Monday, April 9, 2018

SWEET TEA'S SOUTHERN CUISINE - RICHMOND, VA

Sweet Tea's Southern Cuisine is located one block away from the previously reviewed Southern Kitchen. We discovered Sweet Tea's as we were leaving Southern Kitchen. A couple was entering the restaurant and we stopped to ask their opinion. They told us Sweet Tea's was much better and advised us to give them a try the next time we were in town. So we did!

We arrived before opening on a Sunday afternoon and were quickly ushered out and told to come back. The hostess was pleasant enough although it was obvious she was irritated that someone had left the door unlocked. But after a brief walk to take in the neighborhood, we returned. Our waitress was very sweet and despite still trying to get things rolling for the day, she was extremely attentive and very friendly.

Sweet Tea's is family owned and operated and little less formal that it's competitor up the street. The atmosphere is as pleasant. The décor was simple and slightly homey. From the start, my only major complaint was that someone really needs to give the menus a good wipe down. Menus covered in food and fingerprints was a turn off and these were foul.

 Now, like their competitor, they started the meal with bread. But corn muffins instead of corn bread. The muffins were basic and not at all exceptional. They were slightly dry and could have come out of a box. We could have done without the muffins.

Now one of the highlights of the meal for both of us was the sweet tea! They have the monopoly on sweet tea and I hate that I can't get it every day. We both started with basic sweet tea which was the perfect blend of strong and sweet. It was great sweet tea! Our server then convinced us to give the flavored tea a try. She'd just made it and was very excited to share. The day's flavor was peach sweet tea. With real, fresh peaches. The presentation in a Mason jar with the fresh fruit spilling over the top was absolutely divine! This just made me smile! It was liquid sunshine in a glass and it tasted like heaven!


This time I ordered the Big Easy's Chops, two pork chops perfectly seasoned and fried. They were mouth-watering and tender. They were good! I partnered my pork chops with macaroni and cheese and candied yams. Now I was slightly disappointed with the macaroni and cheese. It was just okay. It was slightly dry, with burnt edges and I wondered if we'd gotten the previous night's leftovers. The flavor was great mac and cheese goodness but it missed the mark on creamy and cheesy. Now, the candied yams were exceptional. I actually wish I had a bowl of them right now. They were the perfect blend of sweet with a hint of citrus. They were cooked perfectly and made up for what was lacking in the mac and cheese.

He ordered the chicken wings. Big Daddy is usually a breast man but the waitress insisted they were delicious and well worth trying. He got four large whole chicken wings and they passed the test. Nicely fried, perfectly seasoned and good! He also ordered the macaroni and cheese but did the mashed potatoes and gravy instead. He's a big mashed potato fan and although he enjoyed them, he wished he had known they were garlic potatoes which would have been better paired with beef and not chicken. They were just okay.

What we both agreed on is that Sweet Tea's and Southern Kitchen both have their own high notes and low points. Depending on what we wanted to eat would dictate which restaurant we would choose. Both had items on their menus that we hope to one day try and look forward to visiting and experiencing again.

Would we eat at Sweet Tea's again? Most definitely yes! My only regret was that we didn't try the banana pudding cake for dessert because it looked absolutely sublime!






THE SOUTHEN KITCHEN - RICHMOND, VA

We're never quite sure what to expect when down home Southern cuisine is billed as FINE dining. When we search out down home Southern cuisine we're looking for comfort food that feels like it came out of our ancestor's kitchens. We're usually not wanting fine china and linens. Recently we dined at SOUTHEN KITCHEN in Richmond, Virginia. It came highly recommended so we had high hopes.

SOUTHERN KITCHEN is a busy little spot at 1726 East Main Street and within minutes of the doors opening, a party of twenty was in full swing in a rear party space and a good many of the tables were occupied. The atmosphere was pleasant and although simplistic, there was an underlying warmth that was still reminiscent of home. Service was okay. Nothing exceptional. Our waitress was pleasant but didn't go out of her way to stand out.

They started the meal with corn bread. Hot from the oven, buttered corn bread! This was, by far, some of the best corn bread I've ever eaten. It was an explosion of texture and flavor that left me wanting more. I ate my piece, his piece, and ordered another piece it was so good. I ate it so fast I forgot to take a picture of it! I could eat the cornbread every day and be very happy. 

My guy ordered the Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, and the Collards. I opted for the Fried Catfish, Macaroni and Cheese and the Collards. The macaroni and cheese was really good. It reminded me of my grandmother's cheesy perfection. We both also enjoyed the greens. The chicken was well seasoned with a nice crust. It did not however win the award for Best Fried Chicken. I thought the fish, however, was exceptional. You could order one or two pieces and I definitely needed two. It came with a slice of a slice of Texas Toast which I could have easily done without. Cornbread would have been so much better. The greens and the mashed potatoes were basic; tasty but nothing overly special.

The sweet tea was blah! Definitely not sweet enough so that was a miss for us both, but all it all we would definitely eat here again. It was a good meal with nice portions. It's a bit pricey but since you have to pay for that FINE dining and the food wasn't bad, we really couldn't complain but so much.

