Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Floridian (Tampa, FL)

4424 W Kennedy Blvd # B, Tampa, FL 33609, T: 813-287-6662

The motto of The Floridian is "The Finest Cuban Sandwiches on the Planet". It has ambitions to become a chain, but it currently has just two restaurants. It offers various sandwiches and sides.

I ordered the Finest Cuban on the Planet Large Combo ($10.98), which came with a huge portion of fries (which were twice fried, but unfortunately twice undercooked, as they tasted fried rather than deep fried). The Cuban was a 10" pressed sub with ham, mojo spiced pork, genoa salami, dill pickle, and a mayo/mustard mix. While it didn't impress the first bites, it got better along the way. My wife had a Roast Turkey Sandwich Small Combo ($7.99), which included a tasteless 5" turkey sandwich and a side of beans & rice. She also had a Deviled Crab ($2.99), which looked like a huge crab croquette, and tasted ok.

VERDICT: 82/100
The Floridian serves good Cubans, but all the rest is at best ok. I don't see much future in this as a chain concept.

Taste of Italy (Clearwater Beach, FL)

400 Mandalay Avenue, Clearwater Beach, FL 33767-2011, T: 727-253-4947

Taste of Italy is a gelateria and cafe in the center of the touristic town of Clearwater Beach. It is most known for its ice cream, but also serves pastas and pizzas. As far as I could make out, it is run by Europeans, but not Italians (Albanians?).

We got two cones with two scoops each: lemon and hazelnut and chocolate and hazelnut. The lemon tasted artificial, the chocolate was ok, but the hazelnut was creamy and tasted excellent. The cones were also very tasty.

VERDICT: 86/100
If you choose wisely, or lucky, Taste of Italy has good ice cream in fresh tasty cones.

The Old Salty Dog (Sarasota, FL)

1601 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota, FL, T: 941-388-4311

I saw The Old Salty Dog on Man v. Food, which mentioned merely the Old Salty Dog (see below). There are two locations (Siesta Key and City Island), both beautiful, this one overlooking the ocean. We set out at the deck, going through the surprisingly diverse menu. Clearly this is not a normal pig out spot.

For starters we ordered conch fritters ($9.99), which came with mango salsa and a sweet chili mango sauce, and a special, peeled shrimp, which came with an amazing coating. I wasn't too happy with the fritters (though they really are not my thing), but my wife devoured the shrimp and said they were the best she ever ate.

For entrees she ordered Chickpea & Edamame Salad ($9.99) with grilled shrimp (+$6.99), which was amazing. I went for the signature dish, and only real claim to pig out status, the Old Salty Dog ($7.99), a 1/4 pound hot dog batter and deep fried. I didn't use any of the many toppings Adam piled up, to ensure that I would have the authentic experience. I just put on some chopped onions, relish, ketchup and mustard. The dog was very crispy and tasted good, but not really exceptional. The fries looked good but were undercooked.

VERDICT: 87/100
The Old Salty Dog is not really a pig out spot; their signature dish is fun, but not a remarkable snack. As a seafood restaurant, however, The Old Salty Dog is a great place!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Twistee Treat (Fort Meyers, FL)

10 Pine Island Road, Fort Myers, FL 33903, T: 239-995-2195

As I found out online, Twistee Treat is a concept that started in 1983 in Florida and went bankrupt in 1990. However, there are still many around, independently owned, and we visited on in Fort Meyers. It boasted 36 flavors of ice cream as well as frozen yogurt etc. We got the Single Spumoni ($2.75), which was very creamy and tasty (maybe a bit too sweet) with pieces of cherry and pistachio nuts in it.

VERDICT: 90/100
Really creamy and tasty ice cream for reasonable prices.

Rosies Kitchen (Daytona Beach, FL)

1008 Ridgewood Avenue, Daytona Beach, FL 32117-2808, T: 386-253-2870

We landed in Daytona Beach because of a highly unsuccessful search for the InternationalLinkHamburger Hall of Fame (I still have no clue whether it really exists or not). On our way to the museum we passed a sign saying "old Italian style homemade bread". While skeptical, we decided to go to this old and dodgy establishment, run for decades by Rosie (originally from New York) and her Basque husband.

