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Archive for the ‘Traveling’ Category

Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

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Hardees Double Cheese Slider ReviewHardees, actually it’s predecessor, Sandys, was the first fast food in my hometown, years before McDonalds or BK landed.

Second was probably Henry’s, another defunct chain.  So, anyway, I’ve always had an affinity for Hardees, and while it has ebbed and flowed over the years parallel to their own ups and downs, the last few years I’m good with them.

I think they have the best breakfast sandwiches in the industry, and they have actual, real, bonafide ham in the breakfast hours, as well. Some years ago, they decided their target customer was going to be young men, who aren’t shy about eating hardy, and then went after that market, and while I don’t know the numbers, I’ll bet they made a solid dent in it.

They focus on larger burger patties, 1/3 pound minimum, heavily loaded  — like the Monster Thickburger, two 1/3 pound patties, four strips of bacon, three slices of American cheese, mayo on a bakery bun.

In order to tell their target customer about their new focus – they employed a number of attractive female celebrities, portrayed as seductively eating the new burgers.  This went on for a few years, then somebody moaned about it and they stopped.

I thought it was brilliant.  PC aside, the company had a demographic specific product and designed marketing to capture that audience. It worked.

Here’s one of the commercials.

Feeling a might pecking a few weeks ago, somewhere unidentifiable in the Carolinas, I pulled off to grab a snack and happened into Hardees for the only reason is it was the easiest to get in and out of off the street.

They were advertising a double cheeseburger slider for a buck, which would be all I’d need at the moment. (BUT….the only TRUE sliders, IMHO, come from White Castle and Krystal).

I was the only customer inside. There were no drive-thru customers.  Yet for some reason, it took a full fifteen minutes to put this sandwich together, and apparently they couldn’t spare another 15 seconds in the microwave to melt the cheese.

No matter. Tasted OK.  Mission accomplished.  Hey it was a buck!  Better meat and bun than lots of fast food burgers at $2-4.

I don’t see it on the menu on their website, must have been a limited time thing.

So here’s a pic of the slider.

Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

 

 

 

 

Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

Hardees Double Cheese Slider Review

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The Sand Bar Review – Twin Lakes, WI

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Sand Bar ReviewStop me if you’ve heard this.  So a few weeks ago I was on one of my food tours, back down to the Southeastern U.S., Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and one thing I was looking forward to was a lot of seafood and fish, of course.

One particular item I was hot for was grouper fish, a quite common offering in Florida, I ate it a lot living there, and it’s also popular in Southeast Asia, so I had my share living there, as well.

So after having my fill at all you can eat catfish buffets, I started a search for grouper. Two places had it on the menu, both were “sorry, we’re out.”  Pretty much gave up after that.

So I spot it on the menu at this boater’s bar on the Illinois/Wisconsin border (literally). WTH?  They bill themselves as a “Tropical Oasis in the Least Likely of Places.”  Apparently the owner spent quite a bit of time on FLA’s west coast, and wanted to transfer a bit of the culture and cuisine to Illinois. I mean Wisconsin.

It’s cutely decorated on a marine theme, with nets and decorative fish and crustaceans, as well as theme “signage,” and a list of exotic sounding tropical drinks.

But I came for the grouper, fingers crossed, please don’t be “out.”  They weren’t.  And chef delivered.

Perfectly grilled, a dusting of blackened The Sand Bar Reviewseasoning (not actually “blackened” as the menu states, and that’s just fine, it’s a delicate fish. It’s plated as a sandwich on a toasted bun (firm enough to cradle the contents, pretzel bun available as upgrade), with a lemon zest mayo, which is an interesting addition.

Lettuce, tomato and red onion slivers.  Fries or slaw are standard accompaniments. I upgraded to get rings.

Rings have medium thickness of breading with a beer based batter. Done correctly.  Nice crisp.  Nice sized onion.

Lots more interesting things on the menu, worth a return visit.  I’m sure curious where they source the grouper around here.

Sandwich is a little spendy at $15.95 plus $1.98 upcharge for the rings, but this place is probably jammed jammed jammed in season and they have a captive audience.  If they can do, they should.  Oh, full bar including large selection of “tropical” cocktails.

Modest amount of indoor seating, outdoor patio for more temperate weather.  Server Cate did a fine job, checking in as necessary, but not too often.

Co-located facility has water toy rentals available by hour or day.  Boat launching facilities and dock.  Saw a sign for live bait, as well.