It was two thumbs up for the both of us!


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Q BARBECUE - GLEN ALLEN, VIRGINIA


It was by sheer accident that we found Q BARBECUE. We were in Glen Allen, Virginia working on a film. After an exceptionally long day we were exhausted and hungry! The staff at the Marriott hotel had recommended a restaurant that was closed and as we headed back, thinking we were going to have to settle for a vending machine meal, my favorite guy made an abrupt turn into a parking lot to do a Google search and lo and behold, parked directly in front of the restaurant's door!

Q Barbecue was the brainchild of Tuffy Stone, a chef and caterer who perfected his barbecue techniques on the competition circuit, eventually becoming a judge on the hit show BBQ Pitmasters. There are three locations and the food is marvelous.

The moment we stepped through the door we were greeted by the most adorable young woman. Her bubbly personality was a breath of fresh air and she was simply engaging. She went through the menu, offered us tastes to help us make a decision, shared what on the menu were her favorites and she was positively a delight. She is a business goldmine and I hope they know what a true gem they have in this young lady!

We both ordered the half rack of ribs with macaroni and cheese and collard greens. So let me start with the macaroni and cheese. I could eat this stuff all day long it was so good. It was creamy, cheesy goodness that just made us want more. We both agreed that the next time we're there we would order double mac and cheese. The greens were vinegar based and had a hint of sugar. I don't do sweet collards. Big Daddy didn't mind them. I still don't understand why people put sugar in greens! It completely baffles me. What I loved about the greens was that they had a nice bite and chew. They were cooked to perfection and would have been great if they hadn't been so sweet. Again, he liked them just as they were! It all came with a little corn muffin on the side. There was nothing special about the bread and we could have taken it or not and still been okay.

Now 'dem ribs was GOOD! Not quite a dry rub and not overly doused in sauce, they were melt in your mouth tender and quite tasty. There were three additional sauces at the table ranging from mild to find me water hose for those who needed more, but we both didn't think they needed anything else. We can't wait to go back, already planning to try the smoked wings and the brisket, both of which came highly recommended by other diners who were excited to share their opinions.

A delightful surprise that we got a taste of was something called Pineapple Hot Dish.  I knew instantly that this was an old family recipe and the manager confirmed that it was Tuffy Stone's grandmother who perfected the dish. It reminded us both of warm bread pudding with pineapple. It had the right balance of crunch and sweeet and it was some sort of great!

We would definitely give Q Barbecue two thumbs up, double high-fives and roaring round of applause.

UPDATED 4/9/2018

Back in the area a few days ago, we went back to give the brisket and chicken a try. Big Daddy ordered the ribs, again. I ordered a Double Meat Tray with slices of brisket and chicken wings. Although I stand by my previous review, I would not, however, order the brisket again. The brisket was DRY. Not enough extra sauce in the world to save it DRY. The wings were good. Not great, but good. The ribs continued to be divine. Had we tried the brisket and chicken on our first visit we probably would not have given it as glowing a review. I believe there was a reason for us trying the ribs first! Will we go back? Yes, definitely. And we will only order the ribs!

O'MALLEY'S PUB & RESTAURANT - RALEIGH, NC



Nothing makes our hearts sing more than a great neighborhood bar with a regularly cliental and great service. I don't know why we've never tried O'Malley's Pub & Restaurant. It's clearly a fan favorite, a crowd often gathered on the front patio. We drive by it every day and finally decided to stop in for a beer and a bite to eat.

From start to finish the service was exceptional. Staff was attentive and friendly. There's no better way to experience an Irish bar than to start with the Fish and Chips and bottle of Guinness. Now, they have an extensive menu that surprised me. There was more selection than I anticipated and it could easily be my go-to spot for a quick sandwich or a nice lunch. They also serve breakfast!

Haven't been to an Irish bar yet where the Guinness wasn't on point and this was no exception. I love me some Guinness and the big guy is warming up to it. The Fish and Chips was good. We've had better and we've also had worse. But we would definitely order theirs again. It was crisp on the outside and the fish was moist and tender on the inside. It was served with a side salad that was basic but simply divine.

We would recommend them to friends. It has a comfortable vibe, they make you feel at home and the food is tasty and filling!


Monday, February 5, 2018

BEANSPROUT CHINESE RESTAURANT

For years, we have frequented the same Chinese restaurant. It had taken us a minute to find them, others either missing miserably over one dish as they might have hit big on another. Lately, our favorite joint has been a disappointment more times than not. Recently, we tried a new restaurant that we've driven past numerous times. The exterior is slightly off-putting. The building is old and not much to brag on. But it was take-out so we figured, why not. We know those hole-in-the-wall joints can be unpolished gems. And this diamond in the rough was spectacular!

BEANSPROUT CHINESE RESTAURANT is now our new favorite Chinese joint! The menu is your typical take-out fare, but the food quality was exceptional. The lunch prices were reasonable and the portions were overly generous. 

