Buzzard Billy’s

Buzzard Billy’s Flying Carp Cafe (La Crosse, WI)
222 Pearl St
La Crosse, WI 54601-3216
(608) 796-2277

The Dish:
Monster-ella Sticks (Appetizer)
Mini-Corn Dog Kids meal (Chloe)
Bayou Platter(Me)
Blackened Chicken Dinner (Tress)
Two Diet Cokes
$47 (Tax and tip included)

Grade: 1 Fork, 1 Spoon, 1 Knife

Since the Flood of 2008, Buzzard Billy’s in Des Moines has been closed. During this time I have sulked over the fact that I have not been able to have gator fingers, good andouille gumbo, or a meal that has been blackened the correct way (a lot of restaurants claim they blacken, but they don’t). We had an opportunity to visit La Crosse, Wisconsin or the Quad Cities to pick up an item I bought. Something in my brain clicked “La Crosse has a Buzzard Billy’s” and the rest was as they say, history.

Ambiance: As with the rest of the categories, I found my self comparing this location to the Des Moines location. For the benefit of those who have never been a patron to either, I’ll try to focus on this location. I’ll do a compare and contrast in the Overall category. The restaurant is located in the historic river downtown location, in an older building (like all locations). The restaurant is filled with various 1950’s through 1980’s advertisements for about anything and everything. They do have many working older animated beer signs. The tables all had collector cards from various tv series pressed into the top. Our table had the Andy Griffith show cards. The waiting area had an interesting tile setup with the game of Twister on the tile itself. Really loved the two carps attached to the ceiling fan, but was somewhat disappointed they did not have a taxidermied (stuffed) alligator. They had a carved wood one, but just not the same…

Menu/Price: Pricing for all most any item is going to run $8 plus, even our monster-ella sticks were almost $7 bucks (although worth it). They had an excellent selection of Cajun and Creole foods that indeed did include alligator, crawfish, and various blackened meals. The one item that I seriously considered was the blackened walleye, which apparently is a local speciality. I still went with the normal Bayou Platter.

Meal: Let’s talk about Monster-ella sticks, basically they are a four inch by inch square logs of handbreadded mozzarella sticks. Because they are hand made the cheese is very elastic and retains much of its rich flavor. Although we did not get them this time, but their Gator fingers are the way to go if you you want to have alligator. If asked you can try a sample of gator to see if you like it prior, believe me when I say it tastes like chicken. Most people would not know the difference if not told. Chloe enjoyed her mini-corn dogs, but did not really touch the fries. The Bayou platter comes with a blackened chicken breast, half order of rice and beans, a cup of chicken & andouille sausage gumbo, and hush puppies. Tress’s blackened chicken dinner came with two blackened chicken breast, an order of riced and steamed vegetables. Table bread was also provided. While I cannot speak for Tress’s meal, mine was perfect and let me tell you, I had really missed good blackened chicken. Their hush puppies are also hand made and have light Cajun spices blended into them. The only things that I was a bit disappointed with was the size of my chicken, but having monster-ella sticks prior it was not a big deal. The other is I am pretty sure the Des Moines one had Pepsi. Our server said its city specific.

Service: Service was prompt and since we knew exactly what we wanted our order was taken quickly. Our waiter played with Chloe and seemed very nice. When I say very nice, I mean “very nice.” Although refills were not offered (or really needed), he stopped by many times to make sure we we’re doing OK. I also noticed that he was apt to his other tables he was busing.

Overall: In all actuality, the rating should be 1 fork, 1 knife, but since I have not had it in almost two years and the quality of the meal was so high, I felt the full 1 fork, 1 knife, 1 spoon rating was warranted. I really do hope that the Des Moines one opens soon, I should be good now for a while.

Differences: Des Moines has a full blown alligator that has been stuffed. If memory serves they also have an alligator head that also has been stuffed and usually mints were located in its open mouth. The only one I saw at this location was a nicely carved wooden one. The Des Moines location has an outside eating area to eat, I did not see one in La Crosse. I don’t recall the Des Moines location having arcade games, but a deer hunting game and Mrs. Pac-Man were in the waiting area. A lot was really the same when you look at it, the one thing I hope Des Moines has when it reopens is blackened walleye.

La Carreta

La Carreta (Boone)
1215 S Story St
Boone, IA 50036

The Dish:
Endless Chips and Salsa (Free!)
Fajita Quesadilla (Me)
Super Burito (Tress)
Two Diet Cokes
$25 (Tax and tip included)

Grade: 1 Fork, 1 Spoon, 1 Knife

For the first time in quite a while, Tress and I were able to enjoy a night out to ourselves. We decided to hit a local favorite as we had not been there for close to four months. Regardless what we order, it is always a home run. Since we frequent there often, we know many of the wait staff which just enhances the overall visit.

Ambiance: Authentic Mexican Resturants are so much better than the Americanized versions. Always love the plants that seem to grow to great lengths and are strung out across the eating areas. The tables all have glossy prints on them depecting Don Quixote, an Aztec or Mayan depiction, or a rustic rural Mexican themed scene. Simple paintings (painted on the wall) complement the dinning room. Mexican music playing at a non-annoying level. Lastly a very clean floor and eating area make the place a highly desired resturant.

