Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oriental Buffet

 774 S. Truman Blvd.
Festus/Crystal City Mo.

We've been her before, have even reviewed it a couple of times. But we were craving Chinese and that's a powerful thing. not to be trifled with. We considered Lam's but we wanted variety. At Lam's you order a meal and you get that offering. I didn't just want pepper steak or General Chicken, I wanted it all.

The Place:
In Festus/Crystal City's large strip mall south of town(s). The twin sities are more like conjoined twin cities, I can never tell one from the other at the edges. I am satisfied now that it is actually in Crystal City though. A simple test confirmed this for me. If a crime occurs, which cops show up?
Yeah there was a crime. Shortly after we arrived two cruisers and four officers from the Crystal City Police showed up. They gathered around the entrance and talked to an animated young man for quite a while, then to other employees. Since I don't know much about Asian culture other than what I see in movies and on television,*  I assumed that something incredibly dire was amiss since Chinese communities tend to self-police and seldom talk to local authorities for fear of retribution from the community elders and their Kung-Fu trained, black robed Ninja assassins.
I do not know all the details of the crime other than what I overheard and what I filled in with my own imagination. It was apparent that the perps a male and a female tried to get away without paying their bill, there seems to have been a physical altercation in the parking lot as they made their getaway, a young lady worker was a bit bruised. I do not know if throwing stars or curve-bladed swords were deployed, nor did I hear of any physics-defying somersaults. If this melee was anything like the one in the acclaimed documentary 'Kung-Fu-Hustle' I'm sorry I missed it.
An ambulance showed up and they talked to the young lady, she seemed to not need their care other than for the official report. She probably eschews western medicine anyhow favoring herbal brews and acupuncture if the movies indeed accurately depict Chinese American life.
Still even with the kerfuffle, people came and went undeterred. Like I said a craving for Chinese food is hard to ignore.
We were seated by a thin young Asian lady with a thick accent. I do not know if she was one of the defenders in the battle.
A place like this you don't even sit down when shown your table, you just recite your drink order and waddle to the buffet line.
I notice that the place was nearly spotless, bright, clean, modestly decorated as it has been since it opened. They're apparently doing very well.

The Food:
My first round
I bypassed  completely the pretty, offerings at the sushi line. I'm sure that people who like that sort of thing would have something nice to say about it, it all looked fresh and expertly and artistically crafted. As is my nature, I pulled up small helpings of several things. What yo find on my plate is rice, noodles, General Chicken, Black pepper chicken, pepper steak, honey chicken, a pot sticker, and a crab rangoon. That sound like a  lot, but notice the picture, there's only a little bit of each.
Adam's plate.
Adam chose the white rice since fried rice has onions in it, he also got some sweet/sour chicken and broccoli.
Angel goes on and on about the sauteed green beans and mushroom offerings, she also added a baked seafood sampling and chicken on a stick, topping it off with a heavy egg roll.
Meanwhile, the cops were scribbling notes and talking to a couple of customers, perhaps witnesses. No hoses or nightsticks were deployed during the interviews, thus nothing was likely learned.
the food was quite enjoyable. I hadn't really gone beyond familiar fare. I bypassed the frog legs, the fish and a few other things that probably weren't too bad if you like those sorts of things more than the chicken selections.
The oriental music was soft and lilting, a flute-type instrument was prominent. It didn't exactly fit the soundtrack of police vs. Chinatown interaction, but it was pleasant enough though slightly distorted.
My second and final round
When I polled the family about the food it was obvious that there were no surprises. the food was all as good as expected. My pepper steak stuck out in my mind for its tenderness, and Angel applauded the improvement in the rangoons, now  crispier than she recalled than on previous visits.
"Good, as usual." was the unanimous verdict.
My second plate contained more shrimp, a little more of my favorites the noodles, the pepper chicken and a rangoon, and of course the traditional Chinese delicacy of bananas in red sauces, this time alongside traditional banana pudding.
All very good, well priced and quite filling. The service was efficient and  polite, the buffet lines were promptly refreshed as were our drinks.  Even with the 'ChinaTown'-esque drama going down in the front, the atmosphere was nice and friendly. The tab came to a very reasonable thirty bucks. (actually $29.29).
Why anyone would skip out on a tab that small I cannot imagine, two people, twenty bucks.  Low self esteem perhaps. There's a lot of places in the area that are more expensive, if you're going to risk legal troubles, and these jerks certainly will since now there's a possible assault issue now as well, sheesh, all that for a twenty dollar tab?  Plus there's the possibility of 'personal' retribution involving Ninjas. It's just not worth it.
* Okay, okay, I do have more knowledge about Asia than what I get from movies and TV, having lived there for three years (Japan/Korea). I am poking fun at TV and movie depictions of the mysterious and mystical/magical Asian cultures as secretive, clandestine, violent and dangerous people.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Casey's General Store

