Monday, June 24, 2013

Captain D's

Festus, Mo.

Something came up here, or almost came up, that may affect my ability to review certain places objectively. I will try to continue, but we may have to alter our course a bit. More on this later.

The Place:
Sharing the lot with Home Depot and Tanglefoot, et al.
Generic, plastic, ubiquitous. The lighted sign towering above the place was not lit, the dim lighting inside made us think for a moment that it was closed. there were a few cars around it though and  as we pulled in we saw some people inside. There were also a couple  of cars in the drive through. Once we found the door, we went right in. The rope lined maze put us face on to a couple of posters on the wall showing some special meals. We read through them then headed toward the counter. Above it were the regular offerings, disjointed and not comprehensive. Scattered around were other photo'd menu items, here there, everywhere. I chose this place since I hadn't had fish and chip style fish in quite a while, and the weather was hot and weighing us down, burgers or steak or pasta seemed too heavy. Angel ordered first and quickly, one of the earlier specials. My train of thought exploded and I ordered without really thinking, one of the other specials. Adam was the only one of us that ordered pretty much what he knew he would going in.
The Food:
Angel had asked for the crab cake, fish and shrimp plate with corn on the cob and coleslaw. Adam got the chicken dinner with fries and slaw. I ended up with the eight piece shrimp and fish. When asked about sides I looked up at the menu, couldn't find them, and heard the counter lady tapping the counter in front of me, there it was, a small list. This selection would be my second mistake in the first sixty seconds since I stepped up to order. I asked for slaw and hush puppies. Stupid move.
The problem with that became stunningly obvious when I picked up the order. But I'm jumping ahead of the story. First we would have to wait for the order. To facilitate this we were handed one of those pager thingies with flashing lights. We gathered up our cups, poured our drinks and grabbed a few condiments and a bottle of malt vinegar. On the way we saw a couple more posters with offerings that sounded much better than what we'd ordered, these were past the place where orders were taken.
We found a booth by the window and waited. In a few minutes the pager started it's noisy and flashy orgasm. I rushed it up to the counter and was handed two trays.
We sorted it all out and I saw my big mistake. The eight piece shrimp and fish came standard with two hush puppies. The wasted side I ordered added four more to the hush puppy pile. My plate looked like an assortment of deep fried bread with a dollop of slaw. The one piece of fish, the thing I actually craved was tiny and thin in comparison to everything else. The pile of shrimp and hush puppies stood in stark, glaring contrast to my intentions of having a light meal. I like hush puppies, but two would have been fine. I really wanted more fish, less shrimp, if any.
Sure enough the puppies and shrimp were tasty, but really, really filling. I don't really like breaded shrimp very much. I prefer steamed/boiled/grilled shrimp, no breading, just with a little butter garlic and Old Bay. The fish was okay, but a little greasy.
Adam dunked his chunks and seemed to like them. The slaw was a problem though. "Is there celery in the slaw?" He asked his mom. She poked hers, I poked mine, didn't see any. "There might be celery seeds, they're tiny and have a strong celery taste." She said. This baffled me, I didn't know celery actually had a discernible taste. I said as much to which Adam replied "I guess I have  more refined tastes. I like celery by itself just not as an ingredient." This made Angel's eyes roll. She blamed me since I have the same opinion about nuts.
