It was time for my monthly trip out to Lake Oconee for work…yeah, I know, tough job. Usually I get up early and make the trip on a Friday so I end up back home by early afternoon and extend the weekend a little bit. I ended up having to be at the office last Friday so I pushed the trip back to Monday. I had a doctor’s appointment Monday morning so I ended up heading out for my work trip after my appointment. Add to the mix that I needed to run up to Athens to take care of a couple of things at Ashley’s apartment before heading home so I ended up eating both lunch and supper out.

I arrived at the lake a bit early for my work appointment so I decided to grab some lunch. I was in the mood for Chinese so I stopped in the China Garden restaurant at the intersection of Highway 44 and Linger Longer Road. OK, I know that there are literally hundreds of China Garden restaurants across the country and have no idea if this particular China Garden is a part of a chain or not…but for now, let’s assume it’s not.

I ordered the Hunan beef, fried rice, hot & sour soup and egg roll combo off the lunch menu. After finishing my meal I was thoroughly underwhelmed. The hot & sour soup was neither hot nor sour. In fact, it had no ‘zing’ at all. Just call it bland. The fried noodles served with the soup were greasy and not overly crispy. The egg roll…greasy and again, bland. Speaking of egg rolls, has anyone else noticed the shrinking egg roll phenomenon lately? They’ve shrunk to the size of spring rolls…and not just at this China Garden. The fried rice that came alongside the Hunan beef was pretty decent but the beef itself…bland. There’s a pattern here. Nothing was really good nor really bad, just bland. At least the service was quick.

So how did China Garden rate on the Thumb’s Scale? I gave ‘em 1 thumb up out of a possible 2. There’s was nothing particularly bad about my meal and I ate it all, but there was nothing particularly good either. It was just…bland. Will I give China Garden another try? Maybe. Maybe not.

On a side note, I have to give the server a personal 2 thumbs up. As I was enduring my lunch, a group of three walked in and sat in the next booth over. The group consisted of a lady who seemed quite self-important, a guy who was clearly the self-important lady’s ‘yes man’ and another lady who either didn’t have much to say or at didn’t talk loud enough for me to hear her clearly as the others did. The self-important lady ordered first and tweaked nearly aspect of her order. She also tweaked and re-tweaked everyone else’s orders. By the time they were finished ordering and tweaking I had no clue what they had actually ordered and the server, who didn’t seem to speak the greatest English, seemed to be pretty confused as well. Of course the self-important gal and Mr. Yes had to comment about the server’s apparent lack of skill with the English language as well after she had left with their orders. I was sort of undecided whether to hope that the server and kitchen got their order absolutely perfect just to show them up or completely wrong so that they might get a clue about how they’d managed to overcomplicate the whole blasted thing. Given the likelihood that they wouldn’t have a clue about the latter, I ended up hoping for the former. Unfortunately I needed to get on my way before their plates were served so I never knew the outcome.

My schedule for the day had me in Athens at suppertime so I asked Ashley and her roommates Hana and Kaycee if they wanted to go grab some super with me. Kaycee was working and couldn’t go but Hana was able to join us. We decided to hit up The Taco Stand, a local Tex-Mex fast food chain with three locations in Athens (wish they’d bring one to Newnan).

The Taco Stand is one of those places that can thrive in a college town. Think modest interior with a couple of TV’s, a fairly basic but good Tex-Mex menu, reasonable prices and a fairly good selection of beer. My kind of place.

Ashley ordered beef nachos, Hanna ordered the chicken taco salad and I had three basic beef tacos. Even through its pretty difficult to screw up a basic meat, cheese and lettuce taco, there is always some place that can manage to do it. The Taco Stand wasn’t that place. The taco meat, taco sauce and cheese were tasty and there wasn’t way too much lettuce. Hana and Ashley were also fairly pleased with their selections and took home leftovers for later. Surprisingly none of us ordered beer. OK, I’ll confess, I swiped a Shock Top from the girls’ fridge while I was working on their deadbolts earlier in the afternoon. Just don’t tell ‘em, OK? Our little secret.

So how did The Taco Stand rate on the Thumbs Scale? We gave it a solid 5 ½ thumbs out of 6. Hana said that her salad could have used a little more variety in the veggie department but otherwise was quite tasty. Ashley and I were both pleased with our orders. The Taco Stand has definitely earned a spot on my list of places to visit again but I’ve got to work the scheduling out a bit better so that I can have a beer or two and not have to drive a couple of hours home right after.