Eat Random

The idea for this blog is to blog about everything I think about food and food culture. I'll tell you what I like to eat, where I like to eat it and if I thought it was good or if I thought it was crap. My thoughts about food could go anywhere. Hey if you don't like it go blog at

Random Dude Eats Random Food Indianapolis restaurants

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Effect of Restaurant Reviews

Everyone's a critic.  That used to be the saying used to dismiss average joes that had problems with the food at a restaurant or some other entertainment venue.  In today's world I think you can say unequivocally that its literal meaning has all but obliterated its intended one.  With the existence of free blogs and sites like urbanspoon and Yelp everyone is literally a critic.  I think this is a good thing.  Maybe you see that as a biased opinion from a food blogger/independent reviewer, but for those of us who like good food and service at a reasonable price we should embrace this culture.  Restaurants have to realize that a bad rating on Yelp or from a local blogger could have an impact on their business.  Gone are the days when you could recognize the critic from the local paper or magazine and give them great service.Instead the focus should now be on treating every customer that way.  I'm aware that doesn't realistically happen, but even if it has improved service or food in even a few restaurants it was worth it to have happier customers and better restaurants that stay in business longer.

 Unfortunately, despite the new technology the same question remains.  Do I spend my hard earned money on a place that has gotten lukewarm reviews on the basis that I should test the waters for myself, or is it okay to try a place that is more reliable instead?  I myself still struggle with that answer, and sometimes I'm afraid it might endanger my sense of adventure as a food writer.  But that is something I'll talk a little bit more about in an upcoming review. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Horseradish: The Condiment of the Gods

A couple of nights ago my wonderful girlfriend, Chef Megan, prepared a delicious dinner for us of seasoned roast beef done slowly cooked in a red wine jus.  The result was pure deliciousness when coupled with her homemade mashed potatoes.  However, it was the little something extra that I picked up at the grocery store that really put it over the top for me.  Horseradish sauce.  I made sure I paid a little more and bought one that specifically said it contained fresh horseradish.  It was totally worth it.  No other condiment I can think of pairs as well as does horseradish with roast beef.  It has that perfect amount of heat that clears the sinuses yet stops short of setting your mouth and tongue on fire.  If you don't like it I have to say I feel a bit sorry for you.  You're missing out on one of the truly great culinary experiences.  Go out and get some any way you can weather it be Arby's Horsey sauce or fresh grated in the St Elmo's shrimp cocktail.  I wish I had some right now.  What are some of your favorite food-condiment pairings?

Picture courtesy

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Breakfast: LePeep

You've probably been hearing since you were a kid that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  Most of us, myself included, usually rush out the door in the morning with little or no breakfast and are yet to burst into flames so who knows if that is actually true or not.  However, what I can tell you is that when I do have time for it breakfast is maybe my favorite meal of the day.  That delicious mixture of carbs and protein.  It can be sweet, savory or both at once.  Breakfast is a meal I love to eat at a restaurant if I can find a place that does it well.  Unfortunately for LePeep, after today their name has been crossed off that list.

For those of you unaware LePeep is a medium to medium-small sized chain of sitdown restaurants specializing in breakfast and lunch items with the main focus on breakfast.  I've always heard a lot of hype for it in the Indy area.  Even with several locations the flow of customers ranges from steady to really busy.  I had eaten there in pre-blog days and I had an omelet that was completely unmemorable.  I decided it worthy of another shot.  I wish I hadn't.

When I sat down I noticed that the service was snappy and that water was already placed at my table which I always view as a plus.  I also enjoyed that when I ordered coffee a pot was placed at my table a la IHOP so I could dispense my own refills.  The coffee was quite good, but it could have been served a little bit hotter.  When it came to my meal I decided to go the savory route and order the Eggs Benedict which I had been craving for quite some time.  I maintain that few things are better than a runny egg.  You can see from the picture that it was indeed a traditional Eggs Benedict served with LePeep's trademarked "Peasant Potatoes".  Unfortunately the dish was racked with seasoning and execution flaws.

