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Archive for the ‘Traveling’ Category

Tenutas Deli Review, Kenosha, WI

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Tenutas Deli ReviewI’ve been in a lot of great Italian “delis” all over the world. Two of my favorites (until this week) are Martinotti’s in Portland, OR, and Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica, CA.

Both superb in their own right. I’ve hit a couple smaller ones in Chicago that are also enjoyable.

This weekend I ran across the best of the best, in my opinion, in Kenosha, WI of all places.

Tenuta’s has been operating since 1950, and have aisle after aisle of imported grocery goods, as well as locally packaged ‘fixins’ like many different kinds of pastas, herbs, spices and such.

In their deli counters, they have prepared Italian dishes you can purchase by the pound, as well as in-house made sandwiches and delicious items like meatballs. Fresh take n bake pizzas, too!

Not incidentally, they have one of the largest selections of craft beers I have ever seen anywhere. Rows of shelves and coolers that run the whole length of the store.

It was hard not to spend my kid’s inheritance there in one day, but I did manage to score some goodies.

Having lived in New Orleans, and always eager to eat the local NOLA sandwich the “muffaletta,” I was pleased to see Tenuta’s had their own version, and at about half the price you’d pay in New Orleans.

Their “small” will feed 2-3 people and comes in at a very reasonable $6.99. It IS their own version tho, if you’re used to have the New Orleans ones, which have a layer of “olive salad,” you won’t find that here. Instead they have opted for adding pickled green pepper pieces, and lettuce, neither of which you’ll find in the NOLA versions.

I also bought a container of meatballs, the ingredients listed include: beef, pork, breadcrumbs, textured vegetable protein, ricotta, romano, soy, flour, salt, garlic, spices, parsley, brown sugar and flavoring.I have to say, they are quite flavorful and the texture is to my liking. (I hate “mushy” meatballs). They come in different quantity packs, I got the ‘small’ which is 15 balls for around $7.

I don’t know what they include in their ingredients under “spices,” my personal preference, and how I make them at home, is to include a bunch of dried fennel seeds. It’s a strong flavor, and many people don’t care for it. Tenuta’s meatballs are perfect for the average consumer tho, nothing at all objectionable!

The store is open 7 days, and also does catering. It’s truly a wonderland.  I shall return. You should visit too.

Tenutas Deli Review

House made meatballs

Tenutas Deli Review

Meatball cross section

Tenutas Deli Review

“Muffaletta” Sandwich

Tenuta's Delicatessen & Liquor Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Tenutas Deli Review

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Milwaukee Burger Company Review – Kenosha, WI location

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Milwaukee Burger Company ReviewI don’t read reviews before I go to a restaurant. I know, that’s odd for someone who regularly writes them, but I want my experience to be my own, not influenced by someone else’s observations.

And so many are bogus, anyway, aren’t they? I wonder what kind of person it takes to completely trash a restaurant based on some (usually imagined) slight, like “My water had ice cubes in it?” “We were VERY nice to the waitress but it didn’t help.” “I didn’t want onions on it, even tho the menu said that, and I didn’t tell you otherwise.”

I can imagine these people as children: “Wah, you didn’t cut the crusts of my sammich!” “What do you mean you washed my favorite shirt?” Whatever.

None of them have the slightest clue about how difficult it is to start and run an independent restaurant, and then add 4-5 more of the same concept over a few years. Somebody’s blood, sweat, tears, money, debt, and 100 hour weeks. Nor do the whiners have any concept of what it’s like to be a server, one of the least appreciated jobs around, where no matter how big of a jerk your customer is, you’re expected to be ultra sweet and polite to every one. I couldn’t do it. Either. For sure.

So as for me, I look for the redeeming things in every restaurant experience, because I take into account the points I listed above. I have ‘elastic boundaries.’ And I like to be surprised to the point where the reality of a meal experience far exceeds my expectations.

And after that long line of B.S. above, we come to the heart of the matter, my experience at Milwaukee Burger Company (MBC), at their Kenosha location.

This indy has five locations in SE Wisconsin. And during my visit, they exceeded every one of my expectations.

