Schlotzsky’s

Address:
Schlotzky’s 1732
3825 East Washington Avenue
Madison, WI 53704-3648
(608) 244-0100

The Dish:
The Original Sandwich
Jalapeño Chips
Diet Coke
$7.55 (tip and tax included)

Grade: 1 Fork

A friend and I decided to drive to Green Bay to see the Bengals play the Packers. As it turned out, I arranged it so that we could meet for lunch in Madison with my cousin. He asked what sounded good, I told pick a place and we’ll meet them there. He choose Schlotzky’s, which I had never been to before, but was familiar with.

Ambiance: Definitely has the feel of a deli in a big city somewhere on the east coast. Not that I really have the authority to report on that, but from what is shown in movies and tv shows, Schlotzsky’s has the feel. We arrived at what I would deem “early afternoon” (1:30ish) so it was pretty empty. It almost felt like the place was approaching closing time because it was relatively empty but it was also cleaning time. None of these are bad things, at all.

Menu/Price: It is a sandwich shop and you can get any number of specialized sandwiches all toasted or not toasted. Additionally you can get pizzas (toasted of course), wraps, and salads along with a healthy selection of soups. Price wise it looks like Subway, unlike Subway you seem to get your money’s worth. The most expensive item was a Large Original Sandwich at $9.00. The most unusual item was the Thai Chicken pizza, not something you would expect to find in a deli.

Meal: Having never had a Schlotzky’s sandwich, I opted for the Original. The name implies it is what made them famous, or what set them apart from the competition. The sandwich was good, I don’t know so much as I liked it on a sesame seed bun, but that might have been my fault as I was asked what type of bread. I did enjoy the Jalapeño chips though, to the tune of almost getting another bag for the road.

Service: Nothing good or bad stands out here beside the wait staff behind the counter was polite while we decided what we were going to order. They did not appear to be annoyed in the slightest as I asked questions about this sandwich and that one.

Overall: I wish we had a Schlotzsky’s in Iowa, and I know by my cousin reading this he is going to feel that it was a bad experience, which it was not in any way shape or form. I gave it a 1 Fork rating just because it was like going to Subway or Burger King. Granted there are exceptions to that but if we had one closer, I would experiment with the menu and I can see this rating at least getting another Spoon for sure.

Puerto Vallarta

Address:
Puerto Vallarta
2800 Scottsville Road
Bowling Green, KY 42104
(270) 782-6264

The Dish:
Chips and Salsa (Appetizer – Free)
Combo 8 (Taco, Burrito, Rice/Beans)
Diet Cokes
$8.65 (Tax and tip included)

Grade: 1 Fork

One of the few restaurants that I went to while visiting our corporate offices in Bowling Green. My host (at the office) pretty much invited me here saying it was one of the better Mexican’s around. It might have been, but I did not want to look out of place ordering something that I normally would so I opted for the business casual combo meal.

Ambiance: When you think of Puerto Vallarta, you should be thinking of the tropical paradise that is situated on the West Pacific in Mexico. Now I could break into a Shawshank Redemption moment here but I won’t, however I did not get the feeling that this was a tropical paradise. To their defense it is hard to accomplish something of that feel when you are in a strip mall. Anyway, standard Mexican decorations were abundant, and thankfully the air conditioning was working because it was a scorcher outside!

Menu/Price: Pretty inexpensive from what I saw, very few things were over the $10 mark. However I think they have a different menu for lunch and dinner, and I was on the lunch menu. I would be surprised though if the dinner menu would be lower than what I would consider to be the norm, given that the area Bowling Green is in has a lower cost of living that where we live in Iowa. The choices were plenty and typical for a Mexican restaurant as this one.

Meal: Good thing they had chips and salsa because the size of my meal just did not do it for me. Perhaps that is why it was really inexpensive, or maybe I was just really hungry. Either way the chips and salsa really filled that void. The combo itself was pretty basic, nothing to exciting. The taco was good enough that I wished I had ordered the combo that came with three tacos. The burrito was actually a cheese and meat enchilada, or at least what I would call an enchilada. Either way it was decent. The rice was cooked, but cooked to a point that they were almost dehydrated again. The refried beans were good as chip dip, but a bit too runny to eat with a fork.

