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Earl’s Sandwich

October 21, 2013

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Earl’s Sandwich

Target: Earl’s Turkey Club
Side: New Orleans Style Gumbo
Drink: Coca Cola in a can
Damage to Wallet: Under $15

Guest of Honor: Colleen

Things I cannot abide; Vibram 5 finger shoes, ‘Club Sandwiches’ that don’t have three slices of bread, and people who keep Ducks inside as pets. Earl’s Sandwich shop can’t help me with the two legged terrors or weird shoes but man can they put together a true Club Sandwich.

Target: Earl’s Turkey Club

This beauty tasted as good as it looked. Fresh roasted turkey and cranberry relish make up the top layer, while lettuce, mayonnaise and bacon adorn the bottom. I ordered this behemoth no tomato. I didn’t miss it. All of this supported by three lightly toasted slices of sourdough bread.

If I have to explain that cranberries and turkey go well together for you, I am sorry. It works as well here as on any Thanksgiving table. The lettuce, mayo and bacon layer added the required depth of flavor and sourdough was the perfect bread for this sandwich. Basically this is a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich on top of an amazing BLT. (Even though I left off the Tomato)

Side: New Orleans Style Gumbo

This homemade soup was excellent. The okra stole the show but the andouille sausage and the turkey kept my inner carnivore satisfied. I would get it again.

I included pictures of Colleen’s fries and grilled cheese. Don’t Panic.

Drink: Coca Cola in a can

It can take rust stains off kitchen floors, and it washed down this meal.

Damage to Wallet: Under $15

Awesome food for the money. And a lot of it.

Final Verdict: This place is awesome. I haven’t seen a sandwich served I wouldn’t eat.

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BGR: My Burger Joint

September 18, 2013
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BGR: My Burger Joint

Target: All-American Burger
Side: Parmesan Fries
Drink: Creamsicle Coke (See Below)
Damage to Wallet: Around $28 for Two

Guest of Honor: My Fiancée Colleen – Note a ring theme

BGR is a chain of deluxe Burger restaurants that appear up and down the Eastern seaboard. They are known for producing above average burgers at reasonable prices. This one also had my favorite restroom signs of all time.

Target: All-American Burger

This Month’s specialty burger featured an all beef patty with cheddar cheese, bacon, an onion ring topped with BBQ sauce and mustard. This was an important burger in my life as I have actually never had one topped with an onion ring before. I ordered it medium.

Although it came out a little more done than ordered it was an excellent burger. The beef was able to stand up to the prominent flavors of the BBQ sauce and the mustard, both of which were excellent. The BBQ sauce was on the sweeter side and the mustard added a little bite. The bacon was crispy and the onion ring was an unsuspected treat. I usually don’t like onions on my burgers but in ring form it was tame enough that I enjoyed it. The bun was buttered and grilled and was substantial enough to hang tough despite the mountain of toppings.

Side: Parmesan Fries

Crisp fries with a fluffy center topped with Parmesan cheese. Really simple, really good.

Drink: Creamsicle Coke

So BGR has one of those fancy Coke machines that allows you to pick between around a hundred types of soda. So I mix seventy five percent Vanilla Coke and fill the rest with Orange Coke. It is sweeter than a bumble bees daydream and I love it.

Damage to Wallet: Around $28 for Two

Not a bad deal for two burgers, fries and two drinks.

Verdict: I say give BGR a shot. The burgers are a lot better than the average fare and they aren’t too expensive.

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Old Town: The Haunted Portland Pizzeria

July 1, 2013

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Old Town: The Haunted Portland Pizzeria

Target: Pepperoni Pizza, Sausage and Mushroom Pizza, Garlic Knots and Salad, Mac and Cheese
Drink: Old Town Brewery Irish Red
Damage to Wallet: Affordable (See Below)

Guest of Honor: Colleen

On a trip to Portland, Oregon we made a point to check out the most famous pizza place in town. Old Town Pizzeria and Brewery has an interesting history. Located in what was once a lobby of a hotel in Portland’s historic Chinatown District. Apparently people used to go missing in the area and taken through hidden tunnels eventually to be sold into slavery. A brave young woman attempted to escape and alert authorities. She was found at the bottom of an elevator shaft in the hotel. Haunted pizza, that is a new one for me.

