Southern Bistro, Atlanta, Georgia, September 15, 2018

OK, so I’m a little late in getting this one written and published.

Hang with me.

I’m going to spare you most of the details about how we ended up at the Southern Bistro.  Just a little back story should do.  We’d made plans for my Young Harris College roommate, Mike and his (much) better half, Michelle, to come up from Savannah for a YHC alumni event with the Braves at Sun Trust Park.  Another YHC friend, Linda, and her hubs Barry were planning to meet us all for dinner and the alumni event and baseball game.  However, due to a series of events that are a bit more convoluted than I care to describe, we ended up at the Southern Bistro with Linda and Barry and our friends Charlene and Leon, who also are YHC alumni.  Let’s just say that from the time we started planning this shindig to the time we actually made it to the restaurant, we’d ditched Plan A, bypassed Plans B, C and D and were on Plan E…or maybe F.  No matter, when we get any portion of our YHC crowd together we always manage to have a good time.

OK, back to the Southern Bistro…

Rather than tell who had what, I’ll just give a quick rundown of the dishes that we ordered:

Appetizer:

  • Blue Cheese Potato Chips with applewood Bacon, green onion, cherry tomato and blue cheese fondue.

Entrees included:

  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich with applewood bacon, Swiss cheese, Georgia lettuces, tomato and truffle honey mustard on an egg bun;
  • Ahi Tuna Cobb Salad with avocado, applewood bacon, cherry tomato, green beans, feta cheese, hard boiled egg and green goddess dressing;
  • Springer Mountain Farms Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Bistro mac and cheese, green beans, cucumber dill salad and chicken gravy; and
  • Gulf Shrimp and Grits with andouille sausage, caramelized onion and tomato pan gravy.

If you’ve read this blog for a year or two you can probably guess who ordered the shrimp and grits.

So how was it?  I asked for comments and Thumbs Scale scores from our group a few days after our visit.  Here are the general comments I received:

  • Blue Cheese Potato Chips: “Meh”;
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich: Two “nothing specials” and a “really good” (OK, I had a bite and I’ll give it a really good too);
  • Ahi Tuna Cobb Salad: “the tuna was overcooked, definitely not seared and rare inside”; and
  • Gulf Shrimp and Grits: not your typical creamy shrimp and grits but very good nonetheless.

How did the Southern Bistro fare on the Thumbs Scale?  How about 9 thumbs up out of a possible 12.  All in all, a fairly respectable score.  Not great but not bad either.  Call it a little above average.  I also asked our crowd if they would be willing to give the Southern Bistro another visit and got two ‘probably nots’, two ‘probablys’ and two “sure, ours was pretty good.”  As always, your mileage may vary…

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Tasty Rib Shack, Madras, Georgia, August 25, 2018

The name is a little misleading because the Tasty Rib Shack isn’t a shack at all but is actually a trailer that’s set up like a food truck.  The owner sets up in a vacant gravel parking lot on Highway 29 just north of Madras, Georgia, opens around lunchtime and stays open until he sells out or business slacks off enough that he decides that it’s time to close for the day.  We see him there every Saturday and I believe we’ve seen him there some Sundays.

We’ve intended to stop by the Tasty Rib Shack and give it a try since we first noticed it in the parking lot of a former local fruit and vegetable stand a few months back.  As I was leaving the house yesterday morning to go run a few errands I told ConnieLou to think about what she wanted for lunch and I’d stop and pick something up on my way home.  As I was waiting for my mechanic to finish up the oil change and turn signal bulb replacement on my truck I remembered that it was Saturday and the Tasty Rib Shack should be in its usual spot and open so I sent ConnieLou a text and suggested that we give it a try.

I found a copy of the menu that someone had posted to our subdivision’s Facebook page and forwarded it to ConnieLou.  The Tasty Rib Shack has a surprisingly good selection for a food truck/trailer.  There’s ribs, chopped pork, chicken, burgers, dogs, wings and Brunswick stew among a few other items.

Since the turn signal replacement was taking a while to complete and ConnieLou had some errands to run herself she suggested that she run on down and pick up some barbeque sandwiches and some Brunswick stew and if she had to leave before I got home she’d put mine in the microwave to keep warm until I got back.  As it turned out I got home a few minutes before she did so we were able to sit down and have lunch together.

