Thursday, November 25, 2010

George's Continues to Shine--great Po'Boys and icy beer with reasonable prices make it the best of Baton Rouge

My favorite hole-in-the wall, George’s, continues to be a shining light under the interstate.  The Po’boy muffaletta I ate for dinner Wednesday night was as delicious as I have come to expect and hubby loved his burger.  They have fresh potato fries here that are crispy and delicious and not one bit soggy or greasy (unlike 5 guys—which is another review) and they are the perfect side dish.  Get one order for up to 3 people because the portions here are enormous.  The beer is still ice cold, the service friendly and the parking is still underneath I-10 and tricky to find—but oh so worth it!  It’s on a par with the best little places only locals know about so I am grateful that my husband was born here!  It’s on the edge of LSU and it doesn’t get any better than George’s.  Don't forget to staple a dollar to the wall somewhere!

Another one bites the dust. Copeland's of Baton Rouge has jumped the shark.

It’s another sad RIP for what was once my husband’s favorite restaurant and one of my Baton Rouge favorite.  Good bye to Copeland’s because it has jumped the shark from expensive and delicious to expensive and not worth it.  My husband’s ricochet catfish, his favorite dish for many years, has gone from 2 large filets of catfish to one and the extra sauce that he and my mother-in-law asked for when they ordered the dish was left in the window by the very inept server.  I asked if they could make my steak Pittsburgh and was assured that they could.  They couldn’t.  Additionally, the steak was freezer burned and tasted old and stale.  If I hadn’t been the guest of my mother-in-law, I would have sent it back in a heartbeat.   I was starving, so I ate it, but my baked potato came with virtually no butter or sour cream and during the 10 minutes I waited for butter, sour cream and stale bacon bits, it got so cold that it wouldn’t melt the butter.  There was no bread or water brought to the table and the service was truly awful even though the restaurant was about ¼ full, always a bad sign.
The slice of cheesecake was good, although I didn’t order a slice of my own.  I wouldn’t pay EIGHT DOLLARS for a small slice of cheesecake if I won the lottery, which to the best of my knowledge hasn’t happened yet.  It was good cheesecake (again with a 14 minute wait to get it) to be sure but it wasn’t worth $8 to me.  They are on their way to being out of business and it’s sad because it was so good for so many visits.   I hate to see my beloved husband disappointed, but we won’t be going to Copeland’s in Baton Rouge again.  It’s just simply not worth it.  The food is terrible,  it’s wayyyyy overpriced and we can find better places to eat for less money.

Horribly Oversalted Food Ruins Baton Rouge's White Oak Plantation's Thanksgiving Dinner