It was enough for him though, the rest of his slaw went untouched. I thought the slaw was fine, creamy and crisp. Angel said it was good "But it's not as good as KFC" she said. KFC's slaw is the gold standard for her. Hardly anyone's slaw measures up to that high bar.
Angel buttered up her corn and went to it like a buzz saw. I asked her about the crab cake. "The taste was okay, but it was mushy on the inside." She didn't seem too disappointed and I knew why, lowered expectations. We lived in Maryland for five years, THE place for crab cakes. Nowhere else, absolutely nowhere outside that state gets it right.
 Meanwhile I was starting to struggle, I felt uncomfortable, irritable. My meal had disappointed me and worse, it wasn't settling well. I left four puppies and three shrimp behind. I still felt I'd over done it. And here's why.
The Problem:
A few months back my doctor advised me that I needed to change my diet. My caveman style selections and habits were not rewarding me with any favors. Unlike the last twenty times I'd been told that I decided that he was probably worth paying attention to, that I'd go ahead an finally take strides to pay attention to what and when I ate.
This was quite a radical change for me, but I was/am committed. It became an adventure, a quest, a puzzle, a journey, a challenge, a dare. I started reading labels, learning about carbs and cholesterol, calories and sodium, etc. I established an area of the pantry that I would personally keep stocked with a variety of safe options. I doubled, even tripled the amount of fruits and green vegetables. I abolished sugar, enriched flour and starches (potatoes). I changed my haphazard/scavenging lunch to a measured amount of portable portions including raisins and a banana, every day. I completely gave up white bread, chips, pastries, and just about everything fried. Except for this one meal on Saturday evenings.
Its caused a problem though. I knew this going in to Captain D's, it's one of the reasons I chose fish. I didn't want a fast food burger because of my recent experiences with fast food burgers. They now make me ill, physically ill. Not critically, but they do jack up the ick factor enough to where I am useless for quite a while afterward. Even my much-loved sausage biscuits at Hardee's now have that sickening effect.
As we left Captain D's the problem manifested itself quickly. My mouth felt and tasted like I'd just had deep-fried road kill. My tummy knotted up. This may affect future choices of places to go on Saturday. I don't think I can be objective about fast food places anymore. I don't even like the look of them. One whiff of the grease and I start getting queasy.
However, I can't convince myself that this is a bad thing.
Like I said, I can't be objective. The place made me sick. I'm sure though that it was me that was the problem. The initial taste was satisfying, I just ordered very poorly. I ordered the breaded shrimp and I don't even like breaded shrimp very much. I think some fish and slaw, and maybe a hush puppy would have been fine.
         As we were leaving Angel said to me: "I think Adam is the only person under forty in the entire place." I hadn't noticed, but a quick scan confirmed it. There were thirty or forty people eating there as we left all of them were our age or older. No kids, no teens, no young couples. I have no idea what this meant. Maybe just a coincidence, I can't be sure, just something we noticed.

