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?

Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers (Baton Rouge, LA)

3313 Highland Rd, Baton Rouge, LA 70802, T: 225-387-3533

Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers is a fried chicken chain that started in Baton Rouge, LA in 1996. Today it has over 50 restaurants in 15 states, mostly in towns with major universities. I went to the one close to the LSU campus.

I ordered The 3 Fingers Box for something like $7 (I forgot the exact price). It includes three chicken fingers, wrinkle fries, a piece of Texas toast, and Cane's special sauce. The chicken fingers were the most tender I ever had. Although the batter was not particularly tasty, the fingers tasted great, particularly with the peppery special sauce. Both the fingers and the fries were very fresh. I have to admit it, I ordered two more fingers (as $0.99 each) and coleslaw ($0.69). This time the fingers weren't as fresh, but still very tasty. The slaw was too mayo-ish.

VERDICT: 92/100
Raising Cane's is definitely the best chain for fried chicken. If you get it fresh, it is some of the best you ever had. Don't forget to dip it in the special sauce!

Shipley Do-Nuts (Houston, TX)

6411 Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard, Houston, TX‎, T: 713-738-2248

Shipley Do-Nuts is a local donut chain (mainly) in the larger Houston area going back to 1936. They are a regular donut store, selling classic-style donuts and coffee. What sets them apart is that their basic donut is made of yeast.

I ordered an original glazed, which were just freshly made, and had the girl at the drive-thru counter choose the two others. I forgot the price, but I thought it was just under $3. All donuts were quite chunky and tasted fairly similar to Dunkin' Donuts. The best one was actually the original glazed.

VERDICT: 73/100
Shipley Do-Nuts is a regional donut chain, which is similar but a bit better than Dunkin' Donuts. However, although the original glazed is the most tasty, it cannot compete with a (hot) Krispy Kreme original glazed donut.

Old Tyme Grocery (Lafayette, LA)

218 W St. Mary Blvd, Lafayette, LA 70506, T: 337-235-8165

The Olde Tyme Grocery is a po'boy place in Lafayette, LA, which came highly recommended (among others in Roadfood). It has both a grocery store and a small restaurant, but it seems most people come to take their po' boys out.

As it was still in the morning, I decided to go for just half a roast beef sandwich; at $6.43 already quite a treat. Then again, they seem to put on half a pound of hot roast beef, which is costly. Unfortunately, the roast beef was not just way too much, it was also too salty., overpowering the lettuce, tomato, and mayo On top of that, the bread, which so many reviews hailed, was unremarkable.

VERDICT: 74/100
Old Tyme Grocery provides decent hot subs, but are too expensive for what they offer. That said, the more local shrimp po' boys might be worth the trip, if you are a seafood lover.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mother's Restaurant (New Orleans, LA)

401 Poydras Street, New Orleans, LA 70130, T: 504-523-9656

Mother's Restaurant is an institution in New Orleans, featuring in all the good guides (Man v Food, Roadfood). It now has two restaurants, the one downtown that I visited, and a Mother's Next Door in another part of town. It is famous for its Black Ham, which are smoked on the premise.

I went for the signature item, their most popular Po'Boy: the Famous Ferdi Special ($10.75). This beast of a sandwich comes with their famous baked ham, roast beef, debris (kind of pulled pork in a very tangy jus), slaw, creole mustard, and mayo. And this ultra-juicy feat of tastes comes on the best baguette I have had in the US. Best warm sandwich I ever had!

VERDICT: 97/100
Mother's is one of those famous places that actually lives up to its reputation. If you go there, do go for the Famous Ferdi Special (share it if you are not a big eater). You will not be disappointed. If only every city had one...

Back Yard Burger (Jackson, MS)

6230 Old Canton Rd, Jackson, MS 39211, T: 601-362-5223

Back Yard Burger is a regional fast food chain, with some 170 locations in the South and Midwest of the United States. It caters to the growing market of people who want a better burger than the classic chains (e.g. Burger King, McDonalds), but still want fast food and not a restaurant. That said, Back Yard Burger is probably the nicest styled fast food chain I have ever visited.

I order the Back Yard Burger Meal for $6.75. The Back Yard Burger includes a 1/3 lb. burger, which is freshly made, tomato, lettuce, red onion, pickles, and ketchup and mustard on the upper bun and mayo on the bottom bun. Overall, there is too much sauce. The waffle fries are ok, but they are lukewarm and have not much taste.

VERDICT: 77/100
Overall, Back Yard Burger is not bad for a chain. It falls in between Wendys and Hardees/Carl's Jr. However, it does have a much nicer interior.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grillbilly's Drive In (Princeton, WV)

Princeton, WV, T: 304-487-2201

I came across Grillbilly's Drive In by accident, on my way to Starbucks for coffee and breakfast. I couldn't resist, and decided to go for a burger rather than a croissant; after all, it was already 11 am! Fortunately it was a pleasant morning, as Grillbilly's has no place inside, only one table with benches outside. It has a classic snack offering: burgers, hot dogs, and other fried meats.

As it was still morning, I only had place for a burger, no fries etc., but I made it a big one... the Big Evil Burger! The Big Evil come on a big mush bun, has a thick patty, three pieces of crisp bacon, lettuce, tomato, mustard, hot sauce, jalapeno peppers, and pickles. The Big Evil does almost everything perfectly... almost everything! Oddly enough, the burger itself wasn't convincing. The texture and taste were quite mediocre. That said, the Big Evil Burger is one tasty burger!

VERDICT: 83/100
Grillbilly's Drive In is a true snack shack run by two big tattooed guys. Based on my encounter with the Big Evil Burger, it is definitely worth a visit... if you ever find yourself in the neighborhood of Princeton, West Virginia.

South Charleston Daity Bar (Charleston, WV)

120 D Street, Charleston, WV 25303, T: 304-744-6735

The South Charleston Dairy Bar is a classic small-town snack bar, serving all-American snacks and frozen dairy products. It hasn't been updated since it opened, I assume in the 1950s, and is run by a couple of nice local women.

I ordered a Bacon Double Burger, a hot dog, and a small banana shake, together $8.24. The hot dog comes on a toasted bun with chili, slaw, onions, and mustard. Many different tastes, but the sausage is too small to add any taste to it. The Bacon Double Burger consists of two thin patties, lettuce, pickle, bacon, tomato, ketchup, mustard and mayo. The bacon is tough and the tomato is as thick as the two patties together, but overall it is a greasy but fine burger. Finally, the shake has real banana in it, but is too sweet.

VERDICT: 74/100
The South Charleston Dairy Bar is a run in the mill snack bar, which can be found in roughly any small and large town in the US. It serves decent snacks, but nothing remarkable.