Sunday, June 28, 2009

Wall Drug (Wall, SD)

510 Main Street, Wall, South Dakota, T: 605-279-2175.

The Wall Drug Store is a roadside phenomenon, mostly famous for its endless amount of signs along the I-90. The whole story of this weird place, you can read here. M. and I stopped here on our move from Oregon to Indiana, in dire need of some food and entertainment.

We both went for buffalo burgers, the local delicacy, which together with fries set us back $8.95 each -- not too bad in such a touristic place. Unfortunately, I had not gone for the "deluxe" (+ $.55), and thus did not get the slice of tomato and onion. We also got two donuts (at $1.10 each), one vanilla glazed and one maple glazed (baked on the premises). The buffalo burgers were much leaner than beef burgers, yet very tasty. The fries were pretty decent too. I loved my maple glazed donut; it was thick, crispy, and very tasty.

VERDICT: 76/100
As far as tourist traps go, the Wall Drug is definitely worth a visit -- both to see the various crazy sites and have a buffalo burger and donut. It is overpriced, for sure, but the food is definitely tastier than at most regular places (let alone other tourist traps)!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fins Drive-In (Springfield, OR)

4090 Main St Springfield, OR 97478-6456, T: 541-741-3467

I had passed Fins Drive-In many times before, always saying that I should go there, but it would be the day before I leave Eugene that I finally went. Fins is an old-school diner/drive-in situated on Springfield's (at times dodgy) Main Street, which has survived for decades.

M. went for a veggie burger basket with fries, while I went for the Double Fins Burger basket with onion rings. We also shared a small cherry shake. This together came to a total of $16.85; not cheap, but also not very expensive. Unfortunately, the burgers were not very good; the veggie burger was similar to the one at Safeway's, while the Double Fins tasted fairly similar to a Big Mac. The good thing was that both the crinkle-cut fries and the beer-battered onion rings were tasty )even though both were probably also not originally made). The cherry milkshake was creamy and sweet.

VERDICT: 68/100
Fins Drive-In is an authentic old-school diner/drive-in, where the sides are better than the burgers. Given that Giant Burger is only a minute away, I would advice real fastfoodies to go there.

Slick's Que Co. (Sisters, OR)

240 E Cascade, Sisters, Oregon 97759, T: 541-719-0580

Sisters is a quaint little 'western' town in the Cascade mountains in Oregon, mostly known for its annual rodeo, "the biggest little show in the world". Last month a new restaurant opened, Slick's Que Co., which bills itself as an "authentic pit bar-b-que".

M.G. had a pulled pork sandwich ($5.50), while I went for ribs... unfortunately, they don't do ribs on Sunday, so I went with a burnt ends sandwich instead ($6.50). Both came with a side (we both chose coleslaw). The pulled pork sandwich was absolutely fantastic! The pork was so tender, you could almost suck it up. The burnt ends were less tender, but this was largely compensated by the fact that they were drenched in delicious bbq sauce. The coleslaw, finally, was very crunchy and tasty, yet remarkably light.

VERDICT: 90/100
While M. and I disagreed on how good the pulled pork sandwich was, i.e. better than Fat Matt's in Atlanta or not, there is no doubt that Slick Que's pulled pork is among the best I have ever eaten. The burnt end sandwich was not as exquisite, but tasty nonetheless. I would probably have given them an even higher grade if I would have also been able to taste their ribs.

Dickie Jo's (Eugene, OR)

Ste A 201 E 13th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401-3284, T: 541-636-4488

Just before I leave Eugene, the new burger joint that everyone was talking about opened. Portrayed as a 1950s diner annex upscale burger chain, this place is actually brand new and original to Eugene. However, it is from the people behind Mucho’s Gusto and Le Fina Taqueria, so one can expect more branches to follow (at least in the Eugene area).