The menu, broken up and spread out all over the place, made picking something very difficult. I regretted my choice immediately as I passed more offerings I was not aware of at the time of ordering.
I can't really give an opinion here, figure it out for yourself. My experience, though mostly my own fault, was lousy. 

Captain D's Seafood on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


I'd been craving a steak.
We went out on Sunday this time, Saturday we had stayed in and hosted the doggy birthday party. We do this every year on, and instead of, our anniversary. We've run out of ideas for gifts for each other, so we set the day to be all of our dogs' birthdays. This works out well since some of our dogs, all of them rescued, have no known birthday, or for a couple of them, no actual known birth year. So we made one up.
Pip and George desire a burger.
         This weekend Bailey turned 14, George 9, Blue 8, Deedee 5 and Pip 4.
The neatest part of the tradition is that whatever other dogs happen to be at our house, and that can vary from two fosters through a half dozen board and training clients, they get burgers and fries from McDonalds.
I mentioned this on Facebook and one of my so-called 'friends', also a follower of these pages, commented: 'McDonalds?'
 I replied:
Yes, McD's. I realize that I have given the place bad reviews and several negative comments, but I don't have a dog's taste buds... They absolutely love the stuff. I don't know why, but they also seem to like the smell/taste of their own 'backsides'.... What does that say?
So that was Saturday. On Sunday I wanted steak.
Angel and Adam decided on Taytro's and insisted I was in on that conversation, I don't recall it, but I was not disappointed.
The Place:
On the hill in Festus. Busy, bustling. We had to park well away from the entrance.
Ravioli appetizer
Most of the tables were full, and the bar was half full. There was a 'seat yourself' sign up, so we did, right in the middle of the dining area. It's not a big place, but they didn't cram too many tables together.
Menus were delivered, drinks asked for, tea, sweet tea and Coke. The lady rattled off the specials, one sounded pretty good. Angel and Adam also went for an appetizer, the ubiquitous fried ravioli.
A large family (not individually large, just large in number) at the table next to us bowed their head and said grace. I thought it a bit odd in this bar, this den of iniquity. Well, maybe not total iniquity, a lot of families eat there as it turns out, but it is a bar.
The Food:
I asked for the special, a 12 oz. Philly Steak with peppers, onions, mushrooms and a savory sauce. I asked for the salad with the wonderful poppy seed house dressing, and snap peas for the side. No potato this time, I wanted to eat a lot of steak.
Adam went with the diner burger, no onions please, and fries, Angel predictably asked for the crawfish etouffee again, with a salad.
The ravioli arrived, I skipped it. I wanted steak, no need filling up on empty deep-fried carbs beforehand. Angel and Adam didn't seem to mind that I was skipping the crispy meat filled pasta, "More for us." one of them muttered.
They did a thorough job, no argument came up until there was only one left.
The salads arrived, I donated the big white bread croutons to Adam. A pretty simple salad of lettuce, spinach, red onions, some shredded white cheese and an entire cherry tomato. The dressing is killer, a sweet poppy seed vinaigrette concoction created in-house. I had to use the knife to cut up the onions and most of the greens, not too much of a problem, though a slight nuisance. Sure, onion rings are pretty, but I can't stick a whole one into my mouth at one time.
Otherwise it was quite good, up until two thirds into it when . . .
The entree's arrived. I hate that. I don't know what the proper serving protocol actually is, but I really like to finish one thing before another is delivered. However, there was a bright spot in this arrangement.
Adam opened his no-onions-please burger and realized he should have ordered it no onions or tomato instead. Two big fat and pretty tomato slices on top of his bacon. He slid them off and laid them into my salad plate. "Happy Father's Day" he said. I was quite pleased. Taytro's is kind of stingy with tomatoes in their salads, and I love tomatoes.
Crawfish Etouffee
My steak was sizzling, I knew that wouldn't last. It was a monster, edge to edge in one direction on the plate. Beside it were some of the greenest sauteed snap peas I've ever seen, in a little ramekin of their own. The steak was smothered in a thin sauce, chunks of peppers, onions and mushrooms aplenty. I took the steak knife to the crusty southern point of the meat, felt a little fat and gristle. The taste was superb though. Grilled, a little char, still pink, and soaked with that sauce, simply great tasting.
A few bites in though, the gristle was still there. I'm not sure what cut a Philly steak actually is, though in places it seemed more like' filly', as in horse.
I was not having any problems eating most of the steak. I still didn't finish it, it was huge, but it was quite meaty and tasty. The only thing I'd change in the future will be the cut of meat. A couple extra bucks would be worth it.
Diner burger, no onions
The snap peas were okay, I prefer them raw though, sauteing them seemed to bring out the 'green' taste. I could only manage to eat a few.
Angel couldn't quite finish all the rice in her etouffee, the grains expanded in her tummy to the size of packing peanuts, she said. She did manage to strip the crawdad carcasses bare though. She loves the stuff, simply loves it.
Adam left nothing behind. He fussed a bit with the arrangement of the bacon on the top of the burger, but it all disappeared.

The bill: $58.51
I love Taytro's. However there are a couple of minor points about this trip that I must bring up. First, the timing of the entree, too soon after the delivery of the salad. Secondly, when we were done, and after the waitress had taken away most of the plates and was then told that yes, we'd like the check, she disappeared.
This is not actually true. It's a small place so she didn't actually drop out of site, she just ignored us for several minutes. She was behind the bar chatting up a couple of guys. It wasn't flirty, just bartender-talk. I resorted to trying to get her attention, then just staring at her, fidgeting restlessly in my chair. She finally noticed, rang up the check and delivered it without offering so much as a simple 'sorry!'
Thinking she might disappear again, rather than just accepting the check, I handed her my powerful debit card. It's a trick I learned on this quest. Sometimes, at some places,  the time lag between them delivering the check and then coming back around to take the card can extend into several minutes of unnecessary overtime.
Also, that cut of meat, the Philly, is not quite worth the premium price. I believe the 12 oz. ribeye cost about the same.
The food was prepared very well though. Taytro's menu is not expansive, but mostly what they prepare is very good.

Taytro's Bar and Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hibachi Grill

