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fat-mike filled out a comment card for Stonerose
We chose the StoneRose Restaurant because of the location, and based on the recommendation of a local. With a very unassuming exterior, the quality of food is actually quite surprising. If you're looking for a place to dine, even with a group of 6, you should consider StoneRose.
We were a party of 5 who made reservations ahead of time. The place heats up with an after work crowd of thirty somethings, but the level of noise doesn't get overwhelming back in the dining room (although I observed the hostess take the cordless phone outside to have a clear conversation, as the host stand is in the bar area). Based on what I observed on that Friday night, I would recommend reservations if you're organized ahead of time.
You won't find trouble parking on the street in Conshohocken, and the location is easily accessible via I-76 as well, if you're traveling from out of town. It definitely has a local feel to it, like the neighborhood residents probably saunter over frequently for a bite and a beer. But I wouldn't consider it out of bounds to travel for this experience.
I had a tough time deciding between the Monkfish entrée on the menu, or the special which was Sea Bass. I went with the Chilean Sea Bass, because I always have a tendency to choose the special when it's appealing. My companions chose selections like the braised rib over mac & cheese, which looked stellar. My brother took it down without a single breath in between bites, I believe. We also had mussels to start with, and a flat bread pizza du jour which was great as an appetizer too. There were different choices of wine and beer around the table, and everyone enjoyed themselves.
The service was prompt and pleasant. It had a hint of upscale elegance combined with the tone of a local neighborhood eatery. And not in a way that created an identity crisis. You know, how some upscale restaurants seem to feel like they're above the surrounding neighborhood, merely biding their time until the surrounding gentrification has cleansed the undesirables. No, StoneRose seems to say, "we're here to provide the culinary experience that our locals deserve."
I had a great time at StoneRose, and I'd challenge anyone from the neighborhood to give it a try. You'll be proud of this local gem.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Rembrandt's
I'll begin by saying that this probably isn't a fully qualified restaurant review. That is, on this particular visit I didn't actually "eat" anything. We stopped by just for drinks, but I've been to Rembrandt's several times in the past, without leaving any reviews.
With that said, myself and one friend had just finished strolling through the Rodin Museum (and previously explored the Franklin Institute), so we were ready to sit for a spell. We decided to walk north from the Rodin (on Ben Franklin Parkway), and cruise past the Eastern State Penitentiary, to end up at Rembrandt's.
It was early in the evening (about 4:30). There were very few others in the restaurant, and we nestled right up to the bar. The place is set up to let a lot of natural light in from the street, but also maintains the feel of a traditional, old restaurant. I'll tell you that this particular experience was a little different than those I've had in the past. My recollection was of a romantic candle lit dining room. But in the late afternoon, I was struck by the broken television sets hanging in the bar area (the failing electronics left actors clouded in a halo of white pixels), and the excessive use of the heater.
As the locals started to file in, I realized that the heat might be turned up from "warm tropics" to "Hades" in accommodation of the early evening golden oldies crowd. So I'll give them a hall pass on that one.
We enjoyed our scotch at the bar, and had a very pleasant interaction with the bar staff. We looked at the menu but didn't have the time for dinner (the parking meter of course keeping a vice-like grip on our agenda). We would have stayed for dining if there wasn't some urgency on our part to move on.
I love this location, as it's close to downtown without have the parking struggles or tiny streets to navigate. There is ample parking right across the street from the restaurant, and it's fun to dine in the shadow of the historic prison. You're just a 5 block walk from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the other sights along Ben Franklin Parkway.
So that concludes my not-a-real-review. I will add that I've enjoyed the meals I had in the past at Rembrandt's. It will remain a place to dine as I visit Philadelphia from time to time.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Valley Green Inn
As a little kid, I was constantly spending time in Valley Green. It's a conveniently located forest and river area within the city limits of Philadelphia. For a young explorer, it offers countless hours of opportunity to range "into the wild" and hunt down fossils, interesting wildlife, or swimming holes. In all my time growing up, I never had the opportunity to dine at the Valley Green Inn.
As I recall from years ago, the restaurant was always in some state of flux - changing ownership, changing management, changing quality. You never really could pin it down.
In the modern day of social networking of course, you can see the most recent (and therefore most valid) appraisals of their fare and service. Based on this feedback, I decided to make my way over to Valley Green and check it out on a return visit to Philadelphia.
Just to offer some context - I dined on a chilly Monday evening, during those couple weeks after "the first day of spring" where the southern Pennsylvania weather system refuses to accept that "it's spring". Two of us sat indoors, at an intimate table in the corner. There were only a few other tables, and quiet conversation with no background music. I'd characterize it as a quaint dining room with a romantic flavor to it. Small lattice windows gaze out over the steadily flowing Wissahickon Creek. You can imagine weary travelers stopping along this several hundred year old trail, and grabbing some warmth and food while the horses are tended to next door.