MBC has taken local ingredients to create American cuisine that just rocks. While there are some creative takes on the menu, the chef didn’t feel the urge to go crazy by reinventing American classics.

This is a burger shop. And craft beer. And they excel at both.

So here’s the deal: server – John. Knowledgeable. Friendly. Interested in our experience. Conscientious checking back.

Hamburger. I had the Cheese Curd cheeseburger, which had two giant curds atop the patty (see pic below). If you’re not from or been thru Wisconsin, cheese curds are a pretty standard offering but most of them are pretty awful, reminiscent of those fried cheese sticks in bars.

Curds are not supposed to be like that, and these certainly aren’t. MBC starts with a sizable cube of (choice of) fresh cheese, and douses it with their own unique breading formula before frying it just to the point of the breading being crisp and the cheese starting to melt. Perfect. These should be the standard by which all other curds are judged. I’m not joking, pal.

Onion rings for an appetizer. I’ve had the pleasure (privilege?) of dining in 65 countries, and o-rings are one of my go-to foods to try every where. Spoiler alert? Without a doubt, no questions asked, no contest, MBC makes the best rings I have had anywhere on the planet.

They start with large slices of sweet onion, again into their special batter which somehow ends up being crispy and fluffy at the same time without being overbearing. I like a lighter breading on my rings, not those kind that are more like a string of onion inside a donut. Two of us couldn’t finish an order. A very generous serving, and a good value.

Finally, the burger. I dissemble them, that’s my thing. I want to see how I like each part of a burger before seeing how I like the entire experience. And of course, the beef patty has to be the star of the show, and at MBC it surely it. Great beef flavor, a light seasoning, nice texture. A very pleasurable experience.

The menu offers a variety of ‘pre-designed’ choices for burgers, or the build your own option, with lots of choices for cheese, toppings, and condiments.

The burger comes nestled on a bakery soft, brushed with butter bun, which is sturdy enough to hold whatever you choose to top your burger with. And as I am sure you are aware, flimsy buns can be a problem at many places.

I upgraded my side to get the poutine, which, if you’re not familiar, is the national snack dish of Canada, available everywhere you go up North. It’s fries (here, superb fresh cut), brown gravy, and cheese curds (not fried), and MBC’s “interpretation” is great. Too many chefs today think this is one of those things they can ‘gussy up’ with weird ingredients.  Loved this one.

All in all? I’m enthused enough that I will drive the hour that it takes me to get to one of their locations to try many more things on the menu. To me, it is that good. Congrats, people!!!  Oh, and I’m not a craft beer drinker, but if you are, you’ll be more than happy with the selections available.

Was there anything I didn’t like? Sure, but that’s just me. Most people will find the wall to wall TV’s with sports enjoyable. Whenever I’m in a joint like that, I always wish they could have one TV on

CNN or something. But you (I) don’t have to watch, either.  Afterthought:  MBC thoughtfully provides take home boxes constructed out of paper products, instead of plastic or foam. Appreciated on so many levels!

Milwaukee Burger Company Review

Fantastic Onion Rings

 

Milwaukee Burger Company Review

Cheese curd burger and poutine

Milwaukee Burger Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Milwaukee Burger Company Review

Milwaukee Burger Company Review

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Middendorfs Review, New Orleans

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Middendorfs Review New Orleans CatfishI love this place.  Been in regular attendance for the past two decades.  They’ve had their share of troubles, flooded twice cause of storms, but they keep coming back, stronger and better than ever.

Caveat one:  this is a New Orleans AREA restaurant, not in the city, it’s about a 30 minute drive north on I-55. It sits perched on the edge of Lake Maurepas, which in turn empties into Lake Ponchartrain. There’s a nice outdoor deck when the weather is nice, which it usually is.

Middendorfs, like a lot of area restaurants, serves tons of local seafood, prepared in all manners and styles, but deep fried is the New Orleans way; you can get giant combo platters of shrimp, oysters, fish, and crab. But most people go for a dish unique to the restaurant, deep fried catfish filets, but they’re cut lengthwise into paper thin slivers. Unique. Crispy. Tasty.  Dinners come with fries, slaw and hush puppies.  Never had any use for the latter, personally.

