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Dominos Review

Dominos Review

Cedar Square West – Minneapolis

I first became acquainted with Dominos when I lived in my first apartment in Minneapolis.  Near the U of M, “Cedar Square West,” was a HUD experiment of a “city within a city” and the exteriors were represented to be the domicile of Mary Tyler Moore on the television program that bore her name.

Dominos was the only joint that delivered to the complex, where safety could be dicey at times.  I can still picture the long-haired, bespectacled delivery kid, who regularly bathed in patchouli.

That was about forty years ago.  When they started delivering to me, they were, in fact Dominos, but a lawsuit by the makers of Dominos Sugar forced them to change their name for a few years, and I recall it as “Pizza Park.”  Same colors, logo, but packaging and signs changed.  Ultimately, the court said the pizza guys could keep their name, and now they are the second largest pizza chain in the US, and the largest in the world, with about 10,000 stores, corporate and franchisee owned.  They bring in nearly $2 billion in revenue annually.  India is the largest Dominos market outside of the U.S.

They specialize in ‘value priced’ product, and in addition to pizza, have ‘pasta bowls,’ sub sandwiches, chicken thingies, and pizza bread.  Taking a cue from the Taco Bell philosophy, Dominos is able to take the same core ingredients, deliver them in different shapes, and with different names.

They frequently run pricing specials, and are generally acknowledged to be the technology leader as far as ordering apps, both online and with mobile. Their “pizza tracker” shows the progress of your order, from received, to prep, baking, and delivery.

One of their long time promotions was the pizza would be delivered in “30 minutes or it is free,” but ultimately, this proved to present some danger to drivers and pedestrians alike, so it was dropped.

At present, they have a deal where you can get two or more menu items at $5.99 each.  They add a delivery charge, cautioning buyers this does NOT go to the delivery man, implying you should tack on some more dough for the pizza schlepper.

Since they now offer sandwiches, pasta, and chicken, they have dropped the word “pizza” from their name, and they are now simply “Dominos.”

I haven’t had their product for years, so in the interest of keeping you, dear readers, informed, I ordered a pair of the $5.99’s, one with “hand-tossed” crust, and one with “crispy thin” crust.  Both were topped by two different processed pork products.

According to said “Pizza Tracker,” I placed my order at 11:01 AM and “Patrick” left the store with my pies at 11:17 AM.

He arrived at  11:45.

A few years ago, Dominos touted that they were completely re-inventing their pizzas, which did have a reputation for not being all that tasty.   There were a lot of jokes about not being able to tell the difference in taste and texture between the pie and the box, and so on.  So the company said a change was needed.

Today’s product is the result of those changes.

I have to tell you, both pies were pretty awful.  Similar in taste to low end frozen pies, like Totinos, or Tonys.  The hand-tossed one had two types of Italian sausage, chunk and sliced, and the thin crust was pepperoni and salami. Except they forgot the salami.  Sausage pie was cut in sliced, pepperoni in squares.

While I am usually a fiend for thin crust over any other kind, I actually preferred the hand-tossed today.

But neither have any distinctive flavor, in their toppings, sauce or cheese.  At the low end of the price point schedule, i actually preferred the bacon wrapped deep dish from Little Caesar’s recently.

If you’re drunk, don’t care, are cheap, have to feed somebody else’s kids,  or are hosting relatives or people you don’t like, it may well be Dominos is your best choice.

Morning after, cold pizza test:  Hand tossed, sausage pie is slightly better, thin crust, pepperoni, slightly worse.

Dominos Review

 

 

 

 

 

Dominos Review

Marengo Cafe Review – Marengo, IL

Marengo Cafe ReviewBack in Illinois for the first foal auction of the Spring.  Need me a new horsey or two.

The restaurant?  It’s perfectly fine, plates come with free soup, and they have a coat rack.  Usual diner/coffee shop fare, attentive and adequate service, and value for your buck. That’s about the best I can say for the Marengo Cafe, a place I wasn’t planning on going.

They have low-priced complete meals on Sundays, like roast turkey or beef.  The entire menu (breakfast, lunch, and dinner items is available during all opening hours.  Can’t say for sure, but believe they shut down after the lunch “rush.”

Your Marengo Cafe experience starts with a complimentary cracker basket.

