August 20, 2012



    I don't usually post much that isn't food reviews up here just yet, but today, I wanted to write a quick post detailing a problem that's come up a lot of times when I'm researching where to eat. In fact, this is more of a motivational post, and I hope that those of you reading my blog will listen and take from it.

    Many times I will look at reviews before I visit a place to eat. Sometimes it helps me; I don't want to go to a place where the server is known to put extra numbers around the tip, nor do I want to go to a place where everyone says the food is bad. But you know, that's just the problem! You hear less about the goods of a place and more of the bad. Most people don't say "This place is good, so I'm going to leave them an amazing review." While some do, it's extremely common for one who hates the food to say, "This place is so bad, I'm going to leave a review so no one ever comes here." Now that would be fine and dandy if most people handled a service better. All it takes for a bad review is a slightly undercooked pasta or the server didn't come by in a timely fashion akin to what they're used to at a less busy place.  I'm rather generous and I like to give a place a little better chance than most people. If I'm served a medium rare steak and I asked for rare? I'm not going to let that ruin my dinner- instead, I'm going to ask them politely to take it back and try again. If the server isn't coming around enough, I'll flag them down and ask them to come by a little more often. Everyone makes mistakes, and these mistakes can be easily fixed. The only time I'll let it ruin my dinner? If they refuse to fix those mistakes.

   So what is it that I'm trying to say? Next time you're out and you don't think something is cooked correctly? Don't continue eating it just to leave a bad review later. Give them a chance to fix it- chances are that you won't regret it. Just ask politely.

   If you like a place, please leave them a good review, especially if they're not a chain restaurant. Point out what you loved about the place, mention names of the staff that you liked the most. Good reviews bring in more customers. More customers bring in money. More money for the restaurant means the chance to bring in better things as well as keeping the restaurant open and maybe even providing more jobs. What's not to love about that?  Not enough people leave good reviews and they get drown out by the bad.

   I'll point out an example, and I bring this up often while I'm looking for someplace to eat. While eating at the frozen yogurt (froyo) place I usually go to for dessert, I decided to pick up my phone, just this once, and read the reviews on the place. It was filled with nothing but bad reviews, and I tried to understand it. Once I got around to reading all of them, I was absolutely appalled. There were a lot of bad reviews just simply because people don't understand what froyo is! About 60% of them gave it a bad review because it wasn't like ice cream, which is what they expected. The yogurt wasn't bad, but it wasn't ice cream and therefor lacked the qualities of ice cream that they liked. What's worse is that they are offered the chance to try anything before they make a purchase. The point is, when people don't understand a place, they leave bad reviews. It's up to us that understand what to do to leave good reviews to even things out so that our favorite places aren't empty.

So even if a place has bad reviews, let's give them a chance. My advice? Ask your friends, family, or friend's friends about a place if you're genuinely curious about how the restaurant is. Tread online lightly for reviews and use your best judgement.

August 9, 2012

Longhorn Steakhouse





   Longhorn Steakhouse. I'm pretty sure you can figure out what they sell from the name! This isn't just a local restaurant though, it's a chain that can be found in several parts of the US. Anyone who knows me is aware of my love of steak. I can't get enough of the red meat, so I often find myself in steakhouses for lunch.

  As usual, I'll start off talking about the atmosphere of the place. Longhorn takes pride in being a 'Texas style' restaurant and the interior echoes that loud and clear. There's a lot of wood in there, from the rafters to the floor to the tables and chairs. It has atmospheric lighting, you can see things just fine while sitting down. They have decorated the place with cast iron cutouts of cowboy's roping up cattle or herding them to greener pastures. It's the kind of decorations my dad used to have in his home. All of this is fine and dandy, but this is one of the few restaurants that has not banned smoking inside. This causes a lot of problems, especially for people with asthma. If you suffer from it, don't go, just to be sure, or call ahead to see if they have banned it in the restaurant you want to head to (since not all of them  have not banned smoking.) Ask for a table far away from the smoking if you are bothered by the smell. You'll walk into it initially though, and that's a big problem if you aren't a smoker yourself.

It's a sit down restaurant, so you start off with the usual server giving you menus and asking for drinks. The servers seemed a little busy and didn't ask for our drinks right away, but the place was honestly very busy since it was lunch hour. Our server was very kind and was very helpful. I ended up asking her what steaks were the leanest (If you don't like a lot of chewing, always ask for a leaner steak. Some people will tell you that marbling is beautiful, but when you have a rare steak, it just continues to be chewy fat.) She recommended that I have the tenderloin, which was the leanest steak on the menu.

We were then brought our drinks and bread and I have to admit that the bread here is wonderful. I don't care too much to eat bread, but I nearly ate the entire table's serving of bread. The butter makes it even more amazing.   The menu here offers a variety of steaks, sandwiches, and seafood. Since it is a steakhouse, I suggest having a steak.