You can get a piece of beef or chicken if you insist, and there is an adequate ankle biter menu. You can get raw or BBQ oysters or delicious gumbos as a side or starter.

I only get here once every few years, and I hope they keep on and on.  It’s my place for ‘cat’ in the New Orleans area. (Oh and they also serve them whole, bone-in, if you like it that way).  I like to bring out of town company here. If I haven’t taken you, it’s because I hate you.

Middendorf’s Menu.

 

Middendorf's Seafood Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Middendorfs Review

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Miss Dots Chicken Review, Tuscaloosa, AL

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Miss Dots Chicken ReviewI’ll wander off the beaten path to try a place I’ve heard about it. It’s a crap shoot.

But for a couple years I’ve been infatuated with “sourthern style” fried chicken, and did a fast food  comparison tour across the south for chicken tenders, and I’ve written a number of pieces on gas station chicken.

Which I like. ALOT.

Miss Dots has a rep, very basic menu, of fried chicken, whole, pieces, or bits. I went for bits. They call them “bites.”  “Plates” were $9 and up and came with a side and a roll.  I went with the “bites” and mac/cheese.

The place was immaculate, sparkling clean. Employees were newish and not very knowledgeable about the product or even the POS system. Orders were taken, food was prepared, brought to the table. Pretty fast, actually, surprised me.

It’s a lighter breading, not much cornmeal, not seasoned, or lightly seasoned. The chicken was juicy and piping hot in its little breading overcoat. The mac/cheese was lifeless, dry, no particular flavor, could just as easily have been from a box.  The same verdict for the roll. Nothing special. Sysco or a local grocer.

So yeah, it’s good, but for me, not worth an extra drive or the price.  I was also under the impression this was a really old establishment (not sure why I thought that), but it’s not, it’s nearly a start-up. Additional location in Birmingham.

Miss Dots Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Miss Dots Chicken Review

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Dell Rheas Chicken Basket Review – Route 66 Illinois

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Dell Rheas Chicken Basket Review – on old Route 66, Chicago

Dell Rheas Chicken Basket Review

Historical Marker

Based on my personal consumption, I’m  thinking their slogan should be “come for the biscuits, stay for the chicken.”

One of the original highways across America, Route 66 ran from downtown Chicago to the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica, CA, a total of nearly 2500 miles.

It’s also been referred to as “America’s Main Street,” and the “Mother Road.” The highway was instrumental in boosting America’s migration to the west by automobile, and was full of interesting tourist stops, eateries and motels with creative architecture. I’ve written about some of the eateries in the past, including the Maid Rite and Cozy Dog in Springfield, IL, the onion burger establishments in El Reno, OK, Country Cup diner in Countryside, IL, and the Galaxy Diner in Flagstaff, to name a few.

I love driving Route 66, the trip evokes memories of a simpler time. I think it’s officially my own personal “happy place.”

The Chicken Basket grew out of a gas station lunch counter in the 30s or 40s, and opened in its present form in 1946. They are famous for – what else – chicken – and they offer it in a bunch of different forms, including a weekend lunch AYCE buffet.

The servers are very friendly and chatty, and the knotty pine room is adorned with Route 66 memorabilia. A basket of fresh baked biscuits is presented when you’re seated, and they were delicious, reminiscent to me of “Boy Scout dutch oven Bisquick drop biscuits” except these were perfect, not burned or half baked balls of dough that we used to have in scouts.

I started with an order of onion rings, large slices of sweet Vidalia’s in a crispy corn meal coating. It’s a large serving, adequate to share between two or more people.

We ordered a couple of meals, the chicken fried chicken, a boneless breast, which comes with fries, gravy, and corn “pudding.”

The menu cautions that it’s up to a 30 minute wait for the chicken, as it is all fried to order. The chicken breast was crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside, with the breading having some nice crunch. In the chicken dinner, the coating was considerably different, much lighter and less substantial, and I’m going to venture an uneducated guess that while the boneless breast was actually deep fried, it seemed like the chicken dinner was prepared more like ‘broasting,” a distinctly Midwestern thing, a deep-fry with less oil that also involves a pressure cooker. Maybe, maybe not.

In any case, unlike many legendary eateries, the Chicken basket exceeds its hype, the food is really great. Two dinners, one appetizer, two beverages and tip, $47.00.