“Regular” sandwiches are accompanied by the free soup, and chips.  Add a buck for fries, the extruded mashed potato type.  Great pickles, hearty-sliced dill chips.

Good coffee, and they keep the coffee and water coming until you say “uncle.”   Ample condiment selection.

It’s probably a “Sysco-type” beef patty, the char marks were too uniform and the ‘grill flavor’ probably came from liquid smoke.

But hey, not all burgers can be great ones, or we wouldn’t know a great one when we stumbled into it, would we?

Marengo Cafe Review

 

Marengo Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

Marengo Cafe Review

China Dragon Review – Algonquin, IL

China Dragon Algonquin ReviewI haven’t had Chinese in let’s see….over two years.  Wasn’t intentional, just happened.  Prior to that, I could have it a couple times a year, but was most always disappointed.  Since I lived in China, I just haven’t been satisfied with “Americanized Chinese.”  Even going to major city Chinatowns and asking for the dishes I preferred would bring a woeful look and an apology “we just can’t get those ingredients in the U.S.”

I usually fare a little better with dim sum – most places haven’t Americanized it as yet.  I suppose that will happen in time.  We’ll see scrambled egg and sausage steamed dumplings, or some such.

Oh well.

One major difference is surely the cost of ingredients in China vs the US.  The Chinese aren’t tempted to saturate dishes with inexpensive “fill” like in the US, and the US restaurants idea of fill is vegetables you’ll never see in China – zucchini, carrots, and such.

And of course, there is always the “American invented” dishes on Chinese menus in the US, like “Crab Rangoon,” supposedly crab flakes, cream cheese and scallions in a deep fried won ton wrapper.  Seems these first appeared at the Polynesian themed chain “Trader Vics” in the mid 50s.  They have devolved to be much heavier on the cream cheese (a product that was never available in Asia until the past few years), and if there is any crab at all, it’s that artificial junk.  Sigh.

I was back in suburban Chicago to see a client and wanted something different, looked for places that would deliver to the hotel, and found China Dragon via GrubHub.   Ordered shrimp with cashews, a couple egg rolls, and the crab rangoon.

The entree was OK, but I didn’t care for the egg rolls at all, there was some ‘under taste’ that I couldn’t identified, and the “rangoons” were completely devoid of crab.

The restaurant does furnish you with ample quantities in the servings, it’s hot, delivered quickly, and inexpensive.  And they furnish you with a couple years worth of soy sauce, sweet and sour, and mustard packets.

If you’re looking for delivered Chinese in the NW surburbs of Chicago, order through GrubHub, or directly on the restaurant’s website.  Menu is pasted below.

China Dragon Algonquin Review

China Dragon Algonquin Review

China Dragon 1 on Urbanspoon
China Dragon Review

My Best Burgers in USA List, 2015 (and some not so great ones)

Best Burgers

BurgerDogBoys Top 10 Burgers

Green Chile Cheeseburger,, Santa Fe Bite

You guys are always asking me for recommendations, and I’ve never done a “favorites list,” per se, so today I think I will.

For me, the test of a great burger, is to take it all apart, sample the individual components, with the biggest emphasis being put on the taste and texture of the beef patty.   I have found no better ground beef supplier in the U.S. than Creekstone Farms or Kansas.  Many of my favorite burgers dgt their blends from Creekstone.

There are  a lot of great ones I have missed, but I am never gonna put one on the list that has fancy pants ingredients that bury the flavor of the beef – condiments like “fig jam,”  and “merlot sauteed onions” just don’t do it for me.  If you like those things, fine.

My burger list for the past 12 months is by no means all inclusive, nor are these fine meat patties in any particular order.  Those disclaimers aside, let’s get to it.   Click on each link to read the full review.

EPIC – a mini chain in Chicago. Creekstone beef, hand made patties with nice char crust, fresh cut fries.

TruBurger – New Orleans is another Creekstone customer.  Hand pressed fresh ground beef with “TruSauce” and hand cut fries. The fries are a single stage process, so while fresh and tasty, they lack any kind of crispness.

The Company Burger – another Crreekstone customer in New Orleans.  A little spendy, but a terrific burger and don’t forget a side of rings.

District Donuts, Sliders, Brew – this New Orleans bake shop offers beef and chicken slider-size burgers every day, along with a special or two.  Yes another Creekstone customer in a fun size burger.

