Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Rivers Bend Grill

13283 Rivers Bend Boulevard  
Chester, VA 23836

                 After every party Amanda and I throw we always go out to eat for lunch.  This time our lunch crew was smaller than usual, just Amanda, Beans, Theron, Esther and myself.  We try to always go somewhere different, this time I decided on somewhere that even I have never been to, The Rivers Bend Grill. Just like All in One Subs, I pass by the place every day on my way to work but have never stopped to try it out.
                Online the place looks awesome. The food looks great and it appeared to have a lively atmosphere. It may have been the time we went, 11:30 on a Sunday morning, but the place was dead. You could have heard a pin drop at the other end of the restaurant. It was sparsely decorated and had little to no character. It looked like every other cookie cutter “grill” out there. The waitresses were all very friendly but a little on the slow side.  Amanda and I started out with an order of fried green beans.  They came out quickly and where piping hot and extremely delicious. They were nice and crispy on the outside but soft and tender on the inside.  I love fried beans and these ones were very good. It came with a Creole style sauce that was good but not the best I’ve ever had with green bean fries. 
                After looking at the menu online, I had set my mind on ordering the “Big Daddy” burger.  It really wasn’t anything too special but for some reason, even after looking at other great sounding things on the menu, I had to get the “Big Daddy”  for $7.99.  It was burger with two types of cheese, bacon, fried onion petals and their signature Creole sauce.  It came with your choice of chips, fries, or vegetables.  In an effort to try to be semi-healthy I ordered it with vegetables, the California blend a mix of broccoli cauliflower, carrots and onions. By the time we had finished our green bean fries our meals were ready. My burger was decent sized but not exactly what I would call a “big daddy.” It did have a good amount of cheese and two huge strips of bacon but it was a little skimpy on the onion petals and the Creole sauce. The burger was ok but definitely not spectacular. I have had much better burgers at plenty of different places for the same price or less. To make it worse, the vegetables, which I only ordered to appear healthy, were anything but. They were over cooked making them limp and soggy.
                Overall, The Rivers Bend Grill was a non-event. Even the great company I had with me could not revive it. To date, it is my least favorite place that we have ever gone for an after party lunch.  It was not actually bad;  but it also was not anything special.  The menu was very typical of most restaurants burgers, sandwiches, ribs, chicken, ect.  More likely than not I will not be going back to the River’s Bend Grill; not because I hated it but because there are other places that are just like it but better.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Quiznos’ Lobster and Seafood Salad Sub

        I love lobster rolls! They are probably one of my favorite foods, but because they are extremely expensive I do not get to eat them very often. Sometimes I do make my own at home using artificial lobster meat, mayo, old bay, lemon juice and Hawaiian bread with great results but they do not touch a real lobster roll.  Subway has a nasty seafood sub that I wouldn’t even feed my dog (to be honest though I do really spoil my dog and only give him the best of the best).  Last year, Panera Bread came out with one that I tried and liked but it was an astounding $17!  Recently Quiznos has been advertising a new Lobster and Seafood Salad sub that at least looks very appetizing. I believe that Quiznos has the best subs of any chain restaurant.  They pack on a lot of fresh, juicy meat and all of their subs are toasted to perfection so I figured that this sub would be no different but might crazy expensive like the one at Panera’s.  To my delight the Lobster and Seafood Salad sub was only $6.50 the same price as most of the other subs but this also made me leery, thinking that it might be just like Subway’s seafood sub.
                The sub came on a toasted roll and I added lettuce, tomatoes and a squirt of lemon juice. There was not a huge amount of meat on the sub compared to the others but it was a decent amount.  I really appreciate Quizno’s honesty in advertising because it was definitely a seafood salad with bits of lobster in it. That being said it did have a nice seafood flavor to it and was not overly mayonnaisy.  The lettuce and tomatoes added bulk that made the sub substantially better. The size of fresh lemon on the sub really brought all of the flavors together into one cohesive unit.  Overall the sub was Ok for the price. It knocks the pants off of Subways but doesn’t touch mine or Panera’s.  I will more than likely not order it again because Quizno’s has much better subs and because I really do not eat at chain places often. But if you are craving a quick seafood fix it is a much better deal than the seafood sub at Subway or any of those nasty fish sandwiches that are being sold at every other fast food restaurant.