The first thing I have to note is that maybe LePeep calls their homefries "Peasant Potatoes" because you'd almost have to be a starving peasant in a feudal society to want to eat them.  They look like nicely seasoned homefries, but in reality they were nothing but bland, forgettable, straight out-of-the-bag garbage.  I put a lot of ketchup on them and still couldn't make them worth eating.  You could find better hashbrowns or homefries almost anywhere.  Also, lacking in flavor was the hollandaise sauce on top of my poached eggs.  There was absolutely no tang or zip here.  It added absolutely nothing to the dish other than aesthetics.  The english muffin and ham were okay, but being the two easiest components to put on the plate I expect them to be. Being that they are in the title of the dish the eggs were supposed to be the star here.  They were not.  When I cut into a poached egg the runny yolk should flow out over my dish, but with the first egg the yolk sort of just stayed there.  I would call it more like a custard than runny.   The second egg was adequately runny, but that just speaks to a lack of consistency in the kitchen which may or may not be an even worse problem.  Also, I could not for the life of me figure out what was up with that terrible garnish on my place of tomatoes and lettuce.  Granted tomatoes in their non-sauce form kind of gross me out, but even if I liked them I don't see it making sense on a breakfast plate with such a rich dish. 

Taste: 4/10  It might even deserve less than a 4, but dang it I just love eggs that much.
Value: 2/10  The food was poorly executed and bland and it cost 8 bucks not including the coffee and tip.  Denny's food would both be cheaper and better.  If you want a real breakfast place though check out Best Bet Breakfast and Lunch or Uptown Cafe both in Noblesville.

Le Peep on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Girlfriend's Awesome Ham and Cheese Slyders

I readily admit that I am by no means a good home cook.  Although I have gotten better in recent years I still have trouble making anything beyond that which is very easily prepared.  Luckily I have a wonderful girlfriend, Megan, who is a certified chef and frequently prepares a variety of tasty items for us to enjoy at dinner time.  One of my favorite specialties of hers is her delicious hot ham and cheese slyders.  They have all of my favorite trappings when it comes to food:  easy to make, meaty and cheesy, hot, portable and enjoyable any time of the day.  I apologize for not having any pictures, but I thought I'd do you one better and explain how to make them yourself.

Ingredients and equipment:
1 large skillet, non-stick
1lb or more shaved deli ham
1 bottle of your preferred variety of mustard (I like honey mustard.)
1 bottle Worcestershire sauce
1 dz soft rolls (I prefer Aunt Millie's white, but any non "brown 'n serve" variety will do)
1 package poppy seeds
Swiss cheese, 1 slice for each sandwich
Aluminum foil roughly cut into 6"x6" squares

Put the skillet on medium low heat and add in the deli ham and Worcestershire to taste.  Move the mixture around to ensure even heating of the meat without it getting too crispy.  Next, add the mustard.  You can add the mustard to taste as well, but in my opinion its the most important aspect to the flavor of the sandwiches so be generous.  As you continue mixing sprinkle in some of the poppy seeds.  Once the mixture is heated, split each roll and put the ham right out of the pan and on to the roll.  Put a slice of Swiss on and immediately wrap up in aluminum foil.  The foil retains the heat in the sandwich which helps melt the cheese and also allows the juices to soak into the roll.  Now that the sandwiches are wrapped up you can take them to work for lunch, you could make a lot to take to a party, eat them right now or put them in the fridge for a midnight snack. 

Once you make some of these and have a bite you're going to be hooked.  Even if we make a dozen or more they are never around our house for very long.  With Spring hopefully on its way soon these would make great picnic or potluck food.  Forget that boring casserole and bring everyone a little bit of awesomeness...and beer...always bring beer.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Thumbs Up For Texas Roadhouse

Since moving down to the Indianapolis metro area I've tried to adopt a general rule of not going to chain restaurants because usually the food and experience isn't as good or as interesting as so many of the cool independent places around.  Also, I tend to think writing and reading about chain restaurants is even less interesting than eating there.  I mean if you're reading this blog you probably know what going to Chili's is all about.  However, there are always some exceptions to every rule and I think chief amongst them in this case is Texas Roadhouse.

Texas Roadhouse might be a HUGE chain, but it's still a chain none the less.  Are there things to complain about in this regard?  Sure.  If you go on a Saturday night be prepared to wait.  These places are popular and waits of 40-45 minutes are not uncommon.  Waiting doesn't bother me personally if I know I'm going to get a good meal at a good price and I would probably just waste more time thinking of and traveling to another restaurant anyway.  The places are also loud in terms of volume and decor.  When you get past all of that what it really comes down to is the food.  I had their country fried sirloin, mashed potatoes and baked beans.  The country fried steak was juicy and I could tell from the shape and the breading that it was definitely not something that just came in a bag and was dropped in the fryer.  You could tell there was care put into making it.  That isn't something you can say about a lot of chain restaurants.  Likewise the mashed potatoes were delicious and the baked beans had a unique spicy and sweet taste.  What's the real kicker in all of this?  My girlfriend got a ribeye and our bill still only came to 30 bucks.  You can't beat that.  Texas Roadhouse may not be the most inventive or high brow place in the world, but they know what they do and they do it right.  That's all I ask and will continue to go back. 

