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

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fast Food Review: BK Tries BBQ and Sweet Potato Fries

No shirtless David Beckham's please. Over the last year or so Burger King has been a fast food chain obessed with reinventing itself and marketing itself in new ways, including the aforementioned ploy, in order to regain tons of market share lost to competitors and turn the tide of negative public opinion. Every time I have tried one of BK's latest gimmicks I have been thoroughly unimpressed. I've commented on this blog before that BK's new ideas are basically just crap McDonald's has been doing for a long time. Smoothies, salads, coffee drinks, "premium" chicken, they even made a big deal about changing their fries to compete with McDonald's. The overall verdict? Pretty lame. That's why when I saw the latest commercial for their "Memphis BBQ Sandwich" and sweet potato fries I gave them by my emphatic eye roll yet.

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

Product Review: The Better Chip

Every once in a while I'm privileged enough to review products that get sent to me to review. I never make any promises of good reviews, and never make any demands. I just want to give you my honest opinion. A couple of months ago I was contacted by a snack food company I had never heard of promoting a product that they called The Better Chip. I told them they could send me some samples to review if they wished.  Time went by and honestly I forgot all about it until a box showed up at my door. Honestly, with a pretentious name like "The Better Chip" and generally douchy food words thrown around like "organic" I wasn't terribly excited. However, any snack food is worth a shot even moreso when it's free.

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

Back From A Long Hiatus With a Stop at Conner Station Pub and Eatery

As you might have noticed I've had a little layoff from blogging as of late. I won't bore you with excuses, but let's just say Samuel L. Jackson stopped by my pad, told me he was "putting a team together" and I've been a little occupied ever since. But aside from my duties as Iron Man I've just been very busy and have been fighting a host of computer problems. But now that I'm back, baby, I want to share with you a little bit about my recent journey to what is perhaps Noblesville's newest restaurant, The Conner Station Pub and Eatery. 

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 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

Mudbugs Cajun Cafe Doesn't Exactly Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler

It's an institution.  That's a phrase I've heard people use when describing their love of the local Cajun restaurant Yats.  It's quirky, local, has delicious food, cheap, and fast.  Everything that I love about restaurants.  I had never experienced Cajun food in Indianapolis outside of Yats until The Girlfriend and I recently took a trip to Mudbugs Cajun Cafe in the Carmel Arts and Design District. Did Mudbugs live up to my Yats expectations? Well at least Mudbugs was local.

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.

Mudbugs Cajun Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Your Favorite Burger

I've probably written on this blog more than once that food can be a highly personal thing.  We each have our own likes, dislikes, and preferences and certainly this blog is an outlet for my opinions on all those things.  However, if I ask you what you're favorite hamburger joint is and you tell me 5 Guys  you are objectively wrong. Sorry. Of course that's not really a slight against 5 Guys Burgers and Fries which I do enjoy. It's a slight against you for not going out and exploring your local restaurants and food scene enough to know what a truly awesome medium rare burger with perfectly crafted toppings (see: The Local) tastes like.  Ladies and gents burgers are NOT just fast food anymore.  Tons of local restaurants are elevating the concept to another level. Are there still problems with not cooking the meat to the right temp or even *gasp* using frozen patties? Sure there are, but explore what's around you.  You'll probably be pleasantly surprised that for the same 10 bucks you spent to get a burger, fries, and drink from 5 Guys will buy you a burger that is just a little more special and definitely more tasty.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Product Review: Lean Pockets Mesquite BBQ Chicken

Saying Lean Pockets does bbq is a little like saying your deadbeat cousin who plays Guitar Hero is actually a musician.  Truthfully it's a hackneyed imitation of bbq that ventures into self-parody when cliched phrases like "mesquite" are used in the description.  Did any of that stop me from trying out this new product though? Of course not.  Let's be honest here. I'm pretty sure any modicum of high brow disdain for certain types of foods on this blog went out the window with the McDonald's Biscuit and Gravy review from a while back. But let's get down to bidness.

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

Eating and Blogging and Fried Pickles

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.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Weekend Preview

Happy Friday to ya, you guys! Once again the weekend is upon us and with it allowing myself a bit of indulgence food-wise. We don't have any definitive food plans yet, but I recently found a new Chinese takeout place with an awesome name that I think I'll be trying tonight. Also I recently was awarded a nice promotion at work so I think at least some sort of celebration might be in order! Happy eating and have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Classy Pizza Review: Some Guys Pizza, Pasta, Grill

Most of the time when I have pizza it's something so quick, cheap, and dirty it almost feels like a Secret Service outing in South America.  It's true and I'm not going to act like I'm ashamed of it.  The siren call of $5 Little Caesars is hard to resist, and lately I've been wondering if maybe I've lost my ability to appreciate pizza that you can't buy with just the change you dug from your couch cushions.  A couple of weekends ago I decided to test myself with some pizza that has a better than average reputation. The Girlfriend and I decided to try Some Guys.

Located in an older strip mall at the corner of 62nd and Allisonville (other location 126th and Gray Rd.) Some Guys definitely doesn't look like much at all. In fact, unless you knew about it in advance or saw it while you were spending quality time at the discount tabacco shop you may not even have known it was there at all.  When I first drove by it some time ago it looked so small from the outside I thought it was takeout only.  However, when you finally walk in you're in for a pleasant surprise.  The atmosphere is bistroesque with deep warm colors, and while the seating area is small (protip: go early) its bigger than you would think. 

After we walked in we were seated promptly and began to look at the menu. We decided to start off with a classic appetizer of garlic bread with cheese.  While such a choice may seem pretty boring at first I have to say I'm a fan and I don't care...especially when it's done the way Some Guys does it. The bread was a crusty but soft sliced Italian roll and the garlic flavor was perfectly subtle. The cheese on top was melted without being burnt or crusty.  The app was good, but the pizza is the reason to stay.