Despite the grim backstory, Old Town pumps out some truly inspired food. We ended up going twice during our trip, and I thought I would include both trips in this post.

Target: Pepperoni Pizza, Sausage and Mushroom Pizza, Garlic Knots and Salad, Mac and Cheese

Old Town starts out with locally sourced flour and dough they make throughout the day. The result is a robust crust that is surprisingly light and chewy. The sauce is a little on the sweet side but compliments the hardy crust well.

The Pepperoni Pie comes out with the edges of the little pepperonis curled to the sky. Always a great sign in my book. With all of the low level pepperoni that gets delivered in boxes across the country, it is easy to forget why this topping became so popular. The first bite brought it all back for me. The little pepperonis had a touch of heat to them that instantly cut through the sweetness of the sauce. Awesome pie.

The Sausage and Mushroom pizza also brought the noise. Giant chunks of fennel infused sausage handle the sweet sauce with ease. Thin cut fresh mushrooms bring the flavors together in a fugue that I would retire to if it was possible.

The Garlic Knots are huge. Out of proportion huge. Good thing they were excellent. Doughy knots with a hint of garlic, when the quality of ingredients and preparation are at this level, there is no need to over complicate it. Think Joe Torre managing the 90’s Yankees saying twenty five words a game.

Salad was basic fresh greens served with a homemade dressing. I went with Blue Cheese. It was a little thin, with generous chunks of cheese. Overall excellent. Sad to report not a crouton to be had.

The Mac and Cheese was based on a penne like pasta with a cheddar sauce. They add some flavored breadcrumbs and toss it right in with the pizzas until it browns up. All of the food at Old Town was excellent, but I was most surprised by this dish. I don’t usually like Mac and Cheese served at restaurants. This time I couldn’t stop stealing noodles from Colleen. Creamy, cheesy and perfectly seasoned with the breadcrumbs it was an unexpected treat.

Drink: Old Town Brewery Irish Red

A local beer that has the familiar notes of an Irish Red, but not so overbearing so a beer wimp like me could enjoy it. Seriously when it comes to craft beer chops, I rank somewhere between the demographic for the magazine Tiger Beat and a Chia pet. And I still liked it.

I also posted the OTB Pilsner that Colleen ordered. Also good.

Damage to Wallet: Affordable

The Pizza’s were less than $14 each, the Garlic Knots were less than $6 and the Mac and Cheese was around $11. Beers were about $5. Salad came free. This paid for two full meals.

Final Verdict: Fun atmosphere, great food and drink, and an interesting sense of history. If you find yourself in Portland don’t be afraid to venture to Chinatown to grab some classic pizzeria fair.

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Five Guys: The Legend of Breakfast

June 29, 2013

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Five Guys: The Legend of Breakfast

Target: Bacon Egg and Cheese w/ Mushrooms
Drink: Sprite
Damage to Wallet: Around $8

Guest of Honor: Colleen

Breakfast in an airport is always a little touch and go. It’s usually expensive and often reheated. I was flying out of Reagan Airport in DC this week and stumbled into something that made me take a step back. A Five Guys was serving breakfast. My reality shattered, and if a photo existed of me at that exact moment it would look embarrassingly similar to Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat in the sky.

Five Guys serving breakfast actually makes a lot of sense. Flat top cooking, bacon experience, and they are already accustomed to customers watch them work their magic. Why it takes an airport for this to make sense to the five gentlemen I assume make corporate decisions is above my pay grade.

Target: Bacon Egg and Cheese w/ Mushrooms

Since I was afforded the luxury of watching the cooks make my sandwich I thought I would mention the process. They crack real eggs, yes from a chicken, into little round molds that shape the eggs into a patty on the flat top. From my understanding that’s how McDonald’s does the eggs on the Egg McMuffin.* The Five Guys cooks were doing the bacon on the same surface. They toasted the bun on the cooking surface simultaneously.

