Monday, August 22, 2011

The Eat Spot, Wilmington, NC

The Eat Spot bills itself as Wilmington's only gatropub. Now gastropub, the term originated in England, is best defined as a bar or pub that serves high end food. My first experience with a gastropub was at The Three Stags in London so I thought I'd see what the American interpretation of the word was, plus I'd heard some good things about The Eat Spot and we were hungry.

It sits at the corner of Princess and Front Street in Downtown Wilmington and doesn't look all that big from the outside, plus it looks a bit plain. Inside however, there is quite a bit of room and there is a large wooden bar, probably oak, in a bright finish. There are plenty of tables and a small area on the second floor loft. That's where we sat, upstairs. There were four adults and three children in our party and our server (I'm sorry I can't remember his name but he was very good and personable) took our drink order. Water, club soda and chocolate milk for the kids. I later ordered a local IPA.

After looking at the menus we decided. My son-in-law and I both had the cheeseburger with bacon added which came to $9.75 each. We got the PBR battered onion rings in place of the fries and that proved to be one of the best decisions I've ever made. Those rings were amazing, probably the best I've ever had and that's saying something. Crispy with a hint of the beer flavor coming through. Finally there is an acceptable use for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Okay, when I was younger and it was the cheap beer I had quite a bit of it but with good micro-breweries out there there is no reason to have it now.

Teresa had the Veggie sandwich at $7.99, grilled vegetables of al kinds, even Brussels sprouts, with fresh chips. She said it was very good. The kids had chicken fingers with fries at $5.00, the same thing they get everywhere so they are connoisseurs of the dish and they liked them. My daughter had the strawberry and brie salad. When she started to eat it she said the salad didn't seem fresh so we pointed it out to the waiter and he said he'd take care of it. A few moments later he returned with a new plate and it was excellent. Never be afraid to point out a problem with a meal in a good restaurant as the chef will be happy to make a correction. They want everything to be right.

Overall we had great food at reasonable prices with great service. I even had a chat with the manager and he told me that the owner was in the kitchen cooking. Nice touch. I'd recommend The Eat Spot for a good meal and a few beers. They certainly live up to the name gastropub. Make sure you order the onion rings. They have a website for more information, or you can facebook them.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Carolina Girls Grillin' Cafe, Wilmington, NC

I read about this place once and threw it in the back of my mind to stop by and try them, but every time I passed them on College I wasn't hungry. Well, finding myself on College and being hungry, I decided to stop.
Inside it's nice with a long kitchen/prep area so you can watch the ladies prepare your food, and see that they keep a clean looking kitchen. On the other side are tables. I looked at the menu and decided on the Cubano Sandwich, shown here.

What you see is half of the sandwich on a plate at home. It was quite good and large with flavor probably coming mostly from the pork. Teresa had a quesadilla which looked good as well.
Next time I head down College I'll make sure I'm hungry so I can stop by and try a few more things on the menu.
There are two locations, one is on Castle Hayne Road and the other on College. They have a website for more information and it has a short video which shows the interior of the restaurant.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Caprice Bistro, Wilmington, NC

We were in Wilmington on Bastille Day this year and we'd already eaten at another place when we looked at the menu at the Caprice Bistro and said, "Darn, we should have eaten here." Well this time when we were walking downtown we stopped by and looked at the menu. After about thirty seconds I saw what I wanted and asked Teresa if she saw anything. She said there were a few things that interested her so in we went.

Caprice Bistro is small and looks like every bit like a French bistro. We were seated right away, they weren't that busy, and our waiter Jay appeared. He was very pleasant, personable and helpful. I knew what I wanted, the escargots gris (shown above) and the duck confit (shown below). Teresa decided to get out of her comfort zone and she ordered the pork tenderloin (bottom photo) instead of a chicken dish.

Jay brought us fresh bread and soon the escargot arrived. The smell was delightful and the taste even better. The snails were perfect and were swimming in a garlic sauce that I sopped up with the bread. A small bowl of heaven for eight bucks. Normally I prefer my escargots Burgundy style, but this was amazing and I could have eaten a soup bowl of it. Next up were the entrees. Between the two dishes the table smelled wonderful. My duck was perfectly cooked with crispy skin and tender meat that fell off the bone. It came with grilled potatoes and a small salad with the house dressing and each component blended in sweet harmony with the others. More than eating, it was a sensual experience of French comfort food done right.

The pork was equally good with an amazing sauce and fresh mashed potatoes and carrots. We passed a few things back and forth to try and at one point I wound up with some food in my water glass. No problem, Jay immediately replaced the glass for me.

The total bill was $44.51 plus tip for a gourmet meal. We looked at the deserts and while a creme brulee and coffee would have been the perfect finish, we were full. Next time though. Maybe next time I'll go on a Wednesday when they have rabbit.

