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.





Wednesday, April 5, 2017

LYNNWOOD GRILL - RALEIGH, NC


Nothing in the world beats a great neighborhood sports bar and Lynnwood Grill on Grove Barton Road in Raleigh is a great neighborhood spot to hang out, mingle with friends, and watch the game of the moment. It's been a staple in the area for ten-plus years and we've watched it grow into a something really spectacular for casual dining. We've gotten to know the staff and have seen many earn tips for school before moving on in their young lives.

Monday night is wing night and when we usually find our way there. Wings are .50 each and select beers are $4. Weekly specials abound and they have a better than average menu of wraps, sandwiches, pizza and bar food.


Lynnwood Grill is also a brewery with a very nice selection of craft beers. The Lynnwood Light is one Big Daddy orders every time we're there and I really enjoy it as well.

If by chance you are ever in the neighborhood, stop in and say hey! And order yourself some wings! You have to order a minimum of six at a time and there is an assortment of flavors. The garlic pepper parmesan and mild barbecue are really good!




Monday, April 3, 2017

DAME'S CHICKEN AND WAFFLE - DURHAM, NC

A recent family celebration took us to DAME'S CHICKEN AND WAFFLES in downtown Durham, North Carolina. For obvious reasons we were excited to order the Chicken and Waffles, but were not at all prepared for the many choices that were available to us. It was the list of SHMEARS and DRIZZLES that had us both shaking our heads!

Now a shmear is a sweet crème butter delicately whipped with the freshest, natural ingredients. The list of flavors included strawberry-crème, chocolate hazelnut, maple-pecan, baby-blueberry, vanilla-almond, peach apricot, and orange-honeycomb.  The list of drizzles, flavored nuts and syrups, is as lengthy, and then of course, there are the waffle choices which include classic, sweet potato, gingerbread, blueberry and vegan. It's a lot, but thankfully they have a number of "inspirations" or combinations of flavors paired for you.

Big Daddy ordered the Carolina Cockerel which was three large wings, a blueberry waffle with the peach and apricot shmear. I ordered the Light Brown Leghorns, four drumsticks with a classic waffle and chocolate hazelnut shmear drizzled with caramel and cashews. We added sides of southern potato salad, mean collard greens and Ceci's mac and cheese.

From start to finish we both enjoyed our meals. The chicken was really good! Not great, but good. It was tender with a nicely crisped outside. Now, they are definitely heavy handed with the seasonings! Everything was highly flavored. The greens were cooked to perfection with just the right amount of bite but for me, the red pepper had it too hot to truly be enjoyable. We both enjoyed the potato salad and neither one of us is a fan of the macaroni and cheese. There was nothing cheesy about the mac and it was seasoned with  something that tasted very "green" and "earthy". I got a basil taste but Big Daddy thought it might be something else. We would order the potato salad and the greens again, but would pass on the macaroni.

And I have to talk about the SHMEAR! That was some sort of good and slathered on the fluffiest, perfectly cooked waffle made it the highlight of the meal for me. I liked my chocolate-hazelnut and I liked Big Daddy's peach and apricot. I could have done without the caramel and cashew drizzle. I found that too sweet for my palate but he enjoyed it.

Our favorite uncle joined us for this meal and he was excited to share his impressions of our dinner. Like Big Daddy he had the Carolina Cockerel. He scored the greens highly, giving them an 8. He enjoyed the spicy heat. We all agreed the potato salad was a solid 10 and he found the chicken fair, feeling the pieces were a little too large for his tastes and seasoned with an herb he thought took away from the overall flavor.
The portions were generous and everyone walked out with leftovers for a late night snack. And I have to rave about the sweet tea. I drank three extremely large glasses and could have guzzled a gallon more.

Dame's Chicken and Waffle won't take the title for best fried chicken but they were a good time and the meal was enjoyable. We'll definitely visit them again.





Wednesday, November 30, 2016

ORIENT GARDEN and STEAK-N-SHAKE!

Ugh! The past few months have just been mind-boggling. An unexpected death in the family, illness in the family, and family, have had our schedules all off kilter. With havoc reigning in our lives we've been seesawing between fast food and my ever trusty crockpot. The cooling weather has had my soup recipes in serious rotation!

The fast food has been the usual fare; McDonald's - grilled chicken ranch salad for me, double fish sandwiches for him; Taco Bell - soft tacos for us both; and Bojangles - all things fried chicken! We did, however, manage to throw in two new fast food joints into the mix.

