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

Friday, September 30, 2011

Question of the Day

Why haven't more fast food restaurants followed McDonald's lead of offering any sized drink for a buck? 

A Fisher's BBQ Flameout

A bbq flameout sounds like some sort of awful entree or app that comes on a Chili's menu.  In this case though I'm afraid I'm talking about the closing of Bender's BBQ Pit in Fishers on the corner of 96th and Masters.  You might have remember my posting of a favorable review of it's cuisine earlier this Summer.  After my post I started noticing that a lot of people didn't view their bbq from Bender's quite as favorably as I did.  I made a couple of revisits that I never got around to blogging about, but keeping in mind that the restaurant recently closed after less than 6 months in business it seems appropriate to do so now.

I stand by my original assessment of the flavor of the food at Bender's.  I enjoyed my pulled pork, and when I later had the brisket I found it even better than the pork.  The sauce was good.  The coleslaw ranked among my favorite of all time.  The problem comes from the fact that little issues that I wrote off in the beginning as growing pains never really went away.  Bender's seemed to want to do too much too soon (moving to a bigger space, serving breakfast) and the details got left behind.  For example, every time I got a pulled pork sandwich from there the bottom bun was completely soggy to the point of being inedible.  I kept hoping they would solve that problem, but they never did.  One time the top bun of my sandwich was forgotten entirely. 

I think it's a shame to see any local restaurant close, but I really wanted an awesome bbq restaurant in that part of town.  From where I live, as it stands now, the closest bbq restaurants are either in Westfield or off of Binford, South of 465.  Not really close at all.  Hopefully someone will take up the reigns and not really try to run before they walk.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My Blogging Debut At PJ Lifestyle

It is with much pleasure that I get to announce that I was offered the opportunity to do some food blogging for the lifestyle section of Pajamas Media.  Today is the debut of my first blog: But I Love That Place: The 7 Most Overrated Fast Food Restaurants.  It was a piece that I had a lot of fun writing, and hopefull people will have fun reading it as well.  It's important to note that this doesn't mean Random Dude Eats Random Food is going on hiatus.  I'm still going to try to do reviews here with an emphasis on Indy/Indiana specific locations.  In the meantime come on over to PJ Lifestyle and check us out.  Here's a little taste.
French fries sizzling in hot oil. Fresh (at least at some point) hamburger searing on the flat top grill. Squeaky-voiced teen messing up our order and saying he’ll have to ask his manager. This is the fast food experience Americans are all familiar with. When we walk into a fast food restaurant we all have a certain set of expectations about the food and service based on our previous experiences. That’s why we continue to go back — no matter where in the country we are, we expect the same McDonald’s or Taco Bell meal.

However, it seems to be increasingly evident that fast food restaurants are trying new gimmicks marketing techniques to change both our expectations and perceptions of what they’re serving and how they’re serving it. If my business was being endlessly attacked by nanny-staters that want to dictate what I can and can’t serve my customers, I’d probably try almost anything to keep them coming in the door. But when you try to create the perception of better food and better value instead of actually giving it to your customers, you become a prime candidate for today’s list.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sweet Treat: Paradise Cafe Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie

Ok here were are again at the intersection of two of my favorite things in the entire world chocolate chip cookies and toasted coconut.  While one would think that very little could go wrong with a coconut chocolate chip cookie given my culinary predilictions I have to say that this was not immediately a slam dunk.  While I love chocolate chip cookies I'm a little particular about them.  I definitely prefer soft and chewy over crunchy and crumbly.  I believe this is also the reason why I almost like to eat cookie dough as much as I like to eat the cookies themselves.   Also, it's important to me that any good chocolate chip cookie have chocolate pieces that aren't too big (no chunks please) and evenly distributed.  As for the coconut I'm pretty cool with it in all of it's forms, but much like everything else in life being a little bit toasted is always better.  How did these cookies from Paradise Bakery and Cafe, a place I had never been, stack up.

Truthfully and honestly I have to say these were the best chocolate chip cookies I can remember eating.  The regular chocolate chip was fantastic.  It met all of the criteria I described above and then some.  It far exceeded expectations.  I was a little more skeptical when I tried the chocolate chip coconut.  I had never had this particular combination before, and just having ate the regular chocolate chip it was going to have a lot to stack up to.  It passed the test with flying colors.  The coconut was not simply sprinkled on top but seemed to be actually mixed throughout the entire cookie.  It was also nicely toasted despite the cookie still being very moist and chewy.  The chocolate chips were evenly distributed and had the perfect melted consistency.  I wish had one right now.