(Sorry for the lack of pictures.  I hadn't anticipated writing about the meal until after we were finished, and I just wanted to do a quickie review.)

Photo courtesy

Texas Roadhouse on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 18, 2011

Romance Novel or Food Network Show

The great website for all things trivia based, Mentalfloss, has a great lunchtime quiz posted today.  The quiz is called Romance Novel or Food Network Show.  I watch quite a bit of FN so I thought it was pretty easy, but I still missed one.  Here is the link.  Go ahead and give it a shot and post in the comments how you did.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

(Jerry Seinfeld voice) What's the deal with siracha??

Siracha, if you're not familiar, is an Asian hot sauce that you can buy at your local supermarket and carries a pretty high level of heat in my opinion.  I like spicy foods and it can be a good condiment especially for the bland offerings of Noodles and Co (a topic for another day).  However, what I don't get is that it seems to be developing a trend all of its own.  Lately I have seen recipes and features on promient food websites talking about both Siracha burgers and Siracha spaghetti and meatballs.  Granted I haven't tasted those dishes, but I doubt just adding Siracha really makes either dish a new creation.  It just makes them hotter.  We'll have to keep an eye on this one to see if it develops into cupcake like proportions.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Matteo's Ristorante Italiano

Being that time of the year the girlfriend and I headed out for what we hoped to be a lovely Valentine's Day dinner.  Luckily with the help of an intelligently placed dinner reservation on the Friday before Valentine's Day we made the evening as enjoyable and stress free as possible.  Our destination on this culinary journey?  Matteo's Ristorante Italiano in Noblesville.

Now it's a little unusual to say this, but whenever I think of Matteo's I'm always reminded a little of the Tardis from Dr. Who.  Matteo's from the outside looks like a small quaint little restaurant.  Certainly not that impressive visually from the street.  However, once you go inside you'll realize why I thought this to be a nice romantic Valentine's Day choice.  The colors are warm and  inviting, each table is decked out with a lovely setting with a candle included, the dining room is expansive with a very tall ceiling but it still feels  intimate.  Soft music serenades you in the background while you dine.  To me, part of enjoying the restaurant is enjoying the experience along with the food and Matteo's certainly has a leg up in that department.

We were seated promptly after arrival.  Even though we had a reservation it was nice to see it was held properly.  As Jerry Seinfeld once said, "Anybody can just take 'em!"  When we sat down we were greeted by our attentive server who took our drink orders and gave us some freshly baked bread an oil.  The bread is phenomenal.  It is served warm right out of the oven, and it has that perfect combination of crusty outside and soft inside.  The oil is an olive oil with a nice mix of herbs and spices.  It has a little heat but not too much.  At most places I would prefer butter for my bread, but there is something about the oil and spices at Matteo's that makes it just that much better.

The last couple of times I had been to Matteo's I had ordered pasta dishes and had enjoyed each one, but I thought in the interest of food bloggery and my own enjoyment I'd step out on a bit of a limb here and  go with Matteo's twist on Chicken Marsala that they call Pollo Amore.  It is two chicken breasts sauteed in a Marsala wine sauce with mushrooms and cream then topped with a thin layer of prosciutto and mozzarella cheese served over rice pilaf.  I also ordered a side dish of what Matteo's calls  panzerotti, but what actually amounts to flash fried potato cakes served with a side of marinara.

I had reservations about getting the panzerotti when I ordered it because I had a feeling it might be a throwaway dish.  However, I thought it would be a nice functioning appetizer for us and I thought it would be seasoned well.  Unfortunately my  first inclinations were correct.  It was little more than bland fried potato balls served with red dipping sauce.  If it weren't for the sauce they would have had  no flavor at all.  This is too bad because I think with a little more salt and herbs this could be a simple yet still tasty dish.  Now, on to the main course.