10544 Hwy 21
Hillsboro, MO

The Place:
Casey's General Store is a regular fixture in many of the Midwest's small towns. There are over 1700  of them, over three hundred in Missouri alone. There is only one in Kentucky, none in Maryland, and Tennessee is about to get its first in Dyersburg. Here though, it seems every little town has one.
What is it exactly? Well there's no way to put this more delicately, it's a convenience store. The one in Hillsboro is next to the car wash. There's nothing fancy about it.
In a small town though, a convenience store is a little more than a highway stopping-off place. Casey's recognizes this. We have other convenience stores in Hillsboro and they are nice too, some bigger and more modern. I'll admit I don't go to our Casey's much, in my opinion their gas pumps are too slow.
Those times I do stop in though they are busy, the customers are locals, and the trade is pretty heavy. It's not that I'd ever said to the family "Let's all gussy ourselves up in our Sunday-go-to-meetin's and dine in at the Casey's!" It's a convenience store.
This weekend presented a logistical problem. Not only was it my turn in the work on-call rotation, but there was scheduled maintenance activity for 4 to 6 P.M.  In the Corporate IT world that means for me, more like 3-7 P.M. since it takes extra time to prepare and extra time to wrap up. The work was not especially hard, but it would require my undivided presence at the laptop on the dining room table. A miracle of technology, I can manage the massive banks of globally accessed, powerful servers from my dining room.
But it also meant I couldn't go out to eat dinner on Saturday, the only day of this weekend that Angel didn't have a houseful of dogs to tend to.
This meant takeout.
This was actually Adam's Idea, or his mother's, I forget which. they get to Casey's more often than I do and made the observation that when they were there it seemed to traffic a lot of great-smelling pizza. I'd neve even considered convenience store pizza, I had images of those ubiquitous quick-stop hotdogs, spinning for days and days, wrinkling up, drying out, growing flesh-eating parasites at an alarming rate. You know what I mean.
But my options were limited. Why not try something different.
So as I buried my head into work they headed out. Adam had pre-ordered the requisite half hour to forty five minutes ahead of time.
They brought the pizzas home, accompanied by a couple of boxes of breadsticks. They also added some breakfast donuts, something Pizza Hut simply doesn't offer.
 The Food:
My expectations were low, because of the spinning hot dog imagery, but I was also distracted. I have to admit though, they were some pretty pies. The toppings, those that I could see, were well spaced and rather generous.
Angel and I split a 'Supreme' Adam, who doesn't like many veggies chose a meat-lover and asked for an extra topping, bacon. He added more meat to an all-meat pizza.  The pizzas were still hot, the cheese was still melty. I tore off three slices and added some store-brand potato chips to my plate and went back to the laptop. I had a brief respite waiting for the other guys to do their thing with the systems, so i got to read and wolf down my pizza in peace. Angel and Adam settled into their dining area, the living room in front of the TV. This is just how we do things.
I have to say, it wasn't bad.
Meat lover, with extra meat
It was definitely not St. Louis style, it was more like what I consider Domino's style. The crust was soft, yet not too chewy, the cheese was plentiful, mostly mozzarella  and Parmesan from what I could tell. The meat was tasty. What it lacked though, and sadly so, was big chunks of veggies. There were some there, but if you zoom into the photo you'll see that the veggies are, if you can see them at all, quite small and not at all prominent. This is about the only complaint I have about it.
It was quite good. Not surprisingly Angel declared "Better than Domino's!" Which is our low-water-mark of disappointing pizzas. Many frozen pizzas get that same rating in her opinion.
Her other comments were that the cheese was tasty, and the veggies too small, and they only offer one kind of crust. I'd equate it to 'hand tossed, not Chicago thick, or New York/St. Louis thin. It's the way I like a crust anyhow. Angel agreed that it was light and not too chewy, she liked it, though she's always been a bigger fan of thin crusts.
Adam was quite pleased as well, agreeing that it was much better than Domino's though the crust was softer than he expected. There was "nothing wrong" with the cheese and the toppings were plentiful and flavorful. Angel reminded me that she really enjoyed the spiciness of the sausage. Adam even rated it as good as Pizza Hut.
I can't say much about the sauce, I barely detected it, so it was neither outstanding or disgusting
Of course the best pizza I've ever had was made by my younger brother Jeff, in Cerulean Ky. He's not a professional cook, but he could be. He makes the dough (with just a drip of honey)  and sauce (from garden tomatoes) completely from scratch and gets the other veggies from the Amish food stand down the road. I don't really expect any franchise to top this piece of culinary art.
On reheating the next day, in our toaster oven since the microwave broke down, it was just as good. I was once again at my laptop, the on-call rotation can sometimes be quite demanding, but still, the pizza was thoroughly satisfying. I even tried the breadsticks, and found them quite good as well.
At fifteen bucks per pizza that's not a bad deal. Because a pizza, or two in our case, can easily cover more than one full meal. The nearness of Casey's to our humble abode adds significant value as well. Pizza Hut and Dominoes are in Desoto, some ten miles further down the road. We make a pretty good pizza ourselves, but not on a whim. So I imagine that we will do this again. In fact I'm pretty sure of it. Casey's isn't the best pizza in the world, nor the cheapest, nor the fastest, but it is nearby and quite satisfying.
It isn't for everyone though. If you live in a city, or otherwise outside the Midwest, you simply won't find it. But for the three hundred locations in Missouri alone, it's probably as good as you will find without driving a lot extra. And there is nothing actually wrong with it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Courthouse Grill