While the Some Guys menu is varied in terms of entrees and toppings we knew we were going with a pizza and desired a classic combination with a dressed up twist.  The House Pepperoni with hand sliced pepperoni, ricotta cheese, and fresh basil was the perfect choice. It was the first time I had experienced any of those ingredients on a pizza and I was honestly blown away.  The hand sliced artisan pepperoni was thick and crisp on the edges with the ideal hint of heat.  I believe it may have ruined regular pepperoni pizza for me forever.  The ricotta added a nice creamy element that was a great complement to the spice of the pepperoni. The fresh basil had been added before baking, which I thought was an interesting choice, but the basil and tomato sauce combination is always a winner. And speaking of the sauce, it was quite good but I suspect that a good number of you might say there wasn't enough on the pizza.  I don't consider that a problem because I think of the sauce almost a condiment that adds flavor almost without being noticed. Just a personal preference.  Also, I found the crust extremely appealing in that it was thin without being either too doughy or cracker-like which I consider the death knell of an otherwise great pizza.

Taste 10/10 I'm still yet to make it to the much vaunted Pizzology, but as of right now Some Guys makes the top of my list of pizza available in Indianapolis or surrounding areas.  No complaints.  Zero. Even our service was exceptional.

Value 10/10 A double perfect score and well worth it. We ordered garlic bread with cheese, 2 drinks, and a medium pizza for under 25 dollars.  Considering that neither one of us went away hungry and the high quality of the food and service this is an absolute steal.

Some Guys Pizza (Northeast) on Urbanspoon

Quick Review: Hardee's Bacon Cheddar Breakfast Wraps

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day!  That's probably a phrase you've had condescendingly thrown at you from various sources since you were in grade school. It may or may not be true, but honestly I don't care. I just know that I'm a guy that needs to eat at least something in the morning to get going. Usually that means a small portion of instant oatmeal, but sometimes the old testosterone kicks in and makes me crave cheese, eggs, and something that got its house blown down by a big bad wolf.
In this case I decided to fill that craving with the Hardee's Bacon Cheddar breakfast wrap. Of you're wondering it is exactly what it says it is. Strips of bacon, a scrambled egg, and cheddar cheese sauce in a flour tortilla. Hardee's certainly isn't inventing this concept here. I remember being underwhelmed by a similar BK product a couple of years ago. However,  Since I'm a Hardee's fan and because I liked the idea of a cheddar "sauce" I figured it was worth a shot.
With a price tag of only $2.50 for 2 wraps I can't say I was dissatisfied,  but I think the execution held back the potential here. For example the cheese on my wraps was inconsistent. One was so overflowing it was incredibly messy while the other barely had any at all. The flavor of the cheese though was quite good and possibly my favorite element. The bacon was on par with the Hardee's bacon I've had in the past. It was salty, smoky, and while not thick it was better than average fast food bacon. I think the egg was the biggest disappointment. The "folded" scrambled egg was thin, rubbery, and flavorless. Much room for improvement.  The tortilla, on the other hand was a surprising bright spot. It was very soft and warm. Much better than a stale tortilla that one might get at Taco Bell.

Taste 5/10 The ultimate in average. Some good spots, some not so good. If you had the time you could easily make a much better home version, but it serves as a nice fast food breakfast diversion.
Value 6.5/10 At $2.50 for 2 and the ability to combo that for under $5 makes it an above average value.

p.s. I always try to use my own photos to back up how my meal appeared as opposed to the idealized version. I apologize for using the Hardee's photo here.  I was just to hungry to stop and think of taking a picture I guess.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Weekend Preview

Alright after a long week there is nothing I look forward to more than having a couple good meals over the weekend when I left myself splurge a bit.  Last weekend was very successful with my trip to Some Guys Pizza (review coming next week) so I'm looking for something equally as interesting this weekend.  I had been hoping to make it out to the Food Truck Throwdown, but The Girlfriend had to run some errands this morning so I'm not sure we'll make it there.  That's a little disappointing for me, but I encourage the rest of you go to check it out. 

Even if I don't get to sample some food truck offerings there is always the prospect of dinner tonight, and where were going is still to be decided.  I've been wanting bbq for some time so maybe a trip down to Squealers is in order, but I've also been trying hard to venture out to places that I've never been before that you guys would like to read about.  If you have any recommendations please let me know either here in the comments or via twitter @hoosierdaddyIU.  Have fun and happy eatings.

Friday, April 20, 2012

McDonald's Oreo Cream Pie?

Maybe I'm late to the party, but I saw some Twitter mentions of this the other day and it piqued my interest.  I know that McDonald's recently featured the Strawberry Cream Pie, but this is the first I'd heard of the Oreo variety.  If anyone knows of a Mickey D's in the Indy area serving these let me know.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Product Review: Edy's Maxx Drumstick Ice Cream

I scream. You scream. We all scream because we will be in incredible pain after literally paying an arm and a leg if you want to buy a little tub of Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Seriously, that's why they sell it at CVS and Walgreens near the crutches, bandages, and tourniquets.  Those of us wishing to maintain body integrity  are probably searching for another less costly but equally tasty option.  I realize that some of you ice cream aficionados may scoff at such a statement.  Yes, I do realize that Ben and Jerry's offers some unique flavor combinations that may be the only thing that satisfy some people.  Myself, I'm not particularly married to Chunky Munky or Cherry Garcia so I've decided to look elsewhere.

The first option I decided to try out? Edy's Maxx Drumstick ice cream.  If you are not familiar with the favorite childhood treat that is the Drumstick let me catch you up.  It consists of sugar cone containing vanilla ice cream that is coated in a chocolate shell and rolled in peanuts. Edy's Drumstick ice cream consists of exactly the same components but chopped up and mixed into the ice cream instead of in a cone.  I have to be honest, even though this was one of my favorite frozen novelties growing up I was skeptical of how Edy's was going to treat it.  My past experiences with Edy's, particularly their Somoas ice cream, have not been favorable.  However, this time the price was right (a full 3 dollars cheaper than the same size Ben and Jerry's) so I decided to give it a shot.

I really enjoyed this particular flavor of ice cream.  Usually when ice cream has mix-in components they tend to add texture more than a lot of enjoyable flavor.  This time though I got plenty of the chocolate flavor along with the crunch from the peanuts and ice cream cone. I think it would have been better with a caramel element, but then again what isn't? Also, in that case it wouldn't have been a Drumstick product. As Billy Joel once said (probably not about ice cream) I love you just the way you are.