We enjoyed a reasonably priced bottle of wine (there is not a strong wine list, but they cover all the bases), with both the mussels and baked brie to start with. And we went with the scallops and the veggie risotto as entrees, and capped it with the crème brulee and a cup of coffee. The service (from Todd) was the right balance of attentive and respectful. The host (Ken) was friendly and efficient over the phone. Parking was no issue, right across from the restaurant in the lower parking lot. After dinner, we sat a bit and watched the water in the moonlight.
I am extremely partial to secluded gems, that offer both a unique experience and a quality dinner. I was blown away with the Valley Green Inn. My companion and I were very happy with our time there, and look forward to returning on our next visit to Philadelphia.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Geno's Steaks
Whether you're a visitor to Philadelphia, or a lifelong native, you'll want to make your way (at least once) down to South Philly and enjoy a classic cheesesteak. There are a couple good reasons to include Geno's in that search for the perfect cheesesteak. The first reason of course is Geno's quality and tradition. The second is that it's location at the corner of Passyunk and 9th is the geographical center point of the cheesesteak world.
That intersection is where long time rivals - Geno's and Pat's - go head to head in an epic battle for the favor of Philadelphians. Of course there are other restaurants and locations to try throughout the city. But if you want to get just a bit off the beaten path and do something fun, then grab a sandwich from each of these two contenders and then compare notes about who's best. You might be disappointed if your favorite doesn't win, but you'll never be disappointed while you're doing your research!
You'll need to hunt just a bit for parking if you've driven to the restaurant, and you'll need to be prepared to sit outside (under an awning). you might consider walking down from South Street where there's plenty of parking, or hoofing it over from the Broad Street line. But you'll enjoy the experience as you participate in a core Philadelphia tradition.
My favorite is a "mushroom steak wit, with whiz" (that's a cheesesteak with grilled mushrooms and grilled onions and cheese whiz).
Fat Mike. has progressed to the level of Distinguished Critic
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Pat's King of Steaks
I don't usually admit to being a Philadelphia native in any public forums, but as of today I'm going to get past that personal limitation. For many years as I grew up, Philly topped the list of "fattest cities in America", and it was in no small part due to the effect of Pat's Steaks.
Philadelphians have a long standing [playful] argument about which cheesesteak is the best. This is an extremely tight comparison, considering that all of them use virtually the same ingredients. Even the same brand of bread. However with that said, you should absolutely make the effort to swing down to South Philly and conduct a Pepsi challenge between long standing contenders for the crown - Pat's and Geno's. They're located across the street from each other, and both deliver an excellent experience.
But... as a charter citizen of the City of Brotherly Love, it's my purview to offer an expert opinion of who's best. And in all honesty, it's Pat's Steaks. They do an excellent job of serving a quality sandwich quickly, and with a great upbeat attitude.
So come down to South Philly and decide for yourself, and even consider others like Dalessandro's, Chubby's, or Jim's on South Street. See if you agree with me on my assessment of Pat's.
You'll have a brief struggle finding a temporary street parking place, but you just need to look for a minute. There's only outdoor seating (under an awning), so dress accordingly. And I highly recommend the "Mushroom steak wit, and whiz" (that's a cheese steak with cheese whiz, and grilled mushrooms and grilled onions).
fat-mike rated the restaurant Pat's King of Steaks
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Pizzeria Luigi
The perfect neighborhood pizza joint. It's a simple recipe - pizza and beer - but these guys do it well. It's definitely a low key place, with a true neighborhood feel. Don't expect a full on restaurant - there is limited seating and they don't take credit cards. But if you want a couple slices and some good draft beer, you're in the right spot. To me, it's worth a drive by. And if you live in the neighborhood it's a must-see.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company
Great pizza, but disappointing beer. For me at least. This place has a great vibe - live music, long picnic tables for plenty of seating. But I had two issues with my experience. One was the counter ordering process. It's slow and clunky once the place starts to get busy. My second wish list item would be beers of a better craft quality. I tried just a couple, but was disappointed by both. But the pizza was astoundingly good. I tried a couple different ones, and enjoyed both. I would imagine it's a rotating beer selection, so I would say it's worth a shot to see what's on tap when you stop by.
Fat Mike has just created a new nice-restaurant list called 'Best pizza places'
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Ruth's Chris Steak House
I've been to several of the Ruth's Chris steakhouses across the U.S., and had a different experience in each one. This location in downtown San Antonio offered yet another variation for me. At the end of the evening, I just wasn't sure whether I liked it or I didn't like it. I know that's an odd remark to make, but part of it just has to do with the fact that your expectations are higher because of what you're paying and also the standards set by other steakhouses in competition with Ruth's Chris.
