Monday, December 19, 2011

Nickel Plate Bar & Grill (Fishers, IN)

8654 East 116th Street Fishers, Indiana 46038, T: 317-841-2888

Nickel Plate Bar & Grill is the premier sports bar in Fishers, Indiana, and listed as having one of the best burgers of Indianapolis. It is bot bar and restaurant, which in Indiana means there are noth smoking and non-smoking areas! I ordered a cup of "Our World Famous Hobo Stew" ($3.99), which was extremely filled and chunky, but unfortunately also largely tasteless. I followed up with The Nickel Plate Burger (Cajun spices, grilled onions, served on grilled Texas toast; I opted out of the Hot Pepper cheese). The burger was thick, but a bit dry, the Cajun not very spicy: a decent, but not remarkable, burger. The fries were soggy but ok.

VERDICT: 78/100
The Nickel Plate Bar & Grill is a regular sports bar with regular bar food.

Dunn's Famous (Ottawa, ON)

220 Elgin Street, Ottawa, ON K2P 1L7, T: 613-230-6444

Dunn's Famous is a chain of smoked meats restaurants that originated in Montreal and currently has five restaurants in that city, two in Ottawa, and one in Vancouver. It has a very extensive menu: burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, soups, salads, etc. The restaurant in the heart of Ottawa is open 24 hours and advertizes its breakfasts.

I ordered the Devine Breakfast ($12.99): three eggs, mixed grill, pancake or French toast, home fries, bagel or toast. The breakfast is HUGE! Massive amounts of decent home fries, three strips of tasty bacon, two nice links, one piece of Canadian bacon, three medium over eggs, one piece of not too sweet French toast, and four slices of wheat toast. A breakfast of champions (or truckers)!

VERDICT: 82/100
This is a huge breakfast, good quality, but also quite pricey.

Shawarma King (Ottawa, ON)

395 Bank Street, Ottawa, ON K2P 1Y3, T: 613-233-2226

It is almost impossible to get good shoarma/shawarma in the US, let alone in the Midwest, so I am always happy when I go to a Canadian city, which seems to have more options (and of higher quality). Shawarma King has been voted Ottawa's Best Lebanese Fast Food eleven years running (1997-2008), so I had high expectations. Even the ghetto exterior, and interior, couldn't deter me; in fact, I took them as proof of authenticity.

I ordered a Small Shawarma Sandwich (CDN$4.99): Lebanese bread, beef strips (from big skewer), different beets, lettuce, onion, garlic spread, all pressed like a panini. Although this is not my favorite way of preparing shoarma, it is fairly authentic, and so was the taste. Unfortunately, the meat was of very poor quality and very dry. To be honest, I didn't eat more than one third of the sandwich.

VERDICT: 56/100
While the pace looks and smells authentic, and the shawarma is prepared in a fairly authentic manner, the poor quality of the meat made it a big disappointment.

T D Chips (Ottawa, ON)

372 Lisgar St. (Bank St.), Ottawa, ON K2P 1Z9, Canada

Ontario seems to be the place for food carts. While Ottawa does not have so many food carts as Toronto (it is also a much smaller city), I came across several of them. This is the one I tried, in part because of the fact that I saw several people eating or waiting around it.

T D Chips sells... well... chips, or fries as non-Brits call them. While it also has a couple of other snacks (e.g. hamburgers and hot dogs), it is known for fries and poutine. I ordered a small portion of fries (CDN$ 3). Unfortunately, they only had ketchup, mustard, and vinegar... not mayonnaise. Sill, the fries were thick, crunchy and fresh! They had a good taste, even though they tasted a bit dry without sauce.

VERDICT: 89/100
This is a great chips truck, particularly if you eat them with ketchup or vinegar.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Beach Burgers (Camdenton, MO)

108 Cecil St (Ste B), Camdenton, MO 65020, T: 573-346-9955

I was in Camdenton for a wedding, and had several hours to kill between the ceremony and the dinner... Having had an early 'brunch' and a long wedding ceremony, I was starving. Good thing I came to Beach Burgers, a small hole in the wall with great ambitions. The owners got their inspiration for In & Out Burger while in California, and hope to make Beach Burger a franchise (a second restaurant will open in Springfield, MO soon).