Finally, a note to women. I am told that the women’s facility is small and narrow.  To the point that the only place to put one’s purse is in the sink basin. Unfortunately, it’s an auto-on sink.  So if you don’t want a complimentary purse wash, have a different solution.  Might be good if a couple hooks were placed somewhere on a wall?  That’s all.

Highly recommended.  Menu is online and also below.

 

 

The Sand Bar Review

Grilled Grouper with Rings

The Sand Bar Review

Sand Bar Food Menu – Click to enlarge

Sandbar Bar & Grille Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sand Bar & Island Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
The Sand Bar Review

The Sand Bar Review

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Burger Burger Review – Biloxi, MS

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Burger Burger Review So the story goes, the original “Burger Burger” was developed in nearby New Orleans and made its way east to Biloxi sometime after 1947.

The sandwich was sold in a local restaurant for years until one day, the perfect home of its own became available and the Burger Burger restaurant opened up, selling their proprietary sandwich, along with daily specials – their version of traditional southern dishes. Also on the menu,  traditional gumbo, salads, seafood baskets and breakfast.

Here I’ve buried the lead, haven’t I? The “Burger Burger” is like a hamburger poboy – on toasted French bread with mustard, diced onion, and special sauce, which they also call “gravy.” Somebody described it like “Swiss steak” on a bun, and maybe that’s apt, it’s sure different than a hamburger poboy in New Orleans which can be incredibly plain and dull.

They have other “specialty” burgers as well, in a form you might be more used to seeing.

Being as this is primarily a hamburger website, and I write about burgers a lot, naturally I took one look at the menu and went right for the……….catfish.

That’s right. I couldn’t seem to get enough fried catfish this trip, so it pretty much showed up in front of me once a day.

And was I ever glad.  Burger Burger makes perfect fried catfish, accompanied by fries, slaw, lemon and tartar if you wish. It was a lighter, slightly seasoned batter, perfectly crispy, the fish resting inside done to perfection, moist, not a hint of grease.

Dandy.

Service is frenetic and friendly at the same time.  Like they took classes in “Southern hospitality.”  Quite sure they mentioned everything was made in-house.

The restaurant is located in an old residence and the walls are chock-a-block with vintage photos and nostalgic memorabilia.

I’d like to go back.

Website has the specials but not full menu.  Menu is on Zomato.

Burger Burger Review

Catfish basket with fries

Burger Burger Review

Interior

 

Burger Burger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Burger Burger Review
Burger Burger Review

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Zaxbys Review Update – Somewhere in Eastern Tennessee

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Zaxbys Review UpdateCouple years ago, I drove around the Southeast doing a chicken finger/tenders ‘smackdown.’  Turns out I was pretty loyal to Popeye’s, unless there was a Zaxby’s nearby. Well, this was the first time I’d been near one since that trip, two years ago this month.

I’m still a happy camper at Zaxby’s.  Good chicken, good crinkle cuts, fantastic Texas toast.  Texas toast is always a dealmaker for me. Always.

So Zaxby’s? Time to saturate the Upper Midwest. Then I won’t have to go on a 2500 mile drive to enjoy a piece of toast!  (Did you know you can order an ENTIRE BASKET of Texas toast on the side?! YES! )  Yes, I like the slaw too.  Chicken? Crispy outside, juicy inside, fried to perfection.

(I said somewhere in eastern Tennessee cause I have no f*in idea where I was. It was next to a Red Roof Inn, tho, I can tell you that, where the desk clerk was yelling at a guy for having teenage girls in his room. He promised not to do it again and all was right with the world.

Zaxbys Review Update
Zaxby's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Zaxbys Review Update

Zaxbys Review Update

Zaxbys Review Update

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Applebees Review – Nationwide Chain

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Applebees ReviewStarting as a single restaurant called T.J. Applebee’s Rx for Edibles & Elixirs in Decatur, GA, 1980, Applebees has grown to a franchised chain of over 2000 units in 15 countries.

Applebee’s is in the casual dining segment, with basic American dishes including salads, shrimp, chicken, pasta, burgers, and “riblets” an Applebee’s signature dish. Most of the units feature a bar area with numerous TVs for viewing sporting events and full alcohol service.

The company frequently runs cost promotions, like “two can eat for twenty” – one appetizer and two entrees from a short list, for $20. Is it a good value or does it get you to spend more than you intended. No idea.