Full menu is online if you want to ponder your choices prior to arrival.

If you’ve never driven Route 66, put it on your bucket list, even if you have the time only to do segments in one or two states. In addition to Illinois, the road crossed Missouri, a smidgen of Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and into California. It’s a very popular trip with foreign tourists, as well, and there are even “Route 66 Associations” across the globe.

 

 

Dell Rheas Chicken Basket Review

Chicken Fried Chicken Dinner

 

Dell Rheas Chicken Basket Review

Fried Chicken Breast

Dell Rhea's Chicken Basket Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Dell Rheas Chicken Basket Review

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New Mexico – Green Chili Cheeseburgers Review

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New Mexico’s ubiquitous burger is the Green Chili Cheese variety. It’s everywhere, as green chilis are a mainstay of New Mexico’s agricultural crop.

Extending past burgers, you can find green chilis on just about every type of food you can imagine.

Blake’s Lotaburger is a New Mexican burger chain, which, like the green chili, appears all over the state, and claims to be famous near and wide for the green chili cheeseburger. We stopped at location in Deming, just off 1-10, a relatively spanking new location. Blake’s has 70 some other locations across the state, and started in 1952.

We arrived just before closing (9P!) and were one of only two customers. Ordered the green chili cheeseburger and a side of chili fries. Blake’s cooks to order, and even at this time of night, with a few customers, it took “awhile” to receive our food. Was the wait worth it? Definitely yes. The first thing you will notice about a Lotaburger is the soft, oversized bun. Secondly, Lotaburger puts its chili and cheese on top of the patty, and the vegetable condiments, neath the meat. So your first bites tastes senses are bun, chili, cheese, meat.

Just like I said the other day that an avocado burger wouldn’t be my first choice, neither would a green chili, but I get the attraction of this flavor now. Like the avocado a couple days before, the green chilis add a smoothie creaminess to a burger, packed with flavor, but without pepper “heat.” Blake’s does an admiral job. The chili cheese fries were tasty enough, but could have been served anywhere. Maybe green chili fries should be on offer?

Green Chili Cheeseburgers Review Lottaburger

Blake’s Chili Cheeseburger

Pulling into Roswell, later the next afternoon, hoping to be abducted by aliens hiding amongst the local populace, or at least trying to find some place that served an “Alien Burger”, I came up bupkis, and pulled into the Cowboy Cafe, an interesting looking place that served “homestyle cookin’.”

The weathered sign on the building and a full parking lot showed lots of promise. Entering a crowded room, I noticed quickly there were no seats, sans a table for 8 in the back. I sat on a chair by the register, and three different employees greeted me and asked if I wanted a tea while I was waiting.

And elderly couple walked in, and the manager asked if they would mind sitting at a “community table”. They said no, but that I was in line ahead of them. So after a moment’s discussion between all parties, I joined the community table as well.

Would have been nice if we were eventually joined by locals there, but such was not to be the case. I would have like to have asked a few questions to some extra-terrestrials. The elderly couple didn’t count, they were just out doing an annual RV pilgrimage. Like many couples together for a long time, they had developed a certain communicative/non-communicative posture, both with themselves and those around them. All I could glean was they were from Colorado, had a son in Portland, like birds, and like the nature hikes in this area. He ordered a tuna sandwich on white toast (“it has too much mayo and the toast is too dark!”), she a chicken breast something with a side of chopped green chili peppers (fifty cents) (“the chilis don’t have much flavor, they must be canned!”). (Did I say they were from Colorado, cause they sounded Long Island).

I went with the green chili cheeseburger of course, but while waiting, noted the special of the day was catfish and hush puppies, darn! But I would be in catfish country soon enough.

The burger was good, and definitely home-style, but lacked the mess o vegetables that Blake’s had, which ordinarily wouldn’t be a problem, but I could immediately see what they added to the experience.

This is a great place, the typical “blue plate” lunch establishment, it would be fun to explore the menu further, with an alien in tow.

Cowboy Cafe Roswell Cheeseburger

Cowboy Cafe Roswell (I added the pickles)

Since Blake’s are everywhere in NM, I have only included a map to the Cowboy Cafe.


