Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Red Robin- Wilmington, NC

I like Red Robin, yes I know it is a chain and I normally stay away from chains but I do like them. I find them generally consistent and a good value, plus when they screw up something they make up for it and are genuinely concerned. We stopped by the Wilmington location with a large group for a celebration and were not disappointed.

I had their new premium smoke and pepper burger at $13.50 and substituted the bottomless fries for an unlimited side salad (I am cutting back on what I eat and while I like fries, I find them to be unfulfilling calories). I ordered the burger medium, and it came out a perfect medium which is a feat that many high-end restaurants are incapable of. The ciabatta bun was fresh, the peppered bacon tasty and properly cooked, the cheddar cheese plentiful and perfectly melted. It was a very good burger worthy of the price and as good as any high-end burger I've ever had. 

We had six adults and three children, plus a baby who didn't eat, and the tab was just over eighty bucks including tip. Not bad at all. The service was excellent, Kayla was very attentive and efficient. There was one mixup on a burger and they apologized, replaced it, and comped it. That's why I like them, they really care about getting it right and pleasing the customer. 

Overall, Red Robin may be a large chain, but they are one of the few that get it right and I will continue to patronize them for a reasonable meal.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tower 7- Wrightsville Beach, NC

Tower 7 on Wrightsville Beach is part of a small chain of four restaurants, well five restaurants counting the coffee bar in the Tower location. I'd been to three of them, both of the K38's and Las Olas at Mayfaire and liked them, so today we stopped by Tower for lunch with two of our children to complete the set. It was a good choice. 

I ordered the fish bowl which had some perfectly fried tilapia in a taco bowl with lettuce, cheese, cabbage, avocado, and a neat dressing for ten bucks. It was filling, but not heavy in taste. Teresa got the vegi bowl at ten bucks and it was good as well. Rachel had the burrito, a huge one, and Mark got the poor surfer's plate. All told it was just under forty bucks with tax.

The service was good and friendly, the food was good, and the ambiance nice. Tower has the feel of a nice surf themed beach bar serving good food. My favorite of the chain is Las Olas, but this is a real close second. Stop by and see what I mean.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Carytown Burgers and Fries- Richmond, Va.

We stopped by Carytown Burgers and Fries on our way down the behated Interstate 95. It's a bit off the main road in a shopping mall in a confusing maze of one way streets. The restaurant a bit eclectic, bordering on eccentric. You order and pay downstairs and tell them if it is takeout or dine in. If it is dine in they bring it to you at the table. It took less than fifteen minutes from order to delivery, and they were fairly busy at the time.

I got the blue cheese burger with the "works", lettuce, tomato, onions, ketchup, mustard and mayo. It had plenty of blue cheese on it and the burger was pretty good. The bun was a bit stale. Teresa went with the regular burger with the "works" and she said it was okay. The total bill was under fifteen bucks, not bad. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Caleb's American Kitchen- Lahaska, Pa.

We've passed by Caleb's many times and I often wondered what it was like. Well, today we decided to stop in and see. On the outside it looks small and simple, on the inside it seems bigger and the decor is somewhere between casual, trendy, and sophisticated. You know, the kind of place where you could go in jeans and a t-shirt or a suit and tie. 

I ordered the tilapia fish tacos at sixteen bucks. There were three of them with a side salad and they were quite good. Teresa went with the burger at fourteen bucks and substituted a side salad for the fries. I tasted it and it was a good quality of meat cooked and seasoned perfectly. 

Overall, Caleb's is a nice place with good food. Stop by and see what I mean.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ship Lantern Inn- Milton, NY

In a word, amazing. The building which houses the Ship Lantern Inn predates the Revolutionary War and it has been a restaurant since 1925. A restaurant that has stood the test of time for 89 years must be doing something right. We were last there years ago, and I remembered it as having been excellent. Well, when we went for lunch today with my mother-in-law it was a wonderful experience, even exceeding my memories.

The dining room we sat in had a slate floor, wood walls, plenty of glass and a wooden beamed ceiling giving that slightly rustic colonial feel amplified by the roaring fire in the large fireplace. The waiters, men who have been there for many years, were dressed in tuxedos. On the walls hung nautical themed images and model ships reflecting the seafaring past of the Poughkeepsie area, there is even a ship's wheel in the entryway. I would call it a sort of rustic elegance wherein all of the elements worked well together and were not at all incongruous.

