Tuesday, June 26, 2012
BBQ. My personal favorite and something sacred to a lot of people and a lot of cultures. Burger King doing a version is practically food sacrilege. In spite of all of that I decided I had to give it a try. Honestly, I have to say that in terms of all the bbq I've ever ate it was probably not near the top half of the list. However, it's important to note that, for a Burger King product, it was surprisingly good, and I would even venture to say that it's the best new item BK has put on the menu in years. The bbq meat itself was very finely shredded (probably too much for my liking), and the flavor of the sauce was sweet but subtle. My sandwich also had a strange kind of sauce in addition to the red bbq sauce that seemed almost like a honey mustard. At first I was apprehensive but I didn't hate it. The sandwich was topped with some pitiful looking raw onions which I removed. They simply don't belong on a bbq sandwich. Granted, there was absolutely nothing that made this sandwich "Memphis" bbq which usually means heavily spiced meat and no sauce, but I understood from the get go that labeling it "Memphis" is just marketing.
The sweet potato fries are another matter altogether. I have to confess I'm a total sweet potato addict. I've ate them since I was a little kid, and in recent years when sweet potato fries have been the trend I've been a happy man. It was about time that a fast food chain jumped on this, and I think it was especially a good move for BK. Their regular fries are something I wouldn't feed to my dog so anything is a step up. Unfortunately, the sweet potato fries must not be a huge hit because the ones I had must have been sitting out quite a while and were rather soggy and cold. That being said I still can't hate too much on sweet potato fries and at BK I'd get them over their regular fries any time.
Taste 7.5/10 A fairly solid effort from BK that exceeded most of my admittedly low expectations. I would order both items again.
Value 8/10 I got a medium combo with upgraded fries and a special sandwich and it was basically the normal combo price. The Girlfriend got a Whopper Jr. combo and our bill was still only 11 bucks or so.
Misc I would be remiss if I didn't mention the entire experience of going to BK. Two words: it sucks. Burger King can revamp their menu, add a bunch of sundaes and drinks, and replace the traditional menu board with LED screens, but one thing hasn't changed. The service. The employees are easily the worst in all of fast food. We got ignored when we walked in, no one smiled, tables were dirty. It's just the type of thing you don't normally see at McDonald's. It's the reason my fries were cold, and that's why it's hard to go back.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
They sent me small samples of 4 varieties: sweet onion, red pepper, jalapeno, and traditional corn. The first thing I should note that at first glance these look like your basic tortilla chips you've had thousands of times with little fanfare. On a second look however, I noticed that these chips had something I had never seen before. The flavorings weren't just a dry powder coating on the chip. The jalapeno variety actually have dried flecks of real jalapenos worked into the chips. Ditto for the red pepper and sweet onion. This made for flavors that were extremely potent, and regarding the jalapeno specifically probably the spiciest chip I've ever had. The red pepper chip, though not as spicy, was equally as satisfying. It was a taste similar to a salsa flavored chip made by other companies but with a fresher taste. In contrast the sweet onion flavor was maybe the worst snack food I've ever tasted. The fresh taste that was there in the other varieties was totally lacking here. Instead the onion taste was overly abrasive and almost rancid though that may be a touch too harsh. The good news was that the plain corn variety was as good as the sweet onion was bad. Out of all the tortilla chips I've eaten in my life I have never had one actually taste like real sweet corn until I had The Better Chip. I've heard that they sell these at Meijier, and I will gladly spend my own money to get a bag. I'm not sure how much they cost, but it's worth it.
Taste 8/10 jalapeno and red pepper, 10/10 corn tortilla, 0/10 sweet onion As I said above there isn't a lot of middle ground here. Just know what to get and what to avoid.
Value ? I don't know what the retail price is for a bag of these chips, but I'd be willing to pay 5 or 6 bucks for a bag of the jalapeno, red pepper, or the corn and be very happy.
