We don’t always choose our best friends; sometimes, life just sends us a person and is like, “Hey, despite the fact that you guys don’t have a lot in common, you are destined to be in each other’s lives forever.” Sometimes, the most unexpected personalities just totally hit it off and become BFFs. It happened with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, and it happened with Bert and Ernie.
And it happens with food, too. Sure, we all have our preconceived notions about what ingredients “go” with each other and what ones should never, ever meet. But somewhere along the line, we’ve been witness to a few chance encounters that just tugged at our heartstrings and made us really, really hungry. These are the little friendships that could; these are foods that are unexpected besties.
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1. Champagne and Fried Anything
This is the perfect combination of lowbrow and highbrow. And here’s why it really works: the effervescence of a brut Champagne cuts straight through the fat and salt of fried food, whether it’s Popeye’s chicken or Belgian frites dunked in mayo. Happily, we’re not the only ones who support this idea: Chef Sarah Simmons is opening a fried chicken and sparkling wine joint in New York City called Bird & Bubbles. We are excited.
2. Sloppy Hamburgers with Ice-Cold Martinis
This is like champagne and fried chicken, only bigger, badder, and better. Think about it: You’ve got a big, sloppy burger with all the fixin’s, and to temper all that meaty, fatty goodness, you’ve got a chilled, briny, elegant martini (gin, of course). These two things don’t belong together, and yet we hope they never part.
3. Kimchi and Cheese
We’re not crazy! Kimchi and cheese get along better than you’d think. Cheese brightens up the intense kick that kimchi brings, and if you don’t believe us, try making a grilled cheese sandwich with a little kimchi nestled in between the bread and the cheddar. Says Bon Appétit senior web editor Carey Polis, “Cheese and salsa are so happy together. It’s like that, with a little more funk.” If you need any more inspiration, hit up Earl’s Beer and Cheese in Manhattan, where not only can you get a kimchi grilled cheese—you can get a kimchi grilled cheese on sourdough bread with pork belly and a fried egg.
4. Peanut Butter and Sriracha
Oh, don’t act so surprised. If you’ve ever had takeout noodles with peanut sauce and a little bit of chile heat, you’re going to like this combination. We, in fact, like it so much we created a recipe for peanut butter and Sriracha toast. Pro tip: Top the toast with the PB while the bread is still warm for that melty-glossy-greasy thing that happens with peanut butter when it heats up.
5. Popcorn and Chocolate
Buy a ticket to the movies—any movie will do; the film is kind of secondary to the snack bar here. Order a popcorn. Order Junior Mints. Order Raisinets. Order M&Ms. Eat some of the popcorn to make room in the bag. Pour in the candy and have at it. Look, we know salty-sweet works. We know this and accept it. What makes this combination truly special is the subtle nuance that ultra-processed candy brings to mass-popped popcorn with “butter.” Try not to think about the fact that you’re ingesting butter-coated chocolate and just let it happen. There’s nothing like it in the world.
6. Potato Chips in Sandwiches
Here’s why this works: Most sandwiches, while quite tasty, are textural one-note wonders. The addition of potato chips adds a much-needed crunch to an otherwise boring tomato or turkey sandwich. Besides, the saltiness of the chip adds a certain je ne sais quoi AND containing them within the bread makes the sandwich entirely portable, as all sandwiches should be.
7. Pickles and Whiskey
If you’ve never had a pickleback, get yourself to a bar that serves them immediately. (Alternately, you could DIY this one pretty easily.) The briny quality of the pickle juice helps your throat recover from the harshness of the whiskey. Equally delightful fact: Pickle juice is a possible hangover cure, so this drink is really just smart planning.
8. Chicken and Waffles
This one makes sense less from a flavor standpoint than from a historical one. Some speculate it got its start from backyard farmers who would kill a chicken and cook it for breakfast. Chicken goes great with biscuits, some surmised, so why not with waffles? It’s also possible that chicken and waffles got their break in the jazz clubs of midcentury Los Angeles: When the clubs closed around 2 a.m., musicians had a combination of dinner (chicken) and breakfast (waffles). Either way, we’ll have another order. With a glass of bubbly.