07 October 2016

Review: The Black Olive – Voorhees Twp, NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1612

The atmosphere and service at Black Olive was great. Our waiter was very attentive and the space feels much bigger than it is thanks to some cool modern design choices. The acoustics aren’t the greatest, but really, have you ever been in a quiet Greek restaurant?

Moving onto the most important part, the food, I would sum up my first meal here as not bad. It was not the best Greek food I’ve ever eaten, but it was not terrible by any means. I love Greek food. So as far as the staples go, I know how they should taste. I know every restaurant puts their own spin on things but I felt like most of the food here was bland. It seemed as though the chef was trying to conserve his limited supply of spices.

We started out with the saganaki which was delicious. It was not flambéed tableside with ouzo as I’ve enjoyed in some other restaurants, but I certainly can’t hold that against them. The spanakopita was good, but instead of being layered as it usually is prepared, it was more of a roll where all of the filling was wrapped with layers of phyllo. The phyllo was nice and crispy, but the filling lacked the depth of flavor that you’d expect.

The house salad was unique and very tasty. The whole salad was finely shredded which I’ve not seen before. I ordered the pastitsio, my favorite Greek entrée. The dish was bland and a bit dry. The béchamel formed a solid cap on top of the pasta. For dessert, we had baklava and ekmek kataifi. While not bad, they too were generally lacking in flavor.

I’d like to think it was just someone in the kitchen being stingy with herbs and spices the night I was there and maybe it would be better next time. This is certainly not a restaurant that I’d refuse to try again, but reading similar comments in other reviews makes me think our meal might be the norm.

17 June 2016

Review: Village Grille – Williamstown NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 2044

When you think of a restaurant in an Amish market you think of simple homemade comfort food. That is exactly what this restaurant’s predecessor used to serve. A visit to the Village Grille, however, yielded only food that tasted like it came out of the frozen foods aisle of the supermarket. I was sorely disappointed. I ordered the pulled pork sandwich because the old proprietor used to smoke his own meats and they were delicious. The little bit of meat on the sandwich that was placed in front of me this time looked and tasted much like the stuff that comes in plastic tubs in the refrigerated aisle of the supermarket. The rest of the meal was not much better. Thankfully the Amish market the Village Grille is located in sells great meats and much more so I can make my own meals at home.

22 February 2016

Review: Pappy’s Schoolhouse Restaurant and Tavern – Lehighton PA

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1022

While looking for a late night meal on a weeknight, your choices are usually limited to diners and bars. Diners around this area aren’t open 24 hours so we settled on Pappy’s Schoolhouse. It’s a small local bar. Bar foo can usually go one of two ways… frozen food that you could have picked up at the supermarket yourself or delicious homemade food. This place falls squarely into the homemade category. All of the food was scratch made. They even smoke their own meat! As soon as I heard this, I had to order a brisket sandwich. I was glad I did! Served on a delicious roll with a side of house made barbeque sauce, I was tempted to another one to go!

It’s clearly a local place where everyone knows everyone else, but they made us out-of-towner’s feel welcome too. The waitress actually stopped by our table a few times just to chat. Our dinner took a little longer than expected due to a minor mix up by a new staff member in the kitchen. We didn’t complain since we were in no hurry, but they voluntarily gave us each free dessert to make up for the delay. When do you ever see that type of great customer service anymore?

21 February 2016

Review: Local Kitchen & Beer Bar – Norwalk CT

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1621

While we were in Norwalk, we intentionally tried a different restaurant for every meal. We stuck to this plan until we tried Local Kitchen and Beer Bar in the South Norwalk (SONO) neighborhood right near the SONO Railroad Bridge.  After stopping in once and sampling a variety of menu items, we just had to go back again the next day before we headed out of town. We mainly dined on their small plates all of which are available in two sizes, little and lots. Offering small plates/appetizers in 2 sizes is something I wish more restaurants did. Sometimes you want to sample a bunch of stuff, other times you just want a single appetizer for yourself or to share. Our two favorites were the Thai Popcorn Chicken and the Crab & Artichoke Fondue. With bacon, smoked gouda and a little sriracha, the fondue is something that I’d buy by the gallon if I could!

On both visits we had a seat by the windows which allowed for people watching on the pedestrian heavy Washington Street and a fun view of the railroad bridge.

While I’m not a beer drinker, they obviously have quite a beer selection as well. Their “bourbon room” is definitely something that might be worth a visit at a later date.