and Supreme Buffet
8925 Watson Rd
St Louis, MO

We all failed to plan ahead, we all blamed each other, we are family after all, we put the 'dis' in dysfunctional.
So the conversation heading out the door went like this.
"Okay, how about Chinese?"
" Where?"
"I don't know, Festus maybe."
"I'd rather go to a place with more variety, like the Hibachi Grill."
That's a long way."
"About twenty minutes."
"Not at rush hour."
"It's not rush hour, it's Saturday."
So we went.
The Place:
Just past the defunct Crestwood Mall.
A large place, very large, there's no mistaking it for a gas station or a book store. We stepped inside to the large, heavily decorated foyer. On either side of the door, large, bright enameled vases stood next to large bamboo plants. They spare no expense on the Asian themed decorating. In this big place it was all bigger and brighter, gaudier.
The themed decor was thick in the main dining area as well. Even the buffet lines, one full sized serving line was encased in varnished blonde wood built as a boat. There were ceiling panels painted as a bright blue sky with puffy white clouds. Fat, bald brass icons, bamboo, silkscreen art, it was all there. There was no mistaking this place for anything other than a Chinese buffet.
They put a lot of money into Hibachi Grill, nothing about it looked like it came from the budget end of a restaurant supply company. It all looked custom and expensive.
We were taken to a table and we situated and ordered our drinks, tea, Diet Pepsi and Pepsi.
The Food:
Mmmmm, buffet... and a big one. Dozens of chickens and porks and fish, shrimp, froglegs, and those snotty shelled slugs and mussels. Lots of rice, noodles and of course the obligatory wrapped and fried savory treats and rolls.
Lots of purely American offerings as well. Mac and cheese, ribs and something they called hot dog pie. These were inch long chunks of hotdog wrapped in brown and shiny pie crust, deep fried I assumed.
I hadn't had Chinese in a while so I was game for almost anything, maybe not the hot dog pie though. As is my custom I tried a couple of chunks of nearly all the chicken, General Tsao's, Crispy, Honey, Teryaki, sesame. I also grabbed a couple of rangoons and something called a lobster roll.   It looked like a long wonton wrapper wrapped around a Slim Jim and deep fried. I had low expectations but I cannot walk by lobster very often, even if it is fake lobster.
I knew there was that chance since I'd also grabbed a couple of toothpick-pinned krab wrapped in bacon. The fried rice did not tempt me, it was bright orange. I have no idea how they got it that orange short of melting down some safety cones. The noodles looked more traditional though so I slapped a big pile onto my plate. then there were the steamy and bright red crawdads.
That was about it, a plateful of food, plenty of variety.
Angel was already back to the seat with a seafood pile on her plate. She likes mussels and clams and that sort of thing, so there was a lot of that. She'd also grabbed a crawdad and some stuffed shrimp and bacon wrapped krab. There were some sauteed green sticks on her plate, either okra or green beans, I don't recall.
Adam came back with thick-breaded sweet and sour chicken, plain rice and some broccoli and beef.
I picked and sampled, the Mongolian pork was too peppery for my tastes, the lobster roll was more wrap than anything else, if there was lobster in it I never tasted it. Most of the chicken was spot on, exactly as expected. Which was pretty sweet after a while. Angel and I agreed that the fried/steamed dumplings were quite good, not overwhelmed with ginger as we find it in many places. She also applauded the stuffed shrimp. She issued a 'blech' for the calamari though. My noodles were indeed excellent, sometimes basic simple recipes are what you want.
Adam finished his quickly, left and cam back with ribs. Angel decided she'd like some too so her second trip was less slime, more real meat. Her ribs turned out to be a bit fatty though.
I didn't want much more. I considered my options, decided that I'd pretty much had all my favorites, so I sat for a minute and finally just went straight to dessert.
The usual, red-sauce bananas and banana pudding, some sort of apparent theme.
Angel's plate contained a pie looking wedge, some more stuffed shrimp and a couple of pretty sushi's. the red-centered sushi was filled with fish eggs which sort of popped in her mouth, this delighted and amused her. The fried sushi, not so much. The pie thing was 'like cheesecake' she said.
Adam was quite content, uttering  garrulous phrases of praise like "Good", "Pretty good", and " " surround by a shoulder shrug. Adam knows lots of words, I made sure of that raising him, he just spends them like a miser.

One of the better Chinese buffets I've been to. More so because of the enormous variety than the actual quality of food itself. Not that the quality is bad, not at all. The food is as good as anywhere else. Nothing really jumps out, nothing really qualifies as a signature dish, but there was nothing awful, it was all pretty fresh, and the serving tables were in constant state of refill. A large dining area makes sure of that.
The bill came to thirty seven dollars and change, not bad at all for the area and certainly not bad for the potential infinite amount of food offered.
The staff was plentiful and efficient, there was rarely more than one finished plate on our table, the drinks never fell below half full.
The atmosphere was great, the place was huge and spacious, and bustling.  The bold and bright decorations may have been a little over the top, but somehow it worked.
Hibachi Grill has a terrific template going. I've been to a couple of different ones and the model is copied form place to place with precision. This is not a strip-mall buffet, they take what they do to a higher level. Good food, lots of variety, and fast service.

