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!

Monday, January 8, 2018

THE BIG EASY - RALEIGH, NC

Happy New Year! It's been a few minutes since we were last here, but we're back. We probably have a half-dozen reviews to post, and that many second restaurant visits to make, but it's all good. With the extremely cold weather I've been cooking a lot. Healthy eating is a top priority for both of us for the new year. So much so that it will probably influence where we do and more importantly, don't eat! But nothing will deter us from finding GOOD food when we do eat out.

I don't know what has taken me so long to post a review of The Big Easy in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. They also have a location in Cary, NC. I have mixed emotions about my experiences here. The first time we visited was the night before Valentine's Day last year. It was late night, about two hours before closing. The crowd had thinned out and the atmosphere was pleasant. They have a nice late night menu of salads and sandwiches. They also had a wonderful cocktail menu of assorted bar specials. 

We ordered drinks and two Half & Half Po' Boys. The meal was exceptional! The Po' Boy featured a full-sized catfish fillet and a sizeable serving of fried shrimp. It was served on a warm baguette and dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles and the most incredible remoulade sauce. My cocktail of choice was Paradise in Malibu, a combination of vodka, coconut, rum, Hypnotiq, and pineapple juice. It was absolutely divine! When we walked out we were in food heaven. It was that good.

It was a few weeks later when we finally made it back. It was a Wednesday evening and there was a group performing live jazz. It was a very pleasant experience. We both ordered the Fried Fish Platter and for the most part, were very pleased with the meal. The fish was fresh, the portion was not overly generous, but sizeable and the atmosphere was extremely pleasant. I only had one complaint. Someone was exceptionally heavy-handed with the salt. I was more sensitive to it than Big Daddy but it did not spoil the meal or the experience.

It was probably a month or so later that we were headed home from a book event and wanted a good takeout meal that wasn't fast food. Big Daddy called ahead and ordered two shrimp Po' Boys. And this was the beginning of their downhill descent. My first complaint was the portion size. Somewhere along the way, the shrimp fell out of our sandwiches. It was no way comparable to that first sandwich and I honestly felt cheated. But we chalked it up to a bad day because we'd had such great experiences prior.

Our next visit was Mother's Day! It was early on a Sunday afternoon and they had a sizeable crowd and tables were turning over quickly. We were seated upstairs next to a party with five young kids. Now what I have thoroughly enjoyed about The Big Easy is it's grown-up atmosphere. They do an adult's preferred thing very well, especially in the evening and late night. But it was Mother's Day! The group had apparently been seated for a good little while. The kids were restless and their parents didn't look like they were having a great time.

I ordered the Shrimp and Broccoli Pasta and Big Daddy ordered the tried and true Fish Platter. Although the broccoli was overcooked and mushy, my only complaint was the salt. When our food arrived, the table next to us were still waiting for theirs. This family was not happy and I wasn't thrilled that little Timmy kept coming to look in my plate, despite his mother's efforts to contain him. But the food was okay, not good, not great, and didn't inspire us to want to come back.

But being downtown tonight we thought we'd give them another try. We have been wanting Po' Boys and the memory of that first one was lingering. Our waiter was very nice and we have always found the staff extremely pleasant but he didn't have clue when we ordered the fish and shrimp Po' Boy. In fact, he told us they had never had a half fish, half shrimp Po' Boy on the menu and he'd been there some eleven months. However he did offer a half oyster, half shrimp sandwich. He also offered a fried catfish Po' Boy with a side order of shrimp for an extra fee.

The ordering process declined swiftly because I'm not a happy woman when I can't have the food I want my way. I blame the big guy who has spoiled me immensely. Because we were hungry Big Daddy finally ordered the half shrimp, half oyster sandwich and I ordered the fried catfish with the side of shrimp. Sadly, I wish we'd just gone someplace else to eat.

Big Daddy liked the oysters and shrimp. They were seasoned nicely. He and I had both ordered our Po' Boys with extra sauce on the side. We both got sandwiches with ALL the sauce on the side and it was not the remoulade sauce we remembered with such delight. This tasted rancid, the color was off and looked like it had been left out and turned. The bread was cold, hard, and crumbled between our fingers. The tomatoes were overripe and the lettuce was wilted. My sandwich had five shrimp and two very small pieces of fish fillet. The French fries were plentiful though. For some reason the waiter changed my order without asking and was able to give me that half-fish, half-shrimp sandwich I'd ordered in the beginning. But from start to finish the meal was a huge disappointment. 

