kitchen one day and asked him what is it? He appeared around the corner with the can I drew on, still laughing then he dropped it in the trash can. I will show him your way, the right way, to have CBH.

  49. nancyinmi
    April 3, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    Couldn’t agree with you more! CBH is the litmus test for any breakfast joint I try. The best I’ve ever had was a log lodge of a restaurant on Rte. 2 in Michigan’s UP. Wish I could remember the name, but If I’m ever taking the drive to Manistique again, that’s where I will stop for breakfast (if they are still there).

  50. April 3, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    No place seems to have CBH that tastes like the stuff of my childhood. Then again the CBH of my childhood was really Red Flannel Hash made from leftover boiled dinner. I come somewhat close making my own but never just right. It isn’t something anyone ever wrote down so the secret died with the generation before me.

  51. April 3, 2012 at 10:42 pm #

    Same here! I can eat breakfast any hour of the day! I wish I could just take that plate from the picture and eat it!

  52. Amanda
    April 4, 2012 at 3:42 am #

    If they use Egg Beaters to make my scrambled eggs… DEAL BREAKER!

    I love corned beef hash. I can eat corned beef by itself, rice or with some bread! I grew up on the stuff though Lol.

  53. April 4, 2012 at 4:30 am #

    Hello there, simply turned into alert to your weblog through Google, and found that it is really informative. I am gonna be careful for brussels. I’ll be grateful for those who proceed this in future. Many people will likely be benefited from your writing. Cheers!

  54. April 5, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    In the UK we have similar branded chains and the UK typical pub grub such as Wetherspoons, Yates, The Eldon, where foods are already pre-cooked and just microwaved. Disgusting actually to think about it. I guess it’s one of those things where ‘what you don’t know can’t harm you’. But since I’ve known about this, I refuse to eat there,

  55. April 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    My go to is chicken wings. If a place can make great chicken wings, chances are the rest of their food is amazing too. If it’s crap, well, maybe some other menu item will redeem it, but I won’t be going there often.
    For the record, I use to work in a bowling alley snack bar. It was called a snack bar but we served everything from burgers and fries to patty melts to pizzas and wings. I was told I made the best wings ever, and customers continuously commented on how great the other food I made was. Even though the burger patties were the frozen kind in a box, and the wings were just coated in sauce, something about the way I made them just made them better than the other employees.

  56. April 8, 2012 at 12:27 am #

    Costco has a pretty good corned beef. Sear it and then boil it for a few hours and its good to go. It lasts my boyfriend and I a few days. I always pick one up when I’m at Costco.

  57. April 8, 2012 at 12:28 am #

    Oh and I had no idea corned beef in a can looked like that :-P yuck!

  58. April 8, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    Oh man, I love diners, and the corned beef hash is my litmus test too. I went to three breakfast joints in NYC that had pretty good online reviews – all of them used canned corn beef – huge disappointment.

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