So the bottom line. Service, impeccable. Food, perfect. Ambiance, very good. Prices, reasonable. Stop in sometime and enjoy a classic French meal. It will fill your belly and warm your heart. They have a website for more information.

Update 04/13/12- We went back for another meal and it was simply amazing. I got the mussels Bruxelles and Teresa got the Coq au Vin. My mussels were the best I've ever had. They were cooked in beer, garlic (lot's of garlic), mustard and cream.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Winner's Circle, Exton, PA

Yes, that picture is what you think it is. It is a burger with bacon and cheese on a glazed donut, and yes I did eat it. It is called the Krukker and it was from The Winner's Circle in Exton, Pennsylvania. I'll get back to the burger in a minute.

Winner's Circle is a sports bar in Exton across the street from the mall. It is fairly bright and adorned with sports memorabilia and plenty of televisions. The wait staff is friendly and the service is good. There is a good beer selection and I decided on Hop Devil from Victory. The menu has some good choices, but I focused on the burgers. You can build your own burger; choose the meat, choose the roll and choose two toppings. The combinations looked good, until I looked at the craft burgers and saw the Krukker for $9.00. That was what I was going to build anyway. It was a half-pound burger with American cheese and bacon on a glazed donut. With it came an ample supply of fries and a wet-nap.

The burger was good. I'd ordered it medium and it was past medium-well, but still tasty. The sweetness of the glazed donut combined nicely with the saltiness of the bacon and the taste of the beef. The glazed donut however was sticky and messy, hence the wet-nap. I've seen this done elsewhere and they invert the donut so the sticky side faces the burger. While not as pretty, this practice makes it easier to eat. Overall it was good, but I think I'll try some other combinations next time we go there.

Actually, one of the main reasons we went was that on Tuesdays kids eat for a buck. My grandson had a hot dog, yogurt, apple slices and an ice-cream for a dollar and my wife and daughter got wraps. Good food and good service. They have a website for more information.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Greek City, Ramsey, NJ

Now here's one of those places we stumbled upon quite by chance and we almost passed it up. We were in Jersey to do some shopping when Teresa wanted to stop at the Kohl's in Ramsey. As we were leaving I noted what looked like a small place in the mall with a sign that said Greek Food, or something like that. We debated and decided to try it out, figuring it to be a hole in the wall dive.

Well, inside it looked totally different. It looked classy. So classy that we looked at the menu before deciding to eat there. We found a nice selection and the prices were okay so we went in. We were seated at a table, but the booths are cooler with frosted seats and lights behind them. We were given water, bread and a small bowl of kalmati olives. The waiter brought a plate by to show us the daily fish selection and gave us time to decide.

Teresa decided on the Chicken Souvlaki (above) at $17.00. Those lovely things in the front are lemon roasted potatoes, which were delicious. I am not a big potato fan, but I could eat those every day. It also had a good tzatziki sauce and the chicken was good.

I went out of my comfort zone and instead of ordering the Gyro platter at $15, I got the Kohilia Lakonia at $25. Pan seared sea scallops over fresh spinach with garlic and olive oil. When it came I was a bit disappointed as it looked small, but at the end there was just plenty on the plate. On top of that it was quite well done. The scallops were perfectly seared and the spinach was just right.

I was considering dessert, but passed this time. Next time I want to try the one of the calamari dishes and see how their saganaki is. Oh yes, we will be back again, and again.

In short, the food was excellent, ambiance pleasant, the prices fair, and the service good. It does take some time for the food to come, but well worth the wait. You need to try this place sometime. They have a website for more information. By the way, lunch prices are cheaper.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Poppy's, Beacon, NY

Poppy's is a small place in Beacon, New York and the only reasons I knew about it is that the owner was on Chopped on the Food Network, he won, and that someone I know is somehow related to him. Outside of that I would have driven by and never spotted the place. Instead I looked it up and figured out where it is.

Like I mentioned, it is small and I saw on his website that he was doing some remodeling, either that or he's going for a real rustic look. Either way, it is a bit Spartan in there. The menu is simple, burgers, fries, sloppy Joe's and tomato sandwiches. Drinks are in bottles and he does have Goose Island Orange Cream soda. That alone was worth the trip.

We each got the classic small burger at six bucks which included cheese, grilled onions and a small cup of pickles. We shared a small fries (more than enough for two) and two drinks. About twenty bucks. The burgers were from grass fed, organic, local beef and they were quite good. The fries tasted fresh cut and they were good as well, but I would have liked them to be a bit crispier.

Okay, it was a good burger and fries. Was it great? No. If you are in Beacon, stop in for a burger, but don't go too far out of your way if you aren't in Beacon. They have a website for menu and stuff.