Taste 10/10 As far as flavor combinations and chocolate chip cookies go this was it for me. 
Value 6/10  These cookies are pretty fantastic, but they dont come cheap.  They were running a special where you bought 3 cookies and got 1 free and the total came to almost 5 bucks! Yowza!  If the taste was anything less than a 10 the value score probably wouldn't have been dragged down significantly.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Burger Time (And I Don't Mean That Oldschool Videogame) Review: Houlihan's

Just in case you never noticed before the DUDE part of Random Dude Eats Random Food is more than just some word that rhymes in a blog title.  The truth is that I'm a guy and sometimes a guy just wants a damn hamburger.  But in my travels I seem to find a really good burger a little hard to come by.  Granted I've had some solid burgers, but none that rise to the level of the place with the little green door with the neon sign that says burger (If you get that cultural reference...good on ya).  That is to say, I can't find one that really sticks in my memory as the go to place for ground beef.  When I went with friends to Houlihan's a couple of weeks ago my primary motivation was the half-priced drinks, but was burger an added bonus or just a waste of money I could have used to buy more cheap booze?

First, before I get to the food, I want to voice a couple of impressions I had about Houlihan's as a restaurant.  Upon entering I have to say that my first thought was that this place is trying way too hard.  I mean, come on, it's a chain causal restaurant with a "'s" on the end of it's name.  Stop trying so hard to look cool with the semi-open kitchen and somewhat retro decor.  Just because you don't have all kinds of crazy crap on the walls doesn't make you that much better than Applebee's, Chili's, etc etc etc.  Looking at the "good Lord we have everything under the Sun" menu with no clear direction only reinforced my skepticism.  Add to that there was only 1 server working the entire bar area, on what was a busy Friday night, then you might begin to understand why Houlihan's had a lot to overcome to impress me.

I looked over the menu and decided on the Burger 72.  It has apparently had a quite a bit of press on the local and national blogosphere lately being reviewed at both Would I Buy It Again and Serious Eats.  To break it down it's an 8 oz burger with an garlic and herb fried mushroom cap, parmesan, horseradish and watercress on a challah bun.  I ordered mine medium, and despite the time it took our food to come out, I was pleasantly surprised.  Hell, maybe I was just craving some ground beef.  I don't know, but I do know that it was cooked  properly and was way better than any other chain burgers I've had in a while.  I was suspicious of the watercress seeing as it was a pretty unusual burger topping, but I actually to found that it added a nice contrast to all of the richness of the cream, cheese and beef.  The two aspects I were disappointed in were the size of the mushroom cap and the horseradish.  I had my sights set on a larger portabello mushroom cap almost covering my burger patty.  Even if my expectations in that regard were inflated (I'd mainline mushrooms if I could) I still thought it was smaller than it should have been.  It did add a nice flavor element however.  The horseradish on the other hand not so much.  Maybe again this is a personal taste preference that others don't share, but if you tell me something has horseradish it in something there better be enough to give me more than a little kick.  This kick was more Mike Vanderjagt style, off the mark and not coming through when you needed it the most.  The fries were pretty standard, but they did taste very fresh and crisp.  Delicious.

Taste 8.5/10 The quality of the burger alone might have been worthy of a 9+ in my opinion, but the toppings needed to come through here.  Not at the upper limit of it's complete potential, but I'll probably get it again the next time I'm at Houlihan's.

Value 5/10  It was a good burger, but for 10 bucks for a burger and fries it should be.  Not a great value.  Average I'd say.  The drink specials are a really good value especially for a place that isn't primarily a bar. 

Houlihan's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Product Review: Tradewinds Tea Flavor Varieties

Full Disclosure:  The tea samples for review here were provided free of charge.

Along with my Taco Bell addiction (see previous post) I also freely admit that I'm addicted to pop.  I've talked about that before when I did my review of Dr. Pepper Ten.  However, I've been trying to ween myself off of it with non carbonated drinks so the tea samples I received from Tradewinds fit nicely into my diet.  I've got a few different varieties to break down so let's get to it.