The petite tenderloin steak came out and I didn't have high hopes for it. As you can see, the plating was terrifying. There was grease and blood and cheese flung all over the plate. I contemplated on sending it back, but I didn't want to waste a steak. So I cut into it, and let this be a lesson to those of you who do what I almost did then, it was absolutely delicious. It was cooked perfectly and seasoned very well. I barely touched the baked potato because I just went at that steak so quickly I was full before I knew it. So the looks were very much deceiving, though I think a steak this good needs to have excellent plating to match. The steak was very lean, as the server had recommended it for.


I also shared a dish of deep fried cheesecake. It was very rich, but also very tasty. Trust me when I say that this is a share-able size for about two people. The pieces are very big and there is a lot of whipped cream and ice cream in the cup with it. If you don't like very sweet and very rich, don't go for it, but if you'd eat a brownie covered in 3 different chocolates and ice cream, it's about the same richness. 

Service: 8/10    (Reasonably slow service)
Atmosphere: 6/10    (I personally can tolerate a little smoke, but it can get pretty bad.)
Price: 9/10  (Not a bad price for such a lean steak!
Food: 
  • Food Taste: 8/10   (The steak was excellent, the dessert was pretty good.)
  • Food Presentation: 3/10   (The plating of the food looked a little disgusting.)
Overall: 7/10    (It has it's highs and lows. If you can ignore them, eat here! )

Final thoughts? While I can't recommend this particular location to anyone who will complain about smokers, I will recommend it for it's food. Don't expect a pretty meal, that's for sure, but it should be tasty enough to justify the prices (which aren't that bad.) I highly recommend having the tenderloin.

Longhorn Steakhouse  on Urbanspoon

July 26, 2012

Yobe



I had already mixed in all my toppings and dug in, but it usually looks neater!
Yogaberry, aka Yobe, is a frozen yogurt shop like many others. While Tutti Frutti is my favorite froyo shop, Yobe is a lot closer to me. I rely on froyo more than I do ice cream because most froyo shops don't have lactose in their yogurt! The fermenting of the milk helps to get rid of lactose. Without the lactose, though, it's prone to melting quickly, which a results in a lot of bad reviews from people who get out of the store with melting yogurt. I don't have a problem with it myself, but I like yogurt I can drink! If the yogurt comes out of the machine melting, they can fix that pretty quickly if you just ask.

The atmosphere of the place is just like any other froyo place. Yobe is average- The usual green, purple, and white color scheme you see all around. It's spacious, which is a lot better than cramped froyo stores, to be honest. It's clean and minimal.

The service at froyo shops is minimal, and Yobe is no different. you don't have to contact an employee at all until you get to the register to weigh and pay. They kindly help anyone who needs information or taste testing (Everyone should taste test to see if they like a flavor! Taste test are free!). You pick up a bowl and just put whatever you like in it. The more it weighs, the more it will cost though. If you're trying it out for the first time, go easy on everything, otherwise you're going to end up with a huge bill. With a little planning, you can walk out with an excellent froyo for a smaller price. It'll help if you have their rewards card. Each purchase gets you a few points. When you get to 50 points, you get $5 off, which is quite a bit! The prices can be a little steep though.

The yogurt itself is also pretty average. They introduce new flavors all the time and cycle through the older ones. My favorites are the kiwi and tart. They have a HUGE variety in toppings though. From Cheerios to fresh fruit and several things in between. My favorite thing to put in my froyo are the tapioca balls. If you're skeptical about them, try them out. you can't tell it's tapioca because it's flavored. They explode in your mouth when you bite into them and it's an amazing sensation.

While it is just an average froyo place, I'd recommend it. It's always really pleasant when I visit and I've never had a bad experience. I'll continue to go there for a tasty treat!

Service: 10/10    (You pretty much serve yourself. They're happy to help you when you need it.)
Atmosphere: 9/10    (Clean and expected of a froyo place!)
Price: 6/10  (49cents an ounce is a bit steep. If you plan it out you can eat  for cheap, it's all you.)
Food:

  • Food Taste: 8/10   (Pretty average! I love froyo and it's pretty good.)
  • Food Presentation: 8/10   (Self serve!)
Overall: 7/10    (I recommend it, but it's pretty average )

Final thoughts? It's not a bad place to stop by! I recommend it if you like frozen yogurt places!

Yobe Frozen Yogurt on Urbanspoon

Chipotle

chipotle.com


Chipotle is part of a restaurant chain serving up mexican style fast food with an organic twist. I don't think this was my first time going to one. I think I ended up at a Chipotle in Atlanta a few years ago.

The atmosphere is playful and light. The combination of excellently bright lighting as well as the reflective surfaces contrasted the dark seating and not so reflective wooden accents. It was clean and that's one of the first things I noticed about the place. The tables are wiped down the moment a party leaves, which is good because they don't have very many tables in the place considering how busy it is.

