Thursday, December 23, 2010

Powers Hamburger Shop (Fort Wayne, IN)

1402 South Harrison Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46802, T: 260-422-6620

Powers Hamburger Shop has been in Fort Wayne, Indiana, since 1940. The current owner, who doesn't seem to work there, bought it more then 10 years ago from the original family, the Powers, but seemingly changed nothing. The place has ca. ten seats at the counter and one small booth, all original.

They serve only burgers, coney dogs, and pies... no fries! Their burgers are small, like at White Castle, even though that name is not to be uttered at Powers. The coney dog costs $1.30 and features a soft bun, a tiny wiener, grounded beef (rather than real chili) and fresh chopped onions. Not bad, not remarkable. M. took two single patty cheeseburgers (at $.95 a piece) and I had a single patty hamburger ($.85) and a double patty hamburger ($1.60). Each came with a (too big) portion of fried strong onions. While all little burgers are much better than White Castle, only the double patty burgers taste really well.

VERDICT: 82/100
If you are in Fort Wayne, you should stop at Powers Hamburger Shop, if only for a little snack. Be sure to take a double and ask for "light onion"!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ritz (Oranjestad, Aruba)

L.G. Smith Boulevard 122, Oranjestad, Aruba, T: 297-592-2009

Kind of tucked away in a strip mall with various types of stores, Ritz is a snackbar that serves ice cream and both Antillean (e.g. pastechi) and Dutch snacks. The clientele is also very mixed and the people behind the counter speak mostly Papiamento and only poorly Dutch or English.

After trying to order several different things, most notably a frikandel speciaal (fried meat with mayo, ketchup and fresh chopped onions) and a friet met mayo (fries with mayonnaise) in the end I settled for the 'frikandel box' that the person behind the counter seemed set on selling to me (costs: 10 AWG or $5.60). The box included a large portion of fries, two frikandellen, and some pasta salad. The fries were soggie and simply gross and even the frikandellen tasted suspicious.

VERDICT: 37/100
This is, without any doubt, the grossest snackbar I have ever eaten at. And, you should not take this statement lightly. I have eaten at a lot of bad places!

't Friet-Uurtje (Palm Beach, Aruba)

@ Paseo Herencia, LG Smith Blvd 382, Palm Beach, Aruba

Located in the pleasant Paseo Herencia mall in Palm Beach, in the high-rise hotel area, is the Dutch-style snackbar 't Friet-Uurtje. Serving most staples of the Dutch snackbar, it is a safe haven for the Dutch expat (either in Aruba or the US). I ordered fries with mayonnaise, a croquette (kroket) with mustard, and a Mexicano with curry ketchup. I forgot how expensive it was, but it wasn't much more than in the Netherlands (ca. $13). The croquette didn't have much taste, but the Mexicano tasted good. The fries were like in the Netherlands, made of potato starch (aardappelzetmeel); unlike the Belgian fries, which are made of real potatoes. They were crispy and tasted quite good, as did the mayo.

VERDICT: 75/100
If it would be in any (small) town in the Netherlands, I would probably ignore it for any alternative, but here on Aruba it is the best Dutch snackbar I visited.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Messini Authentic Gyros (Toronto, ON)

445 Danforth Avenue, Toronto, ON M4K 1P2, Canada, T: 1-416-778-4861

Toronto, Ontario, is one of the most multicultural cities in the world (49% of the population is born outside of Canada!). Consequently, good ethnic food of whatever kind can be found. Allegedly, the best gyros can be found at Messini Authentic Gyros in Little Greece. I got a pita gyros (pork), which truly was authentic. No strips of greasy, ground meat, but chunks of spiced meat, fresh from the skewer, onion, tomato, tatziki and... fries! A very tasty combination, even if the tatziki was a bit flavorless.

VERDICT: 94/100
This is the second best pita gyros I ever ate; after the one at De Griek in Leiden, the Netherlands. The only thing that is off, is the tatziki, which could have more flavor.

That said, Messini is not just a gyros joint, it is a real Greek restaurant. A couple days later I went back with my wife, and we had a mixed grill with great gyros, juicy chicken souvlaki, tasty pork kabob, and ok Greek sausage on a bed of 'Greek fries' (potato slices). It came with a fresh salad, pita, and a delicious kalamati tapenade. Delicious and authentic!

