Sunday, October 29, 2017

Dog House

 
605 S. 2nd Street

DeSoto, Mo.
On Facebook

There was a TV news clip going around the local social media groups this week. It looked intriguing, their Facebook page showed over six thousand followers, very surprising being as the 2016 population listing for the city of DeSoto is just over six thousand. So it was set.
Saturday was cold and gray all day, the kind of day that simply drains me of all motivation to do anything. I had played with my power tools in the garage for a while, then I made an apple pie. . . well that was about it. Finally it was time to go.

The Place:
At the corner of Miller and Second Street downtown, the sign for the bakery is much more prominent in the almost too-small parking lot. The signage was simple and understated for a place with over six thousand followers. I mean I don't even have six thousand followers and I consider myself quite the thing.
Parking was tight, but doable, since Angel was driving. We looked in and saw that it was packed even at just after 5 P.M. Part of the pack-ness was due to its size. It is not at all a large place. It only held eight or nine standard sized 4-tops. There were a couple of couples standing and waiting, a bad sign for us. We've walked away from many a place due to there being a line. However fate rang the bell and a large group occupying two tables got up to leave just seconds after we entered. I looked around and did the math and we decided to go ahead and stay.
The place was diner/dive like, not dirty, just 'lived-in'. The walls were decorated by
anthropomorphized (dressed like humans) dogs and other dog-ish things. In one corner sat a large gentleman wolfing down an enormous donut burger, which is  exactly what you think it is.
The wait wasn't very long at all. We were shown a seat in the back corner, directly below the shop's only speaker and the gender-indifferent restroom. (a one-seater I assume)

The speaker was the real inconvenience for me. It was pumping out twangs loud enough to be heard throughout the room over the considerable din of local families dining and chatting. This meant it was, directly over my head as it was, a bit too loud, but the bigger issue for me was that it was pumping out country music. Outlaw country, I believe, Waylon, Willie and Hank Junior, etc.. Not my favorite flavor of my near least favorite music genre. 
We sat at our black and white checked, vinyl cloth covered wooden tables in our standard wooden chairs and ordered our food. Nothing fancy.
The Food:
Since I'd first looked at the place on line, I knew what I would be ordering. Oddly enough, not one of their famous burgers, but the catfish sandwich. I don't mind a good burger, but I like catfish better. Plus, the listed size of their burgers, 3/4 pounds told me that I would not be able to finish even half of it anyhow. The menu listed my choice as 'Catfish sandwich with cheese'. I asked the server about this and said yes, I could have it without the cheese. Actually I didn't wan the bread either, I just wanted catfish and fries. Yes, they did also offer Tartar sauce, so were good to go. Angel asked for a bacon cheeseburger and onion rings. We'd heard about the onion rings.
The food was served in a reasonable amount of time. In a dog bowl. Yeah, that's the
gimmick that got this place a spot on the TV news. All food is served in big, plastic dog bowls. Entirely by coincidence, I happened to be wearing a Canine Life Skills (Angel's company) tee-shirt. The back of the shirt reads:  "Where sit happens." Get it?  "sit happens", because she trains. . . I'm sure you get it. So I don't mind a little gimmickry here and there.
The single fish filet was about ten inches long on a five inch square Texas toast bun. The toast had been branded with a doggy paw print. Cute. But the resulting sandwich looked a little out of whack as most of the fish was not on the bread at all, but sticking out either side. For me, this was not a problem since, as I said earlier, I didn't even want the bread. The fries were crinkle cut, pretty much my favorite kind of fries. I scooted the bread aside and cleared a hole in the massive pile of fries and squirted in  some fancy ketchup. I know it was fancy ketchup since that's exactly what the bottle said.

Angel's eyes got huge when she peered into her burger. It was large, comically large and thick, If I saw saw something like that in our fridge I would assume we were having meat loaf. But there it was,also between two thick slices of branded Texas toast.
The onion rings were also huge, impaled atop the burger with a vampire-ready wooden stake.
Without a doubt the food was really good, especially those onion rings. "I like that they weren't too heavily breaded." Angel said. I agreed that this allowed the natural, moist sweetness of the perfectly cooked onion shine through. The fish was crispy and moist as well, delightful. Angel really liked the burger, what she could eat of it. about two thirds of it came home with us in a 'doggy' bag, the only appropriate way
to travel with food from the Dog House.
She shared a ring with me and I returned the generous favor by handing her a fistful of fries. I finished the yummy fish and about half of the remaining fries before I too declared defeat.
Summary:

Though it was loud, the kids noisy and the music was (to me) horrific, we had a good time. The good food overshadowed the discomfort of those ancillary things. The bill came to a paltry twenty two bucks and change, so there was no dissatisfaction with that part of the transaction either. The biggest issue with the food was, for me, the portion size. Too much food though, is really an anti-problem, like being very full and busy. I don't judge these things harshly, because I am quite aware that I just can't eat a lot in one sitting and I tend to shy (run) away from crowded, noisy places. These are
Yes, I made this. It was great!
my issues, not the restaurant's. As my friend Bernard stated on my earlier FB post about this place: ". . . you sure won't go away hungry!"
Inexpensive and tasty in a fun, lively environment, how could it not have six thousand followers?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Si Senor



Mexican Bar and Grill
227 Arnold Crossroads Ctr.
Arnold, Mo.
On The Web

There's a lively, vocal and active local FaceBook group I belong to called Jeffco411 that occasionally posts a link to this fine site. This week Angel and I were struggling to come up with something different to try. I had an idea. Mexican, but not the ones we've been to already. So I posted a note on Jeffco411:
"Eat and Critique! Is looking to review the best Mexican restaurants in Jefferson County. Where should we go?
P.S. we've already reviewed Los Portales in Hillsboro, several times.
Thanks!"
To my mild surprise and delight, there were about 125 replies in the first 24 hours.
Scrolling scientifically down the list, one place started to be a standout.
This one. Not by a lot, but those posting about this place seemed more articulate and better looking than most of the others. Yes, being attractive will get my attention. I never said that this operation was a democracy, or fair, or unbiased. I set my own standards here and rule over the site with an iron fist, a velvet-y, handsome iron fist.

The Place:
Since this was in Arnold, we invited Adam to join, he agreed. He lives in South St. Louis County and works in Arnold, so this was less of a drive for him than us. It's located in one of that city's many, many shopping center. Arnold is Jefferson County's largest city. It's location at the northeast corner make it basically a suburb of St. Louis. I've mentioned before that I don't particularly like Arnold, but that's mostly because of the often very heavy traffic and confounding intersections. They do have a lot of nice places to eat and shop. So as long as Angel drives, I can tolerate it.
Just as we entered, the staff was finishing off a singing, clapping Happy Birthday tribute to some snot nosed kid. Adam and I looked at each other, his eyes wide. (see the post about Texas Roadhouse a few weeks back and you'll see why.) I decided to keep an open mind though, for at least a little longer. I wanted some enchiladas.
On the inside, the place was brightly and boldly painted and mural-ized floor to ceiling. Colorful parrots, lizards throughout, even on the booths, chairs and tables. It was quite busy as well, in terms of people. Nearly every table filled to capacity with families, groups of seniors, and just about every kind of person you can imagine. There was a buzz, a  din if you will, but not really too bad. It barely drowned out the Mexican music playing faintly in the overhead speakers. We were seated at the very front, next to a window.
We were greeted by a handsome young man named 'Carlos' if his name tag was to be believed. Very gracious and polite, he asked about drinks just as the chips and salsa were delivered by another handsome young man. The entire staff were in neat black shirts and they all looked busy, competent and efficient.
There were TV's on the walls and hanging from the ceiling, all muted. Golf, some kind of golf game was underway. In my mind the only thing more excruciatingly boring than golf on TV is the actual game itself. My in-laws watch a lot of TV golf, they even play golf. It is the one and only thing I don't care for about my in-laws. . . lets just leave it at that.
The Food:
The chips were perfect. The salsa, beautifully, refreshingly fresh with a slight, but noticeable sweat inducing bite to it. Not overpoweringly hot, just right on that narrow edge between pleasure and discomfort. You know the sensation, right?
We gobbled them down, all three of us love this part of a Mexican meal.
Carlos returned with our drinks, one tea and two Diet Dr. Peppers. He carefully took our orders making sure and rechecking that he had it right. His accent had a thickness to it but we managed just fine. I'm currently learning to speak a foreign language myself, I know how difficult it can be, the nuances and oddly shaped syllables. The answer to your question is of course, 'Icelandic.'
Not really a handy language to know, there are only about 300,000 native speakers of it and almost all of them also speak English.
This was not helpful with Carlos, I got the impression that he was not Icelandic. My perfectly practiced "Hvað segir þú gott?" just bounced right off of him.

