Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Main Street BBQ

1620 Hwy Z
Pevely, MO

Herculaneum Fire Department
I’d spent all day at the Herculaneum  Fire Department taking CERT classes.  You don’t know what that is?  I’ll explain later. At any rate it was an all-day class, and I asked the family to pick place that was nearby or on the way. As it turned out it didn’t really matter, by the time class let out, a little early, Angel was on the road in the other direction from dropping a couple of dogs off. I went on home, she got there about the same time and had to let the remaining dogs out before we could leave. She and Adam had already assumed Main Street BBQ, they didn’t see any reason to change that. So we headed out from home and to within a couple of miles of where I’d already spent the whole day.
The Place:
On Highway Z between I-55 and 61/67. It’s a stand-alone affair that was probably something else before it became what it is now. You walk in and confront a counter, on which you will find a large painted menu. Paper menus area also available. You just pick your choice(s) of meat, add a couple of sides, pay for the order, fill your drinks, then find a table. We did all that.
The Food:
Me: Pulled pork sandwich, red potato salad, baked beans and un-sweet tea.
Angel: 2-meat platter, turkey and brisket, corn cob-ette and coleslaw, she tasted the sweet tea, poured it out and got Diet Coke instead.
Adam: Chicken and Pork platter, baked beans and coleslaw.
Pulled pork, beans, potato salad
We sat and waited, not for all that long. I started telling them about my day in class, they feigned interest.
The food came, served on plates, the sides in small bowls. I flipped my sandwich open, put the dill pickle slices on it, took a bite then fetched some sauce, it was a little dry by itself. Tasty, but dry. Adam picked at his beans, then set them aside. “The beans have stuff in them.” By which he meant diced onions. I tsk’d him and carried on. Angel passed around small pieces of brisket, it was pretty good. She said it was okay, but not nearly as good as the turkey, which she described as "Yum!”
Her corn didn’t fare as well, she said  it was almost tasteless, like it had been soaking in water too long, she ate it all anyhow.
Turkey+Brisket Platter
I soaked my pork in ‘Sweet and Smoky’ sauce, that made a lot of difference. They make their own sauces and they do it well. I found the beans to be a little too sweeter than I usually like them, but not to the point of being not-good. The potato salad, made with red potatoes and skin left on, was awesome. Smooth, creamy and not too much mustard or vinegar.

My sandwich was quite large, the pork, though moist with the added sauce still proved a bit rubbery at times, I was a little disappointed, but even a not-great pulled pork sandwich is better than most things. Adam said he loved his chicken, even more so than Bandana’s, which is a very high compliment. Correction: Adam said his chicken was fine, but he prefers Bandana's. He was slightly less pleased with the pork.
Chicken + Pork Platter
Angel went on and on about her turkey, using words like ‘Great!’
“I love it here.” She cooed. “You can just come in, order some meat and if you feel like it can toss a couple of small sides in with it.” Angel loves meat. At around ten at night she usually snacks on ‘night-meat’ either deli stuff or whatever might be leftover from dinner. No bread, no sides, no toppings or sauces, just cold meat straight from the fridge.  
I’d had turkey and scrambled  eggs as an early (6:30 A.M) breakfast before class and the Fire Department treated us to Pizza from a local place in the early afternoon. I only had two slices since it was rather bland (even more so than Domino’s) but that, along with the breakfast was about twice as much as I normally eat on a Saturday. So I dismissed at least most of my criticism, and the lack of motivation to finish my meal, to that. The tab was forty two dollars and change, about the same as Bandana’s, not bad at all for in-house smoked meat. It takes about five minutes to grill a burger, smoking meat takes hours, I expect to pay a little more.
You may note that none of us had French fries this time, which is rare for us, but that’s because Main Street doesn’t serve them anymore. I’d overheard this at the counter but did not hear the explanation. I figured it was because that was the only thing I could recall them ever needing a deep fryer for and it probably just wasn’t worth the mess and maintenance.
It’s still a very good place to grab a smoky meat sandwich despite the little minuses I pointed out. Still highly recommended.