I tried the stew first.  As I opened the container I could see that the consistency was just the way I like my stew, thick and not soupy and everything was cooked down fine with no large chunks of anything, especially tomatoes.  I was happy to discover that it tasted as good as it looked and I didn’t feel the need to add a splash of barbeque sauce or hot sauce to it as I often do.  ConnieLou said it was a little on the spicy side for her but I noticed that it disappeared anyway.  Next the barbeque sandwiches.  Each sandwich came with a generous portion of meat on a bun.  The meat was moist and nicely smoky.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on the type of wood or charcoal that they might have used but it was quite tasty just the same.  Now for their barbeque sauce.  The sauce was a little different and almost looked more like a rib glaze than typical barbeque sauce.  It was a little sweet, a little tangy and had just a little bit of a kick to it.  I normally don’t care for sweet sauces but this one worked well for me.

So how did the Tasty Rib Shack fare on the Thumbs Scale.  Definitely 4 out of a possible four…and for only $15 for three chopped pork sandwiches and three sides of stew, it’s a pretty good value too.  I hope he stays set up on that little patch of gravel, we might just become regulars.

Kookaburra Coffee, St. Augustine Beach, August 19, 2018

One last entry from our most recent trip to St. Augustine.

Coffee anyone?  How about a bite of breakfast?

Kookaburra Coffee is a coffee shop/eatery that Jenna has been telling us about for the past couple of years.  OK, before anyone gets overly worried, this entry isn’t just about their coffee.  Not that their coffee isn’t good because it is, in fact, its darn good.  This entry is about their Aussie pies.

Let back up a bit.  What is Kookaburra Coffee?  Well, here’s the description from their website:  “We are an Aussie-American espresso bar and pie shop based in Saint Augustine, Florida. We pride ourselves on serving masterfully crafted products that are ethically sourced and expertly roasted.  We blend our love of coffee with a passion for serving our community, all with a smile.”  Currently, there are four locations in and around St. Augustine, including a location in St. Augustine Beach near the condo we’d rented.

So what is an Aussie pie?  Try to imagine a small chicken pot pie with a flaky pastry crust and a savory filling.  Breakfast pies, or Brekkie pies as they call them have fillings with some combination of eggs, cheese, regular or sweet potatoes and some sort of meat.  There are also a vegetarian and a couple of meatless options.  Lunch pies are similar but a bit more on the savory end of the spectrum with chicken, beef and/or veggies.  If you want a breakfast pie, get there early because once they run out, they’re gone for the day.  I suspect the same thing happens during lunch.

We sent Jenna out to pick up coffee and Brekkie pies to bring back to the condo the first morning of our stay.  Jenna had a Greenie Pie (spinach, egg and cheddar filling) and a mocha nut iced latte.  ConnieLou ordered the Rasher & Egg Pie (bacon, egg and cheddar filling) and a regular mocha nut latte and me, I had the Corker (sausage, egg and cheddar filling) and a PC (caramel and vanilla) latte.  Yes, I had a latte.  I’m not generally a froo-froo coffee drinker but I do enjoy a change from my regular coffee with cream and sugar now and then.

Again, like a store-bought chicken pot pie, an Aussie pie is served in a little aluminum pie tin.  One could probably take the pie out of the tin and eat it by hand but we decided to be all proper and everything and opted to use forks and knives.  Maybe eating the pie by hand is the proper way.  Who knows, no one explained the rules to us.

So how did Kookaburra Coffee fare on the Thumbs Scale.  We gave ‘em 6 out of a possible 6.  After all that Jenna has told us, that wasn’t too unexpected and the pies really were good.  Yes, we’ll be back, even if just for a coffee.

Burrito Works Taco Shop, St. Augustine Beach, Florida, August 20, 2018

Jenna has been telling us about a little place on St. George Street in downtown St. Augustine called the Taco Shop.  Before we headed down to move Jenna into her dorm at Flagler College last week I told ConnieLou that we needed to give it a try while we were in town.  When I mentioned on FB that we were in St. Augustine, my buddy Caden B. messaged me and told me that we absolutely had to try the Taco Shop while we were there.  That sealed the deal.

