Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Croissant d'Or (New Orleans, LA)

617 Ursulines Ave, New Orleans, LA 710116, T: 504-524-4663

There are several things from Europe I really miss, and good pastries (of the croissant variety) are definitely among them. So, I looked for the place with the best croissants in New Orleans and was steered towards, how surprising, Croissant d'Or in the French Quarter. It is a beautiful French style tea house with a large choice of pastries, sandwiches, and hot and cold beverages. Surprisingly, it is quite affordable; particularly for the French Quarter.

Enthusiastically I went to town on both pastries and drinks (including, obviously, an Orangina). The Frangipane was a bit dry and plain, but not bad. The chocolate croissant was dry and had an odd taste. Even the espresso was kind of weak; definitely more French than Italian. I later read online that the place is under new management and that has led to a serious decline in the quality. This could be the (only) explanation.

VERDICT: 72/100
Croissant d'Or was disappointing, no doubt. In most towns it would be among the better pastry places, but in a city with options, let alone NOLA, it is simply sub-par, despite its affordability.

Central Grocery Co (New Orleans, LA)

923 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116, T: 504-523-1620.

To be fair, we didn't do much research before we came to New Orleans, so we had to be pointed to the Central Grocery Co by our friends. We were told they had a delicious sandwich, which we had to go and eat. When we arrived to the "Home of the Original Muffuletta," we found ourselves surrounded by other tourists amazed by this incredible Italian delicatessen store.

Obviously, we went for The Original Muffuletta. I was somewhat take aback by the price ($15.91) and the fact that it came pre-made. However, when we unwrapped that bad boy, the size and smells already changed our minds.

The Original Muffuletta comes on a huge round bun, a cross between a focaccia and a semolina, layered with salami, ham, provolone, Swiss, olive oil, and a unique Giardiniera. Each individual part was delicious, Old Continent quality, but the whole was even better than the sum of the parts. Incredible!

VERDICT: 100/100
This is the ultimate cold sandwich! Nuff said! DO.NOT.MISS.THIS!!!

Cafe du Monde (New Orleans, LA)

800 Decatur Street, New Orleans, La, 70116, T: 504-525-4544

Cafe du Monde is an American institution. It only serves coffee and beignets, yet has various branches throughout New Orleans and you can buy their coffee and beignet mix in delicatessen shops across the US and abroad. I visited the big restaurant in the French Quarter.

We ordered a portion of beignets ($2.42) and a Cafe au Lait ($2.42), the two staples of Cafe du Monde. The beignets were fresh and very tasty; surprisingly they are empty within, which actually give them more taste. The Cafe au Lait was smooth and creamy, but not too milky. Delicious!

VERDICT: 90/100
To be honest, I liked it a lot when I was there, but I really appreciated it after having the same at another place. Cafe du Monde does only a few things, but it does them well. Not the best beignets I ever had, but definitely the best I had in the US.

A&R Bar-Be-Que (Memphis, TN)

1802 Elvis Presley Blvd, Memphis, TN, T: 901-774-7444

A&R Bar-Be-Que is one of a small group of bbq joints in Memphis that are truly in contention for the title of "best bbq in the city." It currently has three locations, but we went to the original one. It is not much of a looker, but it definitely felt authentic.

The menu is traditional Southern bbq, but with a lot of options (including various homemade desserts). We decided to share a Rib Plate ($11.50), which included a full slab of ribs and two sides (we chose slaw and seasoned fries +$.50). The ribs were meaty and smoky, but still came off the bone easily, and were smothered in their sweet and tangy mild sauce. We also got a Jumbo Pork ($5.79), which included a heap of juicy and tender pulled pork and slaw, drenched in bbq sauce, on a big soft bun. Delicious. As were the zesty seasoned fries.

Deluded by the delicious tastes, we went for second. We ordered a Rib Tips Sandwich Combo ($10.49), which includes two sides (we chose slaw and baked beans). The tips had some bones in it, but were even softer and tastier than the ribs. Very smoky! The slaw is quite light and has a fresh, almost fruity taste. The beans, finally, are drenched in a smoky, sweet sauce with tiny pieces of pork. Tastes like the delicious mild bbq sauce.

VERDICT: 93/100
This is the real deal! A must stop for anyone into Southern bbq visiting Memphis!

9th Street Grill (Mount Vernon, IL)

222 South 9th Street Grill, Mount Vernon, IL 62864, T: 618-244-1190

9th Street Grill is a relative upscale restaurant in downtown Mount Vernon, which seems a popular place for the business lunch crowd. To be clear, this is much more a slow food than a fast food place. For example, the only burgers it serves, are bison burgers (no beef!).

My wife ordered a soup and salad, which were both delicious and fresh, and came with an amazing little blueberry muffin. I ordered Daisy's Plain Burger ($9): 1/2lb bison pattie, lettuce, tomato, onion and dyonaisse on a homemade focaccia-like bun. The pattie is thick and juicy, and perfectly grilled. It has a good taste and texture. The bun adds to the taste, as does the dyonnaise (which could be overpowering though).

VERDICT: 88/100
This is definitely not a traditional pig out spot! Hoowever, it is a great spot to get a lean and tasty bison burger, while your more healthy friends get a delicious salad.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bailey's Jury Room (Danville, IN)

20 W Main Street, Danville, IN 46122, T: 317-745-6424

I had read about Bailey's Jury Room online. Allegedly, they have the best tenderloin sandwiches in Indiana. Now, obviously, that claim has been made before, but the reviews were so positive that I thought that if they wouldn't be the best in Indiana, they would at least be very good. Unfortunately, the reviews had not told me about the fact that the Jury Room allows smoking... and when we were there, it seemed everyone was smoking, half of them thick cigars.

We started with chicken tenders, or as the menu introduces them: "Hearty Chicken Strips -- (4) lg breaded chicken strips that will melt in your mouth." They were indeed chunky and juicy, and if it weren't for Bourbon Street, I would say they are the best in the state. We then ordered a grilled tenderloin and a breaded tenderloin sandwich, one with chips and one with fries. The fries were somewhat disappointing, but both tenderloin sandwiches were very tasty -- they again didn't beat Bourbon Street, but they came close.

VERDICT: 85/100
Bailey's Jury Room offers really good bar food, but does so in an extremely smoky environment (hence an 85 rather than a 90). If you don't mind the smoke, do go and visit them. They have a large menu, but I suggest the chicken tenders and breaded tenderloin. If you do, I would advice against eating there.

96th Street Steakburgers (Indianapolis, IN)

4715 East 96th Street Indianapolis, IN 46240-1448, T: 317-844-6351

96th Street Steakburgers is a fast food restaurant in the North of Indianapolis, which also has a restaurant in the Indianapolis Airport. An earlier attempt to franchise failed, as the restaurant in Plainfield closed after a short time. It serves a very limited menu, mainly (single and double) burgers in a couple of different styles, fries, shakes, and cookies.

I ordered a Double Combo ($5.34), which comes with fries, Chipotle Style (+$0.99) and a Regular Drink ($1.79). The fires looked and tasted more fried than deep fried: slightly crispy from the outside and solid potato inside. The burger had two thin patties, crunchy and tasty, and fried jalapenos and spicy chipotle mayo. Very good for a fast food burger!

VERDICT: 88/100
Very good for fast food, but quite pricey for the rather small portions.