Main Street BBQ on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


10610 Highway 21
(Main Street)
Hillsboro, Mo.

This choice led to a heated discussion. While true that we had never reviewed Hardee's, any Hardee's, this was seen by some in the family as a cop-out. Not because we don't like the chain, but because we do.
Since we moved to Hillsboro we, or at least I, have been there lots of times. It is the closest fast food chain to our house, right at the corner of 21 and BB. It's terribly convenient. PLUS they have a great breakfast selection and serve some pretty decent coffee.
It's not unusual for me to stop in once or twice per month on my way to a meeting or other errands  and ask for a 'number three with coffee', a sausage biscuit with tater rounds.
If I have time I'll take my book in with me, find a spot away from the overhead TV's and enjoy a few minutes of gastronomic and literary joy.
I assured Angel that it wasn't a cop-out at all, that even though we may already have a bias, that we were professionals and could be expected to remain completely objective.
The Place:
Like I said, very, very convenient less than ten minutes from my driveway. It's a busy intersection sitting right above the various county government offices and courthouse. It looks like every other Hardee's in the country. The St. Louis based CKE corporation (it also owns Carl's Jr.) boasts a couple of thousand of Hardee's locations in 42 states, with it's niche being locations in areas and towns too small to support other chains. It's kind of fast-food plastic-y inside, but no more so than the others.
The Food:
Getting the family to decide what to order was a painful process. Due to a fast-moving and rather significant thunderstorm we were without internet service for a few minutes, so we had to rely on memory as to what they had. We would be eating at home, I was for the second week in a row going to be the fetcher. I knew what I wanted, I'd been salivating about it for a few days.
Angel didn't want a burger and fries, Adam couldn't recall what different burgers they had. "Something with bacon." Is about all I had to go on for the boy.
From Angel: "Chicken tenders, but as I recall they don't put many in an order, so two orders if they seem small."
I did get them to agree unanimously on curly fries, if such a thing did exist.
Chicken Tenders
"And a sweet tea, no ice." Angel added. I started writing it all down at this point.
It was still raining a little as I left, though the clouds were breaking up and the sun was peeking through brightly, low in the west. By the time I got to the Dollar General for my first stop, the wipers were no longer required. I picked up a 2-liter Pepsi and a few other small items and within minutes was looping back to Hardee's. I went in and found it all but empty. The place is pretty busy on Saturday mornings, but I wasn't sure how well it fared during the early evening, this might be normal, but I also thought maybe most other people were making plans for St. Patrick's day, a Holiday that we traditionally don't give any notice to. Not that we have issues with the Irish in particular, it's more a practical thing. We barely celebrate the big holidays, so in our home St. Pat's is relegated to the same yawn-status as  Guy Fawkes Day (Nov 5), Maritime day (May 5), Paul Bunyan Day (Jun 28), and even Amelia Earhart Day (Jan 11).
Sorry if this offends, but we just don't have enough 'celebrate' in us to cover them all sufficiently.
I stepped up to the counter and was immediately asked for my order from a headphone-clad young lady. I asked about curly fries and was told that they indeed served them. I read off the rest of the order, all ala-carte, no combos. Two medium drinks, three curly fries, a Frisco thick burger (mine) a 1/3 lb. cheeseburger (no tomatoes or onions) for Adam. The chicken tenders were available in sets of three or five. I had to ponder this for a minute, was three too few or was five too few? I asked for two three's only eventually realizing that one five was just one less tender than the total I was getting, but whatever, I was in no mood for complex math. Then the girl/lady/chick asked me about dipping sauces, I didn't have a clue and apparently it registered on my facial expression. "I'll drop in one of each." She said. A real pro, I respect that.
She handed me a card with a number on it as well as two medium cups. I filled them at the drink line, one with  sweet tea and the other with unsweetened tea, no ice. Why pay for ice if you're dining at home?
1/3 lb Cheeseburger
A couple of other people came in and ordered while I was waiting. The drive up window was also creating some activity. I could have gone through thee drive up, but out of force of habit it didn't occur to me that that was actually an option. My old car had defective windows, a feature of 2000 Olds Aleros, puny, fragile window motors. So for a couple of years I was unable to avail myself to drive-through windows of any kind. I've only been through a drive through a couple of times since I replaced the car, it just rarely occurs to me that I can.
As I waited I decided to look around the dining area. A few weeks ago I'd noticed that at Jack-in-the Box, the table and floors where littered with crumbs and wrappers. Not here though, the tables had been cleaned and the floor swept and mopped. Kudos.
This Hardee's is not the fastest of fast-food joints. They don't keep a pile of pre-made burgers and fries under a heat lamp. I don't see that as a negative. Hillsboro is not a town where 'hurry' is such a high priority anyhow. Being the county seat things tend move at a slower pace then they do in more cosmopolitan/metropolitan areas such as DeSoto and Festus.
I went ahead and took the two teas out to the car so I wouldn't have to carry them and the bags of food all at the same time. I did wish I had my book on me.
Frisco Thickburger
It was probably only five to ten minutes, which at any other restaurant would not seem like a long time, so all things being relative, the wait was expected, normal and not so bad.
Finally they called me over and handed me the big bag.
Once home, I set it all out, primarily to see if I'd received everything I ordered. This is an issue at all fast food places, in fact this Hardee's a few years ago was a known sinner. It's been a long time  since I recall being short-sheeted there though. They got it all right this time.
I did my photo-session thing again as Adam stood impatiently behind me.
As is our custom, I sat down at the dining room table and cracked open my book, Angel and Adam stretched out in the living room watching cartoons or something. Don't judge us, it's just how we roll. During the week they eat earlier than me to fit in with the dog/school schedule and I eat when I get home, alone, using the time to relax a little. We run a business out of the house, Angel is very busy most days, especially in the spring. She has to fit things around a pretty strict schedule that the living breathing, panting clients require. She stays busy until last pee (theirs, not hers), around nine P.M. That's when we get together and catch each other up on the day.
I've said this before, Hardee's has toppled Burger King* as my favorite of the top five fast-food burger franchises. The Frisco burger is always good, the sourdough bread makes it just that much better. The fries, this time curly, were done pretty well. We all finished up, Angel only left a nugget or two which she would surely get to later.
There was simply nothing bad to say. Unlike Burger King which had several shoulder shrugs and screwed up faces, this food, for fast food, was pretty darn tasty. The tea, not so much.
The tab came to a reasonable twenty five dollars and change, about typical for fast food.
Bottom line, this was about as good as fast food burgers get. My number one of the big five.