One great feature of this location is the ease of access. If you're in a downtown hotel, you're just a short walk away. And it's literally right under the convention center, if you're there for an event. I drove down and used the complimentary valet service, which was very convenient. The restaurant won't have your car fetched for you as you're settling the bill (which I thought was odd) but you don't have a very long wait for the valet so I guess that's fine.
The restaurant itself has a lot of seating. There's several large rooms, and a bar area too. I was surprised about the shear capacity of the facility. I was dining with one companion, and we had requested a quiet table as part of the reservation. We didn't get it. But in their defense, there really isn't a quiet table in the house, so our request was moot from the start. It was a Friday night and there were some larger groups of people, and that's always going to add to the ambient noise. At our table, I was positioned about 2 and a half feet from the head of a 10 top of guys. I had to concentrate pretty hard to tune out their conversation about the latest sales trends in the shower rod curtain hook industry. And to top it off, the water station and an entry to the kitchen was right behind me in the corner, so I had several situations where a server rubbed my shoulder on the way by.
The meal itself was good. I had a tomato and mozzarella salad to start. The tomatoes are out of season in Texas, and it was probably my own fault for not thinking of that. I got a somewhat frost bitten replica of a beefsteak tomato. For my entrée I had a rib eye (not bone-in), with blue cheese, and sautéed mushrooms on the side. Both were tasty. I would have had wine with that feast, but no wine menu was ever offered and I had the feeling no sommelier was on staff. I didn't ask. I only inquired about the beers. Our waitress literally did not know what beers they had. She spouted out the typical American macro brews, and looked at me with her eyebrows raised? With an obvious appearance of distaste on my face, she then offered me Sam Adams as an option. After mentioning that I'd like something in the way of a micro brew, and a hoppy micro brew to boot - and getting no solid response - I opted for a Sam's.
A couple times during the meal, our server came by and made small talk. I had to ask for another beer after 15 minutes of an empty glass. There was no rundown on the menu, no discussion of chef's specials, and only a vague apology for the noise level. Two "management types" came by and asked how our meal was going, as we finished up. But I just didn't have the energy to offer constructive feedback, above the din. Our check was impersonally dropped at the table while we were about 25% of the way through dessert (My companion ordered the dessert and I just finished my beer).
Altogether, I guess things were fine. I mean, the food was decent. But for $$$$, I really expected more. I would recommend this restaurant only for business travelers who are looking to have an expensive and convenient dinner, but the expectations don't go any farther than that. I would not recommend this for a date or anything approaching a romantic evening. And if you're looking for good food and experience in downtown San Antonio, I'd tell you to walk a bit further - or grab a cab - over to Bohanan's. It's maybe a tiny bit more expensive, but a much, much better experience. I will not return to this Ruth's Chris location.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Augie's Barbedwire Grill
This was my second trip to Augie's. I last visited back during the summer. So I have the summer experience and the winter experience now. The only difference being that during the summer you might have an issue needing to sit outside. There is not a lot of indoor seating which is air conditioned during the summer.
On this visit, 3 companions and myself were able to sit at a table inside. We each got one of the meal plates, with a couple sides. I had the brisket plate, and it was really just great. The moist, cut-with-your-fork brisket was joined by creamed corn and mac-n-cheese. The mac was great, and went exTREMEly well with the BBQ sauce. The creamed corn was fine; nothing special there. I also had a sweet tea to go with it all. For the BBQ aficionados out there, the BBQ sauce is closer to traditional, and less like some of the other heavily-vinegar'd or seasoned variations that restaurants create as their "signature". Personally I enjoy the traditional brown-sugary recipe best, so I enjoyed Augie's for that reason.
The wait for food was only about 5 minutes, on a Sunday afternoon at 12:30 or so. It's not always that quick though, but always worth the wait. There is never a problem parking either. There are several TV's, usually showing football if there are games going on. There's a small variety of beers also.
Next time you head downtown, or to the zoo (which is 100 yards away from Augie's), make sure you stop in. Look for the huge pink pig fixed to a pole out front.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
This was my first time to Alamo Drafthouse, and I really enjoyed it. I'll try and keep this comment card food-centric, but it's really the overall experience that makes it fun (eating and drinking in the theater, etc).
For once in my life, I was pleased with myself for showing up a little early for the movie. You can get a good seat, and you can order from the menu by writing it down onto a pad of paper that they come and pick up in a while.
I got comfortable in my seat and sat through the sinister warnings about cell phones and making noise and getting kicked out. I ordered just a couple appetizers off the menu - the bottomless butter popcorn and the fried pickles. I had a Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.
What they do is get all the orders into the kitchen and a few different servers bring them out at the same time for everyone, as the movie is starting. So once the hussle and bussle is done, everyone quietly munches on their food from that point forward.
The popcorn was cooked perfectly, and had REAL butter on it. Not recycled motor oil like they normally have at the theaters. The fried pickles were great. They were spears coated in crisp breading, not soggy at all. And the beer of course was great. The server did come by quietly once or twice to see if we needed anything, and was very pleasant and efficient.