We were given three menus, the regular one, the specials, and the prix fixe menu. There were far too many dishes that interested me, but we all chose to go with the four course prix fixe menu at $24.50 each. We each had the soup du jour, a crab bisque, which was hearty and delicious. This was followed by a nice salad. Oh, and there was a delightful bread on the table as well. 

For the main course Mom and I went with the petit filet mignon with a béarnaise sauce, potatoes, spinach, green beans, and a mushroom quiche. Mine came out a perfect medium-rare and melted in my mouth, Mom's was a perfect medium-well just the way she likes it. Teresa went with the gnocchi dish and it was also delightful. 

Desert was included, so Teresa and I both had the chocolate pecan torte and Mom ordered the profiteroles. All were perfect. The prix fixe was an amazing value and we all left full, and satisfied. 

So overall; excellent food, charming atmosphere and impeccable service. The dishes came out perfectly spaced to allow for maximum enjoyment. The Ship Lantern Inn is the way a top level Continental restaurant used to be years ago without being stuffy or pretentious in the least. It is the epitome of class.

If you have not yet been there I suggest you do so, and soon. The Ship Lantern Inn is now on my list of favorites and we shall be returning soon, and often. There are so many items on that menu I want to try.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Derby Restaurant- Poughkeepsie, NY

The derby Restaurant in Poughkeepsie has been around since 1934, the first saloon to open in the city after prohibition. As such it has tons of character with a long bar, tons of wood, and plenty of room. The current owners have been there for about six years or so and they have improved the menu to make it more bistro. 

We stopped early on a Saturday afternoon and they had just opened so we had the place to ourselves. After quickly looking over the menus, I decided on the basic burger for nine bucks with cheddar cheese and added a house salad instead of the fries for an extra buck and a pint of Guinness. Teresa went with a rueben with a house salad for twelve bucks. We went for salads instead of fries as we are watching what we eat lately and didn't want to load up on calories from fries. 

The salads were quite large and fresh with a nice tangy balsamic vinaigrette. Teresa said her rueben was good and not greasy in the least bit. 

My burger was quite delightful. It was quality meat cooked to the medium that I ordered, perhaps even a bit below that medium, which is becoming a rarity of late. Sorry, no bad pun intended. The brioche bun was fresh, and the bacon was nice and crispy. Delicious and even though the juices were flowing from the meat, there was no greasy taste at all. It was a darn good burger.

Service was great too. Beth was friendly and attentive and after she commented on my camera we talked and I found that she is quite an accomplished photographer. 

Overall, a nice dining experience and we'd go back again. 

Derby Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Maxwell's on Main (MOM'S)- Doylestown, PA

Spicy Moms Burger

Maxwell's on Main is a neat restaurant done up in my favorite style. They have wood floors, exposed brick walls with dark wainscoting, and tin ceilings. There are two bars that I saw, one was on the ground floor and the second one upstairs with another dining area. The place has a feel of an old British public house mixed with that warm and inviting Pennsylvania colonial style. 

I saw this place the last time we went through town and put it on the short list. We stopped for lunch at two on a Saturday afternoon and while there were quite a few people there, we were seated right away. They have a rather extensive craft beer selection, but since I was in the midst of a long drive home I passed and went with water. Good cold water that they kept topping off for me. 

After looking over the menus we decided to go with burgers. Mine was the Spicy Moms burger with jalapeño cheese, fried jalapeños, and a side of sweet potato fries at eleven bucks. I ordered it medium and that is what I got, a perfect medium. It was quite deliscious. Teresa went with the special of the day which had hummus on it for eleven bucks as well. She opted for the salad. She said it was good, but just a tad less than the medium-well she'd ordered (the burger, not the salad). She ate it all though, but we'll keep this in mind when ordering next time.

Overall, a really nice friendly place with quaint ambiance and excellent food at reasonable prices. We'll be back.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Catherine's- Goshen, NY

Let me start by saying that the Kobe burger I had at Catherine's hit the burger trifecta. It was good meat, properly seasoned, and cooked to a perfect medium just the way I like it. Add in the fresh brioche bun and the perfectly fried tater tots and for fourteen bucks it was an amazing burger. If you look at the picture it almost looks like a smile was burned into the cheese when it melted. My smile while eating was similar. Teresa got the Cobb Salad at thirteen bucks and it was quite good as well. The chicken was plentiful and cooked perfectly. 