In related news, Wendy's has toppled Burger King for the number two spot in sales behind McDonalds for fast food hamburgers. I told you things were declining at the King!

Hardee's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hot Shots

12664 Dorsett Rd.
Maryland Heights, MO

Doug and Rob, posing.

Once again, a last minute invite to go out for lunch with Rob and Doug. A beautiful, unseasonably warm, March day. Rob drove again, Doug sat in the front seat and I in the back. I am not quite as altitude-privileged as Doug or Rob, so for me it’s not about who sits up front with whom, it’s merely a matter of physics and anatomy. I fit better in back seats than grotesquely tall (over 5’10”) people. It doesn’t bother me; I’m still waiting for my promised growth spurt, some guys are just late bloomers. Once that finally happens, all bets are off.
I’d not heard of Hot Shots, but learned quickly that it was one of the many sports bars in the area, within a metaphorical stone’s throw of Maryland Yards.
It sits in an upscale strip mall, blending in quietly with its retail neighbors. Another thing Rob and Doug have become accustomed to is the delay for me to take a picture of the storefront, this time they even pseudo-posed at the door.
The Place:
As soon as we opened the door we were met with a sonic storm. This wasn’t background music, it was well into the foreground. It was turned up happy-hour loud which I found distracting, especially since the music selection wobbled between twangy country and what I believe the kids today refer to as hippity-hop. I’m not a big fan of most music, these two genres in particular, I was not impressed.
The place was only sparsely populated with fellow cubicle drones, and we were told to find our own seating. The main floor around the bar was equipped by tall tables and stools, and each tall table sported a condiment rack as well as an ashtray. I didn’t actually need to see the ashtrays to know it was a smoking-allowed place, the ambience, the aroma had already given that away.
The walls were lined primarily with large, bright, flashing flat screen TV’s all showing sporting events and channels. On the largest screen, as well as a few of those on the sides, a Hockey game was starting up, the local Blues playing against the Chicago Blackhawks. Every time I looked up at the screen, it seemed yet another fist fight had broken out. Why they pretend to be about ice skating and sportsmanship I can’t imagine. Why not just dress up in bright, stupidly-fitting clothes and swing big sticks at each other and be done with it.
We’d already started the sports talk in the car. “So should we get the sports out of the way now or wait until we get there?” Doug had asked. I was ready this time.
“As a matter of fact I’m sort of into this March Madness thing, have you heard about it?” I asked the front seat.
They both looked a bit startled, so I explained.
“My grandmother, my mother, and my sister all graduated from Murray State, in fact my beloved, yet dreadfully homely sister recently retired from there as the Registrar.”
They seemed impressed.
“And my older brother attended Western Kentucky.” Whose team I knew to be wild-carding their way into the tournament.
“And of course I’ve got all kinds of ties to U.K., My saintly mother even listens to their games on the radio. In Kentucky, where there are only one or two huge schools, and several smaller ones, it’s not unusual for a person to root for two or more at a time. You can be a fan of Murray and U.K., or Louisville and Western, it’s not seen as a contradiction there.” I was making this part up, I never attended college in Kentucky myself. “So I even filled out one of those bracket-y things I saw on Yahoo, picked U.K to take it all.”
That was the extent of my contribution to the sports talk, as I’d hoped, they didn’t pop follow-up questions regarding scores, players, stats or team mascots.
The menu was a simple two sided affair the typical sports-bar offerings. Burgers, sandwiches, pizza, etc. They obviously served alcoholic drinks as well, squeezed between the TV’s were a plethora of beer banners and neon signs, mostly touting Budweiser products. The bar looked well stocked as did the petite bartender. I couldn’t see any further down on her than her neck, though the taller Doug pointed out that she was wearing a tight tube top.
The servers were all wearing referee-like black and white striped shirts and black spandex short-short-short-shorts, all clothing three sizes too small.
It’s a sports bar thing. I could go on for pages about the sociology, psychology, and anthropology of scantily clad, fetching waitresses at sports bars, but I won’t. Suffice it to say if I were to open an eatery next door, tuned to the  Lifetime Channel on big TV’s, played gospel music on zithers and accordions in the background and clad the wait-staff in Amish midwife apparel, who do you think would go out of business first? I don’t try to rationalize or defend the business model, it’s cheap and tawdry, and it works$$.

