Gone are the days when Funyuns or a White Castle run seemed like obvious cures for a hardcore case of the munchies. Now we have, at least in Tampa Bay, indulgent restaurant bites that include everything from funnel cake fries to mac-‘n’-cheese-covered hot dogs.
But with the unofficial stoner holiday that is 4/20 upon us, I can’t help but wonder: As getting high grows more mainstream in Florida, what with Amendment 2 and all, is stoner food, as Harold and Kumar know it, over?
Gluttonous treats, dunked in this and topped with that, definitely aren’t on the decline locally, so maybe stoner food has more or less transformed into these funky, sometimes over-the-top offerings that keep diners talking — like, the Cronut, or a pizza garnished with a ridiculous amount of tacos.
The Eatery chef Max Sherard agrees that the idea of stoner food has evolved. Sherard, who recently joined the in-house Brew Bus restaurant in Seminole Heights and has cooked in the kitchens of fine-dining spots like Tampa’s On Swann, Epicurean Hotel and SideBern’s, says he thinks the competitiveness of the industry leads people to try to outdo themselves.
“I definitely think with the right atmosphere and timing there’s a clientele out there [for] that stuff,” said the chef, who’s stoked to be using stoner-friendly ingredients such as Cheez Whiz for Brew Bus’s 4/20 festivities.
For Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company founder Matt Powers, stoner food is far from dead. His Madeira Beach brewpub showcased an all-day menu of munchies for its inaugural “4/20 Sesh” last year, and Powers says he’s seen an increased interest in the 2017 celebration, which is set to serve items like the Peanut Butter Cup Stout (a sweet, 9-percent imperial stout brewed with chocolate and peanut butter) and a burger that speaks to weed pop culture called Cheese and Chong.
A veteran of Mad Beach’s tongue-and-cheek 4/20 lineup and available at the brewpub through the end of April, Cheese and Chong comes with five slices of cheese, two strips of “thick AF” bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion and a half pound of beef. But the most prominent feature is its bun, which swaps traditional bread for grilled cheese sandwiches.
“If anything, with the ever-loosening marijuana laws across the country, stoner food could become even more prevalent,” Powers told CL. “That’s a great thing because it ultimately means more options beyond the ‘Fourthmeal’ at Taco Bell as local restaurants and chefs get in on the action.”
Good thing, too, because one of the best-selling selections on Mad Beach chef Tyson Williams’s regular menu is the Jelly Donut Burger, a dreamy creation that piles an Angus ground chuck patty, raspberry jam, crispy bacon and smoked Cheddar between two glazed doughnuts.
The Eatery has also drawn inspiration from a pothead’s paradise for its most popular order. After his latest trip to Denver, where he and friends hung out at the pub-style Euclid Hall, chowing down on cheese curds, Brew Bus Founder and President Anthony Derby decided to add the pillows of fried goodness to the menu permanently. To him, they’re “the ultimate stoner food.”
“Everyone says they want to eat healthy,” said Derby, a University of Colorado Boulder alum who spent his college years attending the now-extinguished 4/20 smokeout that once drew a large crowd to the campus’s Norlin Quad. “But to be honest our No. 1-selling item is cheese curds.”
Brew Bus’s 4/20 event, “Munchies, Movies & Music,” has live reggae tunes and ’90s stoner comedies planned, alongside a special smorgasbord from chef Sherard. The Garbage Plate Flatbread (Cheez Whiz, fries, mushrooms, bacon and “everything that will fit on the damn thing”) and Fat Boy! Sammy (fried chicken, tots, Funyuns, gravy and bacon on Texas toast) are among the options.
“It goes beyond just being stoner food to being a cheat day for someone on a diet, or just plain good old comfort food,” Powers said of Mad Beach’s munchies-satisfying fare. “Healthy food is great and all, but everyone craves a little gluttony from time to time, regardless of whether or not their mental state has been altered.”