Catherine's is a neat restaurant in Goshen with two floors. The top floor is a white tablecloth restaurant and the downstairs is the pub, with a small room to the side. We ate downstairs and were given both the dinner and pub menus. We ordered from the pub menus, but there were some nice choices on the regular menu. 

Service was excellent and friendly, the food was excellent, the atmosphere charming, overall a nice experience and we'll be back again soon. Oh, and I strongly recommend that you make a reservation as they do get quite busy at times. We got there shortly after they opened for the evening and were lucky to get a table.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Basically Burgers- Doylestown, Pa

We drive past Doylestown often on our way to visit grandchildren, but we never actually go through the village. In looking for new places to try I came across Basically Burgers and we decided to pop in and see what they were all about. It turned out to be a good decision. 

It is a simple place and well appointed. You place your order and pay, then take a seat and they bring the food to you when it is finished. After looking through the choices I decided on a jalapeño popper burger (two patties, jalapeño slices, and cream cheese on a nice bun) for seven bucks. Teresa went with the Rueben burger (two patties, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing) at seven bucks as well. We decided to split a large (very large I might add) order of fries at three bucks and a black and white shake at $5.25.

The burgers were quite good, seasoned properly with that crispy flat-top texture. The fries, while of the frozen variety, were crisp on the outside and soft in the middle like they should be, and hot too. The shake was just the right thickness, you can draw it up through a straw without hurting yourself. 

Overall, a darn good burger joint and you should stop in and see what I mean. We'll hit them again.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hurley's American Grille

I caught an episode of Restaurant Impossible which featured Hurley's American Grille (formerly Edibles before Robert Irvine changed the name) and since we pass near it on the way to our daughter's I put it on the short list of places to try. I have a soft spot for places that are trying to turn themselves around and I find that the ones featured on Kitchen Impossible tend to be more inclined to succeed.

Like a TARDIS, it is bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside. The bar area and entranceway seemed untouched by the remodel, but still quite nice and inviting. The dining area has that Robert Irvine look of budget trendy, but tastefully done with an aeronautic feel to reflect the proximity to the Naval Air Station.

We both ordered the bacon bleu cheese burger at nine bucks. Mine was ordered medium and Teresa's medium well. Both arrived well done, but were still rather tasty having been seasoned properly. They were not dry at all. In fact, it was a darn good burger for the price. The bacon was a bit overcooked, but not bad though, and the blue cheese sauce was very good, either home-made or from a good supplier. The fries seemed fresh cut and were well executed. They were also ample.

The service was friendly and prompt. Overall, a good meal for two for under twenty bucks. I'd say they are better than average and definitely a good value. Stop by sometime and help keep them going.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Palate Cafe- Pine Bush, NY

Sausage French Toast

We were driving down the main street of Pine Bush today and saw this place on the corner, and it looked cute and interesting, so we popped in for a late breakfast after having fasted for our blood tests. 

Inside it is cute indeed with a French cafe feel, except that instead of Jacques Brill there was a classic rock station playing Duran/Duran. It is small, seating maybe 30 tops, and bright and cheerful. The staff was friendly and the owner popped over to see how we were enjoining our meal. She said that she'd only been open a few months. 

I was debating between a crepe and French toast and I went with the savory French toast at seven bucks. They have a different take on the dish with the sausage being cooking into the challah bread. It was quite delicious and quite filling. 

Ham and cheese quiche

Teresa decided on the quiche du jour at seven bucks which was ham and cheese. Again, the interpretation was unique with the quiche being a bit thinner and in more of a pastry puff. It was well executed and quite nice as well. We each had coffee, delightful coffee from Noble Roasters in Campbell Hall, and the total bill was about eighteen bucks. 

We will definitely be returning as I want to try the crepes, and the soups, and the pastries, and so much more. The Palate Cafe could very well become a new favorite. Stop by and see what I mean.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Cinnamon Indian Restaurant- Rhinebeck, NY

Chicken tandoori

I've had this place on the short list for about two years now ever since I tasted their samples at one of the Best of the Hudson Valley events. Unfortunately it is a bit off of our beaten path so today we made the effort to drive up to Rhinebeck and I must say I am so glad we did. The food was excellent.

They have a buffet on Sunday for $16.50, or you can order off the regular menu. Considering that we would have spent that much on an entree, we opted for the buffet. That way we could sample more options. Everything on the buffet was fresh, tasty and good. My favorite was the Ceylon chicken followed closely by the chicken tiki masala. There were plenty of chutneys for the delightful nan bread, the best being the mint chutney. They also gave us the chicken tandoori shown at top. I'm not usually a fan of tandoori as I find it dry, but this was done with dark meat and was juicy and full of flavor. 

