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The 10 most overrated menu items of the moment

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The list in which we loosen a release valve and let it all out. Ohhhh, that feels good. 

10. Arancini

For sure a great idea for Italian American institutions not knowing what to do with the leftover risotto, or for thick-biceped grandmas trying to feed the brood the next day, but these needn't find their way onto fine dining menus anymore. Rarely do they achieve the balance of texture to render them showstoppers: shatter-crisp on the outside, creamy within. And even if they did, it's still just a deep-fried rice ball, and now you've gotta give it a sauce too, to make it worthwhile. They're clunky, greasy, and kinda dumb. Leave them to the oily paper bags of New York City and to the grandmamas. 

  1. House-Cured Lox

Have you ever bitten into a slice of cured salmon, spit it out into your napkin, and declared: "I say! This fish isn't house-cured! Well, I never!" It's admirable if a chef wants to take the time to house-cure this most ubiquitous of fishes, but it's not a big enough deal to list it as a menu feature. If I've had one lox, I've had them all, and if you switched your house-cured one out for the Costco cryovac, I couldn't tell, just don't forget the schmear, mkay? 

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  1. Fancied Up Mac & Cheese

    There are precious few truly perfect macaroni and cheeses in this world that do not come out of a box. Say what you will about boxed macaroni and cheese, they work, thanks to the many stabilizers within that ensure a smooth experience, every time. A scratch cheese sauce requires a pro-touch because it is a delicate and ferocious animal — threatening to become gritty, separated, and off-putting with even the most concentrated of efforts. I have eaten so very few perfect macaroni and cheeses in restaurants. That said, none of the mediocre ones has ever been salvaged by the addition of crab, lobster, bacon, chives, sausage, or chicken. You want these things in your M&C? Get some Hamburger Helper. Put this on your menu only if you can achieve a perfect and classic one, every time, then leave everything else off to the side, because now you've got some button-busting to do. 

    7. Rice Bowls

    We loved it when World Street Kitchen came out with their Yum Yum bowl, a hungry line cook's defense when the dinner rush finally ceased and he couldn't face the house menu to assuage his own tummy grumblings. A pile of rice, a bit of this and that with an egg and some hot sauce is a genius foil for the hangries, indeed. But now that everyone's got one, from every food truck to KFC for goodness's sake, it's time to come up with a new "thing." 

  2. "Specialty" Sushi Rolls

    Sashimi, that most pristine of all nature's ingredients, the one that takes precious flesh from creatures so fresh that it needn't be cooked. Now doesn't that sound divine? No? Well, how about instead we roll it around in some sugary sauce, fatty avocado, overcooked rice, and sprinkle it with "crunchies?" There. Now we've fixed that. 

    5. Hummus

    Unless your mom taught you to make it in another country that isn't this one, your hummus is probably not good enough to justify having on a menu. And if you're ordering hummus in a restaurant, what has happened? Did you mistake the word "restaurant" for "supermarket" or "your own refrigerator"? Now that it's available at Super America, day care centers, and hospital cafeterias, let's leave menu line-item space for something else. Just for now. Hell, bring back ranch and veggies. It's got retro charm, at least. 

    4. Breakfast Pizza

    No pizza has ever been improved, not a single one, by placing scrambled eggs upon it. I like scrambled eggs just fine, indeed. I like pizza too! But the thought that a classic breakfast item must be piled upon one to make it justifiable for breaking fast is nonsensical. Pizza is a fine thing to have in the morning, pepperoni and all. Put the babies at the kids' table with the scrambies and the juice. I'll be over here, like a boss, having whatever the hell I want for breakfast.The pizza, large, and wine. Leave the bottle. 

    3. Fried Pickles

    Did something go terribly wrong in your childhood? Did your mother feed you bubble gum and call it breakfast cereal? Did whiskey flow from your water faucets? Was the basement in the attic and vice versa? Must I tell you that a pickle must inherently be cool, crisp, and briny or it ceases to be a pickle? And if you were to drop it into burning hot oil it would shrink in upon itself, become sad, soft, and limpid? And nobody likes those things? Let us go forth and keep pickles in jars, batter where it belongs, and perhaps it's time to set down the whiskey, because you're drunk.

    2. Oyster shooters

    One of those things that's never been said: "You know what this Bloody Mary needs? A boogery oyster sitting at the bottom for me to potentially choke upon!" The best thing about an oyster is the brine, that transporting sip of seawater. When it's been removed from that context, and is sitting idly within the viscosity of tomato juice, something gets desperately lost in translation. Give me the Bloody and give it to me in Grown Up Lady Size, and not a "shooter" — shooters are for straight-up booze, remember? And put the oysters on the side. On the half shell. On ice. With a lemon wedge. Like you do. 

    1. Flatbreads

    Is there any logical reason we couldn't have just had pizza instead?