Taste 9/10 I would happily buy another pint of this the next time I get the chance. Classic elements and flavors from something that could have easily fallen into the gimmick trap.
Value 7.5/10 I think this score somewhat depends upon perspective. If I'm comparing it to its competitors in the name brand, small portion, premium ice cream market, like I am here, I think it stacks up well. However, if you want to compare it against some store brands (one in particular I will be reviewing later) I think it gets beat rather easily.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Qdoba's Top Notch Rewards Program

It seems as though every place you walk into to do commerce these days has some sort of rewards program. In all of these you spend money at their establishment and swipe your loyalty card. In exchange for both frequently coming back and giving up information about your buying habits the company gives you some type of reward.  At Kroger it's 10 cents off per gallon of gas once you reach a hundred points, some places might offer a free meal or softdrink, and I have no idea what it is at the Classy Chassis but hopefully some sort of psychiatric evaluation.  Most of the time these rewards may be somewhat of a waste of time, but I've found one I really enjoy taking advantage of: the Qdoba rewards program.

Up front you should know that Qdoba is one of my favorite haunts.  I'm a big fan of their BBQ burrito and nachos.  Once you sign up for a Qdoba loyalty card and swipe it every time you buy a meal you will eventually earn a free entree.  Truthfully though the free entree takes quite a lot of visits to get so that's not why I'm high on this.  The reason I like it so much is because when you sign up Qdoba sends tons of awesome offers to members via email.  For example I just took advantage of a Tax Day coupon that made any chicken entree (burrito reg $7.29) 5 bucks.  That's darn good. Also, in this case it was emailed to me last week and I got to use it multiple times between then and April 17th. 

If you're a fan of Qdoba like I am, and you are also a fan of getting free entrees, reduced price specials, free chips and queso I suggest you sign up next time you're there.

Image courtsey

Monday, April 16, 2012


As you may have noticed the last few months things around here have kind of slowed down in regards to how many blogs I've done per month.  I don't really have an explanation for it, but maybe I lost the fire a bit.  Also, lately we've been tending to stick to some of our favorite hangouts too often and not venture out to new places that make for interesting blog entries.  I'm not using this post as an apology.  I'm writing this post to tell you that that is going to change.  The whole reason I started this blog was to check out new places and give you my opinion accordingly.  That's what I'm going back to.  Make sure to come back and check for updates often because I'm going to try to update at least every other day.  Sometimes it may be more. Every post may not be a review, but hopefully we can use this space for food discussion or news. Happy eating everyone!

Product Review: Pepsi Next

Marty McFly: I want a Pepsi Free. Guy at lunch counter: If you want a Pepsi you're gonna have to pay for it!

The above exchange is one of many from one of my favorite movies of all time, Back to The Future.  Seeing that that line was written in 1985 we know that Pepsi has been on their kick of "new formula as marketing gimmick" for some time now.  Of course that isn't limited to just Pepsi, but since they're the one I'm focused on here you're just going to have to roll with me for a minute.  Pepsi's latest "gimmick" is of course an attempt to solve the oldest problem in softdrinkdom (eat your heart out Webster's). How can we make a product that tastes exactly like our oldest most popular original formula but without the sugar and calories so it can be enjoyed without a personal beatdown from healthfood crusader Michelle Obama? Has Pepsi finally cracked the code (probably not up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A)?

Granted I'm not a full time...or even part time Pepsi drinker, but I think I would have to say that the answer is no.  Pepsi Next is similar to other past attempts in that it tries to give us part of what we want and claiming it's the full monty.  It's just not going to work.  It's a formula that claims to have 60% less sugar yet still have the real "Pepsi taste". You all can disagree with me if you want, and maybe there are true Pepsi fans out there that will, but if this is supposed to taste like you're drinking a regular Pepsi I'd consider it a failure.  However, before I proclaim a total loss I will say that the flavor of Pepsi Next is better than that of Diet Pepsi. Of course in my opinion drinking Diet Pepsi is only slightly better than getting punched in the neck. But to each their own I suppose.

I think what it comes down to for me is that if you really really want a regular Pepsi, or Coke for that matter, just have one.  Everything in moderation. Drinking a soda that has less sugar or "diet" isn't really a healthy solution in any case.  I drink Diet Coke because I prefer the taste.  Always have.  Always will. In making your softdrink choices I suggest you do the same.

Taste 5/10 Meh-tacular for sure.
Value N/A It costs the same as every other bottle of pop costs.  I'll just say I'd spend my cash elsewhere.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Enough Already: Social Media and Restaurant Self-Promotion

"Don't believe the hype." I'm quite sure that when Public Enemy had a hit with those lyrics back in the early 90s they most certainly weren't talking about anything I'm going to write about in this blog post. Nonetheless that doesn't mean the phrase doesn't apply to the phenomenon I've seen way too much of lately, relentless restaurant self promotion via Twitter.

As some of you may know I'm a big fan of social media and twitter especially. If you're so inclined you can even follow me via that little link over there on the right.  Twitter serves a great purpose.  It allows easy social interaction and conversation.  It is a source for humor. And it can be used as a cheap and effective way to promote something whether that be a political ideology, a specific candidate, a blog (ahem), or yes even a business.  I don't find anything wrong at all with any of this, but I'm a believer in the concept of everything in moderation (bacon excluded) but it seems as of late some restaurants aren't subscribers to this philosophy. 

I believe it's one thing for a restaurant to use twitter to interact with customers (Pizzology, Boogie Burger, Scotty's Brewhouse) and to promote special events or menu items (The Local), but a more disturbing phenomenon is using the medium to blowup followers' timelines to do nothing but inflate their own hype.  Let me give you an example.  If I eat somewhere and enjoy myself I might tweet and say "@XXXXX I had a nice meal tonight. Looking forward to going back." It would be proper for that restaurant to maybe send me something back saying thanks for coming out or we appreciate your business.  However, what I've seen is one place in particular continuously retweeting without comment EVERY remotely positive thing people say about them.  It's obnoxious and excessive, and having ate there (review to come later) an inaccurate representation of the quality of the experience.  After all I certainly don't see any "My food took forever to come out and you turned my steak to shoe leather" tweets.  I know. I know.  Why don't I just unfollow? That's true I could do that and probably will, but I shouldn't have to.  The point is that if you're making people unfollow you your social media strategy is a big wad of fail.