The Food:
I asked what on the menu was good, my two pals shrugged their shoulders. They mentioned the Royale, a big sloppy burger that included a fried egg and bacon. Though that sounded really good, I could almost hear the Lipitor pills begging for mercy from their bottle.
Doug ordered one anyhow, along with a side of horseradish. Oddly enough, though the actual origin of the name 'horseradish' is unknown, one thing that is known about that particular root is that it is poisonous to horses.
Rob went with the ‘Upper Deck’, a turkey club sandwich with a little bacon. Both the boys asked for the Hot Shots house chips.
I’d had a burger recently and a beef sandwich the day before at a Panera-catered meeting. So I decided to pretend to be concerned about my red-meat intake and ordered 'The Fisherman', a beer-battered cod filet topped with cheese and served with lettuce, tomato and tartar sauce, and a side of traditional fries. Not that a battered, deep fried cod filet is that much healthier than a burger, it just sounds like it. Rob and I cheaply asked for nothing more than water, Doug asked for tea.
They continued sports talk, I glanced around the joint. I noticed an upper deck, a loft area with regular tables and chairs that was unoccupied. The place was bigger than it seemed from the outside, more beer banners and neon. I’d heard the place gets pretty packed during its happy hours, but for a Wednesday lunch, not bad at all.
The food arrived rather quickly, nothing splashy or fancy, just baskets of lunch. My filet was brown and crispy, the fish well cooked, moist and flaky. The fries were okay, nothing special. Rob handed me one of his chips, eager to know how they would fare in my review. They were actually pretty good, though it did seem to be a bit soft in the middle.
Our waters got refreshed, Doug wolfed down his horseradish-laden Royale in near record time, as expected. He was panting and red-faced, a state he seems to enjoy. Rob and I didn’t even try to compete, there’s simply no point.
When polled, they seemed quite content with their meals, as was I. I told them that in places where fish was not a main item that it’s easy to screw it up. Breaded fish filets, usually frozen, don’t fry up like burgers or fries. They have to be nursed through the process to avoid cold spots or over-doneness. They did just fine here.
Not bad, not bad at all. I finished my sandwich, left some fries, the other guys cleaned up. The service, aside from being scantily clad was efficient and professional. The bill for all three of us came in at just over twenty four dollars, well below the ten dollar lunch barrier. I picked up the tab since somebody else did the last time, the boys thanked me like it was a big deal. For all their other flaws, and there are quite a few, Doug and Rod are genuinely nice guys. That is unless you bring up politics, then Doug goes all zealously scorched-earth.
I can’t speak for Hot Shots at prime-time, but for a working day lunch it was pretty good, except for the ashtray smell and the too-loud music. Given those two things I’d prefer Maryland Yards just across the street.

Hotshots Sports Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Domino's Pizza

Domino’s Pizza
2128 Rock Rd.
Desoto, MO

First: Why you shouldn’t always trust Wikipedia:


  We decided on this earlier in the week. There was a commercial on TV and we talked about how long it had been since any of us had a Domino’s Pizza.
I suggested that we give the place a best-shot test.
Rather than just order a couple of compromise pizzas as we usually do, I suggested, insisted that we would each order a pizza for ourselves.
A compromise pizza is when I agree to have whatever Angel wants rather than be picky about my own quaint, irrelevant, superfluous, personal preferences.
Angel likes lots of toppings on a thin crust.
Adam only likes a couple of toppings on a standard crust.
I like lots of toppings on a standard crust.
So the compromise is that we usually order Angel’s preference and Adam’s preference and I have some of each. I wanted my own pizza for this test.

The Place:
Located on Rock Road in Desoto, just a literal stone’s throw from Pizza Hut. Unlike PH, Domino’s does not have a dining area, it’s strictly a delivery/takeout place. We’ve never dined in at PH, but we have picked up pizzas there several times. Why we never thought to pick up at Domino’s is simply a mystery. The fact that they pretty much share the same parking lot plays a big role in our overall evaluation.
We are not in the delivery area, so pickup is the only option. We chose to live rural, so we do not begrudge the lack of delivery.