New York Fries (Canada)

Somewhere along highway 401 in Canada.

New York Fries is not in New York; hell, it is not even an American outlet. It is a Canadian chain with, at this time, 201 locations all over Canada as well as in the United Arab Emirates, South Korea, and Hong Kong. It serves fries, poutine, and hot dogs.

I got a medium portion of "classic fries", which according to the website are: "Hand Cut. Skins On. Cooked to order in Trans fat free, non-hydrogenated Sunflower Oil. Served hot and crisp. Perfect fries every time." While "perfect" is a bit over the top, they were definitely among the best I have had in North America!

VERDICT: 93/100
If you are looking for some very tasty french fries in a fast food setting, and you are in Canada, New York Fries is the place to be. Next time I will also try the hot dogs as I have the feeling they might be well above average too.

Miller's Bar (Dearborn, MI)

23700 Michigan Ave, Dearborn, MI 48124, T:

Miller's Bar is an institution in the larger Detroit area. Since 1941 this uneventful bar (windowless outside, dark inside) has been serving some of the best burgers in Michigan. In fact, despite the name, it is more a burger joint than a bar. Based purely on quality and word-of-mouth, Miller's Bar serves a very limited menu in which only the burgers, onions, and fries are truly acknowledged. The rest is listed under "and if you've gotta have it".

I went for one of the "world famous" Ground Round (i.e. hamburger), fries and a coke. I forgot what it all cost, but it was probably around $10. The fries were not special. The burger comes only with a thick, very juicy, patty and a thick slice of onion. The condiments on your table are ketchup, mustard, and pickles. Despite the rather minimalist approach, this was one of the freshest burgers I ever had.

VERDICT: 94/100
What can I say, the hype is true: Miller's Bar serves one of the best hamburgers in the country! In fact, if they would provide you with a few more condiment options, it would be even better. A tip: don't waste your time on the fries, just get a second burger!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Little Big Burger (Portland, OR)

127 NW 10th Ave, Portland, OR 97209.

Little Big Burger is a small burger joint in the hipster Pearl District of Portland, Oregon. But it is a small place with big plans. As soon as you step in, you get the feeling that it is a chain. At the moment, however, they only have one more joint, in the northeast of the city. But I'm sure there will be more soon.

Little Big Burger only sells cheeseburgers ($3.75), hamburgers ($3.25), veggie burgers ($3.25), fries ($2.75), sodas ($1.75), and floats ($3.50). I went for a hamburger, fries, and soda. The hamburger is a 1/4 lb crusty, juicy patty with lettuce, red onion, and pickle. It's small, but very tasty. The fries come in a large portion, golden brown fried, but not very tasty.

VERDICT: 90/100
Little Big Burger serves small but top burgers and mediocre fries. Next time I will go for two burgers instead of burger and fries.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Matt's Bar (Minneapolis, MN)

3500 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55407-2339, T: 612-722-7072

I met my friend R. at Matt's Bar, an institution in Minneapolis, know around the country (after having been featured on Man v Food) as the "Home of the Original Jucy Lucy". You would hardly notice it from the outside, as it looks like a regular non-descriptive bar where only locals alcoholics come. In fact, you get the same feeling inside... until you get your food.

R. ordered the Jucy Lucy ($4.95), which is a double cheeseburger where the cheese being grilled in between the patties. I went for a double hamburger ($4.95), which comes only with two juicy patties and grilled onions. This notwithstanding, it tastes excellent. We shared a big basket of french fries ($4.25), which were thin and crispy.

VERDICT: 90/100
Matt's Bar is an American original. Just a regular dark pub with a long bar and at the end of it a small grill and two fry daddies. It only does burgers and fries, but it does them so well that you have to go and visit!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Capogiro (Philadelphia, PA)

3925 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104

Capogiro Gelato is a company that prides itself in making "fine artisanal Gelato and Sorbetto". It sells its ice cream through selected higher end stores and a couple of cafes. I visited the one in University City, Philadelphia. In addition to gelato and sorbetto, the cafe also serves coffee and sandwiches.