250 1st. Street
Hillsboro, Mo.


The Place:
It had been a few weeks since our first visit to this new place, time to see if they’d settled in. We had a few minor issues then, the free-range seating, the fatty steaks, the ignored customers.  These are all things that are easily fixable.
It was still neat and attractive, the walls uncluttered though still a terrible shade of baby-sh&#! green. 
There were not as many patrons this time, which didn’t surprise me. On our last visit there was a truck/tractor event at the fairgrounds, this time, not. The average age of the diners in attendance skewed toward advanced middle age to full blown senior citizens. Most were in groups of four or more.
We stepped in and stood. I wanted to see what happened next. Last time someone just called out for us to sit anywhere. This time, not. One young lady grabbed some menus and pointed to a table near the door, pretty much where we were standing.  I think it was the same table as last time.
At the other end of the room, above and to the left of the bar, a single TV was on, tuned to GAC. That stands for ‘Great American Country’. ‘GAC’ is also the exact sound I repeatedly make when I have to watch it. If there’s anything worse in my mind than contemporary country music it’s contemporary country music videos. And the only thing worse than those in the music industry is NON-contemporary country music.  Don’t take me wrong though, I have nothing against people who like country music, unless I have to be around them for more than a few minutes. It’s simply a matter of taste. I have some, people who listen to that twangy noise do not.
Fortunately the volume was set pretty low, and if I hummed quietly to myself I could drown out the heart-cheatin’ hard-drinkin’ honky-tonkin’ ballads and anthems.
By taking off my glasses the videos might as well have been infomercials.
Our waitress introduced herself and we were ready to rock and roll.
The Food:
Hot Wings
The menu was pleasantly uncomplicated. Sandwiches, steaks, seafood/pasta and salads. All the items were defined simply,  without unnecessary flourish. No snooty ‘pungent Corinthian balsamic oils’ here.  Salads contain lettuce, not lacy, petit, exotic greens. Adam and his mother were debating appetizers. I rarely get involved in those discussions. They settled on boneless hot wings.
Our drink order was taken, Tea, Dr. Pepper, and Pepsi. As the drinks were delivered in licensed St. Louis Rams glasses, Becky took the appetizer order. I spent the intervening time not watching GAC. This is harder than it sounds. I changed my mind a few times as I looked through the menu. The Courthouse Grill names many of their sandwiches kitschy court-themed names like ‘The Defender’, ‘The Prosecutor’ and ‘The Judge.’ I initially wanted a BLT. However, they call their BLT  a BLT, no originality. So I settled on The Defender.
The Defender is a 6 oz. ribeye sandwich served on buttered Texas toast. I sided it with the shoestring fries, which is what you order if you want regular fries. Adam asked for the Frisco burger, which I’d considered until I saw that it had two big patties. That seemed a bit much to me. He also ordered the fries.