Captain Tom’s Seafood

1717 Boulevard 
Colonial Heights, VA 23834

In my last post, I mentioned how Amanda and I tried to go to Red Lobster to get dinner because I had a gift card there but were met with a 40 minute wait so we walked out and decided to eat elsewhere. Since we were both in the mood for seafood we decided to go to Captain Tom’s Seafood on the Boulevard in Colonial Heights. The sign in front of the restaurant, while missing a letter or two, claims that Captain Tom’s has “the best seafood in Virginia.” I thought any restaurant ballsy enough to proclaim that their seafood is the best in Virginia must have some delicious seafood.

                To our delight it was open at 7:30pm on a Sunday; many other locally owned restaurants we passed were closed. As we walked in, we could tell that the place was a little on the dumpy side but I thought of it more as it having character than actually being trashy. Inside it goes for the over-the-top ocean and fishing décor everywhere -little tackily I must say. It made me feel like I was at a little seafood shack at the beach. We seated ourselves and after waiting for about five minutes I finally stopped one of the waitresses who kept walking right past us to ask for menus. As soon as we had our menus in hand our waiter was quickly at our table taking our drink order, two waters and a basket of hush puppy rings. The hush puppies were bland. The wait staff was very friendly but a little rough to say the least.

                The menu was large but this was mainly due to the fact that everything was listed twice once as fried and once as broiled. It had everything that you would expect - a variety of fish, shellfish and crab cakes. The only non seafood items were chicken tenders and a few things on the children’s menu. Since Amanda and I are practically an old married couple we both ordered the exact same thing, the broiled crab cake plate with a sweet potato and a salad for $10.00. 

                Almost immediately we had our salads. A very simple salad, bare bones, and seemed like it was sitting already made in the refrigerator for a few hours. The blue cheese dressing was very good though full of large chunks of blue cheese. It made up for the skimpy salad. After we finished our salads our crab cakes were ready and being served.  We each had two and a decent sized sweet potato. The crab cakes smelled ok but looked a little sketchy inside and out. The crab meat mixture was very unappetizing, looking brown and stringy. They did not taste horrible but were in my opinion extremely salty, almost like they just pulled the crabs out of salt water.  The amount of crab in the cakes was not terribly slim but also not chocked full and it was definitely not jumbo lump. The worst part was not the lack of crab but that it was brownish in color and so salty. The sweet potato was cooked well but only served with butter, no brown sugar in sight.
                There are places in the Tri-Cities with far superior crab cakes but probably none other than Captain D’s that have them for a better price. Other people’s food at Captain Tom’s looked and smelled very good.  Fried fish, shrimp and scallops I saw  brought to other tables looked good, so I cannot in good faith tell you not to go to Captain Tom’s because I bet some of their other seafood is great but I do recommend skipping the crab cakes