Service is quick and the employees smiled the entire time I was there. They were very careful and obliged me on my specific requests.  It's a lot like a Subway where you go down the line and tell the person what you want on your taco or burrito or burrito bowl. As it goes down the line, it's handed off to another employee manning a specific part of the station. They don't skimp out on any of the ingredients, so unless you ask for them only to give you a little bit of beans, they'll pile it high.

The selection of items are really great as well. The prices are based on the type of meat you get rather than how much of each topping you have. Upon looking at the menu,  you may think that $6 for a single burrito is a tad much, but once you see the size of the burrito, you'll understand why. The quality of each ingredient is excellent. I had the opportunity to try out both the chicken and pulled beef (barbacoa) with my meal. Each ingredient is local grown and locally raised without any sort of stimulants or added hormones. These are completely organic, which is good for you!

I highly recommend the barbacoa. It's really tasty and well seasoned. My only complaint about the restaurant was that some of our chips were a little on the stale side, but after chomping my way through the burrito, I didn't have room for chips anyway!

So here are my scores for Chipotle:

Service: 10/10    (They are so kind and happy there! Everything was quickly and efficiently handled.)
Atmosphere: 9/10    (Light and playful and very clean!)
Price: 8/10   ($6 for a burrito as large as this is nearly a steal ,had I been able to eat all of it!)
Food:

  • Food Taste: 8/10   (The brown rice is really good as well as the barbacoa.)
  • Food Presentation: 8/10   (It's really big and served fast food style.)
Overall: 9/10    (I recommend stopping by for lunch rather than going to a greasy fast food chain.)
My overall thoughts are pretty favorable for them! It's a nice lunch to have: It's healthier for you as well as very filling! Definitely try the barbacoa and the brown rice; It's a fast food restaurant worth going to! Funnily enough, the restaurant doesn't seem to offer chipotle sauce. Funny, right?

Chipotle on Urbanspoon

July 24, 2012


Despite it saying home cooking, it's more like home creating! I'm a big fan of the Harry Potter series and throughout a lot of my life, I've been wondering how butterbeer tastes. I haven't been able to go out to the Universal Orlando studios to try their expensive official version.  However, just a few months ago, I picked up a kit from Books-A-Million. I don't regret spending the money on it and it's been pretty amazing.

It's full of interesting and yummy recipes as well as candy molds and sticks to make them with. They're all inspired by the treats you grow up with in the books and do them justice. Well, until you get to the butterbeer. I made it their way first, but I realized that the easy recipe didn't have any butter in it at all! So I modified it a bit and the outcome is pretty great. I serve it as a desert every few nights. However, since I've made this tutorial, I've realized that the lactose drives my stomach wild and I've made an alternative version. If you're interested in that, just substitute the ice cream for Breyer's lactose free vanilla, and the whipped cream for an alternative!

You can click the picture to see the full size!


Little Tokyo

www.littletokyo.biz



  Little Tokyo advertises itself as authentic Japanese cooking in the town of Goose Creek, South Carolina. This wasn't the first time I've been to this quaint little restaurant, and it isn't the last! I find myself coming here probably once a month and they've never had a dish I didn't like.

  Just the other night, I came in with three other people. The atmosphere is pretty much what you would expect from a Japanese restaurant (In the states). The decor follows suit with the theme of the food; paper lamps, Japanese style paintings, wooden floors- the usual decorations. It's never really loud and usually there is ambient music playing very softly. It's a nice place to sit down and eat without a lot of commotion.

Service starts off with hand out menus and taking orders for drinks. I, of course, had the Strawberry Calpis (Calpico). If you aren't familiar with the drink, I suggest trying out one of them. It's a non-carbonated 'soda' drink. It's slightly milky in flavor and texture and is close to drinking a fruit drink. I heard someone once describe it as 'a drink you would find in your grandmother's fridge.' I think that pretty much sums it up. Strawberry Calpis is one of my very favorite drinks, though the regular flavor is great as well. I would recommend having the regular flavor first if you have not tried it before as it is the basic taste of every flavor.

The server then brings out fresh, hot towels for each guest. This is meant to wash your hands and face with, much like we are taught to do as kids with a sink. After you are finished, they will return to take the towels and proceed with allowing you to order.

Little Tokyo's menus are pretty solid. You can order a small meal, or a huge meal and the menu is the same for lunch and dinner. If you don't know the basics of the names of their food and want a description, I recommend you ask the server or study up before going. It's not a terrible thing and I know my way around the names of food enough to understand what katsu, yakitori, and donburi means for my plate.