As you are my readers I have to assume all of you are poor judges of writing talent discerning diners or at least hope to be.  I do my best to give you my honest opinion and go into each restaurant and meal with an open mind. But while I can help be a guide as to where you might best spend your hard earned dollar I'm not trying to make up your mind for you. If you see a restaurant trying so hard it seems like they're almost trying to convince themselves you should probably beware. I mean look what happened to Huey Lewis after he tried to make us believe the heart of rock n roll was still beating.

Ok so this isn't Huey, but it might as well be.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Patty Melt Obession Part 3: Hardee's Southwest Patty Melt Review

Over the last several weeks I've expressed on this blog my recent obsession with the patty melt sandwich.  Truthfully it's probably only slightly more healthy than the obsession some of my more romantically challenged male readers (sorry mom's basement dwellers) might have with Kate Upton, a Southwest Patty Melt "enthusiast in her own right.  On a more serious note I wanted to try the Hardee's Southwest Patty Melt because it not only fits my patty melt meme as of late, but it's also 1. a new-ish fast food offering 2. a Hardee's offering of which I'm mostly a fan and 3. the combo came with a free Oreo icecream sandwich.  How would this stack up compared to other melts I've had as of late?

The Hardee's Southwest Patty Melt might be a new sandwich to the Hardee's lineup, but there are definitely some derivative elements here beyond what constitutes the normal patty melt toppings.  The bread is Hardee's famous toasted sourdough that has accompanied their Frisco Burger for so many years.  The additions that make it different than the standard patty melt are the pepper-jack cheese substituting for swiss, jalapeno slices, and "Southwest sauce".  I've seen all those elements on other burgers and sandwiches before with mixed results so I was a little worried how they would work here.  Surprisingly, I think the answer is those elements work quite well.  The jalapenos, sauce, and cheese definitely added some kick, but I was a little amazed at how mild the flavor actually was.  Granted, I'm not someone who is that sensitive to heat but I definitely expected more heat from a sandwich with sliced jalapenos.  The 1/4 lb patty size was adequate and juicy compared to other "large chain" fast food burgers.  I think the sourdough "bun" with it's toasted yet soft texture made this better than if it was just served on a regular bun.  However, I think there were some drawbacks here as well.  Between the cheese and sauce I found the overall texture far too creamy. With the jalapeno slices it almost tasted like bland ballpark nachos.  Also, the Hardee's website makes no mention of it, but I could have swore my patty melt had mayo on it which I found to be serious overkill.  Also there were supposed to be grilled onions here, but they were somewhat hard to find.

Taste 6.5/10 I'm giving this an above average score because even when Hardee's has somewhat of a miss their burgers are still better than what BK, Mickey D's and Wendy's are putting out.  Real solution though is just to go to Culver's if one is nearby.
Value 6.5/10 I'm giving a similar slightly above average score here because I did get a free icecream sandwich with my combo, and it was quite a filling meal.

Additional Note: While I appreciate Hardee's offering free icecream with this combo it's pretty hard to get it back to your house or office without it turning into something messier than Curtis Painter's future career prospects.  Hardee's at least tried by putting it in a separate bag from my hot food, but in the end it was a ride on the failboat.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review: Greek Tony's Pizza and Sub Shop

I love pizza.  I know that sounds like the typical answer any 10 year old would give you if you asked them their favorite food, but dammit it's true.  Some people might be particular in what style of crust or toppings they prefer or where they order it from to the degree that once they've found a favorite they'll eschew looking elsewhere for good 'za pizza (Sorry it was too douchey even done tongue in cheek). That's not me.  Sure I have my preferences, but pizza for me is graded on a heavy curve.  Even the worst pizza I've had wasn't that bad.  As a result I'm never afraid to try new varieties and new restaurants.  Recently I grabbed lunch at Greek Tony's Pizza and Sub Shop in Carmel, and let me tell you there will be no need to grade on a curve here.

First of all to give you a little background about what some of my preferences are.  First of all I prefer meat toppings full of porky goodness just the way God and Ron Swanson intended. Second, I tend to like thinner more traditional crust pizza over deep dish. Third, and here's where the Greek Tony's lunch experience comes into play, I almost never get pizza by the slice.  In the past I've felt unsatisfied by just having 1 slice of pizza even if it was large in size.  Pizza is an addiction for me and I can't eat just one.  So when I walked into Greek Tony's and ordered the single slice of pepperoni I had my doubts about whether it could fill me up. That worry was assuaged quickly as soon as my slice arrived in front of me.

Good lawd this slice of pep was huge. You can get some idea of scale by comparing it to my knife and fork in the picture. I knew I wasn't going away hungry.  Better than the portion size though was the taste.  I love pizza when it's done like they do at Greek Tony's.  The crust was the perfect combination of crusty on the very bottom yet soft and chewy when you bite in all the way.  Also, I couldn't get over how plentiful the cheese was here. It was as much mozzarella piled on a pie as I've ever seen.  The amount of pepperoni was adequate.  The only drawback I would say was the sauce.  There was so little of it in comparison to the cheese and pep that it was a little hard to even taste. I'm usually not a "there needs to be more sauce" guy, but here it is undeniable.  I think it should only be considered a small glitch in otherwise pretty awesome slice.

I also wanted to say a few words about Greek Tony's itself.  I absolutely love places that are throwbacks to an earlier age, and Greek Tony's looks like a place that hasn't changed in quite some time.  When so much of Carmel looks new and fancy it's refreshing to see a place that doesn't fit that meme.  They are located in an older building, they have years of collected hockey memorabilia on one wall and games for kids on the other like a truly old school pizza parlor.  Hand written specials are on a white board behind the counter where orders are taken by an employee with a friendly face.  I'm looking forward to a return trip, and If I can get myself away from the pizza  I might have to try their Italian Beef.