The rice pudding at the end was quite nice with a taste of cinnamon and saffron. Overall, the meal was delicious and satisfying. We will definitely be making the trek north again. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Cauldron Revisited.

One of the things about doing this blog is trying out new places, but we often forget about our old favorites and neglect them. The Cauldron is a good example. We ate here a few times and liked it a lot, but we hadn't stopped by in some time so we decided to pop in. 

I'll have to say that I was glad we did. We shared an appetizer of Prosciutto e Formaggio Rotolo wich consists of Prosciutto di Parma, Fresh Mozzarella, and sliced Figs wrapped in filo dough for $11.25 and it was delightful. 

I decided on a burger instead of my usual veal dish and went for the Arrostito Maiale e Uovo Burger which translates to ground sirloin topped with prosciutto, sharp provolone cheese, an over easy egg, mesclun mix and a roasted red pepper aioli for $11.25. I ordered it cooked medium and that is exactly how it came out. It was a darn good burger.

Teresa got a Shrimp Napoli Panini and while it was good, she saw the entrees going to other tables and wished that was what she'd ordered. Well, next time. I just won't wait so long to go back.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Spain 92- Raritan, NJ

Spain 92 is one of those places that we've passed close to fifty times and said, "Hey, we should stop there sometime." Well, today was that sometime and I must say that it is something we should have done sooner, and will do again.

We stopped by at five o'clock on a Friday and there were only a few diners In the nicely decorated dining room with a clean and modern, yet European feel. We were seated near a window and given menus and water. Nice fresh rolls followed and we made our choices. 

I decided on the Ternera 92, veal stuffed with ham and cheese, and cooked in a lovely sherry sauce with capers for $24. The flavor profile was quite nice, think chicken cordon blue with a Spanish twist to it, and I used the remainder of the bread to mop up The sauce so I didn't miss a drop.

Teresa had one of the specials, a combination of shrimp and chicken with veggies and rice for $22. I tasted and it had a fresh, clean taste with a nice sauce. Very nice. They gave us a rather large plate of yellow rice, and a dish of fresh and hot home-made potato chips. Oh, and there was a soup course with a nice chicken soup while waiting for the entree. 

The service was excellent with a Continental feel, the food excellent, the prices reasonable, the ambiance pleasant and inviting. I definitely recommend Spain 92 and we will be back again.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Best of 2014

Here we are folks, the most anticipated, and longest, post of the year. That's right, this is the annual wrap-up of my yearly culinary adventures. I know, it's only October and here I am talking about the best of 2014 as if the year were over. I do have several places I want to squeeze in a visit to before the year ends, but most of my serious traveling ends when school starts. Besides, Hudson Valley Magazine has already done their Best of 2014, so why can't I? 

You may note the presence of a quite few seafood dishes, and shrimp seems to be in many of them. All of the restaurants listed are independents, no chains here with the exemption of one or two that have more than one location. I may add a few more entries before the end of the year. The links on the names will lead you to my original reviews. 

Best Burger- This was a tough one to decide on as there were so many to choose from. As a result I decided to do the best burger in each of the four regions I travel through, and write the most about. 

East Coast Burger Company
North Jersey- East Coast Burger Company in Ridgewood, NJ gets the nod here, edging out places like Smashburger, Vinburger, Bobby's Burger Palace and a few more. What the folks here have done is to take the concepts of the up and coming chains and improve on them in a local restaurant. They also have some amazing lobster rolls.
Wyebrook Farm Market and Cafe

Philadelphia- In the Lancaster area is a small town called Honey Brook. In the countryside you can find Wyebrook Farm Market and Cafe, a place that has taken farm-to-table to the max. They raise the beef, and the veggies right there and the cow you saw yesterday may be in your burger today. 


Fairfield CT- O'Brien's Sports Pub and Restaurant in Danbury makes a proper burger cooked exactly as ordered, and at a reasonable price.

Whisky Creek

Wilmington, NC- Whisky Creek Sports Pub is our new find in the Wilmington area. My favorite is the Jamie's Way burger which has a nice thick slab of capicola and a fried egg on a seriously good burger. Family friendly place too.