Angel went off the reservation. She blamed the spicy hot wings and settled on a ‘Courthouse’ salad. She asked for it to be topped with 4 oz. flat iron steak. Becky happily took the order and scurried off.
The 'salad'
The wings were indeed hot. Both Adam and Angel commented on the heat, they didn’t need to. The red faces and sniffling was all I needed to know that I’d made the right choice in not having any. I’ve yet to find a hot wing I like, anywhere.
The wait was not long, about right, Angel and Adam couldn’t finish the wings. Becky refilled drinks in a timely manner. GAC was still on TV. Yet another hunky cowboy was kicking up some dust with his rugged pickup truck as the skinny, bosomy blonde in painted on Daisy Dukes shakes her head in shame at his misbehavin’ ways.
The food arrived. The first thing we noticed was the enormity of Angel’s salad. It was enormous. Piled high and deep, there was at least a half pound of shredded bacon piled up on one side. There’s no way any reasonable nutrition law would allow this beast to be considered a salad. Surely there are standards for that sort of thing.
Frisco Burger
The sandwiches were simply gorgeous. Adam plucked the offending onions off of his, I piled mine high. I added a touch of A1 sauce to mine, Adam added a little ketchup to his. Angel slathered about a cup and a half of sickly sweet French dressing on her trough of food.
I rolled back the bun on my ribeye sandwich and checked for excess fat. It wasn’t as bad as Adam had the last time we were here, but it was still prominent. At least the steak was tender. The crispy Texas toast was perfect for it. The combination of buttered toast and fatty grilled steak had me harking back to my days on the cattle drives, just me and my horse and  Cookie, with his clattering chuck wagon. Yahoo!  (I don’t hark back often, but when I do it’s usually to a fictional event.)
The Defender
About halfway through his large burger, Adam gave up. Too much meat. Not just in size, the two patties was exactly the reason I didn’t order it myself. There was too much meat for the seasoning. Adam said that after a while it was pretty tasteless.  Ground beef really doesn’t have a strong flavor, and if too lightly seasoned, after a while it simply becomes a chewing exercise. My ribeye was somewhat of a physical workout as well, it required a little more pull and chew than I am accustomed to. It wasn’t bad, just a lot of work. Late into the feast someone switched the TV from GAC (Gack!) to the Mizzou/Alabama football game. This was an improvement, though only in the way that an hour in line at the DMV is an improvement over an hour and a half. I’m not a big football fan and my own alma mater doesn’t even have a football team… I don’t think, I’ll have to check on that.*
The County Courthouse in Hillsboro.
That sign is actually for a law firm, but the
way this picture was framed it looks like it's
for the court, where serious felony walk-ins
are welcome.
The 'Boyer for Sheriff' sign is what I was actually
Trying to capture. I'm a big fan of the Sheriff.