Service: No real problems here, drinks and food came promptly. When I asked for a receipt (for corporate reimbursement) I got a weird look from the guy running the cash register. Another came up and wrote on a small piece of paper the date and amount (pre-tip) with his signature on the Manager Signature line. It was a bit awkward, but not really helpful for my uses.

Overall: Maybe I am being a bit unfair here, but I went with the 1 Fork middle of the road rating because they might actually be better than I thought, but given the circumstances I did not feel comfortable exploring the menu as I normally would. If I make it back to Bowling Green, I’ll try this place again in the evening and perhaps they will get the 1 Fork, 1 Spoon grade.

Niffer’s Place at the Lake

Address:
Niffer’s Place at the Lake
7500 Hwy. 49 South
Dadeville, AL 36853
(256) 825-5950

The Dish:
Chicken Burrito (el Nifferito)
Diet Coke
$14 (Tax and tip included)

Grade:
1 Fork

I am not sure what it is about Lake Martin but I can not seem to find anything on this lake. I drove around for roughly two hours trying to find this place (in the rain I might add). While that is not their fault, I was beyond the point of hungry by the time I showed up.

Ambiance:
Crazy, crazy! Niffer’s is going for the wacky crazy pieces of flair look that Applebee’s, TGIF’s, and others do so well. Niffer’s also did a great job at this. Acoustics in the building carried noise a bit too well as there was what I would deem an “average” crowd yet it sounded like I was in a football stadium.

Menu/Price:
A fun designed menu put me back in positive spirits, only problem is there was so many good things to choose from. Pricing wise you could pay as little as $4.95 all the way up to $23. They had pizza, burgers and pasta you could customize, along with what was probably very popular dishes. When I asked about a few my waiter arranged it so I could look at the dishes prior to them being served. This was kinda cool, but also at the same time creepy for the person getting the dish. I began to wonder if my dish was shared in this same fashion prior to it arriving.

Meal:
Chips we’re complementary tonight, normally they cost but apparently I choose the right night as chips we’re free. In addition to being free, they were also very good and freshly made. When my el Nifferito arrived, I was a bit let down in the size. Here is the verbatim menu description: “Warm flour tortilla stuffed with fresh grilled chicken,sautéed mushrooms, peppers, onions and cheddar jack cheese. Topped off with homemade white cheese sauce, salsa and sour cream.” It was everything described but somewhat lacking in portion I thought. It was a bit spicier than I anticipated but thats ok because I like spicy meals.

Service:
Waiter was friendly but forgetful. I waited for a while for him to return with my refill of Diet Coke, and somehow when he did remember I had Mr Pibb. I sighed and drank it until I started thinking about the dish viewing thing again, and wondered who’s soda was I drinking. Mr Waiter, also gave me the bill but then came back and said he forgot to ring in the drink (which he did forget), but he rang in two drinks. I looked on the menu to see if refill’s we’re free or not, but not wanting to fight it (since it was going to be reimbursed anyway) I paid for it.

Overall:
Probably would have gotten a better grade if I had found the place sooner, my el Nifferito would have been a bit larger and if my waiter was not wet behind the ears. If I’m in the area I’ll visit again, at least for the chips since they were really good.

Fuddruckers

Address:
Fuddruckers
6378 Mills Civic Pkwy
West Des Moines, IA 50266
(515) 225-1122

The Dish:
Kids Chicken Bites(Chloe)
1/3 Bacon Cheddar Combo (Tress)
1/2 Mushroom Swiss Combo(Me)
Large Onion Rings (Shared)
2 Soda’s
$23.18 (Tax and tip included)

Grade: 1 Fork

Tress had been to a Fuddruckers in the past, I never really knew much about them. Other than they existed somewhere outside of Iowa. I am unsure when the West Des Moines Fuddruckers was built, but we had passed it enough times to finally say, ok let’s give it a whirl.

Ambiance: The first thing that stuck me as odd was the fact that you ordered fast food style. Meaning you walk to a counter, place your order and wait. I guess I was expecting for the proclaimed “World’s Greatest Hamburgers” to have less of a fast food feel. I was happy though that the place was very clean and had various light themed sections of the dining room. I would have to say that the place felt like a restaurant that would have a sitting area in a mall or an airport. Not necessarily a bad thing but, somewhat not what I was expecting.