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Brickhouse Run

407-409 Cockade Alley
Petersburg, VA 23803

                Last Friday was Amanda’s 25th birthday. Because she was out of town on a business trip and did not get home until 10pm Friday night we had to take her out to dinner Saturday night. This worked out perfectly though because I was planning a surprise birthday party for her and birthday dinner was the perfect excuse to get her out of the house so my parents and our friends could get everything up and shuttle people back and forth without her growing suspicious. When Amanda’s parents decided on Brick house Run I was very excited; not only was it close to home but it also serves very good food.
                The Brickhouse Run is located in historic downtown Petersburg on a cobblestone alley. This five block area is the only nice part of the entire city. The restaurant is a stylized version of an old fashioned British Pub. Everything about it screams Britain from the Union Jack flying outside to the paintings on the walls. It is dark and a little dreary like one expects a British pub to be. The menu mimics the décor of the restaurant.  It is a very British menu and they serve very British beers.  The menu ranges from Welsh rarebit and fish and chips to Sheppard’s pie and bangers and mash. They have recently updated the menu, taking off some items and adding a few more Americanized southern dishes like pork chops and shrimp and grits. I have been to Brickhouse Run a few times but always on their Wednesday night burger night. On Burger night you can get a burger anyway you could possibly ever want and fries for $9 so I’ve never had anything from there other than very delicious and outrageous burgers. 
                Like every other time we’ve ever been, Amanda and I started out with the Welsh Rarebit. Welsh rarebit is a delicious appetizer of crabmeat in a gravy type sauce over their homemade bread. It is to die for. The crab is sweet and its flavor shines throughout the gravy and their bread is baked on premises and is absolutely delightful.  If you ever follow any of my recommendations follow this one and order the Welsh rarebit at Brickhouse Run.  Order it and a few beers and you’ll be good.  For my main meal I decided to order their new shrimp and grits. It came with cheese grits and chorizo sausage. A couple of months ago Amanda made Paula Dean’s shrimp and grits and I’ve been hooked ever since. ( I swear that Paula Dean’s shrimp and grits was the best homemade meal I’ve ever eaten. Please try her recipe. ) I digress.  While we waited for our meal we munched on their delicious homemade bread and watched Amanda open a few of her presents. By the time she had finished opening her presents our food had arrived.
                Everyone’s food looked amazing. Amanda’s pork chops looked like nothing I’ve ever seen before, not your typical pork chop but a mammoth looking piece of meat covered in a delicious bourbon pear sauce. Andrea’s stuffed chicken took up the entire plate and was oozing cheese and ham, Amanda Grandmother’s fish from her fish and chips hung over both sides of the plate. By far the most unimpressive looking plate was mine. I had 6 shrimp hanging out around two small mounds of grits with a few chopped up pieces of sausage in a puddle of a red vegetable type sauce.

                At first I really did not care for the taste of it all together. I felt that the vegitable sauce that it was in over powered it and did not go as well as Paul Dean’s creamy sauce. Also the chorizo sausage felt like an afterthought that was just put there because there is suppose to be sausage with shrimp and grips which I agree with that because otherwise it can be a little bland.  Finally I got fed up and cut up the shrimp and mixed everything thing together.  This is when it finally started to taste good. The flavors finally blended together to create one cohesive taste.  But all in all the shrimp and grits were not nearly half as good as Paula Dean’s.
                I highly recommend checking out Brickhouse Run. It is a great place to take a break from the usual restaurant. The place in quaint and charming and really transports you somewhere new. Usually the food is really great but I would stick to their tried and true English faire because they still need to work on their more American southern style plates. 

All in One Subs

245 E Hundred Road
Chester, VA 23836

                A couple of months ago a new restaurant opened in the shopping center next to Sheetz on E Hundred Road (Route 10) in Enon. It is a unassuming little place called All in One Subs.  I figured that it was a chain but I still wanted to check it out. It took awhile for me to get the chance because it is not open when I drive past it on my way to work in the morning, it is too far to drive to for lunch, and Amanda always has something good cooking for dinner. This last Friday I was finally afforded my opportunity. Amanda was out of town and I had a lot of running around to do so I had to grab something quick and easy.
                I pulled up to two guys standing outside of the restaurant smoking. When they saw that I was heading inside they quickly put out there cigarettes and ran inside to help me.  Inside the place is very small with just a few tables and chairs. One wall was covered with a large chalk board where you are asked to write whatever you like as long as it was “G” rated . There were a few pictures and statements claiming that All in One Subs has the best subs in the area. There were also pictures on the walls showing why All in One Subs are superior to all others, I did not quite understand this until I saw them making my sub.  The set up was a little confusing as to where to order and where to pick up. Once I found the counter I looked behind it at the menu posted on the wall. The menu was rather small but very neat looking. There were a few different types of subs, some make- your-own and a list of unique slaws. After going to subway forever many people might feel that the prices were a little expensive but I did not think that the prices were bad and you have to remember that you get what you pay for. I ordered a hot small Italiano consisting of Pepperoni, Salami, Ham, Provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo and Italian dressing for $4.99. I added banana peppers and ordered a side of Salami Slaw which cost $0.99.