It wouldn’t be a regular stop of mine, but I happened into one in Sikeston, MO, when passing through. Most interstate travelers exiting here might look for a heavily advertised joint, “Lamberts – Home of Throwed Rolls” – but if you’ve done that once, like I have, that’s probably enough.

I had rings for an appetizer and a cheeseburger and fries.  It was ok.  Living in an era of (pick one) (organic, wagyu, grass fed, free range, hand pattied, special blend, ground daily) burgers, it wasn’t a standout. Nice bun. Lots of fresh vegetables for toppings and OK fries.

So it’s a good value. The restaurant, ambiance? Too noisy. The bar and tvs dominate the room, but pretty sure that’s where most of the revenue comes from too.  Service was perfunctory.

It was a highway stop.  That’s all.  Haven’t been in one in decades. Unlikely I’d stop again unless the parking lot was empty.

Applebees Review

 

 

 

 Full menu is online.
Applebee's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Applebees Review

Applebees Review

 

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New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co Review – Multiple Locations New Orleans, LA

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New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co ReviewI’ve been coming to this place for almost 20 years. It used to be for the hamburgers, and it was the hamburger because the location I used to frequent had a very large “fixin’s bar,” which was quite nice.

That feature seems to have vanished.  Now I come for the thin sliced fried catfish, cause I think this is the only place in the city you can get it, unless you’re in the mood for a Sunday drive and want to go about 40 miles north to Middendorfs, an old timey place which is really great as well.

What they mean by “thin-sliced” is the filet is sliced length-wise, resulting in a paper thin piece of fish.  It’s then flash fried in their unique breading, resulting in an extra crispy filet.

New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger’s menu has all the usual suspects of local dishes. Fried and grilled seafood, oysters, gumbo, and throw in the burgers for good measure.

They have great fries, extruded potato fry shape drenched in garlic butter and sprinkled with herbs. They’re kind of addictive.

This time around, I had the thin filet cat poboy, it was good, good bread, fully dressed, too large to eat at a sitting.  (If you’re a first time visitor to the city, servers will ask if you want your sandwiches “dressed” which means lettuce, tomato and mayo. Most people say yes.

This location (uptown, on the St Charles streetcar line) has a couple large rooms, so it’d be ok to bring your family thing or a tour bus here, I imagine. Full bar and a number of draft beers, and the sign said video slots, but I didn’t see them.

I think I’ll revisit the burger next time.  Good grub. Good value. Sparkling clean facility. Efficent service.

A bunch of locations in the New Orleans metropolitan area.

Full menu. (also below).   Kid choices, too.

 

New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co Review

Fried Catfish Poboy

 

New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co Review

Click to Enlarge

New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co Review

New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Co Review

 

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Palms Grill Cafe Review – On Route 66, Atlanta, IL

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Palms Grill Cafe Review One of the original U.S. highways, Route 66 (US Highway 66), was established on November 11, 1926.

A few years later, the Palms Grill Cafe opened on the “Mother Road” in Atlanta, IL, about equidistant between St. Louis and Chicago (now just off I-55).

Not much has changed since then, in Atlanta, or at the Palms. The restaurant still whips up most everything from scratch on a daily basis (closed Tuesday, tho), serves breakfast all day, and offers an ever changing menu of daily specials.  This is the epitome of American home cooking.

Taking advantage of that “breakfast all day thing” meant a fried pork chop and eggs for my navigator, and for me? A central Illinois specialty, served nowhere else that I know of.  It’s called the “Horseshoe” and was created in/around Springfield, IL.

This beauty starts with two pieces of toast on the plate, your choice of protein (burger, ham, bacon, pork chop, sausage, chicken), then topped with fries, and your choice of sausage gravy or cheese sauce….or both! And sure, they’ll throw a fried egg or two on top if you want.  That makes it a “breakfast shoe.”

I went with country ham. Delish.  As were the fresh cut, twice fried fries. Not many places do that anymore.

Didn’t have room for dessert, wish I did, each day they have a selection of house made pies and cakes. This lemon cake pictured was right in front of me during lunch. Torture.

There’s a big room for events or tour buses, and the walls are chock-a-block with old time area photos.  Some vintage machines (pinball, cash register, payphone, refrigerator) dot the main room and are all in excellent working condition.

Here’s the menuAnd the daily specials.