Local Sign
Crab and Artichoke Fondue Thai Popcorn Chicken

01 February 2015

Review: Poynor’s Pommes Frittes – Pigeon Forge TN

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1114

This restaurant sits in the shadow of the giant Great Smoky Mountain Wheel and is named for its fries (Belgian fries actually). While they definitely serve good fries, the bratwurst sandwiches are what really caught our attention. More specifically, the bread on which the sandwiches are made is amazing. It’s called Broetchen. It’s a small hard roll from Germany/Austria. My mother, who was with me, said she had them years ago on a visit to Germany and had never seen them in this country.

We met the very friendly couple (Tammy and Poynor) who owns the restaurant. Poynor bakes the delicious rolls. He explained that they’re made with a process that involves breaking them three times. We discussed how we could arrange take some home with us and he offered to bake a batch twice so that we could take them home and finish them. They were so good that we took him up on the offer and drove back to Pigeon Forge the following day to pick them up before leaving Tennessee. They survived the 10 hour ride home and we ate them nearly every day for a week!

When visiting Tennessee I’d expect to find southern food and moonshine (we found plent of both), but Poyner’s surprised me with a brilliantly baked German specialty that I wish was available closer to home.

30 January 2015

Review: Kitchen 519 – Gloucester Twp NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1906

This small casual restaurant is a bright wide open space with a lot of very eclectic decor. Vintage clothes hang on clotheslines on the wall alongside artwork and old photos.

While you wait for your meal to be ready you can keep yourself occupied with the Trivial Pursuit cards on each table. You can also enjoy some appetizers. The garlic fries are good and the Cuban quesadilla is an interesting (and tasty) twist on traditional Cuban sandwich. However, the fried pickles (usually a favorite of mine) were disappointing because the cornmeal breading fell off most of the pickles while they were still in the basket.

I haven’t been here for dinner yet but the lunches I’ve had were quite good. All of the sandwiches on the menu sound good making it hard to choose. I particularly enjoyed the Pork Rojo.

I look forward to exploring more menu items on future visits.

29 January 2015

Review: Smoky Mountain Trout House – Gatlinburg TN

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1906

While in Gatlinburg we intentionally dined at a different restaurant for each meal of our trip. There are a lot from which to choose. This was the only restaurant we decided to go back to for a second dinner. It’s farther east on Parkway then many other restaurants but it was well worth the mile and a quarter round trip walk from our hotel.

It’s a very small restaurant that is only open 4 hours each evening. I would highly recommend calling ahead for reservations. Because the restaurant is so small, when you enter they have you go upstairs to wait for your table to be ready. You can also wait outside. The gentleman who runs the place (the owner?) keeps everything moving smoothly.

They serve dishes other then the fresh caught rainbow trout for which the restaurant is named although I am guessing nobody knows what those dishes taste like because you would be crazy to order anything but one of the 15 available trout dishes. All of the trout preparations that we tried were lightly seasoned enough to let the amazing flavor of the fish come through. It all tasted so fresh.

If I ever make it back to Gatlinburg this would be the first place that I head for dinner.

082 Smoky Mountain Trout House 104 Smoky Mountain Trout House105 Grilled Trout 106 Smoky Mountain Trout House

02 June 2014

Review: Lumpy’s BBQ – Gloucester Twp NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1925

I love good barbecue, but it can be hard to find it in the Philadelphia area. This isn’t the south. Here cheesesteak and pizza places are on every corner, not BBQ joints. Lumpy’s BBQ can be literally hard to find. It’s easy to accidentally drive right past because it sits in a nondescript shopping center and isn’t all that visible from the road. I’ve passed it a thousand times and never noticed it. I only found it because I was looking up some other local restaurants on Yelp.

However, I can happily report that Lumpy’s has the best barbecue that I’ve ever had north of the Mason-Dixon Line. It’s a simply decorated place and operates much like most barbecue restaurants. You go the counter to order and you get your own drinks. Your food is brought to your table when it’s ready. When we first walked in and saw we were the only diners in the place, we were concerned, but they clearly do a booming take-out business. I was also really excited to find out that they deliver.

We ordered pork ribs, pulled pork and burnt ends. They were all delicious and served with 2 sauces (hot or mild). The burnt ends were especially delicious. The sides we chose were good, although the mac and cheese was not as good as I would have hoped for.