                I did not discover the concept of the restaurant nor did I understand the pictures on the walls until I saw them make my sub. First they take the sub roll and use a weird machine to hollow it out. They warmed up the meats and cheese in an aerated half cylinder type holder. They then topped the meats and cheese with the lettuce, tomatoes, onions and Italian dressing.  They coated the entire inside of the sub with mayo. Finally, they skillfully slid all of the insides into the sub wrapped the sub in paper leaving the opening unwrapped and placed it inside of a cup.  After seeing it, I finally understood the pictures and thought how great of idea doing this actually is. It makes it so much easier to eat and a lot less messy so they do not have to skimp on the servings.
                Not only was the concept a great idea but the execution was also superb. The sub was delicious. The meats were nice and hot and the cheese was perfectly melted. The condiments were fresh and crisp and there was the optimal of amount of mayo and Italian dressing. Although it was created to not leak the juices of the meet and dressing did make the very bottom of the sub soft and created a slight hole. All in all the entire sub from concept to execution was excellent. The slaw was just as good if not better. The salami slaw while sounding weird tasted great. The two flavors complemented each other perfectly and you could taste the small chunks of salami throughout. The slaw was fresh and crunchy and not overly wet. For $0.99 it was one of the best sides ever.
All in One Subs, also known as AIO subs, was great. The owner, I found out that it is not a chain, had a great idea and went out and executed it very well. While it is much better than Subway it is probably on par with Jersey Mike’s, Firehouse Subs and Quiznos but unlike all of them it is locally owned and operated.  I would recommend trying out AIO Subs for yourself. The menu is small but the subs are delicious.

Quick Lunch

113 Hopewell Street

Hopewell, VA 23860
(804) 458-6526

How it was

How it is now

            As many of you probably know by now, I LOVE dumpy little hole-in-the -wall restaurants. There are not many places that fit this category as well as Hopewell’s Quick Lunch does. Quick Lunch has been in the paper a lot over the past couple of years with owner changes, tax problems and closings but I am happy to say that Quick Lunch is once again open for business no matter how little that business may now be.

            Walking into Quick Lunch, I quickly realized that while it looks the exact same way it did a year ago and probably 30 years ago it is a completely different place. While normally at noon the place would be crawling with people and be filled with talking, laughter and general gaiety today it was dead silent with only one other patron in the whole place. For those that don’t know, Hopewell’s Quick Lunch has been a Hopewell staple for years just as much as the plants and the general feeling of gloom and sorrow. It is a typical lunch place with a bit of extra dark and dankness thrown in to make sure you know you are in Hopewell. It consists of a long lunch counter with stools and a few tables and booths. On the walls hang pictures from Hopewell’s glory days, mostly clippings from newspapers about sports team victories. Behind the counter there is a shelf that holds a varied collection of College stickers and cups. I still need to remember to bring in some CNU stuff because we are missing from the shelf.

            Quick lunch only serves breakfast and lunch and closes by 2pm. The menu ranges from brains and eggs to the 2nd best hot dogs in Central Virginia, according to a newspaper poll taken a couple of years back. But since the best Hotdogs reside in over an hour away in Victoria, VA at Timmy’s Grocery the 2nd best hotdogs hit the spot just fine. As always I ordered a hotdog all the way with slaw. This is so popular it was even a question on Jeopardy ( I think it helped that one of its writers was from Hopewell). A hot dog all the way with slaw includes chili, mustard, onions and of course cole slaw, not exactly all the way in my mind but it is good.  Back in the day because of a very friendly waitress, you could get two all the way with slaws, fries and a drink for $2.00; I believe this is part of the reason for its financial problems. Today it costs that much for a single hotdog which is a little high for a hot dog but a very reasonable price to relive your childhood and keep a piece of Hopewell history alive, at least for the time being.

            Just like everything else except for the people behind the counter the hot dog was just as good as ever. Freshly cooked with sweet homemade chili, just enough mustard and onions to taste but not overwhelm and topped off with sweet slaw that brings it all together. But just like always the bun still gets extremely soggy, extremely fast so I had to quickly gobble it down before it got all over my suit.