This time around, I ordered the rib-eye steak teriyaki. I'm a sucker for teriyaki dishes with it being one of my favorite sauces. I'm also a huge fan of steak. The dish comes with a clear soup and rice. Soup comes out before the meal so you have something while you're waiting, kind of like a salad at an American restaurant. We also ordered the Gyoza, which came out in a timely fashion as it was our appetizer. They were beautifully pan-seared with a layer of crispy goodness on one side. The sauce served with it was really nice as well. Our party enjoyed them, which is a compliment since half of the party has actually been to Japan and swear by their food.

If you're familiar with the Japanese way of food service, you know that they bring the plate to you when it's ready so it's hot and fresh. This means that not everyone gets their meal at the same time. This way of thinking makes more sense to me, but others don't like it and prefer the western way of getting their food at the same time so they can eat together. Little Tokyo follows the eastern tradition, ensuring that your food is indeed hot (if it's supposed to be.) and fresh.

My food came out fresh and delicious. The clear soup was great. The steak was cooked rare as I asked for, which a lot of places screw up (somehow they don't see a tiny, peppy girl like me eating a big rare steak at most restaurants.) It was tender and juicy and the teriyaki added that extra oomph I like to it. I was thoroughly satisfied with my meal. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their plates as well, though they ordered different items from me.




To top it off, I had my usual desert there- Tempura ice cream. It's tempura friend banana with vanilla ice cream. It's perfect for people who like opposites in food. The banana is always really hot and the ice cream is freezing so it stirs up a party in your mouth!

So here are my scores for Little Tokyo:

Service: 9/10    (The service was really great, despite a few minutes of extra waiting.)
Atmosphere: 8/10    (Pretty usual.)
Price: 10/10   (The prices are really reasonable here.)
Food:

  • Food Taste: 9/10   (The steak was excellent and so was the sauce.)
  • Food Presentation: 7/10   (It's pretty much what you'd expect from a local Japanese restaurant.)
Overall: 8/10    (I really like this place!)
Final words on the place: If you're in the area and in the mood for some Japanese food, it's the place to go. It's definitely worth the price and the trip. I recommend it!

Little Tokyo on Urbanspoon

July 20, 2012


La Fontana

La Fontana of Mt. Pleasant


  La Fontana is an Italian Restaurant located in Mt Pleasant of Charleston, South Carolina. It advertises as being authentic Italian. We originally meant to go to the Japanese restaurant, Kanpai, situated next door, but it was closed for the day. I ended up in La Fontana instead.  I think it went by the name of Cuoco Pazzo before.
   Once inside, the atmosphere is pretty great. The decorations all look really fancy and the colors create a warm and welcoming atmosphere. My only complaint on the interior would be the lighting in the rafters. It doesn't make the food look very appetizing, casting a sort of gray color onto each item because the lights are sitting so high up into the black space that is the ceiling.
   The menu itself had a great variety and a lot of it listed in Italian. What wasn't so impressive about it was that it was difficult to read. They used a cursive font in italics (I guess italics clicks for an Italian restaurant, eh?) and I had to struggle to read it myself, especially under the dim lighting.
   Our server seemed quite friendly. He was very patient with us and quick to get around, minus one time we had to wait for him to refill one of our drinks. He had a cheery air around him.  Even when we had complaints, he was generally helpful. I felt kind of sorry for him for having to put up with the wait the kitchen had on us and having to put up with the constant complaints from our party.
   Bread got out to us quickly and it was warm. The outside was crunchy, the inside soft- so no complaints there. We didn't have any butter for it, but I assume that's because we had olive oil at our table to dip it in, which was really tasty itself. The wait was the worst thing though. They also got the appetizer out pretty quickly, but the food took about 45-55 minutes to get out to us.
   I had ordered the manicotti. When we finally got it, it was hot at least. Looking at it, I was a little saddened at how flat the pasta was. That's my only complaint on the food though because it was great manicotti. This is even a bigger compliment because manicotti is one of my favorite foods. I was thoroughly satisfied with the taste of the food. I especially enjoyed the marinara sauce, as it wasn't really salty like most of the marinara sauces I've had.
   The rest of my party didn't care for their food and described the issues with it to me. But I will only be rating this based on my personal experience with the food.

So here are my scores for La Fontana:

Service: 4/10    (Three just for the waiter that put up with us and the quick appetizers.)
Atmosphere: 6/10    (Points deducted for the lighting and menu font)
Price: 7/10   (The price for each item is a little steep, but it's okay if you get something that's actually worth it, like the manicotti.)
Food:
  • Food Taste: 8/10   (Though the rest of my party didn't like there's I'm going on my own dish.)
  • Food Presentation: 3/10   (Flat manicotti doesn't look very appetizing.)
Overall: 5/10    (In other words, so-so)

My overall thoughts? If you don't mind the wait, and are ordering the manicotti, the restaurant is worth it. If you're impatient and want to order anything else, I'd suggest not bothering.

La Fontana on Urbanspoon