A good experience, and I'll definitely be back.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Five Guys Burgers & Fries
I enjoyed my cheeseburger (single patty, with mushrooms), and I also liked the build-it-yourself soda machine. They make the burgers to order while you wait, and it really didn't take very long to be served. In the meantime, I helped myself to the peanuts they have out in a big bin. The only thing I wasn't really happy with was the fries. I've been here before and had the same issue - the fries are too hot to eat for about 10 minutes. By the time you can stomach the fries, your burger is cold. So the timing of the fry cooking is something that they could definitely work on. And since fries were half my meal, it really did bring my overall experience down.
Five Guys is good for families, and definitely good for hungry folks. Even the "small" meals are about as much as I can eat in one sitting. They keep the music loud, so conversations aren't easy but I think that's part of their vibe. There's no shortage of tables, so you don't have to be worried about the lunch crowd rush. The staff is extremely friendly too.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Bella On the River
Getting reservations isn't the easiest thing, because of the limited seating area. But with that convenience factor aside, everything else about the experience was great. The staff, owner, and pianist are very friendly and personable. I have been to the restaurant twice, and had an equally pleasant experience both times. The wine list is not excessive, but contains a great cross section of modestly priced varietals and vintages. The menu rotates periodically and keeps things fresh and interesting. We had an appetizer of fresh heirloom tomatoes, capers, and mozzarella. I had seafood and pasta in alfredo as an entree, and shared my companion's cappuccino ice cream for dessert. We washed our dinner down with a crisp Texas Viognier.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Guillermo's
In the past 2 years, I've watched Guillermo's come into it's own through a pragmatic vision of building out the space that they have. Originally when I came to San Antonio, it was just a small space in a converted house. It felt cramped, but homey (as long as it wasn't too busy). But as they produced good meals, off a fairly large menu, and word got out - the space quickly became too little. Since then, they've added a welcoming patio with a separate service window.
I typically have stopped in for just take-out food. I've had several of the menu items. Pasta dishes, etc. And I've had a stromboli, and many pizza's. I absolutely love the Mediterranean signature pizza. It's a variety of olives and feta cheese, on an oil base. The large is fit for 2 extra hungry Texans, or 4 normal human beings from any other state. I've had at least 5 or 6 of these pies, and never a bad one. In fact they've been very consistently the same formula each time. I know this seems odd to call out. But I've seen that be the downfall of many small neighborhood places. They get it right, build some word-of-mouth, then things change and the customer base disappears with a sigh. I'm not sure why that happens so often. Maybe it's a growing pain of trying to adapt legacy recipes to mass production? Or maybe one of the disenfranchised originators gets frustrated and leaves, taking with them their positive imprint on quality or service? Who knows, but I've seen it before; and it's not the case with Guillermo's.
I've since moved away from the neighborhood, but I find myself returning to Guillermo's with a certain regularity. And I'm pleased with each experience. you should try it. It's even convenient to downtown if you're staying in a Riverwalk hotel, and in the mood for a stroll. It's just a block off the northern Riverwalk extension. And just a block off of I-35.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Main Street Pizza & Pasta
For anyone who does not know me, let me introduce my tastes in food. I do enjoy fine dining, and especially French restaurants or seafood of any style. And several times a year, I crave a hearty steak. But with all that said, there is a soft spot in my heart for neighborhood pizza. Many of the restaurant reviews I've done here are centered around pizza places that are really at the ultra casual end of the "primitive-to-civilized" spectrum. So with that particular goal in mind, I stumbled into Main Street Pizza and Pasta yesterday afternoon.
I ordered a take-out pizza, but don't discount my comment card for that reason alone. I spent time waiting in the restaurant for the pizza, and I soaked up what the place has to offer. It's very conveniently located, especially if you're a student at San Antonio City College. And there's an accessible drive through window on the side. I'm guessing if you're organized about it, you can call an order in, and swing by to pick it up. I'll have to try that next time.
There is indoor and outdoor seating. The staff was really cool and friendly. I asked several questions - this being my first experience - and there was no hesitation or attitude about answering them. I got a large pizza, ordered to my specifications (oil base, ricotta cheese, fresh tomato slices and basil) and it came out great. I waited about 15 minutes, which was pretty much what I expected. It wasn't busy; just a few small groups, and half the San Antonio Police Department. Which brings me to my rule number one for lunch eateries: The Police Officers know where to eat. No matter what city or town you're visiting, if you see a bunch of cop cars outside a restaurant, you can bet damn sure it's a good place to eat for a decent price. (Except in Chicago, where it means the restaurant was recently robbed and they're busy making chalk outlines and interviewing witnesses.)