Unsweet: This is the baseline.  The control group.  It was pure black tea and water with nothing else really added.  Unsweet tea is not my flavor preference as it might be for others who reside north of the Mason-Dixon.  Although I like black coffee I find unsweet tea somewhat unappealing.  Though I will say that judging it for what it was I thought it was a good product that a lot of unsweet tea drinkers would enjoy.  Purity of flavor was evident.

Sweet Tea:  Ahh yes the Southern staple.  The beverage that is mentioned in almost as many country songs as whiskey.  This is my preferred choice, and I have to say that I found it delicious.  The sweetness was there, but without that teeth-hurting sugary feeling that sometimes rears its head.  One thing to point out here is that its sweetened with sugar and not high-fructose corn syrup. 

Extra Sweet Tea: Ok I think this is a bridge too far.  Everything I liked about the standard sweet tea is what I didn't like here.  It's the same formula.  The ingredients are still pure.  But, damn, the sugar content and sweetness level was dialed up here to something I viewed as beyond nicely palatable.  Maybe that's my own personal tastes here, but I feel that as someone who can handle plenty of sweet in the their sweet tea I was surprised that this was over the top even for me.

Lemonade Iced Tea: The Arnold Palmer.  No, it's not some set of classic golf highlights that Golf Channel runs at 3 am between shitty infomercials.  It's the mixture of lemonade and iced tea.  It's a popular drink and I'm sure it's not new to most of you, but I had never actually tried it before.  I found the mixture very pleasing to the palate.  The perfect drink for a hot day.  At first I thought the lemonade flavor wasn't coming across strong enough, but then I decided it was in a good proportion that still allowed the tea flavor to come through.  Easily my favorite of the bunch.

Green Tea: Along with plain unsweet tea I've never been a big green tea guy either.  Personal preferences aside the green tea was another solid product.  I found it slightly less sweet than the sweet tea, but I found it fairly pleasant. 

Taste 9/10 I have to say that overall I was very impressed.  I'm someone that likes iced tea, but when it comes to bottled drinks it would not typically my first choice.  This has changed my mind.  I was also impressed with the simplicity and purity of the ingredients.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fast Food Review: Taco Bell Bacon Ranch Chicken Flatbread Sandwich

Ok let's admit something right up front.  I am a Taco Bell junky.  You can talk trash about it all you want, but there is nothing short of telling me that Taco Bell meat is people that would make me stop eating there.  That being said I'm not always a fan of their "new products" aka the stuff they make out of stuff they already have on hand.  The new kid on the block is the Bacon Ranch Chicken Flatbread Sandwich.

Now, honestly this isn't completely new.  The regular Chicken Flatbread has been a limited offering in the T-Bell lineup before, and although I didn't blog about it then I remember having it and I was not impressed.  The components are all stuff we've had before: chicken and melted cheese folded into a warm flatbread similar to what is used for T-Bell gorditas.  Those ingredients are all ok, but I found them boring and really in need of some sort of sauce.  Taco Bell must be creepily reading my thoughts because that is exactly what they accomplished with the Bacon Ranch Chicken Flatbread.  It's the same ingredients with a bacon ranch sauce added that really adds a lot of pop in the flavor department.  Don't be mistaken.  We're talking about Taco Bell here.  There is not actually bacon in the flatbread.  However, the flavor is jankily infused in the sauce Taco Bell style and it works.  That smokiness actually comes through and makes a boring sandwich pretty a lot better.  My only complaint is that it's a little on the small side (more or less soft taco size).

Taste 8/10 In terms of Taco Bell menu items this is up there.  The softness of the flatbread and the sauce brought it home.  Still not up to the level of my favorite item, the Cheesy Gordita Crunch.

Value 8/10  Right now this is being marketed on special for only 99 cents.  At this price I feel it's an above average value, but if the price point was higher I think I'd probably pass for other things on the dollar menu taking the smallish portion size into consideration.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review: Naked Tchopstix

Contrary to popular belief Naked Tchopstix isn't what your drunk coworker plays on the piano in the lobby at your office Christmas party.  It's actually a local chain of sushi restaurants, and a couple of weeks ago I went to finally check it out.  Personally, I'm a big fan of sushi, but being that The Girlfriend is not going to a sushi restaurant can sometimes be contentious.  Not that they don't have non-sushi menu items because they do, but sushi is something that is meant to be shared to try several different things and that model breaks down if I'm the only one eating it.  Luckily, a couple of friends of ours tagged along for this trip.  Let's get to the food.