Monday, June 18, 2012
Located in a building just off of Noblesville's downtown square Conner Station is a restaurant and bar that is just now 2 to 3 months old. As a Noblesville local and someone who enjoys many of the other restaurants and shops on the square I was eager to give this place a try. Also, I'm a sucker for the design features of restaurants like Conner Station. It's in an old brick building with an updated interior and large glass windows in the front. Unfortunately, this was one of those situations where the dining experience didn't necessarily live up to the pre-dinner excitement.
Let me say upfront that I think a lot of the issues we experienced are part of the regular growing pains of a new restaurant. We had tried to go once before and during the prior experience we couldn't even find a hostess to take our name let along seat us or tell us how long of a wait we could anticipate. This time (a couple months later) was a little better in that we were greeted by the hostess, but she still seemed a bit out of sorts. We told her we were a party of 2 and she looked around frantically as if she didn't know where or if we could be sat. She finally glanced over at the bar area (never my first preference) and said we could take a table over there. She failed to actually walk us to our table or bring our menus. Apparently such tasks are given to the bartenders in that section on top of their normal duties of serving everyone seated at the bar and making drinks for the entire restaurant. Due to their overwhelming responsibilities our service suffered.
Once we finally got menus we gave them a quick once over and really didn't see anything that seems that original or interest-piquing. It is your typical lineup of sandwiches, salads, burgers, and pizzas. If you wanted a real entree with sides you would seem to be out of luck here. We decided to go with the appetizer of the 2 big soft pretzels, my main was a build your own burger with cheddar, bacon and bbq sauce, and The Girlfriend's choice was the breaded tenderloin.
Despite being a straight out of the bag item the pretzels took a considerable amount of time to get to our table (the entrees did as well) to the point where it was almost comical, especially for a restaurant that was not overly busy. The pretzels were warm and soft and served with a "spicy cheese", but it was honestly comparable to something you might get during the 7th inning stretch at Victory Field. This bares no resemblance to the homespun creation we had previously at C.R. Hero's. My burger was just ok. While I certainly ate it all it was cooked well done and calling it juicy would be a stretch. Most likely without the bacon and bbq sauce it wouldn't have been very palatable at all. The bun was soft and pillowy with some nice toasted edges, but it was almost too big for the burger underneath. The Girlfriend's tenderloin looked like a better play. It was hand breaded and fresh, but it did not come with the toppings she requested. Also, it seemed rather small even when comparing it to other "non-pounded thin" tenderloins I've seen. Both my burger and her tenderloin were served with straight out of the bag potato chips. As you might know that is one of my food pet peeves. Just throw in the damn french fries. I "upgraded" to fries for the criminal upcharge of almost $2(!), and while the seasoned potato wedges were crispy and had a nice kick the penalty for ordering them felt only slightly more fair than a 70s Olympic basketball game against the Soviet Union.
All in all I think it was worth trying, but I don't think we'll be rushing back anytime soon...at least until some of the kinks get worked out.
Taste 5.5/10 My meal was completely average in almost every way. They get the half-point above average for the slightly above average quality of The Girlfriend's tenderloin.
Value 3/10 I could have spent the same amount or less and had a much better meal and experience. DOWN WITH UPCHARGES!! GIVE US FRIES!!
Misc Comments: Service issues and food timing issues here. Also, a tip for the restaurant: have a real hostess station and waiting area so it's not so hectic.
Monday, May 7, 2012
The Girlfriend and I decided one evening to take a trip to Carmel to walk around and find food inspiration in the Arts and Design District after our original dinner plans fell through. While there are several options in the District some of them struck us as a little more expensive than what we were looking for on this particular evening. We wanted something very casual that wasn't bar food. We settled on Mudbugs because I was jonesing for some etouffe and I talked The Girlfriend into getting a Po' Boy. When we first walked in I was encouraged. It had a lot of the Yats feel. Order at the counter, get your own drinks, menu in chalk on the wall, and a cozy local feel. I even enjoyed seeing an expanded menu. However, after we ordering was pretty much the time to stop being excited and start getting frustrated.