Santa Fe Bite  – When I sampled their wares, this couple was making the super green chili cheeseburgers at another joint called “Bobcat Bite.”  A dispute with the owners sent them packing across town in Santa Fe, and good thing, they are still cooking the burgers and in a larger place.   This may be the best hamburger I have had anywhere.

Golden State – an epic burger experience, beef is from Harris Ranch in California, and adult milkshakes.

Pickwick Pub Burger  – Duluth, MN.  All of their burgers are done on the char-grill, giving them a nice crust and smokey flavor.

Vortex, Atlanta, when excess is not enough, these guys crank out absolutely monster burgers.

Heart Attack Grill  – the original location, that I went to in suburban Phoenix is closed, but there is an outlet in Vegas.  Fun experience for a guy afternoon, unlimited fries cooked in lard, Mexican cokes, and Lucky and Camel straights for sale under the counter.

Tracks  – in suburban Chicago burg of Cary, Illinois, these guys get voted best burger in the county, year after year.

Much Ado About Nothing

Umami – fast growing chain out of Los Angeles, really nothing to get excited about. Overpriced and nothing special, flavor wise, despite their marketing.

Little Big Burger  – Portland, OR mini chain that everybody loves ‘cept me.  Yawn.  After my review, the owners suggested I not return.

In N Out, Western U.S.   I will never figure out the mystique and fascination with an In N Out burger;  when you strip it away from the bun, condiments, and vegetables, you have a thin, unspectacular, unseasoned beef patty that clocks in at MAYBE 2 ounces.  Not worth a trip. Or the hype.

Mad Greek – Baker, CA.  Every driven between Los Angeles and Las Vegas?  Out there in the middle of the desert, the town of Baker is a popular stop-over enroute.  Home of the world’s tallest thermometer.  The Mad Greek is loud (inside and out) and serves amazingly unspectacular Greek and American fare to passers-by.

Stanichs,  always on the list of favorites in Portland, but who knows why.  Maybe they were great forty years ago, but now it’s just not a thing, at all. Not worth a stop.

Dicks, Seattle chain.  I could just cut and past the description of Stanichs, above, for Dicks.  Very popular in Seattle, born about the same time as McDonalds, and offer the same type of fare, except with better fries.

Port of Call, New Orleans.  Always on the favorite list in New Orleans, and nobody knows why anymore.  Plus your side is a giant baked potato.  No fries.  So many good burgers in NOLA now, and POC is not one of them.

 

 

 

 

Best Burgers in USA

 

Blues BBQ and Grill Review – East Dundee, IL

The Blues BBQ and Grill Review East Dundee

Table top BBQ sauces

So there were these guys, living in Maryland, disgusted with the state of ‘cue in the area, so they bought a truck and created their own.  From there, they have expanded to brick and mortars in  Virginia and East Dundee, IL.   The latter location seems like a stretch for managing, but hey, their working overtime leads to better meal opportunities for me.

I tried to get in here last time through town, but it was closed for a private party.  Not so tonight. “The Blues” peddles a variety of BBQ entrees and styles (KC, Memphis, Savannah).   I enjoy South Carolina / Georgia “yellow” BBQ, which was made famous, I suspect, by the late regional pitmaster Maurice Bessinger, and his regional chain of “Piggy Park” BBQs. In addition to the mustard based sauce, ‘cue in those parts are just as likely to use chopped ham as pulled pork.  It’s a tasty experience.

The full menu at Blues BBQ incorporates the ‘cue with a number of Southern staples and sides, like fried green tomatoes, collard greens and the like.

They make their sauces in-house, and the KC one leans toward the ‘sweet’ end of the taste spectrum, while the others are more the vinegar variety. They have a ‘secret’ kitchen seasoning they call “crack,” which they apply amply to many of the dishes.  If you’re sensitive to salt, as for your hand-cut, fresh fries unseasoned.

I’ve been blessed lately in the burger world, to have consumed some really outstanding beef patties, and tonight was no exception. Prepared as ordered to medium rare, the 8 oz slap o’ meat, dressed with lettuce and a crispy tomato was darned near burger perfection.  The toasted rolls are hearty, soft enough for your palate, but substantial enough to securely hold the patty.