Taste 9/10 I enjoyed this pizza by the slice as much or more than any I've had.
Value 9/10 A slice and a medium drink was just over 5 bucks. Considering  the size of the slice and the quality of the product I'd call that pretty darn good. 

Greek Tony's Pizza & Sub Shop on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Product Review: Doritos Jacked Smokin Chipotle BBQ

"Really on point with bold flavors, you guys." If the twitter character @dadboner tweeted something about these new Doritos Jacked chips it would probably sound something like the aforementioned quote.  Being that he considers himself a "true bold badboy" like Guy Fieri well and if he were real he'd probably flip his lid over these things.  I on the other hand am slightly more skeptical.

Truthfully, product reviews are some of my favorite blog posts to write for this site.  I'm always thrilled about trying something new, and usually cheap considering they're usually on sale for promotion.  However, more often than not it seems I keep getting let down by products that are more bark than bite.  That is the case with these new Doritos.

Even though the packaging says new and the product has the hilarious and douchtastic label "JACKED" I can't help but feel this new flavor is completely derivative.  I mean com'on man we've been given "chipotle bbq" everything for what seems like a decade.  I mean that is pretty much the only reason Bobby Flay's big ginger head is creepily omnipresent on both Food Network and Cooking Channel.  I can even accept that in some instances I like the flavor, but it just feels a bit tired.  With that being said, I at least found these Doritos somewhat unique in actual flavor if not concept.  While I was expecting a somewhat high level of sweetness despite what "chipotle" should really mean the actual flavor was quite spicy for mainstream big brand chips.  I have a feeling a lot of the people I know that are more sensitive to heat would actually not be able to eat more than a couple.    I actually enjoyed this aspect, but I still don't think it made for an actually enjoyable snack that I would buy again.  That addictive quality that is present in so many other chips just wasn't there. Other than a little bit of heat nothing was brought to the table.  Things could have possibly been different if the heat was kept in tact along with a traditional bbq flavor that is present in other chips like those of the Kettle brand.

Taste 4/10 A resounding meh.  Pretty much like every other Doritos product. I'm subtracting an extra point for the weird thick texture these had. Seemed thicker than other Doritos. Strange.
Value 3/10 I got a medium sized bag for a medium sized price, but I would have rather spent my money on some Kettle chips for sure.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Revisit: Rosie's Place

I'm going to let you know right off the bat that this is somewhat of a strange post to write for me.  If there are two things I don't do much of that other food bloggers do it's write revisit reviews and write breakfast restaurant reviews.   I tend to shy away from the former because most of the time I feel that my opinion the first time was pretty spot on and there really isn't much else to say.  As far as the latter truthfully we just don't go out to breakfast very much because I don't get up early enough on the weekends or I just say screw it and make something at home.  In this review I'm breaking my rules and doing both of those things because let me tell you Rosie's is worth it.

Those of us who live in or near Noblesville are very lucky to have such awesome breakfast choices when the mood suits us.  While Best Bet tends towards the awesome and quirky, Rosie's trends warm and comforting. Kind of like a plush blanket that serves farm fresh eggs, homefries, and homemade well...everything.  When The Girlfriend and I showed up at Rosie's on  Sunday we were lucky enough to beat the rush and were promptly greeted with a warm smile and a good table.  Our server, Jeri, was very nice and quite on her game considering how busy the place eventually became. She explained some very tasty sounding specials including a couple varieties of quiche and a breakfast burrito that sounded rather badass.  However, I had my heart set on pancakes and that is exactly what I got.

Ever since I was a little kid I've been somewhat of a connoisseur of pancakes. I'm not of the opinion that all hotcakes are created equal.  I tend to prefer big buttermilk pancakes without the crispy edges that develop in some cases.  I have to tell you that Rosie's absolutely nailed my pancakes. Soft, pillowy, and large without that dry "cotton" quality that can  sometimes occur in big pancakes.  And besides my pancakes being almost as big as the plate a standard serving includes 3 pancakes. Plenty of food.  No eggs, sausage, or bacon necessary.  My one and only minor complaint is that the small cup of syrup they give you isn't really enough to adequately coat the 3 hotcakes. Also, as a side note I tried a bit of The Girlfriend's country eggs benedict, and that's probably what I'll get on my next visit if for some reason the brown sugar and oatmeal pancakes slip my mind.

Taste 10/10 If you told me something from here wasn't good I just wouldn't believe you. Period.
Value 10/10 Our breakfast tasted great, was plenty of food, and came in under 18 bucks before tip including drinks.

Rosie's Place on Urbanspoon

Catching The Burger Wave: Boogie Burger Review

"Eating seasonally." I think the general consensus of that term is the one that foodies, hipsters, and foodie hipsters most often employ and that is using ingredients in cooking that are currently in season and therefore taste fresher.  I can't disagree, but I think about that phrase in a different way also. When I say I'm eating seasonally I mean that there are certain types of food that I just associate with a time of year or a type of weather. As you can probably ascertain from my last few blog posts warmer weather to me means old school red meat hamburgers.

I don't know what it is.  I think I first and foremost associate hamburgers with warmer weather due to the grilling out factor. In fact I did have some fantastic outdoor grilled burgers on St Patty's at KTP's Bar in Broadripple (sorry folks it's a  private member's only establishment).  The combination of brown sugar, bacon, and green onion mixed into the meat was truly a winner despite any reservations you may have about such a concoction being overly sweet.  And while you may not get the chance to try those burgers there is a place in Broadripple that is making some truly badass burger creations that make for the perfect Spring/Summer lunch or dinner.  That place is Boogie Burger.

Truthfully, I've been wanting to try Boogie Burger for a long time.  Despite their new location being a stones throw from my friends' house where our group often hangs out I've just never made it in for a visit until now.  Man was I missing out.  As you walk in you are greeted a friendly face at the counter who is surrounded by a plethora of burger choices on the wall menu.  I went back and forth for a bit, and settled on one of my favorite combinations, the mushroom and swiss.  I also ordered a side of their garlic fries because I've heard good things and that it was kind of a signature item for them.  My order was ready in short order and my buddy and I ventured out on their patio to enjoy our burgers in this wonderful Spring weather we've been having. 