            No matter who owns it, Quick Lunch will always be a Hopewell a tradition and one that people keep close to their hearts. Other restaurants will come and go, Quick Lunch with probably close down again in the future but rest assured that there will always be someone looking to reclaim a piece of their childhood to reopen it and keep it the exact same as its always been and always will be.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hardee's Southwest Patty Melt


Just about everyone has seen the commercial for this burger. It has a beautiful girl in a beautiful convertible provocatively eating the Southwest Patty Melt. The burger is so spicy and delicious that it causes her to sweat and is so loaded with tasty goodness that drips all over her, much to everyone’s delight. She looks and acts if she is eating the best burger in the world. While eating this burger I felt the exact same satisfaction although, I looked a lot less attractive while enjoying it. The Southwest Patty Melt is a charbroiled beef patty, with sliced jalapeños, grilled onions, pepper-Jack cheese and spicy Santa Fe sauce, all on grilled sourdough bread.

While I have begun to enjoy the spicy side of life more, I am still a lightweight and was worried this burger would be way too hot to comfortably enjoy. Boy was I wrong! Everything about this burger, just like all of Hardee’s other burgers was awesome. I ordered the smallest size they offered, the 1/4lb, and it was still more than enough burger to satisfy my hunger. The burger by no means looked like the one in the commercial but it was delicious. The burger was cooked well, especially for a fast food joint. It was hot and juicy just like they always claim and was covered in warm melted slices of Pepper-Jack cheese. One complaint was that the grilled onions were a little on the skimpy side and faded into the background considerably compared to the other flavors. There were in my opinion the perfect number of jalapenos, just enough for taste and a slight burn but not so many that it scorched my tongue. Some “heat heads” may not like this and will want more for a stronger burn. The same can be said for the Santa Fe sauce. It was very tasty and creamy but I did not find it all that spicy but that might be because there was not gobs of it on the burger but just the right amount to add a nice rich flavor. The only other issue I had was that the grilled sourdough bun, while grilled but who knows when, was a bit on the soggy side and no longer had a crunchiness to it just the flavor of being slightly grilled.

Overall, Hardee’s Southwest Patty Melt was a delicious concoction of flavors which provided my taste buds with pleasure but did not cause 3rd degree burns. The only people who may have a problem with this burger are people who are getting it solely for its heat because the heat is not there. If you want it extremely spicy I recommend maybe asking for a few more jalapenos. I’m sure that everyone else who tries this burger will thoroughly enjoy it. Hopefully Hardee’s will keep it in its arsenal for years to come.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Taco Bell's Doritos Locos Supreme Tacos


      As you may have heard or seen, today Taco Bell introduced its new Doritos Locos Tacos. For those who don’t know, this is a typical Taco Bell hard shell taco only the old shell is replaced with a Doritos shell.  They come plain $1.49 or supreme $1.79, pretty steep for a Taco Bell taco. I chose the supreme. The taco comes wrapped in the typical wrapper but inside is a cardboard holder that is plastered with Doritos logo just so you know that the shell is “made” of Doritos.  It in fact is not made of Doritos but is their regular hard shell dyed orange and covered in the Doritos cheesy seasoning.  I started off biased in both directions because I really don’t like hard shell tacos but I love Doritos and I thought that it was kind of a stupid gimmick that would be used to entice stoners, frat boys, and your typical “extreme” guys. I figured these canceled each other out and made my review fair and honest.
                The shell looked like a Doritos chip and the flavoring on it tasted like a Doritos chip but it had the same softish, almost stale texture that all Taco Bell hard shells have.  Once you tasted the taco as a whole it was really kind of a non-event. The Doritos shell blended into all of the others flavors and was lost, which I can’t necessarily say was a bad thing because if it would have been powerful enough to shine through it would have been overwhelming.  You might be able to taste the shell more if you order just the regular taco but I think that it will be too much going on. Overall the new Doritos Locos tacos are almost identical to the regular hard shell tacos, which are ok if you like seasoned meat that is the same consistency and grade as dog food.  The only difference is that it cost a bit more and you get to lick the Doritos cheese seasoning off your fingers after you finish off the taco. For some people the latter will be more than enough to fall in love with the Doritos Locos Tacos but as for me I will stick to the soft shell supreme or splurge for the Chalupas (which by the way is a made up word).