Menu/Price: Menu is a bit confusing at first, but once you figure out that they are pretty flexible with your order it is not so bad. They had a nice selection of speciality burgers as well as sides and even salads. The downside is the price is on the upper end of the scale, but not over the top. For dinner we spent basically $9 a person which really is not a bad deal for dinner. If these prices are static for both lunch and dinner, I would probably not eat there for lunch. On Tuesday’s kids eat free, this worked to our benefit!

Meal: World’s Greatest Hamburgers, that’s a stretch. Are they better than most, yes. The fries that came with both of our combo’s we’re really great. Tress’s burger was far better than mine. Even after a trip to the “burger bar” to get some extra goodies to put on my mushroom and swiss, I still felt my burger was missing something. Again not bad but just not a home run. Seeing as Chloe did not eat her chicken bites, I went for the rest of those. They were very good, especially with the honey mustard sauce that was available at the “burger bar.” Both of us were a bit hunger still after finishing our burgers which were a bit smaller than the pictures indicated, so I went to get some onion rings. These like the fries, were outstanding. Sadly it seems that they do fried foods really good, maybe I should have tried something besides a mushroom and swiss.

Service: Lady at the counter was actually a manager, and as friendly as anyone could be. She also checked on us a few times while we were eating, to make sure things were ok and offered drink refills. Another girl went out of her way to get us a highchair, so I was pleased with that. Really hard to judge service when you really are not served table side.

Overall: Well I gave it 1 Fork because I guess I was expecting to get full on a hamburger that was out of this world. I would like to say that the ordering like a fast food restaurant did not influence my rating but sadly it did because I visited their website first. Based on their website you would have figured the place to be more like an Applebee’s or Cheddar’s. The reality of it was it was more like a Zaxby’s or Chick-fil-A. We’ll go again, I’ll just get something different.

White Castle #085006

Address:
White Castle 085006
3039 Scottsville Rd
Bowling Green, KY 42101
www.whitecastle.com

The Dish:
Sack Meal 1
With Cheese on Sliders
$5.65 (Tax and tip included)

Grade: 1 Fork

I have seen the movie and even laughed at the movie, but I don’t think you would find me going through similar adventures as Harold and Kumar go through to have White Castle. Waffle House though, maybe!

Ambiance: Fast food setup, order at counter, sit and munch if you like or take it with you. This White Castle had a setup where you picked your order up at a different station, as I understand it this is the traditional way to get White Castle. If that is so, the one I visited in Cincinnati in ’08 is breaking tradition and I do not support that. Otherwise restaurant was clean and cool on this hot spring day.

Menu/Price: Pretty inexpensive really, in fact I think I was supposed to be charged more for getting cheese on my Sliders but they were pretty busy so I did not bother, figuring maybe they will come out without cheese (they came with it). Anyway price point aside, if you want the traditional Slider and every variant of it (assuming you get just one of each) you can do this for under $10 easily. Depending on the tax and specials (the special of the day at this one was jalapeño sliders) you could almost do it under $7. If sliders aren’t your thing though, you can get a chicken ring slider. Otherwise there is not much else you can get besides sides here. I was disappointed that they did not have the sweet potato fries that I got last time I visited a White Castle in Minneapolis.

Meal: I have a friend who swears by White Castle and usually plans a trip each year to go to the nearest one as we do not have White Castle in Iowa. If I had to base it on this sack meal, I would be ok with going a few years before my next. The fries I got were room temperature at best, which is ok for McDonalds but for crinkle cut fries, it just does not work. The sliders were ok; I was wishing the cheese had melted on them a bit more though. All in all I think I would have been happier with six to eight sliders versus four and fries.

Service: They were pretty busy but keeping up with demand. The grill crew was defiantly feeling the elements of the heat, if you catch what I am implying there. There was no shortage of staff running around, but perhaps I came at a shift change. Of course if I did that would be odd since it was right smack dab dinner time.