Menu/Price: Even though this resturant and many other authentic Mexican resturants share similar menu’s and pricing, all items are exactly what you would think they would be. From Fajitas, Chimi’s, Steaks prepared with Latin spices and sauces, to Tacos, Burritos and Combo platters, you can basicilly find something to tickle your taste buds. Expect to spend about $9 dollars per plate, but also expect to be very full! The most expensive dish Fajitas Costenas features crab, shrimp, grilled chicken and chorizo with bell peppers, onions and tomatoes, served with a guacamole salad, refried beans, rice and totillas at $13.99 will require you to ask for a box unless you’re really hungry. Really everything on the menu is in my opinion underpriced given the quantity and quality of food you get.

Meal: As I mentioned before, we have been a frequent patron of La Carreta and have tried many of the dishes. Today’s choice of a Super Burrito and a Fajita Quesadilla hit the spot! Tress’s Super Burrito was a ten inch flour tortilla filled with beef tips and chicken topped with lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream and served with rice filled her plate beyond what I like to call “useable plate space”. My dish was a ten inch flour tortilla filled with grilled chicken, melted cheese and onions, served with rice, beans, and a mini shell with guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo in it made me wish I could eat as much as I used to be able to.

Service: I also mentioned prior that we know many of the wait staff, today we were served by our favorite waiter. He has a daughter about Chloe’s age and he is always making sure our drinks are filled, chips basket is never empty, and stops to talk when he gets a free moment. Its really not fair to classify this as a sit down resturant because it really could count as fast food. There has been many times I have gone to McDonalds (in this case across the street from this resturant) and I have had to wait for my so called “fast food” for at least twenty minutes. At La Carreta, there have been times when no longer than seven minutes after our order is taken we have piping hot food in front of us! This is hard to beat and Taco Johns/Bell do not hold a candle to La Carreta with service like this.

Overall: I seriously could eat every single meal of the remainder of my life at this resturant and never get bored. The fact that the wait staff is really friendly and you walk away with a belly full and a few dollars bills still in your pocket just make this a must if you’re in Boone.

Skyline Chili

Skyline Chili
6098 West Chester Road
West Chester, OH‎
(513) 860-5300‎

The Dish:
Cheese Coney Plain (Tress)
Chili Cheese Fries (Split)
5 Way Regular (Me)
Cheese Coney (Me)
Girls Bib (Chloe)
$24 (Tax and tip included)

Grade: 1 Fork, 1 Knife, 1 Spoon

Officially this was our second visit to a Skyline Chili. Last time we had this much fun we came into the ‘Nati (that’s short for Cincinnati for all you rap fans out there) we saw the Bengals literally throw away a 21 point lead in a matter of minutes to the San Diego Chargers. This time around, the Bengals were 0-8 and in dire need of help from their loyal fan base from Iowa. So we went and (long story short) they earned their first win of the season (and the first win while I was in the Jungle (that’s Paul Brown Stadium for all you Jacksonville fans out there) against the Jacksonville Jaguars. My sister and brother-in-law came with so we told them we have to go to Skyline as it is a Queen City (that’s a Cincinnati reference for all you Queen Elizabeth fans out there) favorite.

Ambiance: Technically, its fast food I think. But your order is taken from a waiter/waitress. This one was setup differently than the previous one. The last one actually had the meals being prepped in a center area of the dining area. A bit of a letdown that this one did not but this one was full of Reds and Bengals items so it made up for that. Additionally I think at the last one we sat down and menus were at the table. At this location we were seated by a hostess. Perhaps each franchise owner has leeway on how they run it.

Menu/Price: If you have never been there thinking that all they serve is chili you should still go as you can get salads, baked potatoes, and other non-chili items. However the Chili is where it’s at! It truly is something among itself as Cincy (that’s short for Cincinnati for all you Chi-town fans out there) is the Chili Capital of the USA [citation needed… maybe]. You can also get another Blue Chip City (yet another Cincinnati reference for all you Silicone Alley fans out there) favorite in Kahn’s hot dogs or as they are called there, coneys. Price wise, you are looking at less than $10 per person for almost all items.

Meal: Ok if you have never had Cincinnati (that’s Cincinnati for… Cincinnati) Chili, you should. It’s the only chili that tastes good with cinnamon, alcove, and bay leaves served on spaghetti noodles. I really cannot say much more than that. As a fan of all things Cincy (you should know what that’s short for by now) it would not matter if it really was lousy chili, I would still go there. Luckily it is awesome and truly a regional favorite in the Queen of the West (another reference to Cincinnati for all you Gateway to the West fans out there).

Service: My brother-in-law made the mistake of trying the hot sauce on the table without a drink. Our waitress noticed this and put a rush on our drinks for his sake. That is over the top customer service no matter how you look at it! I also experienced a bit of over the top customer service myself. I wanted to buy a girls Skyline Chili bib for Chloe (it was pink). Apparently they we’re out of them save for the one in the display case. Instead of doing the standard McDonalds/Burger King approach of “we can’t give away display items” they opened up the display case (had to move a counter to do it) and got me that pink bib for Chloe. Major Kudos guys, major Kudos!

Overall: There is another chili restaurant in the City of Seven Hills (that is on last Cincinnati reference for all you City of Angels fans out there) by the names of Gold Star. It is on our list to visit (although we had some at the game), but for our money it’s hard to pass this gem up!