Cape Fear Seafood Company

Best Overall Seafood Dish- Grouper Saltimbocca at Cafe Fear Seafood Company, Wilmington, NC gets the nod for the most creative seafood dish I've ever had. Taking grouper and making it a saltimbocca is taking a risk, and creating an amazing dish. 

Royal Fish and Chips
Best Fish and Chips- Royal Fish and Chips in Bethel, CT has what I consider to be even better Fish and chips than any I've had in the UK and Ireland. Everything is cooked to order, and to perfection. Actually, they have ruined me for fish and chips anywhere else. 

Best Breakfast- One of the more interesting breakfasts I've come across is the shrimp and grits with an egg from The Dixie Grill, Wilmington, NC. Shrimp and grits is good anytime, and I could eat it everyday. Add the egg and there is a whole new dimension.

Joe Willy's
Best Seafood and Pasta- Shrimp Ravioli at Joe Willy's Seafood, Fishkill, NY is a delightful dish, especially when served over spinach drenched in garlic. 

Best Indian Food- This one goes to Citrus in New Windsor. I have an Indian friend who gave me the recommendation to try this place and it was amazing. My favorite, the shrimp Tiki Masala.

Chops Deli
Best Deli- Cold cuts are nice, but it takes some talent to create combinations which elevate simple cold cuts into a culinary creation. Chops, Wilmington, NC does that. 


Best Italian North- I couldn't make a final desision on the best Italian restaurant so I went with my favorite in the north, and my favorite in the south. Close to home the Nu-Cavu has been one of our favorites for years and my go to dish is the stuffed veal shown above. 

Terrazzo Trattoria

Best Italian South- South of the Mason/Dixon Line my favorite Italian place is Terrazzo Trattoria in Wilmington, NC. My favorite dish here is the Veal Margherita shown above. My second is the seafood Positano. Everything else there is great too. 

K-38 Baja

Best Fish Tacos- K-38 Baja Grill on Oleander in Wilmington is owned by the same people as Las Olas, Tower, and K-38 in Porter's Neck. The menus are similar and my favorite is the seafood tacos. 

Mister Sushi
Best Sushi- Mr. Sushi, Middletown, NY is hands down my favorite sushi place. Try the uni, sea urchin, sometime. 

Molly Maguire's

Best Irish- Molly Maguire's in Downingtown sits in the old firehouse and has the feel of a classy pub in the old country. I liked the Guinness and beef pie shown above.

Best Pan-Asian- One of the places I have to get to when we go to Wilmington is Indochine

Casey's Buffet

Best Buffet- Casey's Buffet and BBQ, Wilmington, NC. Southern home-style cooking and plenty of it. Everything on the buffet was very good and the staff made us feel like we were long time regulars. 

Epic Foods

Best Fresh Food Concept- Epic Foods, Wilmington, NC. Fresh food and fresh concepts. My favorites are the burgers and the salmon. 

Best Whisky- Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Deep smokey taste. 

Well, this was one darn fine culinary year for me. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

BGR The Burger Joint- Danbury, CT

BGR the Burger Joint is a small chain of burger restaurants that started out in the Philly area and now has spread to just under twenty locations scattered over the East Coast. I noted that there was one in Danbury, not sure how long it's been there, and we decided to try them out.   

Teresa went with the kids meal at $5.99. There were two sliders, fries and a drink and it was probably the best value there. She said her burgers were good and we shared the fries. The fries were quite good. Simple, yet seasoned properly, hot, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. 

The regular burgers cost $6.99 and you can add lettuce, tomato, onions and a few other things at no cost. Cheese, bacon, avocado, and other items cost .99 each. I decided to go with American cheese, lettuce, tomato and pickles to keep it simple and get the true taste of the burger.

They say that you can order the burger cooked the way you want it. Well, you can order it how you want, but they may not do it the way you want it. I ordered mine medium and it came well-done. This isn't a big deal, but please don't tease me with a choice only  to let me down.

The burger, overall, was good. The meat, in spite of being overcooked, was tasty and seasoned properly. The brioche bun was not quite fresh, and not quite stale. Let's call it middle-aged. A slight toasting would have taken care of that problem.

I got a chocolate shake for $4.99 and it was okay, if a bit thin. 

So, the bottom line. Two of us ate for about twenty bucks, the price we usually pay at places like this. The food was good, but nothing stellar. If I were to rank BGR on a scale from Five Guys to Smashburger, I'd place them dead center which would be three stars out of five.