As I previously opined, the menu is lengthy, and I’d stop again to try some of the other dishes – they also have a lot of appetizers that look interesting and some special craft cocktails if you’re into that.

Whether you find yourself in suburban Chicago, Roanoke, VA, or Frederick, MD, look up the Blues BBQ guys for some good grub.

Blues BBQ and Grill Review

Bacon Cheeseburger

Blues BBQ and Grill on Urbanspoon

 

Blues BBQ and Grill Review

Superior Seafood Review – New Orleans

Superior Seafood is on the St. Charles Streetcar line, a quick ride from the Quarter.  Superior’s  menu incorporates the best of local seafood,  po boys, plates, and fresh catch, with beef, chicken and pasta available for those who partake in those edibles.  It’s moderately priced ($10 – $25), is happy to toss you a loaf of Leidenheimer’s to start with, is open for lunch and dinner seven days, with brunch service Sunday mornings.

My companion is a local, as local as you can get, her family having arrived in 1750, and she had a hankering for a shrimp po-boy and said Superior was the one for her.  I ordered a half with fries, she ordered a whole one and said I’d regret my diminutive order. Which I did. She said she’d share, but she lied.

It’s one delicious sandwich, and they had outstanding coffee as well.

Classic cocktails run $8-$12, and they have a happy hour daily from 4:00 – 6:30, the highlight of which is 50 cent raw oysters, a bargain these days. Wine list is respectable and value-priced.

They do catering, including crawfish boils.

Superior Seafood Review New Orleans

Shrimp Po Boy

Superior Seafood & Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

 

Superior Seafood Review

Sobelmans Pub and Grill Review – Milwaukee, WI

Soblemans Milwaukee ReviewI was prepared for three things – to  wait awhile for a table, to have to pay more than I wanted to, and for lousy service due to the crowds.  None of the three happened.  We were seated immediately, despite nearly a full house, the prices were unbelievably reasonable, and the service was prompt, continuous, and affable.  So I over tipped.

“Over the top” bloody mary cocktails has become a “thing” latey, and Sobelman’s has it down to an art, offering a half dozen varieties.  My order was pretty near the low end of the scale, and didn’t take all that long to get served, despite the crowds.

Sobelmans has their own version of an ‘amuse bouche,’ as the waitress handed us short glasses of beer (4 ounces?) the moment we sat at the table. She was back quickly to take the order, and for the table, we had the “Masterpiece,”  and one that I missed the name of that featured chunks of buffalo flavored chicken on a skewer, along with the other accompaniments.  My Masterpiece had a slider, sausage, jumbor shrimp, olive, cheese, pickle, mushroom, celery stalk, pickled green bean, and one lonely Brussel sprout.

The waitress had an absolutely perfect answer for my question on whether or not it was a single shot of vodka; she replied “they free pour.”

Bloody mary mix is very good, medium spice, medium tomato juice “thickness” and is supplied by a local company called Jimmy Luv’s. At the extreme end of the bloody mary menu is one with all the kind of stuff previously mentioned, and an ENTIRE WHOLE FRIED CHICKEN.  That one goes for $50.  They have special bacon-themed ones, as well.

We also had an order of fries, and “bacon cheese crack,”  deep fried cheese fritters laced with bits of bacon.  Oh my.

Now depending on whom you ask, these special bloodys are only served on Saturday and Sunday, or just Sunday.  I couldn’t resolve that.

What’s funniest of all?   Sobelman’s always gets voted “best burger in Milwaukee,” and I went there to have one, and didn’t!

Take a gander at the burger menu before heading over.  Lots of appys, sandwiches, and the proverbial Wisconsin Friday nite fish fry.

This is a great experience.  Top quality ingredients, creative flair, extremely fair pricing, and good service.Oh, and a good assortment of table top condiments at the reach. Do it.

Soblemans Milwaukee Review

Bloody Mary $10

 

Soblemans Milwaukee Review

Bacon Cheese “Crack”

Sobelmans Pub and Grill Review

Krystal Review – Bourbon Street, New Orleans

Krystal Bourbon Street Review

Sliders to the rescue!

I’ve written a bunch on the Krystal chain, the south’s version of White Castle.  It’s fascinating to me that these two chains, with nearly identical concepts, sprang up at the same time in different parts of the country;  it’s also fascinating that one hasn’t gobbled up the other.  White Castle is still family owned, Krystal was swallowed by a private equity group, so it’s the latter that has the cash these days.