I quickly forgot about anything else I had ordered as soon as I laid eyes on my Pollo Amore.  A healthy portion of chicken breasts covered in everything that is good in the world.  The sauce had a perfectly creamy texture and just a hint of the bit left over from the wine that cut the richness nicely.  The mushrooms added a great earthiness and texture to the dish.  The chicken was  moist and perfectly cooked and the prosciutto on top was the perfect element of saltiness.  I couldn't get over how well the flavors both stood out individually and also made a complete coherent dish.  I even enjoyed the rice which is usually something I barely even notice when I get anything that comes with pilaf.  I could have this dish again a million times and still be happy.

Taste:  9.5/10  Almost a perfect meal.  Half point deduction for the potato cakes.  I should have stuck to ordering what they do best, but "panzerotti" didn't have to be bland.

Value:  8.5/10  We paid 60 dollars including tip for 2 entrees and a side and 2 Diet Cokes.  We aren't much for wine and I  wasn't feeling a cocktail that night.  If you do add booze it will add quite a bit to your bill.  Still I've paid a lot more for meals I have liked much much less.

Matteo's Ristorante Italiano on Urbanspoon

P.S. I apologize if some of the pictures are a little hard to make out.  It was a little on the dark side inside the restaurant.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chopped All Stars: Worthwhile television or shameless self-promotion?

As I was watching Food Network the other night I noticed a promo for a new edition to their usually reliable show Chopped.  The concept was that taking the usual Chopped format of 3 timed rounds cooking baskets full of unusual ingredients, but the twist being that all the competitors in this special tournament will be Food Network chefs/personalities.  It goes without saying that I will tune in for this.  I love the Chopped format, and I consider it the toughest short-form test of any cooking competition on television.  However, I have to say that having these special guest competitors actually detracts a little something from the show.  The whole point of Chopped is how are these chefs going to create something beautiful and delicious out of these crazy ingredients in only 20 or 30 minutes.  That's it.  That's all I need.  It doesn't matter who's cooking or judging the food really.  It's all about a showcase of technique and creativity.  I think Food Network probably knows this also, but they are never above any sort of shameless self-promotion.  Have you ever watched Iron Chef America or really any other program?  They have more crossovers than the Marvel Universe.  When they do this sort of thing it takes the show out of its main element and reduces it to hawking other mediocre or worse Food Network programming.  For example, that annoying woman who hosts, not judges or competes on, Food Network Challenge is included in the tournament.  Why??  She has never done anything that I'm aware of that would hint that she has even a fourth of the culinary chops usually exhibited by average Chopped competitors.  I still like the Food Network a lot, but it's becoming more and more evident that it's increasingly not interested in showcasing talented chefs.

(Photo courtesy

Friday, February 11, 2011

Restaurant Impossible: Kitchen Nightmares without Gordon Ramsay or all the cool swearing

In general I'm a fan of the Food Network.  It has probably been one of the biggest factors in spurring my interest in food and food culture over the last 3 years.  It has been both entertaining and educational.  There are several of the Food Network Nighttime programs which I enjoy, but I'm going to discuss those at another time.  There seems to be a trend with the new shows on the network that seems troubling.

Food Network's strategy for new shows seems to be just to blatantly copycat other networks' food programming.  First there was Extreme Cuisine with Jeff Corwin in response to Travel Channel's much more successful Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.  The same goes with the shows Food Feuds (Food Wars) and Outrageous Food/Meat and Potatoes (Man vs Food).  I realize that a lot of our entertainment these days is usually a ripoff or an adaptation of something else that was at some point an original idea so I can't really say I'm surprised.  However, the Food Network's newest program, Restaurant Impossible, may be the worst offender yet.

The show's host, Chef Robert Irvine, made a name for himself by hosting the show Dinner Impossible on the Food Network and otherwise distorting his resume accomplishments.  The show's basic premise is that Chef Robert will come in and help a struggling restaurant which is allegedly getting ready to go out of business.  Sound familiar yet?  If so it's because it's a direct ripoff of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay.  The only difference being that Restaurant Impossible supposedly is only working on a budget of  $10,000 (so what?) and the host is a more nerdy looking yet more buff looking Englishman instead of a Scot.  All the same tropes are there.  The bad food and decor of the restaurant.  The incompetent restaurant management.  The lackadaisical wait staff.  The dirty kitchen.  Gone is the charm and fire of Ramsay which is the only thing that made the show work in the first place.  Gordon Ramsay, regardless of what you may think of him as a person, knows his stuff when it comes to the restaurant business.  He has the Michelin stars to prove it.  Robert Irvine has been a semi-successful Food Network personality, and he can probably make a hell of a meal for 1000 people in 9 hrs with food he found in a dorm room.  But I see no real evidence he has ever been an successful restaurateur. 