The first was recommended to us. Orient Garden is located in Durham, North Carolina. They do quick Chinese and have a decent lunch menu. We've eaten here a few times and 60% of the time Big Daddy has always gotten the better meal. His usual order is the General Tso's Chicken. I tend to mix it up, Orange Beef, Chicken with Broccoli, Pepper Steak, etc. On average, his chicken is always good. When I order it, not so much. The first time the sauce was burnt and the second time it tasted like the chicken had been recycled. I think they just like him more than they like me. I've taken to letting him order the chicken for me if that's what I want to eat.

Is it our favorite Chinese joint? Not even close. Will we eat there again? Yeah, I'm fairly certain we will. Do we recommend it? Without a doubt. Fast, great portions, decent atmosphere and when necessary, it just works.

The second fast food place we tried for the first time was Steak N Shake. I'll be honest, after the first time I only went back for the milkshakes. They make a mean milkshake and I like the fries. I am not a fan of their burgers or their hotdogs. They are open 24-hours but they need to stress that it's only the drive-through that's actually open. They'll let you inside, but more times than not there is no staff. Usually there is just one manager playing server, cook, sous chef, and drive-through window guy by his lonesome. Sadly, he's not very good at either.

The meat tastes overly processed to me, the texture more filler than beef. I've now tried two different burgers and one hotdog and if I ever find need to go back again I'll just stick to the milkshake and fries. Big Daddy's tastes are not as discerning as mine. Ignore the side eye he's giving me! But he didn't mind the food. For him it works if you're in a pinch and hungry. I need to lose weight anyway so I'd sooner pass than eat here again.




Tuesday, May 10, 2016

BEASLEY'S CHICKEN AND HONEY - RALEIGH, NC

We recently visited BEASLEY'S CHICKEN AND HONEY here in Raleigh, NC. And I'm not going to lie. I totally expected to be disappointed. We've been hearing the hype about this restaurant since the day it opened. People have been raving about the food and the atmosphere and it all just sounded too good to be true. There were many times we stopped but continued on by, put off by the large crowds and lengthy lines to get inside. It was hard to believe that it was that good. We both believed that it being new and trendy was keeping the buzz about it going.

This particular afternoon, after finishing some business downtown, we figured we'd take the plunge and give it a try. It was well after the lunch hour and there were actual seats available. So let's start with the seats. The interior design is minimalistic and slightly industrial. The seats are metal stools. Nothing spectacular and slightly uncomfortable. They do not motivate leisurely dining, more like hit and run eating. I imagine they don't have a real problem with tables turning over when there is a crowd because once we were done we were ready to get up and go. Now granted, we both have much backside cushion so I can only imagine how those with no extra butt padding manage!

Menus on chalkboard walls would seem to be a thing. Theirs was posted on the back wall with nice, large print. But twisting around on those damn seats to read it proved to be my downfall. My ass and my neck have not been forgiving since!

We both ordered the same thing this time: fried chicken and waffles with sides of creamed collard greens and the pimento mac-n-cheese custard. From the first bite to the last, I was in food heaven. The fried chicken was just the right amount of crispy with a tender, moist interior. The outside crunch was just divine with a wonderful, savory flavor. It was a very nice complement to the waffle which was light and fluffy perfection. Both were drizzled with their honey sauce which I found to be just fine on the waffle but a little off-putting on the chicken. I just can't wrap my mind around sweet meat. They were a little more generous with the drizzle on my chicken and not so much on my favorite guy's. He didn't bother him as much as it bothered me.

The creamed collard greens were orgasmic! I could eat this every day and still want more. The greens had the perfect amount of bite and chew and the cream sauce was just too darn good! The mac-n-cheese was also a very nice surprise. I detest pimento cheese. Big Daddy loves it. I just knew he was going to have to eat both servings after I took that first bite but boy, was I wrong. I loved the mac-n-cheese! Big Daddy took issue with the texture but once he got past that we both enjoyed the flavor.

The least favorite part of the meal for both of us was the sweet tea. Which wasn't sweet and came in too small glasses. Getting a refill was challenging, the waiter not overly eager to swing by the table a time or two to even see if refills were needed. I hate when restaurants are stingy with the tea. It's a tea bag and some sugar for goodness sake! Next time I'll have to try one of their signature drinks instead. 

We passed on dessert and we ate and ran, neither of us overly comfortable with those seats. But we definitely fell for the hype! Or at least I did! I was not at all disappointed. I loved this place. Big Daddy says it was just okay for him. I'd kick and scream to go back again. He wouldn't exert that much effort. But Beasley's is definitely at the top of my good meal list. Big Daddy put them midway on his.