After enduring some of the slowest service since moving from Eastern Europe, I ordered a medio cup ($5.75) with three scoops. The chocolate banana was mainly chocolate with a hint of banana, not quite what I had expected. The papaya was quite bland, but fortunately the pineapple tasted very fresh. All were clearly cream based, though the papaya came closest to sorbetto.

VERDICT: 79/100
Capogiro makes pretty decent ice cream for US standards, though overall the tastes are a bit bland and the sorbettos taste a bit creamy.

Rita's Water Ice (Philadelphia, PA)

2200 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA, T: 215-465-7110

Rita's Water Ice is famous in the US and can be bought in supermarkets all over the country. While they were founded in Pennsylvania, and are an institution in Philadelphia, they have more than 100 franchises in nine states. I went to one of the originals, around the block of two other Phialdelphia institutions: Geno's Steaks and Pat's King of Steaks (in fact, I came from the former).

Rita's has an extensive menu of Italian Ice, Sugar-Free Italian Ice, Cream Ice, and a number of trade marked other cold treats. In addition, all of them come in a dazzling variety of tastes. I decided upon a passion fruit Italian ice, which came in a large cup. The ice was very tasty and refreshing, although a tat too sweet.

VERDICT: 88/100
In a country dominated by too sweet ice cream, Rita's provides some solace to the water ice lover. Although it is not real Italian ice, it comes close. Most importantly, it is really fresh!

Elbow Room Pub & Deli (Indianapolis, IN)

605 N Pennsylvania Street Indianapolis, IN 46204, T: 317-635-3354

The Elbow Room Pub & Deli is more a pub & restaurant, than a pub & deli and is famous in Indy for its burgers. Although I had seen its burger described in many lists of best burgers in Indy, and had passed the place by several times, I had never gone in and put the burger to the test.

Obviously, I ordered the Elbow Room Burger ($7.99), which is (locally) famous for coming on Texas toast rather than your general hamburger bun. The patty weighs half a pound and came perfectly medium cooked, with Cajun spices and fried onions on top. The lettuce, tomato and pickles are the other slice of Texas toast. Overall, a very juicy and tasty burger, but it could have done with a special sauce. The fries cost $0.99 extra, which is weird, but are worth it. They are long and thick, but perfectly fried and very tasty.

VERDICT: 89/100
The Elbow Room Pub & Deli sure knows how to make a burger! Its signature dish is a big burger with a toast twist. Next time I will ask for some bbq sauce though. That said, I might go for one of the other intriguing sandwiches next time. One thing is certain, however; there will be a next time!

Jaf's (Oslo, Norway)

Grefsenveien 57, 0487 Oslo, Norway.

Jaf's is a hamburger/kebab chain in Norway, with most of its restaurants in the Oslo area. It has a fairly diverse menu with different sizes and types of hamburgers, chicken dishes, kebabs, pizzas, shakes, and sodas.

I ordered a kebab plate, which cost NOK 95 (12 Euro), which included NOK 10 (1.25 Euro) for eating in. It included a generous portion of 'meat' and fries, a pita, some salad, and a soft drink. The kebab looked like shoarma, but tasted and had the soft texture of kebab. It came covered under a combination of garlic and spicy sauce, which was delicious. The fries were hot and crispy and covered with paprika powder, which gives them a nice kick. Finally, there were enough greens to stuff the pita and enjoy a spicy pita shoarma/kebab.

VERDICT: 87/100
Although it was my first snack in Oslo, it was also my best and probably best value for money. Sure, 12 Euro is too much for a kebab plate, but at least this one was really tasty!

Dennis Grill (Oslo, Norway)

Dennis Grill, Dronningens gate 34, 0154 Oslo, Norway, T: 22-42-49-81

Dennis Grill is one of the largest shoarma restaurants I have seen in Oslo. It is located at the corner of the largest shopping street of the city, Karl Johans gate, and serves real Turkish dishes next to the usual suspects (i.e. burgers, shoarma, chicken).

I ordered a kebab plate with a drink, which set me back NOK 159 (20 Euro). Fortunately, the plate was at least big and they were not skimpy on the food! The fries were a bit old, and they didn't have much paprika powder on them, but the meat was nicely spiced and the garlic sauce added flavor to meat and fries. There was also plenty of salad, not common in Norway.