I'm not saying that either show is without flaws.  Both shows, Kitchen Nightmares especially, seem to over do the family drama and possibly stage some of the situations.  That's fine.  I know  reality TV well enough to not take everything I see at face value.  What I am saying though is how shameful it is of the Food Network to pass of a sub par carbon copy of a less than stellar show and expect us to lap it up as something new and awesome.  Food Network can do better (see Chopped and pretty much anything on Cooking Channel).  However, if they continue down this path I'm afraid I'll be asking them to hand in their chef's jacket and telling them to piss off sooner rather than later.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Hardee Breakfast Platter and Caramel Crumb Biscuit

If you've read this blog from the beginning you probably know that I'm generally a fan of Hardee's.  Since the chain began it's revamping in the mid 2000s I think they put out pretty quality/tasty food for a reasonable price compared to other fast food chains.  It has been awhile since I had tried any of their breakfast items, and they are running some new promotions so I thought it might be time to see how they stack up.

Hardee's, in the past, had been known as having a good breakfast menu.  Their "made-from-scratch" biscuits are a cornerstone of that and still are to this day.  However, while trying to rebuild the brand it seems they had been focusing on improving their burger and chicken items without really marketing breakfast that heavily.  Their focus has apparently switched.  They are now enthusiastically promoting the Hardee(intentional named without the 's) Breakfast Platter, and caramel crumb biscuit.  Those just happen to be the two items I ordered. 

The breakfast platter is one of their biscuits with a cup of their sausage gravy, 1 folded/scrambled egg, 2 pieces of bacon and hash browns all for $2.49.  My first impression was that it was quite a bit of food.  The biscuit was fresh and hot just as I remembered when I would get them when I was a kid.  The gravy was not exceptional, but it was still better than other fast food white gravies I have had.  The egg was nice and soft and didn't taste like it was frozen or made well in advance.  The hash browns were the round version of tater tots that you are probably already familiar with.  They had a nice crunch and I love them with ketchup.  The bacon (2 strips) was a let down.  It was no worse than any other fast food bacon you get on a sandwich, but if you're going to serve it by itself as part of a meal I at least want some crispness.  This bacon was thin and rubbery.  The real kicker here is the price.  At $2.49 cents you don't need to add any thing else to your order to get full, and considering how tasty it was I was very impressed. 

The caramel crumb biscuit is also something that has peaked my interest since its debut last October.  Even though adding it to my already sizable meal was pushing the limits of the amount of food I was able to consume I forged ahead.  It consists of one of Hardee's trademark "made-from-scratch" biscuits covered in both a light caramel sauce and a glaze similar to what might be on a yeast donut or one of Hardee's cinnamon-raisin biscuits.  Sprinkled on top are crumbs that if I had to guess are a mixture of crushed graham cracker and brown sugar.  You might at first think this item sounds cloyingly sweet, but you would be wrong.  The sweetness of the toppings is balanced well by the savory biscuit.  I will say the "crumb" topping didn't add a lot of flavor or texture, but overall this was delicious.  I think I could probably eat one of these every day and not get tired of them for some time.  At 99 cents for 1 or $1.69 for 2 I think they are reasonably priced. 

Hardee Breakfast Platter
Taste:  7.5/10  The items included didn't blow me away, but they were just a shade better than other fast food breakfast fare.  I deducted half a point for the bacon.
Value:  10/10  $2.49 for basically an entire breakfast that was filling and pretty darn good is an incredible deal in my opinion.  Including the biscuit I bought and a small coffee my total bill was still under 5 bucks.

Caramel Crumb Biscuit
Taste:  9/10   I think Hardee's biscuits are some of the best around, and if you like sweet treats for breakfast I think it would be hard to find one better than this.
Value:  8/10    No problem with the price point, and I liked what I got.

(biscuit pic courtesy of restaurant

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


So I know it's definitely not something new or revolutionary, but until yesterday I had never in my life tried Nutella.  If you're not familiar with it it is a chocolate and hazelnut spread that is sold in grocery stores and tastes kind of like the inside of a Ferrero Roche chocolate.  That makes sense since it is made by Ferrero.  I know I'm pretty late to the party on this one.  I sent several co-workers into a state of jaw dropping disbelief when I told them I had never tried it.  I was under the impression it was little more than a hazelnut version of peanut butter.  It just never sounded that appealing.  After listening to endless hype from almost everyone around me, of which I am quite susceptible after years of watching ESPN, I decided to give in and purchase some last night along with some preztel sticks for dipping.