This time around we decided to head down a few days early to have some beach time before move-in and stay an extra day to recover before heading home so we rented a condo a few miles from the college down A1A in St. Augustine Beach.  As it turned out, the condo complex we rented in was about half a mile from another Burrito Works Taco Shop location.  Dangerously close really.  I did a little looking around online and discovered that there are actually four Burrito Works Taco Shops scattered out along the beach between downtown St. Augustine and Flagler Beach.

I read several reviews and nearly all said the Taco Shop’s standout offering is the ‘Mexican UFO’.  A Mexican UFO is simply a flat, crunchy corn tortilla, topped with fillings, topped with another flat, crunchy corn tortilla, all wrapped up in a soft flour tortilla and cooked on a flat griddle to melt the cheese in the filling and crisp up the flour tortilla.  Think of it like a Crunchwrap Supreme from Taco Bell but better…a LOT better.  The fillings include meat (beef, chicken, pork, shrimp or grilled fish) or veggie options with rice and black beans.  The Mexican UFO, along with most of their other menu options, can be prepared with The Works which includes cheese, sour cream, cilantro, lettuce, onion, salsa and lime,  or Baja Style which includes onion, cilantro, lime cabbage and spicy white sauce.

We all decided to give the Mexican UFO a try.  ConnieLou ordered hers with chicken and The Works, Jenna went with shrimp, Baja Style and I decided on pork, Baja Style.  After placing our orders we picked out a picnic table in the shade in their outdoor seating area (there is no indoor seating), got our drinks and waited on our orders.  We didn’t have long to wait until it was time to dig in…and out table got quiet.

So how did the Burrito Works Taco Shop fare on the Thumbs Scale?  We gave them an easy 6 out of a possible 6.  The Mexican UFOs were quite good…soft, crunchy, cheesy, tasty and messy!  We’ll definitely be back.  But…now we have a dilemma…should we go to the Burrito Works Taco Shop or Mojo Tacos, just a mile or so up A1A?  Decisions, decisions…maybe we’ll just have to go to both.

 

El Taquito, Newnan, Georgia, July 2, 2018

Recently I got a tip on a Mexican restaurant in Newnan that I wasn’t previously aware of.  At first, I thought it was a new place but as I began to read some of the reviews on Yelp I noticed that some of the reviews were from 2015.  How have I managed not to notice this place for three years?!  How have I managed to drive past its location dozens of times yet never noticed the bright yellow sign on the end of the building?  The only reason that I can think of is that El Taquito is located inside the BP truck stop on Highway 29 at the Moreland exit off of I-85 and when I’ve driven by I just haven’t paid the building much attention.  Still, one would think that I would have heard something about it during those three years.  Nope, not a word…until a month or so ago.

ConnieLou and I have been trying to get down there to give it a try for the past couple of weeks but things finally came together last night and we paid El Taquito visit on our way home from work.  When we walked into the truck stop building it took us a few extra seconds to find the place.  The phrase ‘hole in the wall restaurant’ took on a more literal meaning.  There was a service counter and kitchen, a drink cooler, a condiment bar and a small seating area all tucked into the corner of the truck stop building.

If you’ve read many entries to this blog then you already know that I’m a fan of ‘hole in the wall’ restaurants.  The food is generally very good and almost always more authentic than the ‘shiny’ place next to the newest or biggest local shopping center.  I’ve also noticed that, with restaurants of various ethnicities, if the apparent ethnicity of the majority of the clientele appears to be similar to that of the type of food being served, you’re likely in for a treat…and we were.

We stepped up to the counter and placed our orders.  ConnieLou ordered a chicken taco salad which consisted seasoned chicken, lettuce, cheese and refried beans in a crispy shell and I ordered the platilla de asada (Asada Plate) which consisted of carne asada, rice, refried beans and a small salad (lettuce and diced tomatoes topped with a little guacamole) with three warm tortillas on the side.  We both ordered a Coke which we soon discovered wasn’t a fountain drink or locally bottled Coca-Cola but Coca-Cola bottled in Mexico…you know, the kind made with real sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup.

We each received a small tray of fresh nachos…yeah, fresh, as in made in-house, today, not Tostitos…to munch on with some fresh salsa while we waited on our food to arrive.  Ultimately, we both found our food and quite tasty and definitely more authentic than most of the other La and El Somethings in town.

