Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Fireplace Restaurant, Ramsey, NJ

I have passed this place hundreds of times. Sometimes I wondered what it was like and wanted to stop but Route 17 was busy and by the time I could get into the right lane I was already past it. Other times I'd already eaten. Well, today I made the effort to be in the proper lane and we stopped by. I'm glad we did.

Remember those restaurants on the side of the road before the Clown, the King and the red-headed girl with the pigtails took over? Well, that's what The Fireplace Restaurant is. This place isn't a retro burger place like so many companies are trying to create, this is the real thing like it used to be. It was started in the late fifties by an FBI agent and his family. 

You place your order at the counter, pay them, and wait a few minutes. Your order is handed to you on a tray and you find a seat. Simple and pretty quick. 

We ordered three cheeseburgers, a combo of fries and rings and a vanilla shake. The total? Fourteen bucks. The burgers were good, not phenomenal, but good. You can tell they're either flame broiled of car-grilled because you can taste it.  The shake was nice with just the right amount of thickness. The rings were okay and the fries were a tad undercooked. You could tell the fries and rings were frozen, but they were good quality. 

There are three sections to the restaurant. The burger counter (they offer a lot of other things too), the pizza counter upstairs, and the breakfast counter in the back that was closed when we were there.

The bottom line is that you really should stop by and taste a bit of Americana past at its best. They're better than any fast food place (except for a Five Guy's or a Jake's) and comparably priced. They have a website for directions, menu and all that stuff.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jake's Wayback Burgers, Thorndale, PA

Jake's Wayback Burgers is a burger chain started in Delaware back in 1991 and they are beginning to spread throughout the Pennsylvania area. I spotted one in Willow Grove awhile back and it looked interesting, but on the wrong side of the road to stop. When one opened in Thorndale I decided to see what they are all about.

Inside the restaurant has a nice warm feel to it with a burgundy and tan motif. Looking at the menu there are a few choices beyond the traditional burgers such as; chicken, salads, garden burgers, turkey burgers, chili and hot dogs. Oh, and they have milk shakes in quite a few flavors. 

I ordered the regular cheeseburger (a two patty burger) at five bucks with ketchup, mustard and pickles. I like them simple. I made it a combo with large fries and a drink for $2.99 more. We got a kid combo, burger, fries and drink for two bucks for the grandson and added a shake too. The burger was quite delicious. It reminded me of an old fashioned grilled counter burger, just like the first one I ever had. It was not greasy and it tasted fresh. The fries were very good, but needed seasoning. That was easily fixed with a little salt from the shaker on the table.

The way it works is that you place your order and pay, they ask you for your name instead of giving you a number, and you take a seat. When your order is done they bring the order to you and even clean your table for you.

The big danger here is to compare them to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Okay, I guess I have to. I would put the fries a step above Five Guys and the burger on a par with them. The edge goes to Jake's for the greater variety of offerings for my non-burger friends. The only down side is they don't have peanuts to eat while you wait. I will definitely be visiting this Jake's again, and when I see one along the road I will make it a point to stop. They have a website for locations and menu.

We stopped at the Willow Grove location and were not as satisfied. The fries tasted like common frozen fries, not fresh cut, and the meat seemed bland. They may vary from location to location so I'd be careful. 

Sly Fox Brewery and Eatery , Phoenixville, PA.

Pennsylvania is full of good brew pubs and I like brewpubs. They have everything a guy could ask for, beer and burgers and sometimes both the beer and the burgers are very good, like Front Street Brewery in Wilmington. Sometimes they are not, such as Capitol City in DC where both are not too good. My daughter and son-in-law had been to Sly Fox before and said it was good, plus we had a dining coupon, so off we went.

We had the Imperial IPA and it was quite tasty with a nice happiness to it, but not overpowering. We sampled the two bitters, but stuck to the Imperial for the refills. The bitters were good, but the Imperial was excellent. 

The dining coupon was for two appetizers and four entrees (sandwiched and burgers included). We ordered the chicken fingers, Buffalo style and the Nachos for appetizers. The chicken came out quite spicy, juicy and the portion was big. The nachos were ample, but there was nowhere near enough cheese on them.

Brian and I each had the Birchrun Black and Blue Burger at $9.00. It had cajun seasonings, plenty of blue cheese and came on a brioche roll. We both ordered them medium and they  were much closer to well-done. Teresa got the Swedesford Burger with sautéed mushrooms and Swiss cheese. She ordered it medium well and it was well-done. The burgers were good and flavorful, but a bit dry as they were overcooked. The cajun spices did add a mild heat and the roll was fresh. They both came with fries and they were good.

For my grandson we ordered the children's chicken fingers with fries, milk and ice cream. His portions were large and even though he is a champion eater at two years of age, half of his food came home with us. 

Speaking of takeout, they have cans, growlers and 22 oz bottles of selected beers for sale. The bottom line? 
  • Prices good
  • Beer very good
  • Food okay to very good
  • Service good
They have a website for more information. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Panda House, Danbury CT.

We tried The Panda House in Danbury a few years ago and found it to be good, but not stellar enough to have gone back right away. Today we were debating where to eat and decided to give them another try. We were there at half past four on a Saturday, so they weren't crowded, but they started to fill up as we ate.
I'd forgotten that they were a Japanese and Chinese restaurant so I concentrated on the Japanese part of the menu and I ordered the sushi appetizer at $8.95 and there were four nice pieces on the plate; tuna, salmon, shrimp and yellowtail. It took a while to get to the table, and I saw the sushi chef working away, so it must have been fresh. My salad (lettuce with a sort of spicy russian-like dressing) and the miso soup came before the sushi. The miso soup had seaweed, tofu and I think a fish base to it, too much of it actually, and it wasn't that good, and it was a bit smelly. The sushi was tasty though. 

Teresa got the Moo Shu Pork at $9.50 and I ordered the Shrimp Tempura at $17.95, which came with the salad and soup mentioned above. Yes, the prices are a bit high. I tasted the Moo Shu Pork and it was good, as was my tempura. The shrimp tasted fresh and there were sweet potatoes, beans, an onion ring and a carrot in the mix as well. The batter was right and they were fried just right. 

My overall impression is that the food is good, for the most part, the service was okay and the prices are a bit high. Will we go back? Yeah, but we won't be rushing. They have a website for more information.