Saturday, January 24, 2015

Vickery’s Bar & Grill (Atlanta, GA)

933 Garrett Street #101, Atlanta, GA 30316, T: 404-627-8818

Vickery’s Bar & Grill has been in East Atlanta since 1983. It is one of the many restaurants in the Southeast that specializes in a modern and fancy interpretation of Southern food (normally not my thing). It looks a bit like a fancy sports bar, sending vibes of inclusion and exclusion at the same time. The waiter is fairly pretentious but fails to remember most of our orders and regularly returns to ask again (write it down dude!).


We started with the Fried Calamari ($11), which comes with sweet chili sauce, cilantro, and onions & peppers. It was absolutely delicious! The Maytag Bleu Cheese Chips ($7) with bacon, chives, blue cheese crumbles, pico de gallo & bleu cheese sauce (all cheese on side) was also very good. Chips were fresh and crunchy. I then moved on to the Fried Catfish Sandwich ($12), one of the few Southern things I really like. The large piece of catfish was fresh and pan-fried and came with shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, cilantro, and tartar sauce on Cuban bread. One of the best I have ever had! The accompanying fries are tasty but nt remarkable.

VERDICT: 91/100
While technically not a real pig out spot, but a serious restaurant, it serves various pig out staples (burgers, fried fish and chicken), and does so deliciously.

Arepa Mia (Decatur, GA)

307 East College Avenue, Decatur, GA 30030, T: 404-600-3509.

Arepa Mia is a relatively new addition to the broad range of foods offered in Decatur – it also has a location at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. It offers traditional Venezuelan dishes with all natural ingredients. Their specialties are arepas (maize flatbread), cachapas (corn pancakes), and the more familiar empanadas. It is bumping when I arrive, around 1.30 on a Friday afternoon. Almost 50 people have squeezed themselves into this very small restaurant, waiting (im)patiently for their food.

I get an Arapas Pernil ($8.50), which is a grilled patty of corn meal, soft and doughy, with a massive amount of slow roasted pork, caramelized onions, and Arepa Mia’s special sauce. It is DELICIOUS!

VERDICT: 92/100
This is what pigging out is all about! A hole in the wall with affordable and very tasty snacks!

Mezes Greek Grill (Ann Arbor, MI)

715 N University St, Ann Arbor, MI, T: 734-369-2204

Mezes Greek Grill is a little Greek restaurant in a passage with a couple of ‘ethnic’ restaurants. It has a couple of seats inside, but it seems mainly to cater to take-away guests. The people who work in the place are very enthusiastic and polite.

I order the Souvlaki Plate ($8.95): it looks amazing and tastes pretty good. The fries are very thick and look crunchier than they are. The gyros souvlaki is fresh, but the grilled pork cubes are a bit dry, and the sauce is underwhelming. The best thing, oddly enough, is the small Greek salad. Deliciously seasoned and fresh and very diverse ingredients.

VERDICT: 87/100
The presentation and taste of the food resembles more that of a restaurant than of a gyros place.

Chicago Reds (Ann Arbor, MI)

312 S State St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, T:734-761-6000
Chicago Reds is a small hot dogs shop inside of the large Amer’s Delicatessen restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor. It serves “Windy City Hot Dogs” – six styles, all also come in turkey or vegetarian – and fries, that’s it.

I order a Chili Dog ($3.25). The bun is nice and soft, the frank is tasty, but the chili is a little bit bland.

T: 87/100

Overall, Chicago Reds serves some pretty good dogs.

Wafels & Dinges (New York, NY)

West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001, T: 646-257-2592

Wafels & Dinges is a Belgian food cart, which serves Brussels and Liege waffles with a variety of toppings (eg maple syrup, Nutella, chocolate). A regular waffle costs $6, a small Wafelini $3. 

I get a Wafelini and a San Pelegrini ($2). The waffle is close to authentic Belgian, very tasty, but misses the crust and crunch of the small pieces of sugar.

VERDICT: 88/100
One of the best opportunities to get a good Liege waffle outside of Belgium.

The Casbah (New York, NY)

West 66th Street, New York, NY 10023

The Casbah is a (halal) food cart on the Upper West Side, at the corner of 66th St & Columbus Ave, close to Lincoln Park. They serve mainly chicken and falafel. 

I get a falafel sandwich ($4): four very tasty falafels with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, chick peas, white and spicy red sauce, on a thick pita. It is remarkably good for a food cart, particularly the falafels.

VERDICT: 86/100

The falafel at The Casbah would be good for any Middle Eastern restaurant, but is great for street food.

Gray Papaya (New York, NY)

2090 Broadway, New York, NYC 10023, T: 212-799-0243

Gray Papaya is a New York institution. It’s a dumpy-looking fast food place that serves hot dogs and an odd selection of tropical juices. It used to have a couple of locations, but now seems to only its Upper West Side location left, at Broadway and 72nd.

