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.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

London Ice Cream Co. (London, ON)

43 Base Line Rd W, London, ON N6J 1V5, T: 519-645-6045

London Ice Cream Company is a small store selling homemade ice cream in London, Ontario. They have some 15 different flavors, including various very original ones.On this hot summer day most people enjoy their ice cream at the benches in front of the tiny store.

I get a small cone with two scoops: rainbow sherbert and butterscotch ripple (ca. $3.50). The sherbert is odd but fruity, while the butterscotch is tasty and not too sweet. The cone is fresh.

VERDICT: 85/100
London Ice Cream Co. serves nice, but not very special ice cream.

Shawarma House (London, ON)

1281 Commissioners Rd W, London, ON N6K, Canada, T: 519-471-0060

Shawarma House is a small Lebanese place in London, Ontario, which seems to mainly serve take-away food. They have shawarma (shoarma), falafel, kebabs, and salads.

I get a beef shawarma ($4.00): marinated beef, tomato, lettuce, onions, sour pickle and beet, hot and garlic sauce (normally they use humus and tahini) on Lebanes bread, which is pressed like a panini. It's a bit dry, but very tasty. I also have a Fattoush Salad ($4.75), which is nice and fresh with radish and excellent pita chips.

VERDICT: 87/100
Good shoarma and fattoosh for what is essentially a snack bar.

Redcoat Tavern (Royal Oak, MI)

31542 Woodward Ave, Royal Oak, MI 48073, T: 248-549-0300

The Redcoat Tavern is an established name in the best burger lists of Michigan. It is a huge English-type pub, extremely dark inside, and absolutely packed when I enter around lunch time on a Friday.

I order from the lunch menu and decide to go for the Brasserie Burger ($9.35): 1/2lb burger, bacon, caramelized onions, watercress, tomato, Dijon mustard, on a brioche bun (I opted out on the Swiss Gruyere). The burger is thick and perfectly grilled, the bacon is thick, crispy and full of flavor, and the whole experience is amazing. No wonder it was voted "best gourmet burger". I also ordered their onion rings ($5.65), which are another specialty: thick onion slices, lightly battered, and fried very crispy (enough for two).

VERDICT: 97/100
This is one of the best burgers I ever had and some of the best inion rings I ever had. Easily worth the rather steep price. Go there!

Jimmy B's Eatery & Pub (Indianapolis, IN)

10598 N College Ave, Ste 400, Indianapolis, IN 46280, T: 317-848-5057

Jimmy B's is a smoky, working class sports bar in a small strip mall in the north of Indianapolis. It attracts a very colorful clientele... One wouldn't say it from the out- or inside, but it is known throughout the city for its breaded tenderloin sandwich. No small feat in the capital of the tenderloin state!

I ordered a cup of chili ($2.50) as a starter. It was decent: meaty, but missed spice. Obviously, I also ordered the breaded tenderloin sandwich ($6.95): a HUGE freshly breaded and fried, very tender tenderloin on a crispy buttered and grilled bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles. Everything was extremely crispy and fresh.

VERDICT: 93/100

Coolhaus NYC (New York, NY)

Coolhaus Ice Cream Sandwiches has food carts in New York City, Los Angeles and Austin, and "storefronts" in Los Angeles and Culver City. The name is a play on Rem Koolhaas, the famed Dutch architect. You can choose from ca. 6 different cookies and 6 different and highly original ice creams, which are wrapped in eatable paper (at $6 per ice cream sandwich). We chose the red velvet cookies and butter and bacon ice cream. The cookies were very yummie and the ice very creamy.

VERDICT: 92/100
Coolhaus works with a great concept and is one of the best food carts around.

Bill's Bar & Burger (New York, NY)

22 9th Avenue, New York, NY, T: 212-414-3003

Bill's Bar & Burger is a fairly affordable restaurant at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan (there are also restaurants in the Meatpacking District and in Atlantic City), which serves classic American fair. Obviously, burgers are the signature dish. I got the Spicy Jalapeno Burger ($8.50), which was a 6oz medium grilled burger with pico de galo, jalapeno, shredded lettuce and chipotle aiolo. It was small, but tasty (and comes without any sides!). My friends had Bill's Burger and a Veggie Burger, which were both good, but not remarkable.

VERDICT: 85/100
Probably not the first place I would visit outside of Manhattan, but a good choice for an affordable burger in a decent setting in a very expensive part of the city.

Frost Bite (Avon, IN)

7025 Galen Dr W, Avon, IN 46123, T: 317-272-2483

Frost Bite is a classic American small town dairy/snack bar, which has been around for a long time, and is only open during the summer, when it is run by uninterested school kids with an attitude. While it mainly is visited for its cold treats, it also has burgers, hot dogs, and, of course, tenderloin sandwiches (this is Indiana after all!).

I got a Big Bite Burger ($4), which came with (too much) lettuce, (too much) mayo, ketchup, mustard, (too much) onion, a quarter pound pattie on a small bun. The excessive condiments were probably to cover the fairly tasteless pattie. The Chili Dog ($2.50) included a thick slaty wiener, generic chili, and a not-steamed bun. Finall, the small banana shake ($3) was (too) sweet and creamy with chunks of banana.

VERDICT: 70/100
Classic small town, old-school place from the time before (some) Americans started to care about food.