Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Front Street Brewery, Wilmington NC



On Front Street in Wilmington, North Carolina, you can find a really nice place called The Front Street Brewery. When you find it, go in and eat and drink. You will not be disappointed. We were there with seven adults and three children on a Tuesday evening and had a very enjoyable experience.
First, check out the appetizers because on weekdays from four to seven PM they have a great selection for half price. I tried (not just me, but the whole party) the fried Buffalo blue cheese strips, the fried green tomatoes, the onion rings, and the jumbo soft pretzel. All were good.
For dinner I recommend the Black and Blue burger, bacon, blue cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and a half-pound of good beef on a Kaiser roll for only $7.99. The only drawback is that the rarest they’ll make it is medium well, but it was okay. I like mine medium. My son-in-law had a Horseradish burger, and he had a grin on his face as he ate it. The rest in my party had the Baja salad, Blackened Chicken Breast, Bratwurst, and Fried Shrimp. Everyone said his or her meal was good.
I liked their IPA, they are after all a microbrewery. I also tried the Oatmeal Stout, but was slightly disappointed. Not that it was bad, but I’ve had better. I tasted the Scottish Ale, and that was good too. I think I need to go back and try a few more.
Like I said, it was a good dining experience. Maggie took good care of us and made sure all of our needs were met. We also tasted some nice wines, because on Tuesdays they have a free wine sampling.
Check out their website for more information.
Update- Aug 22, 09
When I find a restaurant I like, I go back often. In my travels I’ve come across a few that I’d like to visit more often, but I can’t. Such is the case with Front Street Brewery in Wilmington, NC. We paid our second visit there the other day and all I can say is that I’m even more impressed. The food was excellent, the service great, and the atmosphere fun.
You see, Front Street Brewery is one of those places that just isn’t pretentious, and if you’ve been following this blog at all, you know that I hate pretentious. I like simple food for regular people, and that’s what Front Street is all about. They aren’t trying to impress you with anything but the food and the beer, and even that’s understated.
We had a party of eleven, eight adults and three children. Five of us got there first and sat at the bar for a beer while waiting for the rest of our party. I met a nice man named Sam eating at the bar and we struck up a conversation, turns out he works there and we were discussing beer and Philadelphia where he was from. I also had a nice conversation with Maddie (I think that’s her name) the bartender. The people who work there are nice, friendly, and interesting.
When we were seated, Christy took care of us, after the first server left (I hope we didn’t scare him off) and she quickly corrected a mistake in the order. Food was great! Please note the picture above of my delightful Black and Blue Burger. I ordered it with sweet potato fries and that was the error that Christy corrected for me; I even got to keep the regular fries when she brought the sweet potato fries, probably the best I’ve had by the way.
We had a few appetizers; the fried green tomatoes, Buffalo Blue Sticks, and Buttermilk Breaded Onions, all half-price between four and six by the way.
I had a few beers. The Scottish Ale was delicious. The Vanilla Porter, the special that day, was interesting with a nice taste. I liked the California Common as well. It has a nice taste that starts off like a wheat beer and finished like an IPA, with a slight fruit flavor. They were out of my favorite, the Port City IPA.
Definitely stop by Front Street Brewery if you’re in Wilmington and tell them I sent you.
Update- April, 2. I stopped by today for a quick Port City IPA ( I didn't have time to order food) and I remembered why I love this place. Great beer and nice people, even without the great food. I'll be back a few times this Summer.

Front Street Brewery on Urbanspoon

Portillo's Italian Beef, Chicago

Portillo's is a great place to get a hot dog in Chicago, but when we were last there I had the pleasure of experiencing an Italian Beef sandwich for the first time. Holy crow! What was I missing all that time? If you haven't had one think of a Chicago version of a Philly cheese steak, except mine had sausage on it too. I was going to get a side of cheese fries and I'm glad I passed on them. That sandwich filled me up.

This is the signature sandwich of the Windy City, like the Muffaletta in New Orleans and you can't go wrong.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Abita Jockamo Beer

I tried the local beer, Abita, while in New Orleans and found it to be quite good. While I didn’t try them all, my favorite was the Jockamo, their IPA. It was nice and crisp, slightly hoppy, and refreshing, the perfect compliment to a Muffaletta. It doesn’t rank up there as a personal favorite, I like my IPA a bit hoppier, I recommend you try one sometime.