I first came to Dickie Jo's on a Friday afternoon, around 2.30, and it was very busy (as it has been every time I passed it). It took at least 10 minutes before I could order and an additional 15 minutes before my food finally turned up. Clearly no fast food. When I returned the same evening, around 9 (I'll do anything for my readers ;-), it was less busy, and it took roughly 5 and 10 minutes, respectively.

The first time I took a regular burger w/fries ($6,29), but as I could hardly taste the burger over the salad and condiments, I decided to go for a double burger w/fries with bacon ($7.77) and a custom mixer of chocolate chip cookie/triple chocolate cookie/reese's pb cups ($3.99). As the first time, the fries were salty and soggy, while the burger was at best okay, but definitely not worth the money. The mixer was sweet.

VERDICT: 68/100
When Dickie Jo's finally opened, I was really enthusiastic. The place looks authentic, even if it is clearly a 'ocncept', and probably the red-white tiles reminded me of Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Unfortunately, they are no; in fact, they are nowhere near. Leaving aside the decorum, Dickie Jo's is an average burger join with extraordinary prices.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Slow Bar (Portland, OR)

533 SE Grand Avenue, Portland, OR 97214, T: 503-230-7767

Having only a couple of weeks left in Oregon, I consulted the internet to find out who makes the best burgers in Portland. One of the obvious sources was Portland Hamburgers, a great blog, but unfortunately not easy to navigate in my search to find the best burger. In the end, reading various recommendations, I went for the Slow Bar, which itself also claims to be "The Home of the Best Burger in Portland".

In sharp contrast to the dodgy outside, the inside of the Slow Bar is quite trendy. It also features a surprisingly culinary menu. I decided to go for the Spring Slowburger ($9.50): a 1/2lb burger, speck Alto Adige, sweet red pepper relish and butter lettuce and fries. The fries were absolutely awesome; best fries I had in the US (so far). They were made of real potato in the skin, fried perfectly crispy (tip: eat them first). Although the burger itself was thick and juicy (and really cooked medium), it was too gourmet for me. I should have gone for the regular Slowburger (no speck, but with onion ring).

VERDICT: 78/100
The Slow Bar is an odd place, combining trendy and dodgy. Its hand-cut fries are definitely worth the visit ($4.50 for a basket). I would also go for a burger, but then the regular Slowburger!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Just Q It BBQ & Chili (Astoria, OR)

Astoria Sunday Market, Sunday's May - October 2009

While driving through Astoria I stumbled upon their Sunday Market, which featured a wide variety of food stands. The one stand that caught my attention was Just Q It BBQ & Chili. As far as I could find out, they don't have a restaurant, but only work the market. I had a chat with the nice people at the stand, who told me they were collecting money to go to the chili cook-off in Texas -- their chili came second in the Oregon competition.

I first ordered a small chili ($2.90), which smelled absolutely amazing. It was a Texas-style beanless chili with a deep red color and full of shredded meat. The tasty was zesty and just perfect. Hence, I bought an extra large cup (at $9.50) and took it home. I also bought a slider ($.89), which consisted of a freshly grilled patty, ketchup, mustard, pickle, and... coleslaw! Odd? No, delicious!

VERDICT: 90/100
If you are in or around Astoria, Oregon, between May and October, go to the Sunday Market and order whatever you can get into your mouth and stomach (allegedly, the buttered cornbread is delicious too). And to the people of Just Q It BBQ & Chili, open up a chain of restaurants! Oh, and good luck at the chili cook-off in Texas!

Waldport Seafood Company & Restaurant (Waldport, OR)

310 South Arrow Street, Waldport, OR 97394, T: 541-563-4107

The Waldport Seafood Company & Restaurant is a fish and chips place annex fish market in Waldport at the Oregon Coast. After having eaten there once, I have come back twice only to find it closed (at 3 PM). This time we arrived at 3.01... but found the place open. Yes!