I was expecting a lot from Chef John Folse because of his reputation and I was disappointed. If you like extremely salty food, medium rare pork, the fishy stench of frozen snapper and mediocre service then make your reservation now for the next dining "event" at White Oak Plantation.  I started with the Bisque of Wild Mushroom soup as I was sure it would be an exquisite treat.  It had a wonderful aroma and was thick with cream and minced mushrooms and I could hardly wait to taste it.  It was so horribly oversalted that I couldn't eat it--but I did use it as a mushroom gravy on the woefully undercooked pork roast.  I know that it is supposed to be OK to eat medium-rare pork as the trichinosis threat is gone, but I've spent a lifetime (51 years) eating pork roasts that were cooked to 175 degrees or so and rare pork is as palatable to me as raw chicken.  It wasn't over salted but it was definitely too undercooked for me.  The dirty rice was the highlight of the meal.  It was perfect--literally perfect. Fluffy, flavorful and not overly salty or greasy made it the perfect Louisiana side dish and if I'd had just the rice, the chicken and oyster stuffing, the sweet potato soufflĂ© and the turkey leg, this would be a rave review. The smoked chicken and oyster dressing had quite a bit of chicken but no discernible oysters and with a hint of sweetness it was delicious--and escaped the horrible over-salted fate of most of the other dishes. The sweet potato soufflĂ© was light, fluffy, perfectly cooked and delicious.  I was able to procure a turkey leg which had nice flavor and didn't need a thing--it was excellent. Sadly, I like to taste everything as it's unfair to do a review without tasting as many dishes as possible.  The "shrimp mirlton casserole" had a VERY pungent fish smell and was terribly salty--a theme that was carried through on almost every dish.  The Caesar salad was so wilted and warm that I couldn't eat it.  It looked like it had been refrigerated overnight or longer and was unpalatable.  The marinated meat salad looked like fried cold cuts swimming in oil so I couldn't bring myself to eat them.  Quail isn't something I would ever eat again after the food poisoning that accompanied my last dining experience that included them.  I also don't like seared duck--I like it thoroughly cooked.  The rolls were cold and hard and the butter balls must have come from the freezer as it took a steak knife to cut them while they skittered about on the plate.  The crowder peas with ham looked rather unappealing as it appeared to be thick pea soup and again were very, very salty. The cranberry relish was the sourest cranberry sauce I've ever had--a lot of pucker power but not much else--they needed some sugar in the worst way.  The iced tea lacked ice and the refills and the service were excruciatingly slow although there appeared to be plenty of wait staff.  The dessert tray looked rather old with the mint leaves used for garnish appearing to be wilted and tired.  My sugar-free cheesecake was still frozen in the middle, so I'm guessing it wasn't made in-house although it wasn't bad--it was commercial grade and tasted a lot like Sam's club cheesecake--but it was OK.  I think that the chef overreached and missed badly.  It was a third-rate meal in a first class venue with prices to match, and if Chef Folse would lose the salt shaker (or in this case the salt SCOOP) it would be a great improvement.  My family members that were dining with me were similarly disappointed and the consensus was that we could have had a better meal at Picadilly cafeteria.  If Chef Folse had gone with simple goodness, it would have been better by far.  He may be talented but he's either way overrated; (or his kitchen staff didn't follow the recipes) but he way overreached with this meal and he missed badly. The overwhelming theme was one of many poorly done dishes with so many cooks that they spoiled the meal.  The exotic dishes were bypassed for the turkey and pork roast which means there was a lot of waste of very expensive ingredients.
Here's a hint for next year Chef:  Keep the turkey, the stuffing, the sweet potatoes and the dirty rice.  Cook the pork loin to 175 degrees and leave out the salt in the mushroom bisque.  Lose the over-salted cheese and stale crackers in the hall and replace them with some spinach dip and homemade Cajun chex mix.  Add a leg of lamb rubbed with garlic and rosemary and a steamship round of roast beef or chateaubriand grilled to medium rare with a nice horseradish sauce.  Corn pudding,  steamed asparagus, green beans almandine and broccoli with hollandaise sauce, put some sugar to the cranberry relish and THAW the cheesecake before you serve it.  While you’re at it, serve some Abita beer in the bar and get some single malt scotch—Chivas is crap—the people that come to this expensive of an event don’t drink crappy liquor.  Go top shelf with the bar, think fresh and simple and you'll do more business and have happy diners.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Schatze's in Belleville: Nothing fancy but all you need for a good meal and a beer!

 Schatze's in Belleville is a super little bar and grill a little off the beaten path, but with really good food and unbeatable prices.  Similar in concept to Fast Eddie's and Cutter's, you can't get food to go and you have to have a drink to eat.  They need to upgrade their A/C because it's not keeping pace with the summer heat, but it's a friendly little place with cold beer and good service and food that's both delicious and VERY reasonably priced.  They have a band on weekends and their grill stays open late so you can get a decent meal that isn't breakfast after 9 p.m. which is something Illinois needs more of--good quality late dining!  Not all of use like to eat dinner at 6 p.m. and those that do, aren't dining here.  I haven't seen any signs advertising karaoke so I'm hoping that the fad of horrible singing by very inebriated people is falling by the wayside.  I haven't heard the bands here, but I'm willing to bet that they are at least decent if not pretty darn good.  The barmaids are friendly and the crowd consists of a lot of regulars which is always a good thing and they play a great game of trivia on the TV monitors.  I love NTN trivia and there are some very good players here--and they are seriously into the game.  The bratwurst here is the best--and grilled to perfection.  They also have giant shrimp sold by the piece, great burgers, pork steaks and pizza which I haven't tried. Their desserts are purchased rather than homemade, but they are good quality and fresh--you can't go wrong with Cheesecake Factory brand cheesecake for a LOT less than the CF charges for it!  Friday afternoon cocktails, late night dining, friendly crowd, good food, reasonably priced drinks and good service make a winning recipe at this little bar on Main Street!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The End of the Raindancer. 12-16-75 to 2-17-10 RIP

 ****UPDATE:  Raindancer is BACK!!  Hubby and I had dinner with another couple on our last visit to Florida and I am delighted to be able to tell you that they have corrected the problems that marred our last two visits and the packed dining room showed that they are having success again. I was heartbroken by the thought that my favorite steak place for more than three decades was going the route of so many and I am thrilled that once again the Raindancer sets the bar for steak restaurants in the USA and around the globe!