I decided to get 2 different kinds of rolls.  I'm a big salmon guy so I got the standard salmon roll, and I also got a special roll called the Maui roll.  The Girlfriend got a fried pork dish served with a teriyaki style sauce and fried rice.  I have to say my rolls could not have been farther apart taste wise and quality wise.  The salmon roll couldn't have been more of a let down.  The salmon seemed warm and had an almost slimy texture as opposed to the semi-firm piece of fish I was craving.  It was rather bland, and it isn't something I would order again.  The Maui roll on the other hand was a total game changer.  The roll consisted of fried shrimp, asparagus and cream cheese on the inside while avocado and mango were layered on top.  It was an absolute symphony of flavors coming through in distinct layers yet all coming together perfectly with the help of the sauce that was drizzled over top.  Toasted almond slices also provided a great texture difference by adding crunch to the creamy elements of the cream cheese and avocado.  I believe my statement at the restaurant was "I could eat my weight in Maui rolls, but then my weight would keep expanding until my sushi consumption rose exponentially and I would die."  It would totally be worth it.  It was that good.  The Girlfriend's dish was good, but when I'm going here I'm ordering sushi...bottom line.  My friend tried the Corona roll (spicy tuna, avocado, shrimp tempura, tempura chips, white tuna and lime), and he was nice enough to let me sample a few bites.  I enjoyed it as well.  Again, a lot of layered flavors going on and the lime really let itself be know at the finish of each bite almost like a delayed reaction. 

One interesting note about the restaurant itself, the seating arrangement at the table can be...unusual.  While regular tables were available with standard pull out chairs, we were seated at a table in the middle of the restaurant at a table surrounded by a backless bench.  I know it's supposed to provide a unique "faux Asian" look, but  I have to say I found it a bit uncomfortable.  That being said, I found the interior and atmosphere at the restaurant preferable to nearby competitor Miyagi's.  Don't get me wrong Miyagi's is cool on the inside, but I prefer something a little more laid back.  That's what you get at Naked Tchopstix.

Taste Usually I give a blanket score here, but this is a unique case.  For the 2 special rolls I tried (Corona and Maui) I feel compelled to give Naked Tchopstix a 10/10.  The flavors were wonderful, and I eat them every day if I could.  However, the regular salmon roll I tried was no better than 3/10 for the reasons I discussed above.  My advice is to go with friends, split the bill, share the rolls and get the special  rolls.  It's worth it.

Value 6/10 I'm giving one point above average here because I found some of the food  to be so good, but don't expect to be getting a steal here.  Prices aren't inflated, but they are in-line with what you'd expect to pay for sushi.

 Naked Tchopstix on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 12, 2011

BBQ Review: Big Hoffa's

The Random Dude Eats Random Food Summer of BBQ Love Tour was on hiatus for a bit while the band was experiencing some "creative differences" i.e. I actually got a little bit tired of eating so much pulled pork (I never thought I would say that).  However, before that happened The Girlfriend and I were able to make it over to Westfield for some bbq from a place I had heard about from various people, Big Hoffa's. 

Far from being a place where a corrupt labor union leader is buried in cement, Big Hoffa's is a very uniquely styled bbq restaurant.  Actually it would almost be more appropriate to call it a bbq stand.  There are tables and chairs on the inside and it's fairly comfortable place to eat, but you do order at the counter when you go in and it is quite small.  The Girlfriend and I walked up to the counter and we both decided to get the same thing: 1/2 lb of pulled pork, 2 sides and 2 of their soft garlic rolls.  I have to say I quite enjoyed this particular brand of bbq.  My pulled pork was not dry, but it was also not swimming in juice which can be the downfall of bbq at other places like Bender's.  The sauce was a good mix of smoky/sweet/spicy.  This is probably my second favorite sauce among all the restaurants I've been too around here.  The coleslaw was exactly what I expect and what I want.  Nothing outstanding but good.  The fries here I thought were a little bit special.  First of all I was impressed that fries were offered as a side choice instead of out-of-a-bag chips.  Secondly I was impressed with the fact that Hoffa's is not afraid to put a definite spicy kick into their french fries.  I loved them, but The Girlfriend thought they were maybe a bit too much.  Personally, I love places that want to set their fries apart in a manner such as this.  The rolls were really nothing special.  They were nice and soft, but they tasted somewhat like rolls you might buy at the grocery store heated up and covered with a little garlic butter.  They served the purpose of being a vehicle for the pulled pork quite nicely if you decided to split them and make some slyders.