View Larger Map
Blake's Lotaburger on Urbanspoon

Cowboy Cafe on Urbanspoon

 

Green Chili Cheeseburgers Review

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Luscos Review, Greenwood, MS

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Luscos ReviewFor me, “discovering” someplace “new” is a kick. Even if the entire rest of the world knows about it. I get suggestions on places to stop from friends, acquaintances, strangers, locals and world travelers alike – look at tourism materials, websites, stop and ask people on the street.

But the thing that jazzes me the most is finding someplace that nobody mentions, and discovering a restaurant or experience that everybody SHOULD mention, because it is just so unique and delightful, you want to share it with the whole world, but at the same time, hope that nobody ever discovers it, because you want it to remain exactly the way it is, forever.

I found one of those places in Greenwood, Mississippi, but the more I talked about it after the visit, the more I have found out I may well be the only person that did NOT know about it. In the oft chance you haven’t had the pleasure, I am here today to tell you all about Lusco’s, a very unique dining experience in Mississippi Delta Country.

Walking through the front door of Lusco’s is to experience the cliché “like walking back in time,” but that’s the only way it can be described. A small grocery at this location since 1933, my first thought was “this ain’t the place, this IS a grocery,” with a small counter and shelves behind the counter stocked with bodega-like provisions. But an amiable hostess led us through a curtain at the back of the store and through a series of old hallways covered with an original stamped tin ceiling, back to a partitioned area of small wooden partitioned private rooms, with curtains offering privacy from the world and the rest of the restaurant. Surely nothing has changed within these walls in the past 70 years – not the paint, not the light fixtures, not the wall decorations – not even the small electric buzzer one can use to summon the staff when you are ready to order or need another cocktail.

Founders Charles and Marie Lusco and their three daughters added the partitioned booths to their grocery to serve customers who largely came for Papa Lusco’s homemade brew. The advent of World War 2, the opening of several military bases in the area, and a train station directly across the street that disgorged hundreds of traveling GI’s, and Lusco’s reputation grew as soldiers returned home and mentioned this unique establishment. It’s reputation continued to grow with the flux of travelers and locals alike during the years of prosperity after the war, when cotton was king in the Delta, and planters and local businessmen entertained their guests at Lusco’s.

Presently being operated by the 4th generation of family members, very little has changed at Lusco’s.

We started with an off the menu appetizer, baked oysters wrapped in bacon, large juicy pearls of Gulf oysters served on the half-shell, followed by a half-order of Lusco’s Onion Rings which was too large to finish. Other favorite starters include seafood cocktails or broiled shrimp in Lusco’s special hot sauce.

The dozen or so salads, ranging from $3.50 to $8.95 have a decidedly Mediterranean bent – often adorned with anchovies, capers, and olives, with the top of the line offering including fresh lump crabmeat, bell pepper, celery, tomato and egg tossed in a special dressing. Add-ons are available for the salad – extra heaping portions of shrimp, crabmeat, lives, capers, or feta.

Entrees are “plain and simple:” steaks, seafood and chicken. Steaks are sold at market price because they are cut in-house, so one can request a variety of sizes to fit one’s appetite on the day in question. I opted for an 8 oz filet, which I ordered “bleu,” and it was prepared perfectly. At “market

Luscos Review

          Private dining areas

price,” it came in at $25.00.

Entrees include a small salad, and choice of starch. Beef can be cut to serve two as well, a nice touch; a single porterhouse can weigh in as much as 28 ounces, if you’ve a mind to ingest all of that.

Fish offerings include fresh cat, snapper and pompano filets (it’s nice to see pompano on a menu these days), broiled only, specify having it served “wet or dry” (with or without Lusco’s fish sauce, a garlic-butter-seafood stock based accompaniment. Add their unique crabmeat topping for $4.25 more.

A variety of broiled shrimp and crabmeat offerings round out the mains, with a broiled or fried half chicken also available. One additional choice, handmade rigatoni with homemade red sauce completes the offerings, and is also the least expensive item on the menu at $8.25.