The Food:
Angel: A ‘Deluxe’ a thin crust with sausage, pepperoni, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives.
Adam: A three-topping ‘hand-tossed’ with pepperoni, bacon and olives.
Me: A Deluxe, hand-tossed, minus the mushrooms, added roasted red peppers and fetta cheese.
I like mushrooms okay, just not a lot of them. I had recently ordered a burger at Hardee's, and thought I’d ordered the single-best fast food burger in existence, the Frisco Thickburger. But I ordered a #3 combo instead of a # 5 and got the mushroom Swiss. They put too many mushrooms on the things, it’s pretty much all you can taste. SO I wasn’t in the mood for more mushrooms.
Angel called in the order, adding some cheesy bread sticks.  She has a nice, sultry phone voice and usually gets treated well on the phone. I on the other hand am told I come across as arrogant, angry, rude or dismissive, and get hung up on a lot. We complement each other well this way. She ordered, I delivered.  She was told our order would be ready in fifteen to twenty minutes, roughly the time it takes to get there from our compound.
On the way to Desoto I stopped at Queen’s, the grocery store in Hillsboro, to pick up some drinks. Angel wanted Diet Dr. Pepper, Adam wanted Pepsi. I scanned the aisles and saw RC Cola, which is my own preference, but compromised by splitting the Pepsi with Adam, I didn’t want very much. I also picked up a box of wine since we were running about a quart low at the house.
When I turned onto Rock Road I saw Domino’s, but it was so close to the corner that I had to pass it and pull in to the Pizza Hut parking lot and double back down the lot.
I walked in, the place was nothing but a counter in front of a pizza kitchen. Several assembly stations, bins of toppings, stacked ovens in the back, piles of pizza boxes everywhere. The place was packed floor to ceiling, like a submarine preparing to leave port.
Our order was ready, I paid up, took the boxes, set them in the front passenger seat of my disappointing and unimpressive chevy coupe. (Sounds better than ‘Cavalier’) The drive back to the house was heavenly. The aroma of pizza and the lilting voice of Emmylou Harris (she was the guest on Prairie Home Companion) and the fair weather made it not unpleasant at all.
I harked back. I’ve delivered pizzas professionally. In Rantoul Illinois back in the late 70’s, I was stationed at the now-closed Chanute AFB for a few months for training. We needed $450 cash to pay the court costs to adopt my beautiful and beloved daughter Leslye. My military pay kept us clothed, fed and housed, but $450 cash was quite a tall order. I only attended class till the early afternoon so I had plenty of time to take on a part time job at ‘Garcia’s Pizza in a Pan’
They needed drivers,  I fit the bill very well. Not only was I over 21, which meant I could serve beer inside the restaurant, unlike the High-school aged drivers, but I also had a car with the proper stickers to get me onto the base without having to stop at the gate and get a pass.
So for three bitterly cold and windy months, November-January, I delivered pizzas in my ’75 ‘Lemon Yellow’ Pinto Station Wagon. I delivered just long enough to raise the cash. The aroma of warm pizza in the car would last two more years. Not such a bad thing, and this is what I was harking back to.
As for the other time I delivered pizzas, I’ll not speak of that time here. Suffice it to say that the memories and reasons were not as sweet and pleasant as the Rantoul affair.
So we laid the boxes out side by side. Angel and Adam stood by impatiently as I photographed them, with my good camera. Then the carnage began in earnest. I don’t care for cheesy bread , so I passed on that. I poured myself some Pepsi and yanked out two slices of my own pie. I grabbed the bag of generic potato chips, since I like a crunch to accompany pizza.
It was quiet for a while, I was reading Michael Connelly’s ‘The Fifth Witness’ (Highly recommended!) while Angel and Adam sat in the living room and ate while watching Sponge Bob or something equally awful. It’s how we dine.
After we ate I polled the family for their thoughts. Something immediately became clear, there would be no bubbly positive review. I heard the words ‘bland’ and missing something’. Adam mentioned ‘garlic-y’ but followed up by saying ‘not in a bad way’, meaning that the taste of garlic was what he tasted most, but he wasn't sickened by it.
Angel was puzzled, trying to figure out what was missing from hers. She finally hit upon it. “The sauce, I didn’t taste any sauce.”
Cheesy Bread
And that was it. Upon that revelation, we all agreed there was no slightly sweet, slightly bright acidic bite to the pies. They all appeared to have sauce on them, but whatever was there did not stand out as a separate taste sensation.
  Oddly enough Angel and Adam also mentioned that they were quite happy with the cheesy bread, which is essentially pizza without the sauce. Hmmm.
Once the criticism session started, I re-checked my pie and noticed something else I had suspected when I was eating. Look at the pictures. The toppings were very poorly distributed. On each one of them were clumps/clusters of toppings rather than an even spread. This is especially noticeable with the olives, but was true with the peppers as well.
We agreed that we’d all had worse pizzas, and in fact these were not really too bad, just missing something.