Anyway, I'm not sure I'd travel across the city for the Main Street Pizza experience, but if you're in Tobin Hill or Monte Vista, you should absolutely give it a try. Maybe pick up a pizza and take it to a comfortable bench over in San Pedro park (one of the oldest community places in the U.S.)?
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Beat Street Coffee Co. Bistro
I have been to Beat Street Bistro both for a relaxing morning coffee, and also for it's evening transformation into a full dining experience. They close for a few hours during the day to accommodate the Jekyll-and-Hyde conversion.
As a coffee shop - in it's morning incarnation - you have a really laid back attitude, and comfy seating both indoors and with ample patio space. I normally walk over, but there's plenty of on-street parking for students in mid-commute to local schools. Service is quick, and I haven't had trouble finding a seat to lean back and enjoy the free wi-fi. There is also a lunch menu but I haven't had the occasion to order food yet at this point.
In the evening session, there is many times live music until about 9. And they dim the lighting, and serve a small but deliberate selection of good stuff. The menu actually looks like a chunk off of a larger fine dining menu. Same kind of craft dishes, but just a limited selection for this smaller kitchen and facility. I've had the pork belly, which was great (although I understand it may fall off the menu due to lack of general interest, darn it). I've also had the duck breast, the short ribs, and the scallops. All of them were very well prepared and presented.
I haven't had to wait for a table in the morning or the evening (although it's a bit busier in the evening from what I've seen). I'd recommend Beat Street for parties of 4 or less, and perfect for a couple who can tolerate a bit of background music during their conversation. It's got a great vibe and I hope that this new restaurant is able to take off. The location is a bit off the beaten path and great for neighborhood walking. (Contrary to the way it would seem, "Main Avenue" in Monte Vista is not actually a primary thoroughfare. But it's just a block over from McCullough which is the central artery).
Make your way down sometime and take a look. And if you're a local, this bistro should be on your must-try list. If anyone from Beat Street is reading this, please consider adding a hoppy craft beer. Just one - like a Dogfish Head 60 minute or Victory Hop Devil from the East Coast, or maybe even Ballast Point Sculpin or Russian River's Pliny from the West Coast. Or the 512 IPA if you want to stay local. Do it for Fat Mike!
Fat Mike has just added the restaurant Beat Street Coffee Co. Bistroto the list, Tobin Hill Favorites
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Restaurant Gwendolyn
It has actually been several weeks since I dined at Restaurant Gwendolyn, and I apologize for not writing this review a little sooner. I had seen good scores on Yelp for Gwendolyn, so I knew I had to try it eventually. Their claim to fame is that they procure and prepare local food in a very traditional way, without additives or artificial techniques. I was admittedly curious to try it out. They serve a prix fixed several course menu which changes frequently with the availability of seasonal ingredients.
I went there early one evening for dinner with a companion. We got there before any type of dinner crowd, and walked right in. The hostess or someone asked us our names by yelling across the restaurant, and the few tables all turned their heads as if the Queen Mother had just been ushered in for late afternoon tea. After that awkward announcement, there was some whispered musings between a couple of the staff, and we were then escorted to a table.
In direct contrast to our loudly heralded arrival, the server who took our orders was extremely soft spoken. To the point that we had to ask her to repeat herself several times. As she went on her way, we jokingly wondered whether she had any chance of bringing the right meals to us. Because as she mumbled our requests back to us for confirmation, we simply gave a polite and obligatory nod with no clue what she actually had said.
I enjoyed my water with lemon slices in it. I really did, it was refreshing and I refilled my cup several times. But the rest of the meal was just not good, and extremely small too. I mean, like a tiny medallion of thinly sliced cucumber for a salad. And a microscopic chip of venison as my entrée. The food was well done. I did really enjoy the quality of it, but the three course meal just left me looking for something more. Then they topped it off by bringing the wrong dessert.
So all in all, I guess I wouldn't tell you to completely avoid Restaurant Gwendolyn. But at least know what you're in for. A well crafted, but sparse meal. And hopefully you'll get a different service experience than we did. It's a good location, right on the river, with valet service. It's not a large dining room, so plan on making reservations ahead of time. This is a popular place, so my experience was probably the exception I'd think. But unfortunately I won't make an effort to return.
Fat Mike has just created a new nice-restaurant list called 'Best of San Antonio'
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Zinc
We stopped in at Zinc randomly, after attending a downtown event. After waiting a few minutes for a seat at a bar table, we had a great spur-of-the-moment meal. I was really pleasantly surprised. Maybe it's just my bad luck, but usually random restaurant selections turn out poorly for me.
So we chose to sit in the bar area, even though at the same time a table opened in the indoor restaurant (they have indoor restaurant seating and indoor/outdoor less formal bar seating). There was no outdoor tables available on a beautiful evening, so we sat indoors.