We got one Turkey and one Tuna sandwich, which together with a soda came at $14. The bread was indeed amazing: freshly baked, still warm, dense, not sweet (!), the real Italian deal! Both sandwiches came with lettuce, tomato, and pepperoncini and were really tasty and filling.

VERDICT: 90/100
Rosies Kitchen is one of the few places outside of the major Italian immigrant cities that can legitimately claim to serve Italian-style bread. If you ever find yourself in Daytona Beach, drunk or not, have your lunch at Rosies!

Brewburgers (Brunswick, GA)

1618 Newcastle Street, Brunswick, GA 31520, T: 912-262-5443

Brewburgers is a nice bar/lounge/restaurant in the small town of Brunswick, Georgia. Obviously, it is known for its burgers. In fact, they have a huge selection of burgers, made from all kind of different meats (beef, pork, tuna, turkey) and vegetables (bean and portobello mushroom). Their specialty is mixing all ingredients into the pattie! This was all explained to us by a very chatty waitress, Candy, who hugged us on the way out.

My wife had the Black Bean Burger ($7.59), which had a very fresh patty with spinach in it, very tasty, on a ciabatta bun. It came with a heap of onion rings, which were a bit over-coated, but were very crispy and tasty. I went for the Slider Trio ($12.99), where you can choose three of the burgers and get them in sliders. The BBQ Pork Burger had a weak pattie but a very tasty bbq sauce. The Liberty Burger had a tasty beef burger and came with a spicy mayo. The Gloucester Burger is made of turkey and is spicy, but didn't have too much taste. I had a side of Brewburger Citrus Slaw, which was an original combination of cabbage and oranges, made with almost no mayo.

VERDICT: 89/100
Brewburgers is a nice and relaxed restaurant which serves original burgers. Use the Slider Trio option to sample at least three of them.

Coasters Seafood, Steaks & Spirits (Santee, SC)

9135 Old Hwy 6, Santee, SC 29142, T: 803-854-9955 (Exit 98 off I-95)

Coasters is not a classic pig out spot, specializing in seafood, steaks and spirits, but it nevertheless offers a good selection of fried foods. In addition to the subtle shark coming out of the roof, the restaurant goes with a kind of Hawaiian surf theme inside.

While Coasters has a full menu, with dishes ranging from burgers to seafood, I had chosen it because of the fact that it offers alligator tenders. Thus, I ordered the Alligator Basket with Fries, while my wife went for the Mixed Fried Seafood. The alligator tenders were lightly breaded and perfectly fried; some were a bit chewy, some were even more tender than chicken. They tasted delicious with the zesty Asian-style chili sauce. The thick fries were a bit undercooked. My wife really liked the soft and tasty fried scallops and shrimps, which came with a red horseradish sauce and a tartar sauce. The side of coleslaw was spicy and very tasty.

VERDICT: 86/100
Coasters is a good place for fried seafood and alligator. Rather than taking fries as a side, go for the coleslaw (if you like spicy!).

Hot Tamale @ South of the Border (Dillon, SC)

3346 Highway 301 North, Dillon, SC 29547

South of the Border, at the border of North and South Carolina, bills itself as "America's Favorite Highway Oasis". For miles on either side of the I-95 billboards with stereotypical Mexican characters announce the many attractions of this "oasis", which include restaurants, shops, an amusement park, a hotel, etc. In essence, South of the Border is the Dollar Store on Mexican steroids. Trashy doesn't even capture it.

We decided to have a substantial lunch at South of the Border, expecting some really good Mexican restaurant. In reality, most of the 'restaurants' are touristic snackbars like Hot Tamale. Worried about the (lack of) quality, I decided to play it safe and go for the one remarkable item on the menu: the Gigantic Big Dog ($5.95) with Chili ($.60). While impressive in size, and sporting a good thick sausage, the chili adds little to the fairly standard taste of the hot dog.

