Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Amsterdam Falafel Shop (Washington DC)

2425 18th Street NW, Washington DC 20009, USA

The Amsterdam Falafel Shop is a small chain of restaurants that sells falafel and fries based on the Dutch example. It currently has 7 locations in the US, including three in DC. The key point is that you can choose freely from the toppings bar, which has a huge selection of 22 items, including vegetables, sauces, etc.

I get a Regular Falafel Sandwich, which includes 5 falafel balls in a pita, which I fill with various toppings and sauces. The falafel is not too moist and not too dry. Very tasty! I also get a Small Fries, which are double-fried, and very crispy from the outside. As good as you can get in the Netherlands. The range of sauces makes it all even better.

VERDICT: 93/100
It is not as good as the best falafel in the Middle East, but it is as good as falafel gets outside of the region and the same applies to fries and the Netherlands.

HogsHead Cafe (Richmond, VA)

9503 West Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23294 

HogsHead Cafe is a relatively new and small restaurant that mainly serves bbq but actually has quite a broad menu, which includes nachos, hot dogs, burgers, salads, sandwiches (including Poboys), etc. When I get there, in the early afternoon, it is busy but the waitresses are efficient and very friendly.

I start with the half dozen wings ($12.99). They are huge, full wings, rubbed in spices and covered with a thick fiery BBQ sauce. They are insanely hot, in a peppery way, and I don't even make it past four.

Fortunately, at that time my Hog Dog ($11.99) arrives. It is the most famous dish of the restaurant and it is also huge! The bacon-wrapped huge dog is covered in pulled pork and slaw and comes on a long fresh bun. It is also very tasty, although the pork and bun are a bit dry. The slaw is uneventful.

VERDICT: 87/100
This is a quality BBQ place with many original options. It is pricey but worth it. Warning: when they say hot, they mean it!

Gettysburg Baking Co. (Gettysburg, PA)

17 Lincoln Square, Gettysburg, PA 17325

Gettingsburg Baking Co. is a small bakery and lunch place in the historic and touristic downtown Gettysburg. It serves various pastries, sweets, sandwiches, and salads. This morning they are out of many breakfast items, so I get pastries.

The Stickiebun ($2.95) is really fresh and covered with sweet, sticky caramel and pecans. It is absolutely delicious! The Morning Roll ($2.65) looks traditional, but is remarkably light and fresh. It is also delicious!

VERDICT: 90/100
Gettysburg Baking Co. serves delicious fresh US pastries. Some of the best I had.

Café Bruges (Carlisle, PA)

16 N Pitt Street, Carlisle, PA 17013

Café Bruges is a restaurant that serves “Belgian Food & Drink” that is situated in downtown Carlisle, some 15 minutes outside of Harrisburg, PA. It prides itself in its selection of (imported) Belgian beers and, in particular, its burgers and fries, but it serves various Belgian specialties, like mussels and stoemp. Given that it is the number 1 restaurant in Carlisle, it is not really a pig out spot, but given that it’s specialty is real Belgian fries, we will make an exception.

I get the Steak Frites ($21), after making sure that I will get enough fries. As I am waiting I can smell the authentic aroma of fries… could it be? As the food finally arrives – although it feels like forever, given that I am so curious, the wait was not long at all – it is confirmed that the waitress wasn’t lying. I get a whole puntzak (pointy bag, just as the real frituurs in Belgium serve them). They come with homemade mayo and I decide to order an additional sauce (+$1): Asian-style spicy mayo. The Belgian Fries are out of the world; or, perhaps more accurately, as if I am at a good frituur in Belgium. Truly the best Belgian Fries I have eaten outside of Belgium! Thick cut, crunchy outside, soft and potato-y inside… unbelievable! The steak is also absolutely excellent and even the green beens with onion are delicious. This is one of the best meals I have ever eaten in the US.

VERDICT: 99/100
Truly authentic Belgian food. I only regret I didn’t have time for dessert.

Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint (Harrisonburg, VA)

80 S. Main St. Harrisonburg, VA 22801, USA

Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint is exactly that: a small chain of beer and burger restaurants with, currently, six locations in Virginia, one in Birmingham, AL, and one in Nashville, TN. They really only serve burgers and beers as well as fries (regular and sweet potato) and fried oreo cookies. I visit the original location in downtown Harrisburg, a college town home to James Madison University. It is very tiny: one round table (seating four) and bar seating for some 12 people. There is a larger outside patio, but this (May!) day it is cold, wet, and windy. Consequently, even on a Thursday at 3.30 PM, it is packed and the wait is at least 15-20 min. Reluctantly, I decide to order out and eat in my car, as I am on a long drive and tight schedule.

I get The Shocker ($6.99), which is, without a doubt, the spiciest burger I have ever eaten. It is just a burger with grilled fresh jalapeño and habanero peppers and shocker sauce. Perhaps the pepper jack cheese smoothens it a bit, but I don't eat cheese, so not smoothening for me. The burger is so spicy, you hardly taste the meat and bun, which are both great (comparable to Shake Shack). The fries ($2.25) are thick wrinkle cut. I am not sure whether they are prefab, but they are perfectly fried and tasty.

VERDICT: 89/100
I am not sure whether I can judge that well, as my mouth is still on fire, but from the little my taste buds could tell, this is very good stuff! I will certainly be back to try another burger.


Corine’s Café (Mooresville, NC)

559 E Plaza Dr, Mooresville, NC 28115

Corine’s Café is a huge old-school diner, which doesn't seem to have been renovated since it opened in the 1950s. It prides itself on “home cooking,” but serves usual US diner food (breakfast and lunch). There is one unique aspect: because it is run by a Dutch émigré, it also has some Dutch specialties (mostly pancakes and croquettes). The clientele exists mostly of old(er) white local males - not a Dutch person in sight.

I get Bitterballen ($4.85) as a starter and Beef croquettes ($6.25) as a meal. Technically, they are the same, just different shapes, but it has been so long since I had any, that I double up. The croquettes come with two sides. I choose white bread (as replacement for the soft white bun you would get in the Netherlands), and onion rings. Unfortunately, the bitterballen and croquettes are homemade, not imported, and taste mainly fat and mushy. They have an odd crust and the ragout inside is too soft. The onion rings are prefab, as is the bread.

VERDICT: 72/100
Classic greasy US diner and the Dutch snacks are not worth the visit.