***UPDATE: After reading my review, the Raindancer (unasked) proactively removed the charge for the dinner from my husband's credit card, called me and apologized.  I will have to go back and see if they have gotten back up to par when I visit Florida again.  This was a very classy thing for them to do and they've always been a class act.  Stay tuned for the next review--they WANT to be the best!
It's been a wonderful ride dining at the Raindancer in West Palm Beach.  Everything was perfect every time I dined there--from the service to the food to the atmosphere from my first visit in 1975 when I was celebrating my 17th birthday but sadly I've now made my last trip to the restaurant that was my favorite steak house for an astounding 35 years.  When I first visited I was a 17 year old kid in college, on my last I was a 51 year old Republican Congressional Nominee.  I was hoping to celebrate being elected to Congress at the Raindancer, just as I've celebrated about 90% of the memorable occasions in my life at the venerable establishment.  What changed?  The steak that no other restaurant could match for quality or preparation was sadly lacking.  Not only was it way overcooked, but the burnt Pittsburgh crust that I so love was absent.  The service was way under par too.  There was no butter on the table for the bread and my iced tea refill was served  with a lemon instead of the requested lime and I had to ask twice for refills on drinks.  This is something that has never happened in 200 visits--I've never had a steak that wasn't perfect or service that wasn't flawless.  The potato had the unmistakable flavor change of a refrigerated spud which tells me they are keeping potatoes longer than they used to.  The steak was full of gristle which has never happened before--and shouldn't have happened this time as it was $38.95 for a 12 ounce NY strip.  I am devastated that it has fallen so far so fast but the half-empty dining room told the story of how far the quality of food and service has dropped.  I was used to waiting an hour for a table during the winter season but no more. The service standards are lax as well--a sad thing because the service could always be counted upon to be flawless.  I've always been able to count on the Raindancer to provide the perfect backdrop of food and service to impress anyone I was ever closing any kind of business deal with--the ambiance, food, service and class of the place sold everything and everyone.  No more.
There's no pot of gold at the end of the Raindancer--just a very disappointed 35 year customer that loved everything it used to be.  Rest in Peace and thanks for the memories!

Friday, February 12, 2010

George's The Best Little Dive on the Planet--Po'Boy Heaven in Baton Rouge

For at least 30 years (and possibly much longer) George's has been a Baton Rouge institution and favorite dive with an offbeat location, extensive menu of po'boys and other Louisiana classics.  Located underneath an I-10 overpass which gives covered parking to early arrivals, George's doesn't look like much although the display of neon beer signs in the windows send the message that there will be a wide selection of beer, which proves to be the case. The inside is a triangular room decorated with hundreds of dollar bills stapled to the walls and ceiling with the names or nicknames of the people who 'donated' them to the decor written on them.  The food is unbelievable--gumbos, etoufee and the Louisiana classic po'boy sandwich in many varieties.  The french fries are from fresh potatoes and are actually crisp which is a technique that no one seems to be able to do--most places with fresh potato fries serve a soggy and greasy product. The po'boys are made with the best French bread I've ever tasted along with generous servings of meat and cheese for a memorable sandwich experience.  The crawfish etoufee is as good as any I've ever had in New Orleans and the gumbo is the classic style as well.  Service is at the bar and they give you a kitchen check to write down your order and they call you to the bar when it's ready for pickup.  The eclectic crowd was everything from LSU college kids to executives in suits along with casual locals, and the occasional tourist who lucked into a great meal for a reasonable price.  Interstate 10 goes over the top but there is no traffic noise to speak of, so I'm guessing they have world class soundproofing in the roof.  The bartenders are friendly and since the customers write their own kitchen checks, special instructions can be added. The chairs are decently comfortable as are the barstools and you can get your order to go.  The owner, "Smokey" is on the East Baton Rouge parish council so politics are not a taboo subject, and any guy who owns a great dive like this must be a man of the people!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken, Memphis, Tennessee

Just off Interstate 55 is a little restaurant called Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken (which is touted to be hot and spicy but isn't any spicier than Popeye's mild) is serving the best fried chicken in the world.  Elvis would be proud of this Memphis chicken joint, the crowds beat a path to the door and every time I pass through, it's a treat I look forward to having.  It's without a doubt the BEST fried chicken I've ever had in my LIFE and I've eaten a LOT of fried chicken.  It has a thin layer of some sort of coating with a tingle of spice--no thick, greasy breading here.  It is very crisp and when bitten into gives a satisfying crunch followed by the tender and juicy white meat and the perfect blend of spices.  The only thing I can say is WOW!!  It's the most delicious fried chicken on the planet (or at least so far in my 51-and-counting years) and we stop there for lunch coming and going to Louisiana to see the family.  Memphis is almost exactly the halfway point and the location right off the Interstate makes it a quick off-and-on for travelers and although the place is packed, the line moves quickly.  You can also get your order to go if you need to get back on the road.  Service is very friendly in the traditions of Southern hospitality, the ambience and the appointments are picnic-in-a-park but the incredible chicken trumps everything.  As a bonus, the sides are also very good, the iced tea is fresh-brewed and refills are swift and the waitresses are as friendly as Southern gals are reputed to be.  Well-worth a special trip or a 40-mile detour to Memphis and a bargain at twice the price, I give Gus's Fried Chicken my highest rating and can't wait to eat there again! 