Overall: It was ok, I only went because it was there. I really wanted to go to Waffle House but figured I should not just go to Waffle House every day because it was there. Being in the restaurant capital of the US, I figured I could at least try something different. 1 Fork because I’ll go again but I don’t know when.

Kip’s Pub & Restaurant

Address:
Kip’s Pub & Restaurant
9970 Wayzata Blvd
St Louis Park, MN 55426
(952) 544-4400
www.kipspub.com

The Dish:
Fish n’ Chips
Diet Coke
$17(tip and tax included)

Second Trip (was paid for)
Sheppard’s Pie
Diet Coke

Grade: 1 Fork

I feel a bit behind on reviews as I actually did not eat here in January but rather this past November. But it was worth mentioning I made a stop in this “pub” while I was attending my week long training in the Twin Cities. There were actually two reasons why I decided to eat here. The first being I was invited by class mates. Normally I would turn them down especially if the establishment implies heavy drinking (Irish pup anyone… (editor’s note, although no one here is Irish, we want to apologize to any people of Irish heritage if our stereotype offends you)). However the next reason was more compelling as it was a Thursday and the Bengals were set to play on the NFL network. So I went ahead and called Kip’s to see if they had the NFL network, they did! Ok I’ll go then! I went again because they met with the instructors; I was unaware that I would not be footing the bill. So this review is based off of two back to back trips.

Ambiance: For an attached restaurant on a hotel (The Marriot), the place was pretty busy both nights! The first night the game was on multiple screens, however it was hard to watch as my view was not the greatest. Additionally I was supposed to be there to “mingle” not watch my Bengals lose another game. Moving along though, there were rooms that had the feel of a wood wine cellar or a barn where “shine” is made as the walls were covered with what looked like real wood barrels. Either way it was very fitting and appropriate. Multiple tiers in the dining area gave the appearance of a larger space, and a more open feel. A large bar area was available to try the many Irish brews’ that were available.

Menu/Price: The menu had some diversity within it as there were what I would consider to be true Irish dishes like Sheppard’s pie (had the second visit) Fish N Chips (had the first visit, although I would tag this as a British dish) and dishes that reminded you that you were in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” as there was Walleye this and that. Price wise, I thought things were a bit steep, especially for a Diet Coke at $2.50. They did have lunch deals for $10 even that included the dish, drink, tax and tip. What a great idea! I have always wished for things to be advertised as such, even for things as trivial as high speed internet.

Meal: So I ate there twice and I’ll try to cover both dishes starting with the Fish N Chips. I was told that “I would like it” when I ordered. It came in a bowl, at which point I was worried that the fish might be swimming with chips. Not the case thankfully, but the chips (fried potato wedges) were mounded in the bowl and the breaded fish was equally fried and on top of the mound next to soda bread. While not a fan of soda bread, I did try some and it was what I expected so I put it down. The fish really looked good, but it was somewhat bland. Pretty typical of Cod, which is what they used (or said they used). The chips were a delight though. The following night I went again with an Irish dish of Sheppard’s Pie made with “Slow cooked lamb, onions, leeks, carrots and peas baked with a mashed potato topping.” What the heck was a leek? I was hoping it was not something like a leech. (editor’s note, while the blog name Epicure implies we have refined taste there are things that are even new to us… please don’t complain) Turns out leeks are what I know as green onions (and not like the Booker T kind). I would have to say this was the best Sheppard’s pie I had ever had.

Service: They were busy both nights, and I felt they had adequate staff to cover their bases. However since I don’t think our group (on the first night) was partaking in much alcohol, we received far less attention than we did the second night when there was heavy alcohol involved. Personally, I don’t drink and I don’t have a problem with those that do. However I do have a problem with discriminating your customer base based on where you think the revenue stream is. That being said, everything else was ok.

Overall: I think a higher grade would be possible if not for the service discrimination. I did like the menu selections and that Sheppard’s pie was pretty darn good. The fish n’ chips I think could have, no should have been better. My suggestion, you are in a state where the state fish is walleye, you offer many walleye dishes… make your fish n’ chips with walleye! That would have guaranteed a 1 Fork, 1 Spoon for sure maybe even the 1 Fork, 1 Knife. Until then the saving grace was the $10 idea I loved and that Sheppard’s pie.