In addition to baked potatoes, rice, and fries, sides include two additional gravies: a plain mushroom, or a mushroom and garlic, for those who like that addition to beef dishes. I didn’t have room for dessert (I seem to never get to it), but Lusco’s offers some refreshing choices, including flan and a crème de menthe parfait, as well as the usual regional specialties.

Service is what you want it to be at Lusco’s, with the “buzzer/waiter” option. Ring and they come. Don’t ring, and they won’t bother you. You’re behind a curtain in a private booth, free to enjoy your meal and your company.

Lusco’s offers only soft drinks and beer for beverage choices. Set-ups and ice area available if you BYOB, which is encouraged. Corkage fee is:

$1.00!

How great is that?

Open nightly, Lusco’s is “off the beaten path” at 722 Carrollton Avenue, in the “old downtown” of Greenwood. Call them at 601-453-5365 to check on hours before heading up. Greenwood is approximately 4.5 hours up I-55, and a half hour west of the Interstate on US 82 West.

 

 

 

Luscos Review

 

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Charlies Steak House Review, New Orleans

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(This is from my archives, the restaurant has changed hands and done some remodeling; I haven’t visited since that happened)

Charlies Steak House Review New OrleansIn a city known for great seafood, and as I have written before, I’m delighted there are so many great steakhouses here. Especially ones that have endured w/o change over the years. For the past 70 years, Charlie’s has been selling the “sizzle” right along side the best of them, but doing it with considerable panache despite being a “bare-bones” operation. (No pun intended).

Charlie’s doesn’t take reservations, and doesn’t bother to print menus. With less than a handful of choices to make, your waiter will run through the choices aloud, standing next to your table: “small, medium, or large T-Bone, or 9 oz filet; au gratin or fried potatoes; iceberg wedge salad with dressing.”

That’s it.

Except of course, he’ll ask you if you want onion rings for an appetizer, which, of course, you should say “yes” to. Charlie’s rings are the think and crispy kind, and one order is probably enough for two couples to share. There were two of us at dinner last night, and we hardly made a dent in the pile, despite ravenous appetites and the taste treat in front of us. (Note, Charlie’s is one of the few places that makes their rings with a seasoned flour especially FOR the onions – it’s not a seafood batter, and contains no corn meal).

Dinner moves along at a pretty fair pace – when you’ve been preparing these few items for this many decades, you get your systems down to a science.

We started with the iceberg wedges, both opting for Charlie’s very thick and creamy blue cheese dressing – at least 6-8 ounces on a 1/3 head of lettuce with a few tomato wedges. The dressing might just be the best in town. I just said creamy, tho, didn’t I, and creamy is not the correct description. It’s packed full of chunks of blue cheese crumbles, full of flavor and bite.

The steaks came just as we were finishing the salads (well, we didn’t finish, they were too big), and were cooked and served precisely as ordered. Diners are lectured by their waiters not to touch the plates (the bubbling sizzle is even audible), but a disbeliever at the table next to us didn’t pay attention to the instructions, and spent the rest of his dining experience with one hand stuck in a glass of ice water.

We chose their famous au gratin potatoes as a side, and it was overkill — soaking in sharp cheddar, which had a nice cap of broiled, black cheese covering it, we barely managed a couple of spoonfuls each. Nor did either of us manage to finish the filets. Desire is one thing, capacity is another.

As always, we skipped desert – which traditionally at Charlie’s is a heaping bowl of local favorite Angelo Brocato’s spumoni; but we did have coffee, which we weren’t charged for.

The waiter, as is the custom there, I am sure, asked if we wanted to take any of the leftovers home, and I said no, but being the “funny guy” that I am, I reached for the Worcestershire and said “But I am taking this.”

The waiter replied “hold on a second,” turned around, and placed an unopened bottle in front of me, and said “at least take a new one.”

We were in/out, and fully sated in less than 90 minutes. Charlie’s attracts a very mixed crowd of blue-hairs from the neighborhood, students, and people that are just plain lost and stumble in.

When you walk in, you think you might be in the wrong place, as you see a small bar on your left, the kitchen in front of you, and no tables in site. But you’ll quickly be shown a table, and the rest of the evening’s enjoyment is left to you.

The restaurant is short on ambience, but big on quality and flavor, and, after all, isn’t that what we are paying for?