It may sound like we didn’t enjoy it, but mostly we did. The Courthouse Grill is a great addition to the community. They’ve made some progress and established a customer base and the food is pretty good. Becky was a delight, she refilled us and checked on us frequently, always smiling, very polite. The service, specifically hers in this case, certainly won some points.
The tab came in at $44.62, tax included. Not real bad, but enough that I’d wished the food was just a smidgen better. This place is certainly of better quality and atmosphere than a fast food joint. The fact that it is locally owned is great, and like I said, the service was exceptional. I have a feeling that this place will do quite well.

The Courthouse Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Los Portales

201 Main Street
Hillsboro Mo.

Gray skies of October

This weekend was different. Several things merged which I’ll admit up front may have made me a little out of whack and off my game.
Angel was out of town, somewhere in Indiana for a dog training seminar or convention. She left Friday afternoon and was scheduled back home late on Monday. 
Also I’d had a tense and extremely busy week at work and by Friday night I was essentially comatose with exhaustion. Saturday morning I went through the motions of weekend errands somewhat robotically. My beautifully sculpted brain was mostly on vacation. On top of that, a co-worker that I sit near spent most of Thursday sniffling sneezing, wheezing and coughing. The early signs of a team-stifling bug. She stayed at home on Friday and even reported in that she would be going in to see a doctor. So Saturday I found myself dim of brain and sniffling. Either I’d picked up the bug or was succumbing to the wild weather changes that affected the area late in the week. Only early October, the skies were heavy, gray, wet, and cold. Not the pretty, crisp bright blue skies of October that I love, but the dreary, stark, wintry cold of a day like you imagine funerals should take place.
So this was the stage, a recipe for disappointment.
Adam was tending to the dogs. Diana, Angel’s part-time trainer, stopped by to conduct Saturday class and work with a couple of the pooches. I, without Angel’s gentle guidance and counsel, myself, limp of brain, moped about rudderless and somewhat puny.
When it came time to decide on dinner, I suggested to Adam that we just grab a burger or a couple of pizzas and to not worry about a review. This took the pressure off. So after I awoke from an extended nap, I asked if he had any thoughts on the matter.
The Place:
  He suggested this and I immediately accepted the recommendation. It allowed me not to think about it much and it had the added advantage of being close by. I went out and cleaned off the passenger seat of my unimpressive little commuter car. Since no one ever rides with me the passenger seat doubles as a desk, dining table, pantry and closet.  Paperwork, snack crackers, lists, insurance reports, hats, gloves and three or four books, along with an embarrassing amount of small trash.
Los Portales is about the closest restaurant to our front door, beating Hardee’s by about a hundred feet. It’s across the street from the courthouse at the town’s busiest intersection. It takes about seven minutes to get there, but in my lethargic condition, this time we made it in about ten.
There was already a fair crowd inside, mostly small families with kids crunching on chips and moms and dads sipping bright, colorful adult beverages.
We were told to find a seat on our own, a heavy responsibility without Angel as a guide. I chose a booth by a window, one that was about as far away from the other patrons as possible. I had taken the camera and notebook with me, “just in case” I told Adam. A true writer/journalist does this, it simply can’t be helped. For a good writer/journalist never knows when a review-able dining experience might pop up out of nowhere.
Shortly, the always bustling and ample in number, pink-shirted staff took our drink order and delivered the menus and obligatory chips and salsa.
Taco Salad, with added tomato.
The Food:
The menu was daunting. There seemed to be a thousand choices, none actually sounding that appetizing. I realized that I should be hungry, not having snacked or lunched at all since my weekend-morning ritual coffee and breakfast biscuit at Hardee’s, but I wasn't. Stress, exhaustion and the flu all have a similar effect on me, though so does the occasional extreme change in weather. I’m as fragile as a thoroughbred horse that way, the slightest bit of out-of-whackness causes me to lose my appetite, though I usually make up for it in spades later. (I am also like a thoroughbred horse in other ways, a big heart and flimsy knees to name a few. How I respond to a whip or spurs is not open for discussion in this venue.)