VERDICT: 80/100
Dennis Grill seems to be one of the better snackbars in Oslo. Their shoarma is very decent and they offer more choice than similar places. Sure, they are expensive, but hey, that's Norway!

Cafe Spisevogna (Bærum, Norway)

Cafe Spisevogna, Otto Sverdrups plass 1, 1337 Sandvika (Bærum), Norway, T: 67-80-40-65.

Cafe Spisevogna is a typical Oslo snackbar, which means heavily overpriced kebab and burgers. As everywhere in Norway, burgers are priced by the meat's weight. It is located inside of the Sandvika railway station.

I had the choice of three hamburger meals: 100g (NOK 95/12 Euro), 160g (110/14), and 250g (quarterpounder) (119/15); I went for the 160g. The burger looked pretty big, but is made of processed meat (definitely not pure beef); however, it was fried, not deep fried, which was a positive. It came on a large soft bun with quite a lot of greens and some kind of thousand island sauce. Quite filling, but hardly tasting like meat. The portions of french fries are prepacked, to control the weight! They come with steak spices and were freshly made; although they are not real potatoes, but rather potato extract (like in the Netherlands and many snackbars in Germany), they were quite tasty.

VERDICT: 73/100
This is a very mediocre burger, which hardly has any meat taste to it. The portions are quite generous, but the prices fairly steep (although quite normal for Norway.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Geno's Steaks (Philadelphia, PA)

1219 South 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147-5005, T: 215-389-0659

Geno's Steaks is an institution in Philadelphia, PA. It's fight with Pat's King of Steaks, located roughly opposite to it, and officially the inventor of the Philly cheesesteak sandwich, is legendary and allegedly divides the city. Unfortunately, I arrive at Geno's on a Saturday night, just after the end of a Philly's game. Hence, I join a very long cue of some 70 people! Fortunately, the row moves pretty fast.

At the first counter, while 'admiring' the racist right-wing stickers all over the place, I order a steak sandwich ($7.75). I then proceed to the next counter, where they (still) sell "Freedom fries". I order French fries ($3.50) and a Lemonade ($2.00). The steak sandwich is made of slices of steak, rather than chopped pieces, and comes with onions. At the condiment bar you can put hot peppers, ketchup, and hot sauce on it. Believe the sticker, because the hot sauce is really hot! The steak sandwich is delicious, the fries are ok.

VERDICT: 91/100
Geno's provides great steak sandwiches, much better than Pat's. A shame that he is such a right-wing egomaniac, with racist and right-wing slogans almost as much present as pictures and even a card board of himself.

Mayberry Ice Cream Restaurant (Lexington, NC)

131 W. Lexington Avenue, Lexington, NC 27282, T: 336-882-2611

Mayberry is a local ice cream maker in Winston-Salem, NC, which operates five restaurants in the area. While Mayberry is mostly known and visited for its ice creams, the restaurants actually serve a fairly extensive menu of lunches and dinners.

I ordered a Hot Fudge Sunday with black cherry and pecan-chocolate ice cream, whip cream, and a cherry on top ($4.30). There are real cherries in the ice cream and pecans in the sundae, but overall the sundae tastes cold and sweet.

VERDICT: 72/10
Mayberry carries a huge selection of sundaes and other cold treats, but the ice cream is not remarkable.

South Side Grill & Dairy Bar (Effingham, IL)

906 South Banker Street, Effingham, IL 62401-2809, T: 217-342-3592

I ended up at the South Side Grill & Dairy Bar because two other places were closed or out of business. It is in front of a largely empty mall outside of downtown. It is probably better known for its ice cream than its burgers.

I ordered The Big South ($3.75), French fries ($1.60), and a small chocolate shake ($2.20). By and large, what I got was a Big Mac meal with a smaller but tastier shake. The fries were freshly made, which made them superior to most McD fries I ever had, but the burger's "secret sauce" was mayo-ish.

VERDICT: 65/100
What sense does it make to copy McDonalds? They provide roughly the lowest quality burger but also for the lowest price. They can do that because they are all over the place. So why copy that if you have only one restaurant?