So how did El Taquito fare on the Thumbs Scale?  Try an easy four out of a possible four thumbs up.  Everything was quite tasty from the nachos to the salsas to the carne asada to the beans and rice.  Have I mentioned authentic already?  If you just don’t think you can handle eating at a truck stop then you can give El Taquito a pass…but, if you’re looking for darn good Mexican food without all the trappings of one of the shinier La or El Somethings, give ‘em a try…you’ll probably leave happy that you did.

Sisson’s Old South Barbeque, Eatonton, Georgia, June 29, 2018

I had to go down to Lake Oconee to make my monthly visit to a jobsite so I sent a text to my buddy James who lives down that way to see if he wanted to meet up for lunch while I was in the area.  James said that he knew a good barbeque joint nearby and plans were made.

I met James at his office and we spent a little while catching up before we headed off for lunch.  As it turns out James’ office and the restaurant are both only about four miles from my jobsite.  We walked in, stepped up to the counter and placed our orders.  I ordered a pulled pork sandwich and a side of Brunswick stew and James went with smoked lemon pepper wings and fries.

We got our drinks, grabbed a table and spent some more time catching up while we waited for our food.  OK, it’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to get together so we had a bit of catching up to do.  While we talked I sampled the four barbeque sauces on the table.  Their sauces included Mild, Spicy, Sweet and Mustard.  All of the sauces were good but the Spicy and Mustard seemed to suit me the best.   James said he likes the Sweet and Mustard.  Now I’m not a fan of sweet barbeque sauces but have to admit that Sisson’s Sweet sauce had a good flavor underlying the sweetness.

After just a few minutes our orders arrived and we dug in.  The consistency of the stew was almost perfect in my book.  I don’t know quite how to describe it so you’ll just have to take my word for it and after tasting it, for once I really didn’t have an urge to add a splash of barbeque sauce or hot sauce to adjust the flavor.  I took a taste of the pulled pork before adding any sauce.  The meat was moist and lightly smoky.  I ended up dressing half of my sandwich with the Spicy sauce and the other half with the Mustard sauce.  I noticed that James’ fries were fresh cut and not the frozen variety.  He told me to give them a try and I quickly discovered that they were lightly seasoned with a dry rub, most likely the same rub they season their pulled pork with, instead of salt…and they were quite tasty.

So how did Sisson’s Old South Barbeque fare on the Thumbs Scale?  Four out of a possible four thumbs shouldn’t be a big surprise and I’d give them bonus points for the hand cut fries.  Sisson’s definitely goes on the repeat list.

Taqueria Tsunami, Athens, Georgia, June 16, 2018

OK, so I’m a little late getting this entry put together.

Better late than never, right?

Right.

We celebrated Father’s Day a day early this year.  Ashley was scheduled to work on Sunday and was on call Saturday so we decided to head up to Athens on Saturday so we could all spend some time together.   Knowing that we were going to be in Athens and looking for some place to go out to eat, I asked a good friend for suggestions.  In particular, I asked for suggestions for a Mexican restaurant, preferably not one from a big chain such as La Parilla.  She suggested that we give Taqueria Tsunami, a Latin-Asian Fusion place, a try.

I almost broke my no national chains rule with this one.  Taqueria Tsunami has two locations in Athens, five in the Atlanta area and one in Kentucky.  Kentucky, really?  Since there was only the one outlier I decided my rule was safe…and anyway, I’m the one that makes the rules here.

We looked up their menu online to see if it might be someplace that we were interested in.  This excerpt from their menu grabbed my interest: “We take the best from the Far East and South of the Border to dish up a variety of Latin Asian fusion tacos, salads, rice bowls, quesadillas, appetizers and cocktails in a comfortable contemporary setting.”  OK, so we haven’t tried Latin Asian fusion before but it sounded good so we decided to give it a try.

Being it was Father’s Day I decided that we were going to splurge a little bit.  In addition to our entrées we ordered margaritas…well, me, ConnieLou and Ashley ordered margaritas.  Jenna, being a few months short of 21 and still under age, ordered a refreshing glass of ice water.  We also ordered an appetizer, guacamole and chips, and dessert, S’mores egg rolls.