A New Horizon

Today I decided to expand my blog ever so slightly. I am still going to focus on reviewing locally owned restaurants in the Tri-Cities area but I am going to add a new twist. From now on I will now begin reviewing new menu items that come out at fast food restaurants such as the highly anticipated Doritos Taco at Taco Bell and the Southwest Patty Melt at Hardees.  My core mission remains the same, to help citizens of the Tri-Cities get away from the long lines and cookie cutter meals served at the large chain restaurants and move towards dining at local eateries. But in our fast paced world, everyone experiences times when we do not have time for a sit down restaurant and just need to grab something quickly while moving from point A to B. It is for this reason that I decided to add this new category of reviews. They will be much shorter and to the point than the others because they will focus exclusively on the one new or limited item because most everyone is familiar with these restaurants and their regular menus. Please let me know if you enjoy these as much as the others.  As always, I am

                                Yours Truly,
                                The Gastrological Gentleman

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fort Lee 37th Annual Culinary Arts Competition

                Last Thursday, I had the privilege to enjoy a meal at Fort Lee’s 37th Annual Culinary Arts competition. Every year Fort Lee hosts this two weeklong event which pits over 300 of the best United States military chefs, stationed around the world, against one another in over 600 different events.  There are numerous competitions in which they compete from ice sculpting to an iron chef type cook-off to the Field Team competition. Most of the events are open to the public but the Field Team Competition is the only one where the public actually gets to eat the delicious works of art.

                I attended the event with my co-worker, Mr. Ron White. As we entered we were met with a special escort who led us on a tour of the competition and showed us each of the different events taking place that day. Everything looked amazing - like tiny works of art that would look just as much at home in a fine art gallery as on your dinner plate.  But for as good as everything looked all that really mattered to us is how everything tasted. After the tour we made our way to the Field Team competition area and took our seats. While the event is open to the public there are only a limited number of tickets available for each lunch and they are purchased on a first come first served basis at the staggering amount of $4.55. Yes, a five star, three course meal for $4.55. McDonalds eat your heart out. We purchased tickets for the USAREUR field team. USAREUR stands for United States Army Europe based in Germany. The field competition is where two teams from two different military installations are pitted against each other having to make the best three course meal they can for around 50 people using only the equipment found in a military field kitchen, the type they use while at war. This as you can imagine is quite challenging.

                After we took our seats a member of the team came around and served us either water or sweet tea. After a few moments they came around to take our first ticket for our appetizer, which was an Asian chicken salad with mustard vinaigrette and cashews. While this looked quite fancy, I have to admit it tasted a little dull. Nothing other than the mustard vinaigrette had much flavor and they used that incredibly sparingly.  It took a while for our entree to come out but boy was it worth the wait. It was a stuffed tenderloin of beef with spinach, bacon, dates and blue cheese served with red wine sauce, sherried green beans and mushrooms, scalloped Yukon gold and Peruvian potatoes.  This may very well be the best thing I’ve ever eaten or ever will eat. The tenderloin was cooked perfectly and the stuffing inside of it was superb. The sweetness of the dates paired perfectly with the smokiness of the bacon and the pungent blue cheese. The green beans were crisp but still juicy and the potatoes were smooth and creamy with a slight crunchy crust on the outside.  I could have eaten five pieces of the beef tenderloin and still wanted more.  Our meal was then finished off with a pineapple cake with rum sauce and cherry cheesecake ice cream for dessert.  This was exceptionally good, especially the cherry cheesecake ice cream. The cake was warm and crispy and the ice cream a velvety smooth texture and they both played well off of each other.

                I recommend that everyone should check out the Culinary Arts Competition at Fort Lee even though you’ll have to wait until next year to do so. The displays are awe inspiring and the meals at the Field Team completions are some of the best you will ever eat and will definitely be the best thing you will ever eat for under $5.00 in your life. So come on out and support the United States Military, their chefs and your taste buds.