According to the company website, “Jockamo is named for the tribes of dancing, singing, chanting “Mardi Gras Indians” who have marched in New Orleans for over 250 years. When you hear the drums, join in the song...“Iko! Iko! Jockamo fe na ne”.”

Here are the stats: ABV 6.5%, IBU 52, Color 16

For more information, check out their website.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cigar Factory, New Orleans

After a nice dinner, and a couple of good beers, a nice cigar tastes good. In New Orleans they have a place called the New Orleans Cigar Factory where you can watch craftsmen roll cigars. They have a nice selection, and the prices are right as well. For three dollars you can pick up a nice medium sized cigar in either natural or sweet flavor. I found them every bit as enjoyable as the Cubans I had in England, and fresher. Stop in and sample one. They also ship anywhere, so check out their website.

Crescent City Brew House


After a very filling lunch we walked around town for a few hours hoping to make room for dinner. The problem of course is too many choices to eat, and not enough time to try them all. One place that looked interesting was the Crescent City Brew House on Decatur. After we found a ‘buy one entrée, get one free’ coupon at the hotel, the decision was made. This turned out to be another great decision.

The restaurant reminded Teresa of the Blue Bayou in Chicago, maybe because that bar was patterned after a New Orleans restaurant, lots of wood, and open.

The menu was extensive and we decided to have the seafood. I ordered the shrimp Pappardelle, which is jumbo shrimp over noodles with bacon, peas and mushrooms in a creamy sauce of fresh basil and Parmesan cheese. Teresa had the crabmeat stuffed shrimp. Both were delicious, but mine was probably the best seafood dish I’ve ever had. There was so much on the plate I couldn’t finish it all so I took a doggy bag and gave it to a homeless guy we saw later.

I had two beers. The first was a Red Stallion, a Vienna style copper beer that was pretty good. The second was one of the specialty beers, a dark Weise beer that had a nice flavor. The beers are a bit pricey at $6.50 each, but worth a try.

For more info check out their website.


Crescent City Brewhouse on Urbanspoon

Chartes House Cafe, New Orleans



We’d checked in at the hotel and asked at the desk about a nice place to eat, that wasn’t too expensive. We were told about a place around the corner and headed off. Well, we didn’t like that place, so we walked a bit further and an interesting gentleman (his picture is shown here) showed us a menu from the Chartes House Café, on Chartes Street, and it looked interesting. A few blocks down the road, and we decided that was the best place we’d seen and got a table. Well, we were certainly right. It was great.
I had the Muffaletta, an amazing sandwich that cost only $8.95. What’s a Muffaletta? Why it’s only one of the best sandwiches in the world, and a specialty of this region. It’s salami and ham, topped with melted provolone cheese topped with an olive salad (much like an olive tapenade) on a large round roll. Teresa had the Taste of New Orleans, which is a sampler of red beans and rice, Jambalaya, and chicken & andouille sausage gumbo for $14.95. That was delicious also. Both came with fries too. I had two beers, both from Abita, and they were only $3.50 each, more on that in a later review.
So if you’re in the Big Easy and want a nice place to get some great food, stop in at the Chartes House Café at 601 Chartes Street and enjoy yourself. For more info check out their website.

Chartres House Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Big Easy




Teresa and I were in Montgomery, Alabama for a family wedding and we had a couple of days to do something different. We looked at the map and said, “Hey, New Orleans is just a five hour drive,” so off we went. We got there in the afternoon, spent the night, and came back the next day. After walking the city for about seven hours straight, I have a few observations, and a few reviews to share. The reviews will follow over the next few days.

First of all, New Orleans is a nice place to visit and they sure are tourist oriented. Everyone is friendly and helpful. The city is easy to get around, and there’s just about everything you could want there, and a few things you don’t want. We got a kick out of seeing the girls sporting their ‘wares’ outside of the strip clubs, and we wondered why anyone would go in after seeing the ‘models’ hanging around outside. They were, um, let’s say unattractive.

The main draw is the food, and that’s awesome and diverse. Try the seafood since it’s fresh. The beer is plentiful, but be careful about buying beer on Bourbon Street. I had a nice Abita Amber for three bucks, and a nice stout for ten-fifty. I won’t mention the name of that place, but it’s the one with about fifty taps in it.

Walk up and down the streets and listen to the music. Good music, bad music, and everything in between. I watched a man play a harmonica for a half-hour and listened to a 495 pound man sing the blues. I also heard a guy singing who’d make a cat in heat sound good.