I teetered between the enchiladas, which I’d had there before and always enjoyed, and a simple taco salad, which seemed somehow kinder and gentler. By the time our order was taken, I was on the salad swing of that pendulum. Adam chose a nacho dish, the Nachos Supreme. “No tomatoes please.” He clearly added.
We munched on the chips, and tried to conduct a conversation. Angel said “                ”    because she wasn't there, which left a major, nearly insurmountable gap in the discourse. I tried to think of something she might say, but came up blank.
So we discussed evening entertainment options, movies, neither of us knew if there was anything out yet that we wanted to see. “But mom would want to watch them too.” Adam said, not wanting to watch something without her that she’d like to see. That was fair, but it seriously reduced our coming up with anything.
Nachos Supreme, tomato removed.
Our drinks were in front of us, tasteless, colorless, lifeless tea for me, which suited my condition, and Coke for Adam.
It wasn't long before the plates arrived.
In my mind I was thinking of the kind of taco salad we frequently have at home. We use Fritos, Catalina dressing, lettuce, olives, onions, tomatoes, refried beans, bright yellow shredded cheese, sour cream, taco sauce, and seasoned ground beef. To call it a salad is a little ridiculous since the only thing ‘salad’ about it, is the quantity of lettuce.
This one looked different. It had the crispy flour tortilla bowl, lettuce, white shredded cheese, sour cream, and shredded, almost puréed spiced chicken. The bowl was glued to the plate by a dollop of refried beans.
Adam’s nachos came with a tomato, which he had specifically asked to be omitted. I took it, chopped it up and put it on my salad to give it, if nothing else, a bit of color.
I noticed that around the base of the bowl, that a milky, soupy stream had formed around the refried beans. I assumed it to be the excess liquid from the sour cream and chicken, etc. dripping out of the bottom of the crispy bowl.  It didn't look very appetizing, so I ignored it.
The salad tasted fine, but seemed to be missing a few ingredients. Adam seemed to enjoy his nachos pretty well, once he’d removed the offensive tomato.
The puddle grew bigger. Only a quarter of the way into the salad, the milky, soupy puddle grew and threatened to breach the rim of the plate. It also saturated the bottom half of the tortilla, eliminating completely, the crunch. My salad was turning into mushy breakfast cereal.
Being as my tummy was timid anyhow with whatever anomalies or combination of anomalies that were occurring inside me, I stopped eating about one third of the way into the salad. By this time the soup had indeed breached the plate and as the staff member took it away it left a trail on the table and the floor all the way back to the kitchen.
I munched on a couple of more chips, Adam finished his nachos, and we settled up.
The puddle grows, seeping from the inside.
The tab was light. Los Portales is a pretty cheap place to eat. The bill came to a paltry fifteen bucks and change.
We've been to LP many times, this was the first time I had experienced anything like disappointment. I do not know if it was the nature of the salad itself, just a bad job of serving it up, or something else entirely. Like I said though, I was not in the best of shape. However, salads are not supposed to turn into soup, this one did; a milky, sickly beige gazpacho, a room-temperature puke-like broth. I cannot imagine this is what the chef had in mind, I cannot imagine that if this is what it was supposed to be, that anyone would ever order it more than once.
We'll go back. LP has pleased us plenty in the past, but I simply cannot recommend the taco salad.


I am writing this on Saturday evening, a time I usually use to just open up the blog and upload the photos and little else, leaving the bulk of the task to Sunday afternoon between laundry cycles. However due to the increasing nature of the sniffles and mind-numbness, I thought I’d better knock out as much as I could in case the viruses, or whatever, overwhelmed me. So if this  review seems off-kilter, rushed, and weak, I apologize. My brain activity is diminished significantly, to the point to where my current mental capacity is significantly reduced, almost to the point of being like everyone else’s.  I apologize for any reduction of entertainment and enlightenment this may cause.