VERDICT: 72/100
Touristic attraction with standard fast food at fairly decent prices.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Buz and Ned's Real Barbecue (Richmond, VA)

1119 North Boulevard, Richmond, VA 23230, T: 804-355-6055

Buz is initially from Richmond, VA, traveled around the country to work at the most famous BBQ places, met old-timer Ned in the middle of nowhere, who passed on (his BBQ secrets), which Buz brought back to his home town. Well, so goes the official saga of Buz and Ned's Real Barbecue.

We ordered a half slab of the spare ribs ($14.95) and a bbq pork sandwich meal ($8.49); both come with two sides. The ribs were very meaty and had a delicious sweet coating. The meat doesn;t fall from the bone, but is tender and tasty. The fries were crispy and well seasoned. The pulled pork is chunky and tender and comes with slaw and hot sauce on a soft bun. The lemonade ($2.49) is cold and sour, but a bit too sweet for my taste.

VERDICT: 91/100
One of the best BBQ places outside of the traditional BBQ regions. A must stop in Richmond, VA!

Roll-n-Roaster (Brooklyn, NY)

Emmons & Norstrand Ave, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, NY, T: 718-769-6000

Roll-n-Roaster has been a staple of Sheephead's Bay for over forty years now. It is particularly famous for its roast beef sandwiches and its cheese fries. We got two Roll-n-Roaster Beef Sandwiches ($4.45 each), one with cheese (+$0.45), an order of fries ($1.75), and two lemonades ($2.50 each). The roast beef was very tender and juicy, topped with au jus, on a large and fresh kaiser roll: very tasty! The fries are wrinkled coins, crispy and tasty, but a bit dry. The lemonade was excellent: not too sweet, not too bitter, with an extra lemon in the cup.

VERDICT: 88/100
Roll-n-Roaster is clearly more than a fast food place at a popular location. It serves top roast beef sandwiches and very good lemonade.

Old Country Bagels (Queens, NY)

16226A Crossbay Boulevard, Howard Beach, NY 11414, T: 718-845-9211

Still known among locals by its old name, Bagels on the Bay, Old Country Bagel is an institution on Howard Beach's main street. Although its menu seems to be ever growing, now including salads and burgers as well as various hot and cold breakfasts, their huge bagels is what attracts hundreds of people per day to this small shop. They have at least fifteen different types of bagels, all HUGE, all freshly baked each day, and all ready to be decorated with a broad variety of cream cheeses, cold cuts, or warm options. Just a bagel sets you back around $2, while 'decorated' bagels go for $4-5.

My personal favorite is a sesame bagel with egg salad. The bagel is HUGE, while the egg salad is chunky and fresh. If only the bagels wouldn't be sweet, it would be perfect (then again, it wouldn't be America, now would it?).

The tuna salad is also awesome: the tuna is made with little mayo and big chunks of crispy celery. Any bagel will fill you up (almost) as much as a footlong at any sandwich shop. However, they are much more tasty!

VERDICT: 95/100
The best bagels are to be found in New York, and Old Country Bagel has some of the best in the city. On top of that, it has fantastic toppings and an amazing variety of drinks and snacks. And you can enjoy all this yumminess while you are Guido-watching!

Wert's Cafe (Allentown, PA)

515 N. 18th Street, Allentown, PA 18104, T: 610-439-0951

Wert's Cafe is an Allentown institution, serving its famous burgers and onion rings for more than 40 years now. It looks and smells like an old local pub-annex-restaurant where grandmas cook and grandpas eat.

Wert's Cafe has an extensive menu with many homemade items, some from East European cuisines. One item that directly stands out is their "famous onion rings". They seem quite pricey at $6.75, but the portions are HUGE. However, quality easily matches quantity here. The onions are cut into thin strings, which are freshly battered and fried, and taste absolutely delicious with the homemade horseradish sauce.

Halfway the onion rings, the burgers arrived. I had ordered Phil's Burger, a half-pound pattie with bacon and BBQ sauce. Although the sauce looked watery and thin, the burger tasted very good. However, the real surprise was my wife's Wert's Burger with chopped onions and mushrooms inside the half-pound pattie, grilled perfectly (medium-well), with very tasty pickles and smothered with cheese.

VERDICT: 92/100
Despite the look (and smell), Wert's Cafe is a great pig out spot and the onion rings and Wert's Burger must-eats.