Like other burger places these days, in part inspired by the tv program Man v. Food, Beach Burgers has a challenge: eat The Big Kahuna and get your pic on the wall (two Big Kahunas, bigger pic; three, a framed pic). Somewhat by accident I got into this challenge, ordering The Big Kahuna to ease my hunger: it includes four juicy and tasty beef patties (grilled and crispy around), fried (or raw) onion, a bit of lettuce and tomato, secret sauce (kind of mayo-1000 Island), on a big soft bun. As a side you get either fries (thin and crispy) or coleslaw. It costs ca. $10 (forgot). I finished The Big Kahuna within 10 minutes; it was so fresh and tasty! Consequently, Grondhopper is now on the wall of Beach Burgers!

VERDICT: 91/100
Beach Burgers provides great burgers; fresh, juicy, tasty, and plentysome. Next time I will go for a smaller burger and have some of the other food too. Let's hope this will become a franchise!

Runway Grill (Seattle, WA)

Gate D6, South Satellite, Seattle-Tacoma Airport

Runway Grill is a fast food place at the South Satellite section of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. As there is virtually no choice in this part of the airport, I have eaten here a couple of times. It is not extremely overpriced, for an airport.

This time around we had a burger and a chicken sandwich. Both look really crappy, and also tasted it. At other times I had the chicken tenders (reasonable), the hot dog and the fries (both were fairly tasteless). They also have fish sandwiches and salads; I doubt they taste better.

VERDICT: 49/100
Places like the Runway Grill can only survive at places like airports without much competition. They provide very poor quality at reasonably high prices; they are quick though!

Fired Up Bar-B-Que (Camdenton, MO)

770 E Hwy 54 Suite B, Camdenton, MO 65020, T: 573-873-2700

Fired Up Bar-B-Que is a new BBQ place in Camdenton, Missouri. While situated at a small strip mall outside of the center, it had decent business for a Saturday noon. It has the looks of a franchise, but as far as I know this is the only place (so far). It's menu is very extensive; although, when I was there they didn't have various items (e.g. brisket).

As it was noon, and I had something small before, I only had room for one sandwich. I made it a Sloppy Q, which came with one side for $6.79. The Sloppy Q is a combination of their meats with bbq sauce; at least, that was what they told me. It tasted very much like Fat Matt's chopped pork sandwich (which is a huge compliment). It wasn't as tangy, more sweet (the onions?), but it was very tasty. The cole slaw was less impressive; too creamy, too little taste, but the little piece of cornbread made me want to buy a whole loaf (for the record, I didn't!).

VERDICT: 87/100
Fired Up Bar-B-Que provides surprisingly good BBQ in a very unsurprising setting. Go for the Sloppy Q and make sure you get an extra piece of cornbread!

Sweet Iron (Seattle, WA)

1200 3rd Ave, Ste 110 (between Seneca St & University St), Seattle, WA 98101

Sweet Iron serves (real) Liege waffles and coffee in downtown Seattle. While this sounds like a limited menu, they actually serve ca. 10 different kind of waffles, both sweet and savory. Prices range from ca $4 to $6.

I went here with two others for lunch and we sampled most of their waffles. I had the banana brulee waffle ($3.99), which was sweet and tasty, and the bacon waffle ($4.99), which could have profited from strong maple syrup. My friends raved about the Brie and Basil Waffle ($4.99), while they also had the (seasonal) Elvis Waffle (peanut butter and banana).

VERDICT: 83/100
This is a nice little shop in downtown Seattle, which serves reasonably authentic Liege waffles in original sweet and savory options (and combinations).

Friday, August 26, 2011

Divine 2 (Indianapolis, IN)

8748 W Washington St , Indianapolis, IN 46231, T: 317-248-9800

I have never seen Divine Bar-B-Cue (aka Divine 1) -- it is at 3017 Kentucky Ave, Indianapolis -- but must have passed Divine 2 at least 100 times over the past two years. Every time I notice the smoker in front of the shack, and think I should eat there... but then worry about eating bbq outside of the South. Today I went through the same doubts, but this time I turned around and finally went in. Glad I did!