I order 2 franks & a drink for $4.95. I get one with sauerkraut and brown mustard and one with chili (+ 0.50) and onions. The franks are good size, snappy, and tasty. The buns are a bit crusty at the bottom (perhaps because it’s not busy on this very hot day), the onions are big and grilled, and the chili tastes good but a bit particular. The papaya juice is refreshing, bit like a (Brazilian) suco.


VERDICT: 89/100

Not the best hot dogs in New York, but an NYC institution, which serves good and very affordable hot dogs.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Howard Beach Bagel Cafe (New York, NY)

162-54 Cross Bay Boulevard, Howard Beach, NY 11414, T: 718-843-5700

Howard Beach Bagel Cafe is the Howard Beach location of a local chain of some ten bagel cafes. It is a large bagel cafe/deli that opened up about a year ago on the main street of Howard Beach, on the same block as the established Old Country Bagels. It serves the usual: homemade bagels, sandwiches, and spreads.

I have a bacon and egg salad on an Italian hero with sesame seed. The bacon is crispy and the egg salad chunky; perfect combination on this soft hero with a nice chewy crust. As a side I get coleslaw, which is very creamy. I also get a veggie tuna salad on a poppy seed bagel ($7.39). The bagel is fresh, chunky, and not (too) sweet. The veggie tuna is creamy without being overly mayo-ish and has fresh crunchy veggies in it. As a side I get cucumber salad, which is chunky and fresh. M. gets an everything bagel with veggie cream cheese ($3.55). The bagel is solid and the cream cheese yummy.

VERDICT: 87/100
The Bagel Cafe is an excellent bagel place and a real competitor for the also excellent and well-established Old Country Bagel further down the road.

L’Arte del Gelato (New York, NY)

Lincoln Center, Columbus Avenue & 63rs Street, New York, NY

L’Arte de Gelato is a gelato restaurant on Chelsea Market in New York, which also has a couple of carts in Manhattan (May to August/October). I visit the small cart at the plaza of Lincoln Center.


I get a piccola (small), which means a decent size cup with one flavor. I choose nocciola, which is a creamy flavorful hazelnut. Perhaps a tad too creamy and too few pieces of nut, but very good! The next day I go back and get another small, but this time with two flavors: pistachio and limone (lemon). The pistachio is very creamy and tasty, the lemon is fresh, but misses the zing of real Italian gelato.

VERDICT:  91/100
L’Arte del Gelato serves some of the best gelato I’ve had in the US.

Zack’s Hamburgers (Charlotte, NC)

4009 South Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28209-2616, T: 704-525-720

Zack’s Hamburgers is a Charlotte institution. It’s a beautiful old-school fast food place, which has hardly changed since they opened in, I assume, the 1950s. They serve the classics: burgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings, shakes, etc.

Obviously, I get the Zack’s Special ($5.25). It is very similar to the Big Mac, but much tastier and fresher. The fries are thin, but tasty too. I get a side of Onion Rings ($2.60), which are fresh and thinly battered, but sometimes more batter than onion. I dip them in homemade Tarter Sauce ($0.95), which is thick, fresh, and tasty. Afterward I go back to get a small banana milkshake ($2.59), which is fresh and not too sweet.

VERDICT: 86/100
Zack’s Hamburgers is among the best and most affordable, old-school fast food I've had in the US.

Daddy Joe’s BBQ & Grill (Gaffney, SC)

1400 West Floyd Baker Boulevard, Gaffney, SC 29341, T: 864-487-7427

Daddy Joe's BBQ & Grill is a shack-like structure in a classic restaurant/gas station strip of motorway. While it looks like a chain, it is not. It advertises that it has been featured in Southern Living.

I get a Combination Platter with ribs & chopped Pork ($13.15), which comes with hushpuppies and two sides. The chopped pork is soggy and quite gross, the BBQ slaw is absolutely gross, the wedge fries are ok but lukewarm, the ribs meaty but quite dry, and the hushpuppies taste like fish (probably fried in same oil as fish).

VERDICT: 61/100
If they are truly featured in Southern Loving, it must have been a really damaging review, as this was really poor.

Central Avenue (Anderson, SC)

150 E Shockley Ferry Rd, Anderson, SC 29624, T: 864-224-9028

Central Avenue is a tiny drive-thru, only a hut really, in a poor strip mall in Anderson, South Carolina. It serves burgers, hot dogs, chicken wings, French fries, and cheese sticks. They are very slow!

I get a Slaw dog ($1.99), which comes with mustard, ketchup, chili, onion, and slaw. It’s all quite standard, but the slaw is quite tasty. The Hamburger ($1.79) is an old-school burger with mustard, ketchup, onion, lettuce and pickle.

VERDICT: 73/100
Central Avenue is a tiny drive-thru that serves old-school American fast food for a very decent price. Would always prefer it over McD, etc.