Friday, December 31, 2010
There are two Blue Martini restaurants in the area. The first is located on the waterfront in Newburgh and the second opened a short while ago in the former Red Robin in Middletown off Crystal Run Road. We'd driven past here and thought about it, but it looked to be a bit upscale for my tastes. Today we were headed past and decided to take a look. We walked in and asked to look at a menu. Don't be afraid to do that at a restaurant because they never mind showing you one. This way you can check out the prices, and see if they have anything you want. We have looked at restaurant menus in the past and decided they weren't offering anything we wanted, or the prices were a bit high.
Well, the menu looked good and we saw a few things that sparked our interest. The lunch prices were reasonable with burgers starting at eight bucks and quite a few items priced between nine and eighteen dollars. We decided to eat there.
As we were seated I looked at the restaurant and found it hard to believe it was once a Red Robin as everything except the basic layout had changed. The new look was of a trendy restaurant that would feel at home in New York, Chicago or any other big market. It was done up in blues, whites and blacks. There was a sushi bar on one side, a large bar in the back with a lighted top (blue tinted of course), another bar (the old one from the Red Robin days, but redone), high booths on the side and tables in the middle. We were seated and given menus.
Our waiter arrived shortly, gave us water and took our order. I decided to try something different from a burger so I ordered the Lobster Macaroni and Cheese for $12.00. It had lobster essence (that's lobster broth in plain language), béchamel, lobster chunks, cheese, spinach and mushrooms. The portion was huge, see the top photo, and it was delicious with plenty of lobster chunks. I had to bring some home. Teresa had the Chef Special Panini for $9.00 which had chicken, pesto, peppers, and cheese as well as a side of fries. Her dish was very good too and it wasn't in the least bit greasy as some paninis can be. Two good choices and lunch for two for $21.00 plus tax and tip.
Dinner is of course more expensive. That Lobster Mac and Cheese I had goes for $21.00 at night. Add the price of a few drinks and you could easily spend some serious bucks here. But if you are careful, eat at lunch and drink water, you can eat here pretty reasonably. They have a website for more information.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
My sister-in-law Laura told me about this place and I'd been meaning to try them for a while now. Today I was near Newburgh to get new tires on the Mustang and decided to swing down Broadway for a late lunch. When I got there I saw a large banner proclaiming that they had been voted as one of the best burgers in the Hudson Valley. The banner didn't say who did the voting, but it intrigued me. Remember that scene in Elf where Buddy goes into the restaurant because the sign said World's Best Coffee? Well, that's what I was thinking.
Inside it is bright and clean looking with a rather extensive menu. In addition to burgers they have pizza, dogs, cheese steaks, and a whole bunch more. I looked for a minute and decided on the number one special, a cheeseburger, fries and a drink for $6.99. When I ordered the nice girl behind the counter asked of I wanted bacon, chili or cheese on the fries. I went with the bacon and cheese. That drove the total to $8.91, tax included. I was given my soda and was told to take a seat, they'd bring it to me when it was done.
I chose a table near the window for the available light, and because it was on the other side of the restaurant from the group of children who were a bit loud. After about five minutes, my food was delivered to me.
The burger was good, not great, but good. They claim that it is fresh meat, never frozen, and I believe them. It was as good as any lunch counter burger I've had, and better than most fast food places, but not as good as a Five Guys burger. The Fries were good, they looked like they were cut right there, but I would have liked them a bit crisper. Then too, the cheese may have sogged them out a bit too. There was a ton of cheese and bacon on them and there were a ton of fries. I couldn't finish them but that's probably best since I do have a cholesterol test in the future and I could hear my arteries closing as I ate.
I don't know who they claim voted them one of the best, but if they asked me I'd put them about in the middle of the pack. Better than most fast foods, but nowhere near the best in the Valley. The bottom line is that you should try them, just don't expect too much. They have a website where you can find the menu and locations, as well as some coupons. They don't say on it who voted them one of the best though. If you find out, let me know.
Update- I went back again and reviewed them, here's the link.
Update- I went back again and reviewed them, here's the link.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
A friend of mine, Ernie Davis, told me we had to try this place. He said the barbeque was excellent and the beer selection amazing. I'd been waiting for the opportunity to stop, it is a bit off our beaten path being in southern Putnam County and all, so today when we went to Danbury we detoured on the way home and stopped off for an early dinner.
Holy Smoke is a large red building located on Route 6N in Mahopac Falls, just south of Secor Road off the Taconic Parkway. Easy to find, but we did overshoot it and had to turn around. Entering through the bar I can see that Ernie was right about the beer. I saw quite a few tap handles and some signs announcing that they carried some good brands, including Victory. I decided to pass on the beer as it was early and I had a long drive to get home. Water would be a good choice.
One thing that struck me as we entered was the smell of smoke, the smell that should be present in a barbeque place. That smell was just right. It didn't knock you out and make your eyes water like some places I've been. That was a good sign. The really nice and pleasant waitress told us to sit wherever we wanted as it wasn't crowded at that time. We found a table and she brought us menus and the water we asked for. We looked over the menus and the waitress answered questions as she cleaned off the table next to us.