The highlight of the evening was the cocktail menu. Once again they had a nice assortment of specialty beverages. The music was also on point. But we don't know if we'll go back again. We never judge one bad experience without going back a second and sometimes a third time. We understand off nights. But we also look for consistency in presentation and taste. We're not sure what we'll get the next go round. We don't trust that what we order will stand up to what we experienced that very first time. They had set a very high bar and haven't measured up to it since. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

ELEVATION BURGER - MARYLAND HOUSE, MARYLAND

It was a road trip from hell. The traffic was insufferable, we were both car weary, famished for something good to eat and the GPS was offering us nothing exciting to detour toward. When we reached the Maryland House, one of the I-95 Travel Plazas, I was determined to find something other than chips and soda pop for us to eat.

Recently renovated, the new 42,000 square-foot facility features food from Deli & Co., Wendy's, Phillips Seafood, Dunkin' Donuts, Jerry's Subs & Pizza, Currito, Nathan's Famous, Auntie Anne's and Carvel. There's also a  new 5,700 square-foot A-Plus convenience store at the Sunoco high-speed fueling station which features food from Elevation Burger.

Elevation Burger is an American fast casual restaurant chain which features burgers made of organic meat, fresh cut French fries cooked in olive oil, a burger that can be made with as many as ten patties  - a vertigo burger, two kinds of veggie burger and hand-blended milkshakes made from hand-scooped ice cream.

So, this was not bad. We both ordered the elevation burger which was two patties, lettuce, tomato, and their special elevation sauce. There wasn't enough special sauce for Big Daddy so he added mayo to his. But the burger was really quite tasty and had great flavor. I found the fries slightly greasy and it surprised me because they're supposed to be fried in olive oil, but I think it was because they needed to drain a minute or two longer but their was a crowd and lengthy line and the two young men working were trying hard to keep up and keep the customers happy.

We both know that it will never be our go-to burger place but we would stop again if we needed to. I've heard that reviews are mixed about the food chain but it would seem that most of this has to do with the service and necessarily the quality of the food. We had a great experience, excellent service for a rest stop and no complaints.

Friday, May 5, 2017

JOHN'S PIZZA - STAMFORD, CT


A literary event took me back to my hometown recently. I was born and raised in Stamford, Connecticut a quaint, sleepy little town located some thirty miles from Manhattan. Time has transformed the landscape from a quaint, sleepy little town into a bustling metropolis that holds much less charm. But a continued staple that made the three day trip well worth it was a much beloved pizza shop that still sits at the intersection of Grove Street and Strawberry Hill.

I grew up on John's Pizza. It was a weekly staple that my parents never waivered from. John's Pizza is a family-owned business that has been around since 1968. Theirs is a Greek-styled pan pizza and I'm told that they recipe has never been changed.

Friday nights my father would come through the door with pizza boxes stacked five high and it was sheer heaven! I was so excited to share that memory and that experience with the big guy so John's Pizza was one of our first stops after arriving in the city.

Everything about the meal screamed home and comfort. The crust was still as flavorful with just the right about of crisp that I remembered. The sauce was precision, the medley of tomatoes and seasonings sheer bliss. We ordered pepperoni and days later I regretted not ordering a sausage pie, and maybe two or three others to take back home with us. It was just that good.

After savoring the delight I was excited to hear what the big guy had to say and with two thumbs up he said he'd definitely eat there again. I didn't need to say that I would do so also without a moments hesitation.

I did, however, have one complaint. The pies seemed amazingly smaller than I remembered. But as both my parents noted, back then, I had been much smaller as well, so of course, back then, they seemed humongous in my mind!




Friday, April 7, 2017

SKIPPER'S FISH FRY - APEX, NC

So, there is this cute little joint in Apex, North Carolina called Skipper's Fish Fry. It was highly recommended and when we found ourselves in the area we figured we'd stop and give it a try. The atmosphere was quaint and friendly. The space was exceptionally clean and had a light, airy vibe. The spot reminded me of fish joints you find close to the coast. Where you can get a good fish dinner while wearing your swim suit and sandals!

I ordered the catfish platter which consisted of one piece of catfish with fries and coleslaw. I also added the clam chowder because when I saw it on the menu I immediately missed my favorite New England chowder. Big Daddy ordered the fish sandwich with fries and a hotdog. Yes. A hotdog. Because there was a sign on the wall that said their hotdog was voted the best. It wasn't. Not even close.
The fish was okay. Nothing to get overly excited about but if you wanted a quick fish dinner, this would be an okay go-to spot. Big Daddy gave the whole meal a shrug. He didn't get excited and said even if he was in the area he didn't know if he'd go out of his way to eat their again.

And that chowder? It was a waste of our money, tasting overly fishy with the texture of paste. It ruined the moment and now I'm still missing my favorite clam chowder.