Everything about my burger and fries were absolutely phenomenal.  The burger was juicy, and the size of the patty was ample.  The swiss cheese was melted to gooey perfection. The mushrooms were in abundance on the top of my burger instead of just a couple of slices hiding underneath the bun that you sometimes get at other chain burger joints.  Speaking of the bun it was soft and pillowy and just the right size for the burger.  And although my burger was fantastic make no mistake I thought the real star of my meal was the garlic fries.  I know that is unusual since most of the time places have fries that are barely worthy of mention.  However, Boogie Burger's garlic fries are made with their fresh garlic parsley mix and are not to be missed.  Trust me on this one.  This is not fries tossed in garlic powder or garlic salt.  This is real deal fresh garlic, and it really delivers on smell and flavor.  Granted I am a big garlic fan, but honestly if you like flavor you should be a fan of these fries.  If not you should probably go read some pinko vegan blog about tofu.  All kidding aside, go to Boogie Burger andorder the garlic fries and please yourself now.  Brush your teeth and use some mouthwash to please your significant other later.

Taste 10/10 It took me awhile to make my first visit.  I assure you the time between now and my next visit will be much much shorter.
Value 10/10 The price of my meal with a burger, fries, and drink was around 11 dollars.  Some of you might say that's a bit steep, but the fries are easily a large enough portion to split (that's what we did actually) and the food tastes great.  If you're willing to pay that at Five Guys paying it at Boogie Burger, which I actually liked more, feels like a steal.

Boogie Burger on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Union Jack Pub Review: Patty Melt Obession Part II

As I mentioned in a previous post I've been on a real quest for good patty melts as of late, and when a buddy and I were recently in Broadripple to watch future IU point guard Yogi Ferrel in the Sectional Final we decided to stop in to the Union Jack for a pint or two and some eats.  The Union Jack is somewhat famous for their deep dish bar pizza, and it's surely something that is on the list for me to try down the road.  However, on this night the patty melt was what I craved.
The bartender took our order and our food came out promptly which is always nice especially when you're on a schedule to see an event later in the evening like we were.  As soon as my melt arrived I knew I was in for a better experience than the one I had at Red Robin.  The bread this time was still toasted but still soft enough that the texture was palatable.  On this version of the patty melt the thousand island was included on the sandwich which is the way I prefer, and the choice of onion was red onion grilled thoroughly and cut into strips.  The patty itself was more than an adequate size and rather juicy even though it was still cooked all the way through. (Can't someone besides The Local actually cook a burger to medium or mid-rare?)  The fries were nothing special, but they were very crispy and had nice flavor.  No complaints.  I would have absolutely no problem ordering this again. 

Taste 8/10 Very solid effort here. Beats Red Robin by a mile. Compared to other pubs and bars the Union Jack's food is definitely near the top.
Value 6/10 The price for the food is exactly what I would expect to pay at such an establishment.  The above average food gets it 1 extra above average point on the value meter.  Watch out for the beers though. I was suprised to see that a Smithwicks draft was about $6.  Ouch.

Union Jack Pub on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Red Robin Review: Patty Melt Obession Part I

Everyone who is into food or at least those who are pregnant get cravings for things sometimes.  And since according to basic anatomy and physiology I fall into the former camp I've had an obession lately with the basic diner staple of the patty melt.  The patty melt usually has a little bit of everything that anyone as an American would enjoy (What about you tofu and beansprout people? You're at the wrong blog.). Red meat ground and shaped into an ample hamburger patty, melted cheese, onions grilled to bring out their natural sweetness, and dear Lord yes all of this is on YEAH TOAST!  I get it as a go to when I'm trying a burger joint for the first time.  It shouldn't be too hard to do correctly.  And I've had success getting it before at Britton Tavern and The Stacked Pickle.  My next quest to find out if Red Robin could be as successful.

The first thing I want to say about Red Robin is that if you are under 21 or have children with you Red Robin might be the most annoying restaurant in the known universe at which to dine.  When The Girlfriend and I walked in I almost turned around and walked out due to all of the screaming kids, general busyness, and crazy crap on the walls.  Think Uncle Moe's Family feedbag for you Simpsonites out there.  Luckily because we were both 21 we were seated on the bar side (Who is going to this place to drink??) and promptly ordered our meals.

My patty melt with fries came to the table in the expected amount of time and at first everything about it looked normal, but biting in immediately made me aware of two problems.  First of all when I ordered they asked me if I wanted "some pink" or "no pink" in my burger.  Despite the fact that a restaurant that prides itself on burgers can't for some reason understand the concept of well, medium well, medium, medium rare, and rare I ordered mine with "some pink".  You can alreadly probably guess that my patty melt came out with less pink in it than Chuck Norris' wardrobe.  I know I've said this before, but if you can't cook burgers to the right temperature then just don't freakin' ask.  It's insulting to your guests.  The second thing I noticed was that the bread was way over toasted.  It was so crunchy in fact it was a little hard to eat without the feeling that you were tearing the roof of your mouth apart.  All that being said the flavor of the meat, cheese, onions, and house made Thousand Island was good.  The bread was so offputting though it was hard to focus on much else. Also, I would be remiss without saying that I normally detest fries of the fat "steak fry" variety, but Red Robin has these down to a science.  They were crispy, light, and delicious.  Probably the only place where I would say I've ever enjoyed them.

Taste 5/10 Lagging far behind previous other patty melt entries on this blog.  I'm still yet to see why people say they love Red Robin so much. 
Value 4/10 The price was average here and pretty much exactly what you'd expect.  Execution issues with the food hurt the value score.

Red Robin on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Product Review: Kettle Sweet Onion Potato Chips

Bad breath in a bag. Kettle brand Sweet Onion potato chips might have been named that if marketing departments focused on truth telling and  Now, I haven't done a product review here in a while so don't let me muddle my point.  Kettle Sweet Onion flavor chips are delicious.  It's just that things can be successful while also having aesthetic or other draw backs.  I mean look at all the success Sarah Jessica Parker  has had in her career.  Let's dive into the details of these chips a little bit.