I'd researched the menu beforehand so the choice was pretty much made already. Angel and Adam didn't struggle long either.
Me: Combo; one chicken enchilada and two beef flautas. The combo came with beans, rice and a 'corn cake'. I ordered the flautas specifically so I could say 'flautas'* out loud and write it several times. It's not what you think. Flautas is Spanish for 'flute'. It is a wheat wrap rolled into a long cylinder shape, filled with. . . something, then fried.
Adam: Chipotle Chicken Chimichanga.
Angel: Steak and shrimp. This was weird and surprising. On Saturday I'd commandeered the kitchen and prepared us a five course dinner. Grilled steak and shrimp, garlic toast, salad and roasted potatoes. She loved it, there was even enough left over for her to have steak and shrimp for Sunday lunch as well.
This was to be her third steak and shrimp meal in a row. I guess I'd really dialed in on her tastes. . .
Then the Si Senor staff made a mistake. Angel's plate was delivered in just a few minutes.
Have you ever gone to lunch or dinner with people from work and you all order but the food comes out in incomplete batches? Someone, usually me, is stuck sitting there at a blank spot on the table while everyone else politely watches, as their lobsters start to approach room temperature waiting for every one else's food to arrive. . .
Well, that's what happened here. Angel's plate arrived then, for about five or more minutes, nothing else. Fortunately for Angel we're all familiar family so she went ahead and un-apologetically dug right in. Adam and I didn't mind, we just wanted our food. Still it was a notable gaff, though not a fatal one.
One could say that the meals were worth the wait, because they were very, very good.
The chicken inside the enchilada was lightly spiced and quite moist. Usually at Mexican joints the bulk-cooked and steamer-warmed shredded meat ends up being quite dry. Not here. The light coating of enchilada sauce made me want more of it, a gallon or so would have been good. To my surprise and giggly delight, the flautas was quite tasty. The beef was also lightly spiced and quite smoky tasting. A very good little finger food. As always, I chopped up my enchilada and stirred it around into the cheesy beans and rice. I love that combination, when it is prepared right, and this was. Once again they'd held off on overdoing it. They let the beans and rice speak for themselves without going all Taco-Bell with the seasonings. The corn cake, a mush of corn meal with actual sweet kernels embedded in it was quite good as well.
There was absolutely nothing I did not like about the meal.
Angel too was quite impressed. "They grilled the broccoli instead of just steaming it." And "The shrimp is beautifully spiced."
Adam didn't have to say much, I know when he likes and doesn't like things. He loved this. "The chicken is very good." He even sawed off a chunk to let me try. Yep, he was right.
"I didn't share my shrimp." Angel said, unnecessarily.
Summary:
There was that one and only one misstep. Staggered serving time. Easily fixable, but it would be annoying if it turned into a regular occurrence.
Angel said she'd already decided what to order next time. The seafood soup. She had seen it on the menu but passed over it for the same stuff she'd had twice before in less than 24 hours. Someone else had ordered the soup and she saw it delivered, long crab legs dangling out the side of the bowl.
The food itself was really, really good. I hear they make a pretty good margarita as well.
Now about the price. There was some mention on the Facebook group about Si Senor being a bit pricey. Well, compared to some of the other Mexican restaurants in the area, I suppose that it was. However, at forty nine bucks for three meals, it's cheaper than the popular chain places like Applebee's or Ruby T's or Olive Garden. The restaurant was very clean, the ingredients were all fresh and the staff was well trained and polite. Some of the local Mexican places are essentially dingy dives with pretty drinks. This place worried about its food, they didn't just pop open some cans and fry down some ground beef saturated with powdered taco seasoning.
This was much, much better than that. They've set the bar pretty high for a very reasonable price. In the coming months other places that were recommended will be visited, I'd have to say though, they are going to have to really impress me to beat Si Senor.






*Flautas. You need permanently juvenile male brain parts to giggle at this. In case you don't get it 'flautas' looks and sounds like the word 'flatus' which is a fancy word for 'stomach' gas.  You know. . . farts.