The egg met two slices of American cheese bacon and mushrooms on the toasted bun. It was as good as it sounds. Fresh eggs make a huge difference. All of the usual Five Guys topping are available. Next time I might opt for ketchup and hot sauce but regardless I was impressed by just how good this sandwich was.

Some people might frown on the hamburger bun but I actually liked it. They stuck to something they do well instead of going halfway with a crappy bagel.

* You can sub real eggs for free onto any of the red haired clown’s breakfast sandwiches by asking for ’round eggs’. No amount of explanation will make that sensible to me but it does make it so much better.

Drink: Sprite

I usually get Sprite with fast food breakfast sandwiches. I don’t know why. I ignored the advertising suggestion by forgoing the pickup basketball game. I can’t dunk anyways.

Damage to Wallet: Around $8

Expensive anywhere but in an airport. A bargain in the weird airport economy that never seemed to recover from the hyper inflation that plagued the Confederate Dollar.

Final Verdict:

Real Eggs! Free toppings like its going out of style. At an airport. Do it.

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Eggspectation

March 25, 2013
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Eggspectaion

Target: Bayou Benedict
Drink: Bloody Mary
Damage to Wallet: Around $25

Guest of Honor: Colleen

Colleen and I found ourselves near Chantily, Virgina one morning after she had competed in a 5k. We were hungry outside of our usual breakfast radius, and destined to find the unusually named Eggspectation.

Despite the name, which led me to an expectation of an egg only menu, you could order all kinds of breakfast and brunch fares. Still I decided on something a little outside of my usual comfort zone.

Target: The Bayou Benedict

Shrimp, Sausage, Grilled Chicken, and Poached Eggs piled on top of two Polenta triangles and covered in cheese and New Orleans Sauce. Served with Grilled Potatoes this was certainly a filling way to start the day.

The Polenta triangles were outstanding, especially since I wasn’t very confident in them when I ordered. The Chicken, Sausage and Shrimp all went very well with the dish. The Poached Eggs were cooked better than expected.*

What brought the plate together for me was the Sauce. The cajun spices gave a bit of a kick to the creamy hollandaise substitute. It was a different take on a familiar concept, and one that I immensely enjoyed.

*Don’t think I didn’t consider writing eggspected for way too long.

Drink: Bloody Mary

It wasn’t the spiciest Bloody Mary, but it was tasty and it came out quickly.

Damage to Wallet: Around $25

Verdict: This isn’t a bad deal for Brunch in Northern Virginia. I would go back and order the same thing, which is the highest of compliments.

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Ryan’s Pub

November 1, 2012
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Ryan’s Pub

Target: Mushroom and Swiss Burger
Side: Fries
Drink: Miller Lite
Damage to Wallet: Around $13

Guests of Honor: Colleen and Joe

Ryan’s Pub is a Sports bar near my apartment in Minneapolis. They serve beers relatively cheap and food that is unusually good. I say unusually because although Ryan’s Pub takes very few risks on their menu, everything always seems to come out really well made. The Buffalo chicken, the sandwiches, the loaded fries and the plain old chicken tenders are all above average. But their Burgers are excellent.

And just like the late great Raider Al Davis loved drafting speed over talent, I like reviewing burgers more than just about anything.

Target: Mushroom and Swiss Burger

I review a lot of mushroom burgers (and eat quite a few more). I really liked this one. I ordered my burger medium and was rewarded with a satisfingly pink center. Too often ‘Bar Food’ means that the meat gets grilled to all high heck*, and one of the reasons I like the burgers at Ryan’s is that they actually make the effort to cook the burgers to order. The meat was packed relatively lightly (as opposed to being squeezed into a puck) and overall the beef was well represented in this Angus burger.

*A polite way to say Hell

The mushrooms added their usual touch of earthiness, and had a hint of sauté flavor without being overdone. The Swiss Cheese was melted beautifully. The sole vegetable to survive my initial purge, the lettuce, was crisp and tasted fresh. Great Burger.

Side: Fries

The fries were thin, sufficiently crispy, and I liked them a lot. No reinventing the wheel here, but again they seemed to be well made and they were delicious. That’s all you can really ask for in a fried potato.

Note: Joe got the Chicken Tenders, I added a pic of those just because I had it. They are also a really good time. I prefer mine drenched in Buffalo sauce.