My initial impression is that it's good...really good.  It made for a good dessert/post dinner snack, and I even had some for breakfast.  The consistency is good for dipping, and it basically allows you to make your own chocolate covered pretzels.  However, I didn't find it earth shattering or anything so it may have been oversold just a bit.  That's okay in my opinion.  It got me to make the effort to go the store and try something new, and it's probably going to be something that is going to be one of my favorite snacks for a long time in to the future.  Go try some if you haven't before, and if you have go buy some more.  With its versatility as a dessert, breakfast, snack, and ingredient there is no reason not to keep some around.

(picture courtesey

Monday, February 7, 2011

Dessert Trends...I don't get it.

Since you're reading a food blog then I imagine you're probably aware that in the food world there have been some very trendy items lately, namely cupcakes and to a lesser extent bacon.  From what I've been reading around the interwebz lately it seems that pie is about to supplant cupcakes as the food trend du jour.  Frankly, I don't understand any of it.  Now I'm not a big dessert guy so maybe this is something that is just out of my purview, but I don't understand what makes pie, or cupcakes for that matter, any better than what they were at any other point in history.  I have had both items recently, and I have to say I notice no difference than when I had them when I was a kid.  But for some reason though cupcake bakeries and pie shops are springing up everywhere.  There are TV shows dedicated to "cupcake wars".  Has the world gone mad?  Truthfully, I don't think so. 

The only difference now is how connected we are.  The only reason we see these dessert trends is because Food Network and food websites are telling us there is a trend and it builds on itself like some self-fulfilling prophecy.  I have to say I'm growing a little tired of it.  I'm sorry I just don't find reading or watching shows about these desserts that interesting.  Cupcake Wars is unwatchable.  Top Chef just desserts was okay, but pales in comparison to the awesomeness of regular Top Chef.  Maybe I'm in the minority here, but can't we just sit down and eat some cupcakes and pies.  They're delicious on their own.  I don't need some hipster telling me how awesome it is to make PBR flavored desserts in his underground pie shop in Brooklyn.

(pic courtesy of

Friday, February 4, 2011

Jersey's Cafe

Recently there has been some buzz building in the community and around the interwebs for yet another sandwich shop in the Indy metro area.  That shop is Jersey's Cafe.  Apparently Guy Fieri has been there recently filming a segment to an upcoming episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  I had heard good things so I thought now might be a good time to check it out since the episode hasn't aired yet and it probably wouldn't be too crowded.

If you decide to go to Jersey's Cafe there are some things you should probably know up front.  First of all, you should not be in a hurry if you go here.  The pace of service is well...leisurely.  Take note that the service is not bad.  The truth of the matter is that there was only 1 person out in the front of house that was doing all of the waiting, seating, busing and getting refills.  I thought our waiter actually did a fairly good job considering how busy he was with 7 active tables.  The restaurant is also quite small so it will be interesting to see how they handle any increased business after their segment airs on The Food Network.  Secondly, the menu is enormous to the point of being overwhelming.  They are known for their cheesesteaks of which they have about 25 different varieties.  They also have salads, appetizers, and a large variety of other hot and cold sandwiches.  If you go there I suggest you have a game plan.  I knew I wanted to try their cheesesteak so that's exactly what I got.

After a little deliberation over what I wanted on my steak I decided to go with what they call the New York Steak.  It consisted of seasoned grilled steak that was chopped on the flat top, provolone cheese, mushrooms, onions and oregano.  I have to say this is the best sandwich I have had from any restaurant in the area.  The steak was cooked perfectly and still retained a lot of juiciness.  The onions were chopped fairly small and grilled until they took on a very nice sweet flavor that worked perfectly with the meat and cheese.  The mushrooms were also done on the grill and are a must have for me on any steak sandwich.  However, I think what really made this sandwich was the bread on which it was served.  It was slightly crusty on the outside yet retained just the right amount of softness.  The bread also held up well against the juices of the meat and toppings.  I was able to pick up my sandwich easily and eat it without any breakdown.  Also, I have to mention the fact that this sandwich was huge.  It took up the whole length of my plate, which in and of itself was quite large.  Each sandwich is served with a choice of side and a dill pickle spear.  I decided to go with the mustard potato salad.  It was good, but didn't taste a lot different than other similar potato salads I've had in the past.  Fries were not a side options without paying extra, but taking in consideration the size of the sandwich the small side was more than appropriate.