In doing some research on my phone on the way home, I read that the owner competed on the BBQ Pitmasters TV show, so when we got home, I immediately bought that episode on iTunes. It made me want to go back for more right away or, better yet, get some delivered!

21 July 2013

Review: Station House – Haddon Heights NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1715

The Station House, named for it’s location on Station Avenue near the railroad tracks, serves breakfast and lunch. In the past, the decor seemed a little dark and cluttered, but when I returned recently, I found the new decor much lighter and airier. I would describe it as casual and welcoming. It definitely has a local small town neighborhood feel to it. Drinks are served in Ball jars.

Their breakfast menu consists of all the standards you’d expect… eggs, omelets, pancakes, waffles, etc. Their list of omelets includes a nice variety. They also have specials. I was there on the Fourth of July weekend and they had several patriotically named specials such as the Independence Egg Casserole that was delicious. It was an egg over hash brown potatoes with bacon and cheese.

I’ve never tried their lunch, but the menu includes salads, sandwiches, burgers, wraps… everything you’d expect.

Their convenient location near other small shops and stores (plus the Haddon Heights Farmers Market on Sundays during Spring Summer and Fall) plus the friendly service make this a worthwhile stop.

Independence Egg Casserole

 

Sausage & Gravy with Biscuits & Hash Browns

05 June 2013

Review: The Country Crock – Williamstown NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 2047

The Country Crock is located inside the Stoltzfus Amish Farmer’s Market which means it’s only open Thursday morning through Saturday afternoon. When you think of a Mennonite or Amish) restaurant, the first thing that comes to mind is plain and simple. Eating here feels less like sitting in a restaurant and more like being in someone’s kitchen eating homemade food. Plastic plates, vinyl table cloths and walls adorned with photos of the owners and their family set the stage for comfort food prepared and presented simply.

Even though food is nothing fancy, it’s delicious and clearly prepared by hand with care. Their BBQ pork sandwich is delicious as is their meatloaf sandwich. (This is the only place where I’ve ever even considered ordering a meatloaf sandwich!) Their corn fritters are one of my favorites and if you ask the server, they’ll let you substitute them for the fries that would normally come with a sandwich.

I don’t often order dessert when I eat out, but The Country Crock’s desserts, which vary week to week, are always tempting. Sometimes it will be a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch dessert like cracker pudding. I’d never had cracker pudding before, but it was good. It tasted somewhat similar to rice pudding. Other times it’s something more “English” like Boston cream pie. Their Boston cream pie was one of the best I’ve ever had. I’m hoping to be around one day when they have shoo-fly pie!

Another nice touch is that they conveniently have a calendar on every table that tell you what specials are coming up in the weeks to come so you can plan your visits.

Update: This restaurant has changed hands and is now called the Village Grille. I’ve been there once and it is NOT what it used to be. None of the food appeared to be homemade. You can read my review of the new place here.

04 June 2013

Review: Woodbury Station Cafe – Woodbury NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1847

Looking at the good side first, the atmosphere and decor of this restaurant is fun. It’s an old train station and they’ve embraced their history not only in the name of the place but with the decor as well. The theme of the restaurant combines train memorabilia with a New Orleans theme. Personally, I immediately noticed the Community Coffee sign on the wall, one of my favorite coffee companies. The train theme is cool because who doesn’t like trains. One of the waiters was making sure the little boy at the table by the window was seated facing the right way to see the train when it passed by on the still active tracks.

The food, however, wasn’t so great. We tried the bengiets and they weren’t bad. You don’t see them much around here so i dobt have much experiencw for conparison. However, our meal was disappointing. I ordered an omelet and it was quite overcooked. It was dry and mostly brown on the outside. The “railroad potatoes” were unfortunately also overcooked and bland.

While I wanted to like this place because of the cool concept, I don’t think I’ll be back.

03 June 2013

Review: Kuzina by Sofia – Cherry Hill NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 0745

I’m a sucker for Greek food. Finding a really authentic Greek restaurant in South Jersey is tough. (not counting Greek diners that have some great Greek items but not a full Greek menu) I don’t know how I never tried Kuzina by Sofia In Cherry Hill before now. The food was as authentic as it gets. It was hard not to order more than we could possibly eat in one sitting because everything on the five page menu sounded so good. We finally settled on the spanakopitakia and saghanaki appetizers which were both delicious. The Greek style steak and moussaka were both fantastic and were accompanied by potatoes roasted in lemon, olive oil garlic and herbs.