I ordered the 3 dish combo (3 small portions of jambalaya, crayfish casserole, and shrimp etouffee) and The Girlfriend got the Chicken Po' Boy. With 2 sodas the whole meal totaled almost $24 or about $10 more than it costs for what we get at Yats. That in and of itself made me unhappy, but we were trying some new things and I thought there was room for redemption. I was wrong.
Even though it seemed to me that everything we ordered should have been served up quickly due to being prepared ahead of time (no one is making jambalaya a la minute) it took almost half an hour for our food to be brought to our table. When it finally did arrive it was definitely not anything to celebrate. All three of my dishes were incredibly bland. If you're making Cajun food that should be a cardinal sin. The best part of the meal were the shrimp in my etouffee. They had good flavor and were cooked nicely, but there were so few and so small they were hard to find. The casserole had rubbery crayfish, and there was absolutely nothing at all memorable about the jambalaya other than the color was rather unappetizing. My meal was also served with a piece of toasted French bread which was nice, but definitely not as good as I've had at Yats. The Girlfriend's Po' Boy was also pretty disappointing. It was fried chicken strips that were obviously frozen and not hand breaded. All in all not a great experience and I doubt we'll be going back any time soon.
Taste 2/10 Normally I would consider giving bland food maybe a 4 or 5 as average, but damn this is CAJUN food. It's supposed to be all about flavor and spice. When there is none it deserves an extra penalty. Also frozen chicken strips on the signature sandwich? Come on man.
Value 0/10 The goose egg is harsh I know, but it deserved the whole way. Disappointing food, a ridiculous wait for food, and higher prices than a better competitor are the perfect storm.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Thursday, May 3, 2012
The humor in these Lean Pockets doesn't just start with them being ridiculously labeled "mesquite", but also from the fact that each pocket is supposed to contain chicken and "roasted red onion". If that wasn't enough these ingredients are stuffed inside of a pretzel bread pocket. In each instance this product over promises and under-delivers. The term mesquite is a type of wood used for smoking meat, but there was absolutely no smoke flavor in either the chicken or the bbq sauce. In reality it was just sweet on sweet. Not necessarily bad when you consider it's a Lean Pocket, but you can't say it was good either. As for the onion I couldn't even tell it was there at all. I was a little concerned because red onion is one of my least favorite flavors. I suppose it was somewhat of a blessing in disguise that it was almost non-existent on my palate. The pretzel bread was even more of a let down. It bore absolutely no resemblance to any type of pretzel you could imagine in terms of flavor. It might have an appearance that looks somewhat pretzel like, but the texture and flavor what traditional Hot Pocket all the way. Also who thought bbq+pretzel was a good idea?
Taste 3/10 I love trying new products. I love some flavors of Lean Pockets. I think their pizza varieties and chicken bacon dijon are quite good. My best advice? Stick to those. This bbq version is a waste of time.
Value 3/10 While not particularly expensive this flavor of Lean Pocket is lacking enough to be a bad value even with good 5 for 11 sale at Kroger. I could have bought one of the pizza varieties I like a lot more.
Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Hello faithful readers. I know I posted recently that I planned to do a lot more blogging, and certainly that is still the case. However, I have been saddled with some technical issues with my laptop and blogging like this from my phone is difficult. Don't worry though I have a new computer coming in the mail so I should be able to get back on the horse soon. In the meantime I wanted to say a little something about a fried pickle appetizer I had at The Mill Tavern in Westfield.
Now I have reviewed their Jellystone burger before and found it playful and unique. Their take on fried pickles is similar in that regard. Instead of the usual chips these pickles were cut lengthwise. I thought this allowed the pickle flavor to stand up to the breading a little better. And speaking of the breading I much preferred their lighter cornmeal crust to the usual thick batter. All in all very enjoyable, and a good value at only $4.50 for a large portion.