And that something is the rub. Sure it was a relatively minor thing. For the most part, the crust, the toppings were all fresh and tasty and cooked perfectly.
A couple of years back Domino’s announced, after actually admitting lackluster product, that they were going to rebuild their pizzas from the ground up. Sauce, crust, quality of toppings. In our opinion they were only partially successful. The toppings, like I said, were fresh and tasty, but the sauce pretty much disappeared on the palate.
They had announced that they were making the changes to correct years of sacrificing quality for speed. As can be shown in the posted photographic evidence, speed is apparently still a problem. These pies were too hurriedly assembled. In my day (Caution: Old man rant about the good ‘ol days!) We took time to make sure each pie was assembled proportionally, evenly. It’s not really a small thing. We eat first with our eyes, and a tiny taste of olive is great, but a tight cluster, not so much. Sloppy, just plain sloppy.
The price was about as expected, three 14 inch (large) pies and the bread sticks came in at around forty four dollars. Not bad considering that they lasted us three entire meals. (mmm, breakfast pizza!)
The consensus of the family was, especially considering the fact that in order to pick up the pizzas in Desoto, that we have to drive right in front of Pizza Hut’s door, and that PH’s pizzas  are pretty good, there is simply no reason for us to order from Domino’s, they bring nothing unique or extra to the table.
Certainly better than a cheap freezer-pizza, and definitely less rich than Imo’s or other St. Louis style pizzas, it’s just not great, or even just a little better than that which is available elsewhere, right next door.
Finally, another reason to not put complete trust in Wikipedia: ***

*** Quite coincidentally, these acts of Wikipedia 'vandalism' appeared in the Domino's entry only for a day or two on or about the time I was doing some background research on the franchise. Since these corruptions are usually removed quickly I decided to screen-capture the offending entries. Sure enough they were corrected/removed by Monday night. But here they are saved for posterity.
It's a Wikipedia thing. After all, if you actually give an infinite number of keyboards to an infinite number of chimps, you think it's Shakespeare that they'll come up with?

Domino's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Trattoria Giuseppe

5442 Old Hwy 21
Imperial, MO

There was no ‘choice’ involved this weekend. It was the eve of Angel’s birthday, an event that only happens rarely. Several years can actually pass between one of her birthdays and the next, at least that’s the only way I can reconcile her age-math.
Trattoria Giuseppe is her favorite place to eat, far and above any other place. It’s pretty high on my list as well. It’s a bit pricier than the dives and chains we typically review, but for the occasional occasion, it’s worth every penny.
This time we had a little help, from the distant past. A time-travelling check.
A couple of months ago I was browsing the interwebs and stumbled across the site for the Missouri Treasurer, the one that lists the state’s unclaimed funds. I’d visited there before, but this time was different. My name was listed.
At first I was reluctant, reminded of sting operations where parole violators, deadbeat dads and other scofflaws are sent offers for pro-game tickets or lottery winnings or big screen TV’s for the first 100 people in line. When the violators show up and check in they are arrested on the spot. And since my default position on any possibility of good fortune is ‘paranoia.’ I didn’t immediately file a claim.
The address listed was legitimate and about twelve years and three houses ago. It was only after I convinced myself that I was not in any trouble, and in fact had undergone an FBI background investigation (for a clearance) since then, I was probably good to go. So I filed. I dug up old correspondence proving myself at that old address, including a certificate from the Secretary of State addressed to me at that address indicating I had won a primary election. (seriously, I’ve done that twice.)
I checked the status frequently online, it went from 'received', to ‘pending’, to ‘verified’, to ‘approved’, to ‘pending check processing’ to ‘check sent’ in a bureaucratic break-neck speed of about sixty five days.
On the day of the birthday meal, the check arrived. Up until that point I had no idea how much it would be for. I assumed it was a small amount since I spent most of my early work life only dealing in small amounts. I didn’t know where it was from, perhaps a closed out bank account balance or something else I’d long since forgotten.
So here was money, sixty-five dollars and change, from my past, a time-travelling wad of cash.