We didn’t intend to have dessert, but is there a person alive who can resist baklava? Theirs wasn’t the very best I’ve had, but it was still quite good. We also had an almond roll that was even better than the baclava. (I wish I could remember the name of it, but I’m terrible with Greek names!) and a cup of Greek coffee. As we ate our dessert, we were already planning our next visit to Kuzina!

02 June 2013

Review: The Pub – Pennsauken NJ

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1146

The Pub is far and away my favorite restaurant. It’s unique in every way. It’s beena round since long before I was born (since 1950). It’s survived burning to the ground and once going out of business. Through all of that nothing much has changed at all. One of the first unique things about The Pub is the HUGE dining room. The slightly medeival themed room seats over 500 people at a time yet it’s still quiet. I’ve never heard anything above a low murmur and there is always plenty of room to move around as you go to one of the two salad bars.

Speaking of the salad bars, they are fantastic. They include blocks of cheese from which you can cut off slices, various kinds of cake breads (in case the delicious crusty bread on your table isn’t enough for you) fruit, applesauce, along with a wide variety of salads and salad ingredients. However, I usually skip past most of this stuff and head right to the giant bowl of Caesar salad and pile my plate high. The Pub’s Caesar salad is one of the best I’ve had. The always fresh salad is made especially delicious by the plentiful anchovies scattered throughout.

The focal point of the dining room is the row of six coal fired ovens where chefs in big white hats turn out fantastic steaks. The pub has a fair number of entees ranging from seafood to chicken, to all sorts of steaks. I, however, typically stick to the best filet mignon I’ve had at any restaurant. It’s served wth massive onion rings and a potato. I recommend the twice baked stuffed potato. I also recomend taht you ask for some of their browned onions to go with your steak. They’re free, but you have to ask for them. In another unique touch, your steak will arrive at your table on a cart to be taken from a heated tray and plated right at the table.

If you want something a little more unique, try my father’s favorite, the capetbagger. It’s a filet spread with crabmeat and hollandaise sauce.

The only negative is the location. Although, it’s certainly never stopped me from going. The Pub is located at the maze of an intersection that used to be Airport Circle.It might take you a few tries to get in the correct lane. Of course, this should be no problem for a practiced New Jersey driver.

The Pub Chefs

The Pub Filet Mignon

01 June 2013

Review: What If… of Hershey – Hershey PA

Category: Reviews — Posted by Michael at 1620

We stumbled upon What If… of Hershey while looking for a place to stop and eat while passing through central PA. I found it on Yelp and immediately noticed that many of the reviews started out by saying that you shouldn’t let the fact that it’s in the basement of a Howard Johnson scare you off. My first thought was that I should continue my search, but after reading a few rave reviews, I was convinced we should try it. Now, here I am writing one more review that tells you not to let the fact that it’s in the basement of a HoJo scare you away.

Everything at this place was great. It was all made fresh. We even had to wait a bit for our tiramisu for dessert because they were making it fresh. Also, who wouldn’t love a place that has a polenta of the day?! (The polenta was delicious, by the way.) It’s all served in a modern atmosphere that is in stark contrast to the HoJo lobby that you pass through on your way in. The presentation of their fresh delicious food is as modern as the atmosphere.

27 March 2008

A Great Amish Buffet

Category: Cooking/Food,Interesting Links,Life — Posted by Michael at 1942

Amish BuggyA few posts ago I promised a brief review of the restaurant that I went to in Lancaster last weekend. The restaurant was an Amish buffet called The Family Cupboard. You can also order meals, but we went for the buffet. Most buffets are basically a smorgasbord of mediocre food. We were leery that this would be the same. We had picked it out randomly from the Internet.

When we walked in and saw that there was a fair number of Amish/Mennonite folks eating there, we became more confident that the food would be good. As it turns out, it was really good. I went back for three plates plus dessert. There was a delicious meatloaf, buttered noodles that were clearly homemade and definately from a PA Dutch/German recipe. These sat alongside glazed ham, stuffing and seafood, pasta lima beans and on and on. The salad bar was your usual salad bar. I was glad to see it was all fresh and crispy, but what really made it special was a delicious house dressing.

For dessert, there was Turkey Hill ice cream as well as an assortment of desserts, but but what really caught my attention was the pies. I had a piece of pecan pie (my favorite) which wasn’t so great, but I went back for another piece and selected shoo-fly pie. It was delicious!

You can view their menu and get directions at FamilyCupboard.com.

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