I went for fish and chips with cod; that day there was an all-you-can-eat for just $9.90. The cod is lightly battered, perfectly fried, and delicious with their fresh tartar sauce. .The basket comes with two slices of tasty garlic bread, a fresh slaw (with almost no mayo), and real fries. (which could have been crispier). M. went for a halibut sandwich, which was extremely fresh and perfectly grilled and seasoned.

VERDICT: 92/100
I am not a big fish and chips fan, and actually rarely eat it, but this is absolutely the best fish and chips I have ever eaten. The fish is extremely fresh and very well prepared. It comes in a basket full of yumminess and is very affordable. In addition, the owners are very generous, so do make a stop in Waldport if you visit the beautiful Oregon Coast.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Top Pot Doughnuts (Seattle, WA)

Downtown: 2124 5th Ave, Seattle, WA 98121, T: 206-728-1966
(There are four other locations in the greater Pudget Sound area)

Seattle is home to its own upscale donuts chain, Top Pot Doughnuts, which offers "hand-forged doughnuts" together with their own coffee and various trendy sandwiches. It is not really a pig-out spot, but rather a European-style cafe, but that doesn't mean you can't pig out there. ;-)

Top Pot offers a choice of some 40 different donuts, which are brought back to three categories: standard ($.99), premium (e.g. glazed - $1.49), and supreme (i.e. filled - $1.69). The donuts are not very original or radical, as at the Voodoo Doughnut, but they are roughly 1.5 times the size of those at Dunkin Donuts. I chose one premium (Cinnamon Sugar Frosted) and one supreme (Bavarian Creme), which were both really fresh and tasty. On top of that, the Americano was very good and affordable.

VERDICT: 81/100
True, Top Pot Doughnuts is not a real pig out spot. In fact, one of its biggest assets is its ambiance. However, the donuts are big and tasty and will easily make you eat more than you had intended.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Addi's Diner (Springfield, OR)

207 S A St, Springfield, OR 97477-5330, T: 541-747-9482

Addi's is a truly old-school diner in the heart of Springfield, Oregon, where the locals get their breakfasts and lunches. In fact, as I entered it on Saturday at 10 AM, some guys were already at their first (?) burger. I stayed traditional, however.

While not giving up on my favorite bacon and egss, I also had to try the "hotcake", their pizza-size pancake. The eggs were very tasty, the bacon could have been crispier, while the toast was standard but thick. The "hotcake" was huge, but tasted fairly dry. At $8.50, all together, it was definitely affordable for the quality and quantity.

VERDICT: 77/100
While definitely not the best diner in the Eugene/Springfield area, which is the Glenwood, Addi's is definitely worth a visit for the hotcakes and the ambiance.

Red Robin Gourmet Burger (chain)

1221 Executive Pkwy, Eugene, OR 97401, T: 541-484-9588

Red Robin is a chain in the category of TGI Friday or Ruby Tuesday, although it has a more limited menu. According to the website, the menu varies by location, although so far I haven't noticed this (then again, I have only been in OR and WA), but all specialize in "gourmet burgers" and "bottomless steak fries".

This time I went for the Santa Fe burger, which combines a juicy burger, fire-roasted Poblano pepper, guacamole, sautéed onions, crisp tortilla strips, lettuce, all on an onion bun with Ancho mayo. It was very tasty, even if it hardly tasted like a classic burger (no dripping juices). My earlier experiences with the 5 Alarm Burger (jalapeños, fresh tangy salsa, Chipotle mayo) and the Blackened Bayou Burger (roasted red peppers, "angry onions," Creole mustard sauce and cabbage-carrot mix on a jalapeño-cornmeal Kaiser roll) had been similarly satisfactory. This time the steak fries were very fresh and tasty, so I got me a second serving. :-)

VERDICT: 80/100
Red Robin is a good place to go if you want a different, non-greasy burger. Virtually all burgers are just under $10 and include bottomless fries. A burger-alternative for real burgers.