Palms Grill Cafe Review

Fried Ham Horseshoe

 

Palms Grill Cafe Review

Pork Chop and Eggs

 

Palms Grill Cafe Review

Lemon Cake

Palms Grill Cafe Review

And directly across the street? Lookee who’s looking at you!

Palms Grill & Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Palms Grill Cafe Review

Palms Grill Cafe Review

 

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Fairfield Inn Midtown Review – Savannah, GA

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Fairfield Inn Midtown ReviewI’m not very brand loyal, but after a pretty good experience with Fairfield a few years back, I generally look for them first when I am on the road.

Not as likely to be individually franchisee owned, but rather held by a group management company, the quality of one’s stay is ultra-dependent on how hard the management company works at maintaining the hotel and staff.

TMI Hospitality out of Fargo, which holds a gaggle of Fairfields, does an excellent job.  They have the one in Roseville, MN that I first stayed at.  North Point Hospitality, out of Atlanta, owns and operates the Fairfield Midtown in Savannah.  They built this one from the ground up and it opened in 2016.

On many levels, there are no noticeable differences from one Fairfield to another. They are generally tastefully decorated, with functional rooms geared to the business traveler, adequate work space, free wifi, comfortable lobby, exercise room, pool (this one was outdoor, but heated) and a pretty comprehensive complimentary hot breakfast, where some items change on a daily basis.

Basically, you’re going to find fruit, juices, yogurt, waffles, eggs, breakfast meats, biscuits and gravy, breads and danish, muffins, coffee, tea, and milk. One morning there was scrambled eggs and turkey sausage, another cheese omelets and veggie sausage.  Pork sausages were available both days.   There are the usual accompaniments, condiments, cream cheese, peanut butter, fruit jellies.

Some observations, not criticisms, of this hotel. Staff wasn’t as welcoming, friendly or helpful as other Fairfields. Let’s call that level of service “perfunctory.”  I object to a parking fee when the ramp/lot is part of the hotel.  The parking ramp was poorly designed, and should be re-striped, at least, the slots are too small for most current model cars.

Don’t even think about taking a big pick-up or van in there.  As a testament to the design error, the hotel has taped up strips of foam on the concrete pillars to try and assist you in minimizing the potential damage putting your car in and out of the space.

Note if you’re making a reservation:  rooms with Kings have only a shower.  Rooms with two queens have a tub/shower.  Not sure why, but that’s the layout of this hotel.  Speaking of bathrooms, you can clearly hear bath “activities” from adjacent rooms.

Breakfast was fine, as described above, but one day was an hour late, without explanation.  That’s fine if you’re a leisure traveler, or one of a group of seniors off the tour bus, but business people and departing guests are apt to be put off by that kind of thing.

Pluses? Besides the things I’ve mentioned, a nice neighborhood, about 4-5 miles from downtown, shops (including two groceries) and restaurants within walking distance, city bus stops at the front door.  Appreciate the outdoor pool was heated to a very comfortable level.

I’d stay again.  FYI.  Shop hard online for rates. I discovered I was paying 30-40% less than many other guests.

Fairfield Inn Midtown Review

Breakfast Items

 

 

 

 

Fairfield Inn Midtown Review

Fairfield Inn Midtown Review

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Harrahs Gulf Coast Review – Biloxi, MS

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Harrahs Gulf Coast

Harrahs Gulf Coast ReviewAnecdotally, I’ve heard with “full employment” in the country, lower wage jobs are experiencing high turnover. I can’t say whether or not that is factual, but giving that theory some credence might account for the fact that any number of employees at this hotel are poorly trained and uninformed as to hotel policies….to the point where no matter how specific your questions, you’re bound to end up in front of a “supervisor” who is going to give you nothing but attitude.

Check In

I pre-paid my first night via the hotel’s website (plus the entire stay’s “Resort Fee” –  why?), after checking the usual larger travel sites. It was an attractive enough rate, but of course see-sawed over the course of the week, with no rhyme or reason – it sure wasn’t based on any kind of capacity.

I wanted to pay by a different method than the card I reserved with. Nope. No can do. And even if you pay cash or use a different card at check out, your original card’s “hold” will stay on the account for 5-10 business days after you depart.

And that’s where the management attitude comes in. No “I understand,” or “I’m sorry” or “Let me see about that,” instead it’s “you’ll just have to talk to your bank.” No charge for the scowl.  (This, of course, is bullshit, the hotel could release the hold instantly if they chose. Not doing it means their forty hotels, thousands of guests cards temporarily inflates their revenue picture).