For our entrées we all ordered tacos.  ConnieLou, Ashley and Jenna all ordered the Tsunami Trio which consisted of two tacos and a side and I ordered The Quatro which consisted of three tacos and a side.  For tacos ConnieLou and Ashley selected the Gringo Taco (seasoned ground beef) and Baja Taco (tempura fried fish).  Jenna selected two Shrimp Tempura Tacos and I went with an Asada Zing Taco (Bulgogi marinated steak), a Shrimp Tempura Taco and a Baja Taco.  We all selected black beans and rice for our side.

We enjoyed our drinks and guacamole and chips while we waited for our entrées to arrive.  Both were quite tasty.  Our entrées came fairly quickly and was followed by our dessert.

So how did Taqueria Tsunami fare on the Thumbs Scale?  They earned a respectable seven thumbs out of a possible eight.  While everything we had was quite good, there just wasn’t any ‘wow factor’ with the shrimp and fish tacos.  The general observation was “they tasted just like the fish and shrimp tacos that we get pretty much anywhere else.”  I couldn’t really argue.  On the other hand, I thought my Asada Zing taco, my margarita and the guac were all quite good.  While Taqueria Tsunami didn’t earn eight out of eight thumbs, it wouldn’t take much arm-twisting to get me to go back for another visit.

Dunc’s BBQ Kitchen, Newnan, Georgia, June 23, 2018

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There’s a new kid in town…

We learned a month or two ago that a new BBQ joint was coming to Newnan and we knew we’d have to give it a try.  Normally when a new restaurant opens up we wait a few weeks for a visit to give them time get things going and work the kinks out of their system.  We found out last week that Dunc’s BBQ Kitchen (no relation to The Barbeque Kitchen in College Park, Georgia) had opened and was already getting promising reviews so when presented with an opportunity to check them out we decided to go ahead and give them a shot.

The restaurant location had housed two short-lived restaurants in the recent past and was a drug store in front of the old Newnan Hospital in a previous life.  When ConnieLou and I walked in we found Steve Duncan, the owner, greeting customers and working the register.  We talked with Steve, a.k.a. Dunc, for a couple of minutes then placed our orders.  ConnieLou ordered a pulled pork sandwich on Texas toast with a side of Brunswick stew.  I ordered the same thing but ordered my sammich on a bun.

When we sat down at the table to wait on our orders I noticed that there were three barbeque sauces on the table which were labeled Hot, Mild, and Sweet.  Of course, I had to break out a spoon and taste them all.  Let me say that I’m not a big fan of sweet sauces in general.  The Sweet sauce was sweet but had a very good flavor.  The Mild and Hot sauce were both tangy and right up my alley so, of course, I had to use a little of both once our food arrived.

Our food arrived quickly and we dug in.  The stew consistency was just about perfect, not too fine but not too chunky.  It had a slightly smoky flavor from the smoked pork and chicken that were used.  The pulled pork was lightly smoky and sweet.

So how did Dunc’s BBQ Kitchen fare on the Thumbs Scale?  We gave them an easy 4 out of a possible 4 thumbs.

As we were leaving we stopped to talk to Steve again and learned that He had owned O.B.’s Barbeque that operated in McDonough, Georgia for many years until they lost the place in a fire.  Steve told us that when they decided to open a place in Newnan that they brought over all of their old recipes and even some of his old staff to get things going. He also told us that light smoky flavor in the pork came from their use of pecan wood to smoke the meat which produces a nice, light smoky flavor that’s not as strong as other woods like hickory often tend to be.  Will we be back?  Definitely…it’s going to take several visits to eat our way through the menu…but I think we’re up to the challenge.

Frazier’s, Newnan, Georgia, June 9, 2018

When I began writing this blog four years ago, it never occurred to me that someday I’d be writing about a convenience store breakfast/lunch counter but here we are.

OK, hang with me, I haven’t lost my marbles…well, not all of them anyway, so don’t click away just yet.