Hibachi Grill and Buffet on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Festus, Mo.

I was quite surprised at Angel's choice.She explained it though , she wanted to sample a variety of cooked vegetables. Normally I'd object. Ryan's has displeased me in the past with its sub-par quality. As for variety though, that's hard to debate. It's a buffet. American style, home-style, comfort food. Carb and calorie loading at your fingertips. No frills, just lots of food.
The Place:
On a hill overlooking the joint where I get my oil changed, above A, near 61/67. Its been there a long time, I think it used to be something else, but my memory is only seven years old in this area. Its always been a Ryan's to me.
Lots of parking, lots of tables and booths, the place can serve hundreds at a sitting. You go in, you pay and name your drinks, they hand you the receipt and tell you to leave it on the table, seat yourselves anywhere you like.
We found a table against the wall, dropped the receipt and headed toward the lines. The place was busy, it always is. If nothing else, Ryan's solves a problem. You aren't limited to just Italian or just steak, or just pizza or just Chinese. they've got it all. They've even recently started offering Mongolian barbecue.
The Food:
My plate
I was at a loss. I try to eat healthier during the week, moderation, moderation, cut back on the carbs and sugar. But Saturday night I allow myself the one meal to stop thinking of meals as a complex math problem and just indulge my cravings. I still don't really overeat, I just don't worry so much about the ratios.
I was craving starches, so I plopped a small amount of mashed potatoes with a little brown gravy and a little mac and cheese and a few slices of fried potatoes with onions. As you can see what I really piled on was the lima beans, and that reddish brown lump in the upper left corner is meatloaf. The lady at the register was bragging about the meatloaf, I hadn't had any in quite a while, so sure.
Angel decided to line up for a steak, she added several kinds of cooked veggies as she had said she would. Cabbage, broccoli, okra and other disgusting, snotty stuff.
Our drinks arrived later than we did, a result of the seat yourself policy. The waitresses roam the tables seemingly randomly and look for a receipt that hasn't been addressed. Then they go get the drinks. Tea, Diet Coke and Coke for Myself, Angel and Adam respectively. Even later than our drinks was the bread basket. The rolls are very good, served with prepackaged 'honey spread'. The rolls were warm and fluffy, the 'spread' melted nicely.
Adam's first round looked a bit like mine, but with chicken instead of meat loaf. He went for waffle fries at some point as well and green beans and another form of chicken
Angel was still hungry, she had worked outside all day and worked up quite an appetite. I'd worked outside all afternoon, photographing headstones at a local cemetery. Not quite as hard work as what Angel does seven days a week with the dogs, but more outdoor activity for me than I am accustomed to.
I tried everything and was quite satisfied. There was nothing great, nothing even special, but it was all at least pretty good. It was definitely home-style cooking though, no flash, no flair, no fancy seasonings. Just comfort foods prepared like anyone's mother would make. Maybe not my own mother though, she never was much of a cook.
Second rounds were slighter, I was really okay with what I'd had and hadn't seen anything on the lines that begged to me to be sampled. I got more lima beans, an even smaller chunk of meatloaf and a few more fried potatoes. Then I saw the apple pie. It looked a little pale but I can almost never refuse apple pie.
Angel's second plate had carrot salad. it's basically coleslaw without cabbage, just carrots, raisins, and a few tiny pineapple chunks. She said it was pretty good, I didn't argue. Adam pushed his green beans aside. He didn't like the way they'd been prepared, with onions or something, he wasn't quite sure exactly.
My meatloaf was okay, kind of like everything else, okay, but just that. The apple pie was hideous though, I
don't know what they did to it, but they did it wrong, completely wrong.
I polled the family. Adam: "It's okay."  Angel: "Its no Golden corral."
Angel; round 2
The bill came to forty two dollars and change, not cheap, but not expensive if you factor in the unlimited nature of the buffet. Some people take full advantage, as is evidenced by the girth of many of the patrons. I'm no Twiggy myself, but even my pear shape can't compete with those pros.
There's nothing to get excited about at Ryan's. They do nothing exceptionally well. But they don't poison many people either. It's easy to find better food at most other places, but Ryan's forte is variety. Bring in a finicky family, they'll find something to appease their picky tastes. It won't be the best thing they ever ate, but probably not the worst either, especially if my mother once cooked them something.

Ryan's Grill Buffet & Bakery on Urbanspoon