I got a pulled pork sandwich combo meal ($7.50), which includes a side and a can of soda, and a hot link sandwich ($4.50). When the (very friendly) staff brought me my tray of food, I was underwhelmed. To be honest, it didn't look very nice. The pulled pork looked dry and pale, the sausage was huge, but kind of gross. How different did it taste. The little soft bun was covered with a big pile of very fresh and tender pulled pork (it could have used a little more sauce). The link was really hot and had a very soft texture. The slaw was fresh, but a bit too mayo-y for me.

VERDICT: 86/100
This is good bbq, particularly for a small shack just outside of Indianapolis. I shall definitely return to try some of the other dishes.

Abrakebabra (Sligo, IRE)

Grattan Street, Sligo, Co. Sligo, Ireland, T: 071-914-5524

Abrakebabra is an Irish chain that sells kebabs, burgers, fried chicken, french fries, and sandwiches. It opened in 1982 and has by now 55 franchises nationwide; in the UK it failed. I had eaten in a Dublin branch many years ago, and this time I stopped in for a quick snack at its Sligo franchise.

I had a Doner Kebab (€5.95), which had fairly generic, salty meat strips, slaw, and garlic and red sauce on a thin wrap. It was greasy, but tasty. My friend had a Quarter Pounder (€3.20), which looked quite pale and uneventful, but was nevertheless appreciated.

VERDICT: 77/100
Abrakebabra is a chain that services fairly decent and fairly affordable snacks. However, as it does this in Ireland, not known for its tasty or affordable foods, it is a good place to visit when on the Green Island.

Marvin's (Greencastle, IN)

202 S College Ave, Greencastle, IN 46135, T: 765-653-9200

Marvin's is an institution in Greencastle, Indiana, popular among students and locals ('townies') alike. It is situated just off the campus of DePauw University, in an unmarked brick building. It offers general American snacks. I have eaten there a couple of times. Most of the time the service is slow and unfriendly.

For this review, I ordered the Garlic Hamburger ($4.50) and french fries ($1.50). The first are two small and dry grilled patties on two garlic breaded buns; no lettuce, tomato, or onion! The french fries are thick and come in large portions, but they are also often undercooked and soggy. At other times I had the chicken tenders (straight from Wal-Mart, I guess) and the BLT (few strips of bacon on a dry bun).

VERDICT: 51/100
I only go to Marvin's when I am (1) really hungry and (2) have forgotten how bad it is. Marvin's makes McDonald's taste good!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Comfy Cow (Louisville, KY)

1301 Herr Lane #118, Louisville, KY 40222, T: 502-425-4979

The Comfy Cow is kind of tucked away in a middle class outdoor mall in an eastern suburb of Louisville, Kentucky. When we visit it on a hot summer evening, it is really busy. Guess we are not the only ones who like handcrafted ice cream and desserts.

M. had a small cup with one scoop of watermelon and mint ($2.45), which was odd and fresh. I went for the real deal: a waffle cone with Banana Nana Fofana and Lemon Cream with Pistachio ($5.40). The banana is fresh and not too creamy, while the Lemon Cream with Pistachio was just insane... sooooo good!

VERDICT: 95/100
Louisville has the reputation as a foodie city and this might explain how this modest Midwestern city can have such an excellent ice cream place. Can't wait to go back!

Uncle Bud's Catfish Shack (Nashville, TN)

2719 Old Lebanon Road, Nashville, TN 37214, T: 615-678-8080

Uncle Bud's Catfish Shack has three locations in the larger Nashville area. It serves fried food, Louisiana style: catfish, chicken, oysters, po-boy sandwiches, frog legs, etc. You walk up to the counter, try to go through the extensive menu as quick as possible, and order. They will then deliver it to your table, where there are a couple of sauces available.

M. got the Catfish and Calabash Shrimp Combo ($12), their best seller, which is a huge basket with various pieces of fried catfish and fried shrimp, a portion of coleslaw and a portion of beans, fries, and two sauces. I got a Hurricane Tender Snack ($5): 3 tenders, fries and garlic bread; and added one catfish filler ($2.50). The tenders were chunky, but the "hurricane" sauce (i.e. buffalo sauce) wasn't particularly spicy. The beans and shrimp were ok, the slaw and bread nice, the fries tasty, but the best thing, by far, was the catfish: lightly breaded and very tender and fresh.