Drink: Miller Lite

The only ‘Lite’ Beer with its own spelling. We decided to order all of our food at the Bar and have them bring it out to us at a table. In my experience that’s the best way to get food quickly at Ryan’s.

Damage to Wallet: Around $13 A pretty good deal.

Verdict: If you find yourself near ‘Eat Street’ Minneapolis go ahead and give Ryan’s Pub a shot. If I am there, say hello!

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Lake Placid Pub & Brewery

October 15, 2012
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Lake Placid Pub & Brewery

Target: Josh’s Fire Fish
Apps: Pretzel Bites and Loaded Chili Fries
Drink: Ubu Ale
Damage to Wallet: Affordable, see below

Guests of Honor: Colleen, Christine and Tom

On a visit to Lake Placid there are certainly a lot of places to check out. The ‘Miracle on Ice’ Arena is probably one of the most famous sheets of ice in the World. The Ski jumps where US Olympians train to survive jumping off ramps at fatal heights. In the Winter you can ride in a bobsled down a former Olympic Track. The lake itself is absolutely beautiful and completely free of man eating alligators. But this isn’t a travel blog or even a blog that reveals alligator levels in major bodies of water*, let’s talk food.

Lake Placid Pub & Brewery produces an impressive number of high quality beers and manages to be an excellent spot to grab some food. Their menu reads like a comprehensive effort to catalog every appetizer I consider ordering while at restaurants. I had about three entrees picked out before I got to the back page. That’s when I saw the Buffalo Fish and Chips.

There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, my love of Buffalo Sauce, and the Great Pumpkin.

Tom and Christine were also digging the appetizer selection so we ordered a little more food than the average group of four. The average group of four missed out. As usual my girlfriend Colleen, who is my copilot on long drives and part time archery instructor, made a case for pretzels.

*Million Dollar Idea

App: Pub Style Pretzel Nuggets

These little chunks of pretzel were served warm with a choice between nacho cheese and spicy mustard dipping sauce. We opted for two orders so we got one of each. The nacho cheese was like the kind you would find at a ballpark. The mustard was very thick and a little difficult to get to stay on the pretzel.

The pretzels were chewy with a good salt ratio. Everything one could wish for in a pretzel nugget plus nacho cheese.

App: Beef and beer chili with melted cheese fries.

This was one monster appetizer. The chili was excellent, with a nice combination of spicy and savory. The melted cheese on top was almost overflowing and perfectly melted. I would recommend these to any loaded fries enthusiast.

The one thing about this dish that stuck out was that the thick cut fries were sufficiently fried so that they remained crispy despite the toppings. Most loaded fries become soggy as the structural integrity fails way before it is possible to finish. These were exceptional.

Target: Josh’s Fire Fish

Buffalo fish and chips. I had never seen it before, and I have eaten just about everything with buffalo sauce on it; from Burgers to Salads, Hot Dogs to Shrimp. (Those are the X and Y axis endpoints of my mental ‘things you can put Buffalo sauce on’ graph.) So I decided to go for it.

It was really good. It tasted like fried fish pretending to be fried chicken. And the Haddock was mild enough to do a fair impersonation. Not to mention the sauce. This dish was spicy enough that although you could tell you were eating fish, the focus was almost always on the heat emanating from the Buffalo sauce. It smelled spicy. I used the blue cheese dipping sauce to tame the fire a little but was still forced to eat it relatively slowly.

Despite the sauce the fish retained its crispiness from the frier. Overall this was excellent. I wish it was an option for me during Lent while I was growing up. Pretending the fish is chicken really works here, and if a milder sauce was used, I think it could really sell kids on fish.

Drink: Ubu Ale

And English style strong ale that is as red as it is made in house. I enjoyed it.

Damage to Wallet: The Pretzel Nuggets were around $7, the Loaded fries $8, and that big buffalo haddock was $12. For an area that focuses on tourists it was a good deal.

Final Verdict: The food is great, the prices are right, just make sure you go a little early as sometimes there is a backlog for tables. That can happen at the most popular bar in town. Check it out if you are in Lake Placid.

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