We ordered the General Tso's chicken with Rice. It also came with an egg roll. The chicken was freshly fried and tossed in your standard sauce. But the sauce was good, just the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. The rice wasn't anything to get excited over, just perfectly cooked and seasoned with soy sauce.  We asked and were told that they would gladly substitute perfectly steamed broccoli if you requested it.

I loved the egg roll. I ate mine and his. It was crispy on the outside with just the perfect blend of shredded cabbage, carrots, and pork. It was so good! The restaurant is family-owned and the customer service was great. The husband and wife team working were kind about tailoring the dish to meet our needs. We actually ate our meal there instead of doing takeout. They have limited seating and it's not overly comfortable, but the food was well worth the experience.

Will we go back? Headed there as soon as I post the review. Can't wait to try the Wonton Soup and the Tofu, which I'm told is absolutely divine!


Saturday, February 3, 2018

FREDDY'S FROZEN CUSTARD & STEAKBURGERS - USA


We had just attended an art event in Chapel Hill, NC when my guy announced he wanted a burger. Now let me preface this by saying when he is craving a burger, he's craving an all beef burger with no filler, seasoned with salt and pepper, slapped on a great bun with lettuce, tomato, mayo and cheese. Should be easy, right? Wrong!

On our way to the event he spied Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. He got excited. Me, not so much. But for reasons unbeknownst to me he could not get Freddy's out of his head and so that is where we stopped before heading home.

The ambiance was an old-school, 1950's vibe, It was bright and inviting and the staff was almost too cheery for the late night hour. The customer service was exceptional and when they discovered we were newbies, they seemed to rev it up a notch. But the minute we saw the menu I knew Big Daddy wasn't going to get the burger he'd been dreaming of. Freddy's steakburgers are those paper-thin pressed burgers reminiscent of Steak and Shake burgers which I am not a fan of.

He ordered Freddy's Original Double. I went rogue and ordered the Original Double Patty Melt. We made them combos and both came with shoestring fries and a drink. The Patty Melt was okay. Nothing spectacular and nothing I'll crave again. He was disappointed with his Original Double. The meat was slightly tough and it wasn't the true burger he'd been hoping for. We capped off the meal with two cups of their vanilla custard.

Will we eat here again? Maybe. It was fast and quick and would satisfy in a pinch. We would definitely come back for the custard. That was some good stuff. Rich, creamy and immensely satisfying. I'd go out of my way to get the custard again. Big Daddy wasn't feeling any of it, good custard or not. He's still wanting that burger!

Friday, February 2, 2018

DOHERTY'S IRISH PUB RESTAURANT - CARY, NC

I love an Irish pub! I have very fond memories of Irish pubs, Guinness and good friends. Finding DOHERTY'S IRISH PUB in Cary, North Carolina was icing on some very sweet cake. The big guy scoped this place out as we caught the last day of Restaurant Week here in the Triangle. He knew my passion for all things Irish and thought he would surprise me. Best darn surprise in a good little while!

Doherty's feels like that perfect neighborhood bar. When you walk in the staff is pleasant and welcoming. I was even more excited at the hello! Our waiter was attentive and delightful and at the moment I'm feeling bad because for the life of me I can't remember his name. It was Jeremy or Jacob, definitely a J-name! I extend an apology to him because he was a sheer delight.


Irish pubs are nothing without the Guinness and because I'm on meds I wasn't allowed to have one. Big Daddy isn't a fan of Guinness so he ordered a Budweiser and I did the proverbial sweet tea. Y'all know that's my go-to, non-alcoholic beverage! And it was good tea.



Now they have a very nice MENU! It was actually hard to decide what we wanted because we wanted to try everything. We started with an appetizer both selecting the Irish Boxty. Now a Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake with your choice of fillings. We ordered the The Mullingar which was Guinness braised brisket laced with fresh mushrooms, caramelized onions, and topped with a creamy horseradish sauce. It was superb! The brisket was melt-in-your-mouth delicious! The next time we go I plan to try the Brisket Nachos. I can just imagine this Irish twist to nachos and I'm salivating just thinking about it!

For the entrée it was all about the Fish and Chips!!! Light, flaky, batter-fried whitefish served with hand-cut fries. This was so good I don't know if I'll eat anything else on our next visit. You notice I keep saying 'our next visit'. We are definitely going back!

We even ordered dessert. I ordered the chocolate mousse and he ordered the bread pudding. After our first bites we traded plates. The mousse was good, great chocolate flavor and sweet. Too sweet for me. The bread pudding was perfection. Great texture and wonderful blend off raisins and spices but not at all sweet enough for him. Neither of us was disappointed.

My only complaint is that the restaurant is so far from us. If it were closer we would be regulars. It was just that good! Two thumbs up and five stars good!

Revised: I just had to add more food pictures. I've been back twice now. Of course, I had the fish and chips again, and just like the first time it was sheer perfection. I have also tried the Grilled Ruben which was a healthy portion of corned beef between grilled rye with melted Swiss, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing. It was GOOD! But the most outstanding dish for me was the Brisket Poutine, crispy hand-cut French fries topped with Guiness braised brisket, melted white cheddar, brown gravy and green onions. This was so divine I could eat it every darn day and not get tired of it. It was spectacular!