They even have a place where you can watch cigars being made, and buy them for a reasonable price. All in all, New Orleans is a nice place to have visited. I’m glad I went there so I can say, “Hey, I’ve been to New Orleans.” What would bring me back though, is the food and the music.

Chili's, Wilmington NC


We were in Wilmington, North Carolina on this leg of the journey and we had quite a few places to choose from. There were seven adults, and three children so after thinking for a bit, the logical choice was Chili’s to take advantage of the “Two for Twenty” offer they have going on.

Now this is a great deal. You get an appetizer to share, two entrees, and a desert to share, all for only twenty dollars. Sounds good, but it’s even better when you realize that Chili’s does not downsize the appetizers or the deserts, they’re full size. And there are quite a few choices.

The bottom line is that for ten people, the bill was about eighty bucks plus tip. We all left full, especially since we acted like we hadn’t eaten in a week. Oh, the service was good, the food was good, and everything else was what I’ve come to expect from Chili’s.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Appetites on Main, Exton PA


Okay, we’re on the first leg of our 5,000-mile road trip. We had lunch at Appetites on Main in Exton Pennsylvania, at the mall. The Exton Mall is a nice place that has the feel of a main street in a village. Funny how the malls killed the downtowns, then try to look like downtown.

Anyway, this is a nice casual place where you can eat indoors, or out on the sidewalk. We’ve been there twice before and had a good experience each time. This visit was no exception. I had the bacon cheeseburger and it was good, my wife had a buffalo chicken wrap that was also good. She had the mild sauce, with hot on the side. I tasted the hot and it does sneak up on you. Last time we were there I had the buffalo chicken sandwich, and the time before the chicken cheese steak sandwich. Both were quite satisfying and Liz took good care of us.

Sandwiches come with chips (American style chips, not the British style, although they are kettle-fried and good) but you can get an upgrade to shoestring sweet potato fries for a small charge.

Food is good, service is good, and they have a nice selection of beers. I recommend the Hop Devil by Victory, a local brew, which is on tap. Give them a try when you’re passing through Exton and you won’t be disappointed. Check out their website for more info.

Appetites on Main on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Grandma's Country Pies and Restaurant, Colonie

About fifteen years ago I was in Albany on business and was taken out for lunch to Grandma’s Country Pies and Restaurant on Central Avenue. It was good, real good. Later I took my wife there when we were shopping and it was real good then too.
A few years later we were at the LLBean store and remembered Grandma’s, but I forgot where it was. We drove up the road in the wrong direction, and gave up. This time when we went up I looked online, got the directions, and punched them in the GPS. Well there it was and it looked the same as fifteen years ago.
There was a busload there at the same time, but we got seated fast and the waitress took our orders. The food also came fast. Now here’s the thing, I remember the food as being really good. This visit I’d rank it as ‘okay’, nothing to rave about, but nothing to complain about. I wonder though if the food was the same as always, and that my tastes changed, or did it slide a bit in quality? My guess is that they are consistent and are making home-style food the way Grandma used to make and if that’s what you’re looking for, than definitely pay a visit.
Desert, however, was every bit of what I remembered. The pies are outstanding. I had the Napoleon Apple Pie and my son had the Berry Medley pie. That made the visit worth it.

Grandma's Pies & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 3, 2009

Victory Brewing Company

If you happen to be in Downingtown, Pennsylvania sometime, make it a point to check out Victory Brewing Company. I've been there twice before, once to eat and once to buy beer. This time the wait wasn't long so we ate, and had a couple of beers.

I had two great beers this time. The first was Uncle Teddy's Bitter, and the second was Hop Wallop.

The Uncle Teddy is a cask conditioned ale, very reminiscent of my visit to England. For those who don't know, a cask ale is brewed and placed in a cask in the basement from which it is drawn, or pulled. No additional carbonation is added so to the uninitiated it may seem to be somewhat flat. It is also kept at cellar temperature, about 45 degrees, so it may seem warm. This beer has a low alcohol level, only about 4.5% and even though it's called a bitter, there is nothing bitter about it. It has a nice sipping quality about it, similar to the Tetley's Bitter I had in Wales.

The Hop Wallop is a bit stronger at 8.5% alcohol and true to it's name, has a very hoppy taste. I like hoppy so it was good, but if you don't like hoppy, avoid it.

For more info on Victory, check out their website.