When you’re married, your favorite television shows generally become whatever your wife’s favorite shows are.
This is the unwritten deal so that I can watch sports when needed.
With the exception of “Supernatural” reruns, this is generally fine. My wife and I usually like the same shows, and in many cases, YouTube videos.
One of the YouTubers she’s got me interested in watching is Mike Chen, who has the channels Mikey Chen and Strictly Dumpling, the latter of which has 3.85 million subscribers.
The videos feature Chen visiting restaurants all over the world. They are primarily Asian restaurants, but he also goes to many barbecue, Mexican and hamburger restaurants, along with pretty much any other type of restaurant.
We’ve become such big fans that I shelled out $100 last year for Mike to give my wife a birthday greeting on Cameo. That’s the only time I’ve done that. I felt comfortable doing it in Chen’s case because he donates all the money he earns from Cameo to restaurant workers struggling during the pandemic.
Chen had been living in Dallas, Texas, near where my family lives.
On our last trip to Dallas, we went to Terry Black’s Barbecue, based on Chen’s recommendation, and it was amazing. We were looking forward to going to more restaurants he likes when we visit my parents again.
I even told my father about a tamale place Chen recommended. My dad, who doesn’t like anything, got takeout tamales and loved them.
So we had quite an eye-opener recently when we saw one of his videos titled “Mexican Birria Pizza, Ramen Restaurant and Life in St. Louis Missouri.” Uh, what was that last part?
We thought maybe Chen drove through St. Louis on his way between Dallas and Chicago. Or maybe he was reminiscing about a visit to St. Louis when he attended Truman State University in Kirksville or when he spent part of his childhood in Quincy, Illinois, where his parents owned a restaurant — I actually asked Chen to give St. Louis restaurant recommendations for the Cameo greeting, but he didn’t seem to remember much.
But no. The video starts off in New York City, then Chen goes to Chicago. Finally, Chen goes to St. Louis and announces he is moving there, at least part time, because his new girlfriend now lives there.
This was amazing news, because Chen visits many local restaurants and gives interesting, humorous reviews in whatever town he lives in. We couldn’t wait to see the first place he went.
It was also kind of shocking that Chen would move back, since he liked to call our state “Misery” when he looked back on his time here.
Since Mike’s St. Louis pad is an apartment overlooking Forest Park, he went nearby to a barbecue place called Beast Butcher & Block.
It looked amazing, so we decided to head there a few days later on our anniversary. Chen ate this 30-ounce pork steak that I had to try.
“As soon as you take a bite, the smoke just invades and covers up your taste buds, lingering on the tip of your tongue,” Chen described it.
I’ve eaten homemade pork steaks before, but I’d never eaten the St. Louis delicacy in a restaurant, particularly a smoked pork steak.
It was quite a hunk of meat, so I shared a good bit of it with my wife. The meat was the most tender I’d ever had, nearly melting in my mouth. It cost $18.99, quite a deal for all the meat you get. (For the record, it was the only meal we ate that day.)
The only weird thing was that the potato salad was not the seared potato salad Mike ate in the video. Maybe they had a run on the seared potato salad because of the video — the “Mikey Chen effect” has been documented.
Since then, Chen has done a couple other videos in St. Louis. We’ve never been to any of the restaurants he’s reviewed in town, though he did go into an Asian market that we considered visiting recently but decided against because we had the dogs in the car. (If I could give one tip to Chen, it would be to try the Pan-Asia Supermarket in Manchester.)
So there are many new places to try. Some of them are near my wife’s job in St. Louis, so I keep asking her to get takeout and bring it home.
We don’t expect Mike to stay in St. Louis forever. Along with Dallas,where he says he will still live part time, he has lived in Seattle and New York in the past couple years.
We’ve spent time in all those areas, too, so that helped make the videos interesting. When you compare the view from Chen’s St. Louis apartment with the small place he had in Seattle, it says quite a lot about housing costs in the two areas — and shows a reason we left the Pacific Northwest.
And even when Chen lives somewhere, he tends to not spend that much time at home. Before the pandemic, he traveled a lot internationally. Recently, he has gone around the U.S., spending a good deal of time in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
But a lot of food travel shows have neglected St. Louis — the most recent “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” show that was filmed there aired in 2012 — so it’s cool to have a food traveler based there and shows regularly being filmed there.
Hopefully, Mike will even try some of the great restaurants in Franklin County sometime.