Charlie’s is off Napoleon, right behind Pascal’s Manale… Lunch Tue-Fri, dinner, Tue-Sat. 4510 Dryades Street. 504-895-9705. No reservations. Casual. Off street parking available.

Charlies Steak House Review

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Big Als BBQ Review, Big Spring, TX

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Al & Son BBQ ReviewRolling down I-20 Eastbound the other day, I happened into BIG Spring, Texas, on or about lunch time.  (In all candor, it’s always mealtime for me).

Heading down Gregg Street from the Interstate, I perused my BIG choices – Burger KING, home of the WHOPPER, BIG John’s Feed Lot, GREAT Wall, and then I spotted it – BIG Al’s and Son Bar-B-Q.  

I was greeted by an amiable server, and told the “rules” for dining at BIG Al’s. Proceed to the counter/serving station, choose the lunch plate or the BIG platter, and depending on whether you choose the lunch plate or BIG platter, you have a choice of two or four meats, or any combination thereof.  Pulled pork, my personal favorite, is seldom on the menu in Texas Q restaurants, so the choices were sausage, brisket, chicken,ribs, and/or “bodacious” ham.  I eschewed the ribs and chicken and loaded up on the other three.  At $8.95 for the BIG platter, I got to choose three vegetables (green beans, collard greens and corn on the cob won out), received a thick slab of Texas toast (BIG), ample amounts of butter, a choice of peach, apple, or cherry cobbler, and a BIG drink.  Dave Thomas wudda been proud.

My amiable server continued to provide me with BIG service throughout the meal, refilling my iced tea without being asked, and continually reminding me to save room for a BIG serving of home-made ice cream, which they whip up every morning.  He also extolled the virtues of other things on offer, whAl & Son BBQ Reviewich he encouraged me to try next time.  Among which was a BIG serving of Steak Fingers, which, according to my server, were MUCH better than Dairy Queen’s!

The brisket, sausage and ham were superb.  That dry-rub slow smoking process that Texas Q is famous for.  While most Texas Q’s don’t offer sauce (and the meat doesn’t need it), BIG Al’s had a choice of several one could use as accompaniments.  I passed on them.  I like to taste the BIG flavor of the meat.

As my eyes started to glaze over, and the ice cream was starting to melt, I put a BIG bill on the table and motioned for the server to come over.

He said, “What, you want some change?”  And I said, “No, that’s for you.”  His reply was “I don’t need that much!”

I said, “You may not need it, you may not want it, but you did earn it, BIG time.”

BIG Al’s is open for lunch and dinner most days, if you find yourself in BIG Spring.  1810 South Gregg Street,  (915) 267-8921.If you find yourself there without a car, and call the restaurant, BIG Al’s will send somebody to pick you up, so you can enjoy the BIG platter, and BIG Texas hospitality.

Update: Big Al’s is formally  known as Al & Son’s BBQ

Big Als BBQ Review

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The One in Which I Bitch About “Resort Fees”

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Harrahs Gulf Coast ReviewIt was bound to happen, hotels had to find ways to nickle and dime you like when the airlines added baggage charges (which brings in millions and millions). Today’s gripe is about Harrah’s, which is owned by private equity groups, and naturally they are going to squeeze every single dollar out of the company that they can. That’s what private equity does – customers, suppliers, employees don’t matter – putting bucks in the group’s personal wallets is the number one priority.

So I checked in to Harrah’s on the Gulf Coast, and the room was quite reasonable, but there was an $11 per day “resort fee.”  I thought this might be optional but was informed otherwise.

Here’s what you got for your fee:

  1. Access to the swimming pool (it rained cats and dogs my entire stay)
  2. “Free” wifi in the room, which was as speedy as dial up, course you could upgrade for a fee
  3. Access to the workout room.  Yeah, right, I’m getting my exercise pulling slot levers.

In other words, I got precisely zip for my “resort fee.”  And one elevator out of four working.  And advertised 24 hour facilities that closed before midnight.

Come on folks, wouldn’t you rather I donate that $11 to the casino?  Isn’t that what you want me there for?

Knock it off.

 

 

 

Harrahs Gulf Coast Review

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