First of all you could guess from the name that these are kettle cooked potato chips which are by far my favorite.  Some may disagree, but I find the snap of the more sturdy kettle cooked chip much more satisfying. In regards to flavor Kettle isn't afraid to be aggressive.  These sweet onion chips are not missing out on any flavor, but it's pretty unique and I'm not sure what I could compare them to.  The onion flavor is definitely present, but it's not like eating a raw onion by any means.  The hint of sweetness is there to balance that out while still having the overall  taste be more salty than sweet.  As a side note Kettle's bbq variety is also among the most intensely flavored and best bbq chips I've had in a long time. 

Taste 8.5/10 The Kettle chips are my go to brand right now for potato chips.  They have a lot of different flavors beyond the standards we see from Lays or Ruffles, and the texture is awesome.  I will buy these again despite being located in the crappy "hipster food" section in Kroger.
Value 7/10 Kroger had these on sale for the price of 2 large bags for 6 bucks.  I really like these chips so I consider that a pretty good deal.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Dog Even Mitt Romney Wouldn't Leave On Top Of The Car: Zacky's Hot Dogs and Smokehouse BBQ

There has been some discussion on the Twitters lately about what one should order when trying out a place they haven't eaten at before.  Should you order what are the consensus strengths of the restaurant's menu, or is it ok to be the guy who orders stir fry off of the pub's menu because hey if they put it on there it should be good right? Truthfully I'm not sure there is a good answer to that question, and I tend to think the answer varies based on what kind of place your dining at and other factors (See my first post about pulled pork at the Ale Emporium).  I bring this up because Zacky's is a small yet popular little place in Carmel that specializes in hot dogs, but they also have some bbq options such as pulled pork and ribs.  As you probably know I love me some bbq, but I decided in this instance to go with one of Zacky's specialty hot dogs and leave the bbq for another day. 

Zacky's has several specialty hot dogs, and if you prefer to eat like you're a 5 year old you can even get one plain. The hot dogs are Vienna Beef and have different preparations along with different toppings.  In order to satisfy my lingering desire for bbq and smoke I decided to go with the ZQ Dog.  This was a deep-fried hot dog, bacon, cheddar cheese, and bbq sauce.  I made mine a combo with fries and a drink for an extra 2.99. If you're so inclined you can swap out fries for various other sides including sweet potato fries.  I might have done just that except there is something you should know about Zacky's.  If you go on a Saturday afternoon the atmosphere in the place is a bit manic.  It's fairly small, and there were a lot of people wanting to get their grub on including quite a few kids.  Such a secenario doesn't give one the time to peruse the menu that otherwise might be available.  Also, the number of tables is somewhat limited so beware of that if you aren't getting takeout. 

Despite the busy surroundings our food was ready in a prompt manner.  I was wondering if one hot dog was going to be enough to placate my hunger, but luckily it was a good sized dog and the portion of crinkle cut fries was more than adequate.  This was my first time ever having a fried hot dog, and while I didn't find it as rave-worthy (cool points for made up words!) as other people I did like the texture.  The flavor was just what I was looking for.  The smoky bacon paired well with the cheddar and the sweetness of the bbq sauce.  Also, the flavor of the hot dog wasn't lost under the toppings.  While the fries weren't of the fresh-cut variety I always dig crinkle cuts served in a basket.  That's 'murican right there. 

Taste 8/10 Exceeded expectations for my first visit in spite of the fact that hot dogs usually aren't a go to lunch for me.  I can't wait to go back and try some of their bbq offerings.
Value 6.5/10 Zacky's is putting out some dang good hot dogs, but they are a bit pricy. A hot dog combo ran between 6 and 7 bucks.  An above average value for sure just not by a lot.

Zacky's Hot Dogs & Smokehouse BBQ on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fast Food Review: McDonald's Chicken McBites

In the last few years it seems more and more like the old standby fast food places are always trying to give us something new, different, and "lighter" to keep us coming in the door.  This is of course despite the fact that the reason most of us go there in the first place is to get old standbys that we're used to from long ago.  This is especially true when it comes to chicken products.  Burger King already had chicken tenders on the menu when they introduced the more-or-less terrible chicken fries.  Now it seems that McDonald's has had a similar idea. 

McDonald's has had their famous Chicken McNuggets on the menu since as far back as I can remember.  They have more than their fair share of detractors, but they've always been a personal fave for whatever reason.  The appeal may be more nostalgic than taste related.  Nonetheless McDonald's has introduced a "new" chicken product called Chicken McBites.  I put new in scare quotes because other than just being added to the menu there is nothing new at all about them.  This is popcorn chicken plain and simple.  And guess what?  It sucks.  Popcorn chicken always sucks.  It's small.  It's dry. There's more breading than chicken.  Oh but it's portable they tell us.  Yeah so it almost everything on  Mickey D's menu.  Popcorn chicken is ok I guess if you're 6 years old, but they are marketing this to adults. I guess some will fall for it, but I'll probably stick to the dollar menu.

Taste 2/10 Hey they didn't make me vomit so they've got that going for them.

Value 0/10 The Girlfriend picked these up on the way home from work one night to try them.  I don't really know what she paid or how much they cost.  It doesn't matter.  Whatever it is is too much.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Review: Kobayashi Sushi and Asian Kitchen

"I don't believe in unwinnable scenarios." That's what James T. Kirk said in response to cheating on and winning the Kobayashi Maru exam at Starfleet Academy.  What does that have to do with this restaurant I'm reviewing other than the first part of their names are the same? Absolutely nothing, but I felt like showing off some of my nerd cred and I wanted to throw a bone to those lonely souls I may have insulted in my Valentine's Day post.  Chin up sparky. Some day some girl will let you set her phaser on stun.  In any case Kobayashi Sushi and Asian Kitchen is a relatively new restaurant on the scene in Noblesville.  At the corner of Greenfield Ave and Highway 37, it inhabits what used to be a Dick's Bodacious BBQ.  In fact when you go in, despite their efforts to redecorate, you can definitely tell this was not always a space intended for an Asian dining experience. That being said when the food comes out of the kitchen there won't be any doubt what experience you're about to have.