On a non-food related note the decor at Big Hoffa's is well...a little bit bizarre.  It's set in the front part of building that contains other shops and has a very bizarre paint job on the outside.  That's probably the reason I drove past this place so many times without realizing there was a bbq place there.  Also, the inside forgoes the traditional Southern/pork theme that seems to permeate the interior of normal bbq restaurants.  Instead, Big Hoffa's is decorated in what I can only describe as attack of The Pirates of The Caribbean.  Jolly Rodgers hang from the ceiling and one wall is adorned with what looks like a large mural of Captain Jack Sparrow (Sorry no pictures.  It was a little dark, and it was hard enough to get a pic of the food.).  While it's a little on the strange side it certainly is memorable.  Also, there were a couple of other random touches I enjoyed:  a blackboard noting what type of woods they were smoking with today and the availability of house-made pickles.

Taste 8.5/10  I really don't have anything to complain about when it comes to Big Hoffa's.  It has moved to second place in terms of pulled pork enjoyment out of all the places I've tried so far...a close second to Squealer's.
Value 9/10  Know this, if you go to Big Hoffa's you will leave full.  It's the only bbq place I can think of that gives you meat, 2 sides with very healthy portions and rolls and it's delicious.  The kicker is that even with drinks included 2 people can eat here for UNDER 20 dollars.  I can get down with that.

Big Hoffa's BBQ on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sweet Treat Product Review: Coconut M&M's

I'm not a big candy guy as you can probably tell from other lukewarm candy reviews I've done here on the RDERF blog.  It's also true that when I do find myself wanting candy M&M's usually falls to the bottom of the list for me.  I usually like something more going on in my candy than just chocolate in a candy shell.  I usually prefer peanuts/peanut butter or caramel to be in the mix somehow.  However, there is one other flavor that will usually always make me go for a quick impulse buy...coconut.

If my friends and family are any indication (small sample I know but I'm not the frickin' Nielsen people over here) coconut is easily one of the most divisive flavors out there.  A lot of people hate it, but I'm in the love it camp.  I enjoy both the texture and flavor in really all of it's forms.  When you add it to something chocolate I can hardly resist.  That was the case with coconut M&M's.  I was expecting to have the usual candy shell surrounding the chocolate center with maybe a little bit of coconut enshrined inside the chocolate similar to the way peanut butter M&M's are constructed.  In this regard I was disappointed.  There is absolutely no visible coconut anywhere in coconut M&M's.  Other than smelling a little bit like that girl in your dorm freshman year that threw up a handle of Malibu there really isn't a discernible difference between these and the regular M&M's we all know and love.  There is however a distinct flavor difference.  I was a little bit skeptical at first since when you first have one the coconut flavor doesn't hit your immediately.  After you have 2 or 3 it comes on a little bit stronger on the back end.  The flavor is similar to maybe what a Samoa Girl Scout cookie might taste like without the caramel.

Taste 6/10 The coconut flavor is there, but it was begging to have a little actual coconut in each individual candy and it's just not there.  I'd probably buy these again, but I don't think they've moved M&M's anywhere near my upper echelon of candy choices.

Value  N/A  Come on they're M&M's.  They cost what M&M's cost.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sorry For Slacking/Weekend Preview

I know it's been awhile since I last blogged, and some of you might be wondering where I've gone.  Don't worry I'm still here, but I've been picking up extra hours at my real job and not having as much time to blog.  I'm going to sit down this weekend and pound out a few posts though that should be going up throughout next week.  Stay tuned.  As far as this weekend's eatings go I'll probably find something to do solo since The Girlfriend will be occupied baking someone's wedding cake this weekend.  Northside Nights is going on so maybe I'll slip into one of those spots especially if I can find someone to join me.  As always have a good weekend and happy eatings.