Monday, March 13, 2017

Gordon's Cheese Steaks

-

518 Bailey Rd.
Crystal City, Mo.
On Facebook

For several years I've extolled the virtues of Gordon's Stoplight Diner. A small, simple, old fashioned, no frills burger joint. For the last few months, the owners of that perfect little burger diner have decided to branch out. I was quite excited to hear about the new Gordon's Cheese Steaks.
I've been to Philadelphia though and had a cheese steak sandwich, so I knew what one ought to taste like. Would they be up to that challenge?
It finally opened, we gave it a few days. I did notice that once or twice they posted that they were sold out for the day and were closing early. I told Angel about that and she merely responded "I could handle a good sandwich for lunch."
So I mapped out a task list for Saturday morning. First I'd stop at the Hillsboro Post Office to drop off five books I'd sold on line that week. This was an unusually high amount of sales, I can go a month or two and not sell any of the nearly five hundred books I have for sale on Half.com.
After that I would go in for my semi-regular oil change. I like the convenience of pulling into an oil change place and having three guys running around my car checking things and topping off fluids. I don't care for the inevitable up-selling, radiator flush, transmission fluid exchange, new battery or wipers, etc. This time though I did accept the offer of an overpriced air filter. He showed it to me and I could see it was more dirt and grime than actual filter. Sure, I could easily go to Wally-World and get a cheaper one and replace it myself, but that's exactly what I'd said I was going to do the last two or three oil changes, but didn't.
After this, I finally headed to Bailey Road, arriving around 11:30. (they open at 11 on Saturdays).
It was chilly, gray and snowing thick, wet, but non-threatening flakes.
The Place:
This little shed of a place has been a walk up food joint, off and on, for as long as I remember. Maybe pizza and something else, I don't recall exactly what and when.
There is no dining area. You don't even go indoors, a good, ol' fashioned walk-up. There was an awning or canopy in the front and on this occasion, about five or six people in line.
Everything is made to order, so every order takes a little time to assemble. I got in line and waited. At my turn I told the charming red headed young lady at the counter that I just wanted two 'Originals', nothing else.
I'd originally planned to get more than that, they boast a pretty good sounding 'Coney' for example. But a hand written sign cut me short. 'Cash only'. This severely limited my options. At the post office earlier I'd asked, for no particular reason for $20 cash back.  This gave me a grand total of about $23 in my billfold. I had also seen the overhead menu that stated that the 'Originals' were $7.99 each. I am quite capable of doing broad math calculations in my head and decided to keep it simple this trip. Keep to the basics. This should be their flagship sandwich.
Upon ordering the young lady handed me an IPhone sized pager. She'd said to the people in front of me earlier that their order would take twenty minutes or so.
I took the pager back to my car and browsed the internet and social media on my somewhat new 4G smartphone. That 's always a time killer. I had a book in the car as well. Actually there are five or six books in my car most of the time. I'm a reader.
So I whiled away the time. I watched as the five or six people doing the prep inside worked furiously to fill orders. The wait was noticeable, maybe fifteen or twenty minutes, but I hoped the wait and the higher than fast food prices were worth it.

The Food:
The pager finally went off. There was a wait at the line, the young lady was explaining to the guy that there was some confusion with the orders and that it would be a few more minutes.
I didn't get too frustrated by that. A place that has only been open a couple of weeks and one that was proving quite busy is going to need some time to get the efficiencies and processes figured out. So I waited a few more minutes until they acknowledged that they'd sorted it out and she handed me a plain white bag.
I left and sped home, by then, pretty hungry.
We unrolled our sandwiches threw some chips on a  paper plate and dug in. We had each cut ours in half, we just can't eat a big sandwich in one sitting.

It was indeed good. There was not too much bread, the meat was cooked perfectly, juicy with smooth, creamy cheese (product) mixed in in a near perfect proportion. We both enjoyed our half sandwiches thoroughly.

Summary:
Long time fans will recall that I do not judge the service at newly opened eateries too harshly. As I pointed out, these things take some time to build a flow, so I'll not say anything much about the wait, or the confusion with the orders, etc. These owners have had a successful diner running for decades. They'll figure it out.
I will point out a little thing that could be addressed soon, to cut overhead. There were enough napkins in the bag I was given to mop up an oil spill. Sure the sandwiches are juicy and cheese melty, but they're not that messy.
As for the sandwich itself, yes it was good. Angel commented that next time she might want a milder cheese since there was so much of it, the artificial cheddary Cheez-Whiz taste was a bit over-powering. They offer provolone, that should do the trick.
You can get sandwiches a lot of places for less than eight bucks. You can even get a bigger sandwich for less than eight bucks. But those sandwiches are franchise burgers or too heavily breaded subs. This was a real sandwich. Not too thick, not too greasy. It was fresh and authentic. So yes, in my mind Gordon's Cheese Steaks are better than a fast food burger or a Subway club. But nearly twice the price? I don't know. I did like it and I want it again. I also want to try out the dogs and slaw and fries and chili. . . so there is no question, we will go back. I can also highly recommend the place. They've taken the Stoplight's philosophy of simplicity and applied it well to the new menu. Just remember to bring a book and a fist full of cash. This place has been doing quite well in the first few days of operation, I certainly hope it continues to do well.

But was it as good as the one I tried in Philly?  I don't know. That was like fifteen years ago and I recall not being all that overly impressed. Yes, the real Philly philly was good, but perhaps over-hyped. The one I had here was easily as good, as best I can recall.