Well, we decided on the "PigNic", a combination that said it would feed two, for $32.75. It came with four items and the choices were; 1/4 rack of St. Louis ribs, 1/4 roasted chicken, Carolina Pulled Pork, Chorizo or Brisket and four sides. We doubled up on the ribs and had the pork and chicken (we substituted pulled chicken for the roaster) and for the sides had baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad and creamed spinach. Our waitress said it would be ready quick and I was relieved as the menu said that some of the items slow cooked for seventeen hours. I'm glad we only waited about ten minutes as the smell was making us hungry. Seventeen hours would have been hard.
The food was delicious. Quite possibly the best barbeque I've had, even better than Dreamland in Alabama. There was a smoke flavor to the meat that didn't overpower it, just right and with the right amount of heat. The Ribs were very good, the chicken was good and the Carolina Pork was excellent. The sides were great too, especially that creamed spinach with a hint of cheese in the background. The only thing wrong with the food was that there was just too much of it. The menu said it would feed two, but we could have fed four with the portions served. Trust me, we tried our hardest to keep eating but we filled up. We brought enough home for tomorrow's lunch, and a bit more.
If you like barbeque you really need to stop by and try this place out. Good food at good prices, friendly service and a good beer selection. Visit the website for more information.
Posted by Chris Forman at 6:11 PM
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The time has come once again to list my favorites from the past year. This time I've decided to break it down by region and give the best restaurants for each area, and the best overall burger and brew of the year. The criterion was simple. I made the decisions on my own based on a loose formula balancing food quality, price, service, atmosphere and the number of hits the reviews have received. The search will begin anew in January for another year. Another year of hunting down good places to eat at reasonable prices. Simple food for for regular people is what this blog is about and I'm willing to go out there and sample places just to make your lives easier. Oh, the sacrifices I make for my readers.
Dutchess County- Beacon Falls Cafe, Beacon
Good food with friendly service. Bob and Linda will take good care of you.
Montreal- La Creme de la Creme Cafe
Charming place with tons of atmosphere, good food, and friendly service. Worth a trip to Montreal just to eat there.
Orange County- Garrison's Tavern and Wine Cellar, Montgomery
Small, warm, and pleasant is how I would describe this restaurant. Get the clams or the calamari.
Pennsylvania- The Drafting Room, Exton
Great beer selection, good service, good food. Try the Sunday brunch sometime. They make a killer eggs Benedict.
Ulster County- Nu-Cavu in Wallkill
Once again this is the best. I've eaten there many times and they are consistently good. This will become one of your favorites I'm sure.
Wilmington NC- Front Street Brewery
A brew pub has to have either good beer or good food. Front Street has both and a friendly, yet edgy atmosphere. Hit them in the late afternoon for the specials and try the beer of the day. My favorite is the Port City IPA.
Best burger of the year- Main Street Bistro, New Paltz
I love this place. The food, the prices, the service, the eclectic feel about it. The restaurant just says this is a place for regular people to eat. Try the Guaca Baca Burger, that was the best of 2010 for me.
Best brew of the year- Hurricane Kitty from Keagan Ales
Saturday, December 4, 2010
One of our favorite places to eat has been Napoli's in New Windsor. We discovered them years ago when our daughters were involved in winter track and we stopped by for a sandwich on the way down to West Point for a late Friday night meet. The sandwiches were good and we went back for dinner, next thing you know, we were hooked. I don't think I can count the number of times we've been there and it was great every time. Good food and friendly service. I even used the restaurant as a setting in one of my Maria Hart Mystery books. Feel free to click on the links on the right of the blog and buy a copy should you be so inclined.
Well, I heard they closed and I was disappointed. That is until I found out they just moved up the street and combined with their other restaurant, Gloria's Griddle and Grill at 306 Windsor Highway. We'd eaten there before and liked it too, so we stopped by to check out the new combination. When we pulled into the parking lot it was full, a good sign they were doing well. When we got in we discovered that the restaurant was full (diners plus a large 40th birthday party), with one booth open.
When we looked at the menu there was a dilemma. I pondered the merits of the veal sorrentino and the veal saltimbocca, two of my favorites from Napoli's, and weighed them against lighter Gloria's offerings such as a burger or a sandwich. Teresa was torn between the penne puttanesca and the potato gnocchi. It took awhile to decide, but there was nice warm bread to eat while we looked. The final decision was zuppa di pesce for me (top photo) and the penne puttanesca for Teresa (bottom photo). I've been trying the seafood more at Italian restaurants lately and eating less veal. Not because I'm anti veal mind you. It's more that the seafood has more flavor. Both of our meals came with a salad, a rather large salad at that. I got gorgonzola crumbles on mine with the balsamic vinaigrette.
Teresa's dish was every bit as good as I remember it being, and far too big. She wound up bringing almost half of it home. Mine was delightful. Shrimp, mussels, clams, scallops, calamari and petite lobster tails in a slightly spicy (the heat wasn't overpowering) sauce over linguini. Every bit of seafood was perfectly cooked. I would rank this as a close tie to the pescadore at the Nu-Cavu and far better than most seafood dishes I've had. It was also too much and I brought home what seemed like close to a half pound of pasta without the seafood. That part I finished.
Total bill was thirty-eight bucks (tax included) plus tip. You can find items from eight buck up to about twenty-five. Reasonable prices for good food. They have a website to give directions and stuff, but they haven't added the Napoli's items to it. Oh, they have a place in Washingtonville, NY too. Stop by sometime and you'll be a fan too.
Posted by Chris Forman at 7:43 PM