Our service was prompt and polite. Our menu questions were eagerly answered and we got great guidance on what to order for our first introduction to Zinc. My companion enjoyed a craft cocktail, and I decided on a bottled beer. We had the tableside guacamole (Awesome), and the escargot appetizer. The escargot was not served in shells, but rather in a butter garlic mixture great for bread dipping. Overall it was different, but really enjoyable.
For our entrees, I had the fish and chips and she had the crab cakes. Both were great. The fish was light and bready while still coated in a crisp panko crust. Neither the inside nor the crust was over- or under-done. The accompanying fries weren't anything to write home about. They were shoestring style, and a little bit limp. But I wasn't in the mood for them anyway, so it was no big deal. I was only allowed a tiny taste of the crab cakes by my companion, and I really thought they were perfect. The crab taste wasn't covered with excessive filler contents, and let the seafood through.
So while I stopped in at Zinc on a whim, I will certainly be back. It's conveniently within walking distance of many downtown sights and hotels. You wouldn't notice it on the side street location, and maybe that's how it's stayed a bit of a jewel in the rough. You can venture 50 feet off the River Walk for this experience, trust me.
fat-mike rated the restaurant Zinc
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Buffalo Wild Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings actually does have some good food, and good happy hour specials. They also have a lot of TV's, and they keep the dining room extra dark for good visibility. I've been to several locations before, and had a decent eating experience at each one. It's good for families too. And it's especially good for families with a lot of time on their hands.
I stopped in at BWW today, hoping for a quick lunch before heading back to work. I felt like I had stepped into the Wonderful Land of Oz, with the crowd of pigmy servers and staff that were milling about. So feeling like a giant, I ordered a generous plate of parmesan garlic boneless chicken tenders and a diet coke. For the next 19 or 20 minutes, the pigmies disappeared off somewhere and returned with a plate of wings that couldn't have taken longer then 90 seconds to cook. I tossed them down while watching Sportscenter, and then waited for a meandering midget to pass by and drop off the check.
19 or 20 minutes later, I finally left the cave of Oz and double timed it back to the office. My tummy was happy, but my boss was not.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Starbucks Coffee
Is Starbucks a restaurant? I guess so... they serve food... and drink. I guess I just never thought of them that way. So because of that, I've set the bar really really low. And Starbucks came through with the bare minimum!
I swung by the Starbucks off 151, looking for a quick caffeine fix before heading into work. With my expeditious attitude, I was immediately dismayed at the lengthy line of cars in the drive through. But then again, would it really be a restaurant experience worth writing about if I used the drive through? No way, so I parked and eagerly jogged through the front door. And my decision to avoid the drive through was immediately validated! With a Cheshire grin on my face, I barked at the young barista to rustle up a chai tea latte; tout suite!
With almost stunning efficiency he keyed in my order, and swiped my card. He hastily scribbled something on a paper cup, in some kind of barely legible script. The thought of "coffee calligraphy" crossed my mind. Anyway, as long as it got me the correct order, then who cares what it says. And in a blur of motion, he placed my empty cup behind a line of 10 other similar cups and expediently shooed me away so he could help the unfortunate office-goer behind me.
Ok wait... so I get no reward for walking my lazy butt into the building and speaking to the mad scientist in person? I'm still relegated to the drive through queue? Hmmm... ok. I sauntered outside and read some emails on my phone in the morning sun. And 7 or 8 minutes later I had a steaming beverage in hand. Don't get me wrong, it was good. But all I could think about was suffering the stink eye from my boss as I snuck into the office a few minutes later.
So "star" bucks turns out to be quite an eponymous moniker, as I've given them a single star for service.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Pizza Port
If you’re a San Diego local, then shame on you if you haven’t tried one of Pizza Port locations. And if you’re a visitor to the area, then take my word for it, you’ll enjoy stopping by for lunch or dinner. If you’re from elsewhere in the U.S. (and maybe further) you could recognize the Port Brewing craft beer label. It’s one and the same with our local favorite, Pizza Port. And with that said, they do serve many of their beers at each PP location, in addition to some visiting selections from other esteemed brewers.
On my most recent of a dozen visits, I tried one of the signature pizzas, the Pizza Solana. It was AMAZING. And a couple slices were still amazing for breakfast the next morning. My first rule is, don’t short yourself. Always go one size bigger just to be certain you won’t leave hungering for more. I mean if you don’t come strong, then don’t come at all right?
Anyway, I’ve had at least 6 or 7 different pizzas here in the past 6 or so years, and I’ve loved every one of them. This place is great for families, great for lunch with the guys, and great for low key second or third dates. Why not for first dates? There’s picnic table seating where you’re sometimes in close proximity to a friendly neighbor. It has a great, community feel to it, but could cramp an already tenuous conversation. By the third date, you’re stepping down the price tag on your dinner ticket, and outside conversations might be all you have left to talk about. And a couple pitchers of beer could figure right into your master plan. Don’t hate me for being honest. Which brings me to my second rule...