Los Portales‎ on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 1, 2012


12676 Lamplighter Square
Saint Louis, MO 63128

The Place:
We had decided to try Quiznos nearly a full week ahead of time. We saw a commercial and the ensuing conversation revealed that none of us had ever tried it, or if we had, we had no recollection of it. Odd perhaps, as Quiznos are relatively ubiquitous (4000 U.S. locations), but not so much in Jefferson County.
We’d all previewed the menu and had a good idea of what to order. The main difference between Subway and Quiznos is the default style. A sandwich at Quiznos is toasted unless you specifically ask for it to not be.
This one is located in Concord, one of the hundreds of St. Louis suburbs, and one I drive through each workday since it straddles highway 21 (Tesson Ferry)  near St. Anthony’s Hospital. It’s in a shopping center that also hosts a dozen or so shops that I have no use for.
It takes about twenty to twenty five minutes to get there from our rural compound as opposed to the fifteen to twenty minutes it takes to get to Festus where most of our reviewed eateries reside.
We entered and were immediately greeted by a woman who seemed to be having a good day. It only took her a moment to qualify us.
“You never been here before?” She asked.
“No we haven’t”
This pleased her, she pointed out the mounted menus, told us what was new, and added that we should take our time and feel free to ask questions. I was already set, Angel shifted from what she’d thought she was going to get, Adam stood by quietly.
The Food:
BLT Sliders for me, French Dip (5 inch) for Angel, and a Mesquite Chicken (8 inch) for Adam. We each grabbed a bag of chips and that was it. I asked to see the size of the sliders, the lady showed me the rolls and I said I’d need two of them. “That’s the way the order comes.” She replied.
Angel settled up as I checked out the reasonable and sane drink dispenser and well appointed and neat condiment bar. Adam handed me a cup and I went straight for the unsweetened tea. It poured clear and warm, immediately melting the shallow pile of ice I’d put in the cup. I sipped it and was quite pleased. It had body, flavor and seemed fresh.
We sat and sipped for a couple of minutes. More customers passed through, most opting for to-go.
The lady engaged us a few more times, asking where we were from. “Oh, Jefferson County!” She exclaimed as if I’d said ‘Uzbekistan’. Concord is only about three miles from the Meramec River, the river that separates St. Louis County from Jefferson.
It was not long at all before our sandwiches were ready. One thing was immediately obvious, we’d be snacking later. The sandwiches were smaller than we’d imagined but not necessarily in a bad way. It was the bread that was smaller.
BLT Sliders
Subway is pretty good and we have one in Hillsboro. That’s right, Hillsboro has a Subway, a McDonalds, a Taco Bell , Hardees and Dairy Queen, but it has no public Library. That’s a problem I’m trying to help resolve by serving on the campaign committee to establish a branch of the Jefferson County Library. (subtle eh?)
Anyway, Subway to me is pretty good, and I’m certainly not unhappy when instead of cooking a meal, as a good wife should, that Angel just brings home a sub for me. I have always found them to be a bit too bready though. I like the bread, there’s just so much of it that I usually strip the stuff from inside out and leave some bread behind.
French Dip
Quiznos does not have this problem. The bread is not only more reasonably proportioned, it’s quite good and it is toasted by default. Even the slider rolls were crunchy on the outside.
The bacon was all broken up in my sliders, a nice touch. Some BLT’s put entire whole strips in their sandwiches, which often leads to dragging out an entire strip in one bite. The blend of tomato, lettuce and mayo was just right. You don’t have to put a lot of bacon on a BLT. Bacon is so strong and distinct it is often just as satisfying to have a little, spread around evenly, than try to compensate with quantity. I shy away from places that brag about how much bacon they put on sandwiches and burgers, Those places just don’t know how to treat bacon properly.
Mesquite Chicken
“That indeed is toasty.” Adam declared spontaneously. Which is probably the longest spontaneous comment Adam has made in the three years we've been doing these things. (yes, three years and over 150 reviews!)