The Place:
Located in Imperial, actually closer to Otto, on old Highway 21 near M Highway. It shares a parking lot with a bar and an auto parts store, about as unlikely and unassuming location as can be found. There’s very minimal signage, no flashing lights or valet parking. To say it was understated would be an understatement.
Nothing had changed since our last visits. The door opened into a foyer with a small bar to the left and modes seating areas on the right. We had reservations (advised but not mandatory) and were quickly seated. On the modest, muted, striped wall-papered walls were photos and posters of Italian-ish things, including a mural of a Mediterranean coastline. The staff scurried about in their Black pants and crisp white shirts., the place , even early on a Saturday was already half filled.
We were handed menus and asked about drinks, tea, tea and coke. The waitress rattled off the ‘special’ steak Oscar, which I recalled having ordered on a previous visit. It’s a New York strip covered in a sauce with mushrooms and provel cheese. I found the sauce a bit too rich for my liking when I’d had it. It’s a provel thing.

The Food:
I’d already decided I wanted a steak rather than pasta. Angel was certain to get her usual. Adam usually gets some form of chicken. We were rather surprised when he ordered a steak, the pepper loin fillet, medium rare. Normally, on the medium rare occasions that he actually orders steak it is cremated, a few degrees from being a pile of ashes. We, of course, asked him about this. “I thought I’d try a steak like it’s supposed to be cooked.” He said. Our little boy is growing up (sniff, sniff.)
House Salad
Along with his steak he asked for bowtie pasta with a white sauce. I also ordered a steak, a NY strip, medium rare, and sided a baked potato.
Angel, as expected, asked for the tutto mare (‘all from the sea’, roughly translated.) It’s a bed of linguini and piled high with clams, mussels, shrimp, mushrooms and tomatoes covered in a garlic butter sauce. If you like things like that it’s probably heavenly. Angel sure likes it. Each of the meals came with the house salad.
Our complimentary bread was delivered first, with our drinks. The bread was rather plain, white with a brown crust, and lacked any specific Mediterranean flavor. However, adding a little pepper to a puddle of olive oil as a dip transformed it to a luscious appetizer.
The tea was dark, clear and fresh, quite good.
Steak and Pasta
There was a pleasant pause for the entrée’s, a place like this doesn’t and shouldn’t rush. The salads came soon enough and were exceptional. Some lettuce, a few rings of red onion, a couple of cherry tomatoes, a pair of olives, a fat peperoncini (chili pepper) topped with small shards of asiago cheese and coated with the splendid, almost sweet, house dressing. This is by far one of the best pre-made salads in the area.
The entrée’s finally arrived, expertly delivered by the always-professional wait staff.  Our steaks were thick and seared black and crunchy. The potato was foil wrapped and cooked to tender perfection.
I watched Adam, he was cautious at first, but in no time had picked up speed and devoured his entire chunk of cow. Angel picked apart the clams and other snotty offerings, eating less pasta to save room for the slimy nuggets.
Tutto Mare
The steaks were cooked perfectly the exact right amount of pink. It was tender and a little peppery. The ‘steak butter’ melted and flowed, juicing the meat up nicely. The potato had nothing but butter and sour cream, and since it was so perfectly cooked, needed nothing else.
Adam finished first, and completely. Angel left a bit of pasta behind, and I just couldn’t absorb the last couple of bites of steak. That didn’t deter us though, when asked we accepted the offer of desserts, to go. Angel, the chocolate-chocolate-chocolate cake, Adam and I the New York style cheesecake, mine with strawberries.

A forgone conclusion. We absolutely love this place. It’s a bit bizarre to find such an exquisite eatery, professional and top-notch in every respect, out here in the boonies. But it is there, and it is well known, for good reason. The management, staff, menu and atmosphere are A-one in nearly every respect. Giuseppe Prezzavento has himself quite the operation, he also has class and mad food skills. Every time we’ve been there he takes time to step out of the kitchen and greet every table of guests. Humble and appreciative, he is the consummate courteous professional.
The only thing that keeps us from eating there more often is the price. The night’s full meal and deserts came in at eighty dollars and change. We simply cannot do that very often. Not that it is not worth it, but it certainly does make special occasions a bit more special.
When you’re in the mood to spoil yourself this is definitely a prime spot to do so.
Highest recommendations, all around!