Fat Mike has just added the restaurant Texas Land and Cattle Steak Houseto the list, San Antonio's Worst
Fat Mike has just created a new naughty-restaurant list called 'San Antonio's Worst'
Fat Mike has just created a new nice-restaurant list called 'Tobin Hill Favorites'
Fat Mike. has progressed to the level of Elite Critic
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Jimmy Johns
Jimmy Johns provides a good take-out or eat-in lunch experience. And they do it consistently across different chain locations. So if you have one near your work, and you're considering a quick lunch then I'd say give it a shot.
They keep a pretty simple menu, which allows them to mass produce sandwiches at an alarming rate. From the cashier to the pick up counter rarely takes me more than about 90 seconds, and I'm not exaggerating.
On this particular visit, I chose to have a JJ's Gargantuan (traditional Italian sub) with a fountain drink. It's probably 20% more sandwich than I really should be eating at lunch, but honestly you can always find some extra room in there. (Don't tell my doctor please). They have smaller subs available, but that's the one that I typically enjoy.
Overall, a great fast food experience. A couple bucks more than BK or Micky D's, but you get what you pay for. It's a clean and efficient operation, with very friendly staff. I mean genuinely friendly, not a bunch of robots that spout the requisite greeting without looking at you the moment you trigger the front door buzzer. You know what I mean.
So go grab a "Gargantuan" ASAP!
fat-mike rated the restaurant Jimmy Johns
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Luke
As I entered Luke the restaurant, I was pretty optimistic that this place has all the criteria for a good dining experience. And all the elements are there, but they just don't quite bring it all together.
Let me preface my relation of this experience by saying that I snuck into Luke just before the kitchen was going to close, after a theater event. So while they certainly welcomed me with open arms, they might not have had their A Game in effect.
The staff is well manicured and they really look the role of fine dining service. With white coats, etc. But then as we ate our meals, there was a noted lack of attention to certain details. Water, iced tea was not refilled promptly. Dessert was not offered (although this could have been a combination of the late hour and maybe the way I said we were done with our entrée plates).
The menu has some exciting dishes on it, but our appetizer and entrees were simply not that exciting when they arrived. We started with beef tartare, which is combined with a mustard that in my opinion is too overpowering. I'd much rather let some of the taste of the meat through, but maybe that's a personal preference. My pork shank entrée was so dry that I had trouble swallowing it at times. It came with a bit of pork belly and bratwurst, which were both (along with the sauerkraut) very good by themselves.
I might at one point return to Luke because of it's convenient location, and because I think they have the potential to be really good. I'll excuse this mediocre experience as an off-hours approximation of what true Luke dining might be.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Tycoon Flats
If you’re looking for a low key burger bar in the Tobin Hill neighborhood, or as a stop on your way downtown, Tycoon Flats will do just fine. It’s easy to hop off 281 just south of Brackenridge Park and stop in at this convenient Saint Mary’s location. There’s some indoor seating, and quite a bit of outdoor seating. I like the outdoor seating myself. In the summer there are fans and misters. And sometimes there is evening live music too. There are plenty of TV’s, and generally you can request what you want to see in the way of sports. Unless U.T. is playing and you want to watch cricket.
There is a rotating selection of decent beers. They are mostly local area (Texas) but you can find the occasional gem from other areas of the country. The menu is basically bar food, with a focus on burgers. I has the fried pickles dipped in ranch dressing as an appetizer. They were not oily, and not overly breaded. I enjoyed them. Any I had the Mediterranean burger, which is served with tzatziki sauce on a flatbread bun. I liked it a lot.
I look forward to sampling more of the menu in the future. You’ll like the laid back attitude and accessible location. The staff is very pleasant and attentive. It’s worth getting over to Tycoon Flats to see what’s up.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Barbaro
Barbaro’s is exactly what the doctor ordered in a neighborhood begging for quality eateries within walking distance. I think that they have the perfect recipe for this location. And in the several times I’ve visited, I’ve seen improvements to the formula each time.
In it’s most basic form, I’d classify the restaurant as an upscale pizza parlor. The menu selection is not large, but it rotates from time to time and I haven’t made a bad selection yet. In my most recent visit, I sampled pizza slices from several companions and enjoyed each one. I myself had the Lobster and Oyster mushroom pizza. And the server clearly warned me that these are Lobster MUSHROOMS, not lobster parts. I was at the time disappointed but acknowledged her fair warning. When I got my pizza, my concerns were gone as it was one excellent mushroom pizza. Lobster or not.
There’s a full bar, with a proud and fastidious bartender at your service. We had a slight confusion as our server mis-keyed my friend’s drink order. The bartender personally visited our table to save face, wondering what our issue was with his concoction. Soon we realized the simple miscommunication and no feelings were hurt in the end. I really enjoyed the fact that he made the effort to check with us, despite how busy things were at the time.
