Friday, July 6, 2012

McDougal’s Chicken Fingers & Wings (Nashville, TN)

2115 Belcourt Avenue, Nashville, TN 37212, T: 615-383-3005

McDougal’s Chicken Fingers & Wings is a small wooden chicken shack in the Hillsborough Area, very popular among the students of nearby Vanderbilt University – there is also a location in Franklin, TN. Its menu is remarkably similar to that of Raising Cane’s, as is incidentally its McDougal’s Sauce (reminds me of the movie Coming to America): chicken fingers, chicken wings, salads.

I order the Large Basket ($8.49): 5 chicken fingers, French fries, Tennessee Toast, and 3 sauces. The chicken fingers are big and very juicy, only lightly battered: perfect! The fries are thin and both soft and crispy: excellent! McDougals sauce is ketchup-y and peppery (very similar to Raising Cane’s); the honey mustard is good, and the buffalo sauce addictive. We also get a little soft serve ice cream for free. :-)

VERDICT: 98/100
This place is AWESOME! You won't find a better chicken tender basket anywhere!

The Pancake Pantry (Nashville, TN)

1796 21st Ave S, Nashville, TN 37212, T: 614-383-9333

The Pancake Pantry is the most famous breakfast spot in town, and even made it onto a national top-10 list. Even on this super hot summer day (104F), there is a long line outside. We wait for ca. 15-20 minutes before we are finally seated. The place is old-school and packed. The menu is basic breakfast and a lot of different pancakes.

I order the Bacon & Eggs ($8) with Caribbean pancakes (you get 2 special pancakes instead of 3 regular one). I add sourdough toast ($1.90). The eggs are very runny, the bacon is ok, and the toast is lame. The pancakes are good: banana on the side, pecans and fresh coconut slivers on top. M. gets the Sweet and Spice Pancakes ($8.50), which are five dark small pancakes, of a fairly thick consistency, with a nice gingery flavor. She adds a side of Country Sausage ($3.20): three small and unremarkable sausages. J, who lived for years in Nashville and raved about the place, made the best choices: The Grill Cook’s Medley ($12.60): hash browns, grilled onions, tomato, ham, American and Swiss cheese, green peppers: mixed together, and with added picante sauce, they are delicious, according to M. They come with toast and pancakes (two regular or one special). JC chooses the Georgia Peach Pancake: thick rolled pancake around peach with homemade whip cream: very special!

VERDICT: 85/100
The Pancake Pantry is a place for great pancakes rather than average breakfast. Order the Georgia Peach or the Sweet and Spice!

Bolton's Spicy Chicken & Fish (Nashville, TN)

624 Main Street #B, Nashville, TN 37206, T: 615-254-8015

You can not get a more authentic Southern pig out experience than Bolton’s Spicy Chicken & Fish. Located in a small shack in the east-side of town, Bolton’s is a no thrills place. They have various bbq items (e.g. ribs) as well as fried chicken and fish (medium or hot). On this hot summer day (104F outside), it is unbearable inside the small shack, where some 6 people are constantly frying food over open pans. Unfortunately, the woman at the counter defines slow: it takes her 2 minutes to bring change and the shack is all together 20 sqft big!

I get the Catfish Plate ($8.50), which comes with tw side (I order green beans and fries). She gives me the catfish sandwich instead – as it is extremely hot in the shack, and it takes her endlessly to take care of the simplest orders, I decide not to complain and just go with the flow. The sandwich has two huge fillets on toast, but with cheese sauce. It is very fishy and very hot. JC get the Chicken Tenders Plate ($8), which includes three relatively small tenders, which are very tasty and very hot. However, the hotness does not drown out the flavor of the chicken and the burning sensation disappears within ten minutes.

VERDICT: 90/100
Bolton’s serves some of the most authentic and best spicy fried chicken in the country. However, the prices are remarkably steep and the service poor and very slow.

Bub's Burgers & Ice Cream (Carmel, IN)

210 W. Main Street, Carmel, IN 46032, T: 317-706-BUBS (2827)

While Bub’s Burgers & IceCream was founded only in 2003, it is already an Indianapolis institution. It is situated in the wealthy northern suburb of Carmel, where it also has Bub’s CafĂ© (mostly breakfast), and they recently opened up another Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream in the college town of Bloomington, IN. Bub’s was made into a national celebrity by Man vs. Food. It has a basic menu built around burgers (quarter, half, and full pound), elk burgers, fries, chicken tenders and sandwiches, and ice cream.

I have eaten at Bub’s several times, and each time I would postpone The "Big Ugly" ® challenge. This time, inspired by my buddy JC, I was up for it. The Big Ugly is a one pound patty on a half pound bun ($15.95), which is perfectly grilled and seasoned and stays juicy throughout the challenge. The main challenge, really, is the bun, which is fresh but thick. The tomato, lettuce and onion are on the side, but have to be finished! To my surprise, I finish it all within 5 minutes (JC too). Then again, some people have already eaten four Big Uglies in one serving!

As said, I have eaten here before, and can attest to the top quality of the elk burgers (leaner), the fries, the waffle fries, and (for the healthier eater) the Grilled Mahi Mahi Sandwich ($10.65). On top of that, Bub’s has great ice cream, particularly the Spumoni and the Blueberry Cookie (creamy and tasty), as well as malts and shakes.

VERDICT: 93/100
Bub’s has great food all around, but expect a (long) wait and fairly steep prices.

Peppy Grill (Indianapolis, IN)

1004 Virginia Ave, Indianapolis, IN 46203, T: 317-637-1158

Peppy Grill is like being in a small town America in the early 1950s; in fact, I doubt the place has changed a thing since it opened many decades ago. It seems to be mostly known for cheap all-day breakfast (huge pancakes!) and burgers (or “hamburgs,” as the sign says), but Peppy has a full diner-style menu. Similar to the neighborhood it is in, Fountain Square, Peppy's clientele is a combination of local old white working class and young white hipsters.

I order the Hamburger ($3.35), which comes with chips, and make it a "Deluxe (+$0.35), which means lettuce, tomato, onion, and mayo. I think this already says it all. The quarter pound burger is grilled on the griddle, while the wrinkled chips come straight from a huge bag. The burger is thin and dry, the condiments fresh; as close to your average family barbecue burger as it gets.

Somewhat disappointed I sit pondering whether to eat more, and if so where, when I notice that the woman  cuts whole potatoes in chunks above the fryer. The potatoes seem soft - I later hear they first fry them whole and then in chunks. So, I decide to add a portion of home fries (ca. $2.75). They are absolutely perfect: crispy on the outside, well done in the inside, and with a real potato taste!

VERDICT: 82/100
Peppy Grill mostly offers regular fare at good prices. However, their home fries are amazing!