The Girlfriend and I went in on a Saturday night and there was a decent crowd for a place that I assume people in the community had just started hearing about.  While sushi bars may seem to pop up like Starbucks in some far Northside locales that really isn't the case in Noblesville so I thought if the food was good Kobayashi might have something here.  We decided to start off with an appetizer of gyoza. They are little wonton dumplings that are stuffed with a pork mixture and pan fried.  We have had them at several places and the quality varies, but they are still one of our favorites.  Here at Kobayashi they knocked them out of the park.  Not only was the flavor of the filling wonderful, but the texture on the outside was perfect, just the right mix of crispy and chewy.  If you go I highly recommend them.  The problem The Girlfriend and I run into when we go to these types of places is the issue of the entrees.

Sushi is something that is meant to be shared.  If you are sharing you can order more and try a variety.  This is an issue with us because even though she has tried it The Girlfriend is not becoming a sushi fan (any variety) any time soon.  We solve this issue by her ordering off of the other menu while I probably get enough sushi for 2 people. (No judgements) She ordered her go to chicken with broccoli which ended up being a healthy portion with a lot of fresh stir fried veggies in a lighter brother than what I was used to.  I tried a little bit, and it was very good.  If you want to go here and have people that don't want to get their "roll" on (ha!) they won't be disappointed. I ordered the basic tuna roll and I decided to order a special roll as well called the Golden Roll. The tuna roll tasted good and very fresh.  Basic, but for only $4 I wasn't complaining.  The Golden Roll was smoked salmon, avocado, and cream cheese with a light tempura fry on the outside and a drizzle of spicy mayo and eel sauce.  I know people tend to have very divergent views on both smoked salmon and cream cheese, but if you're a fan like I am you would have to say that this was pretty awesome. The creaminess balanced nicely with the crunch on the outside, and the flavors were very good even if I was expecting a little more hint of smoke on the salmon.  Overall, expectations exceeded.

Taste 8.5/10 The appetizer was very good and so were our main courses.  In my opinion it rivals any sushi I've had in the area.  The only one I could think of enjoying more was the Maui Roll at Naked Tchopstix.
Value 9.5/10 The Girlfriend and I got an app, 2 sushi rolls, and an entree and the meall still was under $40. Try doing that at a lot of other sushi places.

Kobayashi Sushi & Asian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chocolate Pez and Valentine's Day Sweet Treats

Happy Valentine's Day even though it's probably going to be the 15th or later when you read this. (If that's the case just read this same post next year and that opening greeting will be relevant.)  Anyway, I thought I'd do a little quick post tonight based around candy, specifically candy that you either got for or received from your significant other for the holiday.  If you were alone this Valentine's Day you should have still got yourself some candy. It washes down great with lonely tears of infinite sadness.

My favorite candy to give or receive for any holiday are Lindor truffles.  The milk chocolate and white chocolate are absolutely fantastic.  Nothing better than cracking through the brittle chocolate shell and getting into the soft middle (like the Colts pass defense!).  The Girlfriend and I gave these to each other, and we were both happy with that.  However, I was feeling whimsical so I also got The Girlfriend a little V-Day Pez dispenser with chocolate, yes chocolate, Pez.  I had never had this before so I asked her for a taste.  In a word it was disgusting.  Despite my general rule that candy always tastes good when coming out of the throat of a plastic animal I'm declaring that Pez should stick to fruit flavors only. 

If you're so inclined leave some comments about your favorite candy or what you received for this Hallmarkiest of holidays.

Review: Asia Bistro

Hello dear readers...those of you that are still here after my lazy ass hasn't posted for over a month anyway.  Well, for those of you that have stuck around I wanted to take a little time today to share with you a review of one of my favorite types of cuisine, take-out Chinese.  I've written about it on here before, and you might remember that my unabashed favorite is Hong Kong Cuisine at 126th and Highway 37.  Sometimes though when you see a new place open up it's at least worth trying to shake things up a bit.  That's what I did with Asia Bistro.

Asia Bistro is located in the plaza at 116th and Allisonville between Marsh and Little Caesars.  I believe the shopping center is Fishers Station maybe? One of you feel free to correct me in the comments if I'm wrong. In any case I decided this place was worth a go for Chinese takeout because it is on my direct route home from work, and if it was as good as Hong Kong it would be endlessly more convienient for me when picking up dinner.  However, I knew that was probably going to be a tall order.

When I walked in I saw the usual setup.  Depiste having "bistro" in the name it was more or less the same as every takeout place you've ever been to with the same menu.  To keep consistent and to make good comparisons I ordered my usual dish, chicken with garlic sauce, while opting for an egg roll as my side along with fried rice.  I also picked up an order of steamed dumplings.  The first thing I noticed when I opened up my container was that it more or less looked like the same dish I get from Hong Kong, but the awesome garlicky smell wasn't there.  Unfortunately, the lack of smell carried over to lack of flavor.  When I order something with "garlic" in the name I expect to be punched in the mouth with the flavor of it.  Here it was barely noticeable at all.  There was slightly more heat (not very much) than the same dish at Hong Kong, but it didn't really translate to more flavorful food.  The veggies and chicken were cooked alright, but without the sauce being right it just wasn't enough.  The fried rice was also inferior.  While not as stale and "neon yellow" as I've had at other places it wasn't better than my standard.  The dumplings were good.  The meat inside was juicy and the wrapper on the outside had a good texture, but Chinese takeout places around here have yet to even come close to matching the delicious dumplings served at First Wok in Muncie, IN.  They just do them better, and their dumpling dipping sauce has a big kick.  Not just soy in the cup.

I have to say I was really disappointed here.  I so badly wanted this place to exceed my expectations so it could become my new go-to.   Also, I believe they deliver which isn't something any other Chinese places in the area are doing.  Unfortunately I don't think the food was good enough to ever make me go back.  Ratings time
Taste 5/10 Not great.  Not horrible. Not worth going back.
Value 3/10 With food that isn't as good as my favorite and similar prices the value score has to suffer a bit.

Asia Bistro on Urbanspoon