Every now and then ConnieLou and just don’t feel like cooking breakfast on a Saturday or Sunday morning but we don’t want a bowl of cereal either.  Of course, we could get up, get dressed and go somewhere for breakfast but if we don’t feel like cooking, we probably don’t really want to go out either.  Let’s be real here, Saturday and Sunday mornings are about the only times during the week that we have the opportunity to just be lazy or to do something we want to do (like go fishing) instead of something we have to do (like yard work).  Fortunately, there is an option that still requires driving a little way but can be accomplished without having to wear anything fancier than a pair of shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops.  What might that solution be?  Biscuits and cheese grits from Frazier’s, the gas station/convenience store located just a couple of miles down Highway 29 from our house.

Frazier’s, like many convenience stores, has a breakfast/lunch counter inside.  At breakfast one can find biscuits with various combinations of meat, cheese and eggs inside as well as plain grits cheese grits and grits with s couple of patties of sausage crumbled up and mixed in.  At lunch they have a variety of hot sandwiches such as burgers and chicken sandwiches and a few other items.

We’re going to focus on the biscuits and the cheese grits.

A couple of Saturdays ago I had gone fishing on a nearby pond.  As I was loading up to head home I realized that I was getting pretty hungry so I texted ConnieLou to see if she wanted me to run down to Frazier’s and pick up some biscuits and cheese grits.  Of course, the response was yes and I was instructed to get her a bacon biscuit.

When I got there, I discovered that they were out of bacon biscuits so I asked the lady behind the counter if they could make up a few.  She said that wouldn’t be a problem and proceeded to pull three fresh biscuits from the oven and break them open.  Then she grabbed a handful of bacon for each biscuit.  I made a comment about her putting a lot of bacon on each biscuit as it should be and she said “well, it’s only four pieces”.  Yeah, ‘only’ four pieces.  ‘Only four’.  My kind of bacon biscuit.  She wrapped them up in some waxed paper and handed them to me.  I grabbed a container of cheese grits, paid the other lady at the register and was on my way.

So how did Frazier’s fare on the Thumbs Scale?  Try an easy 4 out of a possible four.  The biscuits are light and fluffy and they don’t paint the tops with butter like other places tend to do.  The bacon – crispy and, of course, plentiful.  The cheese grits…creamy and cheesy…just like they’re supposed to be.  Just for the record, their plain grits are pretty darn good too.  Will we be back?  Do you need to ask?

Barbeque Kitchen, College Park, Georgia, May 26, 2018

We’d dropped Jenna off at the airport to head off on a three week trip to Alaska with her friend Lily (yes, I tried my best to stow away and go too but I just couldn’t fit in her suitcase and, of course, would exceed the 50-pound weight limit for a checked bag). Since Jenna and her friend were flying stand-by ConnieLou didn’t want to get too far from the airport until we knew that the girls would make it on their flight we decided to have breakfast nearby. We thought about going to Chick-Fil-A’s Dwarf house in Hapeville but decided against it since there are two other CFA locations within 5 miles of our house and we could have CFA anytime. Instead we opted for the Barbeque Kitchen in College Park.

The Barbeque Kitchen is a College Park institution, having been in the same location since it opened in 1958. ConnieLou, being a College Park native, has been there quite a few times over the years but I think I’ve only been there a time or two and never for breakfast. We walked in and sat down and our server came by with menu’s and took our drink order. After giving the menu a quick look ConnieLou ordered the two egg and bacon plate that came with grits and biscuits and I ordered two steak biscuits and a side of hash browns.

When our food arrived ConnieLou was quick to notice that the tops of the biscuits weren’t painted with melted butter, a common restaurant practice that I’m not particularly fond of. Indeed they weren’t. To make things even better they were light and fluffy, unlike the dense, chewy bread cakes that most restaurants try to pass off as biscuits. The steak in my biscuits was fresh breaded ‘country fried’ cubed steak, not the frozen, deep fried pieces of mystery meat that many restaurants try to pass off as country fried steak. ConnieLou said that her fried eggs were cooked just right and the grits were actually good. Yeah, try getting good grits at a restaurant these days…generally doesn’t happen.

So how did the Barbeque Kitchen fare on the Thumbs Scale? We gave it 4 out of a possible four thumbs up. There’s a pretty good reason the Barbeque Kitchen has been around for 60 years. The place may be a little worn around the edges but 60 years in business will do that…but the food is darn good!