So I say all this to warn you if you are anticipating using credit or debit lines to get home or travel on, that money might not be available.

There are quite a few people in the “hospitality” industry these days who don’t understand the meaning of that word.

Resort Fees

I don’t think there is anybody in America who isn’t pee-ohed about “Resort fees” which are a B.S. Charge the hotel makes that essentially raises the rate of your room. Here, the charge is $15 per day, which affords you the following: 1) access to the pool 2) access to the workout center 3) in room coffee 4) in room frig 5) free WiFi (tho when you sign on, it requires you to post a payment method 6) free valet parking.

Aren’t all these things standard most places? Sure they are. Hotels need to rethink this strategy.

Pool Area

Outdoor pool. When I’ve been at this hotel in the past, the pool wasn’t even open. This visit it was, and the water was warm enough. Dirty towel bin was full, clean towel shelves were empty, there was no signage or attendant, so people were taking dirty towels, not realizing.

The pool liner has come loose in quite a few places on the bottom, so it’s possible to trip walking across the pool. Advise your children.

Drink prices are outrageous, but that’s to be expected.

Hotel Ambiance

Poolside, lobby, elevators, restaurants, casino, are very loud. “Background” music isn’t, at all, very intrusive. If I was at a gaming table trying to concentrate, I wouldn’t be happy.

Casino

Adequate number of games. Shortage of attendants. Slots have gotten to be really confusing, haven’t they? Select how much you want to wager. How many “lines.” You can think you’re waging a quarter and end up betting five bucks. It’s not very clear. Sure, I know, they want it that way.

You might see a drink server once every couple hours, even tho the room isn’t that big or busy.

Restaurants

Spendy. Could be more. Room service prices are average, but selection is very limited, and upon your first examination of the room, you’ll be hard pressed to find out what’s available from room service. Spoiler: the room service menu and ordering is on the TV. As is an express checkout, which was not working.

Return Visit

While I’ve been here in the past, I don’t think I’ll return. The only reason I’d suggest you go there is for a rate. Some rooms in the city when I was there were $200-$300. I paid $39 plus the resort fee and taxes.

But the annoyance of all the rest of what goes on (or doesn’t) in the hotel makes a bargain rate not much of a bargain.

Just my observations.

 

Harrahs Gulf Coast  Review

Harrahs Gulf Coast  Review

@HarrahsGC

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Chesters Chicken Review

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Chesters Chicken ReviewChesters Chicken was originally  a licensed chicken concept that started in 1952 and has now evolved into a full franchise model offering. Located across the US and on two other continents, Chesters offers a “store in store” concept.

That is, you will find Chester’s Chicken counters in gas stations, c stores, food courts, and the like.

I see a lot of them in gas stations on the interstates.  They are usually well represented in the typical blue information signs on the highway, so you can be aware that there is one ahead.

I’ve never seen a free standing store, not sure if they do that.

They offered fried chicken in different styles: bone in, tenders, wings, boneless wings, sandwiches, wraps, with a whole host of sides including potatoes, vegetables and biscuits.

It seems the menu can vary slightly, so it would appear that headquarters doesn’t have a problem with that. I see some locations offering breakfast sandwiches, some locations have fried fish, usually catfish nuggets, but I have seen swai as well (which is a type of very mild Asian catfish). (Partial menu appears below).

The food is presented in well lit, clean counters, and as an ala carte, single piece, meal or snack size.  It’s all delicious, really, it’s a crispy mildly seasoned breading and I’ve never had a piece of chicken (or fish) that wasn’t cooked perfectly.

They haven’t penetrated the Upper Midwest, where I live, very well.  Hopefully that will change.

I drove around the south a few years ago and tried all manner of tenders from different joints. You can read about that here. Another similar concept is Dodge’s Chicken (not size comparable tho), and Krispy Krunchy, headquartered out of Louisiana is another comer.  Some cities have their own localized versions, catering to more regional tastes.  In New Orleans, look for “Brothers.”

Want your very own Chester’s? (I sure would). They have a real interesting, low fee/no royalty model.  Read about franchising on their website.

Chesters Chicken Review

Tenders and bone-in

Chesters Chicken Review

Choose your goodies

Chesters Chicken Review

Click to enlarge menu

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