This prompted Angel to make an assessment as well about her French dip, served with steamy au jus. “Everything’s better with au jus.”
Adam responded as if on cue: “Bless you.” (get it? ‘au jus’ sounds like achoo!). This is always funny.
I was thoroughly enjoying my sliders and chips. Adam finished his sandwich rather quickly and shared his ‘Sun Chips’ with his mother. They discussed them for a moment while I ignored the irrelevant conversation. I’m rather a purist about chips, plain, ruffled and barbecue. Civilization would be just fine without all the others. I have tried many others, I just don’t see the need. Like Ice cream, I ‘m not impressed with ‘103 flavors!’ since I can do quite well with the three original flavors that God created; vanilla, chocolate and chocolate swirl. All else is just gilding the lily.
As we were eating, a pair of women strolled in. They seemed familiar to the staff. One was older than the other but both were dressed in very tight jeans and boots, with form featuring tops and the younger one sported multi-hued hair and a furry, shaggy purse. The older one had long blonde hair, too long for a woman her age. I immediately knew what was up.
“Mother daughter prostitute team.” I whispered to Angel and Adam.
Angel immediately objected to my assessment of the pair. “They are not prostitutes!” She scolded. I dismissed this since she never accepts that any of the women I point to as being prostitutes are actually that. She simply doesn't know what one looks like so her defense of them is meaningless. I've pointed out literally hundreds of prostitutes, and to a one, she’s denied it every time.
“They just look like they went to Nordstrom’s. She countered, as if that would mean something to me. “I don’t know what a Nordsorm is, but I don’t see it as being relevant. I've been to Korea so I know what a prostitute looks like.” I countered, clearly winning the argument. A few moments after the women left, an SUV drove by the window, inside were the 'ladies'.
“Prostitutes don’t drive Mercedes SUV’s.” she said, pathetically trying to save face.
“The good ones do.” I flattened her, game, set, match.
We wadded up our wrappers and tidied up our table. The lady in charge came up to us, thanking us for about the fifth time. “We have chili.” She said. She was very good at reading people. Our reaction to that made her smile. “It’s very good, would you like to try some?”
“YES!!” I whispered.
She stepped behind the counter and dipped some into a little plastic cup, handing it to us along with two spoons. She’d read our collective reactions well enough to notice Adam didn't seem interested.
It was very hot, and once it cooled, very good. Meaty, with large red kidney beans, which Angel pointed out since she knows I’m a big fan of the big red beans. I tasted it. Multiple flavors, rich, brothy, and just a bit spicy. Angel and I shared it all the way to the bottom. Then we both sniffled. Just that much had cleared our sinuses which had been reacting to some sort of vile airborne spores all day.
“We could get some to go.” Angel suggested. I declined. Not because it wasn't good, it was very good. It’s just that the previous night I’d made a small batch of chili and ate too much and it had stayed with me too long, well past bedtime. I’ll certainly go back for more sometime.
They're pretty generous with coupons!
Free Sub (with purchase of another)
Very, very good, very, very satisfying. The very reasonable tab came in under twenty five dollars.
The bread was exceptional and was deemed better than subway because of its proportionality. The ingredients all seemed fresh, the service was beyond good.
The lady engaged us several times, but with genuine enthusiasm, not salesman-like at all. She seemed proud of the place and its offerings, and quite happy to be at her post. Even the young man in back carving the meat was friendly and casual.
The food was great, the tea was fresh and excellent, the entire experience was without flaw. Sure it’s a sandwich shop and not some fancy sit-down Italian restaurant, but it was by all measure great for what it was.
I wish there was one closer to home, though I now know since I pass right by it every work day, that I can stop in and get good service, really good food, for not much money. I like Subway just fine, but Quiznos is just better.

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