Taste: 10/10  If I'm going to compare this to other sandwich shops and other places which I've had a cheesesteak in Indiana I can't think of a single one that I thought was better than the one I had at Jersey's Cafe. I can't wait to go back and try one of their other cheesesteaks, their roast pork, or some of their deep fried New Jersey Ripper hot dogs.

Value: 9/10  Each sandwich on the menu was listed at a price around 8 or 9 bucks.  Our total bill drinks included came to 20 bucks and some change.  Each one of us loved our food and were full at the end of the meal.  When the food is this good and the prices are competitive with other sandwich shops that always equals a win.

Jersey's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mo's..No, not the crappy burrito place...No, not that steakhouse either...Yes, the quasi-Irish one.

Last weekend the girlfriend and I decided to go out for our usual Saturday night dinner, and we had decided to go to the Olive Garden near Hamilton Town Center because it was both close and free (the only reason to actually go to Olive Garden) since we had gift cards.  Apparently people in the Noblesville/Fishers area really dig Olive Garden because there was a 40 minute wait and it was only 6 pm.  As a consequence we abandoned this idea and headed across the street for a meal at Mo's Irish Pub.

Aside from having a similar name to other restaurants Mo's isn't a bad place at all.  It tries to have a nice Irish pub look to it with a dimmer atmosphere and a lot of dark hardwoods used on the interior.  However, I couldn't help but think the place seems a little confused.  Part of the interior design says pub, but then you see all the neon signs and 40 billion televisions and I think sports bar.  The menu is similarly fashioned.  You see some traditional fare on there like fish and chips, shepherd's pie and corned beef and cabbage.  The problem is the menu also has chicken tenders and ugh...quesadillas.  Now I realize they are a chain, and they're trying to appeal to everyone.  It just seemed strange to me.  I guess if you want a more authentic experience go somewhere else. 

Now on to the food.  I decided to go with my old standby of fish and chips.  Not real adventurous I know, but in my opinion if you can't do that dish right then the your restaurant isn't worth coming back to.  Well, my verdict was that it was good, but not outstanding.  The fish was served in several smaller pieces with standard out-of-the-bag fries on the side.  The fish had good flavor, and the tartar sauce that came with it was very creamy and delicious.  Truthfully though I prefer my fish and chips served as one big piece a la the Claddagh or Broad Ripple Brewpub.  There was nothing special at all about the fries.  The menu claims they are "seasoned" which I suppose they were, but when I see that I'm expecting more than just salted fries.  My meal was also served with coleslaw and a warm piece of pumpernickel bread and butter.  The coleslaw, which I know I can be picky about, was very good and was neither too creamy nor too vinegary.  The bread and butter was a very nice touch.  I wish they would have brought a basket to the table instead of just 1 piece with the meal. We also decided to split a dessert.  There weren't very many dessert options (only 3 I think) and the only one I can remember is the one we got which was the apple crisp with ice cream.  It was good, but again pretty standard stuff.

Our total bill including our two entrees, 1 drink (I got water.), and dessert ran us $35.00 not including tip.  I didn't think that was too bad at all.  My fish and chips entree was a healthy portion and competitively priced at $12.99.  The girl got a roast beef and swiss with au jus and I think her's was around 9 or 10 bucks.  They also let her substitute the fries that came with her meal for garlic mash without an extra charge.  Alright, let's get on with the ratings.

Taste:  7.5/10  Overall pretty good.  I consider the food just a shade below some of the other Irish pub places I've been to.  The fries could use a little improvement.

Value:  7/10  Not good or bad really.  I got exactly what I paid for exactly the price I would expect to pay.  One suggestion I would make is for the restaurant to go ahead and serve that delicious bread to every table while patrons are waiting for their meals just to give everyone a little more bang for their buck. 

Addendum:  I didn't speak much about the service because it wasn't really noteworthy.  Again keeping with the theme of this place not especially bad or good.  The manager did seem present and involved which is nice, and he came by to check on each table as well which was a nice touch.

Mo's Irish Pub on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Paula Deen Buffet at Horseshoe Hotel and Casino Southern Indiana

You might have read my previous post hating on the food choices at the Horseshoe Casino.  What I was not expecting was for the hotel management to actually correct the problem.  Gone is the sub/pizza shop and the mediocre hometown buffet and here is the new style buffet in the model of the Paula Deen brand.  I'm well aware of how ubiquitous her and other Food Network personalities are these days so I kind of wanted to automatically assume the buffet would be pretty overrated and not worth trying.  I'm glad that the people I was with convinced me otherwise.