I like both chains, and since they rarely overlap in the same market, I get to patronize both equally, depending on where I am in the country.  This location is strategically placed at the entrance / exit to Bourbon Street, is open 24/7 and their slider burgers are perfect to soak up excessive Hurricanes.

They have breakfast sandwiches in the morning, charge $3.00 to use their bathroom (or a purchase) and also have an ATM. It’s a relaxing place (most times) to sit and stare out the window at the Bourbon Street crowd.  I’m thinking four burger sliders is the right amount for breakfast.  And I’m always right.

It’s also right next door to Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House, one of the Quarter’s great local restaurants.

 

 

Krystal on Urbanspoon

 

krystal review

Taste This Review, Algonquin, IL

Taste This ReviewTake one part fancy pants coffee shop, one part ice creamery, one part creative combinations of paninis, and you’ll find yourself at “Taste This,” in downtown Algonquin, Illinois, a far western suburb of Chicago.  Algonquin has managed to save its downtown, and there are a number of eateries, shops, and spas on the main drag.

As I recall, Taste This opened in the fall of 2014, and may well be the only place in the area for “adult milkshakes.”  What’s that you say?   Take ice cream, add liquor and liqeurs in various flavorings and combinations, and voila!  Adult milkshake.  “Gone Bananas” is a typical one, with White rum, 99 bananas liquor, crème de banana, banana pudding & old fashioned vanilla ice cream.

The owner, is obviously a child of the 60s – 70s (and tasty, too), judging by the names she has labeled sandwiches and drinks (“Vinny Barbarino,”  “Fog Horn, Leg Horn,”  “Mork from Ork Pork,” and the “Big Ragu” to name a few.  The woman obviously idolizes Garry Marshall.  The full menu is here.

Although I have been meaning to hit this place since they opened, actually ended up there by accident today.  Had set out for another restaurant, arrived and the sign said “closed for a private party.”  Gee, thanks folks. Learn about Twitter.

The proprietor has designed some interesting sandwich combinations, that project a lot of depth in their flavoring.  She uses top quality ingredients, and it appears more everything is made meticulously by hand.  It’s not fast food.

Sandwiches (around $9) come with a choice of small side salad (cucumber or pasta) and all arrive with a ramikin of shoestring potato chips.  You know, that can of salty crunchy deliciousness you sneak when nobody is looking.  Can’t say I’ve ever seen a restaurant that served shoestrings.  But put them on a menu (or tater tots), and I’ll be there.

I opted for the “Vinny Barbarino,” piled high with thinly sliced mortadella, slicing pepperoni, mild capocolla (sic), provolone cheese with a generous drizzle of Italian vinaigrette on grilled Panini bread.”  Ample quality meat and cheese, nice job on the panini press.  Nice plating. $9.25.

The joint opens at 7 AM for fancy coffee, breakfast sandwiches and pastries.  Sign in window seemed to indicate they’d run it out to the car for you, if need be.

I wish them gobs of success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taste This Review

Magazine Pizza Review – New Orleans

“Grease is the word, is the word….”    Sometimes, this is exactly the type of pie you crave.  Chewy thin crust that’s getting a good dosing of fat/oil from the toppings, easily foldable, value priced, and most of all, because they are the only ones that deliver to your neighborhood.

In what used to be a crappy pizza town, now there is a gaggle of excellent choices.  I ordered online and the pie was delivered in less than 45 minutes, all the way uptown from the CBD, and the box contained two shaker packets of cheese and a ramekin of ranch.  WTH?

The pie was satisfactory in every realm (for me, at the time) and would be a great conclusion to a New Orleans night resulting in an abundance of alcohol consumption.

Here’s a pic of the pie as delivered, and the resulting empty box. :-)

I’m pretty sure I used to go get pizza at this location years ago, but I think (don’t quote me) it was called Warehouse Pizza at the time. Or maybe not.

Magazine Pizza, I am betting, is a great choice for hotel delivery in the Quarter / CBD.

Magazine Pizza Review New Orleans

Before

Magazine Pizza Review New Orleans

After

Magazine Pizza Review New Orleans

The Building

Magazine Pizza on Urbanspoon

 

Magazine Pizza Review

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