Friday, January 22, 2010

Product Review: Magic Jack It's certainly got the right name--it works just like magic!!

I bought a Magic Jack a couple of weeks ago. It's certainly got the right name--it works just like magic!! The device was $19.99 and $20.00 for a year's prepaid service and I brought it home and followed the instructions to set it up and started using it.
WOW!!!  All I can say is WOW!!  It works perfectly and gives me crystal clear phone calls all over the USA with no extra fee except for $20 a YEAR for unlimited local and long distance calls without burning up my cell minutes.  It's great for the campaign because I can call everywhere and for the paltry sum of $1.66 a month it's a LOT cheaper than Skype or any of the other VOIP services and it works incredibly well.  I am totally impressed by it, I was able to choose any area code I wanted and I could have chosen my own number for a nominal extra fee if I had wanted a special set of digits.  It travels and I can make phone calls from my computer at any place that has a wireless internet hookup.  I highly recommend it for travelers--and because I just plug the phone into the jack, it's comfortable to use although taking a phone with you could take up some space although you could just pull the hotel phone out of it's wall jack and plug it into your Magic Jack and use it. I give it my highest recommendation and would buy it again--and it's a bargain at twice the price!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Broadway Bar and Grill, Highland Illinois

I've been eating in a lot of diners and grills lately due to my running for Congress in the Illinois 12th district.  I love small town local diners and I make an effort NOT to go to chain restaurants because I like to meet the people who serve good food that can't be purchased everywhere and tastes the same in every location.
The Broadway Bar and Grill is a current favorite of mine.  They have the best chicken tenders in the country, bar none!  (Raising Cane's in Baton Rouge is my other current favorite but they are a chain.) Broadway Bar and Grill is an unpretentious saloon with wood floors, lots of TVs with sports events showing and a noisy crowd on any given night.  The food is good but they need to get rid of their post-mix out of the bar gun iced tea--it's disgusting.  The specials are occasionally inspired--a couple of Saturdays ago they served me a Cornish Game Hen with cherry sauce that was one of the best dishes I've ever been served in ANY restaurant, so I can only surmise that their night cook is going to culinary school during the day.  It was OUTSTANDING and I told him so when I went to talk to him.  The service is fast and friendly, and they have a full bar but a somewhat limited beer selection.  It's a family friendly place--people come in with their kids but that's the exception, it's primarily a bar. Their salads are generous with cold, crisp greens and the dressings appear to be homemade and very good.  Their chili is thick and meaty with good flavor but you'll have to spark it up with hot sauce and jalepenos  if you like it spicy because it's made for the masses who like mild chili.  My husband is a big fan of their chicken-fried steak although it's not a regular menu item--it's the regular Monday night special and occasional Thursday night special although it's $2 more on Thursday night for some reason.  They also make a very tasty burger and when they say bacon cheeseburger, the bacon is thick and plentiful, the burger a generous 1/3 pound and the fries are crisp and hot.  It's reliably consistent too--and this is the mark of a good restaurant.  I've never had a bad meal there and while it can get noisy when the sports fans are in attendance, it's not what I'd call a rowdy place.  Women are perfectly safe and and judging from the crowd mix, they enjoy the place as well.  I'd recommend the Broadway Bar and Grill to anyone who wants a reasonably priced and tasty meal with a couple of beers to wash it all down and on Saturday night I'd check what the chef has dreamed up because he's got talent!!

9th Street Cafe, Highland, Illinois: Good burgers but don't eat the spaghetti!!

I went to the 9th Street Cafe in Highland, Illinois for dinner on Friday and ordered the spaghetti.  Big Mistake!!  It's really really terrible and I expected much better than the overly sweet flavorless ketchup-y sauce and watery spaghetti that they served me--and I was HUNGRY--I hadn't eaten all day!  It was so truly terrible that we put it in a box and tossed it in the back yard for the raccoons.  I couldn't bring myself to eat a third bite and only took the second in the spirit of investigative journalism--I just couldn't pan it after one bite--but a third was out of the question!! YUKKO!!!
In all fairness, the cream of chicken with wild rice soup was delicious--and if that was all I'd had this would be a rave review.  Their chopped chicken salad with house dressing (no substitutes) is truly inspired.  They also make a really great hamburger along with sweet potato chips and homemade regular potato chips.  They put together a good breakfast with great menu choices.  The menu is diner food and the atmosphere is small-town diner but friendly fast service, delicious iced tea and a small but nicely done menu selection make this a winner in Highland--just don't get the spaghetti!!