Okay, let's get the gripes out of the way up front.  The cost of this buffet, like everything at the Horseshoe, is not at all cheap at $20(including drink) per person for dinner on a weeknight.  On the weekends it goes up to 28 for their seafood buffet which from what I saw means snow crab legs.  Luckily it was Thursday so we got the cheaper price, but upon paying I was told that they were "having trouble with the gift cards" like the one I was trying to pay with.  This smelled a little fishy to me since it was a plain Visa gift card and I've never got turned down for using it anywhere where they otherwise took Visa.  After finally begrudgingly paying for my dinner in cash I sat down to eat every penny's worth of food I could possibly muster.   AKA Don't judge me for the tremendous display of gluttony of which you are about to read.

To set the scene the buffet basically consisted of 4 sections.  First was  a usual salad bar with veggies and other salads such as pasta and potato salad.  Next was the hot bar that at first looked to be more than 50 items in size until you realize that some of the items where duplicates on both bars probably so they don't have to restock as often. The seafood and dessert stations followed that.  There were still a lot of items on each section, but to keep people from TLDRing this I'll just try to hit the high and low points.

Coleslaw in bowl on left, pot pie at top of plate, meatloaf on the right.
As you might expect it was a southern down home style menu.  This was good as it made sense with the Paula Deen brand and made a fairly cohesive meal (no crappy pizza or tacos here).  The things I most remember from the meal were the shrimp and grits, the grilled oysters, the chicken pot pie, and the coleslaw.  The coleslaw was the perfect mix of creamy and tangy, and it was shredded fine enough to not have huge chunks.  I ate a whole bowl and probably could have had more.  Secondly, I was immediately drawn to the grilled oysters and shrimp and grits because they are things I like and you don't see them on a lot of menus.  I was happy I tried them both.  The grits were the right consistency, well seasoned and perfect compliment to the shrimp.  The grilled oysters were large in size and were drizzled with a delicious garlic butter sauce.  The chicken pot pie had big pieces of juicy white meat chicken with all the typical trimmings one usually associates with the dish.  However, instead of being covered with a crust  each piece was served under one of Paula's hoecakes.  No that is not a typo.  It is what they are actually called.  If I was to describe it I would have to say it's more similar to a cheddar biscuit than to G-Ride's best working girl on the strip.  Other than the name the biscuit was somewhat forgettable.

Oysters on the right, above that shrimp and grits and sweet potatoes.
Everything else I tasted in regards to the hot entrees was either middle of the road like all the bbq items, mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, fried shrimp or awful like the cheeseburger meatloaf (Why the heck did I even put it on my plate) and the fried pickles.  However, I thought the bbq wings and sausage were bright spots.  Both were juicy, fresh and had a lot of flavor.  They both would have benefited from a little extra sauce however.

Gooey butter cake on the left, bread pudding on right.
The dessert selection was absolutely incredible.  By the time I got done tasting everything I wanted to try I couldn't believe I even had the room to put down dessert, but hey I was in for $20 remember.  Despite all the choices of carrot cake, red velvet cake, cupcakes, banana pudding, ice cream etc. etc. etc. I decided to go with a piece of Paula's signature "Gooey Butter Cake" and bread pudding with a brandy sauce.  The butter cake seemed to me to be a sugar cream pie in bar form.  It was delicious.  The bread pudding was even better.  It was very sweet without being over the top and the brandy sauce was a nice compliment although it very obviously had booze in it that you could both taste and smell.  So now that we have finished dessert and they'll have to roll us out of restaurant let's rate this bad boy.

Taste: 6.8/10 Now usually in my reviews I only have one dish and rate it accordingly.  However, in this situation I tried so many items just picking out one wouldn't be fair.  Instead this rating speaks to the quality/taste of the food on the buffet overall. There were some very very good things on the buffet, but there also were a lot of mediocre items.  Also, keep in mind I haven't been to any other hotel/casino buffets so I can't rate the food on a comparison basis.  I'm just going on what my palate tells me.

Value: 6/10  diming you at every chance they get.  A bowl of cereal on the room service menu was I believe between 5 and 9 dollars.  A can of Coke and a hot dog was 5 bucks.  Since the Horseshoe is kind of in an isolated location the buffet was easily your best bet for a hot meal with some really tasty food.  No way I would pay that price if it was a standalone restaurant.