I have also tried the honey and gorgonzola pizza in a previous visit, and the clams and bacon pizza as well. Both were exceptional. I have had several of the salads (kale, arugula) and they were great too. I have sampled several of the rotating craft beer selection (Lagunitas for example), and was very pleased.
Overall, I’d call this one of my little favorites in San Antonio. It’s got a neighborhood feel, but it’s worth the drive if you want to check it out. At prime time, you might wait up to 30 minutes for a table, but you’re welcome to sip a drink at some outside Parisian café style seating. In the afternoon, you’ll be seated right away. There’s no trouble parking nearby on the street.
And if you haven’t tried it, you need to check out The Monterey; their other location. Completely different experience and menu, but the same quality.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Toronado
As I returned to Toronado for about the 8th or 9th time, I had about the same experience I've had each visit. Anyone interested in San Diego (or some other) craft beers will be happy they made their way to Toronado. There's a revolving list of beers on tap, plus many more bottled options. The menu is not large, but everything on it is prepared extremely well. I am partial to the smoky mac and cheese. But there's usually a good appetizer of sausages, and a bunch of other things. You have to deal with a couple things on your visit to this North Park joint. Parking can be a little irritating (but you'll find a spot within 3 blocks usually). And the smug bar tenders sometimes seem too pleased with themselves that they're pouring Southern California's best beers, to be concerned with the interruption of thirsty customers. Just stick with it and they'll be forced to make eye contact soon enough. It's worth the hassle.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Quarry Hofbrau and Beergarden
I have to admit I always thought of the Hofbrau House chain to be all wieners and pretzels and beer. But I was pleased to see at my most recent visit that the menu is about as robust as any of the upscale chain eateries.
I ate a bit light - settling on the brisket nachos, which is an appetizer fit for a meal. I paired that with a couple pints of Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, which they had on draught. It was a great combination! The group of us - 4 guys crammed into a cocktail table big enough to rest your hat on, and about nothing else - snacked on some queso and chips. They were served quickly and made a great appetizer. I can't comment on the quality of my companions' meals, but they looked good at least, especially the chicken fried ribeye steak.
The wait staff was efficient, yet friendly. Our waitress offered to split the bill without us asking (we declined, but it was a great offer), and was very attentive throughout our meal. We were seated quickly even as the dinner crowd was filing in. There were several TV's around the bar area where we sat, displaying a variety of sporting events.
Overall, the food was solid, the menu had a good selection, and the service was excellent. I would say that this restaurant is good for informal business meetings, for families, for parties up to maybe 8. Craft beer drinkers will find something that fits them (but not an over-the-top selection). And those who eat lighter fare will be able to pick an item or two off the menu.
fat-mike filled out a comment card for Buona Forchetta
Buona Forchetta is a brisk, social cafe straight out of a long lost Hemingway novel. But unfortunately I don't mean that you'll find yourself in the company of a grizzled yet affable bar keep, or a bevy of vanguard artiste-types. I mean that they possess an automated service and credit card processing system that would rival the most traditional of 20's era gin joints. Don't get me wrong, I did really enjoy my meal of calamari fritti (crisp and not oily or saturated) and my shrimp & blue cheese pizza (absolutely perfect crust). But I simply can't overlook some of the things about this place, that just feel like growing pains which are being conveniently ignored.
First...the good stuff... The menu is enough to leave any pizza lover satisfied through at least 10 return visits. It really does cover all the bases in terms of a thin, oven baked crusted pie. There's a sufficient beer and wine list to make any number of great pairings. It's a busy spot, but we (two of us) didn't have to wait long for a table. Which was no small miracle, considering the fact that my companion wouldn't shut up about his recent trials in securing health care under the new system. A very timely rant considering we were about to jump feet first into a couple craft pizza's and beer.
Ok now... the bad stuff... This place is in high demand, and they have packed enough tables and chairs - both indoors and out - to fully take advantage of it. So no matter where you sit, you'll get your arms bumped repeatedly. In fact, we saw one customer's table almost knocked over as the waiter hurried around the cramped space at about 60 miles an hour. You'll feel awkward if you take even a millisecond to consider the menu or ask a question of the staff. They are a high velocity operation. Very efficient I'll be honest; except of course with their check system. You'll need to be satisfied with some chicken scratch carved into a flip pad as your bill. You won't get an itemized receipt, and don't even THINK about asking for separate checks. Just be happy they take Visa (I didn't notice if they took more exotic forms of payment).
So in summary: Really, really good pizza. Easy street parking within 2 blocks radius. Small wait for a table. Not good for large parties, families, or business travels who need to answer to their accountants. Despite the cons, I will undoubtedly return, but I will do so with the right expectations about service levels.