VERDICT: 82/100
Stay primarily with the catfish and you won't go wrong!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Good Stuff Eatery (Washington, DC)

303 Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast, Washington, DC 20003, T: 202-543-8222

When Mrs. Grondhopper and I arrived in the nation's capital, we were blocked from our walk over to the Congress because the president was out for lunch at... Good Stuff Eatery! Allegedly this is Obama's favorite restaurant. As Mrs. G. said, what is good enough for the president, is good enough for me. So, we met with a group of our students at night and went to town on the burgers.

Good Stuff Eatery is all about handmade burgers, hand-cut fries, and handspun ice cream. They have about ten different burgers, which can be made with a broad variety of patties (beef, chicken, turkey, veggie, mushroom). I had the Prez Obama Burger ($6.89): applewood bacon, onion marmalade, and horseradish mayo (I opted out from the Roquefort cheese). I also had Uncle D's Famous Chili ($5.89) and shared a portion of the Sunny's Handcut Fries ($3.69). The chili was good and had a nice spice. Although the burger didn't look remarkable, although it did look very greasy and juicy, it tasted fantastic. The beef had great taste and was almost soaked into the fresh bun, the bacon was crispy and tasty, and the onion and sauce perfected everything. The fries, however, were the best: fried, making them crispy from the outside but soft from the inside, and salty. Moreover, you have a choice from six different mayo's, which were the perfect condiment.

VERDICT: 97/100
There is only one place to go when you are in the Capitol area of Washington, DC: Good Stuff Eatery. The rest of us can only hope that they will be successful in starting their franchise business and that a branch will come to a place near you!

Libby's Lunch (Paterson, NJ)

98 McBride Avenue, Paterson, NJ 07501-2660, T: 973-278-8718

Libby's Lunch claims to be the inventor of the Texas Weiner, New Jersey's deep-fried hot dog. Whether or not this is true. this small diner/snackbar has been serving them since 1936.

I ordered the Extra Large Texas Weiner Platter ($4.35), which includes an extra large hot dog "all the way" (mustard, chopped onion, chili) and fries. I also get a Texas Weiner Classic (mustard and sauerkraut) for $2.20. The weiners are deep fried and snappy, but not very special. They come on an Italian bun (not steamed) and with fairly tasteless chili. The fries are generic, but well fried.

VERDICT: 82/100
Libby's Lunch is more nostalgia than special food. I am sure you can get better Texas Weiners in New Jersey.

Shawarma King (Brantford, ON)

210 King George Rd, Brantford, ON N3R 5L4, Canada, T: 519-512-0065

Shawarma King is a tiny shop in a small strip mall outside of Brantford, some 110 km (70 miles) southwest of Toronto. It is run by a very nice guy from Lebanon. It might look crappy from both the inside and outside, but don't be fooled. This is the real thing!

I order a Fattoush Salad ($5.99) and a Beef Shawarma Wrap ($5.99). Neither dish is made the traditional way, but both are delicious. The shawarma warp is full of tender, spiced meat, cured veggies, and garlic sauce. The fattoush is absolutely amazing!

VERDICT: 95/100
This is a hidden gem! If you are anywhere around Brantford, and this includes Toronto (!), go there and have at the very least the fattoush. I wish my town had a place like this!

Bellwood Bar & Grill (Toronto, ON)

756 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J, Canada, T: 416-504-8855

Bellwood Bar & Grill is an old-school, almost British, greasy eatery situated in the hip Arts & Fashion district of Toronto. It is run by a East or South European couple and seem to cater primarily to the few old inhabitants of the area.

As the Bellwood is the "Home of the 16oz Hamburger", which it serves for just $6.95 and comes with fries. The thick pattie is grilled on the plate and served with pickles, onion, and tomato on a nice bun. The burger tastes good, but not special, while the fries are generic and too soft.

VERDICT: 77/100
Not the best burger ever, but if you wanna experience an old-school greasy eatery in a hipster area, the Bellwood is your thing.