Trattoria Giuseppe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 1, 2012

HuHot Mongolian Grill

12675 Olive Blvd
St. Louis (Creve Coeur)

I’ve been to Mongolian barbecue places before, not in a while. This was a spur of the moment choice, Doug and Rob invited me to join them. HuHot is actually a franchise, based in, obviously (sarcasm), Montana.
There’s a couple of dozen of these restaurants mostly in the middle of the U.S. Kentucky, Tennessee and Maryland? Nope. Springfield Mo? Yes.
I’ve probably been to this style of restaurant less than most of you, my loyal fans, but bear with me as I cover the basics for the novices.
The Place:
A standalone, large and colorful. Trademarked logos on the signage and doors/walls/windows. Inside, the upper walls are decorated by hand painted murals. Laura Blaker, a Missoula based artist travels to each new HuHot to paint its unique murals. In Creve Coeur, there is an imposing 20+ foot snaky, two legged dragon, yellow with red rings and eyes. The murals really are quite striking.
It’s a large place and pretty busy.  This Monday lunch saw it filled with office workers much like the three of us, but mostly more attractive. Rob and Doug had been there several times and knew the drill.
The lunch special is an all-you-can-eat stir-fry buffet. There are three buffet lines, one with raw meats and noodles, the next with fresh veggies, etc. and the last with a couple dozen vats of sauces.
We were shown a table, asked about drinks (water all around) and offered appetizers of Rangoons or egg rolls. Doug asked for three of the latter. He and Rob also asked for plain rice, which I thought was an unusual 'optional'(not part of the buffet) item, since rice is a staple and very cheap, costing about 1 yuan per ton (1 Yuan= around 15 U.S. cents).
We headed toward the lines.
The Food:
The meats were chopped and frozen. At first this bothered me, but I thought the better of it and went on. I chose mostly chicken and a little turkey. I added a plop or two of yakisoba noodles (there are three other kinds of noodles available see http://www.huhot.com/Menu/Create_a_Meal for a complete list of buffet items.) I went nuts at the veggies, peppers, lots of multicolored peppers, a few tomatoes and bean sprouts. I tried to build a taste profile in my head to make sure I didn’t mix contrasting flavors. My bowl was already spilling over when I got to the sauces. There’s a couple dozen choices, you just ladle on four or five scoops, mix or match. An experienced customer’s blend could potentially be quite elaborate. I kept it simple and mild, choosing the tame Samurai Teriyaki. I figured I could always turn up the volume later.
Rob and Doug had filled their bowls as well, as veterans of the place they didn’t need as much think time. We took our bowls up to the cooking station and handed them over. In the center was a seven foot round steel cooking contraption with a hole in the middle. Two or three cooks could easily fit around it. They squirt a little oil on the surface, like a griddle and plop your bowl right on it. I spend a lot of time behind a stove at home so watching the process right in front of my eyes was not as big a spectacle as it might be for some people.
In a couple of minutes of tossing and turning, the steaming piles were scooped onto plates and handed over.
At the pickup area there were vats/crocks of crunchies, chow mein noodles, glass noodles, some crushed nuts, etc. I added a few chow mein noodles. Our water and egg rolls were waiting for us at the table.
I took my first taste, decided it was indeed quite tame, and sprinkled on some soy sauce. By the time I sank my fork into the next bite I noticed fast-eating Doug, the star-nosed mole*. Even self-handicapped by using chopsticks, he was about half done with his. By the time I was halfway through mine, he’d already built a second helping and gone through the line. Rob debated a second plate, instead he took some of the white rice they’d ordered separately and stirred it into the remaining sauce and food chunks on his plate. Doug still finished ahead of me.
 I was very pleased with the meal. I had chosen smartly, except for the tomatoes, they’re better on a salad or pizza than in a stir fry. The sauce was splendid, a little sesame oil, soy sauce and sherry. I’ll probably go up a notch next time though there wasn’t anything at all wrong with what I had.
The little egg rolls were quite good, the sweet sauce they served with them was just right. 
Doug’s second round was based on recommendation cards, a thick deck of which can be found on every table. Tried and true combination suggestions. He chose one called ‘Vampire Killer’, a blend which I think included the chain's trademarked  Kung Pao...Yow!” sauce. He likes it hot, really, really hot. 
Our water was refreshed often and emptied plates taken swiftly. When it came time to pony up, Doug grabbed the check and handed his card to the waiter. I objected loudly and violently, putting up quite the fuss. (Lie). Doug's such a nice guy. 
I believe the lunch buffet cost eight bucks, though I can't be sure since I didn't pay my fair share.  The food was really good, and the selection was great. I've not been to very many Mongolian style buffets, so I can't really compare it to much else. I really just cannot say anything bad about the place at all. I'd said the meat being frozen was a little bothersome at first, until I considered the alternative, raw. I'd much rather stir fry small chunks of frozen meat than raw stuff that had been sitting out for a while. Besides, most of the meat I consume at home comes from our freezer. We're almost an empty nest, even bacon wouldn't stay good in the fridge for as long as it takes us to finish a pound. So I'm okay with the frozen meat. You?


Star nosed mole
* Star-nosed mole. Considered the fastest eating mammal in the animal kingdom. “. . . taking as short as 120 milliseconds (average: 227 milliseconds) to identify and consume individual food items. Its brain decides in the ultra short time of 8 ms if a prey is comestible or not.” (Wikipedia)
I've called Doug this before, his family got a kick out of it, so now it sticks. It's not intended as an insult, just an observation that aside from the occasional prisoner, Doug eats faster than most other creatures I am aware of.

HuHot Mongolian Grill on Urbanspoon